Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Final Fantasy 8, for me, has been one of the pinnacles of gaming. The carefully yet tasteful adult story, coupled with impressive graphics and a nice combat system at the time, made it one of the most playable RPGS of its era. A lot of people choose Final Fantasy VII as their choice for the best, but for me, VIII was always two steps ahead in terms of the story and the characterization, as well as the graphics and combat.
As Squall Leonhart, you and your friends are part of the Balamb Garden, which is a school that trains its students to be members of SeeD, a special operation force. After a mission goes wrong, it is up to Squall and his friends to seek the truth about the world around them, as well as how their past is connected to a strange man whom they never met.
Graphics- The game is a step up from FFVII at the time, with cleaner polygons, stronger backgrounds and even better cinematic scenes. The game is a big improvement at the time from FFVII. It is definitely a good looking, but long game. Heck, 4 disks is a LOT of stuff to fit in there.
Final Score- A-
Gameplay- I always have trouble explaining game play in a RPG format, but here it goes. The new junction system for this entry works pretty good, although is somewhat flawed at times. Plus I never liked drawing to get magic against your enemies, especially when it is from a high level boss battle. Finally, the Guardian Forces are back, with a major vengeance. Frankly, they should of cut down on the number of screens for the GF’s. Yes they are important, but sometimes the wait is to damn long, and you also rely on them way to much at times.
But enough complaining, because here is where it picks up. We have a story here, one about love, responsibility, power, and knowing your past. The story is, without a doubt, one of the best stories in a final fantasy series. It really strikes a chord when you think about it deep down. Also, the characterization of each character, from Squall, to Riona to Seifer, is extremely realistic and strong. They act like adults, but deep down are teens at heart, and it shows with their disappointments, weak, immature moments, and their passion, or shyness, of others. Excellent work on the story, and let’s face it, that is why most people play the game.
Final Score- A-
Sound- The special effects, magic effects, GF effects, and the like are all real nice, and the lack of voice acting is still a hindrance, but the music is top notch. Faye Wong’s song “Eyes on Me” is one moving piece. The games looped battle tracks are a step down from FFVII, but still listenable.
Final Score- B+
Overall- I loved Final Fantasy VIII. The game has one of the best RPG stories ever created, strong characterization, a great, albeit flawed battle system, and over 40 hours to get through with mini-games and other little tidbits stuck in the middle. If you love Final Fantasy, make sure this is in your collection. If not, make sure you play it once.