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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is a role-playing game (RPG) originally released in 1999 which has been lightly revamped for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. Characters take turns attacking enemies including both humans and fantastical monsters with swords, guns, magic, and summoned entities called Guardian Forces. These battles contain no blood or gore, but non-interactive narrative sequences show dramatic combat scenes in which characters are wounded, bleed, and in some cases die. The heroes are mostly military students in their late teens who are coming of age. They're interested in helping people and are learning about themselves, how to be a good friend, and generally growing as people. Some of the characters use mild profanity, including words like "bitch" and "ass," and some female characters are dressed provocatively, including a couple of Guardian Force characters that appear almost naked save for a few cleverly placed body decals or feathers.
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What's it about?
FINAL FANTASY VIII REMASTERED is essentially the same game that people originally played in 1999, with slight graphical improvements to character models and a handful of quality of life enhancements, such as shorter load times. Set in a world that has both futuristic technology and magic, the story begins in a military school called Balamb Garden, where teens study to become warriors. The main hero is Squall, a standoffish kid who fancies himself a lone wolf -- until, that is, he becomes friends with a group of people he grows to respect and care for and who support him in return. As the group grows in both size and maturity, it finds itself at the heart of a global crisis that will require a mix of intelligence, strategy, and bravery to see through. Combat is turn-based, with players choosing actions -- attacking, using items, healing, and deploying magic -- for each character in the party. The heroes grow in a variety of ways, from simply leveling up through experience to joining with evolving Guardian Forces (powerful creatures that can be summoned), each of which has its own unique skills and abilities. As the game progresses, players gain the ability to explore more of the world, find more characters to join their party, and discover additional Guardian Forces that they can collect and train.
Is it any good?
Little has been done to modernize this classic role-playing game (RPG), which will delight some gamers and frustrate others. Beyond the slightly improved character models, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered looks just as it originally did in 1999. That means blurry, static backgrounds, fixed camera angles, confusing abbreviations in menus, and even a 4:3 aspect ratio presentation, which almost makes it look quaint on modern widescreen TVs. Even with a handful of additions meant to make it more appealing to today's players -- including the ability to turn off battle encounters and speed up play -- people looking for a modern RPG experience won't find it here. That said, this was a deeply innovative game for its time, and discerning players will be able to see why. During several dramatic scenes, those blurry backgrounds suddenly come to life while players still have control over their character, creating a startling sense of immersion. It's an effect that no one in 1999 had ever seen before that remains as effective today as it did then. And the accompanying soundtrack is loaded with memorable melodies -- both in and out of combat -- that are bound to keep players humming for weeks.
The real stars of the show, though, are the characters that prove both engaging and dynamic, despite communicating by text rather than voice actors. It's delightfully easy to get caught up in their melodrama, to feel what they're feeling, and root for them even when you recognize the mistakes they make. Even the Guardian Forces, which have no real personality beyond what's seen when they're summoned to attack, are easy to grow attached to, thanks largely to their terrific animations and tendency to save your party's bacon when the chips are down. And the world is filled with striking and iconic locations, including bustling cities, detailed ruins, and broad expanses of nature teeming with monsters. Exploring these areas in hopes of finding everything from key ingredients to a rare Guardian Force for your party is one of the many draws that will keep players coming back for the scores of hours it takes to finish this fantastic retro role-playing game. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered likely won't find traction with players looking for the latest, glossiest RPGs, but it will prove a treat for anyone interested in revisiting a true classic of the genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Is the impact of the violence in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered affected by the emotions that characters go through during the story and fights? Is it good storytelling or manipulative to make players care about characters so that they worry about them when they are in danger and feel something if they come to harm? Do you find yourself feeling more stress if a character you like is in danger of dying?
When should you accept differences of opinion with your friends, and when should you challenge them? Do good friends simply follow along with what their friends do and say without ever disagreeing?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Square Enix LTD
- Release date: September 3, 2019
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence
- Last updated: November 19, 2019
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