Final Fantasy VIII has always been the black sheep of the family. Fans of the franchise (and of the genre) are never quite sure how they feel about it. It’s always a gamble to try new things particularly in this industry, and VIII just feels completely unlike most series entries. The controversial Junctioning System is enough of a departure, but how about those Summons?
For one thing, they’re called Guardian Forces here, and they’re more like equipment for your characters than summoning spells; gaining their own experience and learning new skills to kit out your characters with. Whether you’re playing through again for the umpteenth time or Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is your first experience with the title, let’s take a look at the very best (and very worst) Guardian Forces.
10 Best: Ifrit
That’s right, we have Shiva and we aren’t afraid to use her. Ifrit is the game’s first boss, tackled as part of the pre-requisite for Squall to take his SeeD exam. While super early in the game, you may find that Ifrit remains a powerful and important ally throughout.
You may not summon him too much (summon spam is an inefficient play style), but his fire-element-damage-to-all-opponents shtick is present and correct as ever. More importantly, he learns useful abilities such as stat junctions, Elem-Atk-J, and Mad Rush for when you want to go ham (Berserk, Haste and Protect on all party members).
9 Worst: Siren
Once you’ve got your hairy, scary friend Ifrit on board, you proceed to your SeeD exam proper. The boss battle atop the tower in Dollet is home to the first ‘hidden’ GF: Siren. Don’t miss the chance to draw her from Elvoret!
From a purely offensive standpoint, Siren is weak. This unique GF’s attack will inflict Silence on all enemies, but deals slim to bupkuss in the way of damage. If you’re not keen on using devious status effects in battle, you’ll find a lot of her abilities a little lacking too. Treatment is nice to have to cure any statuses you might be inflicted with, though!
8 Best: Doomtrain
When it comes to GFs that center around the infliction of all kinds of irritating statuses, look no further than Doomtrain. Its attack, Runaway Train, is Poison elemental, with a chance to inflict any combination of Berserk, Slow, Stop, Sleep, Poison, Darkness, Confuse, Petrify, Silence, Vit 0 and Doom on the enemies.
Doomtrain is quite a pain to acquire, as there’s a bit of a fetch quest to complete involving the Solomon’s Ring. Regardless, it’s worth the effort. With Doomtrain as an ally, you can also refine forbidden medicine from items and remodel weapons from the menu. Sometimes, summoning a huge undead train to run your foes down is the only way forward.
7 Worst: Gilgamesh
Now, we’re on board with Gilgamesh. Really. This recurring character from Final Fantasy has a fashion sense that you just can’t teach. Sadly, this could well be his most disappointing cameo in the series.
To obtain Gilgamesh, you first have to defeat Odin at the Centra Ruins, before the fateful battle with Seifer on the Lunatic Pandora. Doing so will lose Odin forever, but Gilgamesh will take his place. Is this a fair deal? Well, no. Like Odin, Gilgamesh appears randomly at the start of battles, but his attack is also randomized. He can’t be junctioned, either, just like Odin.
6 Best: Eden
If you’re an old-school Final Fantasy fan, you’ll probably remember Eden, the ultimate GF, as The One Who Broke The 9,999 Damage Limit And Blew My Mind. As the final summon, Eden is acquired very late in the game, from optional boss Ultima Weapon.
Eden's summoning animation is very dramatic and grandiose, taking about four to seven business days to complete. It’s worth it for that unparalleled power, though. It also learns some of the best abilities, such as Devour. Who wouldn’t want to eat their opponents alive for the chance to gain permanent stat boosts? Nobody we want to be friends with, that’s for sure.
5 Worst: Jumbo Cactuar
Jumbo Cactuar is an odd one. It’s another GF that will take you on in battle before joining your cause, and it seems to serve more as an optional superboss than as a useful summon. You can only reach Cactuar Island and take it on once you’ve acquired the airship Ragnarok, which is super late in the game.
It has a huge HP pool and devastating attacks (10,000 needles will, as the name suggests, take down any party member in one shot). As a GF, though, it brings some nice utility skills to the table but that’s about it.
4 Best: Bahamut
Now we’re really getting somewhere. All Final Fantasy fans know of the might of Bahamut, the legendary Dragon King. This iteration of the character, true to form, is a powerhouse. Another fearsome optional boss, he’s encountered in the Deep Sea Center, a secret location hidden on the map.
Should the player best him, they’ll be rewarded with an invaluable GF. Bahamut’s abilities allow you to refine some of the most powerful magic, as well as the highest tier of stat-boosting abilities for your party members.
3 Worst: Tonberry King
As we’ve discussed, Odin is acquired at the optional location Centra Ruins. This is also home to Final Fantasy VIII’s Tonberries, the same lumbering, hardy, adorable, suddenly-knifey-and-terrifying creatures they always were only now they have a little secret.
If you defeat enough Tonberries, the Tonberry King will challenge you. As with Jumbo Cactaur, he’s got a lot of HP and won’t go down easily, but you get the Tonberry GF for besting him. In battle, it’s not really going to see any use, but it gives the player some excellent utility options. With Tonberry, you can shop from the main menu and learn the LV Up/LV Down commands to alter the levels of enemies.
2 Best: Diablos
Diablos is a tough GF to judge. On the one hand, it’s quite awkward to use, as its Gravity-based attack calculates damage differently. Boost and such is useless.
As tends to be the case with Final Fantasy VIII, though, you won’t really be summoning Diablos. It’s a huge asset to the party for the skills it can bestow. They’re some of the best and most powerful in the game: Mug, Enc-Half, Enc-None, Darkside and more can all be huge boons, depending on the way you like to play. Diablos is acquired by using the Magical Lamp item Headmaster Cid give you early on. It’s a tough opponent, but inflicting Blind on this GF is the key to an early cheesy victory.
1 Worst: Cerberus
Cerberus is one of the most unique and possibly most disappointing summons in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered. It’s encountered in Galbadia Garden, and looks… well, as imposing as you’d expect a gigantic three-headed dog to look.
Where does the disappointing part come in? Well, once you’ve defeated Cerberus and acquired it, you’ll find that it doesn’t exactly ‘attack’ at all. Its summon ability is Counter Rockets, which grants your party the Double and Triple statuses (characters can cast two or three spells per turn respectively). This is a tough one to judge, too, as the mileage you’ll get from this will vary greatly depending on your playstyle.