Part 120: Part One Hundred and Twenty: End of TimePart One Hundred and Twenty: End of Time
The first thing we see after Ultimecia is defeated is...Irvine.
Unlike Final Fantasy V, the ending doesn't change if any party members are knocked out at the end of the last battle.
Not quite. There's no gameplay left, but we've got a lot of winding down to do.
: Let's go! Let's go back to our time!
During the final battle, time compression was still pushing towards completion. This is why the ground keeps breaking up, with the battle against Ultimecia's final form taking place in "space". Now that Ultimecia's gone, time is decompressing, but the party is still here, outside of the normal flow.
Every time someone moves in this void, they leave a trail of afterimages. I don't think it's symbolic of anything.
Since there's no dialgoue between Irvine's suggestion and this, Zell sounds like kind of a dick telling him to shut up.
There's a lot of weird framing in this scene, with characters being far off in the background or off-centre like Selphie is here. Combined with the featureless void, it emphasises the disorientation of being in a place that's essentially outside of time/space.
: Whatever you do, don't fall into a time warp!
Quistis's line here is a little weird to me; I originally interpreted it with "time warp" being kind of an environmental hazard, but it's not. She means something more like "don't get lost/confused and end up in the wrong time."
As those two discuss the importance of going to the right place, Rinoa runs in. Weirdly, this text isn't in quotation marks, but it's also not in parentheses nor on a transparent background. I think Rinoa is just thinking this, rather than saying it out loud.
Either way, moving through compressed time works the same way it did before, and her "north star" is, of course, the flower field.
But, as she thinks of it, she notices something.
We seem to be one short.
The cut here makes two things very clear - Squall's not with the others, and wherever he is, it's probably not the best place to be.
Rinoa's voice reaches him even though they're in different "places".
But he can't answer the question.
So he goes back to running.
Eventually, a voice calls out through the void.
Well, that shouldn't be here.
When we saw the party earlier, there were no duplicates like this.
As the younger Squall runs off to find "Sis", Edea chases him. This also adds a neat little detail to that voice asking where Squall is that only works because it's text: the player will probably interpret it as a follow-up to Rinoa's question, but whether it's Rinoa or Edea calling to Squall is ambiguous.
Once Squall recognises her, the background fades in. Something to note is that this is the version of Edea's house from the past.
I want to point out that, when the party arrives in the time-compressed world, they also arrive at the past version of Edea's house. It's a little foreshadowing for what happens here.
Edea starts to talk to Squall directly, indicating that this isn't just a memory or a vision caused by time compression. Squall has done exactly what Quistis warned against, and fallen into a time warp.
: You don't have to worry. The boy won't go anywhere.
Edea: I think so, too. Poor thing...
As they talk, a cloud of purple smoke appears behind Edea.
Squall recognises it and the barely-visible form inside it pretty quickly, but I want you to just imagine Edea's experience right now. She's chasing after a runaway orphan when suddenly some weird guy appears outside her house and proceeds to whip out a gunblade.
: ...You're alive!?
She actually turns to look at him, which is a nice touch.
: Yes, Matron.
Squall is a terrible time traveller, addressing Edea as "Matron".
: We had defeated her... Matron, stand back.
Edea keeps a level head. You might be able to figure out what's going on here.
Edea: That sorceress is just looking for someone to pass her powers on to.
This line has been subject to some weird fan interpretation. Some people have taken it as meaning that a sorceress needs to pass on her power to die at all, but that's wrong - for example, Adel was looking for an heir in Laguna's time. It's specifically "to die in peace", which gives it more of a funerary quality. It's unclear what happens to a sorceress with unpassed powers, but it probably creates some kind of ghost or something.
Anyway, here we are:
Edea told us this story after Squall and Rinoa came back from space. 13 years before Squall's time, she became a sorceress after a scary one showed up without warning. Now, here we are.
A nice touch here is that Ultimecia actually looks pretty rough. Her outfit's in tatters, her wings are totally wrecked, she's slouching.
Squall's concerned for Edea's safety, but he still follows her order.
The standing question about passing sorceress powers on has been what exactly determines who gets that power, but now we see that: it's based on physical proximity. Actually, the only time we don't see both sender and receiver on-screen while sorceress powers are passed is the first time, when Edea passes hers to Rinoa.
And that's how Edea inherited Ultimecia's sorceress powers.
Now we're back to people asking questions like this.
: ...Most likely.
Here's a fun game: imagine Edea's line meaning "oh shit am I about to die?"
Good question to ask, but probably pretty awkward.
: Both Garden and SeeD were your ideas. Garden trains SeeDs. SeeDs are trained to defeat the sorceress.
So, yeah, Squall and Ultimecia ending up here creates a closed time loop. This must also be a pretty awkward conversation to have.
This is about the only response you could have to what Squall said.
Edea: You're...that boy from the future?
Edea's reasonably smart, so she works this out.
Edea: Please return. You do not belong here.
Before he can go, there's one last confrontation to have.
This is the last loose end to tie up in Squall's story, his Ellone-related abandonment issues. This scene parallels, of course, Ellone's own power. Ellone explains to Squall that the thing that drove her to use her power was the desire to have Laguna stay with Raine, but she couldn't change the past. And now, Squall has gone back to when he was trying to find Ellone - he's calling out for her, just like Raine was calling out for Laguna. But, like Ellone, Squall can't change the past. It's important that, even though Squall is here now, he has no effective interactions. He doesn't stop Ultimecia from showing up and passing on her powers. He doesn't stop SeeD from being formed or change its character. And, of course, he doesn't manage to find Ellone and get her to stay with him.
Squall: Who's he?
Edea: Nobody. You don't need to know. The only Squall permitted here is you.
This is important, too - Ellone mentions that she can no longer go back to the moment of Raine's death, and Edea says in no uncertain terms that the older Squall can't stay. You can't live in the past, you can only learn from it and use those lessons to try to make a better future.
Edea: Will you be alright by yourself?
And this is really the question at the core of the whole thing. Ever since Ellone left the orphanage, Squall has been looking for her. Now, at the end of his mission, even after all his personal growth, he's still concerned about it, and so he wasn't clear-minded enough to simply go back to his own time.
Since he's still just awful at time travel, instead of answering Edea, Squall gives a SeeD salute that she can't possibly recognise.
: (...I'll be alright, Matron.)
Having faced his past directly, the scene fades away, leading Squall back to the time compression he emerged out of.
: (...I'm not alone. ...If I call out, they will answer.)
Unfortunately for Squall, he was a little slow on this one.
She called to him earlier, but now she's not responding.
: Zell! Selphie! Quistis! Irvine! Rinoa!
Due to his hesitation and his own self-concern, Squall has left himself alone. This was always a problem for Squall - he believed that he would be okay on his own, and he pushed everyone away.
They couldn't get to Ultimecia alone, and now he doesn't know how to get back on his own.
: (I can't make it back...alone.
With these lines, the scene ends.
And we come back in on an FMV.
In this first shot of Squall, his face warps around a bit, it doesn't quite hold its shape properly. He's alone in compressed time, and his self-image is starting to break down.
Failing to travel back to his own world, Squall ends up in a vast desert under a bizarre sky.
He's alone and he doesn't have a lot of options, so he just starts walking.
It's a big desert, though, and he eventually stumbles.
Before he falls completely, he runs out of road.
Looking behind him, though...
Without others to substantiate his existence, and with his own will faltering fast, Squall's little pocket dimension is closing in on itself.
The stress of it all is too much for him, and he collapses.
Meanwhile, Rinoa is still looking for him.
She runs through a field, her concern plain to see.
But, like Squall, all she finds is sky.
Just like when the scene jumped from the white void to the black, she holds onto the rings on her necklace as prayer-like gesture.
As she looks to the sky, the scene fades back to Squall in the desert. You can just barely see it, but there's a point of light in the sky above him.
It's a feather.
He catches it.
And, as he does, he has a vision of Rinoa standing in a field at sunset. There's a flash of her angel wings when the scene cuts, if you didn't pick up on the meaning.
Note two things in this shot. First, Rinoa is facing away from Squall. Second, she was running through that other field at night.
He says her name - there's no subtitle or anything, all the dialogue in this sequence is implied through lip movements.
But when she turns, uh...
...She's not quite all there.
The jump is very sudden, back to the first time Squall and Rinoa met. Well, with one small difference.
The shot of her turning to face Squall is repeated, but he can't quite keep the image of her face in his mind.
Next, Rinoa in Deling City, swaying under Ultimecia's mind control.
And we're back here again. The turn repeats a couple times, with Rinoa's face getting less and less distinct as Squall is absorbed into time.
The effects also get progressively more bizarre.
The shot keeps pushing in on her face each time she turns, and it gets less and less intelligible.
A jump cut to Rinoa in space, floating further and further out of reach.
Then she's gone.
She reappears in a flash, as he gropes for the memory he knows he's losing track of. But she doesn't quite fit into the shot - you can see a little bit of an outline around her, she's blurry again, and hair is too dark.
This ending is full of jump cuts between that ballroom scene and images like this. Here, it's the two rings over the wormhole the SeeDs used to travel to Ultimecia's world. A memory being consumed in time compression - it can be a little obtuse, but that's basically what's happening here, Squall's losing his sense of himself.
It also includes flashes of other memories, like these of Quistis and Selphie at Dollet.
This is when Balamb Garden took off. In all these scenes, Rinoa's face is blurrier than anyone else's.
A lot of these are only up for fractions of a second, and they run together, like here - a shot looking down from the top of the comms tower in Dollet, overlaid with a shot of Rinoa looking down as Squall falls off Edea's float. It's a very vertiginous cut.
Next, the shot jumps to this push-in on the Deling City archway.
Under the arch, an empty ballroom. At this point, he's forgotten almost everything.
Rinoa is less distinct than ever. This shot of her walking towards Squall repeats a few times, with the ballroom starting to spin faster and faster.
Again, shots are overlaid on the ballroom background, just barely there. These images of Rinoa's face are only up for a few frames at a time, and they're part transparent. I'm not including all of them, nor did I include every shot of Rinoa turning to look at Squall earlier.
He remembers them dancing, she keeps getting closer to him, but each time she does, she gets blurrier and blurrier, then:
There'll be a frame where she's gone, then pops back and they keep spinning. It happens two or three times.
Again, the flashes of single frames from other scenes. One of these flashes is the only shot we get of Ultimecia's face in an FMV. This is on screen for, like, one frame.
Flashes of Seifer and Edea over the spinning ballroom.
And, finally, we jump back to this shot, the one from the opening and the sequence at the Sorceress Memorial, as she falls into Squall's arms.
But her image dissolves into static...
And Squall loses himself completely. Like most of these shots, it's only up for a couple frames, but this is probably the most surreal shot in the whole game, Squall with just this black hole where his face should be. He's forgotten Rinoa, and now he can't even remember himself.
This shot of Rinoa's visor shattering in space is the end of Squall's hallucination.
We cut back to him in this void, where he violently opens his eyes and pitches forward.
Then the feather hits the ground.
Back in the desert, Rinoa steps out of the mist. As she does, the vocal part of the ending theme comes in, a reprise of "Eyes on Me".
She's much more confident as she walks.
And, soon enough, she finds what she's looking for.
He's been in better shape, but he's there.
Rinoa says something here, but again, there are no subtitles.
When he doesn't answer, she starts getting concerned.
Then, as she pulls him fully into her embrace, the sun breaks through and the flower field spreads across the desert.
I don't think she was expecting such a dramatic result.
In seconds, the whole desert has been pushed back.
There's no shot of Squall's face here, but Rinoa's expression brightens considerably. This sequence of her finding Squall is the payoff to Rinoa's dream story and their promise to meet in the flower field. It's also a neat play, I think, on the idea of Squall "waiting" there. When Rinoa tells her dream story, she's the one who's lost and doesn't know where to go. But in the ending, it's the opposite. And, even more so than any other event in the game, it's the payoff for trusting others - this is the one time, really, where there's no option for Squall other than to rely on someone else, and it works out for him.
As the two are reunited, the scene closes with flower petals and feathers blowing away on the breeze.
Then, a shot of the ocean.
We're not finished with the ending quite yet.
Now that Squall and Rinoa have been reunited, it's time to check on the secondary characters.
I guess Seifer managed to get off the Lunatic Pandora somehow. I wonder what happened for everyone who didn't travel through time compression.
Seifer, Raijin, and Fujin are apparently not being prosecuted for their roles in Galbadia's war crimes, and instead just get to go fishing.
Raijin celebrates a catch and Seifer gets jealous, it's kind of cute.
Fujin finds Raijin's celebration excessive.
Basically, it's fun times all around for these guys.
As they frolic on the docks, Balamb Garden passes overhead.
The segue to the next scene is a feather falling from the clouds.
Let's see what Laguna's up to, shall we?
Oh, he's staring at his hand.
It cuts to a shot of a night, years before. Laguna is, uh, standing in a field staring at his hand.
"Hey, what the fuck are you doing?"
There's a whole conversation implied here.
Eventually, though, Laguna musters up the courage to do what he came out here for. Or I guess what he came out here for? I'll be honest: I don't know why this is happening in a field.
This is a sweet scene.
With another pan and cut, we're back to the present day.
A grave in a field makes more sense than a wedding proposal in one. By the way, we never find out Raine's maiden name. The best guess anyone has is Leonhart, since that's Squall's last name and it would make sense, but that's purely conjecture.
Behind Laguna, Ellone runs over and gives a wave. There are a lot of characters in the ending that don't show up in any other pre-rendered scenes.
I wonder how difficult it was to get the Garden to rain flower petals on people.
And, with that shot of Laguna at Raine's grave, the game cuts to credits.
(This technically plays over the opening credits/attract video, but I didn't include that, so...)
We're not done quite yet.
During the credits, we're treated to Selphie's video diary of some party at the Garden. I assume it's a celebration not just for defeating Ultimecia, but also billing Esthar for...everything. All money.
There are shots of everyone in this sequence, including this one, where Irvine apparently tries to hit on Quistis.
She doesn't seem pleased.
There's a little wave and smile as she notices Selphie filming.
Who even let you back in here, Irvine?
Sick of Irvine being a skeeve, Quistis decides to talk to the game's second-shittiest guy. Who was also, somehow, allowed back on Garden.
This is the only shot of plain-dress Edea and Cid together in the whole game.
And this is the only shot of hatless Irvine.
Who proceeds to take the camera off Selphie.
These guys were cool.
Ol' Irvine Kinneas, always bein' a creep.
Zell's girlfriend Booyaka is in this sequence, despite not really being part of the plot at all. I think it's possible to go through the whole game without ever hearing about Zell's love plot, in which case she would just appear here out of nowhere.
...He tried to impress her by eating a lot of "hot dogs" and ended up choking.
Then he realises that's all on tape and throws one at Irvine.
The last shot of Selphie's party video is this one.
Rinoa, out on the balcony, pointing at the sky.
I have to give Rinoa credit here. If I were her, I would never go near a ledge in this building again.
With the credits rolled, Balamb Garden continues on through the sky. You can see the destroyed quad in the second picture, by the way.
Oh, it's Rinoa.
Selphie's camera died at the end of the credits. This scene takes place directly after, with Rinoa still pointing at the sky.
But this time, our vision isn't obstructed by the doorway.
So we can see Squall plant one on her.
As the Garden cruises on towards Final Fantasy VIII-2: SeeD vs the Moon.
That's it! That's the end of Final Fantasy VIII!
Thank you for reading!