Product Type: Square Enix PS3 games
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A classic reborn
Final Fantasy VIII (PS3)
Member Name: sandemp
Final Fantasy VIII (PS3)
Advantages: Fantastic classic game, hours and hours of gameplay
Disadvantages: Graphics and sounds now dated, the change disc system
Before I go any further, let's get a few things clear. If you're looking for a game that makes the most of the PS3's HD capabilities, with top-notch audio and amazing graphics then this game is not for you. Final Fantasy VIII has been directly ported to the PS3 with not a single tweak or touch-up in sight. So yes the graphics are clunky, the sound effects tinny and loading times a little lengthy, but the gameplay itself is absolute RPG heaven. That's right folks, this is a classic single-player Role Playing Game, where the actual gameplay is far more important than how beautiful the graphics are. Saying that the graphics were actually pretty revolutionary for the time, there are some beautifully rendered FMV (Full Motion Video) sequences, that blew my breathe away when the game was first released. When compared to other games of the same period the backgrounds are breathtakingly detailed and even the characters are a lot more detailed than it's predecessor (Final Fantasy VII).
As with all of the Final Fantasy (FF) games (that I have played) there is a strong emphasis on both the story and characters, with the initial few (make that 20+) hours of gameplay doing little more than setting up the storyline, characters and their motivations, while also allowing us to learn the slightly complicated control and levelling system. The game opens with a beautifully rendered intro sequence in which we are introduced to three of the main characters while the haunting theme tune plays in the background. There are quite a few of these lengthy videos interspersed throughout the game, and beautiful as they are, it does soon become irritating when you just want to get on with playing the game and can't because there's no way of skipping.
Gameplay is pretty linear through the first couple of discs, although you can spend time exploring, there is a story that needs to be followed. Talking of the story, I'm not going to go into any detail (part of the fun of these games is the unfolding story), but it is reasonable if a little confused at times. The tension does build up nicely especially in the lead-up to the final confrontation, but there are a couple of points where it feels forced and there's one aspect that I really didn't get (I can't tell which, because that would be a definite plot spoiler). The characters are pretty reasonable too, the main hero, Squall is well enough rounded, if a little stroppy, while the bad guy still has that little something that makes me feel sorry for him. Of all the playable characters there's only one that really annoys me (Selphie) and she is just too chirpy for her own good.
As with all of the Final Fantasy (and other RPGs) I have played, the ultimate aim of FFVIII is to level your character up in readiness for the final confrontation. Levelling up takes the form of battling various creatures, to be honest there could be more variety in the different creatures to be battled, many of them are just too similar. The difficulty level is just about right at any stage, with the 'bosses' giving a challenge, but never too difficult as long as you don't wander to far from the beaten path. Navigation is a little confusing though, there are points where I got lost, even after having played this game on several occasions. The inability to change the view is probably the biggest problem, although there are maps available, I often find it difficult to get my bearings. Save points can often feel a bit thin on the ground, there have been a few occasions where I've been desperate to save so that I can put the game down for the day. On the question of saving your game, the PS3 doesn't use physical memory cards, so you will need to create a virtual PS1 memory card to save your progress.
Along with increasing your character's statistics through levelling up, you will need to teach them new skills and build up their supply of magic. The method of learning new skills is a little convoluted and basically requires junctioning powerful allies, GFs, to your characters and then these GFs will gain points towards learning skills whenever they are carried into battle. The method by which magic is acquired is also rather awkward, instead of being able to buy or collect magic and then having so many points to use in casting spells, magic needs to be drawn from enemies during battle. As magic collected can then be linked to various stats, it soon becomes a necessary evil to extend battles in order to maximise your strength. I, personally, find this can become, well, tedious to say the least. Talking of tedious, while the GFs are actually helpful in battle (unlike FFXII) their summoning sequences are just too long and again cannot be skipped.
The actual control system itself, as in which buttons need to be pressed, can be confusing, especially if playing FFVIII immediately after any other game. There is a lot of emphasis on using the circle and triangle buttons, rather than the cross. I find it takes me quite a time to get used to the configuration and then once I have, it affects all the other games I play afterwards. It's a good job that this is a game that keeps me occupied for hours then isn't it? This isn't a game that takes a few hours to complete, but one that takes upwards of 100 hours, if you are going to complete every side-quest and challenge. Even just completing the basic storyline will take 30+ hours, but then as with other FF games there are a multitude of side-quests that can be completed. Some of these side quests are enjoyable while others I simply can't be bothered with, but to get everything available within the game is pretty difficult. My recommendation if you're after a perfect game is to find a walkthrough (gamesfaqs.com), it's either that or replaying the game several times to discover new items.
Although I love this game and will quite happily spend several hours a day progressing through the story and levelling up my characters, it's in no means perfect. My first real problem is with the way the game loads and the disc changes that are required, which sounds a little strange considering that it's installed on my PS3. As the game is installed I would have expected that loading times would be significantly reduced, but they're not. If anything I would say that loading times are identical to when I played the game on the PS1 and slightly longer than on the PS2. My second problem is that once the first disc is completed, the game insists on the next disc being inserted (mounted). There are no instructions on how to do this, and so the first time it took me a while to work this out, but even worse is that after you have completed the first disc each time you load the game you are once more prompted to change discs and this gets highly annoying. (In case you're interested, you need to press the Playstation button on the control and then select the correct disc).
The lack of an instruction manual is yet another problem, although the game does walk you through the basic controls an instruction booklet would still have come in handy as the junction system is quite complicated. My final real gripe is with the audio, yes the fact that each town or location has it's own theme tune is quite nice it soon starts to grate and it's not long before I turn the volume down. But I must say that this a gripe I have with all the FF games.
So the ultimate question is whether or not I would recommend this game and if so who to? And the answer is a resounding yes, this is an old-school RPG that is more than worth the £7.99 it costs to download. But if you prefer to spend your gaming time racing cars or shooting zombies then this probably isn't the game for you. But if you prefer to invest your time in playing a game where you need to think ahead, spend time improving your character and immersing yourself in a story, then what are you waiting for? Go and turn your PS3 on, navigate to the PSN store and buy this now, you won't regret it, although you may lose several hours of your life as you kill "Just one more monster".
Summary: Don't pay £80 for a physical copy, download this instead