Back in Deling City, the guard lets you in once you tell him the correct ID number, and the group settles down and waits for General Caraway. Rinoa also clarifies with Squall that her contract is still in effect, and delivers the shock news that she’s in fact General Caraway’s daughter. It doesn’t appear that father and daughter get on very well, and Zell comments that a general and rebel don’t appear to be a good mix.
Caraway has Rinoa locked away, deeming her unfit for the mission, and prepares to give a briefing. Squall makes things awkward before Caraway can get started, warning him not to get in the way once this mission ends, as Squall will be assisting Rinoa’s rebellion again. Irvine interrupts as the voice of reason, reminding everyone that they’re there to deal with the sorceress, and Caraway gets back on track. The sorceress is going to be travelling around the city in a procession, and the assassination will be taking place during this.
Squall was bemused by the unprofessional meetings with the Forest Owls, but Caraway frankly gives them a run for their money. Rather than talk things through with a map, he leads everyone out into the city, and demonstrates where the parade will be going by running around in the street. The briefing’s rather long, but can be summarised as follows:
- The gateway team will close the arch’s gates when the parade passes through it, trapping the sorceress
- The sniper team will shoot the sorceress
For some reason, it’s the sniper team’s duty to attack the sorceress head-on if the sniper fails, even though the gateway team will be right next to the sorceress.
Anyhow, you’re set loose in the city once Caraway’s done. I took the opportunity to start refining Curagas with one of my Guardian Force skills, and boosted my party HP by a few thousand. This renders the rest of the disc’s battles moot, as nothing will ever hit you for anything close to that.
Back at the mansion, Caraway clarifies that they’re basically throwing everything into this plan (that is, they’re willing to sacrifice the rookie SeeDs), hence the plan to just outright assault the sorceress if the sniper fails. If nothing else, this clarifies just what a threat the sorceress poses, given how afraid the two Gardens and the Galbadian top general are. Caraway heads off with the sniper team, leaving Quistis with her gateway team.
Before Quistis can leave, Rinoa reappears, having broken out from her confinement. She’s snatched an Odine Bangle from Caraway’s room, and plans to use it on the sorceress. Apparently, it can suppress sorcery, or some such. Zell comments that the Odine brand turns out top-notch magical goods, and if you read the info at Squall’s desk earlier, you may remember that Dr Odine is a leading scientist in magic. He’ll come up again later.
Quistis isn’t impressed by Rinoa’s new plan, and refuses to consider it, insulting Rinoa at the same time. I’m not sure why she’s so hostile to Rinoa, but either way, she storms out and leaves Rinoa to sulk. Maybe it’s resentment over Squall, but that doesn’t really go anywhere beyond a short reference at the end of Disc 2.
Squall and Irvine have a brief conversation as they head over to their position. Irvine comments on how SeeDs aren’t supposed to question their mission, and says that a purely evil opponent would make their choices much easier. However, Squall does not agree – to him, it’s simply a matter of opposing viewpoints, with no good or bad sides. This highlights the issue I spoke about earlier, where the nuanced occupation story gives way to the “evil Ultimecia being evil” tale by the end of the game.
Squall is essentially proven wrong by this particular tale, since the main villain doesn’t have any redeeming features and is just out to be unpleasant, but generally speaking, most conflicts are more complicated (and destructive) than simply good and bad guys. Even when there are bad guys at the top, they usually get their way by manipulating and poisoning the good and neutral. FFVIII had the opportunity, with its military-based story and war orphan cast, to discuss some quite nuanced themes, but ignored them in favour of wacky time travel and heroic destiny.
The gateway team gets into position, and Caraway leads Squall and Irvine over to the presidential residence, where they’re to lie in wait for the parade. He also comments on the sorceress’s intention to use Galbadia Garden as her base, and Squall realises that’s part of why the Gardens are getting involved, even though Martine already told them this (and you may have also heard it from a student at the train station on the way to Deling City).
As for Quistis, she’s determined to prove why she was demoted from Instructor, and she opts to abandon her post to go and apologise to Rinoa. This game comes from before the era of everyone and their cat having a mobile phone, not to mention the actual in-story radio waves interference, so she can’t simply call Rinoa and clear up matters without causing the group issues.
Caraway, meanwhile, advises Rinoa that she’s better off inside, away from the impending chaos in the streets, and he begins to lock her into the room where they all talked strategy before. The house seems to have something of an unusual interior layout, as Caraway doesn’t notice Rinoa charge out of the room he’s (apparently rather slowly) locking, and Quistis, Zell, and Selphie don’t encounter Rinoa as they run into the room either. The lengthy locking process comes to an end, and the three SeeDs are trapped inside. The windows are too strong to break, it seems, and so their post remains unmanned.
Oblivious to this development, Rinoa sneaks into the presidential residence, determined to give the sorceress her not-at-all-suspicious bangle. There’s apparently no security, since Rinoa can just enter the sorceress’s room unchallenged, and it’s also seemingly normal for people to wander in from the outside balcony, since Rinoa tries to deliver a lie about giving her the bangle as a gift on behalf of her father. Surprisingly, the sorceress isn’t fooled, and she mind-controls Rinoa and forces her to follow as she heads out to address the assembled crowd.
The sorceress, now identified as Edea, delivers a rather baffling speech. She repeatedly insults the crowd as lowlifes and “shameless filthy wretches”, and mocks them for celebrating a sorceress despite fearing them for generations. There’s some quibbling that comes up now and then, because the English translation changes a lot of the lines here, but neither translation fixes the fact that her speech is bonkers and makes absolutely no sense.
In essence, Edea is mocking the crowd and abusing her powers to send them into a frenzy, so that they are not bothered by the meaning of her words. She even kills President Deling in front of everyone, and nobody ever seems to question this. Squall and Irvine are conveniently unaffected by this mysterious spell (Guardian Force protection, maybe?), but at some point people would surely remember? And do the guards know what’s happening? They end up fighting the crowd by the time Squall hops in a car and drives over to the sorceress, but whether they’re trying to control the frenzy, or part of it, I couldn’t say.
And the fact that the crowd is under the influence of a spell isn’t really covered in-game either. It’s one of those things I suppose you’re expected to assume, but it’s extremely wonky and the reasoning behind most of this doesn’t really hold up. Edea goes to the trouble of setting herself up as an ambassador through the lengthy process of invading Dollet and broadcasting from Timber, when apparently she could just murder Deling and take over whenever and wherever she pleased without anyone questioning it.
Once her speech is done, Edea decides to murder Rinoa by setting giant lizard monsters on her, rather than using the efficient method that dispatched Deling (maybe it has a cooldown). Irvine wants to go and rescue Rinoa, while Squall is intent on sticking to the plan and only moving into position when the gates have opened.
Quistis and her party meanwhile try to find a way out of Caraway’s mansion, and have to solve a brief Resident Evil-esque puzzle to unlock a secret passage. This leads them into the sewers, and partway through, they hear the parade begin.
A grand and intimidating affair, the parade is another of the memorable scenes that really stuck in my head over the years. There’s a sinister beauty to it, and I remember feeling very nervous about the upcoming likely confrontation with the sorceress. I also feel like the dancers at the beginning of Dark Cloud stole their routine from this parade…
There’s also a big shock for us, as the camera swoops in on the parade and shows Seifer standing next to Edea’s throne. It seems that not only was he not executed, but he was given a top role to boot! I’m sure everyone was very surprised.
However, there’s little time to process that, as Irvine identifies their opening, and leads Squall into the presidential residence using what can only be described as the most feeble attempt at stealth since my last time playing Metal Gear Solid V (they basically crouch a bit while running along the road in full sight of everyone). It doesn’t really matter, though, since the crowd is basically under the influence at this stage.
Inside the residence, you can pass by the slain Deling, about whom Squall has nothing to say, and head on inside to rescue Rinoa.
If your refining game isn’t on point, don’t worry – you can fairly easily draw all the available spells you like from these guys, though I recommend killing one of them first. Once you’re done with them, Rinoa tells Squall four times in a row that she was scared. She says she couldn’t fight alone, and Squall thinks to himself that she’s not ready for all this, but says nothing to comfort her, though he does at least tell her to stay close to him as a concession when she continues to cling to him. This is a Significant Moment for their relationship, and comes up again right near the end of the game.
Once they’re in position and waiting for the time to carry out the assassination, Squall broaches the subject of Seifer’s survival with Rinoa. Being his usual charming self, he outright tells her that he’ll probably end up killing Seifer, and Rinoa reflects on the world the two of them inhabit. Squall notes that it depends on Irvine’s performance, and checks in on him, only to find Irvine’s getting a bad case of nerves. Irvine declares that he can’t do it, and Squall facepalms.
Back with Quistis and company, you have to navigate a fairly obnoxious sewer that follows a similar format to the Tomb of the Unknown King, insofar as it reuses the same location images to make itself annoying to navigate. Where it differs is that it doesn’t have a map. Still, it’s not the hardest place to get through.
Once you get Quistis’s team back into position, the clock hits 20:00:00, and everything kicks off. Quistis lowers the gate, trapping Edea inside the archway, while the carousel clock where Squall, Rinoa, and Irvine are waiting rises above the presidential palace, and Squall urges Irvine to take the shot. Encouraging him that they can still handle it even if Irvine misses, Squall reframes the shot as a signal for them to get started, and this seems to get through to him. Irvine moves into position and shoots, but Edea blocks the shot with ease.
Squall hops down from the presidential residence and steals someone’s car, driving over to the archway and engaging Edea and Seifer.
His conversation with Seifer is very brief. Seifer dismisses Squall’s insult, announces himself as Edea’s knight, and then states that this has always been his dream. With that said, it’s time to fight.
Seifer’s not a great fighter. I wasted endless turns drawing spells from him, while he tapped me occasionally with his sword, and used Fira here and there. Once I was maxed on all his spells, he’d whittled me down to critical health, so I took him out with one Limit Break. The system in FFVIII is open to absolutely horrible abuse. I’m not pausing for breath much here, and the game’s still hideously easy at this stage, and a brief search shows people wandering around with eight thousand hitpoints and dealing two or three times the damage I am with regular attacks at this stage.
Of course, when I first played the game, there’s a fairly high chance that all I did vs Seifer was summon Guardian Forces.
With Seifer trounced, the sorceress Edea steps in. Compared to modern pre-boss cutscenes, this one is laughably brief. She notes that Squall’s a SeeD planted in a run-down Garden, and the next fight begins. You’re not fighting alone this time, though; Rinoa and Irvine join you, with Rinoa stating that she can fight if she’s with Squall, while Irvine is determined to redeem himself.
I don’t have too much to say about this fight. When I originally did it, you can guarantee that I spammed Guardian Forces, while these days my tactic is to use a Limit Break. After having Irvine deal a solitary Attack, I used Squall’s Renzokuken, and the battle came to an instant end.
However, this is one of those dreaded cases where the boss unleashes her cutscene power to defeat you. Edea very slowly summons a lance of ice, Squall and co. stand still patiently waiting, and then Edea skewers Squall with said lance. As he collapses from the platform, Rinoa reaches out for him, and Disc One comes to a close… or, well, this story segment, if you’re playing the PC version.
On a side note, there’s a theory bobbing about on the internet that Squall in fact dies at this point, and the rest of the game is just his dying dream of what may have been. Much of the argument in favour of this theory seems to rest on the fact that the story in the rest of the game is crazy, which is true, but I think we’ve seen a fair bit of evidence that the early story is pretty wacky as well. Still, I always like a good story-changing theory, even if most of them seem to be “they were dead all along!”
As for the sequence we’ve just done, I was a big fan when I first played it, and even now, with all the things that, ahem, bother me, I think it’s a great example of a set piece. You’ve got a clear goal, a series of obstacles, and events that happen to add drama and change what you were expecting.
My main issue is that Edea’s plan makes very little sense to me at this stage of the storyline, and the worst part is that it gets even crazier as we delve into the rest of the game. Maybe there’s something to that Squall’s Dead theory after all, huh?