For long-time fans of the series, it’s difficult to believe that Final Fantasy VIII is over 20 years old. It was one of the three – along with Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX – mainline titles released specifically for the original PlayStation.
However, Final Fantasy VIII has unfairly been looked upon as the black sheep of the three PS1 Final Fantasy games. It’s possible that many who were introduced to the series and the JPRG genre with Final Fantasy VII were expecting a direct follow-up continuing Cloud’s adventures or that the magic system was such a departure from previous entries.
Thankfully, Final Fantasy VIII has had something of renaissance amongst JRPG fans that missed it the first round and Square-Enix has responded with a long-requested remaster. Let’s take a look at whether the remaster was justified or if it should have been left in the series’ back catalog forever.
10 Good: The Character Models
When Final Fantasy VIII was released in 1998 the graphics and realistic character proportions were considered to be groundbreaking for JRPGs. Most JRPGs usually opted for Chibi stylized characters, and even its more famous predecessor Final Fantasy VII used unrealistically proportioned characters.
Unfortunately, time wasn’t kind to the Squall and co and the distorted faces even resulted in a meme. In the remaster, however, the main character models have been completely reworked and look fantastic. As a result, leading Final Fantasy artist Tetsuya Nomura’s character designs are finally given the justice they deserve.
9 Bad: Not All Character Models Have Been Reworked
The reworked character models for the main cast in Final Fantasy VIII look fantastic and takes this remaster more than a simple port. The redesigns have been given the attention to detail that wasn’t possible on the PlayStation 1, and stylistically look more in line with Final Fantasy X.
Unfortunately, not every character encountered in the game’s world looks as crisp as the leading cast. Many of the game’s NPCs in the game’s environments – like Cid – still use the original game's low-resolution models.
8 Good: The Amazing Soundtrack
If there is one thing the three PlayStation Final Fantasy games have in common it is the incredibly timeless soundtrack. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu Final Fantasy VIII is some of his best work and the game’s opening theme “Liberi Fatali” in the game’s intro is one of the most memorable in gaming.
The game’s main theme also composed by Uematsu is a ballad called “Eyes On Me” performed by Chinese singer-songwriter Faye Wong. It was the first video game theme to win an award at the Japan Disc Awards and is still – along with other FFVIII pieces – performed at Final Fantasy concerts around the world.
7 Bad: The Pre-rendered Backgrounds
On a standard television, the static pre-rendered backgrounds on the three original PlayStation Final Fantasy titles looked great and helped bring the game’s worlds to life despite the graphical limitations of the time. It was an effective design choice for the limited hardware and was also seen in the Resident Evil and Parasite Eve series.
Unfortunately, while still imaginative, the once beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds have suffered in the transition from standard TV sets to HD screens. Some now look soft and blurry so it's a shame that the scenery hasn’t received the same love and care that the characters have.
6 Good: 3X Speed And Other Modifiers
When going back to play older Japanese RPGs one of the most difficult obstacles to work around for fans is mechanics of the past that don’t quite age as well as the game’s narratives. The Final Fantasy series is no different in this regard.
Thankfully, the biggest turn-offs like random battles, slow movement, and endless grinding have all be remedied with the remastered versions’ built-in modifiers. These modifiers include 3x Speed making exploration much less of a chore, the ability to switch off random battles, and maxing out HP and Limit Breaks all adding huge quality of life improvements.
5 Bad: Some Added Extras Would Have Been Nice
It has taken a long time for Square-Enix get around to remastering Final Fantasy VIII. Despite fan protests, it seemed as if the gaming giant was going to ignore the entry altogether especially as they chose to release Final Fantasy IX first.
With that in mind, it’s hard not to feel grateful for this definitive version of Final Fantasy VIII. However, some added extras like a making-of documentary or even a simple jukebox and/or gallery modes to highlight the game’s incredible score and artwork would have been nice.
4 Good: Triple Triad Card Game
More recent offerings like The Witcher 3 proved that card-based mini-games can be as entertaining as the main campaign itself with Gwent. However, Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad world-spanning card game redefined what optional mini-games should be all the way back in 1998.
In addition, those who choose to play Triple Triad will be rewarded with the ability to transform certain cards into special items and abilities that will help players with many of the game’s tougher battles.
3 Bad: The Plot Won’t Pull In New Fans
The remaster of Final Fantasy VIII is the definitive way to play this classic. The reworked character models look amazing and the quality of life options likes 3x Speed, the ability to turn off random battles, and more make it a far better experience all round for modern gamers.
Of course, being a remaster and not a remake, the story remains unchanged and fans that didn’t like it the first time around won’t be won over by the extra features. Certain plot twists and reveals won’t resonate with everyone, and the love story arc can feel a bit forced. That said, Final Fantasy VIII’s narrative is leagues ahead of the more recent entries like Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XV.
2 Good: The Battle System
On the surface, Final Fantasy VIII plays very similarly to its predecessors by making use of the series’ turn-based Active Time Battle system. It’s a system that still requires the player to think fast and select the right commands within a time limit it’s not quite Street Fighter fast but it requires almost the same level of quick thinking with the tougher bosses.
What makes, Final Fantasy VIII unique, however, is the addition of the "Junction" system and its handling of magic that separates it from its predecessors. Players need to equip Guardian Forces (Summons) and junction their magic abilities to specific stats. Additionally, magic must then be “Drawn” by each character from enemies in battle. In the original, it was very time consuming and required a lot of grinding, but again thanks to the modifiers it’s much easier in the remaster.
1 Bad: No God Mode On Consoles
PC Players that want to really exploit the system in Final Fantasy VIII have the “God Mode” option. It grants players with the ability to max out absolutely everything in the game such as maximum Guardian Force levels, all Limit Breaks, Max HP, All Cards, and maximum money.
Unfortunately, this option isn’t available to console players and is unlikely to be added at any point in the future. It could be argued that that the God Mode feature is too game-breaking and that the options already included in the console versions are enough to make Final Fantasy VIII a much easier experience.