Balamb BGU
Squall and Rinoa
Seifer and Squall
Seifer and Squall
Edea and Rinoa
Review of the game FF8 logo
   The player enters the game as Squall, a young student in the Seed university of Balamb, as he is about to be sent on his first mission. His performance during this battle will determine if he is or not worthy to graduate. Cid has founded the Seed in order to train elite mercenaries whose services could only be hired to defend the oppressed as well as to uphold peace and justice. However, his noble ideals do not seem to be shared by the mysterious figures which guard the university. These are more concerned with financial matters and seem somehow to exert a great influence over Cid. Meanwhile, Squall has more immediate problems to worry about. A dictator and his powerful sorceress plan to take over the world and have already begun to invade neighbouring cities. One of his fellow student, Seifer, is becoming increasingly aggressive and difficult. Moreover, Squall must work in team while he values his solitude best and is unable and unwilling either to understand or connect with others. The only person who seemed able to take him out of his shell and share a dance with him (Rinoa) appears to be Seifer's girlfriend. Finally, he shares with two other mercenaries the same strange recurring dreams in which they slip in the lives of three Galbadian soldiers. And all this is only the beginning of this exciting story, filled with many more mysteries, wonders and surprises.
   Much less dark and philosophical than FFVII, this game focuses more on suspense, narrative twists, romance and art. FFVIII is visually stunning and the images are gorgeous. The manga look has been abandonned for a more realistic one, which is a shame but on the other hand does make a change (and variety is one of FF's strong point). Furthermore, it suits the more realistic atmosphere of this particular game. The style of the language is more familiar and reminiscent of what could actually be heard in a real university amongst students. The psychological focus is less important than in FFVII and is primarily set on bitter main character Squall. Again, a whole new fantasy world has been lovingly created with various towns, people, animals and lands, all minutiously designed. The music is beautiful, mostly emphasising the action and the romance of the story. The dark undertones of FFVII's score are only present in the haunting Ultimecia's theme but have otherwise been replaced by a more light-hearted tone.
   This is one of the best game there is (though not the best FF). The art on its own makes it worthy of such a title, but the story is also very well written and the play is quite enjoyable. The plot is exciting, for it is quite twisted as well as intricate and spans over two different time zones or universes (Squall's and Laguna's). There are some side quests and there is also the possibility to play cards with some of the people the characters come accross. You must press B1 to defy them for a game. There are different rules applying in different parts of the world. This is not at all compulsory to complete the game though it contributes to its variety and interest. There are also some chocobos and they are located in the round-shaped forests. Unfortunately, you cannot breed those in stables and train them.
   The system of the materia has been given up and a whole new system has been devised: magic spells are no longer contained in gems but can be stolen from ennemies or found in natural sources. Magic can be associated to the different statistics of characters to enhance their defensive and attacking powers, both mental and physical. As usual, it all looks complicated at first but it is actually quite simple so don't get discouraged. There is a tutorial in the menu to explain everything, with some facultative tests which determine your Seed level (which in turn determines your wage as money is no longer earnt from fighting monsters). Moreover, associations can be done automatically by the computer if the player does not want to bother with this technical side of the game (though that option takes out most of the fun away and is sometimes less efficient than manual). There are no more MPs, and G-forces (summons) can be called as many times as necessary unless they are knocked out. They can also learn new abilities.
   The way the battle scenes are filmed from all kind of angles and camera travellings is very effective, as well as the extensive use of spectacular special effects (lights, sounds...). The animation is fluent and flawless and fits neatly with the non-animated scenes (well, if you have a very powerful PC or a Playstation that is). This game is infused with a lot of romance, which is very beautiful but unfortunately gets too "sugary" at times. This is, however, a very minor fault comparing to the degree of perfection reached by this game.
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