Final Fantasy VIII

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Final Fantasy VIII
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Developer(s) Square Co., Ltd.
Publisher(s) Square Co., Ltd.
Release date(s) February 11, 1999 (Japan)
September 7, 1999 (US)
October 27, 1999 (EU)
Genre Role-playing game
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: Teen (T)
Platform(s) Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Windows

Final Fantasy VIII is a computer role-playing game created by Square Co., Ltd. (now Square Enix) for the PlayStation and PC. The graphics showed improvement over its predecessor, Final Fantasy VII: the characters, specifically, looked far more realistic. The magic system which defines the game was also changed significantly, from FF7's materia system to the new Junction system.

Contents

Story

The nation of Galbadia initiates inexplicable hostilities against nearby nations Dollet and Timber. Both request aid of Balamb Garden, an elite military academy that trains mercenaries called SeeDs. Three newly-commissioned SeeDs, led by Squall Leonheart, are dispatched to deal with the conflict, which proves fortuitous: Galbadia, as it turns out, has fallen under the power of a Sorceress named Edea. There can only be one Sorceress at a time, but they are extremely dangerous, and the Gardens were founded to counter them. And Edea does not seem content with only one nation to rule. Squall and his friends are thus drawn into a conflict far greater than they could have imagined, a conflict which threatens the world itself. They find out who is truly behind Edea, and embark on a quest to stop her.

Balamb Garden

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Balamb Garden

Balamb Garden is a military academy at which SeeDs are trained. Balamb Garden is 2nd largest of the three Gardens, which consists of Galbadia Garden, Balamb, and Trabia Garden. Balamb Garden was founded by the headmaster Cid Kramer, via funds donated by a Shumi named NORG. This later led to squabbles over who actually owned the Garden. Characters Squall Leonhart, Selphie Tilmitt, Zell Dincht, Seifer Almasy, and Quistis Trepe have all attended this military academy. Selphie was a transfer from Trabia, and later in the game the player picks up Irvine Kinneas from Galbadia.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Final Fantasy VIII is quite different than that of its predecessors, with a strong focus on overall character development, in place of the more familiar weapon/armour/ability collecting.

Junction System

A new "Junction System" is used. This new system revolves around summonable monsters, called Guardian Forces (GFs). A character must have a GF assigned to them ("junctioned") before he or she can use command abilities in battle, such as Magic or Items. Traditionally, RPGs (including FF8's series predecessors) used a pool of Magic Points (MP) consumed by each spell to limit magic use; in FF8, spells are "drawn" from enemies or special Draw Points, and then consumed one at a time. GFs also allow characters to "junction" these spells to their own statistics for significant bonuses (a doubling of the base stat is not uncommon). Finally, in a marked departure from the previous seven games, FF8's GFs can be summoned as many times as the player wishes in a battle, although there is a time lag between issuing the summoning command and the action taking place.

For these reasons, many players found themselves eschewing magic altogether, relying solely on GF summons, junction-enhanced standard attacks, and Limit Breaks. Battles in FF8 can thus be completed by an endless repetition of any of these three. However, it is frequently more interesting (and effective) to use a repetoire of status-changing magical attacks or esoteric GFs.

Armor has completely disappeared in favor of Junctions, and characters do not buy and equip new weapons; instead, their current weapon receives a permanent upgrade.

Limit Breaks

Continuing a tradition founded in FF6, characters have limit breaks - powerful special moves only available under certain conditions during battle. Each character has his or her own unique Limit Break. In FF7 and later Final Fantasy games, each character has a "Limit" bar which must be filled (by taking damage from an enemy) to use a single Limit Break. In FF8, characters are granted limit breaks based upon the depletion of their health (HP), a change with significant consequences for game strategy.

Characters close to death are able to perform Limit Breaks for every turn they remain in this condition. While this is a somewhat risky way of gaining access to powerful attacks, the magic spell "Aura" temporarily allows the player continuous Limit Breaks regardless of their HP level. Combined with the wide availability of GFs, this gives players the option of simply throwing powerful attacks at a foe, rendering them strategically undemanding. An attempt to balance this is present- aura magic is a universally effective booster when junctioned to a statistic, making it worth conserving- however if the player has located a good source of Aura magic and is willing to exploit this aspect of the design, they will often face little difficulty in progressing.

Some have criticised the game for this unrewarding option for progress. Other sections of the fanbase support the relative ease with which the player can move through the game--and thus indulge in varied settings, plot and character development, which is the main reason that many people play Final Fantasy games in general and Final Fantasy VIII in particular. Other groups of players simply choose not to exploit this loophole in the design.

Levels

The final major change in Final Fantasy VIII was the concept of enemies leveling up along with the player. In all other Final Fantasies, and traditional CRPGs in general, each enemy has an fixed repetoire of attacks and statistics for their abilities, and they are distributed in the game world locations according to difficulty. The player, however, gains statistical boosts and new abilities as they battle enemies, a process called "Levelling up." Only by presenting new, tougher foes to the player as they move into new locations can the challenge be maintained.

This approach is not without its share of problems, as the two indicators of progress in the game (the player's level, and their location in the gameworld) may not correlate in the way the game's designer expects. A player may have fought many lowly enemies early in the game and thus find later sections extremely easy. A player will little interest in fighting minor foes may rush ahead and find themselves outclassed. Bosses are traditional choke-points in RPGs; a player may find that they have not increased in level sufficiently to weather a boss's attacks, and must spend time gaining experience points by fighting lowlier creatures (often a very repetitive process) before attempting the battle again. This can be viewed as an effort to ensure the player has the level the designer expects before they progress, however it is one of the more common frustrations with the genre.

In Final Fantasy VIII, enemies "level up" (or fail to) alongside the player. An enemy's statistics and abilities are determined by the level range the player falls into (for example, Level 5-10). If a player faces a creature early in the adventure, and then returns once they have reached a higher level, the enemy is capable of dealing and taking more damage and may have new attacks available to it. Similarly, a player may push ahead through the game without taking the time to raise the levels of their characters, and face a boss that matches their own skills. Due to a certain ability which converts an enemy into an item and does not give Experience, one could theoretically complete the game without ever gaining a single Experience point.

This approach has been accused of making later sections of the game disproportionately dificult. This is primarily an issue of game balance: ensuring that enemies' statistics and abilities at each level represent a fair match to the player's own. However, some of the abilities gained by enemies (such as "instant death" attacks) at higher levels are destabilising. Many welcomed the additional complexity brought by the system; dedicated players could achieve high levels and subsequently face far more complicated (and strategically rewarding) battles.

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Screenshot Final Fantasy VIII (PlayStation.)

Place in the series

Final Fantasy VIII was the first in the series to introduce a "collectible card game" in the game world, a feature that returned in later installments of the franchise. Final Fantasy games are known for their story and use of FMV, and many players felt Final Fantasy VIII was real proof of how far advances in both could go. The character development, especially that of Squall (from antisocial misfit into a more gentle and sensitive fellow), is very well done, and used in fanfiction frequently. The combination of FMV and interactive story telling made the game a success in the eyes of some doubtful gamers. One example of such a combination would be the surreal experience when Squall and his friends first have their lucid-yet-bizarre dreams of being other people in a different world. This made Final Fantasy VIII feel frequently less like a game, and more like a movie.

Characters

The main playable character in Final Fantasy VIII is Squall Leonhart. He is an apathetic young SeeD at Balamb Garden. He is, of course, quickly joined by a cast of characters, the most important one being Rinoa, who is the only main playable character not a trainee of one of the three Gardens. Square declared early on that the theme of FF8 would be love, and, true to form, Squall and Rinoa eventually form a romantic relationship. The other characters are, sadly, rather less developed, but they manage to hold their own, through not just well-translated dialogue but vivid body language as well.

In the first Final Fantasy games, all characters had distinct jobs and capabilities: fighters could wield the most potent arms and armors but had difficulty attacking elusive targets and evading attacks from such, and mages could cast magic spells but not absorb damage. FF7, courtesy of the Materia system, mostly did away with these character classes, and likewise FF8's characters are not very distinct in combat; they are mostly characterized, if anything, by their Limit Breaks.

Main playable characters

  • Squall Leonhart - A young student at Balamb Garden. Recognised by most for the scar by his left eye. He does not talk much and has the reputation of being a lone wolf. He falls in love with Rinoa, and the two are one of the main focal points of the game. He is also characterized by forlorn memories of standing out in the rain at the orphanage where he grew up, wondering where his friend went, a person known only as "Sis". Squall uses a weapon called a Gunblade, which is essentially a sword with a revolver built into it, with the barrel forming the spine of the single-edged blade; the weapon deals extra damage if the player squeezes the controller's R1 trigger button while attacking. His Renzokuken Limit Break, a series of sword attacks, can be similarly enhanced. The 'gunblade' was, at one time, an actual weapon in history, but its very obscurity demonstrates its lack of success.
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Squall's Gunblade.
  • Rinoa Heartilly - A young, beautiful, carefree girl; her mother was a famous singer named Julia and her father is General Caraway of Galbadia. She leads the Timber Owls, a resistance group that attempts to overthrow the Galbadian occupation of Timber; despite this, she and her father are on good terms. Her tenderness, warm-hearted nature and compassion make her very endearing. She is eventually revealed to be the heir of the Sorceress powers, making her a viable threat to the world at large and allowing various other Sorceresses to control her. Her Limit Breaks, Angelo Combine, utilize her dog (Angelo) in various attacks and special abilities; after gaining Sorceress powers, she gets a new Limit Break, Angel Wing, which causes her to randomly cast magic spells she has in her inventory without using them up. Before an official Square translation was revealed, Rinoa's name was sometimes translated by fans as 'Lenore.'
  • Quistis Trepe - Quistis joined SeeD at the age of 15, and due to her extraordianary talents, she quickly became an instructor. She now serves as Squall's instructor, and joins his party early on. She serves as a mediator and intelligent voice; however, she occasionally mentions her worries that she shouldn't be an instructor, and maybe took up the position too early. Quistis' Limit Break, Blue Magic, allows her to take abilities from enemies and use them as her own, and some of them are extremely potent. For instance, Shockwave Pulsar became the first-ever Final Fantasy attack to break the traditional 9,999-damage ceiling (followed shortly by the Eden Guardian Force).
  • Zell Dincht - A martial arts expert who joined Garden at 13 to follow in his grandfather's footsteps as a great soldier. He is enthusiastic, high-spirited and loyal to a fault; he sometimes blurts things out without thinking, and his anger can get the better of him. Zell uses his fists to fight, and his Limit Break, Duel, allow fighting-game-style combo moves.
  • Irvine Kinneas - Irvine is a loner from Galbadia Garden, who is called the 'Best Shooter in Garden' due to his sharpshooting abilities. He is also known a ladies' man, and attempts to charm Selphie several times throughout the game (with possible success, depending on one's interpretation of later events). He has, however, been known to lose his cool under extreme pressure. He is also the first to remember that he, Squall, Ellone, Selphie, Quistis, Zell and Seifer all grew up in the same orphanage (GFs are later implicated in the memory loss). His Limit Break, Shot, uses ammunition from the party's Item reserve to inflict damage.
  • Selphie Tilmitt - A happy-go-lucky young girl with a truly distinctive ox-bow hairstyle, Selphie seems out of place at a military academy. She has an overbearingly nave view of the world, and is always there when people need cheering up. She uses simple moves but is strangely reminiscent of Yuffie from Final Fantasy VII. Her Limit Break, Slot, randomly serves up a spell to cast (including four that are not found elsewhere) and the number of times she will cast it; the player can choose to either go with this option or try again. The type of weapon she uses is called nunchaku in the NTSC (Japanese and U.S.) versions and shinobou in the PAL versions.

Other Major Characters

  • Ellone - a mysterious girl who wanders in and out of Balamb Garden, and who knows Squall from his past: she is the missing "Sis" he has been looking for. Later it is revealed that she has a bizarre power: the ability to send a person's consciousness back in time, to watch and sometimes influence the actions of someone they know. It is this talent that allows Squall and his friends to take their flashback trips into Laguna's adventures. Her mother was Raine, a woman from Winhill.
  • Laguna Loire - A former Galbadian soldier who has turned journalist and seeks to tell the world about the horrors of war. He is optimistic and fueled with a passion to assist those in need. He is, however, extremely clumsy. The party first joins him at Galbadia City, where he meets and falls in love with a lounge singer named Julia; however, he is never able to return and see her again, as a bizarre encounter with a huge crystalline edifice renders him desperately injured in the town of Winhill, and by the time he is well, he is too attached to the community--and specifically Raine and Ellone--to return. (Julia goes on to marry a Galbadian officer named Caraway and give birth to a daughter, Rinoa.) Sometime after this Laguna proposes to Raine who accepts (as shown in a flashback at the end of the game) and they get married. Sometime after this Ellone is kidnapped by representatives of the futuristic, isolationist nation Esthar, and, despite Raine's pregnancy, Laguna goes into Esthar to rescue his daughter, where he is inadvertently swept up into a revolution which deposes Esthar's ruler, the Sorceress Adel; he is subsequently elected president. Raine, unfortunately, died in childbirth. Through Ellone, Squall & company experience Laguna's adventures, and eventually meet him when they travel to Esthar. His Limit Break, Desperado, involves some grenades, a lot of fire from his submachinegun, and some action-movie-style camera angles. Dialogue between Squall and Kiros strongly implies that Raine is Squall's mother and Laguna his father.
  • Kiros Seagill - Laguna's close friend and comrade in the Galbadian Army. He is light on his feet and fights with dual blades called katal; his Limit Break, Blood Pain, is a barrage of attacks. He becomes an offical in Esthar alongside Laguna.
  • Ward Zabac - Laguna's other best friend, he lost his voice in a battle with Esthar soldiers. He has a kind heart and follows closely with his friends and comrades, Laguna and Kiros. Ward is very large and quite strong; he throws an enormous harpoon in battle, and rides it down in his Limit Break (Heavy Anchor). He becomes an offical in Esthar alongside Laguna, directing affairs with gestures and his characteristic ellipses.
  • Seifer Almasy - Squall's rival at Garden is a powerful warrior, but his ego and inability to follow orders have made him... 'Problematic'. Given a identical scar by his right eye by Squall in the opening. He used to date Rinoa. Spurred by dreams of a brighter future, he joined with the Sorceress Edea (whom he recognized as the woman who ran the orphanage), out of the promise to be a 'knight' in her new world order, a role which plays towards his vanity but also to what seems to be an unaffected sense of nobility and honor. It is also believed that Seifer may have had his views brainwashed with a spell, due to his sudden change in attitude toward his assassination of Edea and his "dream" changing from "Romantic" to "Becoming a Knight", but his honor keeps him from the Sorceress Edea's full control. He also uses a gunblade, the specific name of his model being Hyperion, and his Limit Break is called Fire Cross.
  • Cid Kramer is the head of the Garden system, which trains SeeDs and is comprised of Balamb Garden, Galbadia Garden and Trabia Garden. Cid's loyalties are revealed to be somewhat divided as the game progresses: the Sorceress Edea, the Matron of the orphanage, is his wife.
  • Sorceress Edea - A power-hungry sorceress who ruled Galbadia. Her motives are initially unknown, but SeeD has been dispatched to eliminate her. She is presented as the initial villain of the game, but it is revealed she was possessed by Ultimecia, a woman from the future who has inherited the Sorceress powers. When Ultimecia releases her, she takes the side of the SeeDs in the struggle, and for a short time even joins the party. She attacks with magical bursts of energy, and her Limit Break, Ice Strike, forms and hurls a giant icicle. Her full name is Edea Kramer, and we learn that she is actually the wife of Headmaster Cid of Balamb Garden, and was known as "Matron" to Squall and his friends during the time when they lived with her at the orphanage in the continent of Centra.
  • Sorceress Adel - Another evil sorceress, the former ruler of Esthar. During the revolution, she was tricked by Laguna and placed in supended animation. However, Ultimecia (acting from the future as before) possessed Rinoa and, using her, freed Adel. She was later defeated by Squall and his cohort.
  • Ultimecia - An extremely evil sorceress from the future who can reach across time to possess other sorceresses and manipulate them. Her ultimate goal is something called time compression: bringing all times together. She is able to summon the ultimate GF, and is the game's main antagonist, although she appears on screen (outside of battle) only briefly.
  • NORG - NORG is a mysterious and strange creature who resides on the lower (and potentially unaccessable) floor of Balamb Garden. He was once a friend of Cid Kramer, and loaned him the money to build and develop the Garden years before the story begins. NORG begins to distrust Cid and attempts to overtake Balamb Garden as his own, which causes panic and confusion amongst the SeeDs and students. He is eventually killed by Squall, Zell and Rinoa.

Allegory

Groups of fans have highlighted apparent connections between events in the plot and backstory of Final Fantasy VIII and those in reality, specifically the early 20th century.

According to their examinations, the continent of Galbadia represents early 20th century Europe. Galbadia has often been characterized as resembling WWII Germany. Much of the architecture of the cities resembles that of pre-WWII Europe. The in-game locale of Winhill in particular bears a resemblance to isolated Eastern-European villages around the turn of the 20th Century.

The Galbadian occupied neighbor-nation of Timber would represent Nazi-occupied France, with the similarities between the Timber resistance and the Free-France movement. In the game, it is said that there was a great war 17 years before the present, similar to the time period between the first- and second World Wars. The Galbadian attack on the Republic of Dollet resembles Germany's battle to gain a foothold in Britain and the failed Operation Sea Lion; SeeD intervention resembles work by Allied Forces to push Nazi forces back.

However, the equation of Galbadia with Germany and Timber with France is complicated by the fact that Deling City, the Galbadian capital, bears a much stronger resemblance to Paris than to Berlin, and that Laguna Loire, one of the game's most prominent Galbadian characters, has a distinctly French surname.

Somewhat contentiously, it has been claimed that Esthar resembles early 20th-Century Japan with its rejection of outside interference in its affairs. Even the geographic location of Esthar in the Final Fantasy VIII world is similar to Japan's modern location- Represented as an island on the eastern portion of the world map.

Fanbase

The Final Fantasy VIII fanbase is gigantic. Final Fantasy VIII may perhaps be the Final Fantasy subjected to the most fanfiction creation ever, with the only exception being Final Fantasy VII. One Japanese fan even took up the job of novelizing the project, creating a 400+ page document. The backstory produced by the game's writers is believed to be substantial, with the segments used in the game merely the tip of the iceberg. While the game's storyline is vast in itself, some aspects of the characters' backgrounds, as well as the political and historical settings of the game, are not fully explored, leaving much open to interpretation and extension by fans. For an example of one such hotly-debated controversy, see the article on Ultimecia.

Musical Score

Nobuo Uematsu composed and directed the soundtrack for Final Fantasy VIII, and the theme song 'Eyes on Me' is sung by Chinese diva Faye Wong. The single sold 400,000 copies in Japan, the most ever by a video game. The music was highly praised for its striking introduction, Liberi Fatali, for orchestra and choir.

Reappearance of Final Fantasy Characters

Final Fantasy VIII uses Gilgamesh, the four armed swordsman from Final Fantasy V, as a summon. Curiously, he mentions coming from an alternate dimension, presumably the world of Final Fantasy V (called Planet R in Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals). This may be the first official crossover from a main Final Fantasy title to another, and the first suggestion that different Final Fantasy games are linked through a multiverse.

The concept of the moon turning red in order to produce greater activity of monsters was originally used in Final Fantasy IV.

Characters from Final Fantasy VIII have made cameo appearances in three other games: Squall (renamed Leon) and Selphie Tilmitt are encountered in Kingdom Hearts, and Squall is an unlockable character in Chocobo Racing.Squall also appeares randomly and not very often in the title screen of the remade version of final fantasy VI (6) for playstation 1.

External links

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