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Game Review: Final Fantasy VIII (PSX)

 

08-28-16 11:54 AM
janus is Offline
| ID: 1298120 | 1305 Words

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6kAwpgW29M

September 9, 1999. While grown-ups were too busy panicking over the first “computercalypse” before Y2K (9/ 9 / 99), gamers like me were eager for Squaresoft’s next title: Final Fantasy VIII. To this day it is still my all-time favorite game. The contrast with Final Fantasy VII’s graphics was like comparing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Finding Dory. Equally contrasting was the music, which sounded very realistic.

And that’s the understatement of the century. Just take Bombing Mission and Liberi Fatali (both intro songs from VII and VIII) for example. The former was good and upbeat, but the latter is absolutely EPIC! FF VIII is the only game I bought on its release date, and I had never as much as watched the game’s trailer before buying it. Needless to say that I was completely blown away by the realism of the movie and the music, which had the most realistic arrangements I had heard up to that day. The strings, the timbales and even the voices… that was the perfect way to start a game! And the music is in almost perfect synch with the Squall / Seifer gunblade battle. In fact the in-game version is so good that the live version barely sounds different.

And the realism just keeps getting better through the game. Don’t Be Afraid (the battle theme) also departs from the classic theme but in a much better manner than FF VII. The violin arrangements are perfect while the trumpets, even though they sound more realistic than in previous games, have just the perfect pitch. The drums and cymbals complete the loop with the perfect tempo and bursts of emotions. There is even a full-fledge waltz, Waltz for the Moon, which you hear once you get your SeeD promotion. Of course, it doesn’t compare to Blue Danube but it is the best video game waltz until the orchestration of Final Fantasy V’s Waltz Clavier.

There is even a full-fledged song, Eyes on Me, sung in English by Hong Kong native Faye Wong. It might not win any awards, but it was a perfect fit for when you first heard it – Squall is in the spaceship with Riona and he’s having a hard time hiding his feelings for her. The arrangements and voice are even better in the second part of the ending movie, when we see Balamb Garden floating around and some of the characters.

I just talk of the “perfect fit” for Eyes on Me. Uematsu proved once more that he is a master composer by having tons of such “appropriate” tracks. Find Your Way (a dungeon track) is slow and mysterious, mixing strings and even harp to create the perfect “exploration” environment. The Spy (when infiltrating the missile base) has very heavy bass mixed with a jazzy muted trumpet and slow drum, which makes for the perfect infiltration theme. Silence and Motion (Esthar’s theme), while more synthesized is still perfect for that postmodern city. The last part of the loop reminds me of the hyperloop, where you can move very quickly from one end of the city to the other. And The Castle (final dungeon theme) is one of the best such themes ever composed. It uses very realistic church organ arrangements (à la Fugue in D Minor) in the first part while incorporating harpsichord in the second part. The most “anguishing” themes before this one were found in Diablo.

Many tracks, while they “only” have one instrument in them, are still perfect. Breezy (Balamb City’s theme) has soothing guitar arrangements that are excellent for a small coastal city. Julia is probably the most realistic one. While a mere playing of Eyes on Me on the piano, the arrangements REALLY sound like they were done on a real piano; it doesn’t even loop. But however “unrealistic” other piano tracks are, they are still enjoyable. Ami is very joyful, showing Squall’s happiness to be reunited with his friends who infiltrated the missile base. Slide Show (parts 1 and 2) were an absolute piano delight, especially in combination with in-game action – Laguna plays in a 1920-style movie. Part 1 even has the antique camera rolling! In part 2, when Laguna fights the red dragon, the music is much more upbeat, perfect for the silly fights Hollywood movies were portraying at that time. Slight deception: the Successor seemed a little out of place. The track is good in itself, slow and relaxing, but it seemed a little anticlimactic to see sorceresses exchange their powers with such a slow theme.


Speaking of which, the soundtrack was not perfect and had a few deceptions. Residents (when fighting the paired monsters inside the ship), for example, is too heavily synthesized to be enjoyable. It almost like cheap 1980s music cut with a few string arrangements. Force Your Way (the boss battle theme) still incorporates annoying synth arrangements Uematsu has been using since Final Fantasy VI. Even though you don’t hear them all through the track, this battle does not sound optimal – in my view Final Fantasy IX did it better. Also, even though it sounded great in Liberi Fatali, the constant using of “Fithos Lusec Wicos Vinosec” gets annoying in the end. We get it, it’s related to the Sorceress; couldn’t you use something else? Finally, Compression of Time just sounds too artificial too to be enjoyable. Mind you, it’s “lighter” than Residents, but in addition the track itself doesn’t feel like you have compressed time and that all eras are now linked together. It sounds more like you’re at the entrance of a haunted forest.

OK, enough ranting. Let’s go back to the positive I had missed previously. Shuffle or Boogie (when playing Triple Triad) is one of the best sidequest tracks ever. You really feel like you are in a high-stake tournament with the excellent bass arrangements and even hand clapping. Mods the Chocobo is probably the most unusual such theme ever composed; it seems to be taken directly from the 1960s with its tambourine and psychedelic arrangements! I love it nonetheless; it can lift up your mood if your feel a little down. The Man with the Machine Gun (Laguna’s battle theme) is much more upbeat than the regular battle theme thanks to its synthesized arrangements and excellent drums. In fact it sounds superior to any orchestration I have heard so far; their tempo is too slow to match the original track.

Finally, still about battle themes, the final battle tracks are all excellent for the moment. It starts a little quieter with Premonition (the “major boss” battle theme) that sounds more upbeat and dramatic than Force Your Way, but also more realistic with its strings and drums and trumpets that play at the right level. The Legendary Beast starts on with a very dramatic violin intro, showing all the strength of Griever’s Shockwave Pulsar. It then becomes quieter with flute arrangements before become more dramatic again with violin arrangements. The next part, Maybe I’m a Lion, was synthesized a little more but also features electric guitar and bells that adds the right “final boss” touch. I especially like the second part of the loop with the upbeat drums that heighten the drama. Finally, The Extreme is a peculiar “real” final boss fight. It starts very slowly, with piano and guitar arrangements (the latter being Breezy played backwards), perfect for the Sorceress’ speech about the world coming to an end. Then it bursts loudly, mixing synth arrangements with upbeat piano and strings that are perfect for the final part of the final battle.

In short not having Final Fantasy VIII in your soundtrack collection is a sin. Even to this day it boasts some of the best arrangements even made for video games. It shows that Nobuo Uematsu IS the master of video game music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6kAwpgW29M

September 9, 1999. While grown-ups were too busy panicking over the first “computercalypse” before Y2K (9/ 9 / 99), gamers like me were eager for Squaresoft’s next title: Final Fantasy VIII. To this day it is still my all-time favorite game. The contrast with Final Fantasy VII’s graphics was like comparing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Finding Dory. Equally contrasting was the music, which sounded very realistic.

And that’s the understatement of the century. Just take Bombing Mission and Liberi Fatali (both intro songs from VII and VIII) for example. The former was good and upbeat, but the latter is absolutely EPIC! FF VIII is the only game I bought on its release date, and I had never as much as watched the game’s trailer before buying it. Needless to say that I was completely blown away by the realism of the movie and the music, which had the most realistic arrangements I had heard up to that day. The strings, the timbales and even the voices… that was the perfect way to start a game! And the music is in almost perfect synch with the Squall / Seifer gunblade battle. In fact the in-game version is so good that the live version barely sounds different.

And the realism just keeps getting better through the game. Don’t Be Afraid (the battle theme) also departs from the classic theme but in a much better manner than FF VII. The violin arrangements are perfect while the trumpets, even though they sound more realistic than in previous games, have just the perfect pitch. The drums and cymbals complete the loop with the perfect tempo and bursts of emotions. There is even a full-fledge waltz, Waltz for the Moon, which you hear once you get your SeeD promotion. Of course, it doesn’t compare to Blue Danube but it is the best video game waltz until the orchestration of Final Fantasy V’s Waltz Clavier.

There is even a full-fledged song, Eyes on Me, sung in English by Hong Kong native Faye Wong. It might not win any awards, but it was a perfect fit for when you first heard it – Squall is in the spaceship with Riona and he’s having a hard time hiding his feelings for her. The arrangements and voice are even better in the second part of the ending movie, when we see Balamb Garden floating around and some of the characters.

I just talk of the “perfect fit” for Eyes on Me. Uematsu proved once more that he is a master composer by having tons of such “appropriate” tracks. Find Your Way (a dungeon track) is slow and mysterious, mixing strings and even harp to create the perfect “exploration” environment. The Spy (when infiltrating the missile base) has very heavy bass mixed with a jazzy muted trumpet and slow drum, which makes for the perfect infiltration theme. Silence and Motion (Esthar’s theme), while more synthesized is still perfect for that postmodern city. The last part of the loop reminds me of the hyperloop, where you can move very quickly from one end of the city to the other. And The Castle (final dungeon theme) is one of the best such themes ever composed. It uses very realistic church organ arrangements (à la Fugue in D Minor) in the first part while incorporating harpsichord in the second part. The most “anguishing” themes before this one were found in Diablo.

Many tracks, while they “only” have one instrument in them, are still perfect. Breezy (Balamb City’s theme) has soothing guitar arrangements that are excellent for a small coastal city. Julia is probably the most realistic one. While a mere playing of Eyes on Me on the piano, the arrangements REALLY sound like they were done on a real piano; it doesn’t even loop. But however “unrealistic” other piano tracks are, they are still enjoyable. Ami is very joyful, showing Squall’s happiness to be reunited with his friends who infiltrated the missile base. Slide Show (parts 1 and 2) were an absolute piano delight, especially in combination with in-game action – Laguna plays in a 1920-style movie. Part 1 even has the antique camera rolling! In part 2, when Laguna fights the red dragon, the music is much more upbeat, perfect for the silly fights Hollywood movies were portraying at that time. Slight deception: the Successor seemed a little out of place. The track is good in itself, slow and relaxing, but it seemed a little anticlimactic to see sorceresses exchange their powers with such a slow theme.


Speaking of which, the soundtrack was not perfect and had a few deceptions. Residents (when fighting the paired monsters inside the ship), for example, is too heavily synthesized to be enjoyable. It almost like cheap 1980s music cut with a few string arrangements. Force Your Way (the boss battle theme) still incorporates annoying synth arrangements Uematsu has been using since Final Fantasy VI. Even though you don’t hear them all through the track, this battle does not sound optimal – in my view Final Fantasy IX did it better. Also, even though it sounded great in Liberi Fatali, the constant using of “Fithos Lusec Wicos Vinosec” gets annoying in the end. We get it, it’s related to the Sorceress; couldn’t you use something else? Finally, Compression of Time just sounds too artificial too to be enjoyable. Mind you, it’s “lighter” than Residents, but in addition the track itself doesn’t feel like you have compressed time and that all eras are now linked together. It sounds more like you’re at the entrance of a haunted forest.

OK, enough ranting. Let’s go back to the positive I had missed previously. Shuffle or Boogie (when playing Triple Triad) is one of the best sidequest tracks ever. You really feel like you are in a high-stake tournament with the excellent bass arrangements and even hand clapping. Mods the Chocobo is probably the most unusual such theme ever composed; it seems to be taken directly from the 1960s with its tambourine and psychedelic arrangements! I love it nonetheless; it can lift up your mood if your feel a little down. The Man with the Machine Gun (Laguna’s battle theme) is much more upbeat than the regular battle theme thanks to its synthesized arrangements and excellent drums. In fact it sounds superior to any orchestration I have heard so far; their tempo is too slow to match the original track.

Finally, still about battle themes, the final battle tracks are all excellent for the moment. It starts a little quieter with Premonition (the “major boss” battle theme) that sounds more upbeat and dramatic than Force Your Way, but also more realistic with its strings and drums and trumpets that play at the right level. The Legendary Beast starts on with a very dramatic violin intro, showing all the strength of Griever’s Shockwave Pulsar. It then becomes quieter with flute arrangements before become more dramatic again with violin arrangements. The next part, Maybe I’m a Lion, was synthesized a little more but also features electric guitar and bells that adds the right “final boss” touch. I especially like the second part of the loop with the upbeat drums that heighten the drama. Finally, The Extreme is a peculiar “real” final boss fight. It starts very slowly, with piano and guitar arrangements (the latter being Breezy played backwards), perfect for the Sorceress’ speech about the world coming to an end. Then it bursts loudly, mixing synth arrangements with upbeat piano and strings that are perfect for the final part of the final battle.

In short not having Final Fantasy VIII in your soundtrack collection is a sin. Even to this day it boasts some of the best arrangements even made for video games. It shows that Nobuo Uematsu IS the master of video game music.

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08-28-16 12:16 PM
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Everytime I click on one of these threads, I think it's in the game review forum.

Kind of annoying imo, it'd be better if you made the thread: FInal Fantasy VIII soundtrack review. 


Other then that great job on describing the track.
Everytime I click on one of these threads, I think it's in the game review forum.

Kind of annoying imo, it'd be better if you made the thread: FInal Fantasy VIII soundtrack review. 


Other then that great job on describing the track.
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08-28-16 12:18 PM
janus is Offline
| ID: 1298128 | 20 Words

janus
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It's kind of obvious considering the forum where it's at. But I will think about it for the succeeding ones.
It's kind of obvious considering the forum where it's at. But I will think about it for the succeeding ones.
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