Part 8: Part Eight: The SeeD Exam, Part 2Part Eight: The SeeD Exam, Part 2
Here we are, in Dollet for the SeeD field exam.
While we're here, this music is playing. I think it's a pretty solid track, so you should listen to it if that's your thing.
There are people around in Dollet (mainly other SeeD candidates) but if you talk to them, you lose points on your exam, so this is a 100% no talking run.
Up here is a save point, and a good time to talk about the characters' stats.
The first thing you might notice is that they suck. Characters in this game get jack shit for natural stats (for example, Squall's natural Strength at level 100 is 47). This is why junctioning is so important, as the game has hinted to us; SeeDs have good training, but they get most of their combat ability from GFs.
That aside, let's actually look at the characters, starting with Squall. Squall is pretty good at everything, and has one of the best stat spreads in the party. Squall is mainly unremarkable, though he does top the charts for Vitality (this game's name for physical defence) and he's pretty fast. The most interesting thing about Squall's stats is his accuracy/Hit: it is always 255%, so Squall can never miss a physical attack, even if he gets Blinded. This is extremely useful and is actually part of one of the simplest game-breaking strategies you can use. I'll cover that when I get to it.
As an aside, some people might tell you that having Squall Blinded disables the gunblade's trigger, but in my experience,
Seifer is a stronger, faster Squall with a little less Vitality and a little more Spirit (magic defence). Like Squall, he uses a gunblade in battle, and like Squall, he has a 255% hit rate. Because of the way he swings his gunblade, it's a little harder to hit the trigger with Seifer, but it's not a huge difference.
Zell has higher Strength than Squall, but is worse at everything else. In fact, past level 40, he's not even stronger than Squall. He can also miss in fights, which makes him worse than Squall or Seifer. Zell is also the first party member we've had who hasn't been a highly-talented child prodigy, so it makes sense that he's a bit worse. Not that any of it matters when you get your junctions in a line, but hey, it's interesting to look at.
Oh, and I make sure to do junctions here. Zell gets Queso, Squall gets Mufasa, and Seifer gets IcyNips.
I also move Quistis's Water spells over to Seifer so he has something to junction (I had a lot of fish fins, so Squall and Quistis both had 100 Waters. I never made any for Zell, but it doesn't matter at this point).
Oh, and if you're wondering where Quistis is on stats, she's basically on par with Zell. A little slower and weaker, but with higher Spirit. I think if you add the stat values up, Quistis has 3 points more than Zell at level 100.
Running through this archway, we get our first battle in Dollet when two Galbadian soldiers run out to meet us.
Fun fact: these basic G-Soldiers beat out Squall in Strength and Magic at any level. As I alluded to earlier, SeeDs without GFs are just regular people, and these guys are probably more experienced and fully grown than teenagers. I think this is really neat gameplay/story integration, and it's a shame that nobody but the biggest Final Fantasy VIII nerds are going to see it.
Also, I'm sorry about the black boxes behind the ATB gauges. It's an emulator error, and I can't figure out how to fix it. They don't even appear everywhere - they weren't in the Fire Cavern, for example.
G-Soldiers are useful for drawing Cure if you need some, I guess.
Other than that, they cast Fire spells. This is the same type of para-magic that SeeD uses. We need to use the GF to use magic, but I think that anybody can use para-magic if they're just properly trained in it; the GF is a shortcut and boosts the efficacy of the stuff, but isn't a necessary component.
G-Soldiers are really just cannon fodder.
They drop Potions, which is a fact.
Oh, GF levels. I don't know if I've gone over this, but GFs can level up just like characters. It increases their HP and the amount of damage they do in battle. Some GF abilities are locked behind level gates. Like your party members, GFs level up at fixed intervals - every 500 EXP. It's not really something you should worry too much about - if you have to grind levels for your GFs, you're relying on them too much.
Dollet seems like a very European kind of town to me. I kind of like it, but I feel like they could have done more to make it feel like it was being occupied/was a warzone. There's nothing going on on the streets that would ever make you think there's any fighting going on.
Seifer doesn't follow your party during this sequence, by the way. He'll run to some point on the screen, then stop and wait for Squall and Zell to catch up. It's neat because he's still the squad leader, even though Squall is the player character.
As we run under this bridge, two more G-Soldiers jump down to give us something to do.
You're always struck first in this fight (or maybe I just have the weirdest luck).
Cannon Fodder #2: They still look like kids!
A little commentary on how fucked up it is that SeeDs can be as young as 15, perhaps?
Cannon Fodder #1: Elite forces from Garden?
Nevermind, he's probably just never seen SeeDs before and is surprised that they're not adults.
At this point, I decided to have Squall and Zell off themselves.
This is because of force of habit. It's very useful to have those two KO'd for a while here, and Seifer can handle G-Soldiers by himself no sweat.
It also makes it easier to use Seifer's limit break. See, instead of being used when a gauge is filled after taking damage, like in FFVII, IX, and IX, or when the character's HP is low, like in FFVI, the ability to use limit breaks in Final Fantasy VIII is determined by something called "crisis level". Crisis Level is determined by how much HP the character has left, how many party members are down, if the character has any negative statuses on them, and a random element. For Seifer, the "remaining HP" modifier is smaller than other characters, so he can use his limit break far more often than other characters, especially when the other two party members are KO'd.
Seifer's limit break involves casing a fire spell on enemies, which implies that what he did to Squall in the intro was a limit break. Squall's response was also a limit break.
No Mercy is a doofy-looking move where Seifer spins his gunblade around and then sends pinwheels of gunblade energy at all enemies.
It makes short work of G-Soldiers, but I wish the devs had given Seifer a less silly limit break.
Phoenix Downs are pretty common in this game, being available at any store. I like games that don't restrict revival items really heavily.
On the next screen, Seifer is waiting for us.
: The Central Square is up ahead.
Dollet is not very big, so we're almost to our objective already. This exam is piss easy.
: Come out'n show your faces! Don't leave me hangin' now!
Zell is right. Seifer is the kind of glory hound that gets people killed.
Oh well, orders is orders.
Hey, looks like you found the Galbadians. Good work, man.
This fight goes exactly as you expect.
Yeah, somehow I don't think that five guys was the entire occupying force. Call me crazy.
Seifer is doing a heroic pose here that I like.
We're technically supposed to be looking for Galbadians, but talking to a dog is more fun.
The dog likes Seifer better though.
I spy with my little eye a Galbadian who I'm about to beat up.
Cool jump, guy.
Too bad about your guts.
I was right about the occupying force. It was six guys.
Like I said, this exam's gonna be piss easy. All we have to do is stand around until someone tells us to go home.
: Standby... How boring...
I have a feeling that Seifer was put on a job like this on purpose.
At this point we're just waiting.
Eventually, Seifer will go to the fountain, but he can't get there if Squall is in the way.
He doesn't give a shit if Zell is there, though.
...Holy shit, Zell is a ghost.
You can hear explosions in the distance.
I included this one because I think it's funny how Seifer has both his own and Zell's hands on his hips.
During this whole bit, the dog follows Seifer around and whines at him.
Now the dog slinks off, scared of the yelling sword man.
: What are you waiting for!? Come show me what you got!
Well, he tried, at least.
Wow, the moon is huge tonight.
At this point, we just have to wait.
I could talk to Zell, but I actually remembered to wait this time.
This came up before I remembered that Zell has a line here.
I have a feeling like Seifer is about to do something stupid.
Suddenly, the dog runs over and starts howling at something.
A Galbadian scout comes by, but his efforts are foiled by the extreme hiding abilities of SeeD.
Then he runs off towards the mountains.
Some other G-Soldiers follow him. Seifer, who was spoiling for a fight a minute ago, and who is supposed to be keeping the area clear of Galbadians, does nothing.
Thank you, Detective Leonhart.
The store, Zell. They forgot to get milk.
You can just see what he's talking about on the peak on the left. It's some kind of tower.
I like Seifer's "pointing with gunblade" pose.
: But that's against orders!
: Weren't you just saying how bored you were?
No, because I forgot to talk to him.
Squall sort of walks away from Seifer and Zell here. He knows that Zell is right, but he also knows that his job here is to follow Seifer's orders. He doesn't like it, and he wants to get away from having to make a call.
: ...Captain's decision?
Seifer puts his hand on Squall's shoulder here, but Squall pushes it away.
Unlike earlier, Squall stands and looks Seifer right in the eye here.
: Thanks to you, I feel like I can take on anyone. Even if they do fight dirty, like you.
: You'll thank me when the time comes.
: I thought you guys didn't get along? You're like, all buddy-buddy now. Listen. This ain't no ordinary battle. It's an exam, an important one. I'm tellin' ya, we have to stick to orders.
Zell is absolutely correct here. He's not an idiot.
Unfortunately, Zell also has a button that Seifer knows exactly how to press.
: Seifer, if we're gonna go, let's hurry.
Squall is smart enough to know that Seifer is going to go no matter what he and Zell say. At least if they go with him, he's less likely to be killed.
: The enemy is headed for the facility. We, Squad B, are to secure the summit. Move out!
: Tch... Fine.
And off we go to do something stupid.
It didn't come through in this shot, but on the emulator, this bridge absolutely freaks the fuck out.
There's a wounded Dollet soldier here, but we still aren't allowed to talk to anybody.
Once we reach Seifer, another wounded Dollet soldier crawls out from behind some rocks.
Dollet Soldier: Ahhh! W-W-Who are you!?
: Don't worry. We're SeeD candidates. We've been dispatched by Garden.
: So what's going on up there?
Dollet Soldier: The Galbadian Soldiers have entered the Communication Tower. On top of that...that place has always been a nesting ground for monsters. If you guys are goin' up, be caref...
Squall tries to grab him, but ends up with a fistful of fight instead.
We're just going to hop over to an alternate timeline where Squall and Zell aren't unconscious so Seifer can explain something.
: Listen up! The finishing blow determines the EXP. Save it for me!
In this game, whatever character lands the last hit of the battle (even if they're a GF) gets an EXP boost. It's not generally that big a deal, but if you're trying to do a low-level game, you have to pay attention to it so people don't end up gaining a level you don't want.
Anacondaur (the snake) is a lot tougher than the G-Soldiers, but I put those Tornado spells I've been carrying around on Seifer's Strength.
It's not that tough. This is also a pretty good example of how you can break the game with Junctions - that's a lot of damage.
: That sucks.
: More fun for us. Come on....
Seifer seems like the kind of hero a lot of RPG players would want.
On this screen, I stopped to just fight enemies for half an hour. Not for grinding reasons, mind, but because one of the things you're marked on during the exam is how many enemies you defeat. To get top marks, you have to kill 75. There are about 10 fixed enemies during the whole exam, so 75 is a huge number - it's more enemies than I've fought all game up to this point. So, in the interests of my grade, I did nothing but run in circles fighting enemies.
Highlights include the guy in red at the back, an Elite Soldier. He's a G-Soldier+1. They can use Cure on themselves and they hit a little harder, but they're still not a real threat.
There's also this guy, Geezard. Geezard is one of the weakest monsters in the game.
Its only remarkable feature is that it drops Screws, which are used in getting new weapons.
After I kill a bunch of shitty enemies, I follow Seifer.
Let's all have fun by lying on the ground.
Galbadian Soldier A: The generator is up and running!
Galbadian Soldier #2: No problem with the boosters!
: ...the hell they doing?
Charlie the Galbadian Soldier: Cable disconnection confirmed! Beginning exchange process!
Galbadian Soldier A: Roger.
After that little exchange, the Galbadians all head back inside.
: This must be your first real battle. You scared?
: ...I don't know. I try not to think about it.
This is Squall's stress response. He just tries to avoid thinking. It's, uh, not a great one.
: The way I look at it, as long as you make it out of a battle alive, you're one step closing to fulfilling your dream.
: What!? Your dream?
: You have one too, don't you?
This is another one of those exchanges that shows Seifer respects Squall - if he didn't, he wouldn't bother asking if Squall is afraid or about his dream. In fact, even just asserting that Squall has a dream shows that, because that would make him like Seifer, and Seifer fuckin' loves Seifer.
Squall looks away from Seifer again - he's hiding something.
I have a feeling like he's not gonna go for that, Zell.
: Mind your own business.
I should be a fortuneteller.
Zell is punching the air next to Seifer here.
Seifer just drops this line and runs off toward the comm tower.
Like a damn piano.
Oh shit, we're gonna get it now.
So, instead of following the path, this girl climbed the cliff to find us.
She's not so good at finishing that action, though, and completely biffs it.
She ain't bothered.
Last I checked.
Bad at Standing: Wait a minute... You're the guy who showed me around, right!? Thanks! I don't get so lost anymore.
See? Having manners pays off.
Bad at Standing: Oh yeah, I haven't told you my name yet. I'm...a messenger. Name's Selphie, from Squad A.
Selphie: The squad captain's Seifer, right? Where is he?
Well, see ya, Seifer.
Selphie: (sigh) This sure is tough...
Seeing the cliff, Selphie is compelled to use it as a shortcut. It is her raison d'être.
We'll be taking the long way for now.
Oh, and at this point, Squall and Zell are back on their feet. Seifer is gone, and he ain't comin' back. This is another reason why it's good to keep Squall and Zell unconscious for the exam; if Seifer gains all the levels, it doesn't influence the party's level once he leaves. If you're really dedicated, you can grind Seifer to stupidly high levels to get some good drops from Anacondaur, or level your GFs to 100 without real consequences.
FFVIII Fact: you're forced to walk on this screen.
The moon is kind of nice, even if it is going to crash into the Earth soon.
You can jump off the cliff like Selphie did, but it's points off.
: ...Much quicker? Pu-lease... You wouldn't normally jump off a cliff, OK!?
The funnier answer here is the second one, but it also involves some extremely bad manners.
: ...Yeah, I guess so. You wouldn't normally jump that.
Selphie: Hmm...I don't know... Well, anyway.
Selphie: Has everyone equipped a GF? You haven't forgotten... Have you...?
The game is pretty good about reminding you to set your junctions in these early areas. And I'm not sure, but I think that second bit might be a joke.
At this point, Selphie joins our party so we're back at full strength. She also has all of Seifer's magic, so the Tornado spells he was using go back to Squall.
I make sure to give her a GF.
Well, it's not the Burger King.
: Sure is big...
Looks like Seifer found the Galbadians.
Seifer doesn't like it when girls try to talk to him.
Gee, I wonder.
Next time: did Seifer go up?