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Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (Switch) Review

by David Lloyd - September 2, 2019, 6:29 pm PDT
Total comments: 21

10

The last remaining PlayStation-era Final Fantasy title to get a remaster has arrived on Switch.

It was only a year ago when Square Enix blew our minds and broke our hearts during the Nintendo Direct where no less than seven Final Fantasy titles for the Switch were announced, including ports of every PlayStation and Playstation 2 title with a single, notable exception. Final Fantasy VIII has always been the black sheep of the PlayStation era. Following the juggernaut that is Final Fantasy VII was a Herculean task for any sequel, and for many, the tale of Squall and company still lives in the shadow of Cloud and Sephiroth. Thankfully, after years of getting no respect, Square Enix has given Final Fantasy VIII the love it deserves with a masterful port that fans will simply adore.

The story of Final Fantasy VIII brushes upon a number of different topics to varying degrees of success, but the main theme focuses on coming of age. The two main players are Seifer Almasy and Squall Leonhart, two rivals both hoping to join the ranks of an elite mercenary force called Garden. The pair are young and brash, and their views on the world are overly simplified, just what you would expect from a couple of teenagers with little real-world experience. Both want to end suffering and bring freedom to the world, but their paths to this goal diverge and put them at odds with one another.

Where Squall and Seifer differ is that our hero discovers the power of building relationships and relying on friends. The main cast of characters who fight alongside Squall are all wonderfully written and have interesting and fun personalities. SeeD instructor Quistis Trepe is technically the veteran presence of the group, though is still a teenager herself. Fellow SeeD candidate Zell Dincht’s emotional and impetuous personality is very much the opposite to the cold and stoic Squall. The recent transfer from another Garden, Selphie Tilmitt, provides a ray of sunshine with her upbeat attitude and child-like innocence. It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy without a lone-wolf womanizer on board, and sniper Irvine Kinneas fits this archetype to a tee. The final member of Squall’s team also just happens to be his love interest. Rinoa Heartilly meets Squall for the first time at a party, and their chemistry is clear from the outset. Hironobu Sakaguchi masterfully takes a party of characters with different motivations and faults and develops them into an interesting and complex group of friends whose well- being you genuinely care for.

Unlike previous Final Fantasy titles, the main villain isn’t necessarily clear cut throughout and really doesn’t have the same presence we’ve come to expect. Sorceress Edea doesn’t really compare to the pure evil of Kefka or the larger than life presence of Sephiroth, but since the theme is less about the battle between good and evil and more about the journey to adulthood, the lack of a strong villain isn’t a problem. The story also takes some twists and turns throughout that requires some ambiguity but for the most part, comes to a satisfying conclusion.

The gameplay of Final Fantasy VIII follows the more traditional semi-open world format that I prefer. The story is linear, and the tasks to move forward have a set order in which they have to be completed, but the path to get there is open ended. In most areas, you can go off the beaten path and explore the world around you. Whether it’s exploring the areas located in the Garden, walking around towns visiting the locals, or sitting down for a pleasant game of Triple Triad (a wonderful trading card game) there’s always something fun or interesting to do when you’re not battling.

The combat mechanics harken back to the glory days of turn-based JRPGs but feature a system that allows for all kinds of mischief. At any given time, you can have a maximum of three characters in your party and switching between characters is relatively quick and easy. Each character has a unique weapon, and a limit break that can be used when health has dropped to low enough amount. Having the limit breaks accessible at low hit power is a wonderful mechanic that provides a high risk, high reward strategy.

Magic is an important tool in Final Fantasy VIII and is collected at draw points or can be stolen from enemies in battle. That same magic can be then used to augment abilities such as hit power and strength through the junction system. With a little patience and determination, large amounts of magic can be collected and used to bolster stats to epic proportions. It certainly doesn’t break the game but can provide a substantial boost when fighting enemies. This system is a replacement for grinding and is the best way to get an advantage over enemies. The strength of the bad guys in Final Fantasy VIII is determined by your team’s own experience level, so defeating enemies for points is made unnecessary.

What can also be drawn from specific enemies, are Guardian Forces that are immediately recognizable by long time Final Fantasy fans. Powerful entities like Ifrit and Shiva provide temporary cover for the characters that use them, and can attack enemies with a powerful elemental attack, or provide your allies with a stat boost or modifier like reflect. Guardian Forces provide the statistical benefits that come from hoarding magic, so deciding on where to assign the Guardians and what they should learn can vary greatly depending on your style of play.

If battle mechanics just aren’t your thing, then the inclusion of modifiers seen in previous Switch ports will assist with getting through to enjoy the story. Removing random encounters, tripling the game speed, and providing permanent full health are all options that can be toggled on the fly with the click of a button. Not everything found in the previous ports is included in this new remastered edition, fortunately. No music bug plagues another masterful soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu. No stutters or slowdown interfere with transitions from the world map to the battle scenes. The beautifully-redesigned characters look absolutely gorgeous whether in handheld or docked mode and blend better with the original PlayStation backgrounds than in the previous ports.

All in all, the remastered edition is simply the best way to enjoy Final Fantasy VIII. Square Enix has struggled in the past with its previous ports of the Final Fantasy franchise, but may finally be hitting its stride. All of the improvements and enhancements give Final Fantasy VIII a much more modern feel without sacrificing any of its soul. As a lifelong fan of the Final Fantasy franchise and VIII in particular, I couldn’t be happier with this remaster and look forward to hours of enjoyment wherever I go.

Summary

Pros
  • Excellent battle system
  • Fantastic story and music
  • No bugs commonly found in Final Fantasy ports
  • Remastered edition looks stunning
Cons
  • A few plot points can feel like a stretch
  • The tone may feel corny

Images

Talkback

KhushrenadaSeptember 02, 2019

A 10? Wow. Was not expecting that.

BeautifulShySeptember 02, 2019

Good to see this game getting the love it deserves.

Quote from: Khushrenada

A 10? Wow. Was not expecting that.

Lol, either this is sarcasm or you’ve never listened to an episode of the Thirsty Mage.

broodwarsSeptember 02, 2019

So it seems that when you enable the player to skip everything that makes FF8 the 2nd worst FF game (behind FF2), you do, indeed, manage to have a tolerable game left over.

KhushrenadaSeptember 02, 2019

Quote from: Dlloyd82

Quote from: Khushrenada

A 10? Wow. Was not expecting that.

Lol, either this is sarcasm or you’ve never listened to an episode of the Thirsty Mage.

I never listened to an episode of the Thirsty Mage. Is that the answer you wanted to hear?

But, in truth, I just didn't expect the re-release of a game about two decades old to get a perfect score. Kind of like how I wouldn't expect a re-release of OoT or Super Mario 64 to get a perfect score now if what was re-released. I guess they could be still be given perfect scores but generally the age of a game and newer gaming technology and gameplay conventions usually mean they are being graded on today's standards and not the past from whence they came.

Quote from: Khushrenada

Quote from: Dlloyd82

Quote from: Khushrenada

A 10? Wow. Was not expecting that.

Lol, either this is sarcasm or you’ve never listened to an episode of the Thirsty Mage.

I never listened to an episode of the Thirsty Mage. Is that the answer you wanted to hear?

But, in truth, I just didn't expect the re-release of a game about two decades old to get a perfect score. Kind of like how I wouldn't expect a re-release of OoT or Super Mario 64 to get a perfect score now if what was re-released. I guess they could be still be given perfect scores but generally the age of a game and newer gaming technology and gameplay conventions usually mean they are being graded on today's standards and not the past from whence they came.

We don’t view 10/10 as a perfect score. No game is perfect. A 10 is simply the highest recommendation that we can give. RPGs in particular age well, and Final Fantasy VIII is one of those examples. Add in the fact that the port was handled extremely well and there’s your 10.

mereelSeptember 03, 2019

You need to re-score this game appropriately to restore some credibility, and fast.

Oh and from now on, you’re on review score probation and all your reviews will need to be peer reviewed prior to publishing.

Quote from: mereel

You need to re-score this game appropriately to restore some credibility, and fast.

Oh and from now on, you’re on review score probation and all your reviews will need to be peer reviewed prior to publishing.

Not the only person who scored it 10/10, nor does my review deviate from popular opinion. It’s cool if you don’t like it, but objectively Final Fantasy VIII is a terrific game. Also I’m one of the Review Editors, so: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

ejamerSeptember 03, 2019

I can fully endorse this review - or at least the FACT that Final Fantasy 8 is better than 7.
However, you're going to have to extend the rating scale above 10 to accommodate the most excellent Final Fantasy 9 and Final Fantasy 6.

;)

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterSeptember 03, 2019

Quote from: Dlloyd82

Quote from: mereel

You need to re-score this game appropriately to restore some credibility, and fast.

Oh and from now on, you’re on review score probation and all your reviews will need to be peer reviewed prior to publishing.

Not the only person who scored it 10/10, nor does my review deviate from popular opinion. It’s cool if you don’t like it, but objectively Final Fantasy VIII is a terrific game. Also I’m one of the Review Editors, so: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

To add to this point, I can tell you first hand all of Nintendo World Report's reviews are peer reviewed. I'm considered a freelance contributor at best and honestly I haven't really done much for NWR so far. Despite that, I can still see reviews before they go live and, should I feel it necessary, I can reach out and raise any concerns I have about the review with the author. The fact that I am still given the ability to be a part of that process despite the fact that my own contributions to the site have so far been meager at best speaks volumes to Nintendo World Report's commitment to getting their reviews just right before they live.

Quote from: Dlloyd82

Quote from: Khushrenada

Quote from: Dlloyd82

Quote from: Khushrenada

A 10? Wow. Was not expecting that.

Lol, either this is sarcasm or you’ve never listened to an episode of the Thirsty Mage.

I never listened to an episode of the Thirsty Mage. Is that the answer you wanted to hear?

But, in truth, I just didn't expect the re-release of a game about two decades old to get a perfect score. Kind of like how I wouldn't expect a re-release of OoT or Super Mario 64 to get a perfect score now if what was re-released. I guess they could be still be given perfect scores but generally the age of a game and newer gaming technology and gameplay conventions usually mean they are being graded on today's standards and not the past from whence they came.

We don’t view 10/10 as a perfect score. No game is perfect. A 10 is simply the highest recommendation that we can give. RPGs in particular age well, and Final Fantasy VIII is one of those examples. Add in the fact that the port was handled extremely well and there’s your 10.

The PS1 Final Fantasy games also use a fixed camera perspective almost exclusively which dodges one of the main issues games of that era have.

KhushrenadaSeptember 04, 2019

Quote from: Dlloyd82

We don’t view 10/10 as a perfect score. No game is perfect. A 10 is simply the highest recommendation that we can give. RPGs in particular age well, and Final Fantasy VIII is one of those examples. Add in the fact that the port was handled extremely well and there’s your 10.

That's fine. I wasn't questioning your reasoning. I was just surprised since it seemed to buck the trend of older ports / remasters usually falling in the 8 and 9 range.

Quote from: mereel

You need to re-score this game appropriately to restore some credibility, and fast.

Oh and from now on, you’re on review score probation and all your reviews will need to be peer reviewed prior to publishing.

LOL

Mop it upSeptember 04, 2019

Quote from: Khushrenada

A 10? Wow. Was not expecting that.

I'm pretty sure this review is using some sort of new scale where 1 is the best score to give.

SteefosaurusSeptember 04, 2019

Sounds like a good port, FF8 is really aided a lot by removing random battles and speeding everything up. The original game had a function to do the former too, and it was instrumental to being successful at it.

That said, I do kind of agree this is a very generous review and, well, I almost think it should be treated as an outlier by newcomers looking to try a classic Final Fantasy game. Definitely read up on some contrasting opinions before diving in.

Here's a start:
While I don't doubt there's many people who would genuinely describe the relationship between Rinoa and Squall as having "clear chemistry from the outset"... I couldn't disagree more. The ballroom scene is an amazing cutscene, especially for its time, but the main character Squall is thoroughly unlikable and Rinoa flip-flops between Serious Rebellion Leader and ditzy teen girl characterisation on a dime.
This is an endemic problem with almost every character: Zell is basically Joey Wheeler from Yu-Gi-Oh and about as likable, Seifer is aiming for Draco Malfoy but winds up as Goyle, Selphie is a tired schoolgirl archetype, Quistis is the only one with some characterisation (so of course her arc gets sidelined almost immediately, thanks I hate it), and Irvine is an active detriment to the entire game and is singlehandedly responsible for stretching the game by 3 more discs of playtime.

In general I would warn newcomers to this entry that FF8 is a rather obtuse game, with absolutely zero regard for the player's time. Perhaps this is somewhat aided by the new features to cut down on the grind a lot...?
But my experience with this game on PS1 was one of endless meandering sidequests, card game mechanics for which you need outright clairvoyance to see their ramifications down the line, and a plot that constantly gets interrupted for frustrating diversions into the squabbles of the characters.
Add to this a story which, to be mild, is pants on head stupid, villains with barely a plan to speak of, and endless droning conversations which go nowhere -- none of which was helped by an unclear translation on PS1.

Look FF8 is not awful. The aesthetic is really great, and the plot starts out strong and keeps up the pace for a while before running into a ditch once it becomes clear almost none of the answers to the questions it raised are worth listening to. The cardgame Triple Triad is better than many complete games and is arguably the real highlight here (provided the game doesn't ruin it for you because of invisible mechanics you can scarcely control).
The music has lots of highlights and if you're finally used to the (very poorly explained) Junction system you can really break everyone's stats in super fun ways.

But man, I played this for 100 hours and enjoyed maybe 25 of those. The game is basically unplayable without a thorough guide (I recommend this one), and if you're going in expecting a good story or interesting characters (what a strange expectation going into an RPG!) you might be dissapointed there.
Again, I really tried to like this game, and also find its many, many flaws super interesting. But I couldn't in good conscience rate this higher than 5/10. And in fact, I didn't, the last time I whined about this game here!

EDIT: Just wanna emphasise I didn't post here to dunk on the NWR review. Reviews aren't wrong just because they differ from my own views (that's dumb). FF8 always reviewed well, and it sold like 9 million units - there's literal millions of people who think it's great.
I only meant to express that some people (like myself) grew disillusioned with it over time - not to call this review into question. Hope that was clear throughout.

nysailorscoutSeptember 04, 2019

I am VERY happy that Nintendo World Report exists and you are doing a public service by providing us with this information for free! I appreciate you.

That being said, this particular review feels like insanity or click-bait! I REMEMBER when FF8 came out and how poorly it was received! That was for a reason. Among other things, the Draw system was almost universally panned, even by people who liked FF8. A RPG battle mechanic that punishes the use of magic with worse stats and requires endless draw grinding was a baffling decision, even worse than the FF2 ability growth system.

A game does not originally come out and be regarded as 4/10 and then 20+ years later, bam, it is suddenly 10/10. Unless the remaster also changed both dialogue, quests, maps and battle mechanics, it is still the same game. Will FF13 become a 10/10 game in the year 2030?

Only time will tell  :-\

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterSeptember 04, 2019

Quote from: nysailorscout

I am VERY happy that Nintendo World Report exists and you are doing a public service by providing us with this information for free! I appreciate you.

That being said, this particular review feels like insanity or click-bait! I REMEMBER when FF8 came out and how poorly it was received! That was for a reason. Among other things, the Draw system was almost universally panned, even by people who liked FF8. A RPG battle mechanic that punishes the use of magic with worse stats and requires endless draw grinding was a baffling decision, even worse than the FF2 ability growth system.

A game does not originally come out and be regarded as 4/10 and then 20+ years later, bam, it is suddenly 10/10. Unless the remaster also changed both dialogue, quests, maps and battle mechanics, it is still the same game. Will FF13 become a 10/10 game in the year 2030?

Only time will tell  :-\

Actually the original has a metascore of 90.

That’s the thing about video games and art in general, it’s all subjective. As the reviewer, I loved Final fantasy VIII and believe that plenty of people out there will enjoy it as much as I did. Will everyone, of course not. Take Super Mario Odyssey for example, I thought it was mediocre. The levels outside of New Donk City were boring and having 1300 moons to find, most found with little to no effort or by mistake was a terrible decision. Plenty of folks gave it 10/10, me personally, it’s a 7 at best. Does that mean I’m right and the people that liked Odyssey wrong? Of course not. You cannot universally assign ratings to games, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. That’s why Metacritic exists, cause opinions differ and vary.

Quote from: nysailorscout

That being said, this particular review feels like insanity or click-bait! I REMEMBER when FF8 came out and how poorly it was received!

I'm uncomfortable with this take. It makes it seem like our reviews are only valid if we agree with the general populace.

I think it's important for a reviewer to put in their honest opinion of the game, even if their opinion goes against the mold. Otherwise we're not here to give actual reviews, we're here to just tell you you're right for believing what you already believe.

ChanimpaSeptember 09, 2019

Final Fantasy VIII has always been one of my favorites of the series, even though I consider some of it's mechanics to be broken. Where I tend to disagree with this review is stating that it is a great port. I definitely noticed the menu delay from playing for about an hour or so, but after watching the Digital Foundry video on it a few other issues cannot be unseen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch_xNzDk6aY

In some instances the PSX version is still superior. I'm sure this has something to do with the original source code being lost, but it also isn't a completely different story in terms of quality when regarding many other ports that Square Enix has done over the last few years.

nysailorscoutSeptember 09, 2019

Quote from: pokepal148

Actually the original has a metascore of 90.

That score is untrustworthy. I just went to Metacritic and visited the different reviews that made up that score of 90. Virtually every single link that went to a full review was dead. So the Metacritic numbers are not verified at all. I then went to Gamefaqs and noticed multiple lower-scored official Critic rankings that are not referenced on Metacritic. So even if every link worked, the reviews are cherry-picked. And I am not even referencing the user ratings...

It is pure revisionist history to act like this game was well-received. And it was not poorly received because people hated Square or something. We were all very excited for FF8 after FF7! But FF8 was a massive disappointment at the time. I am saying that unless something dramatic changed in the game, there is no basis to be giving it a perfect score.

I found this Gamespot review from back when the game originally came out. Thank goodness! This was the majority opinion at the time, especially if you read about their gripes about the gameplay and story.

My point is that it is fraudulent to pretend that FF8 had a good reputation and base it on the Metacritic Score. If you want to score it 10/10 when it was never considered 10/10, you are 100% free to do so... but expect a nice amount of comments in return!

https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/final-fantasy-viii-review/1900-2535948/?utm_source=gamefaqs&utm_medium=partner&utm_content=inline&utm_campaign=gs_review

At the end of the day I think FF VIII is just one of those games you either fall in love with or hate. My feelings are obvious. I recommend listening to the recent Retronauts episode where Jeremy Parish and Kat Bailey agree on it’s greatness. Kat even says its a better game than 7.

Reviews are inherently subjective so the takeaway from this is that I love FF VIII and can’t recommend it enough. This score was not meant to be the definitive score to end all scores.

Truthfully, Metacritic scores or score aggregates aren't something to be relied upon anyway.  It's an accumulation of subjective scores reviewers assign as a short-hand for their opinion on a game, and often the context of the time it was given scores heavily skews the scoring.

The context of the score (the written review itself) and how well a reviewer's tastes aligns with yours should be what weighs your purchase decision, and you shouldn't get caught up in score cheerleading or booing.

I have a friend who stans Disney/Marvel movies so much that he complains about negative reviews, which really grinds at me because a reviewer's job IMO is to describe what a game is, highlight their perceived highs/lows, and summarize whether or not this would be a good use of your valuable (likely limited) time & money.

Your already established opinion on a game is fine!  It's also OK if someone else has a completely different perspective on that same game.

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Game Profile

Genre RPG
Developer Square Enix
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
Release Sep 03, 2019
PublisherSquare Enix
RatingTeen
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