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A Game Completed

137:17 and this time the timer didn't run out on me! It went to zero and started over in red.
Last two nights went with gaming, but now Final Fantasy 8 is completed!

The story of Final Fantasy 8 circulates around an evil sorceress and the young SeeD (professional mercenary force, trained in Gardens, ie sort of schools) members.
The world is divided into big landmasses, with cities and Gardens of their own. Somewhere there lies Galbadia, whose armies are taking over the cities close-by, and as the Balamb Garden, a Garden to which the main characters belong, gets a request from one of such cities' resistance force and decides to send a squad in. As it's found out that the power influencing behind the actions of Galbadian soldiers is the sorceress Edea, the big story starts really rolling. What is Edea really up to and why?

It's an interesting story, and very big. Perhaps even too big for it's makers, since many questions are left without answers, or at least the delivery of the answers has been too hard for many of the gamers to catch (and that's why there is a wonderful amount of speculations and theories surrounding the game). But that happens in all stories in all medias, so no worry: the story was still lots of fun. (And in the end everyone loves to speculate, right?)

Like in every Final Fantasies, you end up having a teamful of characters to play with.
The main character, Squall Leonheart, is an orphan who has been trained to be a soldier in Balamb Garden from a very young age. He starts off as brooding, cold and duty-centered character (many have described him as ”a lone wolf” -type, I'd say ”angsty teenager”-type, he really likes the brooding, yes he does). The First Lady of the game is Rinoa, a lady acting according to her hearth. Then there is Squall's fellow SeeDs: patient Quistis, happy-yay-yay (well, pretty much) Selphie and Zell, and ladies'man Irvine. Aside of the main team, there are many important characters, and while the whole everyone of them are alright, only few of them are exactly great. (Here the fangirl in me wants to remark expecially the team of three who appear during mysterious flashbacks that the main team's members get. They are great, even though only bits of their lives are told.)
The appearances of the characters in FF8 are very well designed, everyone looking individual and detailed. So wherever their characteristics ain't deep enough, their looks are definitely in the Great cathegory.

The game was released in 1999 to PlayStation One, so over the years the graphics have grown old. In first look the gameplay graphs appear as a colorful cloud of pixels, but it only takes a little while to get adjusted to see it well. Remark: back in the 1999s these graphs were cutting-edge. And whereas there are lots of pixels seen in the gamplay, the video parts are still beautiful. Very pretty, smooth and rather well-flowing. There is quite many of these video parts, and for being so good quality, one may find oneself waiting for them, and when appearing, they are rewarding.
The outter design of the cities, places and dungeons is very well made, detailed and interesting. The same goes with the monster design, for the variety of monsters is amazing and they look significantly different and there must be hundreds of them. Colorful and fitting for the areas they appear in. The World Map look is rather simplified, but that must be forgiven since it was 1999 afterall. Alright, of course, and 3D and so, but nothing to rest your eyes on. (Infact no much change here to FF7's World Map looks.)

Still no voice actors for the characters, but the musics are good. The sound effects too.

Moving on to the battle system then. While running in certain places, the fiends attack in random (you don't see them coming, unless it's some special fiend thingy in some places) and you are thrown into a combat screen with three characters and the enemy facing themothers.
On the down part of the screen is the HP and names of the characters in use, and the battle menu, with actions to choose from. Things happen IRT, unless you are currently surffing through the wide menus of items or magics. Which is fair, since during the game, there is a good amount of that stuff. The menus are clear with nothing extra, so using them is rather simple. The battles are pretty fast paced, but when you need to breath or recollect your strategy in a hard battle -well, you can stop time by opening some item menu. Haha.
To see when your turn is coming up, there are these action bars next to the character names. They fill up as the time goes, and when ready, you land an action, and then they get empty and start to fill up again.

Did you notice that there was no MP listed? No? Well, there is no MP in the whole game. The use of magic happens a spell by a spell, which you can stock up to 100, just like items. They are cast by choosing a spell from the battle menu.
However you can't buy them like items, they must be drawn. And drawning is another new thing in the game. There is a draw -command that allows you to steal spells from your opponents as well as from specific drawpoints scattered around the world. Gathering spells is essential. Why? Because they affect many things aside of being something to throw at the opponent. See GF part under the next pic.

Another thing that's clearly different from the other FFs, is that the lvlups happen after getting 1000exp. No matter if you were 38 or 99, the next lvlup is 1000exp ahead.

Just like before (and after) in FFs, Final Fantasy 8 has many big beasts that'll work for your benefit as you summon them in the battle. In FF8 these beasts are called Guardian Forces, GF, and when summoned, they appear in an animated film, land a dramatic-looking hit on the opponent(s) or a boost/supportive spell on your team, and disappear back to wait in the menu if you'd like to summon them out again. They have their own HP, which may be reduced in the time that is taken to the summoning (the action bar of your character runs backwards, when it's empty, the GF appears). Their liking to the character that summoned them affects their effectiveness (and that liking may be rised or reduced during the game, by wins, deaths and items). They also learn many usefull (and essential) things when the characters earn points after winning battles (just like EXP the charas get, but called AP).
The reason for specifically mentioning the GFs here is because there is more to them than that. They ain't just decorative big thingys that you may use or not during the game, but amongs the abilities they learn, there are the special effects that are often gotten through different armory and accessories in many other RPGs. Boosting your HP, strenght, magic etc.
Some of them may learn the abilities to junction magic to the characters' stats, boosting them, and also to include the effects of the different magics to your attacks and defences. And that proves to be VERY important thorough the game.

Another well known thing in FFs that is well alive here, is the amount of things to do. There is HUGE amount of things to do. Finding some of the little quests may be tricky though, unless you already know about them. The game favors the endlessly curious. (And those who use walkthroughs, eh.)
One of the biggest optional tasks is the card game. You can challenge pretty much everyone everywhere. You can get cards majorly by defeating or modding the monsters you come across, but also by playing the card game itself. For the hardworking card gamer, there is also special, super, mighty items that you may get. (And the haters pretty much... don't.) It's not a hard game to learn, but the opponents are pretty good in it, annoyingly so.
Aside of that there is the little runaround tasks at cities, the chocobos, the optional (and truly helpful to have) GFs and the optional bosses. (Omega Weapon, holy shi----!) Just exploring the islands and the world itself will take lots of time, but proves to be entertaining -and rewarding.
Also the characters' weapons are upgradeable, and to do that you need to find certain magazines and items. It gives some good 10h to play around with.

So good, so far. But to whine about something (aside of the slightly unpolished storytelling), I might say that why no maps at dungeons? They are not killer long, or deadly complex, but the bit they are, the maps would be nice. Really nice. Also to have nice lil' maps of the cities would have been wonderful. And since I started with maps, let's say a thing about the World Map then. When you put the World Map to it's biggest (3rd) shape, it takes over the whole screen and shows the cities on it. That's very nice, but the locations can't be seen on the smaller maps, that you may view during running/flying around the world. In FF7 you could see through the big map too, so the travelling was easier, why was that feature changed to FF8?
Also though the places visited look fine, sometimes the 2Dness of them made it hard to locate things, for example switches.
As mentioned above, some of the optional things are a bit tricky to trigger. Unless you like to visit everyplace (were it shown on maps or not) and talk to everybody. I do, lucky me, but not everyone like to fly/run headlessly around every bit of the pixely grounds.
Also, though the junctioning magics to stats is a good, new thing, to rejunction the GFs and the magics and the abilities when changing the team members might be a bit of a pff-again (unless you want to move everything as it is for the next character -that can be done with a more simple clicking). And it would be really bad to forget to junction. Which tends to happen. Just now and then...

All in all. It's a big and interesting game to spend good 100h with, and even more if you like to do everything. Like cards. You'll be gaming next to forever. It's a part of the PS's history, and that of Final Fantasies. If the outter looks won't stop you from gaming, it is surely worth a go.