Final Fantasy VIII [1] – Another Return

With me accidentally completing the previous game, I really felt no urge to continue grinding there and spend too much time building up characters. I love the system of VII, but not enough to spend time I could spend playing something else that can be just as good. This is the reason I decided to start on my next game.

VIII was another game I played back when I was a kid, around 12 or 13, I believe. It was also another game I was forced to play in German. At this point, though, my German was getting better, so I understood most of it, or at least so I remember. We’ll see.

Final Fantasy VIII, FMV

The jump in quality for both the FMV sequences and the game is huge.

I wrote about VII from a role playing perspective, but I decided to go for more of a power gaming style on this one. I’ll still go through the story, but I’ll also write more about what I’ve been doing and how I’ll be playing. The role playing thing, in retrospect, was really hard to write and wasted to much of my time. This way, I won’t have to think too much about style and focus on content.

The game starts at the Balamb Garden, which is a military school of a sort, though highly inspired by Japanese high schools. The main character, Squall, wakes up at the infirmary after being injured in training by another student, Seifer. Seifer is not the central bad guy, but the game really does make you dislike and even hate him. He’s simply an asshole, for the most part.

Squall comes off as a bit of an ass to, but more because he’s constantly trying to act cool and lets guys like Seifer get to him. All in all, I’d say he’s one of the more positive main protagonists in Final Fantasy. Also typical, he grows as a person throughout the game, just like Cloud did.

His instructor is Quistis. She’s one of the younger instructors so the rest of the staff underestimates her. She also seems to like Squall, for some reason. She visits him at the infirmary to inform him his field test is today, at the nearby Fire Caverns, so that’s his next destination.

This game uses the GF (Guardian Force) junction system. I prefer the materia system in VII, but I like the junction system almost just as much. Basically, you get summons, which are called guardian forces in this game and you bind them to your characters. This allows you to cast magic, summon them, make them learn new abilities which you can use, etc. It also allows you to draw magic from your enemies and “junction” it to your stats to increase your power. The stronger the magic is, the stronger the effect. Due to the drawing system, where you can draw a certain number of “casts” of a magic from an enemy, or from a spot in the game world, there are no magic points. The various spells are more like items in this game.

You start out with two GFs, Shiva and Quetzacoatl. Shiva is typical of a Final Fantasy game, but Quetzacoatl was new here, I believe. It’s basically a replacement for Ramuh, so it’s thunder based. You start the game with these two, but you need to “collect” them by accessing the terminal at Squalls sitting spot in the classroom.

Final Fantasy VIII, Ifrit

Ifrit has been one of my favorite summons throughout the franchise.

As soon as I joined up with Quistis, I junctioned Shiva on Squall and Quetzacoatl on her. I then entered a couple of random battles on the world map and drawn the maximum amount of spell I could from the enemies. This allowed me to maximize the current stats I could junction to, Magic on Squall and Spirit on Shiva. It also gave me a nice supply of spells for later.

At the fire caves, I picked a 10 minute time limit because I was familiar with the cave and remembered it’s short. The time limit is ticking only until you defeat Ifrit at the end of the caves, so there’s plenty of time to go back outside once that is done. Ifrit was easy to beat with Shiva and I especially like how he recognizes me using her. It really reinforces the idea that Summons in this game aren’t just a game element, but an actual part of the story.

Beating him allowed me to use him as a GF, which I immediately junctioned to Squall. This allowed me to also junction spells to his Strength stat, so he did three times as much damage to enemies as he did when he was entering the cave. Ifrit also allows to junction to the elemental attack attribute, so I got as much of the Blizzard spell from an enemy in the cave as I could. This further increases the damage against fire enemies, thanks to my attacks now having an ice affinity. Of course, I can switch magics around when necessary, so I can change my affinity at will.

With this part done, next up was the first real mission. Apparently, the world is at war and the bad guy is Galbadia. Their soldiers are attacking the town of Dollet and SeeD assistance was requested. The group to go there consists of Squall, Zell and Seifer. Quistis and a bunch of other people will be there to, but the three I mentioned will be my party. The group used a car to get to the nearby town and boarded a ship there to Dollet. Once I arrived there, I saved my game and was done for now.

Since I now have three guys in the group, I had to decide what to bind on Zell. I decided to keep Ifrit on Squall for damage and give Zell Shiva. Quistis, who will be replacing Seifer soon, will be sticking with Quetzacoatl. The GFs have this thing called affinity, which increases as they are junctioned to the same character, so picking one and sticking to it is a good idea. Higher affinity means you get to summon them much faster. Since there will be plenty of mechanical enemies soon, I decided to bind Thunder to my elemental attack on Squall.

In the next session, I will be clearing Dollet and getting a new GF, If I remember correctly – Siren.

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