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By WES PLATT
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2000
Final Fantasy VIII
Outstanding graphics, immersive game play and an engrossing story line make Final Fantasy VIII a must-have for computer role-playing game fans.
In the latest Final Fantasy installment, players assume the role of a military cadet named Squall, who battles a lone wolf rival and a powerful sorceress and winds up entwined with a rebel faction and an assassination plot.
All the action takes place in a world where magic and high-technology meet.
The story spans four CD-ROMs -- about 40 hours of game play -- and has plenty of twists to keep players intrigued. The graphics bring convincing ambience to the game scenes and are enhanced by a haunting musical score.
Beyond the story and the battle scenes, Final Fantasy VIII also includes some fun-to-play games within the game just to keep things fresh and further improve on the immersiveness of the environment.
The interface is somewhat difficult, but manageable, to learn.
PLATFORM: Windows 95/98
Campaign Cartographer 2
Traditional computer-aided design meets fantastical world creation in Campaign Cartographer 2, a powerful role-playing game mapping program that lets users visualize alien lands from their imagination.
It's not cheap, but for those who act as game masters for tabletop role-playing activities such as Shadowrun, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or Vampire: The Masquerade, it can be an indispensable tool.
Campaign Cartographer 2 requires some front-end learning. It's not as simple as clicking and churning out professional-grade, full-color fantasy maps or starship deck plans. The interface is difficult for novices to computer-aided design programs.
But once a designer has finished the virtual apprenticeship with a tutorial program, the task becomes more simple and more enjoyable.
With CC2, and its peripheral programs City Designer 2 and Dungeon Designer 2, a game master can link larger world maps to smaller city maps to floor plans within buildings.
The maps can be printed for player handouts or for miniature movement boards. With some effort, the maps can be converted into a format for use on Internet Web sites.
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