Part 9: Part Nine: I Think I Can Still Get Three More Out of the SeeD ExamPart Nine: I Think I Can Still Get Three More Out of the SeeD Exam
Yes, so, today's mystery: where is Seifer?
Sometimes in Final Fantasy VIII you can forget to set your junctions, but thankfully there's a gameplay feature that revolves around this. It's called "getting your ass kicked and reloading your save".
During my grind with Seifer, I picked up a few new abilities, like IcyNips's Vit+20%. This raises Vitality...by 20 percent! Abilities like this are good supplements to junctions, especially when the numbers start getting bigger. Vitality's not a super-important stat, but there's only one ability, so it gets set for now.
Squall gets Str+20%. Strength is great. It's the bomb dot com, guys. Strength.
Selphie gets fucked, because there are no abilities for her, and I set Card instead of Magic like a jackass.
Water is between a second-tier and third-tier elemental spell for stat bonuses, which makes it good for this point in the game, but not game-breaking.
Oh, and even though she's not in the active party, you can still junction Quistis right now. You know, if you feel like wasting a GF or some other dumb shit.
Over here is a Blind draw point. Blind is part of a cheap strategy that I'll be making big use of in a little bit, because it's great for ruining something that's supposed to be difficult.
Then I make Selphie, who can't cast magic, draw it.
That's how they usually work, chief.
I love to...go up.
Pictured: the special camera angle for using the elevator.
: Wow, this lift is pretty cool!
It's a platform with no safety rails, so if you think a deathtrap is cool, yeah I guess.
: Don't get too excited, or you'll fall!
: Like I'm really going to!
Meanwhile, at the top of the elevator...
Wedge: There has been a report of a monster-shaped shadow on top of the tower.
Time for comic relief with G-Soldier and The Elite.
Biggs: Be quiet! I'm busy!
Huh, looks like the Galbadians are doing repairs on the comm tower.
Biggs: And...and... Why do I have to make all the repairs!? AHHH!!!
Maybe they didn't pick the best men for the job.
Wedge, getting a firm "no response", peaces out.
Biggs doesn't notice.
By the way, the names Biggs and Wedge are a recurring Star Wars reference in Final Fantasy games. They've shown up in most of the games since FFVI in some form or another.
The camera shifts over to this angle at this point.
Hey man, what's up?
At this point, an FMV is starting. Emulators make FMVs in this game look kind of fuzzy, and make the rest of the game a lot sharper. That's just free information.
While the camera is panning around at this point, you're still in control of Squall.
The whole place is shaking, and the game takes the time to introduce a new character, Toolbox.
Today on Final Fantasy VIII: Toolbox gives birth to Wrench!
Somewhere else, these big engines start up. What are they for?
As the comm tower starts up, let's listen to this music, called Starting Up:
And what the hell are these for? How do communications even work?
Are the big engines just to turn on all these lights? Seems wasteful.
Some clamps on...something in the central shaft come off. What the hell is in this tower?
Note: Zell and Selphie look around like something's going on, but Squall doesn't do anything in this scene unless you make him run around like an idiot.
Note: I am no longer in control of Squall.
Also, the, uh, the thing comes out of the tower.
Who put that Greek shit there?
Finally, the secret of the comm tower is revealed!
The world's most complicated satellite dish?
Who fucking built this?
Why does it light up?
Come on guys, that's just wasteful.
I can tell you what they're not doing: using energy efficiently.
I'm here to deliver the power bill, and you are not going to like it.
Biggs: H-HEY! What happened to all the soldiers below!?
What, all the guys I killed?
I think he's on a smoke break or something.
While we're here, what's in the big armpads?
Oh yeah, dude, no problem. See ya later.
Where did you go earlier? I didn't see any other doors on the ground floor.
Seifer's not crazy, he's just a jerk.
: Just shut UP!
Seifer doesn't like comic relief.
And suddenly, we're transported to the kaleidoscope dimension.
Nah, it's just a boss fight with Biggs. He's a slightly buffed Elite Soldier, with all the challenge that entails.
He has something new to draw, though.
Esuna is okay. It heals all status ailments, which is useful if you get one.
Biggs is not a hard enemy to fight, especially if you have a good junction on Strength.
Once you smack Biggs around enough, Wedge comes back.
Note: This shot gives you a pretty good view of the standard G-Soldier's weapon. It's a regular sword, but for some reason there's that rectangular bit on it that makes it look like a gunblade.
Wedge: Have you finished the repairs, sir?
I already told you, I'm here to deliver the damn electricity bill.
Biggs: WEDGE! Where were you!?
This line is very dramatic.
Wedge actually does the animation for taking damage here, which I think is a nice touch.
Since this fight is a joke, I decided to have Squall summon Mufasa to deal with these two.
That's a lot of fire!
What's up, hoss?
Gonna sail a big rock into space? Alright man, take care.
Yeah, so, Mufasa's attack is that he spikes a big chunk of flaming rock into the enemy. Summoning is kind of silly.
Everything Biggs says in battle is just so damn dramatic.
Fact: in this screen, under Biggs's right hand, you can see the barrel of his machine gun, which is built into his wrist armour. The Galbadian army is too cheap to spring for those fancy hand-held guns.
301 is a pretty big heal, I guess.
After a few more rounds of wailing on them, this happens.
And Biggs and Wedge are blown away.
It's a complete victory for SeeD!
Nothing is ever easy.
This is the real boss of this area, Elvoret. It's worse than Biggs and Wedge, but it's still not necessarily hard.
What the hell is Siren? Ain't no spell I ever heard of.
This is the second way to get GFs. There are six GFs that you have to draw from various bosses in the game. Siren has some pretty useful abilities to learn, so be sure to draw from Elvoret!
Elvoret also has the spell Double, which allows you to cast two spells at once, or is sort of an okay junction? Double isn't worth worrying about, really.
Elvoret's repertoire includes Fire, Thunder, and a Big Bad Wolf impression.
But here's my strategy: I'm going to hit it with Squall's limit break.
Renzokuken (Japanese for "continual sword") is one of the best limit breaks in the game, and the easiest to set up.
When you use it, this gauge comes up. When the blue indicator gets to the box, you pull the trigger.
That makes the attack do more damage. Each hit is a tiny bit stronger than a regular attack anyway, but the trigger still gives you the 50% boost.
Depending on crisis level and enemy, you get between 4 and 8 hits. Because of how Squall works, it is very easy to make him hit crisis level 4 and get 7-8 hits every time.
Some enemies, like Elvoret, have a fixed Renzokuken sequence, though, and your crisis level doesn't affect how many hits you get. It does affect something else, but we're not there yet.
Also, like all limit breaks in this game, it is easily repeated. This is one of the more broken things in the game - if you keep a character in critical HP, you can just churn out limits like crazy and mince everything.
Enjoy this picture of sparkly Squall.
And that's how you beat Elvoret.
The only problem with keeping characters at critical HP is that their names turn yellow in the menu and look bad.
Elvoret drops some good shit: Elixirs in this game not only heal HP to full, but remove every abnormal status, so they're very nice.
G-Returner (in the small window) revives GFs, which is pretty situational. Weapons Monthly explains a game mechanic, sort of, but isn't necessary to use that mechanic, so it's not that important. Has nice pictures, though, and if you collect it, everyone can tell you're kind of weird.
14 AP is okay. I mean, it's not 15.
A new GF is good! Siren is good because she can learn to refine restorative magic from items, which is a) good for healing in battle and b) amazing as an HP junction.
Now, back to our plot.
: S'cuse me! I have new orders! All SeeD members and SeeD candidates are to withdraw at 1900 hours. Assemble at the shore!
: Withdraw!? There are still enemies around!
Well, you can stay and fight the enemies if you want, but I'm going to go get on the boat now. Enjoy swimming back to Garden.
: I know, but I'm just a messenger.
I think Selphie wants to stay and fight as much as Seifer does.
: An order to withdraw takes priority. I don't want to miss the vessel.
: What time d'you say?
: Like I said...! All SeeD members and SeeD candidates are to withdraw at 1900 hours. Assemble at the shore!
: 1900 hours... We only have 30 mins! You got 30 minutes to get down to the shore! Better run!
With that, Seifer takes the lift down, leaving us stranded on top of the tower.
I like this line. I think it's funny.
: Let's go.
Well, I'm not jumping off the tower, so yes, I want to go down.
At this point, we're on the clock to get back to the shore. Like everything else during the exam, you're being marked on this. The more time there is on the clock when you hit the shore, the higher your score.
Once we're gone, Biggs crawls over and does something with his tablet.
Biggs: Now GO!!! Go and DESTROY them!!!
Yeah, thanks for eating up my clock, you hammy jerk.
Now that everything's back online, the comm tower is all lit up. A terrible waste of electricity, but damn if it doesn't look pretty.
If you were wondering, yes, you can still run into random encounters in this bit. The clock also runs when the menu is open.
This is the other part of Renzokuken: finishers.
Based on his crisis level, Squall has a chance to do a finishing move after the gunblade strikes. This chance goes from about 23% at crisis level 1 to about 94% at crisis level 4 (the highest crisis level). There are four finishers in the game, and which ones you can get depend on Squall's equipped weapon. Right now, we only have Rough Divide, which is a normal hit with about twice the power of the regular Renzokuken strikes.
Note: Renzokuken finishers can be critical hits just like any physical attack, but it's based on Luck, not hitting the trigger.
Now, back to looking good in doorways/fleeing.
When we try to leave, there's a noise and things shake a bit.
What's that thing?
So here's the other boss of the SeeD exam, X-ATM092.
You're on the clock, so it's important to just get as much damage out as you can. Being a machine, the old bank machine here is weak to thunder, so Queso is your GF of the day.
Renzokuken with a good Strength junction is also handy.
Uh, if you don't get killed for it.
At least we still have the GF to bail us out.
While I'm summoning GFs, let me explain another mechanic. See that little pointer in the bottom right?
Once a GF learns the ability Boost, you can mash the square button during its animation to boost the damage its attack does. Boost is a straight multiplier to damage, but it's a double-edged sword: if you don't Boost, the multiplier is 1, but if you do Boost, it starts at .75. It can get up to 2.5, but most GFs don't have a long enough attack animation for it to get that high. The Boost can also be reset to .75 if you press square when the little red X is over the hand (pictured).
I didn't get a great boost here.
880 is a good single hit, but Queso can do a lot better if you don't fuck up Boosting like an asshole.
42 is shit.
Clash is one of the bank machine's special attacks.
It's a physical attack to the whole party. Wow.
Now that is some good damage.
Once you do enough damage (20% of its max HP), X-ATM092 collapses and Zell tells you to run.
Run away, and the battle ends.
Now, let's hop over to an alternate timeline where I set up my junctions properly. Squall is kitted out like this specifically to knock the stuffing out of X-ATM.
He also gets Siren, who is set to learn L Mag-RF.
And then, when I get into this fight again (it's not scripted, I just ran into it on two runs), Selphie throws Blind on him to boost his crisis level. Since he has 255% Hit, Blind is not a penalty to Squall, and just boosts his crisis level. If you're trying to cheese the game, make Squall Blind all the time. It's great fun.
This is Rough Divide on junctions. X-ATM has pretty high Vitality, but if you know how to set up junctions, you can still damage the hell out of it.
Forget that, though, we have a boat to get on.
See ya later, asshole.
Haha, just joking. This is the complication with the escape sequence: X-ATM092 is chasing you the whole time.
: Forget it! Let's go!
While we're running, we also have some new music to listen to:
If X-ATM catches you, you're forced into another battle where you have to knock it down so you can escape. This not only takes time off the clock, but you're being marked on how many times you run from battle. You get 1 free escape (the mandatory one from X-ATM at the base of the tower) but from then on, it's points off, buddy.
In this sequence, X-ATM has some sweet moves, like this sick jump.
On this screen, you have to walk, or the machine's stomping will make you lose your balance and it'll catch you. If you're a first-time player, you're probably fighting here.
You can just run here, though.
X-ATM isn't even on this screen until you get almost to the end.
The bridge! We're halfway there!
At this point, X-ATM jumps over you to cut you off. You're supposed to double back to trick it into doing that again.
Fuck that, though.
Queso + Renzo = downed X-ATM092. But we're not running away this time.
Note: X-ATM092, like Elvoret, has a unique Renzokuken sequence; this sequence is 4 hits long.
See, when it's down, X-ATM092 is actually repairing itself. We're going to let it.
And then we're going to put it right the hell back down. With my junctions being what they are, Squall easily does enough damage in one Renzokuken to knock it into self-repair mode.
After a few rounds of this, X-ATM blows the fuck up.
We did it!
This is supposed to be hard to do, and for new players or people who don't abuse cards and junctioning, it is. Between the clock and the boss's thousands of HP, you're not likely to win if you're playing by the rules.
You get some pretty big rewards if you can, though. In fact, defeating X-ATM092 is a part of a setup that lets you get ultimate weapons on disc one. I'm not going to farm it for that, though, because it's annoying. Str+40% is probably more versatile, anyway.
And now we can have it on two characters!
Now that X-ATM092 is just scraps, it's a leisurely walk back to the beach.
I really like this street in Dollet, with the stores.
Fun fact: there are random encounters during the escape if you kill X-ATM completely. They're standard Galbadian cannon fodder, though, so it's not a real problem.
Dollet is nice.
Hey Quistis. We killed a big robot. How's the boat been?
Anyway, let's go home.
Next time: we all get expelled because we disobeyed orders!