Final Fantasy VIII is the eighth numbered game in the series developed and published by Squaresoft (now Square-Enix). It was initially released on the PlayStation, before being later ported to the PC (published by Eidos). Final Fantasy VIII continues with a number of elements found in previous games in the series; as illustrated by its use of a sophisticated 3D engine, high quality cutscenes, and deep story and characterization. The plot focuses on Squall Leonhart, a cadet of Balamb Garden mercenaries called SeeD. SeeD's involvement with a small resistance group fighting against the oppressive Galbadian government blooms into an international crisis in which the young group must protect the world from the actions of an evil sorceress. Along the way, the characters unravel their past, and must learn the values of emotion, compassion and sacrifice.
The reception of Final Fantasy VIII was largely positive, both critically and commercially. Even in the wake of the launch of the Dreamcast on the same day, Final Fantasy VIII became the top selling video game in the United States two days after its release, and held that position for more than three weeks. In the Japanese market, 2.5 million copies were sold in the first four days. By the end of 1999, more than 6 million copies had been sold. Despite such a favorable reaction, certain developments such as the new gameplay system were controversial, which had the effect of polarizing the opinions of both experts and new players alike. Nevertheless, Final Fantasy VIII has been generally regarded as a strong iteration of the Final Fantasy series, matching the high standard that had been set by previous titles.
Final Fantasy VIII is similar to Final Fantasy VII, in the fact that all of the action takes place on either a world map, a pre-rendered map, or the battle screen. The world map is a zoomed out version, and is disproportionate to the size of the sole character model, Squall. Characters can traverse the world map a number of ways such as the classic chocobo or airship. The pre-rendered map is proportionate to characters, and features all party members on screen. The backgrounds are more detailed and are directly related to the battle pre-rendered background. Battles take place in a turn-based fashion, similar to other games in the series.
This is perhaps the most significant, yet also most controversial, additions to the gameplay of Final Fantasy VIII. In this game, magic works in an entirely different way. For starters, there is no MP bar; magic is stored and used up in a similar way to items. However, the important point to note is that magic can now be junctioned to each characters' statistics (i.e. Strength, Luck, Vitality, etc.) to strengthen and improve them. Obviously, more powerful magic has the effect of raising statistics a more significant amount.
Besides being able to junction magic to the average stats, a big part of the gameplay comes from junctioning magic to the Status-Attack/Defense (ST-A/D) or Elemental-Attack/Defense (EL-A/D) stats. The ability to junction to these is unlocked by Guardian Force abilities, which open up the ability to junction. Only status-effecting magic will junction to these stats. Equipping sleep magic to the ST-Attack junction gives that character a higher percentage of casting Sleep on an enemy with their regular melee attack.
Junctioning magic to the EL-A/D stats lets the character equip status magic to the ability and depending on how much of that magic is junctioned, said character has a higher percentage of avoiding that status. Or in the case of EL-D with elemental magic, the character has a higher resistance to elemental magic. The percentages for each stat are increased the more magic the character has junctioned. So fifty Blizzards will give less of resistance to ice than 100 Blizzards will. One-hundred blizzards will give 100% resistance to ice. If those Blizzards are refined into Blizzaras (or simply draw them from enemies) fifty Blizzaras are equal to 100 Blizzards. While anything above fifty Blizzaras goes over 100% and the character begins to absorb a certain percent of that magic. The same effect is multiplied with the use of Level 3 magics (i.e. Blizzaga, Thundaras, Firagas, etc.)
The Junction system not only allows for the optimization of each character's abilities, it also opens up new tactical elements of gameplay. An example of this is how magic such as Poison or Confusion can be junctioned onto the attacks of certain characters, so that in battle their attacks have a chance of dealing further damage if the enemy suffers the effects of the spell.
Junctioning makes leveling up an unnecessary feature in Final Fantasy VIII. Due to the fact that all enemies scale to the player's level and bosses don't give the player any experience points. This makes low-level runs of Final Fantasy VIII not only easier to accomplish, but actually an easier way to play the game than a normal playthrough. This is because if the enemies don't hit certain levels, they don't get any of their high level magic. So in a good low-level run the character will at most face level one attacking magics (fire, thunder, blizzard).
Another significant addition is one that also revolves around the use of magic. The draw system is a method of obtaining magic quite apart from the methods seen in Final Fantasy games up to this point. Being such a major depart from the series, it may take time for old hands to get adjusted to it, however the logic behind it is quite simple. Magic, instead of being learned by characters as they level up, is obtained through the draw system. Magic can be drawn from enemies, but also from specific draw points dotted all over the world.
Up to 100 items of any type of magic can be held at one time. The more items of a particular type of magic you have, the more significant effect it will have when junctioned. When in battle, drawing magic uses up a character's turn, and is not always successful. Some magic can only be obtained from monsters in battle, so it is often necessary to attempt drawing magic whenever you encounter a new foe to ensure that rare forms of magic are not missed.
There are also invisible draw points throughout the world. While invisible, they can be heard by walking near them. An ability can be aquired from Siren that allows the player to see all invisible draw points throughout the journey, even when she isn't junctioned to a character.
Limit Breaks also make a return to this iteration of the Final Fantasy series. Instead of Final Fantasy VII`s trigger to limit breaks of a Limit meter filling through damage taken, the limit breaks in Final Fantasy VIII are triggered randomly, and are more likely when the character has critical life or is affected by status ailments. The buff spell ``Aura`` can be used to increase the frequency of the limit break being triggered, and allows for limit breaks to appear at any health level. The style of limit breaks varies from character to character, being a random slot machine style casting, to a fighting game combo system, or Squall`s timing trigger Renzokuken.
Triple Triad is a card minigame in Final Fantasy VIII. Collecting cards is more than merely a fun break from the core narrative elements of the game, as powerful magic and items can be refined from some of the rarer cards, making it a worthwhile investment of time and resources. Triple Triad is played on a three by three grid, where cards of various characters and monsters from the game are laid. Each card has a number corresponding to each side of the card, ranging from one to nine, and A which is considered ten. The objective of the game is to lay cards as to beat the existing card on the grid with a higher number. Adjacent sides of the card are compared, and the card with the higher number will win. The ownership of the losing card will be lost on the grid and transferred to the winner. The initial turn is determined by a coin flip. The winner of the game is determined by the person with the highest number of cards owned on the grid. The prize for the winner is taking one or more cards from the loser. In addition to the standard rules, there can be additional rules depending on the region.
Through an ability learned via junctioned Guardian Forces, characters can refine certain items into other items or spells. Several different refinement types exist, which bear different results when refining certain items: magic; healing potions; buff items; ammunition and equippable amulets are among the few types of things produced from a refinement. Different refinement ability types are learned from different Guardian Forces. For instance: Ifrit, who is a fire-based Guardian Force, learns Fire Magic Refinement.
There are six main playable characters in Final Fantasy VIII, and numerous other important characters that we meet along the way.
Squall is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VIII. Squall is training to be a SeeD at Balamb Garden, and the game primarily follows Squall as he undertakes various missions in this mercenary role. He initially starts off as a quiet and reserved person, however the influence of characters such as Rinoa encourage him to come out of his shell. It is learned later on in the game that Squall, like a number of the other characters, was raised in an orphanage run by Matron. There are strong hints in the game to suggest that Squall is the son of Laguna.
Quistis is an instructor in Balamb Garden and is Squall’s immediate superior. She accompanies Squall on the tutorial mission by defeating Ifrit in the Fire Cave, and provides guidance on both the Junction System and the use of summonable monsters, known as Guardian Forces. It is hinted that Quistis has romantic feelings for Squall when she shares this with him early in the game. Quistis is the only character in the game, and first in the franchise, that is able to break the 9,999 damage limit. This is possible with her final limit break, Shockwave Pulsar.
Zell first appears in the SeeD mission to Dollet, as he is placed in the same team as Squall and Seifer. Zell is egregious and prone to extreme outbursts of emotion, in complete contrast to Squall. Zell's limit break, Duel, is one of the strongest limit breaks in the Final Fantasy series, as it allows the player to hit the enemy a great number of times if utilized correctly. The limit break encompasses Zell performing different fighting moves, and more moves can be unlocked through the finding of issues of the Combat King magazine.
Selphie is an exchange student from Trabia Garden who is also training to become a SeeD. Selphie is a sweet and bubbly character, and is first properly introduced to her on the Dollet mission at the Communication Tower. Here she joins up with Squall and Zell shortly after Seifer leaves the party, and also accompanies them on later missions.
Rinoa is first introduced during the Graduation Ball cutscene when she forces Squall to dance. As the leader of the resistance group, Forest Owls, she was in Balamb Garden to seek SeeD's assistance in liberating Timber from Galbadian control. Rinoa has a strong sense of justice and is willing to stand up for what she believes in. She is averse to being controlled and often acts on impulse, as seen during Sorceress Edea's assassination plot where she attempts to take on Edea by herself. Rinoa was not brought up in Matron’s orphanage, but has instead lived a life of privilege. It is this that has perhaps contributed to her rebellious streak.
Irvine is a skilled sharpshooter, and it is because of this that he is assigned the role of hitman during the assassination mission. Despite his cool exterior and Casanova-like persona, Irvine is an insecure individual. At the last moment, he is almost unable to take the shot and Squall has to calm him down to prevent jeopardizing the mission. As Irvine has only made use of Guardian Forces for a short while, he does not suffer the same side effects as the others. It is because of this that he is able to remember that they share a common bond; having all grown up together as children in Edea’s orphanage.
Balamb Garden's only other gunblade specialist besides Squall; Seifer is an extraordinarily arrogant and antagonistic figure throughout the entirety of the story. During a presidential broadcast Seifer attempts to kidnap president Vinzer Deling of Galbadia, however Sorceress Edea ‘saves’ the president and manipulates Seifer into becoming her knight. After this point, he becomes a main enemy to the SeeD mercenaries, preventing Squall and company from completing their goal of assassinating the Sorceress.
The energetic leader of a small squad of Galbadian soldiers, Laguna is also the main character of FFVIII's dream sequences. Through these dream sequences, we are able to follow Laguna through multiple points of his life, from his time in the Galbadian army to his presidency of Esthar.
Kiros served under Laguna during his time in the Galbadian army. After he leaves the military, he continues to help Laguna as an ally and friend. Kiros is also present during the dream sequences.
Ward is another member of Laguna’s unit in the Galbadian army, and is also present in the dream sequences. He serves with Kiros and Laguna until they are separated during a mission on the continent of Esthar. He then goes on to serve as a janitor at the D-District Prison.
Edea allies herself to the Galbadian President, Vincent Deling, and helps him with his plan of increasing his nation’s power. She publicly kills the President and takes his place as the ruler of Galbadia. It is later revealed that these actions are the result of Edea being possessed by the evil Sorceress Ultmecia, and that she actually has a kind and caring temperament. She ran the orphanage at which a number of the other characters were raised as children.
Final Fantasy VIII has a wide array of Guardian Forces (GFs) that can be assigned to any of the playable characters. GFs are significant for a number of reasons. The use of GFs can help overcome difficult bosses, and they are integral to progression through the game. This is another example of how FFVIII breaks away from the traditional approrach taken by the series. Summonable creatures ordinarily take a secondary role in battles, but FFVIII places them directly at the forefront of the action. As each GF gets stronger, it will learn new abilities, such as allowing the summoner to assign magic to a new attribute, for example. Some GFs are unlocked by defeating them in battle, while others are drawn from opponents. Collecting all of the GFs is a popular side-quest for many players, and it is by no means an easy task.
Guardian Forces are key to building the main characters and are tied directly to the Junctioning system. Without a GF junctioned to him or her, a character cannot perform any actions in battle except for Fight. Junctioning the Guardian Force allows characters to select and customize their battle commands, including using Items, casting Magic, etc. Moreover, as a Guardian stays junctioned to a character and participates in battle, the affinity between a Guardian Force and that character grows. One of the more obvious benefits to a higher affinity is that the Guardian Force will unleash its attack quicker when summoned as a result.
All GFs, except for GFs that deal a fixed amount of damage (Diablos, Jumbo Cactuar) or GFs that cast support magic (Carbuncle, Cerberus, Siren, etc.), have an unlockable ability called Boost. Every GF that has the potential to earn this ability can do so when first obtained. Boost is achieved tapping a specific button during the GFs attacking animation. At the bottom right is an icon with a number starting at 70 and a hand pointing at it. While the GF is attacking, the player has a limited amount of time to repeatedly tap the button to make the number increase. At random intervals a red "X" will appear over the hand, warning the player to stop pressing the button a little bit. The player has a few chances for accidentally doing it, but pressing the button more than three times when the red "X" is on screen will reset the boost number back to 70. The higher the number for boost, the higher the damage of the regular GF attack.
Quezacotl and Shiva are the first two GFs found in the game. Squall can find them in his desk at the very beginning of the game. If the player misses this chance, Quistis will give the two GFs to Squall before the first test. Quezacotl is a thunder elemental and is a primary source of thunder damage early in the game. Quezacotl's two most useful abilities are Card Mod and Card. Card mod allows the player to refine items from pre-owned cards. Card will change the targeted enemy into a card, which is very useful early on.
Shiva is acquired at the same time as Quezacotl. She is an Ice elemental and is a primary source of ice attacks. Shiva's most useful abilities are Vitality & Spirit . These abilities are passive and are important to have early on in the game. These simply give the equipped character a vitality or spirit boost for each level. Her low HP makes her less viable later in the game, but her ice skills are still unmatched.
Ifrit is the first GF that Squall actually earns in FFVIII. Ifrit is found early on at the end of the Fire Cavern quest with Quistis. Ifrit is a fire elemental GF and one of the most powerful. Ifrit's most useful abilities are HP-J & STR Bonus. Ifrit's HP-J skill allows curative magic to be junctioned to the character's HP, giving large HP boosts early on. While STR Bonus is another good early skill for low levels.
Siren is the first non-elemental and non-attacking GF. Siren must be drawn from Elvoret at the top of Dollet Comm Tower. Siren does not attack but casts silence on all her enemies. This makes her most useful against magic casters. Siren's most useful abilities are Treatment & Move-Find. Treatment is a skill that heals any abnormal status effects. Move-Find helps the player see invisible save & draw points.
The Brothers GF is the first side quest GF available in the game. To reach the mansion, the player needs to go find a lost soldier's code tag in the Tomb of the Unknown King. The code is right at the entrance, but proper management through the underground maze will lead the team to fight both brothers. The Brothers are an earth elemental, meaning they cannot attack flying enemies. To aid yourself against them in the boss battle, cast float on all your characters. The Brothers' most useful abilities are HP & HP Bonus. The earlier this GF is obtained, the GF the better it will be for the equipped character. The Brothers play rock paper scissors to decide who will be launched in the air for their attack.
Diablos can be obtained while leaving for Timber. As the team leaves Balamb, Cid will hand Squall the Magical Lamp item. The item can be used at any time on the battlefield, doing so will launch the team into this challenging boss battle. It is best to fight Diablos as soon as possible, when the main characters are weak. Diablos has no element but he attacks, not in set damage, but by deducting a percentage of the enemy's HP. At level 100, Diablos will attack 100% of the enemies HP. Diablos' most useful abilities are Mug & Abilityx3. Mug is an action that replaces the characters attack option. It works like steal does for thieves, but it steals during a regular attack. This ability should always be on someone. Abilityx3 does exactly that, gives that character a third ability option.
Carbuncle is a useful GF who has no element and does not attack. Carbuncle must be drawn from the Iguions at the end of disc one right before the fight with Edea. Carbuncle will be of immediate use, because he will save the team during the Edea battle that occurs soon after he is found. Carbuncle does not attack, but instead buffs all of the party with reflect. Reflect prevents any magic from hitting the party, and during the first Edea battle, she only uses magic. The magic is bounced back at the enemy. Carbuncle's most useful abilities are ST-ATK-J & Abilityx3.ST-Atk-J makes magic able to be junctioned to a characters attack. Abilityx3 gives that character a third ability slot.
Leviathan is the first GF on disc two. He needs to be drawn from NORG during the fight at Balamb Garden. Leviathan is a water elemental and his attack is the strongest water elemental damage in the game. Leviathan rises as a dragon to the top of a sloped mountain, dissolves into water, and rushes his enemies in a large tsunami. Leviathan's most useful abilities are Recover & Spr Bonus. Recover is an ability that fully restores one party member's HP. Spr Bonus gives the character an additional bonus after every level up.
Pandemona needs to be drawn from Fujin during the Fujin and Raijin boss battle. Pandemona is a wind elemental.. Pandemona's most useful abilities, Spd-J & Initiative, primarily focus on increasing a characters speed. Initiative starts a battle with all of the player characters with a full ATB bar. Spd-J allows junctioning magic to speed, hasting that character in the process.
Cerberus is the first optional GF battle of disc two. He is standing right in the center of Galbadia Garden's main hall. Cerberus does not attack, instead he casts double & triple on your party. Double and Triple allow a character to cast three or two times per turn. Cerberus' most useful abilities are ST-Atk-J & ST-Def-Jx4. He has one of the best sets of junctioning abilities in the game.
Alexander must be drawn from the Edea boss battle at the end of disc two. Alexander is a holy elemental, making him great against undead enemies. His attack starts off fairly weak. Alexander's most useful abilities are Med LV Up & Revive. Med LV Up will help you on a late game sidequest to procure an item needed to receive the Doom Train GF. Revive will immediately resurrect a downed enemy.
Doomtrain is available at the white SeeD ship part of disc three til the end of the game. Certain items are required to find him including Solomon Ring, Marlboro Tentacles, Remedy, and Steel Pipes to use the ring. The ring must be used at Tears' Point. Using the ring summons Doomtrain, who will immediately join the party. Doomtrain is a poison elemental who casts abnormal status effects on his enemies. Doomtrain has the best set of junctioning abilities in FFVIII and has many useful junctioning abilities.
Bahamut can be obtained at the Deep Sea Research Center on disc three. Squall must answer his questions correctly to initiate the battle. Bahamut has no element and average damage however, the meat of his attack is the length of his animation. The length of the attack will give the player enough time to fully boost Bahamut, increasing his damage drastically. Bahamut's most useful abilities are Abilityx4& Mug.
Jumbo Cactuar is located on Cactuar Island, east of Centra Ruins. On the small island, a cactus can sometimes be seen on the world map. Running into it starts a battle against Jumbo Cactuar and his saucy moustache. Cactuar's 1000 Needles attack does 1,000 damage for every ten levels, making his max damage 10,000 and the second most powerful GF in the game, just barely breaking the 9,999 damage limit. Cactuar's specialties lie in his damage, making his abilities an afterthought.
Tonberry King is definitely the hardest GF to obtain in the game. In Centra Ruins, at least twenty of the difficult tonberry enemies must be slain before randomly coming into a battle with the Tonberry King. Tonberry King is one of the hardest boss fights in the game and he can take upwards of two hours to defeat. Tonberry is great to have at shops with his Familiar and Call Shop skills. Familiar adds rare items to all shops, while call shop brings the shop to the player. His Lv. Down and Lv. Up abilities are good for making a hard enemy easy, or strengthening a weak enemy for greater loot.
Eden is the last GF in FFVIII and he is the most powerful. Eden can be acquired from Ultima Weapon at the bottom of Deep Sea Research after passing Bahamut. Eden's base damage is 13,000 but when fully boosted, it can reach over 60,000 points. This means Eden has the strongest single-hitting attack in the game and thus making Final Fantasy VIII the first game in the series to break the 9,999 damage limit, along with Quistis´ final limit break and Jumbo Cactuar. The damage limit is theoretically 99,999, but since the damage values in the game are based on 16-bit integer values, the damage can never exceed 65,535. Eden's Devour ability will let that character eat certain enemies and use their abilities to increase the party's stats.
Final Fantasy VIII supports the PocketStation, a minature console that was only released in Japan. When plugged into the PlayStation, the PocketStation allowed users to play a special minigame called "Chocobo World," by reading the FFVIII save file. The game involved controlling a chocobo and leading him to gain items that could then be used within the main Final Fantasy VIII game itself. The Guardian Force Boko also had three additional special attacks that could only be obtained through the Pocketstaion, or by playing the version of Chocobo World that was included in the PC version.
The music for Final Fantasy VIII was written and composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu, like with Final Fantasy VII, took advantage of the sound capabilities of Sony's PlayStation which enabled him to create a richer sound than in previous titles. The game and its soundtrack are both known for being somewhat anomalous in the long running series. For the soundtrack this is evidenced by Uematsu's clear break with the work he has done on previous games. Uematsu started doing more full orchestral work and the soundtrack has more electronic influences than ever before. Furthermore, the overall narrative of the music can be described as more cinematic than audiences came to expect from Uematsu.
The most notable tracks on the soundtrack are the opening theme, called "Liberi Fatali"--meaning something along the lines of "Fated Children"--and "Eyes On Me". Liberi Fatali is a full orchestral piece arranged by Shiro Hamaguchi and accompanies the game's opening cinematic. Its main melody is used as a leitmotiffor several pieces used for key scenes in the game's story. The song is also notable for its use of a full choir. The other song, Eyes on Me, is notable because it is a ballad with full vocals and is used in-game. The use of a pop song with vocals was a first for the Final Fantasy franchise and has set a trend which continued on up until the most recent Final Fantasy game. Eyes On Me was composed by Uematsu and sung by the famous Chinese singer Faye Wong. The song's lyrics were written by Kako Someya. The melody of this song is the leitmotif for various other pieces which signify romantic moments in the game's story--for example, Julia's theme in certain flashbacks and related moments. It was released on CD in Japan which subsequently sold over 400,000 units. Eyes on Me has been the best-selling piece of video game music in Japan until the release of "Hikari" by singer Utada Hikaru for the first of the Kingdom Hearts games. The song is also noteworthy because it is the first piece of video game music to win an award at the Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards.