Without a question, one of the best video games ever developed has to be Final Fantasy VIII, and not just because it sucked me into the world of Playstations! It’s the story of a powerful struggle against tyranny and persecution through time and space, set in a stunning and captivating universe. It’s also one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played, with great story and characters mixed into an immersive world, complemented by some beautiful music.
You take on the role of Squall, a teenage mercenary training at Balamb Garden, who struggles to build relationships with others due to trauma issues from his past. You will find out a little more about why he is cold and distant late in the game. When the game begins, Squall has just sustained a nasty head injury while participating in a training activity with his classmate Seifer.
For the final test at Balamb Garden. Squall is ordered to join a team with fellow classmate Zell under Seifer. Whilst Seifer has some level of respect for Squall, he absolutely hates Zell and antagonizes him relentlessly. As a team, their job is help protect Dollet from the invading Galbadian army. After several skirmishes and a lengthy wait, Seifer decides to go against orders and attack the Dollet Communications tower out of boredom.
A young student called Selphie from Trabia Garden arrives to try and deliver a message for Seifer but he’s run ahead. She joins Squall and Zell as they head to the top of the communications tower and fight a Galbadian Command team: Biggs and Wedge. After defeating them and a gargantuan monster called Elvoret that shows up, Squall, Zell and Selphie are pursued by a giant robot spider that’s been programmed to kill them. It follows them onto the shore before being shot to pieces by Quistis on one of the landing ships.
After successfully passing his exam, Squall dances with a lovely girl at his graduation – little does he know that she is there seeking support for a rebel organization in the village of Timber, and before he knows it, he’s been ordered to assist. All of this occurs before the first story arc is even halfway over. To reveal everything would be to ruin an incredible story that twists and weaves through a beautifully thought out plot.
One of the unique functions I like in the game is the GF or Guardian Force system. Your character’s strength and abilities in Final Fantasy VIII are based on the Guardian Forces your characters are connected to. You receive skills and powers from these entities that you wouldn’t otherwise have. But of course, with great powers… come great costs! The Guardian Forces do have a negative effect on your characters which hugely helps with the game’s plot. It can also be tiresome reassigning magic to people when you’re junctioning between parties, but even the best things have flaws.
The levelling system in Final Fantasy VIII presents increasing challenges since every time you level up, the game levels up too. Meaning the stronger you are, the stronger everything else is. As a result, you must track down and use more powerful junctioned magic as you level up because your starting stats are insufficient to fight the terrifying universe around you. You don’t have a typical mana system because magic is ‘drawn’ from adversaries and particular locations on the world map. You have to be careful about progressing too much without acquiring the magical power needed to bolster your character’s strength.
Final Fantasy VIII is a truly immersive story, which deserves to be played and can be enjoyed by almost anyone! Even now many years after it’s original creation, it remains one of the best games I’ve ever played. The characters, the richness of the universe, the internal systems and especially triple triad make this a game that has something for everyone.
Score for Final Fantasy VIII: 9.7/10
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