Final Fantasy 8: A Gem Still Worth Playing
Back in 1999 I was 14 years old, the year before Legend of Zelda Ocarina of time had come out and had took the gaming community by storm. I was lucky to get this for Christmas 98 off my parents and I remember putting hour after hour into this game over the Christmas holidays until I had finished the game. The size of Hyrule was huge, at the time I remember never seeing a game world as large as this. There was so much to explore and do, this was a game that kept me occupied till about June until I had 100% completed it.
I was wanting another game that came close to Ocarina of time. Fast forward a couple of months and I was at one of my friends who had recently picked up a Playstation and also a copy of Final Fantasy 8. I was watching my friend play this game and I knew this was the next game I wanted to get. The cinematic cut scenes and the story that was unravelling had caught my attention.
The story of Final Fantasy 8 is quite long. It begins with Squall Leonhart engaged in a battle with one of his peers in which he is cut across his face in the opening scenes. It transpires that this person who injured Squall was his adversary and one of the antagonist’s of this story, Seifer Almasy. Awake from his injuries Squall finds himself in the infirmary of Garden, an elite school that train’s mercenary’s that go by the name of Seed.
Due to the training accident Squall needed to attend the Fire Cavern to attain a Guardian force prior to attending the Field Exam. The Field exam turns out to be based in a town across the sea called Dollet. Dollet had invaded by the neighbouring nation Galbadia and requested assistance from Seed to assist in liberating the town. In order to become a full fledged member of Seed Squall goes to Dollet to pass the field exam.
When they arrive in Dollet the are given specific orders to hold position in the town centre of Dollet. Seifer was the leader of this squad which Squall was a member of. Feeling frustrated at no action in the town centre Seifer orders his team to go to the satellite tower which is above the town set high in to the hills. The team arrive at the Satellite tower and discover the Galbadian army are repairing the Satellite, but to what end?……..
The Battle-system: FF8 was my first introduction to a turn based battle system and with it was quite a learning curve. FF8 had changed over it’s predecessor, this time the player could “junction” magic to help boost their stats.
The player can also call upon great monsters called Guardian Forces (GF) to aid them in battle. These GF’s have the power to learn new ability’s which would help develop your characters making them more and more stronger. Having an ample stock of a strong type of magic would give the character quite a boost to their stats, providing that the guardian force (GF) had already learnt the ability allowing you to junction magic to that particular stat. The power of the magic you discover throughout the game is kept mainly in relation to the level you are currently at, so grinding can have its advantages and disadvantages, the disadvantage being that the monsters also level up in relation to yourself, the advantage being higher level monsters carry better magic.
Once you are familiar with the battle system you can manipulate this to your advantage. A player who understands what abilitys the GF’s can learn and what magic can be gained from certain enemies may mean that you might be a lot stronger than the enemies you’re currently facing. It took me two play-through’s to fully understand how this could be used to my own advantage. If you invest the time in the battle system and collect the required items to upgrade your weapons the game doesn’t fail to disappoint that it was well worth doing. Having Squall use the highest upgrade for his weapon the Gunblade is aptly named Lionheart. The Lionheart gives you access to an all mighty limit break that will defeat most enemies in one long sustained attack.
The side-quests: This is perhaps for me where the real gem of the game is, most specifically with the mini-game that is integal to this installment of Final Fantasy – Triple Triad. Triple Triad is a card game that is played on a 3X3 grid with the aim to turn over your opponents cards. Each card has 4 sets of numbers denoting the value of each side of the card; If the number is higher on that particular side than your opponents you will turn their card over making it yours. This simple concept starts off easy to get the grips of but if your opponent has higher numbered cards than yourself, then it can make it a more challenging game. If you are successful and win the match you get the choice of your opponents cards you would like to keep. These cards can then be refined into items that can help you gain stronger magic or special items you need in order to upgrade your weapons.
As well as other areas to explore the game comes into its element when you reach disk 3 and acquire the Spaceship called the Ragnorok. The Ragnorok allows you to travel to any location in the games over-world and thus complete hidden side quests to gain even stronger and unique GF’s. Most people like to play the game up until this point as from here onward you can access all areas. Beyond disk 3 you cannot access the towns any more.
Replay Value: For me the replay value is in the story and the battle system. The story is rich and intertwined with a lot of themes that play throughout the game. The character developments moves at a good pace and is nice to see the change in Squall in disk 3. Some critics think he is too miserable but the tone I got from the text is that the characters were speaking was of a sarcastic nature, this to me made the characters come more to life and have more personality about them. Granted it took me a couple of play-through’s to see where certain comments could be regarded as sarcasm but nonetheless it helped me wanting to progress the story to find out what was going to happen to our protagonist.