Disc 3 opens with Squall watching over an unconscious Rinoa in the Infirmary. As usual, he’s interrupted by a call to the bridge over the intercom, and off he goes. Quistis informs him that Edea’s back at the orphanage, and it’s time to go and get some answers.
Cid meets up with Squall as he heads inside, admitting that he ran away rather than get involved in the fight against his wife. He accepts that he shouldn’t be forgiven for dumping it all on Squall and the others, but asks them to at least forgive Edea.
Ultimecia’s suffered quite a heavy loss at this juncture, and she might want to keep Edea as a backup possession tool, so I’ll cut her a bit of slack for not sending a death squad to murder Edea before she can reveal her plans. On the subject of losses, I have no idea what happened to Galbadia Garden, but it disappears from the world map at this stage and can never been visited again. As for the Galbadians, did they just pull off a full retreat after Edea’s defeat? Maybe. Seifer did receive new orders, so it may be that he decided to cut their losses and focus on Ultimecia’s Plan B.
And who’s Ultimecia, you ask? Well, her role as main antagonist is hardly hidden these days what with the various incarnations of spin-off fighting game Dissidia, but let’s let Edea tell us all.
Edea and the SeeDs exchange a few idle pleasantries about the difficulties in fighting one another, and then Edea finally confirms that things aren’t over, and that she’s in fact been possessed all this time. The malevolent antagonist behind everything was none other than… a sorceress from the future called Ultimecia.
I was aware that the final boss was called that when I first played, so for me I was relatively satisfied to find out why it wasn’t Edea (this was in the days of game magazines having walkthroughs, and I’d skimmed past it back when I didn’t plan on playing it). However, I wonder if anyone had been hoping for the chess master to turn out to be someone we actually already knew? I can imagine this twist being a bit of a let-down from that perspective.
Edea explains that Ultimecia wants Ellone’s ability to send consciousnesses back in time. To protect Ellone, Edea gave herself totally over to Ultimecia’s control. I’m not fully sure how that protected Ellone – I would say that the plan she enacted to set up Garden and prepare them to tackle “the sorceress” was the more important act, not to mention her White SeeD protection squad.
Edea goes on to tell them about Sorceress Adel, the former ruler of Esthar during the Sorceress War. Sorceresses pass their power down to another when they die, or are close to dying, or something along those lines. While Adel was suspected to have died and given Edea her powers, Edea explains that she in fact received her powers at the age of five from a different sorceress. This can get a little confusing, given that the ending shows Ultimecia bestowing her powers on a younger Edea, but I suppose Edea was already a sorceress and just got... double-sorceressed?
Either way, Edea’s concerned that Adel’s a power-mad villain who’ll do terrible things if Ultimecia adopts her as her avatar in the present. Squall loses interest, though – he wants to do something about Rinoa. As Edea lays out the fundamentals of Ultimecia’s evil schemes, Squall gets distracted as he thinks about his time with Rinoa, and begs her for “another chance”.
When the others call his attention back, he summarises their goal accurately as “stop Ultimecia from kidnapping Ellone”. As for Ultimecia’s aim, which Squall didn’t entirely listen to, Edea explained that Ultimecia intends to use Ellone’s power to travel back in time and compress history, combining past, present, and future. What exactly Time Compression would mean isn’t stated, though the concept doesn’t sound like it’ll be particularly good for anyone.
Back at Balamb Garden, Squall decides that they’ll look for Ellone on the White SeeD ship first, and then deal with Ultimecia. This stated, he goes back to visit Rinoa in the infirmary. Far from his previous lack of reaction to Rinoa, he’s now very animated about her, and in an ironic moment, thinks to himself that it’s like talking to a wall.
However, he suddenly passes out, and we rejoin Laguna in the past. In a mostly-humorous sequence (probably a necessary break after the constant struggles of Disc 2), Laguna’s playing a knight in a film about a sorceress and a dragon. A real dragon invades the set, and Laguna’s forced to fight it off in another minigame similar to the flying battle with the Galbadian soldier earlier. Once you win that, you have to fight it again in a more traditional boss fight afterwards, but you can turn down the battle and explore the area a bit first if you prefer, or want to set up your Guardian Forces since the game unequips them from your allies at some point in this section.
This part is largely comic relief, but right at the end, Laguna sees something weird in the distance, and it’s probably easy to miss if you’re too busy looking at Laguna or the text box, as the moment Laguna notices it and you press a button for the next line of dialogue, the screen fades out. In any case, it’s a mysterious floating pillar of some sort in the distance. What could it be?!
Ellone addresses Squall mentally, noting that she can’t control her power while she’s sleeping. She continues to use Squall to travel back in time, and we see Laguna speaking to a younger Edea at the orphanage. Laguna’s looking for Ellone, and explains that Esthar soldiers kidnapped her because Adel wants a successor.
Laguna mentions that he’s trying to find a way inside Esthar with no success, but he also started off the sequence by noting that Ellone’s not at the orphanage. No wonder you’re not getting into Esthar successfully if you’re searching in Centra!!
Squall doesn’t care about any of this exposition either. He’s only interested in Rinoa at this point. I can understand losing something making you appreciate it more, but it’s quite a drastic change in Squall. It’s not like he seemed to be gradually becoming more affectionate towards Rinoa – he continually shut her down and even his internal monologue seemed dismissive and borderline hateful towards her all the way up until she passed out.
Anyway, Squall wants Ellone to take him back to when Rinoa passed out, so he can try to prevent it, but Ellone tells him that he can’t.
Hmm. Let’s move past this point and not talk about it.
Okay, fine. What Ultimecia’s been doing is exactly the same as what Squall’s suggesting, albeit with a wonky machine that replicate’s Ellone’s powers, rather than using Ellone. In other words, Ultimecia’s able to change the past using an inferior method. But Squall already knows that Rinoa will pass out and go into her coma, so maybe that is why that wouldn’t work, while Ultimecia’s interference in the past already happened, so she’s not changing things? But does that mean that Ultimecia’s ignorance of the past allows her to change it? Is this Schrödinger’s Cat?
Ugh. Time travel storylines, folks. Don’t do ‘em!
Let’s just accept that you can’t change the past (see Terms and Conditions) and go through the sudden exposition burst Ellone delivers. Laguna went searching for Ellone, leaving Raine behind in Winhill. Raine had a baby in the meantime, but died before Laguna could return. Apparently, Ellone wanted to change time so that Laguna would be present for the birth, but failed, and now she “can no longer make it back to that moment”, whatever that means.
She then goes on to clarify that she can only send him back to people she knows. Does this mean that Junction Machine Ellone, the tool Ultimecia uses, “knows” Edea? Or is this another case where the machine is better than Ellone? Is this a situation where the story’s small print should have been kept so tiny that we couldn’t read it?
Anyhow, Ellone announces she’s about to “disconnect” (her term for her special ability is Connecting), and Squall wakes up in the Infirmary. He starts yelling for Ellone, gets frustrated when she won’t reply (I don’t think that’s how it works, Squall), and then resolves (again) to track down the White SeeD ship, realising that Edea should know its location (even though she was possessed at the time and they would have been hiding themselves from her). He also restates his intention to maybe change things in the past (Squall, we’ve just been through this).
Sorry for the frequency of brackets in this section. There’s a lot of brackets-worthy content in this part of FFVIII, and I’m concerned it’ll only get worse from here. The time travel storyline is just bonkers and very little of it holds under scrutiny. I miss the days of fighting Galbadian occupiers in Timber.