FF8 Remastered is still one of the best Final Fantasy games ever made. Time may be cruel, but it apparently has a soft spot for Squall. Anyone looking for a good JRPG experience - classic or modern - will find something to love in FF8 Remastered.
Final Fantasy 8 Remastered has been long overdue for some modern polish, existing between two games in FF7 and FF9 that have received the same treatment many different times over the years on several different platforms. For those unfamiliar with FF8, it's quite possibly the most criminally overlooked Final Fantasy game in the franchise's history. FF8 was criticized by some fans for consisting of a much weaker cast than its predecessor, with a complicated story that plays on memory loss also clouding people's judgment of the narrative and the title as a whole.
FF8 Remastered doesn't do anything to address those concerns, but it never needed to. FF8 is a game that has only improved with age, possessing some fundamental qualities that place it high on the list of best entries in the series on its worst day - and FF8 Remastered on Nintendo Switch is certainly not that. 20 years removed from the game's original release, it's easier now to appreciate the complexities that led to so many of the complaints that swirled around its release. With improved graphics, wonderful quality of life add-ons, and a core story that even now remains one of the most interesting and unique offerings that Final Fantasy has ever had the courage of telling, FF8 Remastered is a can't-miss JRPG re-release on Switch that should vaunt the title into a long-deserved spotlight - just a few decades later than intended.
While FF7 Remake is getting a lot of love with a release in 2020 on the horizon, FF8 Remastered tells a much more ambitious story. Following Squall Leonhart as he graduates from student to mercenary soldier at just 17, FF8 Remastered tackles some complicated stories that still hold a lot of weight 20 years later. In fact, they feel even more biting now - a new generation of children inheriting their parents' wars and problems, corrupt political figures with too much power, and even our relationships with memory and the past are all elements that hit hard in today's social climate. Perhaps now it will be easier to understand why Squall was perceived as so broody when the game first released.
That characterization is also a lazy one, fueled by those who may not have played FF8 to completion. Squall (and many of his compatriots) have fascinating back stories and personalities that progress in unexpected ways as the game hurtles towards some of its grander twists. Even in the beginning of FF8 Remastered, when Squall is at his most misunderstood, the many years spent apart from his struggle have only made him easier to sympathize with early on. For a game that's naysayers almost universally agree possess shallow and boring characters, Squall's story doesn't take long to become compelling. Revisiting it after several more Final Fantasy games have been released makes it all the more curious that FF8 never got the credit it definitely deserved for the way it builds out its legend. FF14 Shadowbringers has one of the best Final Fantasy stories in recent memory as a main quest scenario, but FF8 isn't far behind as an entire game.
As far as improvements to the original FF8 offering go, FF8 Remastered is a little barren. Obviously, the big selling point here is the much-improved graphics. Besides ruining a perfectly good meme, of course:
Rendering Squall as actually handsome aside, FF8 Remastered's graphics really do benefit greatly from the extra bit of polish, moreso than FF7 and FF9's more deformed character models did. The realistic look of the characters really makes the modern day sheen that much more palatable, and everything about the game benefits. FF8 Remastered's aesthetics are by far the best of the bunch of the PS1-era re-releases, and that should make it an easier title to get into for those who many have missed it the first time around but want something that at least looks decent - which, sadly, the original version can no longer claim.
FF8 Remastered also offers the same sort of quality-of-life improvements fans have come to expect from Final Fantasy ports. The game features a 3x speed function that makes grinding a breeze, although, given that enemies actually level up with characters in this game, it's not even that grindy to begin with. There are the usual cheat codes, too, keeping party member's health at maximum, having Limit Breaks always available, and having the party always ready to take another action. If a quick jaunt through an old favorite is what some players want, FF8 Remastered enables that in full, and it's the sort of thing basically every re-release in this vein - and especially this genre - should have at this point.
Other than that, though? There's not much to speak of. It's not exactly a failing of FF8 Remastered, as it's unlikely anyone really expect anything more. There's a precedent that's been set by Final Fantasy remasters and FF8 Remastered more than lives up to it. That being said, however, FF8 Remastered hasn't been given this treatment before. Whereas FF7 and FF9 can be forgiven for largely being ports of previous-gen remasters, FF8 doesn't have the same excuse. It would have been nice to see something extra for those who had waited the better part of two decades to get their hands on a new-and-improved version of an underappreciated gem.
Still, FF8 Remastered succeeds where it needs to. It doesn't tinker with any of the secret sauce that made the game so good in the first place, which is important. GFs, the junction system, Triple Triad (the greatest Final Fantasy mini-game of all-time), and everything else are just as fun in 2019 as they were in 1999. That's impressive, given how many advancements have come in the long period between the two versions. It's also not surprising, though. FF8 Remastered has long been the most cruelly underplayed Final Fantasy game of the late 90s and early 2000s, and it's found an incredible home on the Nintendo Switch.
FF8 Remastered is still one of the best Final Fantasy games ever made. Time may be cruel, but it apparently has a soft spot for Squall. Anyone looking for a good JRPG experience - classic or modern - will find something to love in FF8 Remastered, which makes it a must-play re-release that will surely entertain as much as it surprises.
FF8 Remastered is available on September 3, 2019 for Nintendo Switch, PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided a Nintendo Switch digital download code for the purposes of this review.