Final Fantasy VIII Game Overview

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Final Fantasy VIII is the eighth main video game instalment in the long-running FF game series. It’s a turn-based RPG that came out in 1999 for the Sony PlayStation. This game was produced by Square Enix (square at the time of release) and was overseen by Yoshinori Kitase. Like most of the titles in the Final Fantasy franchise, it was a stand-alone tale and an original game. It does, however, change some things up.

It re-imagines how magic is obtained using the Draw system and introduces a Junction system. These systems have, at the time of writing, yet to be used again in any other title in the series. It also gets rid of buying and collecting different weapons. Opting instead to give the player the ability to upgrade their weapon as the game goes on.

It uses characters that mimic all forms of the 1990 teenage stereotypes. Somewhat reminisce of The Breakfast Club, a movie with an ensemble of all forms of the 1980 teenage stereotypes.

You play as students who are training to be part of an elite mercenary academy used to help keep peace and battle monsters at an academy called SeeD. Eventually, you get caught up in a serious, world-threatening plot. That is, fighting an evil Witch to stop the known world from entering an endless time loop.

It challenged the norm for better or for worse.

Let’s take a closer look at this bold entry into the FF series.

The Characters

Squall Leonhart (17 years old)

Squall Leonhart

The main character, whose name you can change to your liking at the start, and the wielder of a gun blade. There are only two people who use the unique weapon in the game, the other being Seifer, Squall’s rival.

Squall is an introvert; he’s a bit rude because he feels uncomfortable around people. He doesn’t like having to explain himself, and when he does, he tends not to be smooth. Ultimately admitting his love and fighting for it makes a hero out of him.

Check out our comprehensive Squall Leonhart guide.

Rinoa Heartilly (17 years old)

Rinoa Heartilly

Without Rinoa, there is no good ending to this game. She is extroverted and often avoids the reality of the situations she is in. She falls for Squall. At first, out of necessity, and then out of respect for the self-control he has, but she lacks. It is finally her anxiety that gets the best of her and often puts her at the forefront of harm’s way.

  • Weapon: Blaster Edge
  • Limit: Angelo(her dog) OR Angel Wings

Quistis Trepe (18 years old)

Quistis Trepe

Quistis is a young genius who graduated early and became an instructor at the age of 18. Her attachment to her quietest trouble student(Squall), who is also the only one of her students that doesn’t fawn over her, leads her to help him.

She ends up down the rabbit hole that leads to her deciding she cannot abandon Squall or the others as the gravitas of the situation looms. She is pretty put together and often the voice of reason and intelligence in the group.

  • Weapon: Whip
  • Limit: Blue Magic

Zell Dincht (17 years old)

Zell Dincht

Zell is the sporty, outgoing, loud kid in class who tries to connect with everyone and always has something to say. He’s the brawler of the group, a short scrapper who is an optimist. He is very much the opposite to Squall, but also the kind of teenager that makes a character like Squall their friend regardless of the latter’s participation in the choice.

  • Weapon: Gloves
  • Limit: Duel

Selphie Tilmitt (17 years old)

Selphie Tilmit

The class organizer. Clumsy but smart. Selphie is an endearing individual who tries to keep people together but often has trouble keeping herself together. She’s a teacher’s pet and up to date on all the latest fashions. Her involvement makes for a nice secondary romance with Irvine and gives Rinoa someone to talk to since Squall isn’t the best at conversations.

  • Weapon: Nunchaku
  • Limit: Slot

Irvine Kinneas (17 years old)

Irvine Kinneas

The guy who is supposed to be cool. That’s Irvine in a nutshell, and sometimes he lives up to the cool, and others he falls short. He has nerves that mimic Squall’s but he’s smoother for the most part.

His romance with Selphie is somewhat background noise, but he provides some very strong story beats when the weight of assassination is too heavy for him to bear. He gets along well with Zell to some degree, and Squall and he work well together, as he doesn’t mind at all Squall not being chatty. He ends up being cool in the right ways by the end of the story.

  • Weapon: Shotgun
  • Limit: Shot

Seifer Almasy (18 years old)

Seifer Almasy

Seifer ends up being the bad guy. This is kind of predictable. He has a bad attitude, is a bit of a bully, and always tries to remind others he’s the best, which gets him in over his head. Yet, that’s not what leaves him as the bad guy. As a kid, Seifer always wanted to grow up and be the ‘Hero.’ The Sorceress’s Knight.

  • Weapon: Gunblade
  • Limit: Fire Cross

Laguna Loire (27 in flashbacks, 44 years old in present game time)

In some ways, Laguna is the fun counterpart to Squall. A very likable, heroic fellow, who obeys orders if it puts his friends at risk. Like Ward and Kiros he is played in flashbacks parallel to the main story.

He is extroverted but when it comes to the lady he loves, he is as shy as a pup. The connection between Laguna and Rinoa is something to take careful notice of, as you play.

  • Weapon: A Machine Gun
  • Limit: Desperado

Ward Zabac (25/42 years old)

A large, strong, loyal friend to Laguna. Ward is never unfriendly throughout his time in the game and seems to be often trying to keep his headstrong friend out of trouble.

  • Weapon: An Anchor!
  • Limit: Heavy Anchor

Kiros Seagill (23/40 years old)

Kiros Seagill


A sarcastic and caring ally to Laguna. He and Ward are the two best friends who play back up as they follow Laguna in the past sequences of a war long over through troubles and laughs.

  • Weapon: Katal Knives
  • Limit: Blood Pain

Edea Kramer (Unknown)

Edea Kramer

Proof that the person who is possessed by Ultimecia is not always evil, Edea joins you briefly late game to help stop what she fears is inevitable. She is a powerhouse of magical forces, and a kind soul suffering the pains of the villainous being known as the Sorceress. Her connection to the main group is powerful, and the reveal of it proves many of the early story ‘coincidences’ were more than just happenstance.

  • Weapon: Magic
  • Limit: Ice Strike

A character-heavy game, but only the first six end up being your main party.

What sets the Characters in FFVIII Apart from Other Titles?

Depression, anxiety, social awkwardness, nervousness, and often poor planning by the protagonists. These are traits of characters in other titles, but arguably never as constantly storyline affecting as they are here.

They feel like actual teenagers throughout.

The Story

Final Fantasy VIII Seifer and Squall

The game starts with a montage of images and a cut scene dedicated to all that is yet to happen, played alongside Seifer and Squall having a battle of Gunblades in which they both leave a permanent scar on each other’s face. It sets a pretty good tone. This tone is dropped for quite some time and replaced by the setting of a classroom, a nurse’s office, and a worried teacher.

Quistis comes in to scold Squall when he wakes and scolds Seifer later. They are students at Balamb Garden, one of many Gardens that train SeeD mercenaries, the teenagers you’re playing.

After some training missions, in which you learn that Quistis is as young as you even though she’s a teacher, and meet Zell and Selphie; you end up finally meeting Rinoa, the only member of the final group who is not part of SeeD.

Rinoa is not the most forward thinker in the world and tries to rush your team through a rebellion she has poorly planned. Oh, also, you have a flashback in which you play the characters of Laguna, Ward, and Kiros. You have quite a few of these as the game goes on. Laguna is a bit more similar to some of the usual plucky heroes. Initially, you don’t know why this is happening, but you will.

The story evolves over a series of choices that lead you to The Sorceress. At this time, Edea. She sways Seifer to her side, and the larger story begins.

The Headmaster contacts another school of SeeD recruits, and you are sent on a mission to help one of their students. The mission? To assassinate the Sorceress. This is where you finally meet Irvine, the final kid on the team. Irvine is a marksman, supposedly, but he can’t take the shot. At first, this plot point seems annoying as well…and yet, it pays off.

Because of Irvine’s failure, you have to make a direct assault. Rinoa though is trying to end The Sorceress’s control over her father alone during this time. She is captured, and Squall and the team have to save her. Why is she captured, though? She fits all the conditions to be the next Sorceress.

It turns out The Sorceress, who you will come to know is called Ultimecia, takes over hosts throughout time to ensure her immortality and domination of time. Edea, the current Sorceress, is just a host.

Final Fantasy VIII Ultimecia

Rinoa does rejoin the team, free of the Sorceress’s control, and you escape. The rest of the game is now these six teens working towards ending the plans of Ultimecia and stopping the eventual future from becoming an endless time loop.

The flashbacks with Laguna and the heart-wrenching moment when he visits an old grave of the woman who gave him a second chance at love and a child he never got to meet, is a powerful moment. In a way, it’s a lesson for Squall and the love that blossoms between him and Rinoa. A love that is so very hard for Squall to admit is real, to embrace, to react upon openly.

When Squall does admit his feelings, it’s earned. So very earned, that I have played the game more than once just to sit and watch all of the final sequences.

Related read: Comprehensive Ultimecia Guide.

The Gameplay

World Movement

Boko the cute little Chocobo

You more or less walk as Squall, and whatever teammates you have joined you in this monotonous journey of arrow keys or directional buttons. You can talk to characters when in cities and buildings. You can search desks and computers to read about the history of the world and learn more of the tale than the cutscenes do fail to tell you.

There is a lot of reading in this game, but much of what is happening is left to be discovered. Perhaps in hopes for replay value, the developers hid a lot of knowledge that explains why certain things are transpiring throughout the maps you can explore. I do suggest exploring, for this reason, there isn’t much in the way of items to find.

When you aren’t in a city or location, and on the world map, you can walk. Random fights occur now and then, but you can RENT A CAR! Yeah, it’s kind of interesting like that. You can also ride a Chocobo. Eventually, there is a Chocobo side quest that gives you two new GFs. They used to connect to a game called Chocobo World, but that game is no longer needed to use the GFs obtained.

The entire SeeD school turns into a flying location, and eventually, the whole map opens up to you. Explore it as well for some new monster fights and certain items used to evolve your weapons into their ultimate forms. You can also find hidden Guardian Forces if you look around enough.

Also, you can access the In-Game Menu.

In-Game Menu

This is a pretty standard feature of most FF titles. You can save or load from here. If on the World Map you can save at any time, BUT if you are in a city or location, you must find a “save point.” You can check your items here and your character’s stats. There is no equipment to check here, but you can go over Guardian Forces(GFs).

You can exchange party members and magic between characters through this menu. You can also access the very important Junction Menu.


The most important thing to learn to win this game is how to junction. Select this choice in the menu, choose a GF to attach to one of your characters, and now all the skills that GF has been learning are available to them.

Drawing magic from monsters and ‘Draw’ points on the world map can give you more magic. When magic, like fire, reaches 100, it adds the greatest boost it possibly can to your character’s stats. So stock up on magic often.

This is the only way to make your characters viable in the late game; it is a must learn. You need to draw a lot to make the most use of the junction system.

Draw System

Draw System

You can find spots on the world map and the smaller maps where you can Draw magic from. You must have the ability, “Draw,” set on your character to do so. This is the ONLY way to get magic, and without magic, you cannot win this game.

You can also Draw magic from enemies. Here’s a tip: Draw 100 of each magic you can when you are Squall and Quistis in the early game to make the start of everything a breeze and before you go to get Ifrit so you can manage it in ten minutes for something special.


Combat in FFVIII uses the AT system. A bar under each character’s HP fills up; once full, they can take action. Their speed decides how fast it fills up. Actions can be set in the junction screen. Attack, Item, Magic, GF, and Draw are the first four received when you junction your first Guardian Forces.

Later you can turn monsters into Cards, steal, and you will also get to use Limit Breaks. These are unique to each character.


Limit breaks can be used when the characters are in critical health by pressing right where the attack action is. They are powerful attacks unique only to the character using them.

  • Squall: Renzokuken

Each Sword upgrade of Squalls unlocks a more deadly array of slashes by the hero and his gunblade. Hit the trigger button (G on keyboard) at each slash to do extra damage with the bullets in that unique gunblade of his.

  • Rinoa: Angelo/Angel Wings

Angel Wings is a random super OP form Rinoa takes where she goes berserk and channels the Sorceress powers into magic assaults. It’s kind of cool. However, Angelo, the seventh member of the group, really, her trusty dog.

If you search the maps, you’ll find Pet Magazine issues. Each one you find unlocks a new combo move with Rinoa and Angelo that are all generally pretty fun, damage multiple enemies, and sometimes heals allies.

  • Quistis: Blue Magic

Collecting items can teach Quistis how to do new special attacks in her Blue Magic Limit skill list. So, make sure to keep an eye for items that say, “Quistis can learn…”

  • Zell: Duel

Zell is the brawler. Hitting the right combo as it comes up will unlock another choice, and he will pummel the enemy per your choices. There are quite a few variations that lead to him doing some serious damage. Experiment with different combos for the best results.

  • Selphie: Slot

Selphie does a random powerhouse of a skill when she is in critical condition. Wall, protecting allies from a lot of damage. Full Cure. At a high enough level, she does a skill randomly called: The End. It may be the most powerful skill in any FF game, as it can one hit a Boss. Just a heads up.

  • Irvine: Shot

The easiest of the skills. Press the trigger button and shoot a bunch of whatever ammo you have selected into those annoying enemies. The better ammo you can refine, the more damage this will do.


The monsters are a unique array of new designs and old favorites. The Bomb, for instance, makes a comeback.

They do level up with you, and their magic and power increase. So make sure to always Draw on a monster even if you’ve fought them before.

If something is very big and sort of looming, save the game and get ready for a more difficult fight than usual before you go and talk to whatever thing that is. It’s probably a boss waiting for you to activate it.

Every monster is also a card in a game, within the game?

Triple Triad

FFVIII Triple Triad

A side game in FFVIII is the card game called Triple Triad. By using the alternate talk option while walking around, some NPCs will ask if you want to play cards.

It’s a test of wits pitting monster cards with powered numbers on four sides of the card. It’s played on a 3×3 board. When you place a monster card, if it has a higher number than an enemies monster adjacent to it, it will flip that card to your color. Your enemy color is red; your color is blue. Then your enemy plays a card and so on. Who has the most is the winner.

You can turn any monster you fight into a card if you unlock the GF ability, Card. Except for bosses, those are mostly rare cards you have to win by playing cards. You can win your character cards as well!

It is an extra part of the game and adds nothing to the story, but it is a nice side quest for collectors.

Guardian Forces (GFs)

Guardian Forces

Throughout gameplay, I talked about the GFs and how they are needed to make your party playable. Let me break this down a bit more.

After each battle, you gain experience(XP).

Quipped get this, too. They level up and do more damage, and have more HP(hit points). Aside from XP, you get something called AP. This goes to your GF’s skills.

In the game menu, when you select GF and click on them, you can browse their skills. You can choose which one they learn next. The AP in battel goes to learning this skill. If you choose to learn Magic +20% for instance, and Shiva learns this, whoever you junction Shiva onto will have 20% more magic.

The GFs also learn skills and abilities. Once you learn these, you can give them to any character they are attached to.

They learn something called item refine, and one even learns how to refine from cards.

Refining in the game lets you turn an item or card into magic. This is the only way to get magic aside from Draw. It can be used to get some high-level magic early on, or some rare magic in the late game.

There are many secret GFs to find (22 total, only 16 juntionable), hidden spots of additional stories, and even some hidden bosses to add an extra challenge.


The music of this is much of the classical flare of the FF series, with one new addition. It has a theme song; which touches on the unspoken love that the narrative intends to carry throughout. Much like it’s predecessors and the games that would follow this one, Nobuo Uematsu would largely be credited for the musical score. 

“Eyes on Me” is the main theme song, and it is a charming piece of music. Nobuo Uematsu ladies and gents! 


Question: Where Can I Play FFVIII?

Answer: It is available on PC, via Steam. It is also available on the Nintendo Switch. The game is not available on Xbox One or Xbox Game Pass.

Question: What is a Gunblade?

Answer: Pretty much exactly what it says. A gun with a sword on it. Did you know this was a real weapon!

Question: Is FFVIII Easy?

Answer: It is either incredibly easy or overly difficult. If you take the time to use some of the Draw tricks I hint at throughout, the game is a breeze and you can enjoy searching and collecting whatever rare treasures or GF’s it has to offer.

If you have trouble with the Junction and Draw systems, the game can be very hard.

Question: Why is Final Fantasy 8 Hated?

Answer: It’s usually because of that very Junction and Draw system. For some, it seems to be the way the plot is forced forward by dumb decisions rather than actual problems. Gamer’s can still be found taking issue with the lead character for being full of angst and not speaking up or making the right call for so much of the game.

Seifer garners a bit of hate for making some very questionable character choices and being stronger in cut scenes than the story gives him any right to be.
For some fans of the series, these things felt like bad writing.

Question: Why is Final Fantasy 8 loved?

Answer: For others, there is an earnest realism given to the characters as presented. Their bad choices and child-like approach are endearing instead of off-putting. The combat system once learned is easy to navigate, so players can focus more on the story and there are plenty of Easter Eggs hidden about the well-detailed world.

Many players understand the lead character almost instantly, they are him; every day of their life. Final Fantasy VIII makes a hero out of the social outcast in many schools, and that means a great deal to those individuals.

Question: Is Final Fantasy 8 a sequel?

Answer: No, there are no titles connected to it. Though some of the characters will re-appear in the Dissidia games and the Kingdom Hearts series.

Question: What Games are Similar to Final Fantasy VIII?

Answer: Final Fantasy X has some similar themes, in regards to the romance focus at least.
• Parasite Eve uses a lot of similar art styles.
• Shadow Hearts is a trilogy of games that has a similar lead character.
Final Fantasy IX also uses the card game function, but aside from being a turn-based JRPG style game, it’s very different than FFVIII.
• Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross also play with the concepts of time as the main parts of their plot structure.

Question: Any More Tips?

Answer: I would always leave a few for you.
• Draw from EVERY boss. Some have hidden GF’s others have some of the most powerful magic.
• Explore the Deep Sea Research for the strongest summon
• Look everywhere for those pet magazines! No stone unturned.
• Focus on giving Quistis more magic because it benefits her limit break. Just as Strength will benefit Squall’s and Zell’s.
• Use a Phoenix Pinion when you get it. It unlocks a Phoenix Summon which may sometimes show up and randomly to revive your whole party once defeated.
• The kid running around in the first Garden has the Mog Card With that and the Ifrit card you can get a winning streak in the card game early on.

Question: Is Laguna Squalls’ father?

Answer: Oh, wow. You saved the best question for last. I mean, it certainly hints at it. It never outright says it though. I believe so, but I suggest playing it and deciding what you think afterward.

What Other Games in the Final Fantasy Series are Worth Playing?

Answer: We would say that every Final Fantasy game has its merits. Even the lesser entries like Final Fantasy XIII has some great features to offer new players. However, if forced to just select the cream of the crop, here are the ones in the Final Fantasy series that we would recommend:

– Final Fantasy II
– Final Fantasy IV
– Final Fantasy VI
– Final Fantasy VII
– Final Fantasy VIII remastered
– Final Fantasy X
– Final Fantasy XII
– Final Fantasy XV
– Final Fantasy VII Remake
– Final Fantasy Tactics

To Summarize

Final Fantasy VIII is quite different than the titles in the series before it and after. In more ways than not. It takes many risks and tries new things that are not well received by all but ultimately lead, in my opinion, to a very solid JRPG title.

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