Final Fantasy VIII Remastered - A Beginner's Guide
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, like the original, is full of secrets and hidden facts. Check out this guide and learn to play like a pro.
One of the fun things about any old JRPGs are the little hidden secrets or tricks that garner fantastic rewards, uncover unique lore, or simply make the game easier to play. Actually slogging through countless guides or scrounging up that beat-up strategy guide for that sliver of useful information can be quite the feat.
So, I’ve put together a handy little beginner’s guide for Final Fantasy VIII Remastered that’s full of fun tidbits to enrich your own gaming experience, whether this is yet another playthrough of your favorite Final Fantasy or you decided to pick up Final Fantasy VIII for the first time. And if your interested in my own opinion of this title, might I suggest my own review of the game here?
Note: While I’ve kept them to an absolute minimum, there are a few spoilers for Final Fantasy VIII here and there. Nothing major, but just keep that in mind as you read through this guide.
Squall’s Trigger for Normal Attacks and Limit Breaks
One of the first mechanics you’re introduced to in the game is Squall’s “Trigger” feature for his Gunblade. When timed correctly, you can nearly double the damage that he inflicts on enemies. This also works during the Renzokuken phase of his Limit Break, which comes with a special gauge to time the hits with. When mastered, at the very least it’s a way to score easy bonus damage and, at the most raises, the chances of Squall using his one of his Finishing Techniques.
In the original version, it was easy to time these critical hits since the DualShock’s vibrate feature gave you an intuitive way to feel when the hit crits. With the Remastered version that rumble feature is gone, so for PS1 veterans you must essentially relearn how to time these hits. If this is your first foray into the title, you can learn the timing from the ground up: a far easier feat.
Let’s start with Squall’s normal attack. The key to hitting that critical is to pay attention to the position of his Gunblade in relation to his enemy. Squall starts the motion by running toward his enemy, then skids forward with his blade raised:
You should hit the trigger button at this point, just as the tip of the blade is at the top of the enemy. When the trigger is properly pulled, there’s an extra flame animation that indicates critical damage:
Keep practicing and the timing will become second nature.
Moving on to the Limit Break: when you activate Squall’s Renzokuken, a gauge appears at the bottom of the screen. The gauge is separated into three sections and a faded blue beam of light travels through those sections. The point is to trap that light in the second section, which nets you the critical damage. To do this, wait until the front of the blue light hits that first line:
Just as it hits that line, press the trigger button. This will turn the light yellow and essentially “trap” it into the section, signifying a critical hit:
As stated before, netting a perfect hit in this part of Squall’s Limit Break will raise the chances of him using one of his finishing moves. To get some good practice in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, enable the Battle Enhancements function and work on your timing with some random encounters.
SeeD Exam Tips (Fire Cave and Dollet Field Exam)
For years since its release, there has been a lot of conflicting information about the SeeD exam in Final Fantasy VIII and what actions do and do not affect your score. There are five main categories that determine your starting rank: Conduct, Judgment, Attack, Spirit, and Attitude. Each action you take during these two missions will affect the score on said categories.
Here’s an easy (and tested!) set of guidelines that you can follow to maximize your score and net a Rank 10 right out of class:
- Defeat Ifrit with as little time on the clock as possible. Eight seconds or less is your sweet spot for a maxed-out Judgement score.
- Do not demonstrate your Gunblade or magic to those who ask.
- Kill as many enemies as you can during the Dollet Mission. For maximum Attack score, kill at least 75.
- Never run from any battles (except for X-ATM092, and only the first time).
- Have as much time on the clock as possible after receiving the withdraw order to max out Conduct.
- Do not talk to anyone outside of your party during the mission or your Attitude score will be penalized. The mission starts the moment that Squall changes into his cadet uniform and ends once you return to Balamb Garden and Quistis dismisses you.
- Do not disobey any of Seifer’s orders or try to leave him in the town square.
- Do not use Selphie’s short-cut.
- Save the stray dog when being chased by the X-ATM092 (press the “talk” button to make it run away).
- Do not hide in the cafe when the X-ATM092 is chasing you.
- If you can, try to kill the X-ATM092, as it gives you 100 bonus exam points.
Best Early Game GF Abilities
If you want access to some rare items early, especially items that allow you to craft Squall’s Lionheart in the beginning of the game, obtain GF Diablos as soon as possible (from the Magical Lamp Headmaster Cid gives you once he debriefs your first mission) and learn its Mug ability.
The earliest enemy you can encounter in the game that gives you the most AP is Fastitocalon-F, which are found on the beach near the town of Balamb. Each one is worth 3AP and they always come in pairs, so that’s a whopping 6AP per battle. This is also a fantastic way to grind for any other useful GF abilities.
If you need to grind for more abilities later on in the game, there’s another great spot. When you enter the forest right before arriving at Galbadia Garden, hugging the cliff on the right gives you access to enemies called Grendal. Not only do they drop Dragon Fangs (necessary for Lionheart) but they also award 6AP per battle.
Some solid starting GF abilities to work on are any that allow you to Junction magic to your stats. Being able to boost them early on in the game not only means that enemies won’t give you a hard time early on, but it also makes 100 stocking magic cakewalk, even during boss battles.
It doesn’t hurt to learn the passive abilities that boost stats by a certain percentage either, especially since they become more effective the higher the Junctioned stat is. And if you like to increase Attack by a great deal and exploit enemy weaknesses, Elemental and Status Attack Junctioning can be very useful early on, as the stronger foes in early game tend to have glaring weaknesses (such as X-ATM092’s weakness to Thunder, Diablos to Darkness or T-Rexaur to Quake and Sleep).
Card Mod is an extremely useful ability to learn early in the game. This allows you to turn cards you won through the Triple Triad minigame and refine them into items. This is easily one of the best ways to get Pulse Ammo, the item you’ll need for Squall’s Ultimate Weapon.
What is Boost and How to Use it Effectively
However, the absolute first GF ability you should acquire for nearly any attacking GF is Boost. Immediately. (The only exceptions being Siren (since her damage output is low and her ability to inflict Silence on all enemy is not useful), Diablos, and Cactuar, as their damage is based on set factors and not any stats. The game never explains how this skill works, but basically you can use it to double your GF’s damage output and it only takes 10AP to master.
During a battle when your GF is summoned, hit the Select button or whatever the equivalent is for that controller (the Nintendo Switch version uses the “-” button, for instance). You’ll have to play trial-and-error with all the buttons to figure out which one works. When you pick the right one, the character’s names and HP gauge should disappear and what you’ll see instead is a pointing hand icon on a button matching one from your controller:
Hitting that same button rapidly increases the number value from the starting point of 75. When a red X appears, stop pressing the button or it will reset the boost:
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be craving those longer GF attack animations because that means more time to Boost. GF Eden in particular has such a long animation that you can easily max out the percentage and triple her already massive damage output.
The Magic of the X-ATM092
During the Dollet Mission, the X-ATM092 that chases you can be used to grind for 50AP every time you “kill it.” Before leaving the Communications Tower, set the GF abilities you need to learn. The first time you encounter it in the game, run after downing it. Then when it chases you, the exploiting can begin. Down it, then keep attacking before it finishes self-repairing, and then down it again before running. You can keep the machine alive and get awarded 50AP. This is an excellent way to learn high AP abilities early on, such as Mug.
If you go this route, I would highly suggest eventually defeating X-ATM092. Since you’ll suffer heavy penalization for arriving at the beach late, the 100 bonus points you net for defeating it will easily make up for that and you can still obtain a perfect SeeD rank 10. As an aside, do not arrive at the beach with less than 10 minutes to spare, as points will be deducted from your score at that point.
The Secret Behind the Queen of Cards and Card Rule Spreading
In the game there’s a special side quest called the Queen of Cards. It’s an extremely long and extensive quest that nets you many rare cards, which is useful for Card Modding. Here’s my advice: don’t even bother.
Why? You can acquire every last one of those cards way easier by completing the CC Group Quest, and in particular from Left Diamond. You can also encounter and challenge the Queen of Cards late in the game (she’s located in a crash site on an island at the southern tip of Esthar).
A bonus of finishing the CC Group quest before Time Compression occurs is that you’re able to mod any rare card and then win it back, essentially farming them infinitely for incredible items. So save yourself a huge headache and avoid that awful quest like the plague.
However, a useful tip for those wanting to play the Triple Triad minigame in general is to not let rules like Random, Plus, Combo, or Same spread around. While not impossible, trying to win rare cards while not losing your own becomes that much more difficult.
To accomplish this and keep spreading around the Open rule, any time you challenge someone and they offer to mix rules, cancel the game. Then speak to them again. Keep doing this until they stop offering, and now you can play a normal game of Triple Triad.
Low-Level Versus High-Level
A debate that’s plagued the Final Fantasy VIII community for decades now — and I imagine will continue to be a hot button issue until the end of time — is whether you should level up your characters or let them stay low-leveled and increase their stats via Junctioning. The answer is: it depends on the kind of experience you want in this game.
Unlike most other JRPGs, in FFVIII gaining levels is quite simple: every level up from 1 to 100 only requires 1000 experience points. This is because the stat bonuses from each level gain are negligible at best. Instead, the majority of stat growth comes from Junctioning magic to them.
So then, what’s the benefit of leveling up? Some bosses only have certain magic spells after a certain level. For example, in the third fight against Seifer, he will only carry the spell Aura if he’s level 30 or above; Aura is one of the best spells in the entire game for its Junctioning properties alone.
Item drops and steals (using Mug) are likewise affected by an enemy’s levels, with some items having better drop rates the lower or higher their level is. For instance, a level 1-19 Grendel has a 70% chance of dropping Dragon Fangs, but a level 20-29 Grendel will only drop Dragon Fangs 20% of the time.
Additionally, certain skills can only be used by some enemies at certain levels. A great example is the infamous Ruby Dragon and its equally notorious Breath attack. But if you’re particularly low-leveled, such as below level 30, it won’t know the skill.
(Unrelated but I’ll interject with another spicy tip: if you’re too high-leveled but don’t want to deal with that awful Breath attack, simply KO one of your party members. For some reason this messes with the Ruby Dragon’s AI and it won’t use Breath or Meteor. You’re welcome.)
If you want to experience a generally easy and normal run (i.e. you play through without exploits) I suggest a low-leveled run — you can supplement your stats through 100 stocking spells or by refining items into spells while keeping foes weak and ripe for the picking. And for those either looking to break the game by manipulating drops based on levels or simply wanting more of a challenge, a high-leveled run might be more your speed.
Of course, nothing is set in stone and I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me with good reason. The magic of this game is figuring out what kind of playstyle works best for you.
To conclude, here are some very basic, general tips to keep in mind while playing Final Fantasy VIII Remastered:
- Check the magic that can be drawn from every enemy, and especially from every boss. Sometimes they may have great magic stock that you can obtain earlier than normal. Some bosses even have GFs you can draw out that would otherwise be missable.
- If playing on a console version, use the Battle Enhancements along with Triple Speed when 100 stocking magic. This makes the process so much easier and faster.
- Beware that using the no random encounters feature with the Remastered version may still cause your SeeD Rank to lower, as you are no longer actively fighting enemies.
- Once you achieve SeeD Rank A, in order to prevent it from dropping down to 30, defeat at least 10 enemies in between each salary payment.
- There are several events throughout the game that will affect SeeD Rank, including mission performance. Certain actions you take can also lower your score, so make sure to behave with decorum and discipline befitting a proper SeeD at all times.
- After fighting the boss Mobile Type 8, proceeding any further will result in you being permanently locked out of all cities, towns, train stations, and Gardens. This also locks you out of any side quests from those areas. I heavily advise you to make a separate save file just in case.
- I also highly advise getting far enough in the Chocobo Forest side quest to be able to ride Chocobos in the field. Or just pay ChocoBoy to catch one for you. Doing so in the Forest of Solitude will give you access to Ragnarok, and I cannot stress how incredibly useful this is for the late game.
- During the Tiamat boss fight in the final dungeon, Junction Fire magic to Elemental Defense and you will completely absorb its best and only attack.
- Have fun, experiment, and figure out what works best for you!