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(Warning: This post contains spoilers)
Disc four of Final Fantasy 8 defied all definitions of common sense, by melding everything into one epic happy ending. To be honest, I really didn't understand most of what happened.
Despite the nonsense, disc four serves up an mind-blowing conclusion with gothic castles, blurry time travel and beautiful flower fields.
At this point, recapping the story is like trying to explain the end of the convoluted Matrix trilogy. Our protagonists are on a quest to defeat a sorcerer from the future, Ultimecia. To do this, a girl named Ellone has to trap Ultimecia in the past. This will force the sorcerer to initiate time compression, so that our heroes can meet the evil villain in the future.
There's a bunch of other stuff in this plan, but let's try not to worry about that.
At the end of the previous disc, the evil Seifer kidnapped a girl named Rinoa. She is the girlfriend of the main hero, Squall. Seifer was already a pretty big jerk, but he decides to become a bigger one by letting another sorcerer control Rinoa's body. Now Squall has to fight this sorcerer, Adel, who is now junctioned onto Rinoa.
This battle was tough, because Rinoa was literally attached to this mutant like a Siamese twin. I had to attack Adel and heal Rinoa at the same time. Thankfully, my group was able to survive countless magical spells, such as Meteor, Flare and Ultima.
After a few quick time warp moves by Ellone, Squall and the gang take an incredibly blurry dive through polygon backgrounds. A few more boss battles took place. The group finally arrived in a dark, cloudy world with dead magical knights lying all over the ground. I guess my team is the last hope for the universe.
My crew climbed up a long floating chain to find a gothic castle. This final section actually looked more like a pre-rendered 3D version of Dracula's castle in Castlevania. I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't fight a mutant vampire demon at the end, but this was still one of my favorite parts of the entire game.
The protagonists literally lost all their abilities, except for the attack command. The challenge added plenty of anxiety. I literally combed through the entire dungeon, because I had to fight bosses to earn those abilities back. Some of the sections had awful puzzles that I needed to solve with the help of a strategy guide. Thankfully, the art gallery riddle was the only one I had to struggle with.
The entire path to Ultimecia is tremendously dangerous, even when compared to the rooftop jumping section of Final Fantasy 13. In the final stretch, Squall and his friends had to climb precariously down a tall clock tower.
Finally, they encountered Ultimecia, a goofy horned wizard woman who spoke bad English in all capital letters. The battle wasn't especially hard, until she started removing spells from my hard-earned magic collection. Thankfully, she didn't deplete our most powerful attack spells, such as Ultima and Meteor. The fight was tense. Every few minutes, she casted a lethal spell that reduced my party members' hit points to one.
This wasn't the worst final battle, but it was the flashiest one I've ever seen. The arena was constantly washed out with blurry polygons, starry skies and constantly changing environments. After some big explosion, the screen turned completely white.
The ending was surreal, to say the least. All of the characters ran in blurry motions, trying to find the time they belong in. Squall was the only one who was completely lost in his own hallucination. He somehow found his old orphanage, where Ultimecia was living the final minutes of her life. The matron of the orphanage, Edea, told Squall that Ultimecia would pass the time compression power on to her.
Through this final gesture, Edea finally finishes all the unfinished story threads in one big magnificent cutscene. Then the final conclusion somehow made sense. Through the strange power of time compression, Edea gave everyone the happy ending they all deserved. I should have known that this was what time compression was all about.
Well, I guess that's what SquareSoft was intending anyways. The ambitious storyline of Final Fantasy 8 makes even less sense than the preposterous god-like complex of Kefka in Final Fantasy 6. Oddly enough, this is probably why Final Fantasy 8 is one of my favorites in the convoluted mystical chronology of Final Fantasy games.
I don't know if I'll ever play through this one ever again, but it is one of the few RPGs with a believable romance. It also brings all of the ridiculously incredible moments of Final Fantasy together in one spectacular bombshell. Believe me, I would definitely play this just to watch the inter-galactic monster invasion sequence again.
What other Japanese RPGs fuse together the most unbelievable visuals in video game history? What are some of your favorites that stick out from the rest of the crowd? Write about them in the comments section below.