The Final Fantasy franchise has been on everyone’s minds lately with the announcement of the FFVII remake and many of the other entries getting a rerelease on modern consoles like the Switch. Fans were dismayed that Final Fantasy VIII wasn’t on the list of rereleases, but Square Enix surprised everyone by announcing that a HD remaster was coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch! How did this remaster fare, however? Unfortunately, it is a bit of a mixed bag…
First off, this isn’t going to be a review of the game itself, just the remastered features. While FFVIII isn’t one of my favorite entries, I was intrigued by the chance to replay a game I hadn’t since I was 18 back in 1999. That being said, this version didn’t change my opinion of the game for the better; but for those who love it, I don’t think it will affect their enjoyment of it either.
The most noticeable upgrade are the high-res character models which look fantastic. Each character (as well as the enemies) has been given an overhaul and you can see all the detail in their faces and clothes. That alone will probably be a selling point for most people. The upgrade is only on the surface though as the animation for the characters is still limited to the original PlayStation game so you have these high-res models that movie stiffly and janky. The attacks and spell effects have also been spruced up which makes the battles much more exciting to watch.
The prerendered backgrounds don’t fare as well, either, as they are still low resolution and have had a smoothing filter applied over them that makes them blurry and muddy looking. The game hasn’t been enhanced for widescreen and still runs close to a 4:3 aspect ratio, with no options to turn on any borders. The contrast between the HD characters and the low-res backgrounds is jarring, to say the least. When one is traversing the over world the low polygon count of the environments is painfully obvious. All of the text boxes have been upgraded though, and they are easy to read now. On a good note, the FMV scenes look excellent as they aren’t compressed to fit on a PS1 disc anymore.
For whatever reason they decided to remove analog control and rumble support and it can be a chore to control your characters. It’s hard to line them up on NPCs to talk to them and just trying to walk around in towns and dungeons can get frustrating. There are a several features added to help out players: you can turn off random encounters, make the game run three times faster, and have your HP remain full at all times during battles.
Overall, if one is a fan of this game, it’s not a bad idea to pick up this remastered version if you just want functional visual upgrade or to play it on-the-go. They could have done a lot more with it, but I do acknowledge that Square Enix losing the original assets for the game surely made their job harder. At least at twenty bucks, playing FFVIII again — or for the first time — isn’t exactly breaking the bank. 3/5 Bibles.