Final Fantasy VIII isn't really a step forward for the series, but not a step backwards, either. It's a hop to the side; a change of direction of an even greater scale than the false start in Final Fantasy II or the steampunk Renaissance of VI. This is the new face of Final Fantasy. From now on, expect the norm to be Japanese teen-idol heroes, millions' worth of eye-popping special effects, epic Hollywood storylines, and a general sense of substance being overidden by style and high-end fluff. Success can sometimes be the worst thing to happen to a creative outfit.