In a word: "overrated." Alongside games like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VIII (FF8) will go down in my book as one of the most overrated games of all-time. I'm convinced that if this role-playing game (RPG) did not bear the Final Fantasy moniker, it would have been universally panned as a poorly written obnoxious piece of CG fluff by the public and press alike.

As far as I'm concerned, there isn't much that goes right with FF8. The game gets off to a decent start with a mesmerizing introduction movie scored beautifully with orchestral music and computer-generated imagery that has become the hallmark of Squaresoft. The initial setups about an academy for elite soldiers are also intriguing. However, once past those opening moments and into the heart of the gameplay, it was all down hill for me.

Once again we are graced with a cast of utterly predictable characters that perpetually wear their emotions on their sleeves and demonstrate a level of emotional angst more befitting the teeny-bobbers that populate WB network shows like Dawson's Creek and Roswell. I was consistently surprised at how obnoxious and annoying I found these characters (especially Rinoa).

The characters werent the only uninspiring things about FF8 either. The gameplay isnt exactly anything to write home about. Most gamers have grown accustomed to the often-irrational conventions of the RPG genre, and FF8 is not different in that regard. Exploration mostly takes place from an overhead view and battles fall under the same turn-based format. I can accept that. What I cant accept is the ridiculous attribute setup known as the "Junction System." The most dedicated players may be able to decipher its near-incomprehensible logic, but that doesnt change the reality that its abnormally obtuse and an obvious attempt by developers to recycle material that should be reinvented, not regurgitated.

As for the story of FF8, Ill say this: If you were in charge of a momentous operation involving the assassination on a high-ranking official, why on earth would you put the "fate of the world" in the unsteady and inexperienced hands of a bunch of greenhorns? This level of plotting and drama is insulting to my intelligence, and I felt it was characteristic of my experience with the game.

Compounding all this were the Guardian Force attack animations that grew excessive and tiresome, and the flashback sequences became more tedious and disruptive toward the overall flow of the game. I finally said, "enough is enough," and said "I dont care how popular the series is or how revered its creator Hironobu Sakaguchi is. This game sucks!" Rating: 3.5 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui

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