Square’s ultimate black sheep gets some lovin’ at last.
After enduring tales of lost source codes, absences from announcements alongside the re-releases of its peers, and the constant nagging of anti-fans about how much they hated the teeny-bop VIII, fans of the game and new players get to experience it with the brand new remaster on modern consoles. But was it worth the wait?
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (hereafter FF8R because my fingers are already tired) did receive a facelift but it may not be enough to win every heart. The remastering was applied luxuriously to a few things, yet there are others which look almost untouched. For instance, the new character models are crisp, showing brand new details that were completely unintelligible in any visual sense back on the PS1. The GFs look absolutely exceptional in this remaster! The reconstructed cast of characters are dolls, though, complete with blank stares. A handful of expressions was maybe too much to ask for.
Another degree of sharpening is notable in the game’s cutscenes, which looked like pixelated soup on occasion back in the late ’90s.
However, the overworld map, the battle settings, the pre-rendered backgrounds appear almost untouched. Given a little clarity, perhaps, but not much was done in this area. I tend to think of that as a missed opportunity. Sure, the pre-rendered backgrounds were always gorgeously detailed, and they certainly didn’t need to be completely remade, but if they received any TLC at all, it’s subtle. This remaster is similar to the version of FFIX available on modern consoles right now, which I played on Switch not too long ago.
Maybe this is an example of a remaster that could’ve used just a little more time in the oven. Full analog stick support instead of what now seems like clunky 8-way directional movement, an auto-save feature, things like this would have been nice additions, perhaps, but the biggest disappointment to me is the apparent lack of the Chocobo World game. Players in the West, such as myself, never got our hands on the Pocketstation game and so missed out on the chocobo mini-gaming compatibility built into the original 1999 version of FFVIII. One of the things I looked forward to most was experiencing this for the first time, yet it was not included in this remaster (all items and rewards from the mini-game can be obtained in other ways). Maybe someday we’ll get a bloated, episodic remake that includes it as well as all-new, fancy, unnecessary story elements.
Anyway, that’s getting the negatives out of the way.
The remaster includes a speed-up feature, the ability to turn off random battles, and a battle-aid assist that heals up your party and switches on their limit breaks. Given the original game was spread out across four discs, it’s easy to abuse the speed-up feature. Someone like myself who played through the original game a couple of times will be glad to have it. It especially makes spamming Draw to get magic from enemies a cinch (as you may recall, it’s easy to break this game, even easier now).
The real miracle of FF8R, though, is the ability to finally play it across modern consoles. What you get is a core Final Fantasy game which I think is equal parts misunderstood, unfairly maligned, not the greatest in the series, experimental, and superficially trendy. That’s a lot of parts. FFVIII is what it is, love it or hate it. I think the pendulum is swinging toward the positive in popular opinion as the years have gone on, and for me, it remains an enjoyable game to play, though it isn’t my favorite.
It’s finally easier to get a hold of and play for yourself.
So what’s your take on FF8R? Did you pick up a copy? Is VIII toward the top of your favorites or no?
-The Well-Red Mage
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