It came as both a shock and a relief when Square Enix not only announced it was re-releasing Final Fantasy VIII, but the iconic title was being remastered as well. While it’s not the full-on reimagining that Final Fantasy VII will be getting, an HD upgrade is still a nice show of support for one of Final Fantasy’s most polarizing titles. After all, VIII was notably missing from the gaggle of Final Fantasy games announced for various platforms earlier in 2019.
Make no mistake, this is basically the same Final Fantasy VIII you remember. However, Square Enix and Dotemu provided a lovely visual upgrade to the Final Fantasy that arguably needed it the most. While the new HD graphics may be reason enough to enter the world of Final Fantasy VIII, whether it’s your first time or not, (most) everything else is as it was back when it first released, for better or worse. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered ultimately amounts to the definitive version of this classic RPG, though it won’t do anything to sway those who aren’t fans of the original.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Review- A Fresh Coat of Paint
The biggest and most noticeable change in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is the overhauled character models. Taking into account the pixelated mess that are the PS1 character models, once can see why this title took so long to make. Characters are absolutely crisp and vibrant, and truly reflect Nomura’s original designs.
Of course, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered falls into the trap that re-releases of Final Fantasy VII and IX fell into, sadly. The pre-rendered backgrounds haven’t received nearly the amount of love (if any) that the character models have. As such, there is a bit of a disconnect between the characters and the environments. While the characters really pop on the screen, that has the adverse effect of making the backgrounds look even more dated.
Still, this was ultimately an issue I never thought too much about. Rather, I was focused on just how dang good those character models looked. Obviously they’re not going to compare to anything seen in Final Fantasy XV, but I’d favorably compare them to the models seen in the Final Fantasy X and XII remasters. The visual overhaul may be the most substantial change in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, but that could be just the thing to get newcomers on board.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Review – Old Dog, Slightly New Tricks
When I said Final Fantasy VIII Remastered was the definitive Final Fantasy VIII experience, I don’t just mean in terms of visuals, either. Similar to Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX rereleases, this game also comes packed with a number of “cheats.” It’s no stretch to say that Final Fantasy VIII is a daunting and complex game, and these are designed to make the experience a little less so.
The big one here, of course, is the ability to speed the entire game up by three times. Everything is in super speed, save for specific cutscenes and navigating the menu. For people who like to grind their way through RPGs (like yours truly), this can be a godsend. The PlayStation Final Fantasy games can be slow as sin, and once I turned on the speed I never looked back.
Other cheats, like turning off random encounters, have appeal for both newcomers and veterans alike. While it’s probably not wise to completely turn off random encounters the entire game, it can help you get out of a tricky situation. Ditto for the third and final cheat, which not only ensures the party’s health stays maxed-out, it also gives guarantees a Limit Break every turn. While your health will always automatically regenerate at the end of each turn, it’s not an automatic win button, either. You can still die to one-hit kill attacks if you get in over your head.
I thought these were some brilliant additions in the aforementioned two titles (VII and IX), and that’s still the case here. Whether you simply want to experience the story of Final Fantasy VIII, can’t seem to get past on boss in particular, or simply need to play this game on a review deadline (wink wink), there’s something for everyone. And don’t feel any shame in relying on these things, either. Believe me.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Review – Stumbling Blocks
Final Fantasy VIII exists in a weird space in the overall canon. Saddled between the phenomenon that is Final Fantasy VII and the fan-favorite Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy VIII took some major game design risks. Whether or not these were risks that paid off depends on who you ask.
The biggest “offender” is the Junction system. See, you don’t earn much abilities outside of simply attacking. Rather, you have to go out and find these abilities yourself. Instead of a character either learning spells naturally or equipping them, they instead have to “draw” them from enemies, allowing them to stock up on a certain spell for subsequent use (up to 100 each!). You can even add these spells to your stats for an extra boost.
It was certainly commendable to see Squaresoft (at the time) swing for the fences on this title. Instead of aping the relatively simple Materia system, Square decided to go out on a limb and try something new. Final Fantasy VIII is a dense game, but that may be right up your alley. In the first section of the game alone, I was bombarded with so many tutorials my head began to spin. Final Fantasy VIII is certainly a divisive game, and for good reason. However, it’s also a fascinating game at that, and I found myself surprised at just how many risks—both gameplay- and narrative-wise—were taken.
Then again, if you know you’re not a fan of Final Fantasy VIII, this game likely won’t do much to change your mind. However, if you’ve yet to try this truly unique title, or find yourself wanting to reevaluate your opinion, this is the way to do it.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Review – Do We Like This Game?
Like all of the “black sheep” Final Fantasy titles, recent years have seen a higher outpouring of love emerge for Final Fantasy VIII. With that, it’s fitting to see a long-awaited remaster finally make its way to consumers, and in time for its 20th anniversary, at that.
This title was never going to receive a ground-up remake like Final Fantasy VII, but to see this remaster has been nothing short of exciting. This is the perfect way to play Final Fantasy VIII if you’ve never experienced the life of a SeeD recruit, or even if you’ve simply been wanting to experience the story again. Of course, this being a remaster over a remake means a lot of the things people had problems with remain.
Then again, would we want a Final Fantasy VIII rerelease without all the quirky details that made this game so memorable? I’d say no, even if I can freely admit I’m not the biggest fan of its systems. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating look at some of the biggest risks taken with Square’s flagship franchise.
At the end of the day, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is the definitive version of this game. The core experience is still here, but with some added flourishes, mainly the beautiful character models. But other additions, like the “cheats,” can also add up to make this a much more inviting experience for all fans. Final Fantasy VIII is one of the strangest entries in the Final Fantasy pantheon, but that’s what makes it so special at the end of the day.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on a PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.