There are a lot of sidequests in Final Fantasy VIII. Some that aren't even available without ordering an add-on from Japan (grr...). That said, unless you have a strange fixation with Chocobos (and after Final Fantasy VII I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to see another Chocobo again) it shouldn't affect you.
Anyone who read my Final Fantasy IX walkthrough will know that I hate sidequests that don't give you something relevant towards something else in the game. In the case of Tetra Master, I treated it with contempt because it all you win from it is more cards, which did nothing to help gameplay.
While some people dislike Final Fantasy VIII's card game, Triple Triad, I think it's a) more fun than Tetra Master and b) a great way to get good spells and items early. Triple Triad cards can, using a GF ability, be transformed into usable items, which themselves can be refined into Magic or other useful items. This lets you gain a huge boost in the early game. Also, TT has awesome music.
- Final Fantasy VIII deviates from certain tradition RPG norms. There's no MP in this game; Magic is used like an infinitely-replenishable item. You can Draw Magic from enemies -- each enemy has a number of spells that you can absorb and add to your inventory of Magic. When you Draw a spell, you'll obtain a number of 'copies' of that spell that can either be cast, or used for Junctioning.
- Levelling up is not the primary method for increasing your stats. Your levels determine the levels of the enemies -- enemies have no fixed stats, but rather have stats affected by their levels, which are based on your party's average level. At different levels, enemies will have different spells to draw, items to steal and item drops.
- Summons in this game are called GFs and are integral to both the story and gameplay. GFs have different abilities that can be learned, which then apply to whichever character has that GF junctioned to them.
- Junctioning is basically the practice of equipping GFs and Magic in order to increase your statistics, add in-battle commands and add both elemental and status properties to your weapons and armour.
- Once you junction (read: equip) a GF, you can start equipping extra battle commands to your character. All GFs come with the GF (which is the game's equivalent of Summon), Magic and Draw commands.
- GFs have Stat-J abilities that let you junction magic to the particular stat listed on the ability. For example, Str-J allows the character to junction Magic to their Strength stat.
It's quite a complex system, so here's an example of how it works:
- Squall junctions the Quetzalcoatl GF that has the Vit-J ability.
- Having a GF equipped allows Squall to equip the GF, Magic and Draw battle commands, which the player does.
- Squall goes into battle against a Bite Bug. Bite Bug has the Fire and Scan spells available to draw.
- The player uses the Draw command to draw Fire from Bite Bug. They will receive around 4-6 copies of Fire. They draw 100 copies.
- After the battle, the player can go to the Junction menu. Squall's Vit stat will be highlighted in white, as Quetzalcoatl's Vit-J ability allows Squall, the character to whom Quetzalcoatl is junctioned, to junction any stocked Magic to his Vit stat.
- Squall junctions Fire, of which he has 100 copies, to his Vit stat.
- Fire, when junctioned to the Vit stat, provides 0.04 of a stat point for every copy of that spell. With 100 copies, Vit is increased by (100*0.04), or 4 points.
- Squall then goes into battle and uses Fire 25 times. Since magic is used like items in Final Fantasy VIII, each usage will decrease Squall's stock of Fire Magic by 1.
- Since Squall now only has 75 Fires junctioned to his Vit stat, it is only increased by (75*0.04), or 3 points.
Simply put, casting junctioned magic (identified by a small symbol next to its name) is risky as depleting your stock of magic will reduce the effect that spell has on whatever stat to which it's junctioned.
Wait...hold on. They're all human? No mascot or joke characters? Well...
- Unless an enemy has a rare spell or GF, drawing is fairly ineffective. It takes a long time to draw 100 of each spell, and you'll have much more fun playing Triple Triad and refining the cards into the items you can turn into spells.
- Don't level grind. You level up every 1,000 EXP no matter what level you are, and by levelling excessively you reduce the efficacy of Stat Bonus abilities, which increase the named stat upon each level up. GFs levelling up is good however, as it opens up new abilities for them.
- Prioritise refining abilities when raising your GFs. It'll reduce the amount of time you have to spend drawing spells in the early game. If your GF learns an ability, don't just let it automatically learn the next skill down on the list; as soon as it's learned a desired ability, set it to learn the desirable skill right away.
- Learn to enjoy Triple Triad. It's actually fairly strategic and worth learning, unlike that god awful, random, hexadecimal car crash of a minigame known as Tetra Master.
Objective: Skip to relevant part of walkthrough for convenience. Thank author later.
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