There have been no shortage of Final Fantasy remasters and ports in recently. But even with 7, 9 , X, X-2 and 12 hitting the Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PC in recent years, fans were very loud about one missing and very popular entry. Final Fantasy 8. After launching on the original PlayStation back in 1999, it wouldn’t be released again until it was ported to PC in 2013. But fans were still wondering when we’d see a true remaster, and thankfully the wait is now over. Final Fantasy 8 is back on modern consoles and it looks better than ever.
Final Fantasy 8 holds a special place in my heart, not because I think it’s the best Final Fantasy game but because it’s one of the first ones I can remember playing, at least extensively. My first foray into the world of Final Fantasy 8 actually came from the PS1 demo disc that I played through over and over again before finally getting my hands on the full game. Now one thing I’m grateful modern technology has allowed us is the ability to fit a game of this size on a single disc or cartridge. No longer will you need to change discs 4 times throughout your adventure.
As this release is a remaster and not a remake, the experience, especially when it comes to the story is exactly what we played 20 years ago. The story still follows Squall and the other members of SeeD, a mercenary group who’s main focus in the game is fighting back the forces of the evil sorceress Edea. That is an extremely high-level plot outline for the game because even though the game is 20 years old, I still don’t want to spoil things just in case there are people out there jumping into the game for the first time as it’s a story that is full of twists and turns and plenty of high points that should be enjoyed.
Most Final Fantasy games can be by the battle system, it not only divides the games, but divides some fans of the series too. Final Fantasy 8 features the classic turn based combat, which wasn’t as smoothly adopted by fans of the series due to it’s shift towards prioritising magic and spells and removing the ability to equip and level up things like armour and the traditional job/class systems. I personally liked the changes implemented in this entry, as I always appreciate when the developers of long running series are brave enough to try something new and have it not be completely flawed.
Like all good Final Fantasy games, the thing that draws you in are it’s characters, their relationships and how each one has a part to play in the gripping stories. Final Fantasy 8 is no different. While yes, Squall can come off as a moody emo teenager at times, his, along with the other members of SeeD’s story feature real character growth and a number of development arcs throughout the game’s 40 hour story.
As for the new additions in this remaster, the game’s character models and menus have received a nice HD facelift, looking very crisp no matter what platform you decide to pick it up on. Although the same can’t be said for the backgrounds and environments. They have seemingly been pulled straight out of the original and appear incredibly low resolution when compared to the crisp characters moving around on screen. Much like the recent Final Fantasy 7 remaster, the backgrounds appear worse and more dated than they actually are because of how great the character and enemy models have been treated in this release, and because of their visual difference, it does appear like they don’t cohesively go together, with the characters appearing to be travelling on top of the world rather than in it.
Much like the Final Fantasy 7 remaster, this game has also implemented a number of quality of life improvements that can assist your gameplay experience. By clicking in the left, right or both analogue sticks you’re able to activate one of the newly implemented features. Granting you the ability to turn off random encounters when travelling the map, activate a battle assist booster that refills the player’s HP and ATB gauges and allows for unlimited use of Limit Breaks or speed up the game speed by 3X allowing you to speed through battles and zip between areas when walking around.
I really liked the option of having these features ready to use. They absolutely don’t need to be used if you’re after the traditional Final Fantasy 8 experience but I liked that they chose to include them to enhance the experience if you so wished. As with most JRPG’s there are times in the story where the pacing drops a little. Being able to breeze through these sections on 3X speed allowed me to get through them while still staying engaged with the game and in the harder boss battles, there were a couple of times where I was glad to activate the HP boost, just so I didn’t fail and have to do the whole thing over.
Although it was overlooked by many at the time, and unfortunately looked down on as ‘the game that came after Final Fantasy 7’, Final Fantasy 8 offers a mature and gripping story filled with characters you’ll grow to love. Now that it’s available on all current platforms and looking better than ever, there’s never been a better time to jump in and give it a shot if you’ve ever been interested in playing it. There’s a lot of value here, with the game offering up a solid RPG experience that will offer up between 40-100 hours of play depending on how much of the side content, bosses and grinding you wish to complete. The remaster is well-worth checking out whether you’re a newcomer to Final Fantasy 8 or a veteran player.
A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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