Playing: Final Fantasy 8 on my psp
Watching: Big Bang Theory Season 2
Listening: Paulo Nutini
Quote Of The Day: Gerard Doyle – “Hold on a sec my nob is vibrating…..my phone I mean.”
FF8 centres around a young man named Squall who is part of SEED, and a student at a military academy called Balamb Garden .SEED is are basically mercenaries paid by the academy. He and his friends are drawn into an international war, but will also have to protect the world from an evil sorceress who is using the war for her own purposes. Yes I know, it sounds like a weird story but I’ve played stranger games. FF8 might seem strange from reading that basic premise, but after just an hour or two of playing the story and characters are intriguing enough to suck you in and keep you hooked. Originally released way back in October 1999, it was immediately compared to its predecessor Final Fantasy 7. Some people will say that FF7 is the best Playstation game of all time. I’m inclined to agree in parts, but Final Fantasy 8 comes in at least the top 10. I may as well mention that I’m a long time Final Fantasy fan. FF8 was the first one I actually owned, got it for Christmas in 1999, and I still have the original case and discs on my shelf.
Some of FF8’s strongest points are in its set pieces, characters and soundtrack. The opening two to three hours stand as one of the best openings for any game I’ve ever played. It gives you a brief introduction to characters, setting and gameplay, and then throws you into your SEED training mission. Pass it and Squall and friends will become fully fledged members of SEED. Travelling to the town nearby, you’re ushered onto a boat and given a mission briefing about the town you are going to have to liberate. Sound simple enough. Then the game switches to an FMV. Squall is out on deck and looking into the distance out of shot. Jets fly overhead, silhouetted against the glow of the full moon. He holds a map up in front of him showing the town and the battle plan, then leaves it down to reveal the town and the upcoming beach landing. Explosions are going off all over the site as your ship smashes through a wall in the bay and grinds to a halt on the beach, which is then filled with SEED members charging into the town. I could go on and on but that’s just within the first few hours of the game, and let’s just leaving the town is even better than the entrance. There’s not much detail I can go into with the story without spoiling something so just give it a chance and you’ll be drawn in.
The game is filled with exciting set-pieces and plot twists to keep you playing, unfortunately I can’t say the same for Squall. I can’t stand him. It should really go as a general rule of thumb, that your main character should be someone the players like and want to see succeed. I wanted to grabby by his scruffy head and smack some sense into him. Squall begins the story being quiet and moody and doesn’t really talk all that much, except to himself. Any normal character would end up changing somehow by the end of the game, like everyone else in the game does, but he stays moody the whole way through, bar a few parts where he does anything to rescue/defend the love interest called Rinoa. There are some genuine funny and exciting moments that stand out in the game, but every now and then it feels like Squall isn’t even there. It doesn’t cause a massive problem, nor does it ruin the overall enjoyment, but I’d rather have a proper hero than a moody teenager.
The soundtrack to the game is another strong point. Battle themes are fast paced and exciting, and the background music for towns is catchy and relaxing every now and then. I can’t say the same about the combat system though. Complicated is an understatement. You can summon guardian forces to help you out in battle and its pretty helpful except for when it takes nearly a minute for them to finish their snazzy attack, and all you want is to see how much damage it did.FF8 gets rid of the traditional ‘MP’ points found in almost every RPG, and replaces them with actually having to draw magic from enemies and points around the game, and then use them e.g. I draw 4 thunders from an enemy, and I can use thunder 4 times now, or I can use it to give me more health by equipping it to my health in the menu…….yeah I’ll just stick with saying it’s complicated. You’ll need the tutorials but getting your head around the system will mean you can take full advantage of it and make your characters super strong nearly halfway through the game.
Back when it was released, this game was pushing graphics to the limit. The FMV sequences are still better than most CG movies and go all out for scale, but the character models do look a bit blocky and grainy now. At the time we all had small televisions so it wasn’t really noticeable, but in the age of HD it can get annoying but rarely gets in the way. Another problem I’ve had since I got the game is the 4th disc. If you download it you’ll just choose a setting that tells the game you’re on the 4th disc. Anyway, once you get that far in the game, without spoiling the story all I can say is you aren’t allowed back into any towns or places around the game world apart from the final area. Not cool. I want to continue going around the place before I finish the game but you’re forced forward pretty much. The story ends up having somewhat too much of an emphasis on ‘love’ and ‘friendship’ towards the end, and I don’t think it really fit in with the war story the game starts out with. The villain of the game, the sorceress, is also rarely seen. She’s talked about through the game but it seems strange to have some almighty powerful villain that only shows up at pivotal points.
The game was originally released on 4 discs for the Playstation, but the reason I chose to review this is that the game has been re-released for download on the Playstation Store. So now you can download it for PS3 or PSP for €10, and that is an absolute steal for over 30 hours of gameplay. If you’ve played a Final Fantasy game before you owe it to yourself to spend a measly ten quid on a Playstation classic. If you haven’t played a Final Fantasy game before, then I’d highly recommend this or Final Fantasy 7. It’s not my favourite Final Fantasy game, comes just outside my top 5 and it won’t convert people to RPG games but it’s definitely worth a try if you don’t want to spend all your money on the next Medal of Duty Call 17.