The first Final Fantasy game I played was Final Fantasy VII, soon after it came out. It was also the very first role playing game I had ever played, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think it had a lot to do with how long the game was (it was 3 discs and to just finish the story alone, without going through the side missions and stuff took about 70 hours). But I also liked it because it had a story to follow along, and because it was just plain fun. The progression system was awesome, and it gave a real reason to “grind.” While many people hate that concept, I thought it was cool. If you were having some problems taking down an enemy, you could simply revert back to your last save point, go out in to the world and start slaying enemies to gain extra experience. Over time you would get some more levels and you would over power your enemies, making the battle much more doable. This helped compensate for the “RNG” (or random number generator) that determines how much damage you do, as well as how much damage is taken (keep in mind that while the actual hit damage may not change much or at all, the chances of being hit or hitting enemies does). Sometimes even having just a little more health or having a skill leveled up could make a world of a difference in whether or not you were successful in a fight.

But then came Final Fantasy VIII.

I did not expect the next Final Fantasy to be just like the first, but I did think it would at least keep with the same principles: let you level up summons and spells through battles and allow you to spend more time leveling up if you are having too many problems taking down a boss. But wow, Final Fantasy VIII really turned the tables there.

First off was the dynamic levels of mobs. No longer could you say “this mob is level 15 and I am level 12, so that is probably where my issue lies.” Now it became “well, I am level 15 but so is he. I guess I will just have to continue trying over and over until I finally beat him.” This caused a lot of irritation and frustration at times, where you just could not get over the hump.

The problem was further exacerbated by the way the spells worked. Rather than using materia (this was the name of the spell casting items in Final Fantasy VII), you relied on spells that you withdraw from enemies. In other words, you actually had to allow enemies to attack you while you attempt to pull some spells from them, and each one is able to be used only once. If you needed to stock up on some heals, you would have to keep trying to steal them from enemies until you had all of them you wanted. And once those were all used up, you would have to head back out in to the field yet again to try and gather some more. Compare this to how Final Fantasy VII worked, where you learn the skills and then you can use them as often as you want as long as you have enough mana (MP) to cast it. You could use Elixirs to regenerate the MP to allow you to cast more, so as long as you had enough potions you could really go on forever, casting all the spells you want.

The graphics in Final Fantasy VIII were a lot like the ones in VII, but the CGI (Computer Generated Images) were significantly better. Especially being that we are talking about regular Playstation games (that ran off CD's), that was a pretty cool thing to see. Looking back on it today, the graphics really suck. But for their day they were way advanced. Even Final Fantasy VII's were not that bad, although if we compared it to the standards we have today it would leave a lot to be desired.

Over all, while I thought Final Fantasy VIII was interesting, it just did not fit the bill of what I liked from its predecessor. I ended up quitting the game before even making it to the end (I made it to disc two of four) because of how it was played. Some people argue that the system it had for battles and progression was better, but I disagree. I think disallowing players from being able to use their time to out level their enemies in order to take them down is counter productive. Sure, it forces everyone to actually learn the game and learn how to play more effectively, but that does no good if you are also fighting against the RNG monster. I can not even count the number of times I would have won a battle were it not for one simple roll to have been different, such as having not missed one of my attacks or an enemy not having gotten off its spell and critically hitting me. It is situations like these where the hatred starts to come out, because it really is not something the player can control. It ends up being much like a gamble just trying. Honestly, I can not even imagine what the final boss(es) must be like.

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