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Final Fantasy VIII is the eighth installment in the Final Fantasy series. The game is the second Final Fantasy developed for both PlayStation and PC. It was made available as a PSOne Classic over the PlayStation Network in Japan on September 24, 2009, in North America on December 18, 2009 and in Europe on February 4, 2010.
Thirteen weeks after its release, Final Fantasy VIII earned more than $50 million from sales in the United States, making it the fastest selling Final Fantasy title at the time. Additionally, Final Fantasy VIII was voted the 22nd-best game of all time by readers of the Japanese magazine Famitsu. Final Fantasy VIII went on to become one of the best-selling games in the series; the game had shipped 8.15 million copies worldwide as of March 31, 2003.
Final Fantasy VIII is a departure from many traditional series standards. It is the first Final Fantasy game to consistently use realistically proportioned characters, the first to feature a vocal piece as its theme music, and one of the only titles to deviate from the series’ traditional means of increasing a character’s power via leveling (although levels are not completely abandoned as they were in Final Fantasy II). In addition, it does not have a Magic Point-based system for spell-casting. Instead, magic is collected, drawn, and created from items, and is used to power up the characters via the junction system.
The gameplay differs from previous titles, the draw and junction systems being the most notable changes. Instead of leveling up to learn new spells and abilities via weapons or a job class, the player must draw the spells from enemies and draw points, hotspots scattered throughout the game containing random numbers of a specific spell, or create them from items. This eliminates the convention of magic points, but encourages players to hoard and conserve spells both for direct use and for junctioning them to different stats associated with Guardian Forces, who also hold the learning of new abilities.
Enemies are randomly encountered on the field. There are three members to a party, and unlike in previous entries to the series, Final Fantasy VIII doesn’t do a distinction between front and back row and any party member can attack any target. Pressing the trigger button just as Squall is attacking an enemy has him deal an automatic critical hit.
Summoned monsters are known as Guardian Forces, often abbreviated to GFs. They require junctioning to characters to be used, as well as to utilize their inherent abilities. GFs take time to be summoned, and the time taken depends on the character/GF combination. When selected, the ATB gauge begins to run backwards and the character’s name and HP are replaced by the GF’s name and HP.
Similar to the aeons used later in Final Fantasy X, the GFs have HP and can take damage, shielding party members while being summoned. During the summon charge time, if the GF’s HP reaches 0, they get knocked out and the summon is canceled. They can’t be summoned until revived. When the GF’s ATB gauge reaches zero, the GF is summoned and attacks in a similar fashion to Final Fantasy VII. If the summoned GF has learned the Boost ability, the player can attempt to boost the GF’s attack power by up to 250%, but if the player fails to adequately boost the GF its attack power may actually be reduced rather than enhanced.
Guardian Forces gain Ability Points from battles to learn abilities. Each GF has unique abilities, though rare items allow the player to customize each GF’s skillsets. Most abilities at least require junctioning the GF to a character, but some abilities also require junctioning to the character to take effect. Each GF has an ability that, once learned, can be junctioned as a battle command. The first two Guardian Forces are acquired at the beginning of the game. Other Guardian Forces can be acquired through sidequests, or by drawing them from a boss. Only three Guardian Forces are given automatically, the others are optional.
As with most games of the RPG genre, Experience Points are awarded following defeat of randomly encountered enemies. The system of leveling in Final Fantasy VIII is unique for two reasons: each playable character only requires 1,000 Experience Points to advance to the next level, whereas other games require progressively more points as levels are gained. The statistic increases granted by a level-up are minuscule, as major stat growth is relegated to the junction system
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