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I used to call it one of my favorite games of all-time, I'm honestly not sure where it falls now since I've only played it once, and that game started 10 years ago. While I'm a huge fan of the Dreamcast and will probably dig mine out over the next few days to honor its 10th anniversary also , Final Fantasy VIII just clicked with me. Well, I said I wouldn't get into FF7, but that game had a great first hour!
Especially for a Japanese role-playing game that usually spends more time explaining the intricacies of the turn-based battle system than actually being, you know So here's the setting: We're looking at a beach, a haunting female choir begins singing We follow the same petal as it soars into a black, thunderous sky, then suddenly it comes down as a giant sword! The blonde guy in the white trench coat fends off a flurry of blows, and then shoots some fire at the man in black!
As the man in black is lying on the ground, he gets a nasty slash across the forehead and blood spurts on the ground. Not to be outdone, he gets up and returns the favor. The man in black is laying on a small bed with Dr. Kadowaki standing over him. She asks how I'm feeling - no voice acting though, just text on the screen. I respond that my forehead hurts. She asks me my name, I leave it at the default, Squall. Turns out the two of us were just training Another cutscene kicks off a hot looking librarian that honestly can't be any older than Squall.
We walk down a hall together, a couple of girl students walk past and giggle. Not sure what the heck it was. The building we're in? We're sitting in class now, Seifer and I are in the back row. Squall looks like he's a big moper with his head straight down to the floor. Quistis asks me if I've been to the Fire Cavern yet, it's part of my exam.
It's the Balamb Garden Network. Guardian Forces is an independent energy force There's two Guardian Forces GF registered for me: I get the opportunity to rename each of them. That's probably why Quistis told me to check my panel. What is this, Chrono Trigger? She asks for a tour, "Sure," I respond. The girl and I hop in the elevator and head down. We're looking at the school directory now, there's a dorm, cafeteria, quad, all the usual stuff.
There's even live monsters in the training facility. There always has to be a Cid. The girl finally leaves Squall and I then I direct him over to what has to be a save point, yep.
Have to run a long way to find Quistis. There's some glowy purple thing coming from the ground. Ah, there's Quistis, like four long screens from the front door. She's going to talk about junctioning a GF now, it's a menu tutorial, my favorite. I give Quezacotl to Squall and Shiva to Quistis. We're running on the world map now.
It's east of here but since I can run any which way and there's no compass, I don't even know which way is east! Oh oh, random battle on the overworld! I tell Quistis to Draw from the monster, it looks like it has three things to Draw. After a couple rounds of drawing, I find out it has Blizzard, Cure, and Scan. Cure could be useful, and Blizzard in a Fire Cavern.
I draw a bit more. Squall uses his sword and Quistis cracks her whip. Man, talk about a guy's fantasy. We finish the beast off. Quistis informs me that the R1 button is the trigger Wow, that's much more effective, like a free critical hit. Don't feel like it though this round and just finish them off. I'm just getting my head wrapped around the map!
Hey, you can auto-junction magic! I get to select a time limit: Well, there's only about 20 minutes left, better shoot for that one. They chat some more as the lava licks their boots. We both draw from them quickly. For some reason they have Thunder, and they also go down in one hit. Guess we'll have to take them down the old fashioned way. Time continues to count down while we fight. Both my GF's also leveled up!
The next enemy has some Blizzard to stock up on. It's Ifrit, a giant fire monster! I decide to summon Quistis' GF, Shiva! It takes a few seconds to show up, but then does a truly epic Diamond Dust move against Ifrit. We both keep spamming him with Blizzard, but oh yeah, Squall has got Quezacotl. I'll do that instead, it seems kind of cheap though. I'll give Quezacotl a try though, just to see what the move looks like. It's called Thunder Storm, and a bird is struck down from the heavens to perform some mouth-lightning-explosions on Ifrit.
Oh, we beat Ifrit, and he'll join me! I still had about eight minutes left too. I guess you can link magic to regular attacks to do elemental damage, or protect myself from elemental damage. Thankfully Auto takes care of this too. And there's still battles. Okay, one more tutorial by Quistis, it's about GF's learning abilities. Guess I head to the dorm? I had no idea what was going on for most of it, but it was a spectacular use of full-motion video.
While it didn't set up the actual game that well, as far as I can tell, it let us know that the game meant business.
Drawing magic is a great alternative to almost every other RPG I've ever played. Anyone can use any magic as long as they stock up on it first. Characters aren't shoved into a particular class that they can never escape.
What I didn't like: The game is a bit slow to the action, FF7 gets to fighting in three short minutes, but number eight has you wandering through a giant school giving tours. It's different, that's for sure. At least the game had me showdown against a boss. The cardinal sin of starting a game especially a long one is not facing off against at least a mini boss. With great power comes great responsibility, or in terms of Final Fantasy VIII, when you give us a beautiful opening cutscene, the rest of the game had better keep the ball rolling.
Unfortunately, it fails rather miserably. It's really more of the stage of technology we were in 10 years ago, but maybe they could have eased the transition between awesome opening and blocky polygons a bit better.
Battles move slowly, but they seem to have a lot of depth with the Guardian Forces, drawing magic, and junctioning attributes.
It seems like a stat-gamer's dream and actually, during college, my friend sat for hours just maxing out his stats by drawing tons of magic and leveling up very slowly. Like I said before, it's a slow to get going game, but not as bad as I've played before.
An amazing combination of well directed video and an entrancing soundtrack kicks the game off, and then it's a bit downhill from there.
Honestly, the in-game graphics aren't that bad, it's just hard not to compare them to the opening. Would have been nice to have some voice acting too. It would have been nice to at least have a hint, but I'm glad it didn't dwell on anything too heavily. Would I keep playing?