Final Fantasy VIII is one of the big role-playing games by Square Enix that helped defined the iconic library for the original PlayStation. Since its release Final Fantasy VIII has only gotten a few noteworthy rereleases, but never one which offered any substantial changes to the game. This is what you’ll find in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, a mildly polished rerelease that comes with some additional options that impact the way you experience the game. It’s the same story and characters you know, only with a few more highlights and accents on the better parts of this time halting tale of love and war.
The biggest thing about Final Fantasy VIII Remastered isn’t the most important change to the game. And yet it’s still a welcomed change that could’ve, and probably should’ve, gone further. The models of characters throughout the game are given a new look, with more defined and clear looking features from their original polygons. You can actually make out Squall’s face and other features as you move around the world, even at a far distance. In the game’s original release, Square Enix (Squaresoft back then!) did their best to create proportioned characters for that era, but didn’t always hit the mark due to limitations of the PlayStation back then. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered lets that original vision become fully realized, giving Squall and his friends the best look they’ve had in years.
Unfortunately, this visual polish doesn’t extend to anything else in the game. Static backgrounds in every area you visit look exactly as they did years ago, often to a fault that doesn’t always translate well to modern aspect ratios. While character models look good. They’ll repeatedly clash with the environment around them from not being given the same visual overhaul. This is very apparent once you get to the world map and see that nothing was done at all to make the game look even remotely close to how character models do.
A few spots on the map look jagged and definitely haven’t aged well, especially in sections that you can make out some of the geometry of the models making up the places you can go to. The same Squall polygonal model from the original game’s release is still used when roaming the world map, not the newly polished one you see while traveling within areas. Though it would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb if included, anything done to the world map visuals at all would’ve been appreciated.
The most important part of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered comes from the extra toggle options you can access at any time during the game. You have the ability to instantly speed the game up X3, turn off all random encounters and battles, and instantly power up the party’s limits and attacks. It’s very easy to turn any of these on or off by simply clicking in the sticks of the controller, which is much more helpful than going into any menu to do so. Speeding up the gameplay instantly makes grinding for experience or drawing magic much more manageable, especially for the tougher side quests and battles in the later portions of the game.
The encounters and power-up options are great as well, but you’ll still have to engage with key boss battles during the story even if you have encounters turned off. Luckily the power-up toggle allows your characters to instantly take a turn and have infinite Limit Breaks, letting you beat down on anything you want at any time you want. You can even switch them on or off mid-battle, so you aren’t prevented from utilizing them if you already enter a fight. It might be cheating for some, but if you are having a tough time during any of the battles then all three of these new additions are fantastic tools to use.
Outside of this however, there isn’t much else new to experience. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is still Final Fantasy VIII and in essence the same game you played years ago, with all of its good and bad parts. There’s no bonus features, no exclusive look at the making of the game, no jukebox to listen to the game’s soundtrack; absolutely nothing else more. And the limited approach to polishing the game’s visuals makes this feel less like a “remastered” look at the game, and more like a definitive edition.
Anybody that’s already played Final Fantasy VIII won’t see much more of a reason to go back, unless they already love it as is. The music is still great, the story is intriguing, and the gameplay will keep you busy for a long time. If you never played Final Fantasy VIII back on the original PlayStation or any of the other rereleases of it over the years, then this is the best way to experience it.
This review is based on a digital review code of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered for the PlayStation 4, provided by Square Enix.