TOKYO - To no one's surprise some of the biggest crowds of the show were at Square, mostly to see more of its next uber-RPG, Final Fantasy VIII. Two giant video walls flanking the booth displayed previously unseen video from the game, and their effect was easy to notice. Mouths gaped open and passers-by stopped dead in their tracks, mesmerized by some of the best CG ever, far surpassing even the amazing cutscenes from FFVII. Gamers eager for more (that would be us) waited in line and were ushered to a row of PlayStations for 15 minutes with the game, starting where the demo released earlier this summer in Japan left off.
Most of the new info revealed in the latest version of Final Fantasy VIII focused on modifications to the game and combat systems. Replacing the materia system from FFVII is the "junction system"; this new system allows party members to "junction" items such as armor and weapons with magic or Guardian Force (summoning) spells, lending them different effects (like water, fire, or thunder powers). Characters can gain over 100 different abilities, split into six categories: junction, command, character, party, Guardian Force, and menu abilities. Examples of abilities you can learn are counterattack, combining items, and decreasing monster encounter rates. The updated Shiva Guardian Force and a new dungeon were also featured in the latest version of the game containing a mountain cave filled with churning lava the players must complete as part of their training at the Garden academy. Joining Squall for the journey was a new character, his whip-totting teacher Kistis Tulip.
On display in another part of Square's booth, but with no explanation, was Final Fantasy VIII's minigame for Sony's PocketStation PDA, a Tamagotchi-style game where you take care of your very own chocobo. Expect more details on this as we get closer to the PocketStation's release this December.