As had happened previously for other chapters of the historic Square Enix saga, Final Fantasy VIII has finally received its remaster version. After about sixteen years from the first time I played this title (twenty for those who tried it at the time of its release on PlayStation) I was able to return to fight the witch together with the Seed, thanks to Final Fantasy VIII Remastered. A preliminary consideration that can be made is that in this remastering work little has been altered from the original experience, with all the strengths and weaknesses that this entails., but let's go in order. As in the original chapter, we retrace the story of the young and introverted Squall, who after graduating from the elite body of the Seed, in the military school of the Garden of Balamb, finds himself involved in a conflict for the salvation of the world. The military state of Galbadia is determined to start an expansion campaign in the surrounding areas, using the help of the fearsome and legendary witch to achieve these goals. Squall and his companions must stop Galbadia and in particular the witch, who is determined to want to destroy all the Seed in circulation.
Without going into too much detail, it is possible to say that some moments of history are still today of great impact and memorable as in the past (anyone who has played Final Fantasy VIII will remember the Deling city parade, or the assault on Dollet). The other side of the coin is that due to the numerous disconnected and not very incisive moments, the plot of FFVIII is confirmed as one of the weakest of the saga.
Just like the FFVIII storyline, the gameplay also remains unchanged from the original. The Guardian Forces (GF for short), that is the powerful summons present in this game, are the fulcrum of both the combat system and the character development system. Starting from the latter, you can see quite soon how the various characters increase only the statistics, while they do not learn any skills. To give the various members of the party skills in battle and passives of various kinds are the GF, who can level and obtain skill points to improve their offensive strength and support the characters to which they are linked. The various skills that GFs can learn and go through this bond (called Junction) can be divided into three basic categories, namely commands, junction and passive skills. Junction skills allow you to make the connection between a statistic and a spell, thus increasing the value of the statistic in question depending on the type, power and number of uses of the spell (which replace the classic magic points) with which you are Junctioned. The passives, on the other hand, are of various kinds and can increase the statistics of the GF, those of the character or even give special effects to be used in battle.
The commands require more in-depth study, as they are also part of the combat system. If we basically have a classic turn-based system with ATB bar (which you can find more about here), the choice of the command to use varies among those that are currently equipped. In addition to the Attack command, it is possible to equip three other basic commands, such as Magic, GF, Objects or Assimila (conferred by all GFs), and the unique ones, which only some GF allow to use. While the Attack and Item commands are pretty clear as to their usefulness, the other basic commands are a bit more complex. The Assimila and Magic commands are directly linked to each other, as Assimila allows you to absorb uses of magic from an enemy to be able to use one immediately, or keep them in a reserve and use them later with the Magic command.
Each time you use a spell from the pool, one use of that particular spell is consumed, so if a Junction has been executed with a certain statistic, the effectiveness of the Junction itself is reduced. This particular mechanic leads to having to always carefully evaluate which spells to use and which not and make sure that your reserves are always full to make the most of the Junctions. The GF command allows characters to summon one of the powerful Guardian Forces unlocked throughout the story to execute its mighty attack on enemies. Each character can only summon the GFs he Junctioned with and an unlimited number of times, as long as they have life points available. Once the GFs are summoned a second ATB bar charges before they act and, in the meantime, all damage is aimed at the GF and not the summoner.
On paper it seems that there is a lot of meat to cook for Final Fantasy VIII, the problem is that the various elements presented so far are not always balanced as they should. After very few fights, it is easy to see how GFs are the most powerful and effective form of attack available to the player. The other forms of attack fail to compete (except for particular strategies) and the battles quickly turn into a series of long and epic summons. The scenes that herald the arrival of the GFs are impactful and beautiful to look at, but in the long run they can tire, especially if repeated several times during a single battle. Added to this is the age-old problem of Final Fantasy VIII with the assimilation of magic. The process is long and repetitive and cannot be avoided, as even if you only want to reduce yourself to healing and support spells (which the GF and the unique commands only partially cover), however it is necessary to stock up on spells for the abilities of Junction, in order to improve the parameters of the various characters.
There are some expedients to get around this problem, at least in part, but these are tricks known mainly to those who already know the title inside out, or have special guides. Unfortunately Final Fantasy VIII remains, today, as then, a title that can be easily broken by those who know it well, but also slow and cumbersome for those who approach it for the first time. To slightly (very slightly) mitigate this situation, the tricks made available for this remastered intervene, which can be activated and deactivated at any time by pressing the appropriate buttons (one per trick). In the version tested for PS4 there are only three tricks, namely that of the zeroing of random encounters, the one to have the maximum life points, the ATB bar always full and the final techniques of the characters always available and that of tripled game speed.
The first of the three tricks becomes useless quite quickly, as a GF (Diablos) can be unlocked relatively quickly who, among his skills, can learn two passives, one to halve the encounters and one to completely reset them. The second can be useful in case it is necessary to use many final techniques to overcome certain clashes, but it is possible to do without them completely with the necessary strategies. The third trick, on the other hand, is the most interesting one, as it greatly reduces the dead time for exploration, or greatly speeds up the operations to stock up on spells. Precisely this tripled speed has been of great help in making many phases, basically very boring, more bearable. So far the differences between the remastered version and the original version of FFVIII are very few, but this changes when we talk about the graphics sector. Announced as the real novelty of this title, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered features all the character models revised and enriched with details, compared to those present in the original game. For years, players have had to rely on Rinoa's judgment of Squall being the cutest guy at the prom, but in the remaster version that has changed. Finally, it is possible to see with more clarity the appearance of all the characters present in the game, even the secondary ones, even if we should not expect that now the models can move their fingers or mouths, but this is already a nice improvement compared to the past. While this visual makeover is a very welcome change and a nice improvement to the title, sadly there are some problems. The first problem that can be encountered is that, unlike the characters, the backdrops of the scenarios and battles have not been retouched and this in some cases creates conflict with the graphics of the characters. To explain the concept, I take for example one of the first scenes of the title, in which Squall and Seifer are sitting in the classroom while the instructor Quistis talks to them from the desk. In this scene, all the characters present the new models, while the desks with the computers are in low definition and seem almost placed on a different level than their occupants.
This problem then extends to other scenes where, inexplicably, some characters still feature low-resolution models. One scene that struck me negatively was one of Dean Cid's speeches in which in the first scene he has the new model, while in the next one he has the old model in low definition, as if it were part of the background. This situation is repeated on other occasions as well, fortunately not too many, however it makes this lack of homogeneity in the treatment of the characters turn up their noses.
On the audio front we can only analyze the soundtrack (as there is no dubbing) and as always the works of the master Uematsu are incisive and spectacular, despite the passing of the years. The problem I encountered was instead of a technical nature, ie I was not able to find an option that would lower the volume of the game, other than that of the sound effects. Unfortunately it seems that the really too high volume of the music can only be lowered by modifying the one on the PlayStation and not the one in the game and this is a lack that has really surprised me to find in this title.USEFUL INFO
I tested Final Fantasy VIII Remastered on PlayStation 4 consoles.Duration
- The game can be finished in about thirty hours, even completing a good handful of the secondary objectives.
- Game Name: Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
- Release date: 3 September 2019
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Dubbing language: English and Japanese
- Texts language: Italian
Overall, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered does not differ much from the original game and brings with it strengths and weaknesses that have distinguished this chapter over time. The balancing problems of the title and the degree of challenge so different between those who know the title in depth and those who approach it for the first time still persist unchanged. If you want to overlook that and some story-writing issues, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is able to present some moments that are still memorable after years. The remastering work carried out on the graphic sector is interesting and the more defined models are beautiful to look at, but one cannot but notice how they clash with the various backdrops remained at low resolution. In the end it is still a good idea, but one that would have required more care in its implementation. In conclusion, if you want to recover this historic chapter of the Final Fantasy saga, this is a good opportunity to do so, but we must always remember that the eighth chapter is certainly not the brightest fantasy.Videogamingallday.com review
The model overhaul work is interesting to update the game to more modern graphics standards, but a few oversights scattered throughout the game and the fact that the backgrounds have remained low resolution undermines the overall enjoyment of this operation.
SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM
Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack still has its effect, but a few more technical options for audio would have been welcome.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered offers almost the same gameplay of the original chapter with all the merits and defects of the case. The ability to bend some mechanics in your favor and the repetitiveness of the spell and GF system plague the title exactly as it once did. The story, even if not one of the brightest of the saga, can offer fascinating moments, which are still worth the candle.