Squall Leonhart--victim of trauma inducing parents
What's in a name? Well, take Squall Leonhart. What the hell were his parents thinking? I mean, what kind of gonzo book of names did they use when they named their son after a weather condition? You might argue, "But Johnny - it's symbolic of the inner torment and struggles he faces." Shaddap and go back to your English class. Stop and think how much less moody he'd have been if only he were named Milhouse.
Squall is an angst-ridden student of Garden, a military school that trains soldiers of the highest ability. The few that make it that far are known as SeeD. Squall's entry into this elite force embroils him in a conflict against the evil witch, Edea. Long thought to be the stuff of legends, witches are powerful sorceresses who seek to control the world. Can you stop her?
When the Playstation version came out back in September of '99, I said that eventually the PC version would come out with cleaned up, sharpened graphics. Well, I take it all back. The Playstation was better. The PC conversion hacks blew it big time.
While the characters are sharper, polygonal errors are everywhere. Just look at the triangle that pops up on Seifer's head or the broken seams that show up far, far too often. The font, the menu screens, the save system, backgrounds... just name it, and you'll find a sloppy mess. Even the card game is jacked up. This port shows a complete lack of effort. There are times you can even see gray lines outlining areas of the background. Do these people even know Photoshop?
Thankfully, the gameplay stays intact. Magic is still operated through a "junction" system. Different traits of your character can be affected by how much magic you have. Magic is found in the different enemies you face. By "drawing" magic from an opponent, you can stock up on as many units of magic as you want... or have the patience for. The blatant flaw of this system is that in order to truly "strengthen" your character, you must endlessly draw those important spells to the max (100). Let me spell it out for you: B-O-R-I-N-G.
With no armor upgrades, and weapon upgrades as a more minor aspect, the need to draw magic becomes far too important. The last area in the game is really nothing more than an easy chance to max out all your spells. It would've been better if spells were harder to accumulate and enemies didn't have unlimited spells to draw.
In order to draw magic, you must first equip a Guardian Force (GF) to your characters, thereby inheriting the GF's traits and abilities. The GF's gain experience points, developing more abilities as you fight with them equipped. Sure, people bitch about how long the animations take and how boring it gets (all true), but you can eliminate that by just choosing to use the GF's less. If only there was programmed limit to using the GF's...
It wouldn't be a Square game without overblown, glorified videos. And thankfully, the video has survived the port; sharper and brighter than before. But who cares if the main graphics can't back the FMV up anymore.
Musically, there are a few tracks that really stand out. Most of the other songs have a looped, emptiness to them. Compared to past Final Fantasies, the music of FF8 is rather mediocre. And the MIDI of the PC version sounds even more mechanical and lifeless. Yet again, I must complain: Why aren't there any voices? If you really want to read, go buy a book. Text-only dialogue should be an option, not the standard. This had better be the last "silent" Final Fantasy.
There are still some great moments in the plot and some fun aspects to the gameplay, but it's all overshadowed by the disappointing, shabby port. Final Fantasy 8 was a great game turned crappy by lazy programmers who don't know the meanings of conversion or quality. Go replay the PSX version instead.