Just know this, Final Fantasy VIII is a game truly of its own class.
First of all, Final Fantasy VIII has a more mature setting than any other FF game before it. It has more matured looking characters, more of a matured world and more of a matured setting and abit more serious tone on the story. The game's main protagonist is Squall Leonhart, who is a 17-year-old student at the military academy called Balamb Garden and is training to become a SeeD, a mercenary that is paid by the military. The other characters are Rinoa Hartilly, Irvine Kennieas, Quistis Treppe, Selphie Tilmit and Zell Dincht. The characters may not be as memorable as other characters in other FF games but they are still very well thought of. The story is about a sorceress named Edea and she is controlling the war for her own reasons and Squall and his team are to go and restore peace to their world. There is also another antagonist and his name is Seifer. Now there is more to the stroy but I won't go into detail because there are some very interesting twists that happen in this game and surprises. The story is very good and it draws you in and sometimes takez you out. Sometimes you will be so interested but sometimes things get abit boring and out of place. Still the story is very engaging and very nice.
The graphics are maybe the highlight of the whole game. They are very beautiful. I know graphics don't really matter but still, you can't help but say they are gorgeous. The opening CG Cutscene in the beginning of the game is brilliant, Squall and Seifer fighting is maybe one of my favourite cutscenes ever although it could have been nice if at least in the cutscenes there could've been some voice-acting, it feels like a silent movie. The graphics in my opinion are a great improvement over FF VII's own.
The world itself is huge and very linear and it is very enjoyable to walk around the World Map by either foot, Chocobo, train or by an airship. My favourite way of travelling like in all FF games is by Chococbo, and it is very fun actually. There is not only the World Map but there is also the field map which is a pre-rendered background where your 3D characers walk around, like in cities, towns, forests, streets and other places. Then there is the battle screen where the location of the place you are in will be taken but it will be in full 3D, like if you are in forest which is in 2D and you go into battle, it will turn to 3D with your characters and your enemy being in 3D also. Sometimes you feel that the game isn't moving on or things start getting slow and yes this does happen, but then at one point things start getting interesting again.
Then we come to the gameplay. This is the aspect of the game I wouldn't want to discuss about but I have to, the gameplay just doesn't work so well in my opinion in the beginning. You may be very confused in the beginning and may not understand how to junction but after some time you should get used to it. There are commands such as Attack, which is a normal attack, Draw, instead of MP (Magic Points) you draw them out from your enemy so that you can use spells or stock them and use them with your Magic command. Then there is the GF command (Guardian Forces) and when you assign it on a character the character can use battle commands beyond attack with their weapon like Magic, GF to summon assigned monsters and for it to attack and also Item. You laso learn new commands as the game goes on from GFs and another thing, the Limit Breaks are great in this game. I really love Renzokuken which consists of numerous hits by Squall with his gunblade and then a finishing move, Rough Divide or Fated Circle or Blasting Zone or even the mighty Lion Heart. It is the best Limit Breeak in any FF game yet. Also, in most other RPGs where you have to get Experience Points to get to the next level but to get to the next level the Experience points you have to get keep on increasing and start getting harder to be able to level up (e.g. Level 2 is 200 Experience Points but Level 3 is 400 Experience Points) but in Final Fantasy VIII once you get to 1000 Experience Points you level up, always, so it is abit too easy to level up, but the good thing is enemies are always at the same level as you, where ever you are, whether you go back to the beginnng or you are near the end, they are always at the same level and this is what keeps the game at a balance of normal difficuly. The gameplay is good and very nice when you get used to it but during the first few hours of the game you may be very confused on what to do and stuff and juctioning may be a problem but all in all the gameplay is nice and it was a bold step made by SquareSoft (now SquareEnix). There is still more to explain but I'll just leave it at that because it might confuse some people.
The are also many side-quests and mini-games to do, like there is a card game called Triple Triad and this is fun. The side-quests are fun and sometimes even better than some of the main missions in the game.
The music on the other hand is very catchy and memorable. The Final Fantasy series is known for its superb music scores and this is another one of them. Nobuo Uematsu and his team did it again with this game, they should get an award for their fantastic music scores.
Final Fantasy VIII is a brilliant game and although the gameplay may not catch on fast once you do you will enjoy the game more and the game itself, storywise, gameplaywise, audiowise, characterwise, you name it, the game shines if you just give it some time. It may not be the best FF game but it surely is one of the greatest FFs and RPGs and even games ever. Just know this, Final Fantasy VIII is a game truly of its own class.