Back at the orphanage, Rinoa has a pretty stock speech about her fears of becoming evil, and asks Squall to kill her personally if she does. Squall tells her to stop, and that he’ll always find a way to rescue her. I’m reminded of a similar scene from Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, pulverizer of cliches, where the character in Squall’s position doesn’t even let the character in Rinoa’s position finish their suicidal request, already at hand with an absolute, even joyful promise to save them. But in all fairness, I can’t be certain if CoM would have subverted the cliche if it hadn’t be dramatized in FFVIII, first! After this, she talks about a dream she had where she couldn’t find Squall anywhere, and they agree that if they’re ever separated in the real world, they should meet here at the orphanage.
At this point, Zell arrives and says that the Estharan government just sent a formal request to hire SeeD to deal with Ultimecia via a plan they’ve cooked up. Oh hey, “SeeD!” Yeah! I remember those guys! Why are you talking to me about them? I haven’t worked with them in like an in-game year or something now, although I admittedly spent half of that time walking along the equator, and the other half playing cards. Apparently, the person who sent the plan was named “Kiros,” so naturally everyone is wondering if it’s the Kiros they know from their time travel escapades, and how he ended up working for Esthar. They don’t even hesitate to hear the details of Esthar’s proposal, we’re just off to Esthar.
Even though I joked that devs had no reason to force you to come to the orphanage except “to have a pretty background to talk against,” Edea has a few things to say before you go, though I have a little trouble discerning their meaning even now, writing towards the end of the game. Maybe they’ll make sense after I clear it completely? Edea explains how she became a sorceress: via inheriting the power of another one, and strongly implies she may have killed the sorceress to keep her away from the children. And then… that’s… it! What was the point of that? To remind us that sorceresses pass on their powers? Rinoa was just complaining about that, this is redundant!
Back to Esthar, which if you’ll recall was where we just were moments before. We were admitted to the presidential chambers, where we discover that the president and his closest aides are none other than Laguna, Kiros and Ward, as had become evident by this point. After some greetings, President Laguna was willing to let you dictate the flow of conversation. There are four questions. Asking about Ellone tells you the critical fact that she had been captured by Esthar as a child, which also explains why Laguna never adopted her after Rayne’s death, i.e. she was kidnapped around the same time so obviously he couldn’t! Asking about Rayne got you literally nothing. On the flip side, asking Laguna how he became president went on for a while, despite saying very little? As an adult player, you can probably guess most of it already from existing clues. He explains that Doctor Odine had already built the sealing device they used on Adel for no discernable purpose, and then details how he got Adel sealed in it via a simple trick. Everyone in Esthar was so happy that they appointed him president.
The final question – or rather the first question, and asking about it prompts Laguna to say you’re cutting “straight to business” even if you ask it last like we did – explains Esthar’s big plan. The first few stages were fairly logical. Adel is now on board Lunatic Pandora under Galbadia’s protection, but isn’t fully awake, so Squall and friends are going to board Lunatic Pandora and assassinate her. We might even be able to finish off the Galabadian threat while we’re at it.
Laguna calls in Odine, who opens by comparing Ultimecia’s trips into our present to Ellone’s power to go into our past. Obviously there’s a connection here, that part doesn’t surprise anyone. He then says that he assumed there was someone in the future who had powers like Ellone’s who sent Ultimecia into the past, same as I did, though I assumed the person in question was Ultimecia himself. But Odine has new information: he now knows Ultimecia is using a machine that duplicates Ellone’s powers! How does he know it’s a machine? Because he just built an early prototype himself based on his own notes about Ellone. So…… the plan is to destroy this prototype and murder Doctor Odine, right? Okay then! I’ll just take out my gunblade and—
No, apparently this isn’t the plan, in fact no one tables anything even resembling it (say, a version without the murder), which is baffling to me. In fact, the real plan has virtually nothing to this new information? This may as well have been a tangent! The plan doesn’t change if Ultimecia has a time travelling servant, a Delorean, or does the work herself!
Getting down to actual business, Odine says that since Ultimecia is essentially unassailable in the future, their only course of action is to go to the future and kill her. But we have no way of doing that! So Odine’s plan works like this. So far, this briefing has gone about how you might expect, despite Odine dropping an even better solution in our lap and the party ignoring it, but this is where Odine and Laguna begin to detail their real plans for dealing with Ultimecia. Are you ready for this? Because this going to be a trip.
Ultimecia’s big plan is to achieve “time compression”: to collapse time itself, causing all events to occur at once as though looking out on reality from inside some sort of black hole. Why she wants this, they can’t say, but it obviously wouldn’t be good for anyone but her. It’s stressed elsewhere (later?) that Ultimecia wants to be the only living thing still in existence, which is why it’s absolutely baffling when Odine announces the best way to get into the future is to help her achieve time compression. They want to kill Adel, allow Ultimecia to possess Rinoa, and then send Rinoa back in time to Adel’s childhood with Ellone for reasons I’m still not entirely clear on, and then pull Rinoa back so she won’t die there. Ultimecia will then be able to achieve time compression. He wants to help her.
This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and I know stupid, because I’ve been playing Final Fantasy VIII! While Kyle seemed to feel this plan was outright illogical, I’ll have to disagree, but that just goes to show that logic can’t stand on its own like this. Odine’s plan is a bit like saying “We can’t find the Death Star, so we’re going to wait until it fires so we can track its laser back to the source.” That’s logical! It’s also terrible, and has an incredibly obvious flaw! And this is a fantasy universe with only one habitable planet! Odine! Laguna! Everyone will be dead. Everyone. Will. Be DEAD! And there are other problems even if everyone isn’t dead! There’s nothing in the plan to control the situation. There’s no guarantee we’ll even be able to move inside of compressed time, since there won’t be time to move around in. There’s no exit strategy. They can’t even guarantee the survivors won’t be trapped in time compression for the rest of existence!
In fact, even if this made sense (which it “10 000%, double down, bet the farm, jump off a cliff and try to fly” doesn’t!) I’m not entirely clear why we’re stabbing Adel or even bothering to help Ultimecia after we stab Adel? Why not just send Ellone to Lunatic Pandora so she can send Adel back in time herself, just like Ultimecia wants? Rinoa is never even in danger that way. Why the extra complexity?
As I said in an edit on a previous post, this is a scene that makes several unearned assumptions of the player. For example, it assumes that you’ve already discarded the question of “why doesn’t Ultimecia go further into the past” as solved, claiming that obviously Ultimecia can’t go further into the past because her powers don’t go that far, so she needs to piggy-back off of Ellone. Except that hasn’t been solved? It just plain hasn’t! Okay, yes, you can easily conclude that Ultimecia needs Ellone for something, given her interest, but there’s a big chunk in the middle that prevents you from reaching a decisive answer!
Or how about this problem: Laguna claims Ultimecia needs to possess someone from further in the past to complete her plans, but it doesn’t seem to matter who, so long as they’re a sorceress? So… what makes that person special? They’re only a few years further into the past, we’re not going to the back-end of time or anything here! This only makes sense if you’re following the fallacious FFLIII-style logic that Ultimecia will be in “the Past,” “the Present,” and “the Future” at the same time, but those are relative to us, not to her! And I’m not coming back to that because it’s my leading theory, I’m coming back to it because it’s my only theory. This doesn’t make sense!
By the way, if you talk to Kiros and Ward in this scene (or rather… I think it’s this scene. We missed it), they’ll strongly hint to you that Squall is Raine’s lost child, and moreover is also Laguna’s child. This is all the game says about this, it goes into no further detail and you have to cross that gap yourself. That’s kind of nice, but I wish they had said a little more all the same. I like to be able to guess things, but I also like it when the details are eventually made clear!
In any event, now that we know Squall is Laguna’s son, we can bring up something that was bothering me earlier, and that hit me especially during Session 5 (I was spoiled about Laguna and Squall earlier in Session 5 thanks to all my walkthrough-diving in an attempt to clear the Queen of Cards). Do you remember when the Guardian Forces were introduced, and we were told they caused memory loss, and then we remembered one thing, and then nothing else? …Why? Why did that happen? Why use the plot device for one thing ever? It is never used again, it’s just for that one twist! In fact, what did it even add to hide that one fact from you in the first place? The Laguna and Squall twist actually serves a purpose: Squall gets to know the man he doesn’t know is his father, going from calling him an “idiot” to recognizing him as an idiot who tries unbelievably hard and even get things done, and even gets to know how much he loves his family even without knowing Squall even exists. But making everyone forget their time at the orphanage doesn’t change anything! They leave the flashback and instantly decide to continue battling “matron” to get her back to the woman they knew, almost as though the devs were rushing through the twist to get to the results they needed anyways. That could have easily been conveyed as backstory! The comparison between the quality of the two twists is stark, and disappointing. And I want to emphasize that I am disappointed, because unlike FFVII’s unfixable concerns (mentioned in my final post), there’s nothing unfixable about FFVIII. It could have been better executed, and I think I would have really enjoyed it, it just… wasn’t!
During Session 5, but before I was spoiled about Laguna and Squall, I did consider that maybe all these forgotten relationships formed a unified theme, however sloppily executed. You’re reunited with your old siblings, and your old mother-figure, and later your previously-unknown father and late unknown mother, and also your lead character starts a relationship with a woman whose mother was your father’s (brief) ex? It’s like they were trying to make this about “new, old” relationships, but never did anything with it? Or rather, it’s like they were trying to make this about “new, old” relationships, and all they did with it was to set up incest vibes between Squall and Quistis, Irvine and Selphie, everyone and Edea and, to a lesser degree but definitely thematically tied, Squall and Rinoa? Whose love song was written by her mother about the time she had the hots for his dad?
By the way, before we move on, an additional complaint: not only did the detail about GFs erasing your memory vanish after that one plot point, but if it weren’t for a single (1) plot event later on, GFs as a concept would have stopped having any plot significance after we learned about the orphanage! Holy crap!
At this point, Laguna and friends boarded the Ragnarok so that they could be around for later cutscenes, and we challenged Laguna to a final card game to finally win the Squall card and the Collector achievement for getting the entire deck. Even the original FFVIII would reward you for completing the deck after a fashion, as getting all the cards rewards you with a small star next to the Cards section of your menu (I’ll post a screenshot in a later post!). What may have been the single most time-consuming task in Marathon history was now complete!
In the real world, Kyle and I stopped to make a backup save in case we had to come back to Disc 3 at some later point, knowing that Disc 4 was an infamous one-way trip. From there, it was on to Lunatic Pandora, which tried to fend off our attack with a shield, only for the Ragnorok to push through it. You mean… faster and harder than those missiles you just fired? …Whatever you say, FFVIII! The Ragnarok then blasted its way into the fortress.