Review: Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR TV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required
  • Move None
Title: Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
Format: PSN (3.35 GB)
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Original MSRP: $19.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: T
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
So, it finally happened. Final Fantasy VIII got a remaster. It took a few decades, but now we can finally play this classic (regardless of how you feel about the 8th title in the Final Fantasy series) with high-resolution textures and the same treatment that older (and newer) Final Fantasies have received over the last few years.

You’re reading this review because either you’ve played the original and want to know how this remaster holds up, or you’ve never played Final Fantasy VIII and want to know it’s worth playing through.

Regardless, you either know all the spoilers, or don’t. So I won’t be going over the entire story, aside from introducing Squall. Admittedly, he’s probably my least favorite FF lead.

I mean, who can’t forget his powerful lines? Like when he would say “whatever” at just about everyone. Or the gripping, “I don’t know,” whenever he was asked a question? It’s bad enough that his own friends mimic him for it.

Thus, living beneath the shadows of mercenary Cloud Strife and super-positive Zidane Tribal might have made Squall one of the least-popular heroes in the series for me, but no good Final Fantasy exists without some sort of evolution of its characters within the narrative, and this is also true of VIII. I would venture to say, even more so than some of the other titles.

Another polarizing element of Final Fantasy VIII, and one worth mentioning for the newcomers, is the Junction system. For comparison, other games in the series allow you to unlock magic skills over time, but they permanently live in your character’s “inventory”. The Junction system has characters absorbing magic from the enemies, and either casting them immediately, or adding them to your stock. This means that you never quite get ownership of your magic.

What this system does allow is some heavy customization and experimentation. Magic is also augmented by the Guardian Forces that you choose to attach to a character (these can also be swapped). While equipped, the GFs slowly level and raise certain skills for their owner over time as well. This is somewhat similar to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII. It was certainly something new in its time, and while I personally found it somewhat convoluted years ago, I seemed to have found a better appreciation for it now.

The remaster sacrificed nothing noticeable in its update. Much like the others, Final Fantasy VIII gives you the option to immediately boost your characters during combat, as well as skip random encounters altogether. You are also given the option to speed the game up three times its normal pace.

While some might consider these options “cheaty”, it’s completely optional and is really there for those who wish to experience the story without going through the grind that was commonplace back then.

Visuals:
We finally get to see what Rinoa was talking about when she met Squall in the party (it’s an easy meme to find if you look it up).

Much like the Final Fantasy IX remaster, we get some gorgeous character textures. Character faces are crystal clear, as is anything polygonal really. They hold up to close-up scrutiny, even when they are right in front of the screen.

The backgrounds, on the other hand, still retain some of their murkiness. This is, of course understandable, since these were prerendered graphics back then and, unless they had the original material used to create them, only the flat versions of these images remain (likely in their standard definition quality).

It doesn’t really hurt enjoyment, particularly if this is not your first time experiencing a Final Fantasy remaster as such. One thing I had not noticed years ago, that this update helped me appreciate, is the simulated use of “depth of field” in some of the areas. The further you walked away from something, the more the artwork would pull out of focus, emulating that film look. I don’t think my old TV was sharp enough to catch those subtleties two decades ago.

The prerendered cinematics look pretty decent, actually. They appear to have received a little up-res themselves.

Audio:
This is one area where Final Fantasy VIII excels. While there have been better scores in the series, Squall’s adventure is accompanied by some of the best music I’ve ever heard in the video game. That ending theme still lives on my music device and is heard at least once a month.

It’s crazy how back then we just accepted characters with no voices. Some of the cinematics have sound design for everything, except voice, so you always expect to hear a character talk.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Final Fantasy VIII might not have been one of my favorites during its era. But that’s not an indication that I don’t appreciate its character evolution or the Junction system for its unique take on magic. This remaster allows folks to experience it in the best way possible, outside of a complete remake. If you’re new to this game, have patience with Squall. He may not be the most celebrated lead, but he experiences evolution, and it’s a worthwhile journey to embark upon.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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