Part 5: Part Five: The Fire CavernPart Five: The Fire Cavern
Well, we just spent two updates screwing around in Balamb Garden like a dunce.
Today, we're going to go outside. However, we cannot be assholes and leave through the incoming gate.
We can talk to the reception guy, though. He's an important guy around Garden, and it's nice to say hi.
Well, let's go to the dark zone.
Balamb Garden has a lot of screens. It's large.
This guy's asleep.
And now he's gone, because I went inside and came back to talk to these girls.
They're discussing their lunch plans, and Squall is going to listen like crazy.
At this point, I decided to stop following them. They decide to go someplace that serves sweet stuff, one girl just started a diet but can start again tomorrow, everybody laughs, &c.
On a second run, I found out that these girls have another conversation:
Where they talk about going to see a movie!
Ghost Fact: I haven't seen a movie in the theatre in almost 3 years.
Sorceress & Knight sounds like a classic movie.
Well, see ya.
With this one, I actually managed to capture the whole conversation!
No, what happened yesterday?
Fine, don't tell me. Fuck you guys.
This guy appreciates me.
The woman in the dress is Quistis. She changed into street clothes just to take Squall on this outing.
: GF gives us strength. The stronger the GF, the stronger we become.
This is about half right. GF doesn't really give you much in itself, but it allows you to get things, and it is very important.
: ...So, here's a brief explanation on junctioning a GF.
In this tutorial, you can see Quistis's stats at level 6 (where she has 420 HP ) but she joins your party at level 8.
A nice thing about this game is you can skip tutorials, so you don't have to sit through them. They're in the menu, though, if you forget (or skip one by accident).
Junctioning magic is 99% of the point of junctioning a GF, so it's really cool that the game doesn't tell you about it here.
This is a way to get magic, but if you rely on drawing in battle, you're a chump. The game doesn't tell you about that, either, though.
I have nothing else to do this afternoon.
There are only three things on this entire continent.
Okay! Before we head to the Fire Cavern, I'm going to explain junctioning.
Junctioning is basically equipping a GF to a character. It is very important to do, and if you forget...you're fucked!
Once you junction a GF, you get the chance to junction abilities. Every GF starts out with these four basic ones, but there are a lot of specialty abilities you can get later. The top three slots are active abilities and the bottom slots are passive abilities.
We have no passives available right now, so I just set up Squall like this.
Like Quistis implied earlier, you can junction magic as well as GFs, but we have no magic right now, so that'll have to wait.
Quistis gets IcyNips.
And we're on the road!
Here's the world map music:
You can listen to that while I open a new menu up. This is the GF menu, where you can check your GFs' stats. As you can probably tell, GFs can level up, which increases their HP and the damage they do when you summon them in battle.
You can also change what ability the GF is learning here. The default is generally SumMag+10%, which boosts their damage in battle but isn't a priority.
I set QuesoCola to learn Card, which is generally pretty good because it lets you kill things without gaining EXP, and gets you new cards (it is mostly useful for the first thing).
IcyNips is on the path to learn I Mag-RF, which will let me make ice magic out of items instead of drawing it. Refinement is the best way to get magic in this game because, unlike drawing, it's reliable and doesn't take a million fuckin' years. Generally speaking, when you get a new GF, refinement abilities should be the first ones you set it to learn.
On my way to the Fire Cavern, I get another little tutorial from Qusitis.
: The R2 button is the trigger. Pull it just as you strike. Same for the Renzokuken.
This refers to the trigger of the gunblade. If you hit the button with the right timing, Squall gets a critical hit. Everyone else relies on the Luck stat for this, but with Squall you're in complete control; the tradeoff is that every other party member gets double damage on a critical, but Squall only gets 150%. The timing is pretty easy to get used to, but you can also set the gunblade to auto-trigger in the menu if you're not confident in yourself. As for Renzokuken, that's Squall's limit break, and it'll be explained when I get to it.
Now for drawing: this is one way to get magic; it's good here before you get any refinement abilities, or if an enemy has magic you can't refine yet. See, every enemy has a list of spells it's carrying around with it (they're all question points here because I've not drawn any of them, so I don't know what the spells are yet).
So you choose your spell, choose if you want to stock it or cast it...
...And you get some spells! (Or cast the spell immediately from the enemy, if you choose Cast.)
You get different amounts of spells depending on your level, the enemy's level, the difficulty rating of the spell, and a small random factor. The minimum you can get is 0 (the draw fails), and the maximum is 9.
The reason spells come in quantities is because this game treats them as consumables. If you cast a spell, it is used up forever and you can't get it back. Spells like fire are everywhere, so you can go ahead and cast them 'til the cows come home, but for rarer spells, you have to be more conscientious.
Of course, with early enemies like these Bite Bugs, there's not much of a reason to cast spells anyway.
Okay, now levels: every level in FFVIII takes 1,000 EXP to gain. Squall and Quistis both start in the middle of their levels, so they only need 500 EXP to level up right now. In other news, every level takes 500 EXP for GF to gain, but the amount they get depends on how many are junctioned to the character.
We also get items! This M-Stone Piece is used for refining, which we can't do right now.
GF get AP after battles, which is how they learn new abilities.
Here we are at last: the Fire Cavern.
Oh Jesus H, Quistis.
: I'll be explaining how to utilize the magic you have stocked. When you draw a new magic, try experimenting with it when you junction. This is how you become stronger.
I'm skipping the tutorial here because I can explain better.
: Ok, ready to go?
Yeah, let's get a move on.
Yes I know how to use my weapon. The scar is from a fight, not a lobotomy.
: Oh, ok. I was just concerned, that's all.
Duly noted. Let's get a move on.
: Alright, let's go!
So, junctioning magic.
Basically, instead of armour and shit, in Final Fantasy VIII, you equip spells to boost your stats. You can equip one spell to each stat.
The boost you get from junctioning magic depends on what spell you use, and how many. As you can see, junctioning 8 Fires does nothing for Magic.
25 Fires raises Quistis's Spirit by 1 point, though.
Like Quistis said, junctioning magic is key to actually getting through this game, because your stats will always be shit if you just go by levels. On the other hand, enemies level up with Squall, and they get a lot more out of each level. So, you need to junction to stay ahead of enemies. In theory, though, you need to level up so that enemies get better magic for you to junction.
Of course, because there are ways to get magic that don't depend on your level, you can also stay at a low level on purpose, get high-level magic to junction, and steamroll everything.
Now, let's get to the Fire Cavern proper.
These guys are Garden faculty members.
: I'm ready.
: I'm his support. Instructor No. 14, Quistis Trepe.
Garden Faculty: Select a time limit. Choose one suited to your abilities. Challenging yet reasonable.
This is a timed mission. The less time there is on the clock when you finish in the Fire Cavern, the better you score. 10 minutes is more than enough, unless (maybe) it's your first time through the game. Then you might choose 20. 30 and 40 are both absolutely fucking absurd, and there's no way you're getting a good score.
Garden Faculty: Very well. Good luck.
I chose 10.
Of course, the fucking faculty's line already cost me 2 seconds!
Since we're going into a dungeon, here's a dungeon theme:
: I guess my charm makes them nervous.
Squall actually stops and turns to face Quistis here.
: I'm just kidding! Trying to keep you relaxed, that's all.
I like the banter between Squall and Quistis in the early part of the game. I think it sets up a pretty good dynamic; Quistis is confident and knows that Squall is capable, but lacks social skills. Squall is trying to be professional and lacks social skills, so he misses that Quistis is: a, trying to help him as a teacher; b, desperately trying to flirt.
Red Bats are a new enemy in the Fire Cavern. They are absolute shit and Squall and Quistis can both kill them with one physical attack.
For some reason, they have Thunder spells.
The Fire Cavern is very linear and very short. The only side path in the whole place is that one with a draw point on the right.
If you encounter a Bomb, Quistis tells you about it.
: Use an ice attack for these. Check the monster's weakness with Scan.
This is an introduction to the concept of elemental weaknesses, which is brand new for Final Fantasy VIII. If you hit an enemy's weakness with the type of attack it's weak to, it takes extra damage.
I don't have any ice attacks, and I don't feel like fighting four enemies anyway, so I just took a powder on this one.
This is the penultimate screen of the Fire Cavern.
And here we are. Let's face a GF, I guess.
: You seem confident enough.
The hole in the ground puts on a little light show for us...
...And out pops the boss!
Ifrit has Cure spells to draw, if you're in need. This is pretty nice, since he's probably the first thing that will come anywhere close to killing you.
Being a fire-elemental GF, Ifrit has a crippling weakness to Ice, so IcyNips is handy here.
It also lets me show off how summoning GF works. When you select the GF, you have to wait before they show up. During this time, a blue bar replaces the ATB (how close a character's turn is to coming up) and starts emptying out. The GF's HP also replaces the summoner's - if the summoner takes a hit while summoning, the GF takes the damage instead; this can be useful to soak up a dangerous attack, but the GF can be knocked out if its HP hits zero, so be careful.
Once the bar empties, the GF is summoned.
Each GF has its own attack, and a lot of them are elemental. IcyNips's is ice.
It does a lot of damage to Ifrit - he only has 1,068 HP (this is fixed - Ifrit is an exception, and does not level up with the player), so summoning IcyNips will tear him up fast.
Ifrit does not like nips.
His Fire spells can pack a punch, but you're not in much danger during this fight.
The idea of this battle is that you keep an eye on Ifrit's HP with Scan and don't defeat him until the last second; you need 10 seconds or less left on the clock to get the highest marks.
Ifrit also has a few lines in this fight; he says this before the first time he physically attacks.
His physicals are actually dangerous.
This is after you deplete his HP some more; if you don't have Scan, I guess you could use this to gauge how far you are in the fight.
And then he says this when you beat him.
Which I did with a minute left on the clock, because I'm a dunce.
As pointed out by thread poster ApplesandOranges, Ifrit has alternate dialogue if you defeat him with IcyNips.
And as pointed out by eating only apples, the timer still runs during the battle results, so even a shit time like this can be salvaged!
Bosses in Final Fantasy VIII do not give out EXP.
If your GF gets knocked out, you're probably using it too often. Get good, scrub.
Ifrit's card is our first good playing card.
20 AP is a lot.
We also get a chance to name Ifrit.
After the fight, Quistis has another tutorial for us.
: Good, you got yourself a GF.
This is a tutorial on how the past works.
: If you junction that GF, you'll be able to use the Elem-J ability. Here's an explanation on Elements.
Let's not and say we did.
: There's a lot of Fire elemental monsters here, so junction Blizzard to your Elem-Atk. you'll have an easier time with the Fire elemental enemies.
Basically, you can equip spells to your attacks as well as your stats, and elemental spells give your attacks elemental properties.
On my way out, I check out that draw point. Fire is apropos, I suppose, but not very useful.
Draw points give you more spells than enemies (generally), but take time to recharge after being used, so they're no good for grinding spells.
On the way out of the Fire Cavern, IcyNips learns I Mag-RF. Now we can make ice magic whenever we want (as long as we have the items for it)!
Next time: back to Balamb Garden.