The black sheep of PlayStation One era Final Fantasies, Final Fantasy VIII, at last enjoys its well-deserved time in the limelight with the remaster treatment, now looking better than ever on the Nintendo Switch. Follow the stoic Squall Leonhart, a student from the famous SeeD academy of soldiers, who is at constant odds with his hotheaded rival Seifer all while their country prepares for war.
Final Fantasy VIII was one of the first games in the franchise that I ever played. If you’ve kept up with my other reviews of Final Fantasy VII and IX for the Switch then you’ll remember that IX was my first entry. VIII was my second game in the franchise and it pales in comparison to its brother, IX. It didn’t help that I bought the game used at GameStop and could never make it to the second disc because the first was scratched beyond repair so I could never finish it until I played the Steam release.
What stuck with me most was how unnecessarily complicated the Guardian Forces and Junction systems were, but how great it felt when everything worked just right. VIII doesn’t have the compelling storyline and world famous characters like VII or the simple but nostalgic throwback feel of IX, but it’s still a compelling JRPG in its own right.
This game is a hard one to recommend to those who aren’t fans of the game series or the JRPG genre. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as the first Final Fantasy game to play either (that would be Final Fantasy IV) since it’s actually quite famous for being one of the most divisive games in the series.
The game isn’t just the awkward middle brother to, but it’s significantly different than most other entries in the franchise. As I stated earlier, the game is quite complicated due to its love it or hate it Junction system, which the game will forcefully shove down your throat with multiple tutorials. Junctioning works with the Guardian Forces (summons), which players can equip to certain characters giving them command abilities like Magic and Summon. GFs level up alongside the characters they’re equipped to offering various passive stat boosts to attributes like magic or strength.
Even the magic system is different when compared to other installments in the series, relying on the Draw command where characters can draw magic from enemies and Draw Points. The magic can in turn be stocked to certain attributes as well giving further stat boosts when combined with the Junction System.
It’s a bit much and could turn off new players, but this remastered version comes with a few quality of life features that make it more accessible than ever. Like the previous Final Fantasy remasters there’s an option to triple the game’s speed, which really comes in handy with classic grind-heavy JRPGs like this one. Players can also choose to turn on or off the pesky random monster encounters helping to reduce the grind. There is even an option to max out the character’s HP and limit break bar if you want to breeze through the game just to enjoy the story.
This is the best-looking version of Final Fantasy VIII I have ever seen. When I first booted it up on my Switch I was completely blown away. Square Enix clearly put in a lot of work to overhaul the character models so that their features are recognizable and clearly defined unlike in the original release on the PlayStation back in 1999. The character models don’t just look better, but also completely different (or even censored when concerning certain female characters like the summon Siren), which some loyal fans have pointed out on Twitter. Even Squall’s face and features seem to be dramatically different compared to the original. For me this wasn’t an issue as I’m just happy that I can see details on the screen without straining my eyes, but this may disappoint some FF VIII diehards.
When the Steam version of Final Fantasy VIII launched fans were upset due to its lackluster soundtrack when compared to the original PlayStation version. Players will be happy to know that this version boasts the better of the two and features the original game’s music, which still rocks today twenty years later.
For whatever reason Final Fantasy VIII missed out on the remaster treatment while its brothers and sisters enjoyed multiple re-releases. Thankfully, this remaster looks better than ever and sounds just as good as you remember. This is the most accessible port of the class JRPG that may not be for everyone, but certainly deserves a new chance to shine on the Switch with a whole new generation of gamers.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is the best way to experience the classic adventure and it’s perfect for the Switch on the go. It’s finally the best looking guy in the room.