The logic of the time loop has bugged me for years. Someone help me out here, I think I've got something horribly wrong.
Two thousand years prior to the events of the game, Garland arrives in the past. The Four Fiends revive him as Chaos, and he uses his newfound powers to send the Fiends into the future, to send him back to the past.
Shortly thereafter, the Light Warriors arrive. Chaos slaughters them.
The Light Warriors slay Garland in the Temple of Fiends. The Fiends send Garland back in time to become Chaos and send them to the future.
The Light Warriors slay the Fiends, and travel back to the past.
This is, to my knowledge, the correct sequence of events, but one thing has been bothering me ever since I first heard about it. If the Light Warriors slay Chaos after he sends the Fiends to the future, how does that break the time loop? If they killed him before he sent the Fiends to the future, it would certainly break the time loop - no Fiends means no deus ex machina for Garland means no Chaos. But the text suggests that he had already sent them to the future by the time they arrived. Relevant line:
''From here I sent the Four FIENDS to the future. The FIENDS will send me back to here, and the Time-Loop will go on."
Unless this is Time Travel Tense Trouble, I can't see how killing Chaos at this point will make any difference. I am, however, the only one who I've ever seen confused by this. Am I merely misplacing the order of events, or is there something else I'm not getting? Oh, and please mark any Dissidia spoilers, should it happen to come into this.
It has been a while since I played the game, but as I recall you re-fight the Four Fiends before you fight Chaos. So you actually stop the timeloop by defeating Chaos. And odds are if you were defeated by Chaos he probably would've revived the fiends and sent them to the future... Timeloop continues.
The above timeline needs to add that Chaos revives the Four Fiends after defeating the Light Warriors to send them 1600 years into the future (their rampage begins 400 years before the start of the game). Technically, the Time Loop can also be broken if the Light Warriors are killed before all four fiends can be killed - since it's established that the Fiends can revive Chaos and Chaos can revive the fiends, they could win if there's at least one fiend active (to drain the orbs/crystals) to revive Garland and create Chaos.
The time loop is broken because Chaos is dead. As Chaos, he will live for 2000+ years having infinite rule (note that you never kill him in the future, but he wants to punish you for killing him when he was human). Without him corrupting the world, the world reverts, supposedly civilizations that would have fallen due to his reign (1600 year reign, where the fiends arrive) survive and other heroes kill the fiends that were sent to the future. The political and social climate is so much better in that future that Garland himself meets the Light Warriors on their return and it is implied that he never became evil in this timeline. Furthermore, no one even knows who the Light Warriors are because the problem they were sent out to solve never existed in this timeline.
I believe based on the text in-game that the time loop only worked because the Fiends have the ability to revive Garland/Chaos and vice versa, meaning that if Garland or any of the four Fiends are killed in the future, they will be revived in the past, and if they are killed in the past, Garland can easily just go back in time and start the process again. Now, after being transported to the past but BEFORE killing Chaos, you fight and kill the four Fiends once again, and in the time loop, this would be easily fixed by Chaos and/or Garland reviving them, but because you already killed the future versions of the Fiends and Garland, and you also kill Chaos before he revive them, you break the time loop because both the past and future versions of Chaos and the Fiends are now dead, preventing their resurrection.
Other questions come to mind. For instance, how do the Four Fiends go on a rampage in the past, after they were sent to the present? Wouldn't this series of events simply result in Chaos being around for 2,000 years? And how in the world can this cause time to repeat?
The simple answer is: It was the third console RPG ever, and it was an era of Excuse Plots. It makes about as much sense as most of the NES era games.
I just go with Timey-Wimey Ball. Makes about as much sense as anything else. Though to clarify a few things:
It may be Time Travel Tense Trouble, as you fight the fiends all over again in the past. Of course, they respawn, which may be some more Time Travel muck-up.
Did Garland/Chaos say he sent them to the present, or just to the future relevant to his time? It seemed to be that several of the fiends were around for years (Hundreds, or so) before the big Garland Get-Together. He may have sent them into the future, but a few hundred years before the events of the main game.
If nothing else, I can explain the time repetition—it's not a Stable Time Loop, but rather the variety of time travel that gets bandied about a lot in Final Fantasy VIII's crazy fan theories. That is to say, you don't travel through time, you undo time, like rewinding a VHS tape and taping over it. Garland went back into the past the first time he "died" (though apparently not on later runthroughs of the cycle, or a) the plot would never happen, and b) there'd be a zillion copies of him in the past.) Every single runthrough, you survive long enough to travel back to the past yourself, and although he defeats you, he has to live through those thousands of years all over again and take another crack at you in the hopes he can kill you before you can time-travel again. What's interesting is that before he time-traveled in the first place, he couldn't have been the leader of the fiends—so that means we have partial Rubber-Band History, with different sequences of events both leading to you and him existing and fighting each other. (Come to think of it, that's also why he couldn't just kill your parents before you were born—you were fated to come into existence in some way.) As for the Fiends, maybe he sent them to the future that would have come about if he had won, and his losing erases that entire future with the fiends inside it (just like how Heroes speculation insists Peter must have erased Kaitlyn (sic?))
Here's how I understood it: Garland was originally from 20XX years in the past. Because of fear of death, he thought about this time loop plan and traveled to the present of the game, became part of the royal guard, kidnapped the princess and was defeated by the light warriors. Then he was sent back to 2000 years in the past by the fiends, turned into Chaos by the fiends, sent the fiends themselves to the present so they can send him back in the first place. He then kills the light warriors and after that rules as Chaos for as much time he desires (but is obviously still mortal or else he would not need a time loop) and sends himself back to the present as Garland, so he can start the time loop. He then becomes part of the royal guard, kidnaps the princess, gets beaten by the warriors...
That would explain why killing Chaos stops the time loop. With Chaos dead, there would be no Garland in the present because Chaos is Garland and Garland came from the past.
I don't know if this was only in the Dawn of Souls version onwards, but Garland did say something like "In 2000 years I shall know none of this, but I shall be reborn here again.". I see it like this:
Garland arrives in the past
The Four Fiends give him some of their combined power, turning him into Chaos.
Chaos!Garland uses this power to send the Four Fiends to the present.
The Light Warriors arrive from the present. Chaos!Garland kills them.
Over the course of 2000 years, the power of Chaos keeps Garland alive, but it eventually runs out, or fades away slowly, rendering him human again. The passage of time also erodes his memory of the events, and he eventually lands a job in Cornelia as a Knight.
Driven by inherited memories of the endless cycles, Garland turns rogue and kidnaps the princess.
Garland is killed by the Light Warriors, but is revived and sent back in time by the Four Fiends.
The Light Warriors slay the Four Fiends and then follow Garland back in time using the Crystals.
After a number of cycles, by a fluke, the Light Warriors defeat Chaos and the cycle breaks.
Well, this is kind of a bigger issue. So it's easy to assume the Demon Fiends could survive for 200 years tearing havoc on the world to keep up the Stable time loop. Right, Magic = Longevity. But why wouldn't Chaos HIMSELF live for 2000 years and tear havoc on the world himself? The time loop keeps ocurring for as long as he wins the final battle in the past, and if he won, he's probably alive, and if he's alive, can't he just go on and kill the Heros, under the skin of Chaos, RIGHT AFTER they killed Garland? That would keep the Loop up, and he would have an easy victory. Of course we wouldn't have any game, but...
This troper understood it this way. The Fiends aren't long lived because they are magical or have magic. We have a Lich, a Demon, a Dragon and a eldritch squid being. They are "super" natural beings who ubercharged a mere human. By their powers combined Garland is the godly being Chaos for a while, but cannot maintain that strength. By time the heroes are born, let alone you fight him, his memory's shot and has reverted physically to something not much better than an old man.
Or the Sky Warriors defeated Chaos specifically because he was wreaking havoc. They were cursed in the process of taking the monster out. Then Garland was born, and trained specifically to take on summons/godlike creatures. When he was slighted by the Conerian royalty, he kidnapped the princess and upon being defeated made a Deal with the Devil to become He Who Fights Monsters. If he succeeded the first time in defeating the "Light Warriors," whatever they would have been called at the time, there would have been no need for the time loop. If Chaos still lived through the entirety of the 2000 years, it would also negate the ability to have the loop exist. Had he been active, would he have let the puny humans train a summon killer to prevent another instance of Chaos or similar rising?
If we take Dissidia's Reports as canon, this may make some sense. According to said reports, nations like Lufenia and Onrac were very militarized before their respective falls. Garland in particular was raised as a weapon by Lufenia to defeat the many monsters being summond and used to wage war. Who's to say that Chaos wasn't one of the monsters that Garland killed or sealed? It would be poetic, if nothing else. Alternatively, Chaos had already been killed or sealed by one of the nations (I.E. Lufenia's Sky Warriors) before Garland was born, and he is the source of the Power of Discord that Garland was infused with. I know, I know, using Dissidia canon is a retcon at best, but it does offer a plausible solution to this question, at least.
Why do the Light Warriors need to go back into the past in the first place? In the present time, they've defeated the four fiends and brought back the four crystals of light. The world is already saved, the fiends are gone, everyone can live happily now. Why change history, especially when it might end up erasing everyone they've ever known from existence?
It's implied that Chaos's time-loop was throwing the universe out of balance, somehow. Slowly corrupting the space-time-continuum into a spiral of anger or something. That, or the Warriors decided that if there was a chance that they could reverse the grief already caused by the Fiends, they may as well take it.
A relatively minor question. If the Lefein Honor Guard was going to assault the Temple of Fiends/Chaos, why did they park their airship in the area that became Ryukahn Desert to assault the Temple? That would have required a canoe and boat to get from where they parked the ship to their destination. For that matter, where is the canoe and ship they used? Wouldn't it have made more sense to land the airship closer to their destination?
Who said that was the airship they were using? It seemed to me that the light warrior's airship was a relic which had been left undisturbed ever since Tiamat first cast down the Lefein empire. As for the honor guard's transportation, it was probably destroyed by some villain or other or shoved back into the ocean.