I know the opening hours of Final Fantasy 8 like the back of my hand. From Squall and Quistis going to the Fire Cavern to the awkward dancing cutscene with Rinoa, these are moments I’ve seen played out dozens of times. It’s been 20 years since the role-playing game released on the original PlayStation, and a lot has changed in that span of time. Thanks to Square Enix giving the RPG the remastering process of 7 and 9, FINAL FANTASY 8 REMASTERED lets me experience one of my first tastes of the genre again with new character models and the same great battle system. And that’s mostly a good thing, despite the game showing its age in some regards.
Unlike the more stylized graphics of 9 and the super-deformed characters of 7, Squall and the rest of 8‘s characters and world are much more realistic looking. This meant it was one of the most gorgeous games of 1999, but the pre-rendered backgrounds now look blurry and rough to look at in a high resolution.
Since Square Enix replaced all of the character models with high definition versions, it means that players aren’t just looking at an old game. Instead, we have an awkward discrepancy between the quality of characters and the background. The most awkward scenes to look at are the ones with non-playable characters that are part of the game’s background (such as seen below) as there are detailed character models surrounded by a blurry mess of pixels. Players eventually get used to the oddness of the graphics, and the new HD models are a worthy addition, but there is definitely a process of getting used to them.
Final Fantasy 8 Remastered Review | It’s time to Junction
Final Fantasy 8 is far from the most beloved installment in the legendary RPG series, and a lot of the criticism is directed towards the game’s protagonist. Squall is often seen as a senselessly angsty product of the ’90s, and when you look at his leather jacket, complete with studs and a fur collar, it’s easy to get that impression.
However, the game actually does a really great job of getting the players to understand why Squall shies away from friendship and freely expressing himself. There is a truth to the matter that Squall isn’t the ideal protagonist and that he lacks the qualities that many would look for in a leader, but it’s less that he’s a poorly written character and more that he’s just written as a human. Most humans aren’t likable and suck, so Squall is just fitting the role perfectly as his stubbornness and inability to communicate effectively leads to plenty of entertaining exchanges throughout.
Another aspect of FF8 that proved to be controversial among fans was its Junction system, which had players drawing magic from enemies and other parts of the world to use in combat. On top of that, players had to equip a wide range of summons known as Guardian Forces and spells can be used to alter the battle stats of characters. A smartly equipped character could be the difference between victory and failure against a boss, so there’s a lot of importance of going through and experimenting with different magic types.
It’s a lot of going through menus, but the system works better now than when it came out. There are no worries about it being the future of Final Fantasy as the series abandoned it after this release, and it can just be viewed as a one-off departure without fear. It’s an interesting system that has quirks that can be appreciated, even if isn’t a system every RPG should use.
Replaying through Final Fantasy 8‘s story showed how messy it can be at times because of its ridiculous plot twists, but the character interactions are all a blast to see again. The constantly pessimistic Squall is contrasted with an energetic cast and it is fun to see him start to open up throughout the game (and this time you don’t even have to switch discs to do so). Squall best sums up the game’s themes of togetherness near the end when he remarks, “Love and friendship and all that sounds corny, but everyone seems to be up for it.”
Final Fantasy 8 Remastered Review | Can we get a Triple Triad game now?
While the story and characters have held up well 20 years later, there was one section of FF8 that hasn’t aged at all: the great card game that is played throughout its world called Triple Triad. Played on a three-by-three board, players try to overtake their opponents’ cards by strategically placing them. It’s rather simple at first, and there are plenty of regional variants introduced over time that make it even more intriguing to play. It’s a highlight of the package and it’s one of the few non-RPG aspects of FF8 that works well as there are some forced third-person action segments that fall completely flat during the few times they pop up.
This is easily the best version of Final Fantasy 8 to replay because of the various cheats that players can enable. The PlayStation 4 version allows players to essentially enter a God mode during combat, speed up the very slow gameplay by three-times, and turn off random battles. The PC version has a bunch of additional cheats, such as unlocking all abilities, max leveling your Guardian Forces, and unlocking all the Limit Breaks. It’s certainly weird to restrict them to that version and its a bummer as they’d be nice bonuses to have. Either way, the included cheats are a major boost to its quality of life.
Simply put, Final Fantasy 8 Remastered is the definitive way to play the RPG classic. There are no inherent flaws of this port beyond the portions of the original game that have aged poorly. For the most part, the story and gameplay has held up over time and Squall’s adventure is better than most give it credit for being.
GameRevolution reviewed Final Fantasy 8 Remastered on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.