Kayn reviews the latest installment of Final Fantasy. Gawkman hasn't even finished playing FF7 (BAHAH, LOSER!).
Editor's Note: Some of these images are taken from the PC edition of Final Fantasy VIII.
Wal-mart. Age 8. Apple Valley, California.
Upon my first taste of RPG heaven at a sitter's house (my Dad's boss's wife was a big time gamer), I was suddenly inspired to get Final Fantasy for my 9th birthday after watching her get class changes at Bahamut's Island (after finding the Rat's Tail, of course). I can remember hearing the the 8-bit arpeggio of harmonious bliss on a deep blue-lit screen, shining upon my 12 inch television after my Dad made the legendary purchase.
After that day, I was completely hooked. Battle after battle, I raged on to raise experience and gold to buy silver swords, magic spells, and collections of armor for my party of four chosen warriors. "Restore the light to the 4 orbs by defeating the Fiends." That was my bread and butter when I was a kid (besides bread and butter).
Okay, not much has changed (a little hairier, taller, deeper voice, good looks increased), and it's almost unbelieveable that it's been damn near, if not already, ten years since the first Final Fantasy was released. And now, Squaresoft blesses us with the eighth installment of their epic series unveiling their imaginative portrayal of gaming.
I know it may be weird, but staring at the words, "Final Fantasy" really brings back fond childhood memories.
I'm gonna bust out my mad bullet listing skills and show you some (not all) traditions, broken and kept, with part 8.
Magic Points replaced with Number of spells Drawn - I personally prefer the old system; magic points. When I first read about the 'Draw' system, I thought it was gonna flat out suck ass. It's not bad, just not something I'd expect out of a Final Fantasy game.
Classes - Though this was killed in FF VI, some people prefer your mages, fighters, and your mixed classes.
Weapons - This time around, you don't buy weapons, you UPGRADE them. You have to search the world for bits and pieces of a stronger weapon. How do you know which pieces you need? Collect several weapon magazines all over the world and read them. I personally prefer buying them pre-assembled. But that's just me. Ramuh - Gone and replaced with Quezacotl. No more bearded sage lookin' dude! Now it's a freakish flying bird thing!
Odin and Phoenix, items? - Odin is a randomized summon thing. In other words, once every now and then he'll appear to dice your enemies. Phoenix is a one time item (unless you have the proper refining abilities), which you use and POOF! Gone forever.
Battle Screen - Now it's fullscreen, with a slighly different menu. Not a bad thing at all.
Theme - More on this later.
GF hit points - The summon dudes, or Guardian Forces and thery're referred to in FF8, have hit points! They can be killed! I like this addition simply because it adds more interaction with your abilities.
Junction System - Now you can junction certain types of magic to you attack, defence, vitality, etc. Useful when fighting elemental enemies.
Character Appearance - In all the prequels, every character has their deformed, anime look. In FF8, characters resemble normal human beings (Rumor: In FFIX, Square has decided to go back to the traditional look. I certainly hope they bring back many old traditions)
Spell names - Gone is Cure 1, 2, and 3. Spells are now called, "Fire, Fira, Firaga, Blizzard, Blizzara, Blizzaga, Cure, Cura, Curaga, etc." They take on a similar appearance as the Phantasy Star spellnames.
Money - You don't get gil from killing the bad guys. Depending on you SeeD ranking, you get a paycheck. Wow. Like real life.
Walking around - They make footsteps now. And, they don't just climb into the leader's pocket; they follow each other, ala Chrono Trigger.
Ahh, FF8 kept a lot of good old traditions that let us know, "This is a Final Fantasy game damnit."
Chocobos - Wark! Heh.
Bahaumut - The king of dragons has been in Final Fantasy since the VERY first one. My favorite aspect of the series.
Shiva, Ifrit, Alexander, Siren, etc. - They're back. And they're even prettier.
Final Fantasy theme - Both are here, but one of them is more of a hybrid version of the chromatic-ish harp.
The Airship - The flying unit of transportation here is the best I've seen thus far in the series.
New Characters - As Square has done with all their Final Fantasy games, the characters ('cept Cid), overworld, and locations are all new and original.
Never have I seen such close attention to detail in a game. Every spell, every action has been carefully planned out to the intricate detail. Even the low level magic spells are good looking. Battle scenes are remniscant of the CG backgound; the 3D modeling is some of the best I've ever seen; Polygons are now texture mapped; out of battle movement is lifelike; the overworld is more interactive; it's all just a smaller, more warped version of earth (and you thought we weren't warped enough).
As for the CG's: Utterly breathtaking. Seamlessly intergrated (as the back cd cover stated) with gameplay, and motion captured for realism. In other words, they grabbed a few actors, slapped on suction cups with wires on their near naked bodies, and said, "Attack this guy with a styrofoam gunblade." One can only ponder on how they put such emotion and personality on a computer generated face. They smile, laugh, and damn near cry. Makes you wanna hurl.
And then there's the Guardian Forces.
For Final Fantasy 8, you better have TONS of patience. As untouchably beautiful the summons may be, their casting life can last up to a full minute! And you thought Knights of the Round from ff7 was long. Your first glorious encounter with the GFs will be nothing less than magnificence: "Ooooh! Diablos just threw that ball of gook!" However, after 50 times of gazing upon same damn animation, you start to wish there was an option called, "quick summon" that just dishes the damage without the fancy eye-candy.
Oh, is there no end to watching Quezacotl?
I've been a long time fan of Mr. U. His creations (until FF7) have been nothing but spectacular. Aside from his last dish of work, FF8 improves over the last installment (FF7's music wasn't exactly his best collection). Everything had more pulse, more 'hoo-haa' (musicians know what I'm talking about), more of a 'get going and whoomp-um' touch. But FF8's earcandy was obliviated with 2 words.
Dear God. No. This was BAD. The first time I heard that 'eyes on me' crud, I had a few freinds in the same room. They all stopped what they were doing and glared at me, "What the $@#*?!"
I grabbed damn near every object around me and threw it at the stereo. ARRGH! Stop the pop! Eventually, the music ceased and the air was once again breatheable. Adult contemparary/Pop and Final FAntasy DO NOT mix. That's a BAD Noburo! Smack 'im on tha heead!
Don't misunderstand; pretty music is very vital to any Final Fantasy title. Once you get the feel for battle music and lubby-dubby tunes, you really shouldn't expect some happy Japanese pop singer to start riddling the air with mischevious sound waves of doom. I better not hear any more of this Celine Dion-ish crap again.
I will cry.
Sound effects are vastly improved over every Final Fantasy. Quistis's whip cracks like a circus bull whip, Laguna's machinegun sounds damn near an assault rifle, and every other weapon sounds like they should. Final Fantasy 7's sounds were closer to hisses and static sounds rather than clancks, moans, grumbles, and what-not. However, there are a few exceptions where sounds needed to be more concentrated on (the footsteps really started to annoy). If they're gonna have grunts from the monsters, they should add more character to you party. Like if Zell get's hit, he should say 'Ow' or something. I dunno, just more personality to the cast in battle playing with your imagination more.
Now before you bust out your hanky, listen. Nearly all the Final Fantasy's had a couple hook up in the end, or during the storyline. It was always a side plot to add personality, and nothing more. So this time, Square decided to take on, full force, their new FF with the touchy (literally) subject of LOVE! Can you belive it? I personally though it wouldn't compare to the CLoud and Aeris bond. But actually...aww hell, I won't tell you. When things start to happen, have your significant other hold you. It is rather nice. *cough*
Anyway, here's a basic idea of the story:
Boom, ya just got pweened by Seifer (your elusive antagonist) during training, and that mangled face of yours wakes up in the infirmary. Good ole doc calls in your teacher (quistis) to take your ass back to class. Turns out you're a SeeD-in-Training on the brink of your final exam.
This is no pencilneck final exam though. Before you can study how to junction your stuff, Quistis takes you to the prerequisite, which so happens to be some CAVE OF HOT INFERNO! Upon choosing your timelimit and getting though the cave, you are then sent off to Dollet to recover the town from (enter mischevious minor chord here) GALBADIAN SOLDIERS!
That is your 'exam.'
So boom, you pass. You're a SeeD (elite mercenaries or something). Then you meet Rinoa, and the other members, and skip to disc 4 where you battle with Evil SporkGod! OOH! Best hope you upgraded you wep to Super-Ultima-Killer-Dragon-Exaclibur-Ragnarok-Fire3-Plastic.
(editor's note: I do not support spoilers. :)
I liked FF8. A lot. Some people refer to it as a mere, "Interactive Movie." The cinematics and the intergration with them do make it seem that way, but I strongly disagree about calling it a mere film.With the CG stonghold Sqauresoft has, it's no wonder they've been giving more life to their characters. Look at FF Anthrology! In these two classics, FFV and FFVI, they have been solving and fufulling more of our imagination with some incredible looking cutscenes. RPGs lovers crave more personality in their characters, and Squaresoft, in my opinion, is setting the standard.
But the few flaws (lack of some tradition, FAYE, GF lenth) kills your final score by a mere 1/2 Pluh. Stick with your guns fellas and make sure FFIX brings back the old Final Fantasy feeling!
|Gameplay||Aside from the long GF sit-throughs (which make the game too long), and the confusing junctioning system, this game are GOOOD!||3.5|
|Graphics||Once again, Square bitch slaps you with perdiness.||4.5|
|Music/Sound||Sound effects are weak, and the musical score is so-so.||3.5|
|Replay Value||FF8 doesn't exaclty make me want to come back...||3.5|
|Originality||Well, I'd be lying if I said this game wasn't original. It was. And stuff.||4|
|Final Verdict: 3.8|