Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 09/03/2019
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Oh boy, this review has been 22 years in the making. I have been trying to finish this game since I was 8 years old, but just could not do it. I will admit, I’m not the best JRPG player as I don’t have the patience to do insane amounts of grinding and play into the earlier Final Fantasy game’s crazy summon hunting. FF8 eluded me for so many years because of one thing: The Junction system. I absolutely love the characters, art, and story in this game, but the Junction system nearly ruins it for me. And yes, I had to play with cheats/boosters activated and even then, I almost couldn’t finish the game.
I did, however, play the game normally. I collected spells, tried to get Guardians when I could, leveled up a good amount, and finally got past disc 2! The issue lies in the overall complicated nature of FF8‘s systems. You no longer just buy weapons and armor and change them out when you get to the next town. Instead, you collect spell cards that are finite and they can be traded amongst other members. In theory, this sounds fine, but it’s hard to strategize a specific player role when everyone can use magic. Some argue that you can give certain spells to certain characters and break it all up the way you want, but this is flawed because if you don’t collect cards found throughout the world, or stolen from enemies, you don’t get to use any magic.
Weapons are only upgraded this time by using parts found on monsters, but a lot of these parts are hard to find and to upgrade to a new weapon, you must find a magazine to unlock the weapon. This just keeps piling up the frustration as it hinders progress. Characters also have Overdrives which are powerful unique moves, but some characters, like Rinoa and Quistis, can only acquirea new ones but using certain items or finding magazines. FF8 heavily relies on exploration and patience, this is not a game you can just blow through the story mode like previous games. The Junction system also functions as a way to equip Guardians which are bosses found hidden throughout the world. I only found about half, as the other half requires exploring the overworld map and finding their hidden locations. Accompany this with insanely frequent random battles and you will spend 2/3 of your time in the game just battling.
If this doesn’t sound complicated enough there are hidden features not explained in the game such as being able to “Card Mod” only using Quezacotl’s ability. This allows players to turn found enemy cards into items that are then used to turn into weapons, but this is a very obscure out of the way thing for such an important gameplay element. FF8 is riddled with things like this and it made learning the Junction system like learning math. It was boring, not fun, and incredibly frustrating, and just imagine as a kid there’s no way I would have understood any of it. Even after I finished the game I still felt I hadn’t quite grasped it all and I missed something.
Outside of the awful (or good) Junction system the rest of the game is standard Final Fantasy fair. Turn-based battles allow you to do various attacks, use items, and there’s an option for real-time battle or waiting. Players also need to make sure they equip actual functions for each player otherwise you can only attack. GF use, items, and magic are all optional attacks that you can choose, but you can only have 4 menus. Another irritating thing about the Junction system. You must sacrifice GF use if you want to use items and magic for example. FF8 is also standard with an awful overworld map. This map has no camera controls and is horribly designed. It’s a 3D map, but eventually, you get into a ship, then a car, then a giant flying ship to traverse faster. This is when you can explore more and find Guardians.
Let’s finally talk about the story and characters. FF8 has some of the most memorable characters with Seifer, Squall, Rinoa, Quistis, and Selphie just to name a few. They are all well written and designed characters and I cared for them greatly throughout the entire game. There are long written dialog bubbles that go on for dozens of minutes some times, but the mix of pre-rendered cut scenes on with real-time models on top is a trip even to this day. There are some imaginative scenes in this game, and it’s a shame it’s hindered by the disc space of the PS1. The story in itself is one of the most controversial in the series with no real ending being explained and it is open to fan theory. I won’t get into those, but after reading some theories online they made a lot of sense and it’s a good story to talk about long after finishing.
But, also like Final Fantasy games, it’s heavily unbalanced, with the final boss having four whole phases and requiring you to be an insane level towards the end that normal story progression won’t get you towards Even with boosters activated I still got stuck and was required to level up normally and the game could easily take 50+ hours just to finish properly. I can’t bash the game for this as there’s a huge audience for it, but it’s not for me. It’s one of the few things I won’t knock this game for is how much of a hardcore RPG it truly is. This is a game you must play exclusively for days or weeks and just grind out, and some people love this. The story is thankfully rewarding enough, and after finishing a tough boss the satisfaction is exemplary.
Overall, FF8 is a strange game indeed. With an awful or good, Junction system that changes everything you know about the game, but one thing can’t be denied, it’s too complicated. The game looks fantastic with amazing pre-rendered scenes, great enemy design, a superb music score, and classic gameplay. For me, there’s just too much that keeps it from being fun outside of the story. I often gave up on this game for years, and even with boosters, the game is still a grind fest. However, if you like those things, then you will love this game. When it comes to the remastered part of the game it disappoints. The game suffers the same issues as the Final Fantasy IX Remaster with updated character models on upscaled original backgrounds. It’s a lazy remaster with only new music and some boosts added. There’s not widescreen support or anything else.