So I’ve taken the time to really try to understand the GF/Junction system and I’m starting to like it a lot.  The tutorials don’t help all that much as they seem pretty basic and I was wanting some details.  So after some internet searching I came upon this thread at GAF which outlines some of the more advanced “basics” of the game.  I liked what I read so I’m going to quote it here in case that thread goes “poof” someday.  My thanks to Himuro from GAF for a very clear and helpful explanation.

The first thing one must know about understanding Final Fantasy VIII is that, that first and foremost, enemies level up as you do. Now, usually this would not be much of a problem, but in Final Fantasy VIII, enemy stats grow rapidly as they level up, adding new attacks to their repertoire, and even changing what items they drop. In comparison, your stats tend to not increase greatly. This is because levels do not mean much in FFVIII.

Now, in order to maximize stats in FFVIII, you must unlearn every thing you have been taught in RPG school: the lower the level, the better; Magic in battle tends to mean jack squat, instead, you use abilities and skills to get the most out of battle. Now, the fun thing about Final Fantasy VIII is its versatility; you can make the game much more challenging by leveling up, not upping your stats with GF abilities, you can make party members that concentrate on individual traits, or make them all the same. You will find yourself getting weaker while the enemies continue to get stronger: beat Ultimecia with a level 100 party without GF stat upgrades and all that fancy stuff, I dare you.

Final Fantasy VIII is a very versatile rpg, which allows a lot of customization and players can choose their own specific play styles, these are not required but I truly feel that they make the game a lot more enjoyable. I didn’t like Final Fantasy VIII the first time I played it, but a few years ago I gave it another shot and played it with more experience under my belt and began to fully appreciate what Square had did here: one of the best character customization systems ever. It became my favorite Final Fantasy after that, and one of my top 5 games ever.

How to get the most out of Final Fantasy VIII:

1. Levels do not mean much at all. The lower the level, the easier time you will have. The higher the level, the harder time you will have.

2. Junctions are crucial.

3. Drawing is not the only way to obtain magic. It is best to draw all you can from new enemies whenever they show up, and then convert those weak spells you got into higher level magic, thusly creating more powerful junctions. That, and converting monsters into cards for powerful magic, or items into magic can take you far.

I’ll use an example. At the beginning of the game, you can make your HP sooo high. Simply go to Balamb and buy tons of Tents, and turn them into Curagas. Heal magic works EXTREMELY well on HP. Antidotes, on the other hand, can be turned into Bio’s. Bio is a good early game magic for junctioning as well. Look into it. Experimentations is what makes FFVIII so fun.

4. In order to make drawing less tedious, you must have a good magic stat.

5. Using magic to attack is almost meaningless in Final Fantasy VIII, but I’m not going to stop you from using it. Me? I don’t use it because I need as much magic as possible for junctions.

6. GF abilities. This is REALLY important. The first thing you should always learn is boost. This allows you to boost your GFs and make their attacks more powerful. Simply hold select and mash on Square when necessary.

After that, you should definitely go for the elemental atk-j, elemental def-j, str-j, vit-j, mag-j. Elemental defense-J and attack-j allow you to guard against certain elementals, or attack with certain elementals. Obviously, the higher the stat, the more powerful the ability works. This is handy when fighting against certain enemies, for example, the giant Mecha Spider at the beginning of the game, it’s good to equip Thunder to your characters Elemental-ATK since it is weak against it. Strength-J allows you to customize your strength stat, likewise with Magic-J and Vitality-J allow you to customize those specific stats.

After that, concentrate on Magic-RF abilities. Abilities such as T Mag-RF, L Mag-RF, Mid Mag-RF, I-Mag RF;etc. These allow you to turn things into spells. With this, you can do crazy stuff like turn Tents into Curagas.

At the beginning of the game, the best place for AP is the Balamb coast, where you can fight the flying goldfish guys. They give 2 AP a fight, and are extremely weak. You can cover many GF abilities fighting them, in no time.

7. Specific GF abilities you can should concentrate on ASAP at the beginning of the game. We’ll concentrate on more powerful GFs later on while you guys are actually playing.

Diablos:

MUG – steal from enemies while giving them damage.

Enc-half – Decreases encounter rate to HALF the normal rate.

Enc-none – Decreases random encounters to zero. For players like me who like to speed run FFIVII, this is one of the first abilities you should get. Whenever you get to a new area, turn it off so you can update your magic from enemies through drawing and card’ing them.

Quetzacotl: Card – turn enemies into cards, for those of you doing a low level game, you earn no EXP.

Card Mod – turns cards you earn into items.

Ifrit:

Str+20% – increases str stat 20%
Str+40% – increases str stat 40%

8. Power gaming. Now, the key to getting the most out of power gaming FFVIII is the low levels. You will notice that some GFs have abilities that increase your stats by 1 point when you level up, which is STACKED ON TOP OF YOUR REGULAR LEVEL UP BOOSTS. To take advantage of this, you only learn such abilities at a low level. Let’s say my level 10 Squall equips a Strength bonus ability. When I ever decide to level him up, he will gain 90 extra points in str. That is how you maximize stat potential in FFVIII. Junctions can only do so much. Doing this not only allows you to stand toe to toe with the foes you face, it also frees up your GF command abilities, allowing you equip more interesting abilities like Devour, Mad-Rush;etc. instead of wasting space with puny abilities like Str+20%, Str+40%, HP+20%;etc.

Now, how do you stay at a low level the entire game? Many ways:

1. Running away – the most simplistic measure, but also the most boring.
2. Turning enemies into cards – This is the way I go. You not only gain zero XP, you also benefit from gaining a card of the enemy in question, which equates to more magic.
3. Break – Casting break petrifies enemies, which ends the battle immediately when all enemies are petrified. In order to take advantage of this trick, though, you have to cast it at the beginning of a fight. You earn any xp for whatever actions you did you against the enemy, this is why it’s crucial to cast at the beginning of a fight.
4. Enc-None – The best way to not level up is not fight at all!

It would be boring if you did this stuff the entire game, it entirely depends on your playstyle. I won’t stop folks from leveling up in the game, but at least take into consideration that there’s 1. More ways to obtain magic than drawing, 2. FFVIII is a very versatile game, and you can make it as hard or as easy as you want.

So that’s my game-plan for now.  And I have to say that working on my GF’s abilities makes the random fighting very useful.  The ability to level up GF’s and increase their range of abilities and, in turn, make my own characters more powerful scratches a very addictive itch for me.  It makes me want to keep playing for just a few more AP.

I’ve put in about 5 or 6 hours and have just finished hijacking the President’s train only to discover that he was a fake President and an easy-to-defeat boss.  I’m kicking serious butt early on in this game.

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