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Before I get too far, I should warn you that I will be spoiling most major story points in Final Fantasy VIII. If you have not played the game, I suggest you stop reading immediately. Okay. Still here? Good.
What cost would you pay to be together with your love? To what end would you go to be reunited again? If it meant the end of history itself, would you do it? Welcome to Sympathy for the Devil: a series where I show you why the villain is not always evil, just misunderstood. This time: Ultimecia of Final Fantasy VIII.
If you have played Final Fantasy VIII through the first disc, you know that SeeDs, the organization Squall and the other heroes belong to, was created to combat evil sorceress like Adel who initiated the Sorceress War years before the game started. Their very purpose is to stop anyone who attempts to take control over governments and militaries through the use of powerful magic. The failed assassination attempt against Edea, at the end of the first disc, serves as a catalyst for the rest of the events in the story.
However, the entire game’s story and really all world events for hundreds of years revolve around one person: Ellone. Her power allows people to view the past but not alter it and, as it is revealed toward the end of the game, is the person responsible for both Laguna Loire’s and Squall Lioheart’s destinies as well as the creation of a sorceress in the first place.
Let me explain.
Ultimecia, in the future, has been sending her consciousness into the past to try to create a “Time Compression”, the collapse of the past, present and future into one moment. To achieve this goal, she has been possessing Edea in the game’s present and past via the use of a “Junction Machine”and trying to get her hands on Ellone, who alone is capable of this action.
Many years ago, during the time of the Sorceress War, Adel tried to hunt down a girl to take her power. During the beginning of the game, Edea, possessed by Ultimecia, is searching for one girl. During the events aboard the Lunatic Pandora at the end of disc two, Rinoa Heartilly gets initially possessed by Ultimecia which leads to her inheriting the powers of Adel, while Edea is unconscious, before finally being possessed by Ultimecia again to start the “Time Compression” needed to confront and defeat Ultimecia.
Confused? It’s about to get worse.
There was only ever one sorceress: Rinoa.
She was never part of the orphanage where the rest of the main cast was, where Squall grew up. She wanted to know his past, to be a part of it like the others were. She wanted to be with Squall forever, for them to share a singular moment of happiness together. Maybe, years after the events in the story, Rinoa attempts to achieve that very thing.
We are told that Adel had great power but is it too much of a stretch to imagine her being controlled by Ultimecia in the far past to seek out Ellone, whom Rinoa knows has the ability to project into the future? Edea is possessed again in the game’s present for the same purpose. In fact, Ellone can only send people into the pasts of other people she personally knows. This is why Squall lives through Laguna’s history; she knew both of them – not to mention Laguna is probably Squall’s father too.
In the original timeline, I propose, Squall eventually dies. Rinoa, in her grief over this, begins to jump back into the past to find Ellone so that she can be reunited with Squall again. She initially tries Adel, living through the events during the Sorceress War. However, just like when other people use Guardian Forces, the use of the “Junction Machine” erodes her memory over time. The longer she uses it, the less she remembers. Her entire purpose condenses down to her original feeling: a singular moment of happiness.
Ultimecia eventual demise creates the second sorceress, Edea. When she is killed by Squall and his team, she jumps back one last time, pulling Squall with her. He witnesses her giving over her powers to Edea, thus enabling her to be a sorceress and, years later, be able to be possessed by Ultimecia. This encounter starts the SeeD organization and construction of Gardens, a self-fulfilling paradox that creates the sorceress in the first place.
Rinoa then absorbs the small power she had in the original timeline magnified by her time spent in Adel’s body at Lunatic Pandora and the cycle continues. The team, including her present self, goes to kill Ultimecia, who during her death travels back to give her powers to Edea. Rinoa then, in the new future, uses her new, stronger powers to travel back in time to be with Squall but can only possess those connected to her: Adel, Edea and, of course, earlier versions of herself.
Rinoa just wanted to be with her love, Squall. To this end, in the future, she starts a project that strips her of her own memories and causes the entire history of a planet to be locked into a continuing cycle. There is no future after Ultimecia’s death, only the past repeating in endless loops of Rinoa becoming Ultimecia over and over again. All for love.