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Review | Final Fantasy 8 Remastered

"20 years passed, FF8 is still good. Let's see what awaits us in next 20 years and will Square finally learn what they have to do. Meanwhile, sit back and remember how it all used to be."

by Foggy, 13-09-2019,

Not all games are Final Fantasy 8. Well, no game is. This one stands firm after all these years, 20 to be exact, and for me, takes place right next to the king – FF7 and FF6. I was quite happy hearing about remaster, but as usual, with a dose of caution. After all, Square is far from their glory days.

Romance, you and me, in full 4:3

Game follows a story of handful of students in front of which stands all except normal. First mission, Fire Cavern, a hunt for GF Ifrit. Guardian Forces are nothing less than summons which are familiar concept in FF universe. They are extremely important here, as they provide junction for your characters; meaning all what GF learned will be reflected on your character, one way or another. You can junction magic to attributes, change element of attack, defend from statuses…Quite complex mechanics. Some may find them a bit over the top, but I think they are great, and I like strategy factor of preparation.

Possibilities are huge. Bad boss preparation can result with a game over. Good preparation can make it a walk in the park. Find the middle and you are good to go. Its good to be reminded of old days, at the same time playing this mature opens more clarity when building your arsenal.

Every gamer after buying a new TV dreams about 4:3 aspect ratio

Remastered version comes with few add-ons compared to original PS1 version. There is God Mode – invincibility. I find this to be total miss. What is the point of being invincible by other means than grind for 200 hours? It should at least come with some penalty, but no.

The thing I love the most is L3 – speed up the game x3 (only animations cannot be faster). I must admit, it’s one of the best things to have, not because running through the game is an option, but speed up slow and clunky fights, even movement in the game, that is just lovely.

Lastly, there is instant no encounters mode. This can also be learned through normal progress, but as the game scales as your levels do, playing casual without worrying about being attacked is not a bad thing.

Every “old” game I play, I just stand surprised over and over again how they manage to create such a good and unique content. Such is nowhere to be found in many titles. Scripts are more mature, character memorable, important and – not so repulsive. Some of them at least. Even though Squall, protagonist, is quite felling-based guy with a weird haircut, he is just nothing like modern time characters.

And now tell me that 16:9 wouldn’t be everything we need. Eh, Square…Oh yeah, this is Ifrit.

Tri gigabytes of pure magic

Original came on 4 CDs. Wow, 4 CDs man. This one is just a bit bigger. 3 gigs that will reveal great story between good and evil, presented in a unique good old fashioned way. 

Music fits perfectly. I can’t remember such tunes in last 10 years or so. Every song stands on its own. I often listen to covers, after all these years they are still perfect. 

About the story…You are a SeeD, protector and student of your school. You work for salary based on how good you act on missions. Being a SeeD holds deep story line. It’s funny how on some missions you are sent to kill, that’s the real stuff. Squall is not (or is he) an ordinary man. He is self-effacing, withdrawn hero. You will often find him talking to himself, babbling about how he does not want to bond and that everything ends, and he ends up being hurt. The hole is too big to bear.

Of course, all that will change when Rinoa comes into equation. He even goes to space to chase her. After all these years, story grew on me all over again and I enjoyed reading all dialogues. Expect evil sorceress, space adventures, supernatural creatures and so on. All goes in normal pace until you go and kill Edea.

If you ever come across some fan-based video on story segment, there is one really interesting. As Squall gets pierced at end of disk 1, fans are claiming that rest of the game is just in his head. That haunts me, because the rest of the game is really fantasy based, while first part is more realistic (if I can even call it that). Anyway, story is great and consists of past and future, introduces some other story-based characters like Laguna who you will control on some game parts. As a big picture I find it a great experience.

Mercenary, student, romance guy. Squall maybe doesn’t love anyone, until he actually figures that he loves everyone.

Even though we are looking at a great game, there are some negatives to cover as well. Ok, done. Well, I never liked 1000 EXP to level up. Every level you gain takes 1000 EXP and that felt and still feels weird. That opens easy possibility to reach level 100 in the beginning of the game, now especially easy with x3 speed button. What I like is how enemies scale based on your level, so being week does not mean you will get obliterated. Still, some boss fights are on fixed level and you will need to have at least some good strategy. Being over level 30 or so makes high level enemies appear. They have stronger magic to draw from, better item drops etc. 

It’s not best to be over-levelled, as you can see. It’s better being low level and enhance your attributes with strong magic. Having weak enemies which you can destroy with strong stats is great deal. But magic is not easily obtainable. You can draw from enemies (and need high magic to steal strong ones or many that is) or you can draw from draw points. Each character can hold 100 of each magic. When you spend magic, it will reduce numbers. I never liked this, and I don’t like it now. Most of the time it’s just stealing magic and trying not to use often so you don’t have to steal again. Because junctioning 100 of Firaga is not the same as doing just 10. 

Last obnoxious thing would be the menu. The main part is just black and white, no pictures, anything. It’s ugly, not fun to look at, considering you will spend so much time here, not a good selling point. Why don’t they remake some bad stuff, now when it was the best time to do it?

Make sure you have Draw before boss fights. Not only they hold high level magic, but many GF’s will be drawn from them, making them very missable.

Geniality and craft of old school world

Fun fact for all those in favour of bugs. Not only there are same bugs from previous version/s, some new ones are here as well. I remember in PS1 version, when there is notification about payment you get a sound and it pops. After some time spent in the game you just hear the sound without notification. Same thing here. Also, when you are in a fight, often battle menu gets sluggish.

Blurred backgrounds are not pre-rendered best. On a big TV, you will often guess what is shown in background. How they upscaled characters and some objects is fine for me personally, while some of you may hate the fact they are done I more of a anime style. Movement with analog is really bad, there are only 8 directions, so I ended up using D-Pad on some parts. It seems that we've got steam version, which had no rumble feature. Guess what, no rumble here neither. It seems like playing PS1 version is the best choice. If only there is x3 button...!

Oh, Squall, only Rinoa is on your mind, and I even got the whip for you…

Brilliance lies in small things. Side content is huge, rewarding and interesting. Take that modern games. Many of this is missable. Hunting down hidden short quests and dialogue options are often rewarding in a way that you will learn more about the story. Some are hilarious and worth chasing just for that. Lastly, the biggest mini game is the Triple Triad Card Game.

There are hundreds of cards, to be exact, Lv1-LV10 cards, highest being character cards. You can play the game with almost anyone. Point of having them is to refine them into magic, items or simply for playing more games. Every region has its own rules though, but there is a way to manipulate those. I had so much fun playing cards and collecting all. 

Here is Seifer, bend over and hand over all your cards.

As quests, items, more exactly, Key items, are missable. Most important ones would be weapon magazines, some related to certain character limit breaks and so on. Although most of them can be bought later, collecting them require effort as time frame when they are available can be quite short. 

When it comes to limit breaks, there is plenty to love and hate, unfortunately. Having low HP opens chance to get a limit break. Only later you can draw certain magic that grants this status no matter the HP (best magic IMO). 

Squall has the best limit, series of hits (random number) which may result with special attack depending which weapon you have. Zell learns his through books and you can use different combinations of buttons to pull up some moves. Rinoa learns her through the books as well, Irvine is a real bullet machine, Questis is using Blue Magic (learn limits by using enemy items), while Selphie is really unimportant. I wish they have limit break system like in FF7 in all games.

Remember Omnislasha from Cloud. If you liked it, you will love Renzokukens best special attack.

Another small fun fact is that game offers a world map. Reach and explore by foot, a car or a flying ship. Doesn’t matter, it’s fun. Locations are unique, different, have stories behind and easily missable as some are optional. It makes sense to do them, believe me. One of the best summons is in hidden facility, where if you are badass you can find Ultima weapon as well. It’s a challenge, let me put it this way.

Who else remembers when we were discovering hidden stuff on world map like this? Looks ugly, but it’s fun.

Still magic in the game, or time took its toll? 

If you missed this somehow, you like the genre, you like theme and old Square, you don’t mind 4:3 ratio – give this a chance. FF8 is everything that this genre represents, and it tends to put smile on your face. Maybe 20 years after sounds a lot, but wisdom and foundation are heavily present. Check for yourself how stories were crafted, how they made us listen and gave us freedom to make the game the best experience there is without guiding us on each step. Here ya go, one space picture! 

What fantasy would it be without girl leaving into space? She also borrowed some rings, no way to let her steal that.

You can expect plot twists, tensions, decent and unique content wrapped up in one big system that breads quality. When you enjoy older game more than so many new ones, that is when you fear about industry. Or at least, Square. Rare are the ones which have special place on the shelf. Rare they are indeed. FF8 is one of them for me. With so many games that I want to play that are out in September, I go and play this for 60 hours. Ah, no regrets.

And you tell me that theory of Squall living the rest of the game in his head is not at least considered to be true?

P.S. Square, really, it’s not ok to re-release the game that is worse in ways from the original. I decrease the grade because of 4:3 and for unresolved bugs plus some one ones. If this was PS1 version, I wouldn’t go below 93. But here we are, 20 years later, same issues and laziness. That is how you don’t do it. 

"Ah, what the heck, give them the money."
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