Once Rinoa leaves with the Esthar soldiers, Squall heads back onto the Ragnarok, only for Selphie to arrive, and the others join them shortly after. Selphie explains that she landed safely, but lost track of Ellone, which nobody seems concerned about despite Ellone being Ultimecia’s primary goal in this era. Selphie disappears off to look around the ship.
As for Zell, he gives Squall the run-down on Lunatic Pandora, Galbadia’s plans, and the fact that Edea inadvertently gave Rinoa her powers, negating the need for Odine to remove or suppress them. Squall stops Zell mid-explanation, expressing his concern over what’s happened to Rinoa. Quistis is baffled when he tells them that he let the Esthar soldiers take her away, and chides him for risking his life in space only to just give her up as soon as he got back to the surface.
Squall realises his error and decides to go and free Rinoa. Just as he does so, the Ragnarok starts up, and they head to the cockpit to find Selphie and Irvine have got it up and running. Remember when Esthar Airstation told Squall to turn off the gravity generator to save fuel? Yeah, that never comes up again. Not to mention that Selphie worked out the controls practically instantly.
Still, quibbling aside, you finally have the best airship in the game (for all the time you’ll get to use it)! Your first destination is the Sorceress Memorial, which you may have already visited. Also worth noting is that the scenery around Esthar has been neatly updated with sombre red lighting, now that the Lunar Cry’s happened.
This is Squall’s Big Hero Moment. After the front guards kindly and naively make an exception and allow him inside, he talks a bit of nonsense to the engineer there, who probably has better things to care about than Squall’s decision-making process. While Quistis and Zell threaten all the engineers, Squall breaks open Rinoa’s prison and she falls into his arms, just like in the opening cutscene all those hours ago. Sure, it’s probably a bit cliché, but I’m a sucker for things coming full circle.
Let’s ignore that the entire scene has a curious resemblance to when Sephiroth freed Jenova, though.
Rinoa’s still unsure about staying free when she’s a sorceress and could be possessed by Ultimecia at any time, but Squall doesn’t care about any of that. Before they can discuss the matter in depth, Quistis calls for their help – she’s surrounded by Esthar soldiers, and I haven’t junctioned any Guardian Forces to her, after all.
Before a fight can break out (like we needed to be worried about Esthar grunts, come on), an Esthar official walks in and wordlessly calls a halt to hostilities. Unfortunately, the camera’s positioned from overhead, so we can’t see that he’s Ward.
Now that Squall’s rescued Rinoa, let’s pause to talk about what’s just happened. Odine earlier declared that it would be easy to free Edea of Ultimecia’s control by exorcising the sorceress, whatever that entails exactly. If that’s also a concern with Rinoa, then why didn’t they just have Odine boot Ultimecia from her too?
Unfortunately, the subject only gets a few brief sentences here and there, so I’m unclear on what the rules are. The game goes into heavy explanations on some features but only lightly brushes over others, and I get the feeling that this discrepancy was unintentional and not really planned out properly.
This entire sequence feels rushed, like they realised they wanted a scene where Rinoa falls out from something into Squall’s arms to go with the opening cutscene, but didn’t have the set-up to deliver it. Instead, we end up with this bizarre series of contradictions in which Squall falls head-over-heels for Rinoa after losing her, risks his life to rescue her, immediately rejects her, gets close to her again right after, then lets Esthar take her prisoner, gets rebuffed by his friends, and instantly rescues her again. It’s such a crazy rush and a total mess.
Personally, I don’t feel that any of the Sorceress Memorial sequence was needed. Rescuing her in space and the following section where Squall and Rinoa clear out the ship as a team served this purpose just fine, not to mention their conversation as the Ragnarok returned to Esthar. Both sequences serve the same story and character purposes and come one after another. Sure, have the tension of Rinoa’s ascension to sorceress, but if Squall has to rescue her again, then firstly he shouldn’t just give her up (remember how he clashed with the staff on the Moon Base), and secondly there should be some gameplay involved as well. Draw it out a bit, give it some momentum. As it is, it just kinda flashes by and I’m not certain why it’s there.
Back on the Ragnarok, the group discusses what’s going on. Rinoa admits her embarrassment in causing this latest situation, while Squall returns to his taciturn self. Zell wants to stay on-topic, and asks what they’re going to do about Lunatic Pandora, and Seifer, who’s apparently in charge of it. Squall dismisses Seifer as a puppet of Ultimecia, so Zell declares that they should “kick her ass”, before making a faux-pas and saying that SeeD exists to destroy sorceresses in front of Rinoa.
She doesn’t seem too bothered, though, and requests to go to the orphanage. Rinoa passed out before they visited it properly, which I’d forgotten, and wants to go somewhere that’s far from lots of people.
Selphie pilots the Ragnarok over to the orphanage, and Squall and Rinoa stand together and look out over a field of flowers. As with the earlier rescue sequence, this calls back to the opening cutscene, where we saw Rinoa standing in the very same field (or, well, I think so – the FMV one is a bit more colourful).
Zell bumbles into the scene before realising that Squall and Rinoa probably want to be alone together, and he expresses his surprise at Squall actually being romantic. Rinoa counters by mentioning the library girl (does she actually have a name?), and Zell runs for it before he has to admit to anything.
Alone again, Rinoa and Squall discuss her future as a sorceress. Squall attempts to comfort her by saying she can be like Edea, but given that Edea got possessed by Ultimecia and used to conquer half the known world, that’s probably not a great comfort. As Rinoa goes into more detail about her fears, Squall considers becoming her knight, in a fitting contrast to Seifer, whose choice was mostly made for him (he’s being mind-controlled/influenced, right?).
Rinoa continues her train of thought, and eventually comes to the conclusion that when the time comes, it’ll be Squall who has to put her down, something she claims she’d be okay with. Squall has none of it, and instantly shoots down the suggestion. He declares that he’ll take down Ultimecia, not her, but Rinoa reminds him that Ultimecia can just possess her in the present, while remaining safe in the future.
Rinoa suggests letting Esthar keep her prisoner, but Squall just states that he’d go and rescue her again. Instead, he advises her to stay close to him. Rinoa gets excited – these words were apparently the root of her affection towards him. In case you forgot when he first said them, like me and apparently Squall, it was back at the end of Disc 1, when Squall (and Irvine) rescued her from the lizard monsters. Just don’t mention that Irvine had to badger Squall into going in the first place.
But yes, Squall doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and quickly blames the memory issues from Guardian Force use, which Rinoa, thankfully, dismisses as just an excuse. She then tells Squall about a dream she had, where she was supposed to meet him, but couldn’t find him anywhere, and went searching all over the world.
Squall tells her it was just a dream, but actually comes up with a thoughtful suggestion for them to set the orphanage as their meeting point, if they ever get split up in future. Once again, we’re called back to that opening cutscene, as they exchange some of the words in that enigmatic conversation that started off the entire game. They promise to meet there, and Rinoa cheers up.
Just at that moment, though, Zell rushes into frame with some “urgent” news. It seems that Esthar want to recruit SeeD for a mission, which is surprising news indeed – I’d practically forgotten that they were a mercenary unit by this point. Snarking aside, Esthar has apparently got a plan to defeat Ultimecia, and when Squall expresses his suspicion of a trap, Zell throws in that the person they spoke to was Kiros.
For all that I feel there were several missteps in this section of the story, there’s a definite feeling of satisfaction (for me, at least), as all the various plot points have their pay-off. Disc 3 moves at a lightning pace compared to the others, but it brings together a lot of the disparate threads in a way that mostly works. The time travel business is inconsistent and doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but the reveal of how Laguna is connected to Esthar and the current events is one of those moments where everything just locked into place in my head.
Before we join Laguna in Esthar, though, Edea wants a last word with Squall. She tells him about how she received the powers of a sorceress on two separate occasions, choosing to take on the second sorceress’s powers rather than allow her to harm the children. She advises Squall that he must fight on, regardless of the cost.
You can also optionally speak to her again with Rinoa, and Rinoa asks Edea for advice on life as a sorceress (they should write a pamphlet, or something). Edea explains that the best way to reduce anxiety as a sorceress is to find a knight, and Rinoa replies that she’s already got herself an apprentice. Edea suspects that neither Adel nor Ultimecia have knights, which might explain why they both went bad. While Ultimecia does take on Seifer, it’s clear that it’s not entirely by his own will, and likely too late to make a difference, since she had already gone bad by that point. Edea also shares that Cid serves as her own knight.
In gameplay terms, Rinoa’s ascension to sorceress gives her a new Limit Break. It effectively casts Berserk on her, but instead of her just uncontrollably attacking, she automatically casts spells from her collection without using them up. The only problem is that she’ll waste time on casting low-level spells if you have them lying around, so effective use of it means pruning your collection a fair bit.
If you’ve not already wandered around Esthar since the Lunar Cry, then you’ll find it a much more dangerous place now, as new monsters have arrived from the moon. FFVIII is a fairly easy game for the most part, once you understand how the Junction System works, but enemies start putting out damage around this point. Seasoned veterans probably still breeze through it, but there were a handful of encounters that forced me to sit up and pay attention for once.
Inside the President Palace, it’s finally time for Squall and Laguna to meet. Laguna is excited to see the people who used to grant him unusual powers in battle, who he always thought of as “the faeries”. You can ask him a series of questions at this stage, but don’t worry if you pick the top option first – while it seems like you may have missed out on answers to the rest, he’ll still have those options after the main conversation ends.
One thing that should be mentioned before the briefing is that Ellone was captured by the Galbadians once her escape pod reached the surface. If you don’t ask about her first, it might seem a little confusing when they talk about rescuing her from Lunatic Pandora when Odine describes the plan.
Laguna calls in Dr. Odine (or Doc Odine) to handle the exposition. You have the option to skip part of his explanation, but I don’t recommend it, since it’s a fairly crucial part of the plot that he goes on to tell you about. Ultimecia’s method of possessing sorceresses hasn’t actually been explained in-story yet, and he tells everyone, with a fair amount of excitement, that Ultimecia has been using a machine of his own creation to do so.
Dubbed Junction Machine Ellone, it replicates the pattern of the electric current in Ellone’s brain, thus creating a mechanised version of her power that presumably has a few more limitations than Ellone’s power. It does seem to have more of an ability to change the past, mind you, but I’ve already complained about that. You never get to actually see Junction Machine Ellone over the course of the game, but I think it’s better to find out that it exists than shutting up Odine mid-explanation.
I don’t know why they don’t just destroy the machine and all records of it (probably, Odine would refuse, and hide his research anyway), but only Ultimecia is allowed to change the past or present anyway.
Now, Odine’s come up with a rather wacky plan to deal with Ultimecia. So long as she’s safe in the future, they can’t stop her, but he’s thought over her plan to compress time, and decided to use that against her. Apparently, Ultimecia needs to head back in time a bit further in order to compress time – it seems that the machine doesn’t quite go back far enough, though as we later find out, it’s only a matter of a few years, since Ellone just pops Ultimecia back to an earlier period of Adel’s lifetime.
Odine explains that there are two sorceresses currently in existence, and Ultimecia needs to possess one of them in order to carry out her business in the present. Since Adel’s not awakened yet, Ultimecia hasn’t possessed her yet. Remember I was curious about what Ultimecia was up to, after dumping Rinoa in space, since it means she can’t monitor things in this time period – I guess she just trusts Seifer to run things up until Adel’s awakening?
Odine recognises that Adel will likely go after both him and Laguna, and even suggests that her will could be powerful enough to reject Ultimecia’s possession. As such, Rinoa is their better bet for taking on Ultimecia’s power. He announces that the briefing’s over, and then actually delivers the briefing.
The plan is as follows:
1) Break into Lunatic Pandora
2) Rescue Ellone
3) Kill Adel
4) Allow Rinoa to be possessed by Ultimecia
5) Have Ellone send Ultimecia to the past via Rinoa
6) Wait for Ultimecia to start using Time Compression (and try to ignore how stuff done in the past still takes a bit of time to start affecting this specific point in the present and no other part of the story/history)
7) Cut Ultimecia off from the past, sending her Back to the Future
8) With time compressed (at least, to an extent), head to the future
9) Kill Ultimecia
Well, it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but let’s go with it. Now that the briefing’s done, you can have that chat with Laguna, or speak to Kiros and Ward. Laguna fills you in on Ellone’s history, which is largely about being kidnapped. You can also insult Kiros’s clothes, if you feel like it.
Squall also gets to tell Laguna that he didn’t like his attitude, while still praising the bond between the three of them. It’s never directly stated, but Squall is almost certainly Laguna’s son, so it’s rather amusing how different the two of them turned out.
If you ask how he became President of Esthar, you get to see the last chapter in Laguna’s backstory. Unlike the other sequences, though, this isn’t via Ellone, so you don’t get to play as him. After recovering Ellone, Laguna and the resistance directed Lunatic Pandora out into the sea, where they then sank it. Understanding that Adel would be swift to retaliate, they set a trap for her at the facility that would become the Sorceress Memorial in the present, which she fell for rather easily.
Once she was trapped, they sent her tomb up into space, and you get to see them using three Ragnarok spaceships to take it up there from the Lunar Gate (nb. I don’t think they’re all called Ragnarok – it sounded like Ragnarok was a specific one, from the earlier conversation with Ground Control).
From there, Laguna didn’t really pay attention to the politics following Adel’s defeat, and found himself named president. As for Ellone, she was sent back to Winhill by herself (allone?), and after Raine died, she was then sent to the orphanage with Laguna and Raine’s child. Laguna expresses a bit of regret at not actually bothering to go back and check himself, but it’s too little too late.
Back aboard the Ragnarok, Laguna delivers a last speech. After summarising the plan one more time, and securing Rinoa’s agreement to allow Ultimecia to possess her, Laguna discusses the upcoming journey through time compression. Apparently, they’ll need to rely on bonds of friendship and love in order to make it to their destination, as they’ll need to believe in each other. Squall’s not exactly one for that sort of thing, but he recognises that the others are enthusiastic about it.
Once the group sets out, Laguna gets another of his nervous leg cramps, and then it’s time for the Final Dungeon in the Modern Era. This isn’t the Point of No Return quite yet, but it’s probably smart to sort out your final business before heading aboard. While you’ll have access to a world map of sorts on Disc 4, it’s a heavily-reduced version.