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Final Fantasy VIII (PlayStation)

89
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Zovni (9367)
Written on  :  Sep 22, 2002
Platform  :  PlayStation
Rating  :  0.6 Stars0.6 Stars0.6 Stars0.6 Stars0.6 Stars

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Summary

Final Fantasy meets Dawson's Creek with 112471389 hours of non-interactive videos! DUCK AND COVER!!!

The Good

Greaaat graphics. As far as eye candy goes, Square pulled everything they could get from the psx. The characters and enviroments now sport great textures, and great animations, not to mention amazingly-blended fmv sequences, which even nowadays hold their own against most other competitors.

Well..... There are some nice gameplay gimmicks like the draw system and whatnot....and...er...There are also great graphics!!! And uhmm.... did I mention the graphics? Oh yeah, the intro is pretty cool (but for those of you that claim it's the best one ever I encourage you to check the SPECTACULAR Privateer 2 intro).

The Bad

It comes with an officially licensed Pop Song and starts with a music video. That pretty much says it all. If you are one of those that get all misty-eyed with a bunch of "epic" images and a thumping classical song then congratulations, FF8 is gonna be for you. If you on the other hand are among the ones with gray matter in the skull then welcome to hell.

To sum it up FF8 is a tough nut to swallow. Why? Crap Gameplay, Crap Story. Historically these have been the two saving graces of videogames, if you can have both you have a golden hit, if you don't, then you just concentrate on having one (Doom, console rpgs, etc.) but FF8 blows on BOTH accounts. Let me explain, as far as gameplay goes: it is a console rpg, so that means that right from the start it's seriously impaired, I'm talking super-linear structure, simple game mechanics, etc... but FF8 introduces a series of features that make things even worse. Let's see, since everyone liked those flashy summon animations on FF7 then the game will be much more entertaining if we concentrate it all on that feature, right? Wrong. The developers decided to focuss the entire fighting gameplay on these summons (now called GFs) by making all enemies extremely powerful and hardwiring fighting skills to these GFs (which you must "junction" to yourself in order to say, cast magic) which point out another problem, you'll find out that your main focuss is to upgrade the GFs, nevermind the characters themselves. Of course, the deductive player will soon find out that due to the over-the-top nature of fights, summoning GFs is the only viable way to win, and here is when we get to the heart of the problem: you have to cast and watch these (lavishly done admitedly) animations oooover and ooover and oooover again. These animations run 3-5 mins each and turn fights into 40 min affairs, add to that that they are straightforward simple fights devoid of any strategic angle and you have a borefest in your hands. You are only required to sit there between animations and select which one to play until the monster you are trying to defeat is dead. To quote an ex-girlfriend of mine: "Are you actually playing this or what?"... I didn't know what to answer her.

Ok, so the gameplay is crap, what about the storyline? Lots of games have been saved from oblivion by the legions of pseudo-intellectual freaks that are content with having nothing more than "interactive books"... well this isn't one of them. For what I dare say is the first time ever, Square has blown it in what regards to the storyline/creative content. For starters there is a major turn to melodrama instead of epic-ness in the story, "hooray!!" says you "no more stereotyped super-heroes that save the world, right?" Wrong again. The move just focuses the stereotypes even more, since the game puts character development and relationships in the front seat. A tricky feat to accomplish right, since you have to have VERY well designed characters. Characters with dark shadowy pasts are usually popular, because they keep everything in shrouds and your imagination fills in those blanks, it's not the most original aproach, but it allows you to easily connect with your character because you essentially turn him into what you want and you don't pay attention to the cliches and stereotypes going on around you. Square had this down to a formula but they decided to forgo it in order to tell the stories between the characters here and now. Bold move, but suddenly we are disconnected from that sense of involvement that we had before and we are told to sit back and watch as the story unfolds by itself. Of course, when we do that we can't help but watch everything we have missed out before. Such as the stupid stereotyping taken to the extreme with the "dark and misterious character" "the anmesia solution to complicated plots", the stupidly incidental plot (you never drive the action, stuff in the game just "happens" around you) the plot holes, etc. Understandably enough, the main plot gets weaker as the characters become more prominent in the spotlight, but the whole thing just comes appart because it doesn't have any good characters to deal with. Every one in the game is supposedly "for real" but in reality they are the lowest forms of the sterotypes that have plaged videogames from the beggining with the added bonuses that they are super-heroes / part-time 20-something models / fashionably cool / and even Rock Stars!! (yeah, I'm not kidding you here).

You have the usual sidekick-like characters that offer comedy relief at the expense of plot integrity and general ambience (hey dude, we are in the middle of a war but let's have a rock concert yay!!!); the baddass antagonist to the main character; the mentor-like mother figure; the hero; and of course, the main love interest.

These last two deserve a whole chapter on their own, for starters every female character in this game is responsible for a regression of epic proportions that would make Virgina Wolfe rattle in her grave (anyone notice how all the female characters wear skirts or short thights? :D This game would be a perfect ad for Gap!), but Riona alone has taken female characters back 10 years at least, especially since she is supposed to be the "strong-willed and modern" chick. Bullshit. Riona spends the whole game acting as a damsel in distress barely capable of producing an adult tought. She starts out as a rebel leader of sorts but by the second quarter of the game the developers apparently forget about that and have her act like a ditzy (free-spirited for the politically correct) bimbo.

As for the main character Squall has got to be the most stupid character ever to grace a computer game, you see, in the culturally inept elite circles image is associated with attitude, so for instance if you wear leather you are a badass (see Britney Spears => I love Rock & Roll), if you have tattoos you are a badass, if you speak "l33t" you are hacker, if you have body piercings you are baaad, etc, Get it? Well, the idea behind Squall is that he is "real" and that of course means acting like an asshole and being an obnoxious bitch (because in the simplified world of Square character design flawed equals "real") and since FF8 is a "really real" game and not like "those other fantasy games", Squall gets to act like an asshole a lot. And I do mean a LOT. One of the reasons it is so hard to connect with Squall is because he is just an asshole! Early in the game you see his best buddy (dunno how the hell he can put up with Squall) aproach and extend his hand to congratulate him. His reaction? Ignoring him and looking somwhere else... Is that supposed to be "real"?? If I were Zell I would have broken the motherfucker's nose... and that's just the beggining. Through the course of the game you'll see him bitch and moan and crawl into fetal possitions and storm out of rooms like a histerical bitch (no, I'm not making this up). Of course, Squall by himself is nothing but an annoying bitch (much like Episode 2's Anakin), the problem arises when he is shoehorned into the game just because he's the lead character. You'll scratch your head in disbelief as everyone treats him nicely just because he's the main character, you'll have a brain stroke trying to figure out how they can name an asshole like him the leader of humanity's last stand or how Rinoa falls madly in lover for him....

And of course, the icing on the cake comes in the form of a mushy-feely coat of cheap sensibility aplied to the game, if you look at it closely the game's whole point is to mix the right amount of mushy strings to make the emotionally challenged among us go "ahhhh" with a sad misunderstood guy and a harsh cold unfriendly world and then just when you think it's all so mean and nothin's fair... Whammo! Love conquers all!! yay!!!!! Most people will end this game tear-stained thinking they have actually tought something when in reality they have lost precious time and swallowed four discs of pure teenie-booper crap....Either that or the rules of the universe just switched and a sequence where the lead and the female interest find themselves acting like schoolgirls and cuddling and speaking about their feelings while the officially licensed Touchy-Feely Pop Song (tm) plays in the background are actually meaningfull and touching moments.

The Bottom Line

To sum it all up: Am I an nutcase? Everyone loves this game! Why am I the only one to point out these things? Well, you see, we videogamers need to be less forgiving about the content of our products if we are to be taken seriously by the world. This game is a perfect example because it is pure unadultered CRAP. And, because it made it's translation to another art-form. No, really. FF8 is in spirit the same as FF: The Spirits Within, it changes some characters and doesn't have chocobos, but at it's soul is the goddamned story of Squall's inept existance, it even has a crappy touchy-feely sequence in space!!!

So what happens??? FF8 is praised by everyone in the videogame community, and the game sells millions, while FF:TSW is regarded as nothing but a flashy and hollow overpretentious crap by the motion picture community.... Are we surprised then when the masses regard computer games as kiddie stuff? Of course, I'd like to point out that while the psx version of the game was a success, the PC version bombed terribly, which makes me particularly proud of being primarily a PC-gamer :)).... There is a lesson to be learned in here kids, maybe I'm not as nutz as you think :)