Final Fantasy VIII is the eighth installment in the Final Fantasy series. It was directed by Yoshinori Kitase, written by Kitase and Kazushige Nojima, and produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Shinji Hashimoto. The game is the second Final Fantasy that was developed for both PlayStation and PC. It was made available as a PSone Classic over the Japanese PlayStation Network on September 24, 2009, the North American PlayStation Network on December 18, 2009 and the European PlayStation Network on February 4, 2010.
Thirteen weeks after its release, Final Fantasy VIII had earned more than $50 million from sales in the United States, making it the fastest selling Final Fantasy title. Additionally, Final Fantasy VIII was voted the 22nd-best game of all time by readers of the Japanese magazine Famitsu. Final Fantasy VIII went on to become one of the best-selling games in the Final Fantasy series with worldwide sales of over 8.15 million by March 31st, 2003.
Final Fantasy VIII is a departure from many traditional standards of the Final Fantasy series. It is the first game in the series to consistently use realistically proportioned characters, the first to feature a vocal piece as its theme music, and one of the only titles to deviate from the series’ traditional means of increasing a character’s power via leveling (although levels are not completely abandoned as they were in Final Fantasy II). In addition, it does not have a Magic Point-based system for spell-casting. Instead, magic is collected, drawn, and created from monsters and objects encountered throughout the game, and is used to power up the characters via the Junction System.The gameplay of Final Fantasy VIII is vastly different from previous titles. The Draw and Junction Systems are the most notable changes. Instead of leveling up in order to learn new spells and abilities via weapons or a Job class, you must “Draw” your magic and spells from enemies and “draw-points”, hot spots scattered throughout the game containing random numbers of a specific spell. This eliminated the convention of magic/mana points, but encouraged players to hoard and conserve spells both for direct use and for ‘junctioning’ them to different stats associated with Guardian Forces, who also held the learning of new abilities.
Summoned monsters in Final Fantasy VIII are known as Guardian Forces, often abbreviated to GF. They require Junctioning to characters in order to use them, as well as their inherent abilities. Unlike previous games, GF take time to be summoned, the time taken depends on the character/GF combination. When selected, the ATB gauge begins to run backwards and the character’s name and HP is replaced by the GF’s name and HP. Similar to the Aeons used later in Final Fantasy X, the GF have HP and can take damage, shielding party members while being summoned. During the summoning, if the GF’s HP reaches 0, they stop protecting the summoning character and do not get summoned.
They are also unable to be summoned until they are revived. On the flip side, if the ATB gauge for the GF reaches zero, the GF is summoned, and attacks in a similar fashion to Final Fantasy VII. If the GF summoned has learned the ability “Boost”, the player can attempt to boost the GF’s attack power by up to 250%, although the boost may end up being anywhere between 75% to 250% of the GF’s normal attack power. The Boost formula has been discovered to be Attack Damage X (Boost Number/100) So if the Boost is below 100, the GF’s Attack Damage is reduced.
Guardian Forces can also gain Ability points to learn abilities. Each GF has unique abilities, though rare items allow customization of each GF’s unique skill set. Most abilities at least require junctioning the GF to a character, but some abilities also require junctioning to the character to take effect. Each GF has an ability that, once learned, can be junctioned as a battle command. The first two Guardian Forces are acquired at the beginning of the game. Other Guardian Forces can be acquired through sidequests, or by Drawing them from another boss. There are only three GF that you must find to continue the game, the others are completely optional.The Junction System is the system used for boosting stats and to give elemental/status effects to weapons and armor in Final Fantasy VIII. The player must Junction, or equip, a Guardian Force to enable the use of battle commands other than Attack. Boosting stats require characters to obtain magic, usually by Drawing magic from enemies. The player can then Junction that magic to stats such as Strength, Vitality, Evasion and Hit-Rate. What can be customized depends on the Guardian Force that is currently junctioned. The Guardian Force can learn to unlock more statistics to junction magic to with Ability Points.
As with most games of the RPG genre, Experience Points are awarded following defeat of randomly encountered enemies. Final Fantasy VIII’s system of leveling is unique for two reasons: each playable character only requires 1,000 Experience Points to advance to the next level, whereas other games require progressively more points as the levels are gained. The statistic increases granted by a level-up are minuscule, as major stat growth is relegated to the Junction system.
The other feature is that enemies and bosses have no set level; they increase in hit points, statistics, and abilities alongside the player party. Higher-level enemies are capable of inflicting and withstanding significantly more damage, and may have additional special attacks. They also possess better magic to draw and items to steal as their level rises. The benefits of this system are that by keeping characters at low levels, enemies and bosses at the later stages of the game can be significantly weaker, resulting in “No-Leveling Challenge” games of Final Fantasy VIII.
Furthermore, due to most locations being visited several times during the storyline and for sidequests, enemies encountered early will grow with the party and can still pose a threat later in the game. There are certain locations that are the exempt to this style of creature leveling, notably the Islands of Heaven and Hell, where all creatures are at level 100 regardless of character level, and Lunatic Pandora, where all creatures are at level 1 regardless of character level.