Final Fantasy VIII is the eighth main installment of the Final Fantasy series, developed and published by Squaresoft. It was released in February 1999 for the PlayStation, and has been re-released on Microsoft Windows in 2000, with this version being ported to Steam in 2013. A remastered version was released September 3rd, 2019 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam. This review was based on my experience through the Nintendo Switch Port.
Differences between the Old version and Remastered Version
Better Visuals (Now that’s good Squallity over there)
The Remastered Version has upgraded the visuals by a huge margin. As seen in the photo above, there is a Squall with pixelated visuals on the left, and on the right, a Squall in the Remastered version with better quality and art.
Better Convenience and Difficulty
The Remastered version has added some settings for convenience, including 3x Speed, No encounter Mode, and God Mode (Which makes you both invulnerable, act directly after an action, and Limit Break every turn). These make the experience of the game much easier to go at your own pace.
The story starts with 2 gunblade users who look like they are fighting, which in the end was just 2 of them training. Sadly, the orange haired one took the training too far and injured the black haired one, which would be our main character of the story- Squall.
The Main Character
You get to play as Squall, a SeeD, who starts out as someone who doesn’t love to talk, but always has inner monologues with himself. Kinda ironic isn’t it? His development is at first having a hard time getting to trust people easily, which is pretty relatable. Getting to see him develop is actually one of the great character developments, which makes the experience more worthwhile and unique.
Leon-(heart) and (Heart)-illy
FF8 as a whole is a romantic story, and I personally found the story heavily packed with romance. I, for one, experienced butterflies in my stomach whenever there was a moment between these two characters. Their synergy as a whole is heartwarming with a touch of bitterness on the side. It may diverge from the former games just by having soft scenes, but this game focuses on romance as a whole, and I really love what they did. It felt natural, and I loved this genre, so I appreciate this addition to the Final Fantasy Series.
FF8 has one of the most memorable casts for me. The crew generally has great vibes and chemistry with each other. To top it all off, they all have different attitudes that don’t overlap with each other: Squall, a person who usually talks with himself and is often silent and just answers briefly without any explanation; a very hyper, jolly young girl whose main focus is just having fun; a flirty playboy from next door who looks like a cowboy; a girl who loves to bully Squall, but also protect him at the same time; the usual kid who says to himself- “Training is everything!! Training will make you stronger!!”; and finally Rinoa, who is the most wholesome in the group, and the only one who can tempt Squall to make choices he hasn’t made before. I really love all the development of the six characters. Between their conversations, which are mostly comedic with a touch of drama, I love these six with all my heart.
The main premise of FF8 is Squall being a Balamb Garden student, who must embark on a critical mission soon. This is merely the start of the story, and being the Main Character, Squall needs to find his resolve for not just his teammates, but also for the upcoming missions as well.
I was really enthralled by the story as a whole. In my playthrough of this game, I couldn’t put down my console as I continued down the story. I actually embarked on an adventure with my imagination too, with a rollercoaster of emotions, from being excited, curious, worried, happy, sad, angry, and bitter.
Junction with your GF?! (Sorry, GF doesn’t mean Girlfriend),
You saw it right- the main mechanic focuses on junctions with your GFs, which means Guardian Forces wherein you junction magic to your stats. What makes this kind of fun is that each magic will have a different effect on different stats. For example, Reflect when junctioned to Str will only add 50 points, whereas when junctioned to Spirit or Vitality, it would rise into 70-100 points!! You can test the values when you try the game. It’s a part of the experience for me, testing the total stat gain.
Also, to maximize the total stat addition, you must have the maximum number of a magic. One of the mechanics introduced in this game is the draw action, where you gain magic from enemies. It’s like the skill steal, but it’s magic. The higher the level of some enemies, the better the magic that can be drawn from them. I should also note that you can also draw from towns and the overworld map, so that also makes it way easier!!!
The card mini-game’s rewards are really good!!
What is the minigame all about? Triple Triad is a card game played on a 3×3 square grid where cards are placed. Each card has four numbers in the top left corner called “ranks” which corresponds to each side of the card. These range from 1 to 10. 10 being “A”, is the highest. The two players then flip a coin to see who goes first, then take turns to fill up the board. The cards must be “captured” which in order to do so, you must place a card beside the opponent’s card, and if the rank touching the opponent’s card is higher, it will be captured. The winner will be decided based on who has more cards in the field after all 9 boxes have been filled and depending on the rules, the winner will either get all the cards played by the opponent, or just one.
Compared to the rewards of FFIX’s Tetra Master, FFVIII’s Triple Triad is really a must to play because it rewards you more generously for collecting cards. One of the guardian forces has an ability called card mod, which lets you transform cards into materials, then transform those materials into magic using refining abilities of other guardian forces, so that it will make your playthrough easier rather than just focusing on drawing from monsters. Finally, some cards modded and refined are actually pretty useful such as the rare cards, which have a Gold border around them. You first get to have Ifrit, which is one of the rare cards you will have, which you can use to get Rinoa- a high-tier card for so early on in the game. If you plan to mod the Rinoa Card, it transforms into 3 Magic Armlets, which when used, makes your GFs learn Spr+60%, only a select few of the Gfs you have early game can learn this. There are also a lot of cards that have better abilities, and they’re all over the place!! I actually think I used up around 10-15 hours just playing the minigame. I was really hooked with it, and with these kinds of rewards, I recommend playing the minigame even just on the first disc, as it will make your life a whole lot easier, trust me!
Level Grinding actually is not efficient?!
Technically, the average level of your team will affect the level of the monsters you encounter, hence those monsters will cast stronger spells, and have higher stats overall; so you may take care on controlling your level for a certain part of the story. What’s good about leveling up is that the stronger the monsters get, the better magic you can draw, thus you can get better stats through junctioning. Other than that, there is no real benefit to level grinding.
So does that make the game hard?!
Going into the game, I may have been lost at some moments, especially with all the junction stuff and Guardian Forces. The game is actually really easy, however, with a Tutorial Tab in the game’s main menu and you should know what magic to junction with a certain stat. Always farm for AP for your GFs, and you will soon realize that FF8 is one of the easiest games to play in the series!!
The music in this game is actually pretty stellar. The soundtrack is composed by Nobuo Uematsu, giving you a feel of what should be felt. One example is when you hear the “SeeD” soundtrack, which usually plays on the mission briefing, and you can feel the suspense while learning what to do during your mission. Another is the normal battle theme “Don’t be Afraid”, which feels like you’re in the military and ready to attack the enemy. It sticks with the title because the soundtrack gives you the courage to pursue and continue on with confidence. The boss theme “Force Your Way” fills you with dread, as the keyboard notes with the synth tell you “You’re gonna get destroyed in this fight if you didn’t prepare properly”. Finally, the Sorceress’ theme, “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” fills you with suspense, starting the song with just the drums and the choir, then the strings come in, filling you with ongoing dread. But enough about hype music, It’s time to talk about some of the peaceful soundtracks the game has to offer. “Balamb Garden”, “Fisherman’s Horizon”, and “My Mind” are some of the tracks I love to listen to because they’re so peaceful, as if you’re in a garden and you’re just calm and listening to the wind. I love the Victory fanfare that plays during the victory screen, with the xylophone jingle rather than the usual fanfare style that was used on the former games, FF 1-6, and in the next game, FF9. I also enjoyed “Waltz of the Moon”, because of the time when the soundtrack is played. Rinoa and Squall were dancing together and I really loved that scene, so the music that was playing during that scene stuck with my heart. Finally, I should talk about my favorite track in the game, which would be “Eyes on Me”, sung by Faye Wong. It is the love theme song of FF8, and it played during those moments where both Squall and Rinoa were being two lovebirds with each other. This soundtrack specifically really shocked me, and it really stuck with me, both crying and being happy for the scene that was unfolding before me. Final Fantasy really does this to soundtracks; they really hit you in the feels when you least expect it.
FF8 was a really great game for me. The only thing lacking would be voice acting, and I would even rate the game as one of my favorite Final Fantasies. I would really recommend this to those who are planning to play this game, and I hoped I did the game justice with this review, I was quite puzzled at first with the mechanics of the game, but I really recommend you just test things out, and if it doesn’t work you could always ask for help!!!
Final Fantasy VIII: Remastered
Very easy to play for JRPG fans
Can break the game at the start if you want to
Fun new junction mechanic to test out.
Not recommended for someone who is new to JRPGs
The junction system may be tricky to navigate
EXP grinding will make the playthrough harder