Final Fantasy 8 remastered has been long-awaited by many fans of the original, fans of the series and just general RPG fans. This instalment was ground-breaking at the time, and pushed the PS1 as far as it could go. The static image backgrounds, the blocky characters and FMV’s of the past have been dusted off and polished up for a modern audience. It seems there are some areas that weren’t able to be updated as well as others, but reading up on the work that was put into this it seems they made the best of what they could.
The character models are the first thing you notice that have a modern look. They’re not so blocky and you can even now see the scar on Squall face outside of the cut-scenes. However, some of the backgrounds were either too difficult or impossible to upscale as they look out of place on a modern display, plus the up-scaled characters look a little out of place in comparison. The music still sounds amazing as it did from the original and fits in well with the action of the game.
The games plot, for those unfamiliar with the original, has you focused on a student called Squall for the military academy SeeD. Squall and friends are sent on missions with their Guardian Forces who allow them to draw out and cast magic. But as with all Final Fantasy games, there are twists in the tale, romance – and bit of time travel. But a Final Fantasy story cannot be understood just by reading it; you have to experience it to fully understand. As with other titles in the series, Final Fantasy VIII also contains a fun mini-game called Triple Triad which can be addictive and is a great way to get some of the rarer items.
One of the main draws to every Final Fantasy game is the combat system. Traditionally a turn-based action fighting style, Final Fantasy VIII keeps on trend, but tries to implement a real-time feel to the battle. This means that if you try and dawdle in the menu, your enemy will continue to beat you down. What happens is a meter will build up and whoever has the meter filled first makes the first move. Also, this is one of if not the only Final Fantasy game that has enemy scaling which means regardless of how much you grind your characters, your enemy will match your level to keep things interesting. This sets this game apart from the others in the series as it doesn’t make things too hard or too easy, but those who enjoyed the grind -and the feeling of absolute power it could offer- these games used to have may get less satisfaction out of doing so as there is no real benefit.
The guardian forces in this game seem to be the key element in battles. You have to junction ‘connect’ them to your characters to increase their stats and abilities. It also allows you to draw magic from enemies and allows the assigned character to summon them during battle for a big hit. This is where things get a little complex as you really need to take in the tutorial to explain what everything does. It can be easy to dismiss it as confusing and just try and let it work itself out, but you will end up missing out on what the game has to offer.
The remastered version has implemented 3 important tweaks which will attract those who find Final Fantasy games a tad too monotonous. The first tweak allows you to set no random encounters. This allows you to traverse areas of the maps without having to battle a random enemy every 10 seconds. This no doubt put many off in the past as it slowed the game down considerably, especially when backtracking across areas. The second tweak is a 3x speed modifier. This will benefit fans and non-fans alike as it speeds up the movement, battles and dialogue outside of cut-scenes. There are a lot of times where the pace grinds to a halt, so this comes in handy to move things along, especially the summons of the guardian forces.
The third tweak is effectively a cheat mode. It allows you infinite health and to use your limit break attacks consistently without having to wait for the gauge to build. This brings in the rookies to play the game just for the story with little battle challenge. All three of these can be turned on or off at any point during play. What we could have done with however is a better saving option. The game can only be saved at certain points scattered around the map, which nowadays is just too outdated a method, and doesn’t cater for those who need to rush off at any point.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered has done a great job of bringing a great game from the archive back into the forefront. On first impressions, you might not be wowed exactly by the remaster job, as some graphics look great and some still look like as they did on the PS1. But it has allowed this great Final Fantasy story to be played by both old and new fans of the series as well as allow inexperienced players a chance to just enjoy the ride.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.