What’s so good about… FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered?

The unique sorcery of this classic RPG...
By Square Enix Team

Fans have been asking for it for a while, and now it’s here: FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered is available for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Steam.

It’s the best version of the game to date, with enhanced visuals and boosters that make the game faster or more convenient to play, including the ability to speed up time, gain magic spells and more!

There’s a lot of excitement about this release, but if you’ve never played this landmark title, you may be wondering what’s all the fuss about? Allow us to explain:

First and foremost, it’s a love story

FINAL FANTASY has always had a touch of romance - think Cecil and Rosa in FINAL FANTASY IV or Tidus and Yuna in FINAL FANTASY X.

But FINAL FANTASY VIII was the first game to put a love story at the very heart of things.

The lead character, Squall, is a… complicated fellow. When we first meet the young student, he comes off as standoffish, cynical and even a little cold. He brushes off his classmates, gives his teachers one world answers and refuses to let anyone get close.

But when he meets Rinoa Heartilly, a young freedom fighter, his walls start to crumble. Her optimism and passion for her cause intrigue him, and while she’s infuriated by his demeanour, she also sees his hidden depths.

We’re there every step as the two take their awkward, faltering steps towards a deeper connection, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.

That’s not to say it’s short of action - FINAL FANTASY VIII is one of the most bombastic games in the series, full of exciting chases, swords that are also guns, and massive battles. You’ll have out of body experiences, fight weird and disturbing enemies and travel to places you can’t predict in ways you definitely won’t expect.

But as big as the story goes (and it goes biiiig) everything remains firmly grounded by Squall, Rinoa, and their charming relationship.

The characters are more beautiful than ever

In another milestone for the series, FINAL FANTASY VIII marked the first time that the series featured realistically proportioned characters throughout the whole game.

FINAL FANTASY I through VI all used expressive sprites to convey their stories, and FINAL FANTASY VII a combination of stylised character models in the field, and more detailed ones during combat.

So when FINAL FANTASY VIII arrived, with its more realistic, and consistent, art style it was a massive deal. Of course, this approach also meant we got to see a lot more of the cast up close, so it was important they looked good.

Fortunately, visual director Tetsuya Nomura and art director Yusuke Naora knocked it out of the park, with iconic designs that are instantly recognisable.

And now, of course, they look better than ever. In FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered, every character model has been dramatically overhauled. They’re sharper, with increased detail, making those amazing designs pop even more than the original.

Triple Triad may take over your life

The simplest way to describe Triple Triad is this: a collectable card game that exists within FINAL FANTASY VIII. But a more accurate description would be: ‘Why-can’t-I-stop playing-this?’.

Triple Triad is one of the best FINAL FANTASY VIII side activities ever. It’s easy to understand yet incredibly deep, useful to the main quest, addictive and - most importantly - fun.

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On the face of it, it’s a simple enough game. You place cards, with four numerical values printed on them. If your number’s higher than you opponent’s you flip it to your color - whoever has the most cards at the end of a round wins.

But as the game goes on, more rules are introduced. You’ll have cards with special abilities, regional rules that change gameplay mechanics, the rewards for winning and more. The cards you win can be refined for powerful items or magic that will boost your character… or just used to beat stronger opponents.

It all adds up to a remarkable enjoyable little game. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself shirking your heroic duties over and over again in favor of just one more game.

The Junction system is supremely flexible

FINAL FANTASY VIII is a game with ambition, and that’s very evident in its Junction System.

Instead of strengthening characters with armor and accessories, as with most FINAL FANTASY games, the eighth entry in the series does something entirely new.

Characters ‘equip’ a Guardian Force - summonable creatures of great power, including series mainstays like Ifrit and Shiva. These can be brought out in battle, but their greater power is that they let you use magic to boost your stats.

So, for example, if you collect a stack of ‘cure’ spells, you can junction them to your HP for a boost to health. Similarly, if you link magic to strength, you’ll hit harder as a result.

It’s a system that puts a huge amount of power in the hands of the player, offering up loads of different ways to setup your character.

The more you dig into it, the more depth you find. You can add status effects to attacks to give you an edge in difficult fights (pro tip: sleep + T-Rexaur = survival), increase your health to withstand brutal bosses or add gain increased defense against specific elements… and that’s barely scratching the surface.

Some truly dedicated fans have even found ways to boost their characters to such an incredible degree that even boss battles become a breeze - it really is that flexible.

In short, the Junction system is one of kind. Naturally, that also makes it a little divisive - some fans love it, others prefer a more traditional approach. Either way it’s worth experiencing because there’s genuinely been nothing like it before, or since.

Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtrack is one for the ages

Here’s something we think everyone will agree on: composer Nobuo Uematsu is a genius.

From the opening cutscene, FINAL FANTASY VIII is a non-stop parade of amazing music. From upbeat battle themes like ‘Force your Way’ and ‘The Man with the Machine Gun’ to more emotional tracks like Love Grows, every track is as memorable as they come.

The soundtrack’s had a life well beyond the game too. Tracks appear in multiple titles throughout the series, including DISSIDA FINAL FANTASY NT, World of FINAL FANTASY and Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon EVERY BUDDY.

Just a few weeks ago, the first raid went live in FINAL FANTASY XIV: Shadowbringers, featuring… yep, music from FINAL FANTASY VIII.

That legacy goes further than games though - in 2004, Team USA’s synchronised swimming team entered the Olympics with a routine set to two particularly epic tracks from the game: ‘Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec’ and ‘Liberi Fatali’. They came back with the bronze.

So FINAL FANTASY VIII’s music really is jolly good. It’s available on streaming services, so go have a listen - you won’t be disappointed.

Those are just some of the reasons FINAL FANTASY VIII is a must-play, but what do you think?

Are you a fan, or are you one of the lucky players who get to experience it for the first time? Share your thoughts with FINAL FANTASY on social media: