09 September 2016

100th post and Review enjoy/hate #10 - Final Fantasy VIII (Steam version)

Woohoo, 100 posts on blog #2, the main one. The first blog still exists but I abandoned it after leaving secondary school/going to university. I never really 'got' tumblr or Instagram but I may expand in that direction at some point in the near future.



Steam is great - I really enjoyed buying DVDs of stuff I liked when it was cool to do so 2004-2010 or so. I like to think I have good taste in movies/video games etc so thankfully I didn't buy that many DVDs before they no longer were cool/practical. Steam allows me to be a bit of a connoisseur once again, I buy games I know I will play and enjoy or have been sufficiently researched by me. Some of the games/movies I own digitally or solid copies are shite, but I like them anyway. Not so many games, but in movies Beowulf (2007) comes to mind. Ho ho, deserves a re-watch. Some DVDs I bought thinking they'd be great (and without watching them prior to that) and was severely disappointed - The Patriot (2000) comes to mind. SO anyway, one of those games I bought recently was Final Fantasy VIII - 8 for those born after 2000 or thereabouts, ha.

I'm not going to post any kind of plot summary or try to sell the game really, this is an extremely subjective review I do for my own amusement. Also, screenshots are from my first playthrough on Steam.


Final Fantasy VIII


I first played it properly around 2007 or 2008 I think. I may have played the first few scenes a number of times prior to that, I only dicked around Balamb Garden, the starting area, and didn't get the plot going. According to my YouTube playlists which date back to 2006 I started adding FFVIII soundtrack stuff around 2007 or 2008 so that's when I played it and finished it, along with 7, 9, 10 and 12.
I have completed it a number of times, while I have got all the GFs and whatnot (and possibly killed Omega Weapon, not sure must check memory cards) I have not played many of the mini games bar Triple Triad, which is great. I competed the Obel Lake Quest but it wasn't too exciting.


Plot


There are four discs (gets electrocuted). This game is like 7 in that it is set in the modern era to some extent. The first disc has a pretty tight, action-packed plot that is highly entertaining but never gets too silly and leaves you a bit of time to explore but you are mainly confined to the Balamb and Galbadian continents, which is fine, you see the whole world by the end of disc one in FF7.

After disc two things get kind of insane. Like all FFs have a load of ideas and seem to do almost all of them - if they say there is a horrible scary dungeon at the edge of the world, you can probably fly there later. But a space station?

With only like 15-20 named, important characters and NPCs it is pretty damn tight in drawing them all together and their various interactions. It does have that problem of some of the main characters not getting fleshed out enough - Irvine certainly, not that it fecking matters. It isn't as bad as 9 where some of the others just fade into the background completely.




Soundtrack

Probably one of the best soundtracks, my gods it is glorious. I say this after buying the PC version which was all MIDI and it sounded awful initially. It was fine and for 12 euro who can complain but a simple mod called Roses and Wine almost brought tears to my eyes when it replaced the MIDI soundtrack with the original. There are so many good ones it's hard to limit it - Deling City, Esthar City, the Laguna battle music, Time Compression and Ultimecia Castle are probably my favourites.


Appearance


Realistic proportions were done for the first time here and it works out really well. The Steam version is great too with sharpened graphics especially on the character models but they appear to have copped out in a few scenes. There is an option to use the traditional graphics but I could just boot up the Playstation or figure out how to emulate discs for that lol.




Gameplay

One of the weirdest until 10 and 12 came along and did it different again. 'Junction' GFs/Aeons/Summons/Espers to you, draw magic spells from enemies/bosses and 'junction' those spells to your strength, magic, HP, spirit/vitality etc to increase them. It is possible to stay low level and junction 100 powerful Ultima or Meteor spells to a stat like strength and kick ass (great way to play).

Avoiding levelling up conventionally is almost by the game, bosses don't give EXP but they do drop AP to level up your GF's abilities such as Card Mod (turn weakened enemies into cards, avoid EXP but get AP again). I love it. While I don't mind grinding levels *that* much it is nice to sit back and have a think about what spells should be junctioned to what stats, which GFs to give to various people to assign different abilities (Diablos eventually gets Mug, should I have the main guy Squall do that or my tank/mage?).

You can set the combat to be very fast (yes, but watch out for some enemies) or very slow (gods no, but easier perhaps). The enemies and bosses mix things up enough to keep things interesting and if like me you only fight bosses and some scripted enemies there is enough variety to keep you entertained.

Many complained and still complain about endlessly drawing magic from enemies and I never got that. I would spend an hour at the start of the game drawing 100 Fire, 100 Blizzard and 100 Thunders and maybe a good few Cures and Scans as that is all that's available at the start. That's all you really need. If you fight a soft boss who has Protect and Shell, grab them too. Grab any buff/recover spells you may need along the way, Regen or Haste or Life certainly. With magic refine abilities via GF you can skip getting Cura and Fira and whatnot and just get Curaga and Firaga. It's easy to get by at a low level fighting bosses and whatnot until you get access to Ragnorok and can just fly to the Island Closest to Hell/Heaven and spend and hour here out there drawing form the various powerful spells you can find. 100 Ultima on Squall's Strength at level 7-15 and you can defeat Bahamut and Ultima Weapon no problem at all in the secret dungeon. Lots of Renzokukens, maybe Mighty Guard or two.




Side quests/mini games


There aren't that many, they are generally quite entertaining. Triple Triad, the card game, is pretty great. I was big into Yu-Gi-Oh! cards around the time I played it, while maybe in 1998-9 it resonated with Magic and Pokémon fans. If you've ever played or collected a trading cards game, you'll probably enjoy the game itself and collecting the unique boss/GF and character cards scattered across the world.

I love Triple Triad, I usually wait until I get the Ifrit, Sacred, Minotaur and Diablos cards (all good strong corner cards) before I start playing, so usually around the end of disc one and certainly as soon as I'm back in Balamb Garden in disc two. I keep declining to play until they agree not to mix up the rules and just brute force my way to victory. Doesn't always work as in space (!) you have to use all the rules such as Random card selection and whatnot but that can't be rigged a bit by modding the common cards. Managed to win the Alexander and Laguna cards easily this time on the space station though it can be a save and reload matter sometimes. Getting the Edea card off Edea was much tougher, it usually is.



In conclusion



 Probably my favourite FF, certainly the easiest if you know how to junction and level. It's also probably the shortest, I have finished it in 20 hours or so on the PSX thanks to Encounter None. I really enjoy 7,8,9,10 and 12 - I have yet to properly play 6, having played maybe a fraction of it but I enjoyed it. I may go back after reviewing them all on this and do some sort of comparison if that is even possible.

I never really cared much for achievements 2007-2013 but in recent years it is a nice way to replay a favourite game in certain new ways. It was really fun to play Fallout differently to get different achievements; there are 45~ for FFVIII on Steam and I got 25 or so on the first run, I could probably reload a save and crack out another ten or so but I am going to move on, I played this pretty intensively over a four day period. Some of them I'll probably never bother to get - kill 1000 enemies? That ain't Final Fantasy VIII!

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