I’ve been waiting a long time for this. When Square Enix announced at E3 2019 that Final Fantasy VIII was receiving a remaster, I flipped out. It’s my favorite FF and I’ve been itching to play it on current gen consoles. Everyone and their dog thought it was getting the shaft but they proved us all wrong! After spending a couple of hours with the game and building my card collection up (and fighting Ifrit… for his card), it’s still the same game I loved before, but with a shiny coat of paint… sort of.
If you’ve never played it, here’s a little history lesson. When Final Fantasy VIII released back in 1999, it had some enormous shoes to fill. Its predecessor, Final Fantasy VII, released to critical and commercial success. It was a game changer for both Squaresoft and JRPGs in general. No one had experienced anything quite like it. Because of this, there was just no way VIII was going to live up to that level of hype. For better or worse, FFVIII didn’t try to be anything like its predecessors. In fact, it tried to be the opposite of everything that had come before. FFVIII introduced the mini-game Triple Triad. Triple Triad is such a great card game, you might forget you’re playing an RPG at all. The Materia system had been replaced with the Draw system. Guardian Forces played a much larger role this time like the Espers did in FFVI because they could now level up and gain abilities that could increase your stats. Leveling yourself to get stronger was pointless now because you became powerful from the spells you equipped to your Guardian Forces. You couldn’t earn gil through combat, you received a payment every so often based on your SeeD rank. All these changes through many players off who were expecting the same kind of experience from FFVII. Personally, I loved the changes.
The Draw system is unique. It’s not for everyone, but it’s an interesting way to handle spell casting. You don’t have MP anymore. Instead, you draw magic from your enemies and stock it for later use or you can draw it out of them and use it immediately. It can be a tedious process at times, because you’ll want to make sure you have enough cure spells for a battle. It was nice if the enemy was carrying cure or protect so you could take it from them and didn’t have to waste your own stock.
Guardian Forces were a huge part of the game now. Magic could be junctioned to the Guardian Forces you had equipped to increase your health, strength, etc. In order for you to be able to junction magic to your health you had to have the right Guardian Force equipped to be able to do that. Not all abilities were for your characters though. One of the first Guardian Forces you unlock is Quezacotl and you can learn how to turn enemies into cards and the cards you’ve gained into items. From there, different Guardian Forces could turn cards into various magic properties based on what element they were.
FFVIII’s story has its moments, but it never quite grabbed my attention when I first played it. It’s a mishmash of time travel, something about monsters falling from the moon, amnesia, school drama, hot dogs. It’s entertaining but nothing amazing. It’s just filler in between those beautiful card battles you should be partaking in. Triple Triad is a side-quest that could have very well been its own game. I honestly think the developers set out to make a card game and just disguised it as an RPG. For the full set of rules, you can check out the wiki page because if I explain the rules it’ll be pages and pages you’ll have to read.
New features with this remaster include 3X speed which is activated by pushing the left thumb-stick in. This allows you to zoom across the open field map, speed through the long process of turning enemies into cards during battle, and those ridiculously long Guardian Force summons to save time. No random battles is activated by pushing both thumb-sticks in at the same time and is a nice feature because leveling in this FF actually makes the game harder. The right thumb-stick activates full health, unlimited limit break for those times when you just want to destroy your foe.
Along with those quality of life improvements, the biggest feature here is the graphics upgrade to the character models… and it really isn’t noticeable. The cut-scenes look the same as they did back in 1999. The new updated character models that you’ll be playing as in and outside of battle look fantastic, but that’s only where you’ll notice an upgrade. You can’t even tell the graphics are updated when the camera is zoomed out because the pre-rendered backgrounds look like they did back in the PS1 days, just brighter and less fuzzy. Battles look nice since enemies received a graphics upgrade as well. Guardian Force summons look very pretty. It all looks fine and I’m a sucker for PS1 graphics because they fill me with nostalgia. It’s just for a remaster, it’s very difficult to notice anything has changed.
Even if Triple Triad is what I remember most, I’d be crazy not to mention the soundtrack. It easily ranks as one of my all time favorite video game soundtracks. Balamb Garden, Breezy, Fisherman’s Horizon, the list goes on and on. You can listen to all the music on Spotify, so if you find yourself itching for some beautiful music, there’s that.
While not for everyone, I couldn’t be more happier that FFVIII can be played on current gen consoles. I’m sure I’ll pour another ridiculous amount of hours into this one and try to unlock all the trophies.Despite the fact that the HD graphics aren’t really that amazing, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is still a classic and is a must-own for fans and newcomers alike. – NVJ
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is now available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & PC