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
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