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Game review: Revisiting Final Fantasy VIII

16 Sep 2019
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When people think about Final Fantasy, they normally remember the classic Final Fantasy VII. However, one underrated classic always appears under the radar and that's Final Fantasy VIII.

It has been 20 years since the release of Final Fantasy VIII on PSOne and 2019 marks the release of a remaster for the game. This remaster mainly improves the blocky PSOne style graphics, and it adds cheats to make the game easier for new players.

I played Final Fantasy VIII many years ago as a kid, but I never was good enough to finish the game. I got stuck on a boss on the third disc of the game and never progressed any further.

Now I have a chance to play the game again in 2019 and I must say this remaster really helps players like myself. When the original game came out, I remember I hated all of the random battles. Random battles were annoying and it was hard to face enemies every single time they appeared.

Thankfully with this new remaster, you can turn off random battles making exploration less long and tedious. This way you can level up and battle at your own pace without getting constantly interrupted.

Another positive thing added to this remaster is the ability for you to speed up the gameplay. If you feel leveling up to be too long and boring, you can increase the game’s speed up to three times faster than normal to get through the many tedious battles at a much quicker pace.

The last cheat that is available to console players is a way to have maximum health and infinite Limit Breaks. Limit Breaks are essentially each character’s special move and you can also summon powerful creatures called Guardian Forces to help you during intense enemy fights too.

Sure you can play the game normally without cheats, but I feel they are helpful to allow new gamers a chance to experience the story without too much hassle. That being said, there are still some old school gaming features that have not improved over the years.

Before I begin talking about that, I will say that Final Fantasy VIII Remastered looks and plays brilliantly. All of the character models have been remodelled, giving them a much smoother appearance than in the PSOne original. You can actually see features like the characters’ eyes much clearer in this remaster!

This new remaster looks better than when the game was re-released on Steam and mobile devices a few years ago. It’s worth upgrading the game if you haven’t done so already to see the improved graphics.

However, the sad thing about the game’s visual presentation though is that it’s stuck in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. Sadly, you cannot upscale the screen to a more modern 16:9 widescreen presentation. It’s just a minor gripe, but it would have been cool if the game was tailored to more modern television screens.

Visually, the pre-rendered backgrounds haven’t had an upgrade either. The backgrounds in the game are still fuzzy compared to how smooth all of the character models look like. Again, this is not a major issue, but it’s very noticeable once you start playing the game.

In terms of gameplay and aside from the cheats, the core mechanics have been relatively unchanged. Old school gamers will love the slower turn-based combat system that was prevalent in many RPGs released in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

During the combat system, characters take turns and have to wait to attack or use items. The last major Final Fantasy game to use this combat style was Final Fantasy X on the PS2. If you don’t like the more modern Final Fantasy video games, you’ll love revisiting the past in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered.

The only thing that might irk new players is that this remaster still has a fixed camera system. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost as you cannot rotate the camera for a better viewpoint. Again, this is not a huge issue, but there are times I couldn’t see where to go to the next area.

The music is also memorable and this remaster does not change any of it. The music is arguably the best thing about the old school Final Fantasy games as they’re catchier than the songs featured in Final Fantasy XV.

I also think that the cutscenes have aged really well for a game that came out way back in 1999. Sure the game’s visuals cannot compete with today’s visuals, but the animated cutscenes still look epic.

Anyway, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is still a great game even though it’s based on a 20 year old fame. The character models look clean and the cheats make it easier for new players to get through. Sure the game still has some old school gaming issues, but I feel the gameplay still holds up. If you love RPGs, make sure not to miss out playing it!

Verdict: 8.5/10