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Final Fantasy VIII just typing those few words and that number is enough to send chills down my spine and fills my mind with wondrous expectations. The Final Fantasy series has become almost legendary in videogame circles with their incredible stories, innovative battle modes and gameplay. It can also be said that with the release of FFVII, RPG's were finally accepted in the US & Europe and have now become mainstream. With the 8th game in the series supposedly having a more "grown-up" look and feel to it, I was expecting a lot of good things with this title. Well, I was not disappointed!
FFVIII starts gamers off in a cadet training facility called The Garden in the country of Balamb. Here we are introduced to some of the story's main characters; Squall: A cadet in training to become an elite SeeD, Squall is a rather serious fellow and prefers to go about things on his own instead of with a team. He is considered a lone wolf because of his anti-social behavior, which seems to suit him just fine. Seifer: Another SeeD cadet and Squalls initial nemesis, Seifer is arrogant and reckless. Possessing a natural gift to be a top soldier, he believes that everyone should just blindly follow his lead. Quistis: A SeeD instructor, she has excelled in the military and is highly regarded throughout the Garden. Selphie: A rather childish and perky cadet, she seems rather out of place in the Academy. Zell: An expert in Martial Arts, Zell is rather impulsive and needs someone to help guide him in the right direction. He is also a cadet hoping to become a SeeD.
The SeeD's are an elite military group with locations throughout the world of FFVIII. In many cases SeeD's are the people's only defense in military matters and they are viewed with respect in many countries. Training in the Garden is often quite intense and consists of many hours of studying, taking written tests and interacting with your fellow teammates. All of this training culminates in a field test where the cadets are broken into teams and given an assignment to carry out. Depending on the outcome of this final test, the cadets are either promoted to SeeD or have to start their training over again. On a little side note, the head of the SeeD's at the Garden just happens to be non other than Cid from FFVII! It was a nice surprise to see that a familiar character (besides the Chocobo's of course) make a return visit to a Final Fantasy game.
This final test teams Siefer, Squall, Selphie and Zell in a mission to investigate a Communications Tower in the heart or Galbadia. Siefer is designated as the team captain and given specific orders to backup another team. Of course Seifer has his own ideas and agenda and leads his team on an attack of the Comm Tower. Because of his actions, Seifer does not pass the final test, but his teammates do. Disgusted, he leaves the Garden in search of a potential mercenary career.
In their joy of becoming full fledged SeeD's, Squall and his team forget about Seifer for the time being and focus on their new careers.
The game takes place in a world that is currently undergoing a major power struggle between two factions; the SeeD's of Balamb Gardens & the neighboring country of Galbadia.
Tensions begin to escalate as a Sorceress named Edea is named as an ambassador to the President of Galbadia and the SeeD's are called in to try to circumvent this growing association. Squall and his team are about to pay a main roll and get the nod to assist and underground militant faction of Galbadia in a plan to kidnap the President.
A woman named Rinoa whose father holds a high rank in the Galbadia military heads the underground team. It is here that Squall and Rinoa first meet and their destinies are changed forever .
Sound good so far? You betcha, but as the old saying goes; "you ain't seen nothin' yet"! It's around the time of their first mission that Squall and certain teammates begin to suffer from periods of "brownout's" where they suddenly fall into a dreamlike state of consciousness. During this time, the game shifts to three other characters in which you get to control the lead named Laguna.
It seems that Laguna is also in the military, but who's military and what role he will play is not immediately known. What becomes readily apparent though is the fact that Squall and Laguna share some kind of physic link and that their paths will intimately cross at some point in the game.
These dreamlike interludes add a whole new viewpoint on the game and forces gamers to flip-flop their perspectives on a semi-regular basis between Squall and Laguna. As the game progresses the two storylines begin to close in on one another and the mysteries start to unravel. Other characters are also revealed of course and there are also other plot lines taking place to really absorb players into the game. The overall storyline is a brilliant one and that's about all this is about all that I will give away. Half the fun of playing this game is watching events unfold before you eyes.
I should also mention the monsters that you will encounter. The overworld of FFVIII is literally crawling with them. Luckily you have the option of obtaining and using vehicles while traveling between remote locations. This solves two things: First, your monster encounters go way down (this could be good or bad) and two, they get you to your destination much quicker. Unfortunately vehicles cost money to rent and you may just opt to go out there and fend for yourself. At least you have an option now though!
Final Fantasy VIII really ups the ante as far as RPG's go and promises to take gamers on a ride that they won't soon forget.
¤ Setting the Scene
¤ Character Profile
¤ Sound and Vision
¤ Options, Scores and Opinions
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