Final Fantasy is a massive franchise, and a franchise I have a lot of fondness for. Having played VII, VIII, IX, X and XIII I’ve got a reasonable handle on the series.
Of those, I remember Final Fantasy VIII with the most fondness and when I think about it, I’m not sure why. I’ve only finished one of the above-listed games (VII) and I dropped out of Final Fantasy VIII around Disc 3.
So, where does this love come from? Why do I hold it in such esteem when I never even finished it? And what am I going to do about it now that the remastered version is out on consoles?
I think all of these answers will come from a play through from start to finish, right?
So that’s what I’m doing. Having access to Final Fantasy VIII on the Nintendo Switch is an absolute dream come true. I can literally play it when and wherever I want.
Final Fantasy VIII – Here we go!
So, yeah. A relatively small entry price of £15 to play Final Fantasy VIII whenever I want. How could I say no?
How much will I remember and how much will I enjoy it? My big concern that it’s the old nostalgia kicking in, and my actual experience and enjoyment isn’t all I remember it to be.
Thankfully, hasn’t been the case at all. I’ve put in about 10 hours and just done the first fight with Edea during the parade. Almost all of it so far has come back to me and felt familiar. Everything apart from the Tomb of the Unknown King part…..weird.
Anyway, so far all the familiar faces of characters and GFs (Guardian Forces) have appeared and I honestly couldn’t be having a better time if I tried.
I don’t remember the story particularly well, but I do remember those cutscenes! So it’s a weird combination of nostalgia and feeling like I’m playing for the first time.
The junctioning system is impressive and really useful, but a little hard to get your head around initially. Combat is slow and turn-based (just like it should be!) and strategy is always key.
I’m off to a great start, and I figure I’ll update some final thoughts on the game itself when I’m finished.
As a remaster, though, there are a few changes that are probably worth a mention.
Final Fantasy VIII isn’t as fortunate as its predecessor, in that there isn’t a lush big-budget remake in the works. So we can’t expect a massive graphical overhaul (and thankfully, not a gameplay one, either).
What does the “remaster” constitute, then?
Clean, HD-ready character models and text. Honestly, everything looks like how you remember it looked. Except it didn’t look this good originally. It’s all very faithful and very crisp indeed.
Whilst the models, menus and text got a nice overhaul. The pre-rendered locations did not…..It’s fine, they look alright and getting back to these areas really does take me back on a nostalgia trip. They aren’t bad, but the contrast between them and the newly updated character models is noticeable.
Beyond that, we have the original FMV (Full Motion Video) clips which look dated, but still pretty good, all things considered.
In terms of gameplay, the big additions/changes that I’ve noticed are the ability to speed-up the game itself, so battle animations can be rushed through (ideal when using Shiva for the 5th time in a battle!).
You can turn off random encounters (not for me thank you, I like it old-school, even though it can be really frustrating at times), which I’m sure is great, but how do you level-grind?
Finally, Final Fantasy VIII remaster also lets you do a kind of attack boost. Giving you permanent limit breaks during battle. I’m not really sure why, and honestly it’s a bit redundant if you ask me.
I’m sure that there are hundreds of micro-changes that really smooth things out and make it as enjoyable as it is, but these are the big ones, and the ones that stand out.
So far, so good
If I’m being honest, I’m completely enamoured by the fact that I can play Final Fantasy VIII wherever and whenever I want.
Having that accessibility enables me to give it more hours than I’d be able to, if I were chained to a console and screen setup, and that’s perfect for me these days.
Beyond that the nostalgia hit is wonderful, I’m both remembering and learning so much about a game I’ve always claimed to love. Having memory card slot options to choose from is likely lazy programming (easier to just leave it in that re-work the system), but it takes me back nicely to the good old Playstation days.
I’m enjoying the story and the characters, although the initial “moody teen” stuff was a little on the nose for Squall. It’s gotten better, and I’m grimacing past Rinoah’s “damsel in distress” arc. Cringeworthy or not, it’s actually lovely and takes me right back.
Nostalgia is a very powerful tool (look at all the re-makes and remasters of games, films and TV series these days!), but even objectively looking past that, there’s a solid game here, worthy of it’s heritage and place in the series.
Working towards completion will take time, but it’s my go-to game to just pick up when the TV is occupied or I’m away from home. I can’t wait to really dive in.
Collecting GF’s is a priority and I’m working through a list and seeking guidance from my good friend Adz. I’m loving being a part of this world of gardens and SeeDs, a sorceress and gunblades.
Hours to go, and I can’t bloody wait!