Thursday, August 28, 2008

Final Fantasy VIII review

People expect more from Final Fantasy. The name alone has built up such a reputation that it isn't enough for a new game in the series just to be good -- it's got to be incredible or it will be considered a disappointment. Luckily Final Fantasy VIII surpasses even these incredibly high expectations and stands far above the pack as the best PlayStation RPG so far.

The long and intricate story line in FFVIII centers around love -- that's right, love. Before you run away screaming, let me assure you it's nothing that will make you cringe. FFVIII's overall plot is still appropriately exciting and action-packed; it's only later in the game, once you are really attached to all the distinct and complex characters, that the more emotional themes are gradually introduced. It's actually a refreshing change, and helps FFVIII avoid most common RPG cliches.

Graphically Square has outdone themselves again. Everything from the mind-blowing FMV (wait until you see the infamous dance scene) to the improved character graphics and animations, to the so-good-you-won't-believe-they-are-real-time spell effects are among the best visuals you will find on the PlayStation.

But, as we've said a million times (yet still get letters about), a 5/5 rating doesn't mean the game is perfect. The few gripes I have with FFVIII mostly have to do with parts of the battle system. Drawing spells from monsters over and over as well as watching the long Guardian Force attacks play out are necessary parts of combat that can get tedious, especially later in the game. Overall I still enjoyed the battles, and the new junction system is genius, but a few minor adjustments could have kept up the steady pace of the rest of the game.

Even with its quirks, Final Fantasy VIII is one of the few games I would categorize as a masterpiece. Forget that it's an RPG-- this is one of the most polished, vast and totally addictive games of any kind I have played in years. Square has somehow done it again.

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