SquareSoft (1999, PS2)
are very familiar with Final Fantasy VIII's many quirks and
failings. The game world is strangely inconsistent, trying to shovel
modern elements into a world that otherwise feels too medieval.
Everything from its story to its battle system is slow, bloated, and
unnecessarily confusing. And yes, Squall is an unlikable jerk, and
his romance with Rinoa is not quite believable, considering it's
meant to be the crux of the game.
a lot that Final Fantasy VIII does wrong, but there's even
more that it does right. There are so many JRPG conventions that
Square deliciously twists that it's almost like relearning how to
approach the genre. At the core of this is the Junction system, which
allows you to use magic spells to increase your stats or modify your
This completely shatters the concept of RPG
equipment, which has only occasionally veered beyond the "go to
new town, buy new stuff, sell old stuff" pattern. Since there is
no armor in Final Fantasy VIII, the spells you draw from
enemies let you make your own. Similarly, weapons are primarily
upgraded in the same manner -- there's some new equipment that can be
assembled if you run some enemy hunting quests, but they're presented
as subquests rather than necessary requirements.
use has also been completely reimagined. Since the original Final
Fantasy, we've been taught to conserve magic as a precious
resource, dwindling to the point where our MP would reach zero and
we'd need to retreat to an inn to recharge.
Yet magic is everywhere
in Final Fantasy VIII -- all you need to do it is draw from
any enemy creature. Of course, the dynamics of this system completely
depend on the enemies on the area -- if they possess Fire magic, you
can go crazy setting enemies ablaze, but if none of them have healing
magic, you'd better conserve your Cure spells.
RPGs have always been trying to seek a balance between magic and
power. Fighters have always been more powerful than magicians, a
point made explicitly clear in Final Fantasy VII, where magic
Materia would weaken your strength and HP stats.
Using magic in Final
Fantasy VIII will weaken whatever statistics that spell is
Junctioned too, again forcing you to be aware of how to formulate
your strategy. It's the same concept as before, just done in a
completely different manner. This is one area that Final Fantasy has
always specialized in -- keeping mechanics familiar yet overturning
them in new and crazy ways, just to keep you on your toes.
can be a bit overwhelming, which is why a lot of gamers initially
ignored the system in favor of spamming the summon beasts, each of
which were accompanied by overly long, drawn out cinemas. As such,
there's a strange divide – if you fully understand the ins and outs
of the system, you can totally break the game; but if you don't, it
becomes obnoxiously difficult.
Still, those who like to micromanage
stats and completely beef up the characters -- potentially the same
kind that would find Final Fantasy V to be paradise -- can
feel right at home with Junctioning. So ignore the sloppy romance and
the trashy love ballad that goes along with it -- this is what Final
Fantasy VIII should be known for.