Title: Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
I was 12 when I first played Final Fantasy VIII. It ultimately made me a fan of the series and paved the way for my love of JRPGs. Back then, my only source of news came from PlayStation Underground, which is why I was confused after hearing that others felt it was the worst in the series. I can understand why it’s different, but come on the worst?
Anyway, with the release of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, I’m able to give my review of the game for fans new and old.
Final Fantasy VIII takes place in a world influenced by several different forces. Stuck in the middle of all this is our main protagonist, Squall Leonhart, a student at Balamb Garden and soon to be high ranking SeeD member appointed by the school. These Garden schools are spread out across the world to teach and train students to be soldiers. However, like most things, not everything is as it seems.
On a mission, Squall and his crew are asked to help a group of resistance members kidnap the president to regain freedom over their town. Sadly, these events don’t go as planned after an evil sorcerous coaxes the president and a few Garden students to join her movement. On the fly, Squall’s party gets word that they will plan an assassination of the sorcerous during a parade. As you could have guessed, this doesn’t work out so well, and a bigger adventure unfolds.
As this is happening, flashbacks begin where they assume the role of a soldier named Laguna and his crew. These flashbacks give glimpses into areas yet to visit and provide context to key characters and their connection to the rest of the cast. It’s a brilliant way to give context without merely shoving it in your face. This way, it plays out like you are always discovering new things, and it works surprisingly well.
From here, the story gets somewhat confusing as things start to become more apparent, and the seeds of corruption bloom. The world itself becomes vast. You end up traveling to futuristic cities, abandoned temples, and don’t even get me started on Ragnorok. I believe Square Soft at the time thought we wanted this freedom of exploration. To make the game feel non-linear, they shotgunned in a bunch of extra things players can see and discover if they travel off the beaten path. However, this also introduces even more story elements that become rather heavy for the player.
During the later parts of the story, you’ll come across additional side stories and various missions. One mini-game that players can trigger at any time is the card game. Pressing square on most NPCs will allow you to play a game of cards. However, this is a rabbit hole that can lead to hours and hours of searching for the highest-ranking card players. There’s also the Chocobo Mini game, which is a little annoying, but riding a Chocobo is always a good time.
One of the most rewarding elements of exploration is in the game’s summon system, known as GFs. Interestingly, some of them can be missed entirely during any given playthrough, but play a huge role in the game’s system. Characters equip GFs to use additional actions in battles such as item and magic. These options are typically available in other Final Fantasy games, but does every member of your party needs to have the same action loadout? I think that’s the idea here.
After each battle GFs gain AP that is used to learn new skills which can then be equipped to boost the character’s stats. However, an essential way to increase stats in the game is using the magic draw system. Considered to be the most controversial system in the game, drawing magic is as essential as equipping GFs. Magic is drawn from draw points as well as from enemies. Characters who have magic can then equip it to their weapon and armor. For example, equipping sleep to your sword might put the enemy to sleep or equipping fire to your armor will raise your defense for fire.
Sure, we can go into more detail with this because there’s a lot more to say, but I want to add my opinion on it. You see, this system works so well if you know how to use it, but has the set back of always feeling like you are in menus. During gameplay, players will always be switching GFs between characters and making sure that magic’s equipped. It can get tedious, but the level of customization that you have over your characters is rather generous of the developer.
When it comes to the remastered version, the developer did a great job at making these characters look fantastic. I won’t flag it for the pre-rendered backgrounds standing out because those art assets are nearly 20 years old. However, some of the character models didn’t receive their Remastered models in certain scenes, and players can still execute well-known glitches.
Where this version shines is the addition of the speed increase option. In a game that prides itself on its summon animations, which can get extremely long, this is a godsend. When I was younger, I enjoyed the Boost ability because it gave me something to do during the long animation. Luckily, the speed boost works and makes battles a breeze. With the press of a button, players can also refill the party’s HP and limit breaks, which makes encounters easier.
Final Fantasy VIII Remasted is the best way to play this game. After the world opens up, take your time to explore areas and unluck secrets because that’s how you’ll get the most out of this game. The ending can get somewhat confusing, but trust me when I say that this is one epic and romantic adventure that you don’t want to pass up. I was glad to have the chance to go on this adventure again with these characters. Replaying their story only proved to me that this game is still one of the best Final Fantasy titles, no matter what the haters say.
Final Fantasy VIII Remasted deserves the attention of anyone looking for a JRPG filled with adventure and discovery. The game explores a group of personalities and characteristics that are unique and memorable. All of this comes to a head with the most epic boss battle in gaming. The best part about this version is that Squall is the best-looking guy now.
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