Final Fantasy 8 Part 1 – SeeD Mercenaries

Final Fantasy 8 came shortly after FF7, and was a huge leap, mostly in graphics.

FF8 was also the first FF I got my hands on as a young child and got to play, so of course I might be just a tad bit biased when it comes to this entry in the franchise.

If you read the finale of FF7, I mentioned how the graphics in FF7 had not aged that well.

That isn’t entirely surprising, considering they were the first to really do that as they did, so of course it is going to be a bit rough.

FF8 came in and really was a graphical powerhouse, at least, in my mind.
To this day, FF8 still looks decent, despite its age, in my opinion.

The gameplay… Well, there are some rough edges regarding that one, but we will discuss those when we get to it.

This game also has a bit of a reputation as dividing the fans.

Some love it, some hate it, much like FF13, which really divided the fans, but we will discuss FF13 when we get there.

FF8 followed a lot of the course that was set by FF7 prior, but deviated from the path in a few cases, for better or worse.

So, with that said, the next stop on our journey is…

Final Fantasy 8!
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During the intro sequence, we get a bunch of vague information dumped on us, best summed up in screenshots.
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As you can see, there are host of colorful characters that we will eventually get to know.
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We then see two men duking it out with some odd bladed weapons.
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The blonde one ends up injuring his sparring partner’s face open, but he retaliates with his own strike.
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We then wake up in some sort of infirmary where one of the staff is taking care of us.
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It appears our main guy, Squall, will be okay.
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So Seifer is the other guy that Squall was battling. Rival, I suppose?
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Also, who is this mysterious woman?
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We then get our instructor, Quistis, to lead us out.
FYI, Quistis is a fan favorite, and she is mine as well.
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It appears this is a school of sorts.
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The menu is pretty self-explanatory at this point if you have been following my journey through Final Fantasy.

Junction, GF and Card a bit different, but we will get to those.
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But before we continue on, we grab the GF’s at Squall’s desk.

These allow us to perform the main “power-up” mechanic.
Think of these like Espers from FF6 or Materia from FF7.
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They allow us to “junction” magic to our stats to increase them, as well as allowing us to equip different abilities, depending on which ones the GF has learned.

We speak to Quistis before leaving the class, and she tells us that we need to head to the Fire Cavern before we can take our test as a preliminary test before the big one.

She says she will meet us outside the school.
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On the way out, we literally run into a girl, and we show her around the school.
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We also speak to this gentlemen, who gives us a beginner set of cards used in the very popular card game Triple Triad.

I won’t go into details, but in FF8, Triple Triad is an extremely important component of the game, especially if you are getting 100% or just power-leveling.
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We also find a save point nearby. These work just like every other save point.
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We also find a draw point.

Magic works a lot differently in this game than in the previous FF’s, and is the reason many people have some disdain for this game.
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Magic isn’t just learned naturally by characters as they level up, instead, magic must be “drawn” from various sources in the game. You can carry up to 100 casts of any particular magic, such as 100 Fires, 100 Blizzards, ect.

The main way you will be gaining magic is through the Draw command in battle.
Monsters will have different magic that you can draw from them, some extremely powerful.

Of course, that means it can get a bit boring, sometimes dangerous, to continually draw magic from creatures over and over again, but, that is part of the game.

That is the one thing that is a big detriment to the game.

I appreciate the fact that they did something unique, but any of you who have played this game for an extended period of time already know what I am talking about.

Good news, however, the Steam version has a “Magic Booster” which will automatically give 100 casts of various spells for you at the beginning of the game if you so choose.

In fact, there is also a “hidden” command, in the form of F1 that speeds up the game dramatically, allowing for quick drawing if you don’t want to use the booster!

This can also be used to just speed up cutscenes, regular battles, animations, whatever!
I expect to really use this.

Also, the aforementioned booster and “Hi-Speed” as it’s called in-game, doesn’t prevent you from getting achievements, at least the Hi-Speed doesn’t.

I won’t be using the Magic Booster, but I will be spamming the heck out of the Hi-Speed at times.

Anyway, we find Quistis and move out.

She gives us a quick tutorial on junctioning, and then tells us the Fire Cavern is to the east.

Before that, let’s talk about another feature that many dislike.

This game features monsters that level up with you.

I understand why they possibly did this, it was to prevent players from just grinding away and blasting through the game.

But what that means, is staying low level through-out the game is actually extremely beneficial, since monsters keep getting stronger and stronger as you do, sometimes so much so it becomes a detriment to level up!

But thankfully, there are ways around that.

I have Quezacotl beginning to learn Card, a very helpful command which allow us to turn weakened enemies into cards, which we then can use to get items and such, but that will be later.

I have Shiva learn STR-J, which allows whoever equips Shiva to equip magic to their Strength. Quite handy.

We do some quick magic drawing from the local enemies.

Battles are much like FF7, a bar fills up, then it’s that character’s turn.
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Here is what Drawing is like. Since I don’t have any magic at this point, all magic I can draw will be ??? until I at least have one in my magic pool.

Stock is used to well… Stock magic from enemies.

Cast is helpful in that you can cast the chosen spell without using up one of your precious spells.
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After the battle(which we run from so we don’t get as much EXP. I am not doing a low level challenge, but I don’t want to over level, since that is bad in this game.), Since I have so much Fire, I can junction it to Quistis’ Spirit, and increase it.

Certain spells are better suited to being equipped on a certain stat.

For instance, equipping Fire on a Magic stat will make it rise higher, but at this early stage in the game, it doesn’t really matter.

Also, due to the fact that none of your GF’s have many abilities is a hindrance.
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I also get low enough health that Squall can use his Limit Break.

Limit Breaks work differently than they did in FF7,  the character has to be at low health, and can use them as often as they like, as long as they are at low health.

This is another thing about the game. FF8 is all about physical attacks and Limit Breaks.

The game discourages magic use, because you need 100 in a spell to get the highest boost to your stats.

If you cast a spell a bunch of times that is tied to a stat, your stat will go down as a result.

So, the game is all about getting your characters to low HP, and spamming your Limit Breaks.

In FF7, you couldn’t spam your breaks, since the bar had to full, but there is no bar in this one.
Each time the character’s turn comes up, you get a chance at being able to use that character’s Limit Break.

The lower their HP, the higher the chance, but, you can spam the “next character” button to continually try to get your Limit Break.
So really, you can just be moderately weakened and still get it.

I really don’t like this about the game. The fact that magic is so discouraged.

You really have to just beef up your characters physical attacks and Limit Breaks and that’s it.

If I had to name one fatal flaw of the game, it’s the aforementioned rant.

I mean, sure, you will cast some magic here and there, Protect, Shell, things like that, but in most cases, once you hit 100 in a spell, you won’t be casting  it much.

You might be using healing magic through-out the game, but you can also buy items to do that, like Potions.

In any case, we grab 100 Fires, Blizzards, Cures, Thunders and Sleeps for Squall and Quistis and make our to the Fire Cavern.
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Here is Squall’s Limit, Renzozuken. A bar appears and you have to tap a button at the correct time to score a hit. Also, there is a chance that Squall will pull off one of many possible extra moves at the end, in this case, Rough Divide, which deals some damage to everyone.

As you equip different weapons, Squall adds new moves to the pool, which are randomly chosen when you use Renzozuken.

Also, Squall is unique in that he can “trigger” higher damage attacks by pressing the “trigger” at the specific time, even during regular attacks. In my case, it’s right bumper on my Xbox360 controller.
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Also, you can summon your GF’s in battle, which act like summons from the previous game, except some key differences.

You are no longer limited by MP, or a certain number of castings.

Instead, when you choose to summon a GF, your HP is replaced by the GF’s HP and your ATB bar empties.

Once empty, the summon activates.

This is handy for a few reasons, one, GF’s do great damage in the very beginning of the game, in addition, they can also save low HP party members, since if you take damage while summoning a GF, the GF takes the damage for you.

But of course, if they are knocked out, they can’t be used until they are healed with specific items.

Also, some GF’s have various effects, not always just damage.
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We stick around here, gain a level, but we also gain the command Card, which is very handy.
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As stated earlier, it can turn enemies into cards, which can be used in Triple Triad, or, they can later be refined into items. Extremely helpful later on.

But the main strength of this skill is the fact that enemies that are turned into cards don’t give EXP, but still give AP and items!

Great for low level runs, which this game kind of is, if you want an easier time.

Also, there is a Steam achievement for keeping Squall at level 7 for the entire game.

Given enough patience, you could “power-level” by just using Card on the fish enemies on the beach, gaining a ton of AP at this point in the game as well as getting items.

I won’t be doing that, but I did want to at least get Card before the Fire Cavern.
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Traversing through the Fire Cavern, Quistis tries to calm our nerves by talking to us.

Being the Fire Cavern, there are a host of fire-type creatures here.
They are all fairly easy to beat however.

However, with the timer constantly ticking down, I try not to dally too long in here.

There is also a Fire Draw point, but I am all stocked on Fires at the moment.

Quistis attempts conversation with Squall, but Squall is pretty cold, despite being in a fiery chasm.
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Eventually, we make it to our target, the GF Ifrit!
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Ifrit is easy for a first boss, especially if you summon Shiva and use Blizzard.

Being a fire monster, he takes a lot of damage from ice attacks.
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He also has a comment if you summon Shiva in battle.

Ifrit himself can cast Fire for about 60 or so damage and eventually do a leaping punch, dealing a good chunk of damage at this point, about 120 or so.
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With repeated Shiva summoning, he goes down and joins us.

Ifrit comes with the ability to equip elemental magic on our physical attacks.

Quistis recommends Blizzard, since the enemies in here are fire-based, our physical attacks will deal extra damage to them.

We will also get the ability to junction status magic on our physical attacks, like Sleep, as more GF’s come along.

We make our way out and back to the school.

As we enter, Quistis tells us to get on our uniform, as there is one last test before we become a mercenary of Balamb Garden, a SeeD.
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We quickly get dressed, and we find out that we will be paired up with Zell, a bombastic, loud, somewhat annoying brawler, and Seifer, who just happens to be our squad leader for the mission.
Oh joy.
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The headmaster of the school, Cid, tells us to do our best, and we are sent off.
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During the travels, Seifer and Zell manage to almost get into a fight, but Quistis breaks it up.
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Our mission is to liberate the town of Dollet from the G-Army.

We arrive on the beach, and find it under attack, and we quickly infiltrate Dollet to begin our mission.

Since we are on a SeeD mission, almost everything we do, we are being graded on it.
The better choices we make, the better our grade at the end of our mission, and the better our rank.

The better our rank, the better our pay when we get our SeeD salary, so it helps to try and make the right decisions during a mission.

We fight some weak enemies, and secure the Central Square, as ordered.

We then have to wait…

But Seifer isn’t about to do that.

We see some enemies sneaking around and Seifer heads off after them.
They appear to be heading to the communications tower.

On the way, we find some Dollet soldiers, but they are being attacked by a beast!
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This thing wasn’t hard at all. He hit for weak damage, and we just attacked until he stopped moving.

Seifer also takes this opportunity to inform us that whoever deals the finishing blow on an enemy gets a larger portion of the experience gained in battle.

We promptly finish it and move on.

As we arrive at the tower, we see Galbadian soldiers doing something inside the tower.
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Seifer quickly chases after them, but then, a girl comes falling from above!
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She introduces herself as Selphie, the same girl that we ran into at the start of the game outside of the class room.

She says she has a message for Seifer, but he already ran off, so she joins us and we give chase.

We find a draw point with Blind in it, and a save point.

Heading up the tower we find Biggs trying to repair the tower for something.
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He finishes repairing it just as we arrive.
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We fight him for bit until Wedge joins.
Biggs and Wedge can cast a few basic spells as well as hit us for weak damage, nothing too noteworthy.

Wedge has Esuna we can Draw from him, but since everyone’s Magic is low, besides Selphie, it takes forever to Draw it, even with Hi-Speed.

The higher a character’s Magic stat, the higher their chance of Draw, as well as the amount of the spell drawn.
I manage to draw a bunch for everybody, and then we wail on Biggs.
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After a little bit more fighting, this thing appears out of nowhere and blows Biggs and Wedge away!

First things first, we Draw Siren, a new GF from it.

This thing can be pretty tough, since this is kind of the first real boss.
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It can cast some basic attack spells, hit with a physical attack, as well as it’s strong attack, Storm Breath, to deal decent damage to everyone.
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After drawing Siren, I then proceed to draw another new spell from him, Double.

Double is really good in that whoever has Double cast on them, can cast two spells in one turn instead of just one. Handy for mass healing or buffing.

The good news, in addition to Double, he also has Cure we can draw from him, so, to make sure I don’t miss it, I draw 100 Doubles for everyone while casting Cure if anyone got low.
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After a while, we manage to get our Doubles, and then we begin to attack him.
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As long as you make sure your HP is at least half at all times, his Storm Breath won’t be able to take you out.
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He explodes upon defeat, as any good boss should, and then we are told from Selphie that we are to withdraw at 1900 hours, which means we only have 30 minutes to get to shore!

As we leave, Biggs activates something and sics it on us.

We heal up a bit, save, and head out.
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Shortly after, we find out what Biggs sent after us!

This thing can hit decently hard, especially with it’s Ray Bomb attack that hits the whole party.
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It is weak to lightning attacks, so Selphie with Quezacotl deals great damage to it.

It also has a new spell we can draw from it, Protect, a very handy spell, but unfortunately, with the time limit, I only managed to get a couple before we had to head out.

Once it is dealt enough damage, it malfunctions and we can escape.
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But it isn’t giving up that easy!
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It continues to chase us down, and each time it manages to catch us, we have to fight it again, wasting time.
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It chases us through town, before we finally reach the shore.
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Squall runs with all his might, but it is getting closer and closer…
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But Quistis to the rescue!
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She manages to buy Squall enough time to get in, and even ends up destroying it as we take off!

Go Quistis!

Back at Balamb, we split up from Zell and Selphie and speak to Cid, Xu, and Quistis, who congratulate us.
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I also check out a weapons magazine I got earlier.

This allow you to enhance your weapons for each character.

The magazine will show you what the new weapon is, and what materials are needed to upgrade it.

FF8 is different in that there really isn’t an equipment screen. You can upgrade your weapons, which are unique to each character, and their “armor” is junctioning magic to their stats.

We also speak to Seifer, who is apparently going to be punished for disobeying orders.

We head to the second floor to hear if we passed or not.

While there, Fujin and Raijin, Seifer’s little cronies, tell us that if Seifer doesn’t pass, it’s our fault.

Yeah right!

Zell and Squall are called in, since they passed.

In Cid’s office, only four students passed:
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Squall, Zell, Selphie and some unknown guy.
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You can never actually “fail” the SeeD exam, despite how bad you did.
The only difference it makes is your starting SeeD rank.

On the way out of the office, Seifer and the others are waiting for us.
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Zell expects a fight, but Seifer begins to clap for us, and then we get a round of applause for our passing of our SeeD exam.
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We also are shown our score and new SeeD rank for the mission.

The various stats correspond to our choices during the mission, as well as the field test in the Fire Cavern.

Not perfect, but I will take it.
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We also get a small snippet on getting paid our SeeD salary.

Essentially, after a certain number of steps, we get paid.
The higher our SeeD rank, the more gil we get.

We head to our room and find Selphie, who tells us to get changed into our SeeD uniform for the ceremony tonight.

But we will save that for next time!

See you then!

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