Today we will be taking a look at the Final Fantasy game that has caused the most flame wars out of the entire series, as some absolutely love it and others absolutely hate it. Final Fantasy VIII was the follow up to the incredibly successful Final Fantasy VII, which was many gamers first role-playing game, and for some their first Final Fantasy game. The numbered sequel has been divisive in the fanbase ever since due to its protagonist and maybe a few other key points. The game also infamously had its source code lost for many years, and as such – this is the very first attempt at a high-definition re-release. How does it stand up compared to the original? Read our full review to find out!
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PS4 (Reviewed) PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 3rd 2019
MSRP: $19.99 (Review Copy Received)
Getting right into it, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is mostly the same game we’ve played 20 years ago, but with a significant graphics update. The textures have been totally revamped, from Squall himself, to every enemy I’ve encountered has gotten the HD treatment.
This is a REALLY good thing since I replayed this game about 3 years ago and the original graphics aged absolutely terribly. The updated graphics do a good job of giving you the experience the nostalgia glasses tell you it was like the first time.
The original Final Fantasy VIII ran at around 256×224 while the remaster runs natively at 1080P – which while not incredibly detailed, does look very clean in comparison.
Those expecting 60FPS gameplay might be a bit disappointed since it runs at its native 30 to 15 in battles. This isn’t really so much a bad thing if you’re a fan of the original, because it literally feels and runs almost the same, just with a crisper finish due to the improved in-game models.
You can, however, enable triple speed with a click of the left stick, which shows that Square Enix has decided to not change things too deeply, which I honestly think isn’t a bad thing considering the game is a classic.
The two gripes I have on the graphics side with Final Fantasy VIII Remastered though is the fact that the FMVs are still the originals movies, and can look incredibly pixelated and blocky.
The age of the FMVs can produce artifacts at times which I believe is due them using very old video codecs.
It’s not really something this re-release could have reasonably dealt with as they’d have to be completely re-done, but they do stick out like a sore thumb.
The other issue is the fact that while most of the game has been updated, some things like areas on the world map or certain wall textures are the same as the originals, and stick out as well. Since this is a large game, it could be possible that maybe these areas were missed in the revamp.
With the overall graphics and art style though, some minor changes have been made to this version, mostly the Guardian Force summon Siren having a skirt to cover her up, Squall has slightly different hair, and Rinoa’s shirt covers her cleavage up a tiny bit.
In 40 hours of playtime I haven’t noticed anything else though, and frankly the series has had much worse censorship in the earlier titles. Aside from that it’s just a much prettier version of the game you may have loved growing up.
Getting into the mechanics, Final Fantasy VIII has an incredibly unique leveling system and way of powering up. In most RPG’s you level up to gain experience and at certain levels you unlock skills, spells or abilities.
Enemies tend to stay at a static level, so if you’re faced with a particularly difficult boss or encounter you can level up to get stronger and beat them.
In Final Fantasy VIII enemies level with you so they are always the same level as you, and the higher level they get typically the stronger they get compared to you, so you’re actually encouraged to level up less.
The way you get ahead of your opponents is using the Junction system, in game the only way to use any other battle commands besides Attack is to equip a summon.
The way you gain access to spells is to “draw” them from enemies in battle, finding draw points on the map, or refining them from items or cards via summons abilities.
You also use spells to junction to your stats, which if you know how to exploit the game can lead to some very, very broken gameplay. It can lead to a very grindy experience which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it.
The good news is for this release all versions have the ability to turn on “Hero mode” which fills your HP, gives you a full ATB gauge and allow you to limit breaks whenever you please. So honestly if you feel the need to cheat the game, and also yourself, you can.
The Triple Triad card game is still there, and it’s still just as fun. I can also thankfully say that the game seems to remain perfectly true to the original in terms of sound quality, as this title has some of my favorites in the series, most notably the song played in Balamb town Breezy.
It’s much better than the version that went up on Steam a few years ago which took a ton of criticism for their updated audio. Luckily everything from the sound of Shiva’s summon to Quistis’s whip cracking is familiar.
With all that said, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is a very good example of a remaster, and while it doesn’t fix all the problems of the original, it does do the original justice and is a great option for someone looking to throw a ton of hours into a classic JRPG.
If you’re looking to relive a classic or catch up on one of the PS1’s greatest RPGs you missed I would recommend picking up Final Fantasy VIII Remastered without a doubt.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered was reviewed on PS4 using a digital copy provided by Square Enix. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.