Beating the Final Fantasy VIII Demo

We've made our way through Square's Final Fantasy VIII demo and lived to tell the tale - as well as provide shots and video.

It's more than likely that gamers who recently purchased Square's comical action-adventure game Brave Fencer Musashiden were equally interested in the included Final Fantasy VIII demo, if not more so. After all, Final Fantasy VIII is unquestionably one of the most highly anticipated PlayStation games ever. And if anything, the Final Fantasy VIII demo proves that the game will indeed be a worthy follow-up to its highly acclaimed predecessor.

The demo introduces four of the major roles in the tale. Squall Leonhart is the hero of the story, a cool customer armed with a gun-sword hybrid appropriately dubbed a Gunblade. His companion is Zell Dincht, an energetic boxer who looks a bit like Final Fantasy VII's Cloud fresh out of a dance club. The soft-spoken Rinoa Heartilly, a well-dressed young lady with a wicked wrist-mounted blade thrower, has the most potent magic of the bunch. Though he's not a member of Squall's party, a man called Seifer Almasy also makes an appearance. Hot-tempered, clad in a white overcoat, and armed with a Gunblade not unlike Squall's, the distinguished Seifer looks to be a key player in the grand scheme of things.

The demo lasts a bit over a half an hour and details Squall's battle through a war-torn, nearly deserted city up to a communications tower and back to his warship. Along the way, you'll witness the tension between Seifer and him, fight a couple of bumbling enemy soldiers, vanquish a fearsome demon, and flee from a huge mechanical spider in a breathtaking finale. The game looks far superior to Final Fantasy VII, not just technologically but stylistically as well. Gone is Final Fantasy VII's inappropriate and inconsistent cuteness; now every character is realistically proportioned both during and outside combat. In another authentic touch, the entire party is shown onscreen at all times, as opposed to previous games in the series where just the leader represented the entire party outside of combat.

The animation in the game is nothing short of spectacular. Gone are the stiff, unrealistic movements of Final Fantasy VII; Seifer angrily kicks at a small dog that takes a liking to him; Zell clutches his fists in rage; and Squall coolly turns his back after defeating his enemies. And speaking of enemies, they no longer simply vanish when defeated, but collapse in appropriate death throes. Meanwhile, the camerawork is even more impressive than before. Several smoothly edited shots of the battlefield introduce each fight, and after you win, the camera tends to highlight the character who scored the decisive blow.

Final Fantasy VIII's production values are unprecedented. From the seamless integration of polygons and prerendered full-motion video to the amazing detail in the texture mapping and camera angles to the breathtaking musical score, Final Fantasy VIII feels more like a big budget science fiction film than a game. If there's anything disappointing about the demo, it's that the game still plays much like Final Fantasy VII, complete with random encounters most every step of the way and little or no interaction during dialogue. But such elements are conventional to the series, so between its incredible graphics and its consistently serious tone, there is no question that fans will be more than impressed with Final Fantasy VIII.

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