When we left off last time, I was talking about the monsters that you encounter on the roads of Esthar when you return to the world map. On that subject, I think this is the most fighting you’ll have done for a while – even more than in Galbadia Garden! Unless something went wonky when I played it for this article, the encounter rate was inordinately high around this part of the world map, which was even worse outside of the city limits, where about ninety-five percent of fights were against the same angry horned llama monster.
The other five percent were against Malboros, and unless you have Limit Breaks and full immunities ready to go, I recommend just running for it. Armed with one of the most brutal debuff-spamming Bad Breaths in the Final Fantasy series, those guys are harder than almost all the game’s bosses.
Before you head over to the Lunar Gate, there are a few locations you can drop by on the way. One of them is the facility where Laguna was temporarily working, another is a so-called Sorceress Memorial, and the last is this rather ominous place called Tears’ Point. I commented a while ago on the imagery and symbolism in FFVIII, so let me bring it up again. Disc 3 has some of the most impressive and unsettling sights in the game, and this location sums it up. There’s a creepy mix of uniform technology and intimidating architecture, with these strange blocks surrounding a gathering of sinister statues at the centre. No real relevance is given to this location at this stage, aside from it having a draw point and a strange ring, but it’s a memorable place to visit.
Over at the Lunar Gate, a staff member preps Squall for launch. Squall asks where they’re going, and the staff member explains basically every part of the process except for their destination. I’m really not kidding – he tells Squall all about them boarding pods, being put into “cold sleep”, and handled by staff once they get “there”, but never states the location. He’s sending you to the Moon Base, Squall!
Squall’s asked to decide who’s going, and Edea insists on staying behind to sort out her business with Dr. Odine. Zell, who hasn’t really done anything plot-relevant since asking Squall for his ring a few hours ago, offers to serve as her bodyguard. Squall agrees, his enthusiasm chosen by the player, and then picks another party member to go to the Moon Base with him. That sorted, the launch is carried out, and Squall heads into space.
The game’s certainly come a long way since we were travelling around by train.
Anyhow, as Squall heads off to speak to Ellone, the rest of the party heads back into the Lunar Gate lobby, where Rinoa’s dog meets up with them. I don’t know where this dog spends most of its time, or if anyone’s looking after it at all, but given that it can fly through space and energy-blast gods, I suppose this is the last thing I should be worrying about.
The dog’s upset about something, and the group checks outside to see something bad’s coming their way. I don’t like putting screenshots close together, but Lunatic Pandora deserves it.
The mysterious object Laguna saw in the distance during the earlier dream, and also at that facility in the more recent one, is now flying over Esthar City!! Except it’s not, according to a later cutscene, which displays Lunatic Pandora as still over the sea. Speaking of quibbling, I’m not entirely sure about the geography in this section overall, since it looks like Esthar City is behind the protagonists when they’re looking over at Lunatic Pandora, but perhaps there are other inhabited parts of Esthar that just don’t show on the world map (unthinkable!).
But yes, Lunatic Pandora’s coming this way, so the group hightails it back to the city. Dr. Odine’s excited to see Lunatic Pandora again – he’s first and foremost a scientist, and very rarely seems concerned about concepts of good or bad. He obviously wasn’t concerned by Adel’s ethics during her reign, but also wasn’t hard to convince to turn against her either. Even now, he’s mostly interested in observing what’s going on, without any particular concern about the threats involved.
His assistant is recommending that they warn the city as Zell and the others arrive, but Dr. Odine dismisses this – Galbadia’s target, he says, is not the city. True as that may be, the Galbadians do actually send troops and monsters into the streets, so Odine’s snootiness is somewhat misplaced here. Zell demands to know what’s going on and what to do, getting impatient with Dr. Odine when he doesn’t get to the point fast enough, and we’re then presented with our next briefing.
According to Dr. Odine, that bright dot is Lunatic Pandora’s current location, which doesn’t quite tally with the earlier cutscene – he might want to get his radar checked. In any case, this coming section is a twenty-minute set piece where Lunatic Pandora slowly flies from the west side of the city over to the east. Odine estimates that Lunatic Pandora will pass by three specific locations on its way, where Zell and the others will be able to board it. You have to find your way to one of them within the specific timeframes, before it “escapes”.
If you’re not familiar with this city, it can be a bit of a confusing sequence, since some of the twists and turns of the city don’t seem to quite lead where you expect. It’s even worse on the unmodded PC version, where the hint pictures are extremely pixellated and blurry. All the same, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to find your way, fights notwithstanding, and you can always load an earlier save and find an efficient route if it’s proving troublesome. Not that I’ve ever done that.
On a random side note, the map makes Esthar City look like a big bloated spider.
If you talk to Odine before leaving, he’ll tell you that Lunatic Pandora is the crystal pillar from one of Laguna’s dream sequences, and that it can affect the process of monsters falling from the moon. Combined with that creepy location we visited earlier, Tears’ Point, Lunatic Pandora’s influence on the Lunar Cry is maximised.
Once you’ve caught up with Lunatic Pandora and hopped aboard, you can go on a fun exploration trip if you feel like it. I’ll talk a bit more about the location when we’re properly invading it later, but for now, if you run into the correct corridor, a robot drops in and punts the party back down to the surface, rendering the entire sequence pointless. This is also the end of Edea’s time in the party. She doesn’t die, but she does stop accompanying you. Make sure to reclaim all her magic before she gets removed from the menu a bit later!
As for Lunatic Pandora, it continues its trip to Tears’ Point, and once it gets there, the mysterious units light up, and the statues begin to crack. It seems that the dreaded Lunar Cry is about to take place.
At this point, the perspective shifts to outer space, where the three capsules with Squall, Rinoa, and the other party member you chose are making their way to Moon Base. A rather playful theme accompanies the sequence as the capsules arrive at the base, and the staff aboard meet up with them at the airlock.
While this happens, an official speaks to some of the crew about the new arrivals, and decides they probably don’t need to step up security. The staff take this as a sign that they absolutely should increase it, which is more amusing when you later realise this is Laguna (maybe you worked it out already – I’m not as smart as you guys).
The official heads out to inspect Adel’s Tomb, while Squall and the others meet an official called Piet, who gets steadily more exasperated with our protagonists the longer he spends with them. I’m going to point out this sequence as another that I really like, and that’s fairly odd given that I’ve always thought of Disc 3 as a heavy decline in quality. I’m not sure that’s true on reflection, though there are a lot of little flaws that aren’t immediately apparent (and plenty that are).
The Moon Base is a fun but brief location, and most of what happens here is entertaining. The entry’s good, and provides an interesting contrast to the impending doom on the surface. Esthar was always presented as frightening before, whereas this is quite a cosy place. The brief time you spend with the crew gives it a comfortable atmosphere, and the views are impressive too. I imagine that, were I ever to find myself on a base in space, I’d feel quite isolated with all that empty space around me, but it’s nice to enjoy it from afar here.
I’m also quite partial to how little the crew are moved by Squall’s antagonistic attitude when he keeps warning them to treat Rinoa well.
Rinoa gets deposited in the med bay, and some of the crew show you Adel’s Tomb, floating ominously out in space. Apparently Esthar decided that, rather than catapult Adel into the sun, which I feel would have been a reasonable and simple task, they’d prefer to keep their former dictator in orbit, and expend endless man hours watching over her. It’s probably just an excuse to stay there for six months and play cards and video games together.
They also explain that the jamming system they use to suppress Adel’s powers is what causes the radio interference down on the planet. See? Pop her in the sun, much more convenient for everyone involved.
In the control room, the crew calmly show you the moon’s surface, and point out that there’s an enormous gathering of monsters. They’re aware that the Lunar Cry is coming, but they really don’t seem all that bothered by it. Bear in mind that the Lunar Cry’s course is straight through the Moon Base, and it later blows the entire station up, not to mention that, historically, the Lunar Cry destroyed the powerful Centra civilisation. While Tears’ Point (and Lunatic Pandora) mean that the Cry won’t hit Esthar City directly, it does promise a lot of deadly and annoying monsters for them in the near future.
Squall isn’t there to discuss world-destroying events, though. He heads on over to chat with Ellone, who apologises for using Squall and the others. While she wasn’t able to change the past as she’d planned, she was able to see how much she was loved. Squall quickly changes the subject back to Rinoa, and viewing the past.
Ellone explains that her power allows her to see things that they never knew, and while the past may not change, you do. Squall doesn’t really care about any profound concepts, and demands to give it a try. However, Ellone reminds him that she needs to know Rinoa to be able to send him to her past. No problem, says Squall – I’ve brought her with me.
There’s just one minor issue, and that’s that Ultimecia can possess Rinoa. Which she does right afterwards.