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Final Fantasy 8 Review
publisher: Square Soft
developer: Square Soft
P200, 32MB RAM, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Dec 31, 99 (released)
|» All About Final Fantasy 8 on ActionTrip|
Japanese-Manga style animation appears to be invading modern PC games. And why not? Manga animation is accepted and widely popular among console players throughout the world. Porting graphics was once the main problem when converting PlayStation games to PC, but with the appearance of 3D accelerator cards on the market, this problem is beyond our worries. Today, a bigger problem is how to adapt game controls to be used with PC. Along with clumsy current-position saving, these were the main problems with Final Fantasy VII for PC. Obviously, the creative team of SquareSoft hasn't learnt their lesson, so the latest Final Fantasy suffers from similar flaws. What's more, the porting from PSX to PC took them no less than five months. Don't hate me you loyal Final Fantasy fans for this kind of critical intro; I do agree that this is a top-notch game when it comes to the atmosphere and the design.
The first "Final Fantasy" was published in early 90', for 8-bit Nintendo console (NES). The author of this epic saga is Hironobu Sakaguchi, who at the time of the first Final Fantasy, tried to enable his company stand up in the sea of turn based RPGs. From those early days on, this serial is being developed and published in the form of sequels. There are plans for the next year, to even make a movie based on the serial. Why is this serial is so important for RPG genre itself? Above all, for introducing new standards in turn based RPGs: variety of creatures in a group, classes, different means of transport, many new features for armors and weapons. Apart from broadening our views on RPG stage, Final Fantasy has something rarely found in other games, the story. The story plots put you in the different kind of situations, and enable you to literally live the life of the character you lead. Every part is like an interactive and colorful adventure novel. The latest sequel follows the pattern. In the future, there still exist people who want to rule the world, sounds a little familiar? All across the Earth there exist many "SeeD" organizations, which enable effective defense from potential threats. All members of "SeeD" have magic powers, they are experienced warriors with excellent combat skills. The members to be, are trained in Balamb Garden city. To become a full member of "SeeD", you must pass many tests --- from mental power tests to endurance tests. And that's only the start; only the chosen one can start training, once they have passed all the tests.
The story goes something like this. The world has become a peaceful place thanks to prompt and determined actions of the "SeeD"s mercenaries, but not for long. Edea, a mythological creature --- sorceress, woke up from near-to-be an eternal sleep. She has an enormous magic power, and her malice threatens the safety of our planet. Well to start, you are Squall, a young and arrogant trainee who dreams of becoming a full member of "SeeD". As the story of his (yours) childhood unfolds, you learn that he's just an ordinary kid who's lost his sister during early age, and he's been spending his life seeking for her, seeking her protection and help. By advancing through the game, Squall realizes he's not alone, in fact he never was. His emotional dilemmas are expressed through numerous questions he poses to himself ("Why is this happening to me?", "Is there no one to help me?", "Does it mean that I should rely on others?" and so on). Characters in the game are not related to the characters from the previous sequels, but are somewhat similar. For those familiar with Final Fantasy VII, it would be easy to recognize the character of Tiff in the image of instructress Quistis, character of Baretta thru' Rinoe or Zell, Yuffie thru' Sefia. The game interface is left unchanged, but there are slight differences in the acts of accomplishment of the certain tasks. Material system is omitted, and you must learn magic spells, and draw energy during combat. Spells and special features are well hidden in the books, documents and papers. Characters use magic through the game, draw energy, and can cast spells or stock'em for later use. By accumulating the energy, you improve character's features and abilities for magic attacks. Your adversaries are of different AI, and they can improve. This means that you will meet pitiful and miserable enemies no more. You'll have to face adversaries of the same skill levels as yours, so you'll have to implement new strategies, because the more your adversaries improve, the more they acquire new and better abilities, and become more dangerous of course. Another interesting feature is that you gain experience even if you flee from the combat. The experience is gained according to your personal involvements in combat and the amount of damage you caused to your adversaries. There are no elemental monsters to call upon any more. Instead, the player is summoning the so-called Guardian Forces - GF. Monsters called upon this way can gain experience and improve their characteristics.
These magic powers are important for the development of your characters, mostly due to their ability to add strength to characters in a process of advancing. If you don't use (Junctioned) Guardian Forces, characters can only attack with what they hold in their hands, which is not enough sometimes. Linking magic powers with characters was a challenge, because the way you do it directly determines your tactics. Card game is another brilliant idea that Square designers offered us, fantasy fans. Something similar to what we have seen in Might & Magic VII, but here the game in question is completely unlinked to any assignment whatsoever. The cards you gather during the game have four numbers each, the higher the number, the better the card is. You play every card game with five cards against five cards of your opponent. The aim is to have better cards than your opponent, and take his cards and thus augment your collection. You can win NPC's cards too...
Well, we came to graphics, which is I must say, a step forward regarding last sequel. Characters are large and realistic, backgrounds are precisely rendered with plenty of artistic touch (especially water, rocks and sky), so that characters curiously merge with background. Adversaries are much bulkier, while the GF summoning animations last extremely long. It's important to stress that you cannot turn off those animations, which begin to get on your nerves after a while. The biggest fault in the game is the controls system. You control characters only and only using keyboard, which is highly impractical and baleful in combat.
At first, you must press keys quickly and manage yourself through clumsy menus, which you eventually overcome and get use to more complex commands. It is also complicated to determine disposition of your characters in a group. Saving positions, which is completely taken from PSX console, is not fun to do on PC, and it can bother you very much in combat with hotshots and level chiefs. You can save your position only on predetermined spots, which forces you to repeat certain parts repeatedly, until you're bored enough to leave it alone.
Background music is the worst element of the game. There are no voice-overs during the character conversation, while sound themes don't share the dynamics of the storyline. Final Fantasy VIII has a support for EAX standard, but the only good sound you'll hear is in combat. Every spell and magic power have synchronized sound following the animation, which is OK. I can say, that Final Fantasy VIII is a quality game despite numerous imperfections, of which the real RPG --- console fans are used too long ago. There is more in Final Fantasy VIII than I can put on these few pages: the depth of the main story, character's advancing, magic powers and capabilities you extract from them, secret and optional quests and all other tiny details that make Final Fantasy VIII the game it is. SquareSoft has showed us again that is quite possible to create a game with classis Japanese animation that is realistic, and to stay free from feminine-like characters disliked by majority of players, including myself.
Tips: Don't you ever forget to prepare magic powers, objects and spells for use, before the combat starts. The first quest you must accomplish is to go to Flaming Caves with instructress Quentis. There you will fight Ifrit, the fire God, and when you defeat him, you gain new magic power - Ifrit's. During fight call out for magic power Shiva, and together with Quentis cast a Blizzard - spell to lower his energy. When your energy is low, cast a Cure - spell. In the second quest you fight on the communication tower in the city occupied by Galbadie soldiers. First, you encounter the commander Biggs, who's a tough guy, and as he, hits hard use Cure - spell to help yourself. During the course of that combat sergeant Wedges joins Biggs, but you keep casting Thunder - spell on Biggs. They will be both destroyed by monster Elvoret soon. He is the strongest adversary you had, so use this tip to eliminate him: Thunder - spell and hits damage him the most. Be sure to draw from him a Siren - magic power, and a Double Spell. After that destroy him using Blizzard, Fire and Thunder spells. It's mandatory that you call out for magic powers all the time, especially for Shiva and Quetzacoatl.
8.0 Very Good
The pre-rendered animation is breathtaking;
Controls are a bit clumsy and at times complex... steep lurning curve.
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