A Recap of Final Fantasy VIII.
Disc 1The player character, Squall Leonhart, awakens on a bed in an infirmary. His instructor, Quistis Trepe, arrives and scolds him for overzealousness: in a sparring incident (depicted in the somewhat cryptic opening FMV), Squall received a scar, slanting diagonally between his eyebrows, from his arch-rival, Seifer Almasy, and gave one in return. Quistis rousts him out of bed; he has much to do today.
Before Quistis arrives, Squall is greeted by a willowy brunette he does not recognize. This will be important later.
Squall is a student at Balamb Garden, a school that turns orphans into Private Military Contractors called SeeDs. (Theme Naming!) Squall, 16 years old, is ready to graduate... But needs to pass the Noob Cave first. Quistis accompanies him to the Fire Caverns, where he subdues his first "Guardian Force." GFs are not only the Summon Magic of the game, they are also the heart of the "Junction" system, by which player characters can augment their statistics using their quantified inventory of Vancian Magic. Squall also learns to play the local Collectible Card Game, called Triple Triad, and gets a chance to experience combat: Quistis fights with a whip and uses Blue Magic for her Limit Break, learning new spells by consuming certain items; Squall wields a "gunblade," a vibroblade powered by gunpowder combustion, which does extra damage if the player presses R2 at the correct time. This extends to his Limit Break, "Renzokuken," a flurry of sword slashes.
After completing this dungeon, Squall is briefed on his final exam — which, as befitting a school which trains mercenaries, will take place during a live military maneuver. A little town called Dollet is under attack by the larger nation of Galbadia, who covet Dollet's radio tower — the only one in the world still functioning. Several squads of SeeDs will be dispatched to aid in the defense. Squall's fire team will consist of himself, Seifer (the only other gunblade user in Balamb Garden) and Zell Dincht, a backflipping bare-knuckle brawler whose Limit Break allows him to string Fighting Game combos together. Quistis, the instructor, will keep the landing craft safe and monitor from a distance.
Militarily, Squall's mission is a success: after a chaotic beach landing, he and his team make their way to the radio tower and rebuff the Galbadian soldiers there, including a duel with their commander, Major Biggs and Lieutenant Wedge. Squad discipline, on the other hand, suffers quickly: Seifer, looking for a test score that is Over Nine Thousand, abandons the squad and hares off after enemy soldiers. He is replaced by a fellow SeeD candidate, Genki Girl Selphie Tilmitt, who attacks using a giant nunchaku and has a slot-machine style Limitbreak. (It should be pointed out that the game's Junction system — and Level Scaling — render passive stat bonuses useless, and no character has innate, unique commands like "Steal" or "Blitz"; their Limit Breaks are their entire gameplay identity.) Finally, the retreat from the radio tower is complicated by a giant Galbadian spider tank, which pursues Squall's team all the way back to the beaches and is only dissuaded when Quistis, aboard the assault boat, fills it with machine gun fire. Nevertheless, the SeeDs make it home with no casualties.
The good news is, Squall has passed. He, Selphie, Zell and fellow candidate Nida are officially promoted by Headmaster Cid Kramer. Afterwards, at a ball thrown to celebrate the graduations, Squall, doing his wallflower thing, is approached by a dark-haired girl in an ivory dress, whom eagle-eyed players may recognize from the game's opening FMV. (She's not the girl Squall didn't recognize in the infirmary. Don't worry, we're getting to her.) Declaring Squall "the best-looking guy here" (which PS 1 graphics could not validate), she convinces him to dance (against a waltz version of the famed single "Eyes On Me" by Galbadian entertainer Julia Heartilly) before disappearing again.
Back in his quarters, Squall finds a note left by a fellow SeeD, inviting him to meet the writer in the Training Grounds, a zone within the campus where random encounters are allowed. It's Quistis. The two fight their way to the edge of the training grounds, yielding a gorgeous view of the surrounding area. Here, in relative privacy, Quistis attempts to unburden herself of her worries — the youngest SeeD ever promoted to instructor, she has just been demoted again, leading her to question her own competence — but Squall, whose stoic exterior masks a frothing cauldron of insecurities, blows her off: "So go talk to a wall."
As they leave the training area, they find the willowy brunette from the infirmary, cornered by a monster. They save her, but she is escorted away by men in white suits and headbands before they can learn what her name is — and, more importantly, why she knows theirs.
The next morning — remember, all of the above takes place in one day — Squall, Selphie and Zell are dispatched on their first official mission: they are to aid La Résistance in Timber, a small city-state on the Galbadian continent which has been militarily occupied for over a decade. Traveling by train, the three of them fall into a dream, in which Squall watches the adventures of three Galbadian soldiers: a boisterous giant named Ward Zabac who wields a giant harpoon; the lithe, dark-skinned Kiros Seagill who attacks with dual daggers, and their leader, the awkward and upbeat Laguna Loire, the man with the machine gun. It's a lucid dream, if Squall's narration is to be trusted ("???" "??? ??? ???"), and the three soldiers have all of the party's GFs and junctions equipped, but this still doesn't explain the dream, which consists of the three soldiers fighting their way through a forest — it seems to be taking place during the Sorceress War, a generation ago — and then returning to the capitol, Deling City, where they attend a club. Laguna is enamored of a young pianist, a Julia Heartilly, and, despite a rocky start, is able to make a good impression on her. Unfortunately, he is called away on another mission before he can solidify anything, leaving Squall to awaken on the train, reflecting on what he saw — "I dreamt I was a moron" — and discovering, to his surprise, that Selphie and Zell saw the same thing.
The SeeDs make contact with the Forest Owls, the movement they have been sent to aid. Squall is startled to learn that the group's leader, Rinoa Heartilly, is the Plucky Girl he danced with the day before (and that he can rename her — he hasn't been allowed to do that for any other characters, only his GFs). She, Zone and Watts — the entire membership of the Forest Owls — brief the SeeDs on their plan: to hijack the train upon which Galbadian president Vinzer Deling is traveling, swapping his car for a carefully prepared duplicate and abducting him with no one the wiser. The effort is successful, but the kidnapped president turns out to be a double, planted just in case.
President Deling — the real one — is headed to Dollet to take advantage of their radio tower. Almost all electromagnetic communication has been shut down for over a decade due to interference on all frequencies — a slight deviation from the game's technology level, which otherwise mirrors The '90s. Squall, Rinoa and the others rush to stop the broadcast, but the president makes it on the air to announce that he has appointed the sorceress Edea as his nation's new ambassador. With the camera still running, Seifer breaks into the studio to kidnap Deling; Quistis, assigned to stop him, calls Squall in as reinforcements. Ultimately, though, it is Edea herself who defuses the situation by abducting Seifer.
Squall, Quistis, Zell, Selphie and Rinoa fight their way out of Dollet, with the latter officially joining the party; she fights using a strange boomerang which is fired from a mechanism on her left arm, and her dog Angelo participates in most of her limit breaks. (Angelo can also be renamed.) With the Forest Owls' hideout compromised and train services suspended by national decree, the SeeDs seek refuge at Galbadia Garden, which does not train mercenaries but rather the G-Army. On the way they again dream of Laguna and his friends, who this time ran into Esthar forces excavating a gargantuan crystal structure at a Centra excavation site. Though Laguna and the others survive, all three are wounded, with Ward losing his voice.
Within Galbadia Garden, Squall's detachment regroup and try to figure out their next move. They are interrupted by a news broadcast that Seifer Almasy, erstwhile SeeD candidate, has been executed by the Galbadian government. The entire contingent are shaken — including Rinoa, who actually used to date Seifer back in the day — but Squall, The Stoic, is startled by how quickly the others begin to move on, wondering if he too will be so easily forgotten.
The SeeDs (and Rinoa) are given new orders: under the supervision of G-Army general Caraway, they are to escort sniper Irvine Kinneas to the capitol and assassinate the sorceress. Caraway's motivation for betraying his president is simple: he doesn't want to see history repeat. Galbadia rose to prominence by winning the Sorceress War against the nation of Esthar 17 years ago, which at the time was ruled by a sorceress named Adel — a threat much too dangerous to be left unanswered; as Caraway sees it, Deling is leading the nation towards a similar destruction. He also wishes his daughter Rinoa would stop messing around with these silly resistance movements, though he's been having trouble keeping her under control since her mother died.
Cold Sniper Irvine joins the party, completing the Six Student Clique which the player will control through the majority of the game. Besides attacking with his rifle, Irvine's limit break allows him to barrage the enemy with special bullets that count as consumable inventory.
In Caraway's mansion, the SeeDs solidify The Plan. The assassination will take place during a parade. Team Two, consisting of Zell, Selphie and Quistis, will take a position at a gated archway, in which to trap Edea; Team One, Squall and Irvine, will then take the shot. Rinoa offers to help suppress the sorceress's powers using an Odine-brand bangle, but Quistis has her stand down: she's not a trained SeeD. So Rinoa waits until after the others have left and then breaks out to do it anyway. Unfortunately for her, Edea sees her coming from a mile away, and summons some lizard-beast things that Squall and Irvine have to rescue her from. From that point on, the plan actually goes pretty smoothly; Team Two trigger the archway trap, keeping Edea in place — though not until after she has murdered President Deling, in plain sight of the parade watchers, and assumed the presidency. Irvine, having an outbreak of nerves, can't take the shot. Squall manages to get his spine back in him... but the sorceress blocks the bullet with a Force Field, forcing Squall to attack her head-on. Leaping to the defense is... none other than Seifer, now serving as the Sorceress's Knight. The SeeDs get through him, but Edea ends the fight by throwing an ice javelin through Squall's shoulder...
Disc 2Laguna Loire is staying in a little town called Winhill, where he washed up after jumping off a cliff to escape the Centra excavation site. Someone has come to visit him: Kiros. Laguna describes his life: since leaving the army, he has ended up in the care of a woman named Raine and a little girl she adopted named Ellone, whose parents were gunned down in the Sorceress War. With his trusty machine gun, he (and Kiros) patrols the area, keeping the town safe from monsters. Kiros has news — Julia Heartilly married some Galbadian general (Carawan? Caraway?) after her One True Love never returned from the war — but Laguna doesn't care; his whole life revolves around Ellone and Raine now, as he has come to love them dearly. Ellone clearly feels the same way, actively trying to match Uncle Laguna and Raine together; apparently even a small girl can recognize Unresolved Sexual Tension.
Squall awakens in the D-District Prison, where he and the party are being held. Seifer tortures him for information, wanting to know why SeeDs are planted to oppose Sorceresses, but Squall can't confess something that nobody has ever told him. Once he's left alone, a Moomba — a furry biped which both Galbadia and Esthar use for labor — frees him, calling him "Laguna."
Zell, Selphie and Quistis awaken elsewhere in the prison and organize a jailbreak. Rinoa and Irvine are nowhere to be found: it turns out that General Caraway's daughter and sent her, and her sniper bodyguard, back to Deling City. Of course, Rinoa wasted no time in convincing Irvine to organize their own jailbreak. The three parties converge and escape the prison, in the process learning that Edea plans to retaliate by launching cruise missiles at Balamb and Trabia Gardens, destroying the two schools which produce SeeDs. As they watch, the cruise missiles emerge from their underground bunkers.
Rinoa has learned that Trabia Garden, where Selphie used to go before being transferred to Balamb, will be targeted first. Consequently, the party splits: Selphie leads a contingent to the Galbadian Missile Base to try and stop the next launch, while Squall heads back to Balamb with a warning. (The player may decide who accompanies which leader.)
Despite heroic efforts, Selphie's party fail to prevent the second wave of missiles. Even worse, despite having defeated all Galbadian forces in the base, including a massive tank, they find themselves trapped in the base with the self-destruct ticking down.
Squall, Whoever and Whoever return to find Balamb Garden in an uproar: some are siding with Headmaster Cid and others with Garden Master NORG, Balamb's angel investor. He is summoned to the basement to meet with NORG. NORG wants Squall et al executed to appease the sorceress, disavowing Cid's stated mission of training SeeDs to oppose Sorceresses — such as Cid's wife, Edea — but Squall shuts him up with his gunblade. Cid, when pressed, insists on staying the course... even though the sorceress SeeD is destined to face seems to be his wife.
Squall also learns that the Garden can be made mobile. He activates Balamb's hover mechanism and drives it away from its former location, causing the cruise missiles to impact harmlessly in a newly-made crater; however, the steering mechanisms have decayed from years of neglect, leaving the Garden adrift at sea.
The Garden encounters a boat crewed by the guys in white suits and headbands; they call themselves "Edea's SeeDs." They want to take someone named "Ellone" (Squall recognizes the name) away, for her own safety. When Squall finds this "Ellone," she turns out to be the willowy brunette from Disc 1, not to mention the little girl "Uncle Laguna" was raising in Winhill. Ellone accepts the protection of the "White SeeDs." She admits she is the one sending Squall the Laguna dreams, but won't reveal why.
Balamb Garden — which is still not steerable — crashes into Fishermans Horizon, a town of Actual Pacifists built around a defunct train station on the Horizon Bridge (connecting the continents of Galbadia and Esthar). Galbadia sends its military to occupy the town, demanding Ellone's whereabouts on Sorceress Edea's orders, but the SeeDs drive the G-Army out — in the process allowing Squall to demonstrate his belief that violence is a necessary evil, at least when it comes to protecting the downtrodden. His final opposition is a malfunctioning, beat-up tank... out of which emerges Selphie and her party, as they took shelter there from the self-destruct.
Cid places Squall in command of Balamb Garden, a duty Squall accepts reluctantly. Selphie (finally) succeeds at organizing the Garden Festival, giving players access to a brief minigame where every party member but Squall and Rinoa can be assigned an instrument, playing either (a 12/8 smooth jazz version of) Eyes on Me, a sort of Irish jig, or some unholy combination thereof. (This is less funny than it sounds, as the two songs are in the same tempo.) Rinoa takes the opportunity to ask Squall to be more open with his friends; Squall, the Ineffectual Loner who rejects everyone because of his fear of abandonment, agrees, but mostly to get her to leave him in peace. The townsfolk of FH, though still dubious of soldiery in general, repay their gratitude by repairing the Garden's rudder mechanisms. The player is now in command of their first vehicle.
The town of Balamb is occupied by Galbadians, for the same reason FH was. They are under the command of Raijin and Fujin, Those Two Guys who accompany Seifer everywhere, but Squall's team emerge victorious.
Squall then sets course for Trabia Garden. Selphie visits the Garden's makeshift graveyard, telling her friends what became of her.
As the party gather to converse over their next action, Irvine reveals that everyone in the party save Rinoa, and plus Seifer and a slightly older girl named Ellone, used to live in an orphanage together, cared for by a woman named Edea — the very one who has currently taken over Galbadia. This is why he couldn't pull the trigger: it's a bit much to ask an orphan to assassinate his own mother figure. The Laser-Guided Amnesia is handwaved by the explanation that Guardian Forces live in the portion of your brain where memory is storednote ; Irvine, who had never junctioned one until joining the party, has therefore never surrendered his memory to them. This also explains why his Cold Sniper persona folded during the operation against Edea; he had trouble pulling the trigger when the target was, for all intents and purposes, his mother.
Squall decides to investigate the orphanage to find out why Edea has become evil, only to discover Galbadia Garden, now also mobile and under command of Edea and Seifer, has arrived there first.
The Battle of the Gardens involves chaos, bedlam, aerial maneuvers, boarders riding motorcycles, plans and counter-plans, Rinoa almost getting sliced in half by the Gardens' hover drives, and (if the player chooses) an order to make sure Zell's Trademark Favorite Food is safeguarded. After repelling the boarders, Squall & Co invade Galbadia Garden where they face Seifer and Edea, Edea pointing out Squall as the legendary SeeD destined to face her. The SeeDs defeat Seifer and Edea, who collapse on the floor. Rinoa begins acting strange and revives Seifer, who departs, before falling unconscious.
After Seifer is gone Edea calls out to Squall and his friends in kindness, marveling how they have all grown up. She explains she had been possessed by a sorceress from the distant future named Ultimecia, and that up until now they had been fighting Ultimecia inside Edea's "shell." Ultimecia plans to "compress time" to gain sorceress power from every sorceress who has ever lived to become a god-like being, and to enact her plan she sends her mind back in time to possess other sorceresses. Ultimecia is looking for Ellone, whose Chronoscope powers are needed for the time-compression spell.
Edea explains that any woman with the potential to receive sorceress powers may become a sorceress. The process is dubbed the embodiment, wherein a dying sorceress passes on her powers to a chosen successor who is unable to reject the transfer of power. Once an individual becomes a sorceress she may still be used as a successor for the powers of another sorceress. Ultimecia's plan is to collect all of the sorceress power and become a Physical God.
Disc 3Rinoa is still comatose. Squall, who is growing fond of her, determines that he should find Ellone and use her powers to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. They find the White SeeD Ship and learn Ellone has gone to the hidden nation of Esthar. Squall takes the Garden to FH and visits Rinoa in the infirmary. He falls asleep and dreams of Laguna taking part in filming a movie on the Vienne Mountains. Ellone has been kidnapped by Esthar on Sorceress Adel's orders, and Laguna had left a heavily-pregnant Raine to go rescue her; this (somehow) evolved into Laguna Flynning against a real live dragon using a gunblade, a weapon he hadn't wielded since training. (Fun fact: a young Seifer Almasy was inspired to take up the weapon by this film.) Laguna glimpsed a mysterious floating pillar on the horizon, and as Squall begins to awake he hears Ellone's voice apologizing for having accidentally sent him back in time again. Squall calls out to her but the connection is lost.
Squall resolves to take Rinoa to Esthar himself. He debarks the Garden at Fishermans Horizon and begins to walk, carrying her on his back, to the other side of Horizon Bridge — literally, partway around the world. His friends and Edea follow him, Edea explaining she wants to go to Esthar to see the famed scientist Dr. Odine — said to have studied sorceresses — due to her fear that Ultimecia may possess her again. She also joins the party as a Guest-Star Party Member, using ice magic to attack and Limit Break. On the other end of the bridge, the party discovers Esthar City is camouflaged behind a cloaking device. Esthar is Galbadia's major political rival and its territory spans the entire eastern continent. Esthar is technologically-advanced and is governed by a president. Esthar has, since the Sorceress War, been hidden from the world.
As they enter Esthar, Squall and Co are forced into another dream by Ellone. Laguna, Kiros and Ward had made it into Esthar, but had been taken captive and was held in forced labor in Lunatic Pandora Laboratory. He, with the help of some Moombas, broke free and located Ellone within Dr. Odine's lab where Odine had been researching her powers of telepathy and mental time travel. The four of them are dissatisfied with Adel's stewardship of the country and discuss what to do.
Upon awakening, the party is taken to meet Dr. Odine, who tells Edea that she is no longer a sorceress. Squall insists on taking Rinoa to see Ellone, and thus he, Rinoa and a party member of his choosing are launched into orbit to visit Esthar's Lunar Base. Ostensibly established for moon study, the Lunar Base's true purpose is to oversee Sorceress Adel, Esthar's ruler during the Sorceress War, who is sealed in a spacebound tomb to prevent her from ever passing on her sorceress power.
Back on the ground, Zell is left in charge of the remaining party. They are shocked to see a massive black pillar rise from the ocean and fly across Esthar City. The pillar, known as the Lunatic Pandora, was created by Esthar to artificially trigger the Lunar Cry where monsters fall to the planet from the moon — the origin of most of the monsters on the planet. The weapon was built under Sorceress Adel's rule, but after she was usurped the Lunatic Pandora was deemed too dangerous and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Seifer engineered its unearthing as part of Ultimecia's plan. Zell's party infiltrates the Lunatic Pandora and discovers it houses the crystal pillar they saw Esthar excavating in a Laguna dream. The pillar originates from the moon, and thus has an affinity with it. Unable to proceed deeper into the pillar, Zell's party is ejected by a Galbadian robot.
On the Lunar Base Squall reunites with Ellone; she has come to the Lunar Base to meet someone, but won't reveal who. Squall explains he has recovered his childhood memories and now remembers Ellone is his sister from the orphanage, and begs her to send him to Rinoa's past. Ellone explains she has discovered it is impossible to change the past using her ability, but learning from the past can allow one to understand the present.Ultimecia takes possession of Rinoa's body and forces her way through to the control room. She puts on a space suit and goes EVA, where she opens the seal on Adel's tomb. Ultimecia abandons Rinoa's body in space as the Lunatic Pandora back on the ground triggers the Lunar Cry and monsters pour down on the planet. Adel's tomb is swept into the current of monsters and falls into the Lunatic Pandora, while Esthar City is decimated.
Lunar Base is being evacuated, and as everyone puts on their space suits — with one awkward, good-hearted guy begging Squall to do what he can — and enters the escape pods, Ellone sends Squall back in time. He discovers Rinoa was possessed by Ultimecia back at Galbadia Garden when she revived Seifer and ordered him to restore the Lunatic Pandora, but is unable to affect the events. When Squall awakes he begs Ellone to try again, and Ellone sends Squall to Rinoa's consciousness as she floats alone in space. Via Ellone's power, Squall communicates to Rinoa to activate the emergency oxygen supply in her space suit. She does so, and Squall exits the escape pod to go after her. He catches up with Rinoa in outer space and they come across the derelict spaceplane Ragnarok, which had been floating in orbit near the Lunar Base.
After repressurizing the spaceplane and freeing it of a monster infestation, Squall and (the possibly under-leveled) Rinoa activate the radio and make contact with ground control. (They are surprised that the radio even works, given the electromagnetic interference that has been going on for close to two decades, but realize that said interference was a byproduct of Adel's tomb.) Esthar welcomes them home, but demand that Rinoa be surrendered to them, as she is a sorceress and thus a potential pawn in Ultimecia's schemes. Rinoa agrees and is led away.
Squall's friends find him alone in the Ragnarok. They help him realize how much he loves Rinoa and push him into action before he regrets it. He rescues Rinoa and they escape back to Edea's orphanage. Rinoa is skeptical of the future, seeing as Squall is the leader of SeeD, an anti-sorceress army, but he assures Rinoa that she is not his enemy. The two promise to meet at the flower field behind the orphanage should they ever be separated.
Esthar contacts the Ragnarok, wanting to hire Squall's party for one last SeeD mission. The party heads for the presidential palace in Esthar City where they meet the president of Esthar... none other than Laguna Loire, who staged a revolution against Adel all those years ago and succeeded her as Esthar's ruler. Laguna tells the story of how they tricked Adel into being frozen and used Ragnarok model spaceships to transport her tomb to the orbit. He had sent Ellone home to Winhill and intended to follow when everything was over, but before long he had nothing to return to: Raine died, and Ellone ended up in Matron Edea's orphanage, leaving Laguna to continue his role as Adel's gaoler. Ellone had gone to the Lunar Base to tell him the whole story — Raine's passing was a Death by Childbirth, and Laguna has a son. As to Ellone herself, she is now a captive of Adel somewhere on Lunatic Pandora.
The party discusses Ultimecia's plan of time compression with Dr. Odine, who had studied Ellone's ability to send one's consciousness into different eras. Odine used his knowledge he had gained to create the prototype Junction Machine Ellone. In the future, Ultimecia is using an improved version of the Junction Machine to reach back in time to take over the bodies of sorceresses; however, the machine has limitations in regard to how far it can send a consciousness back in time. Thus, Ultimecia needs the real Ellone to send her consciousness as far as it needs to go. With her mind present in all eras of time, Ultimecia would be able to cast the time compression spell and become an omnipotent deity able to control all time, space and existence.
Dr. Odine and Laguna have formulated a plan to stop Ultimecia. SeeD will need to defeat Adel so she would pass her powers to Rinoa, making her the only sorceress left in the present era. When Ultimecia possesses Rinoa, Ellone will send both of their minds into the past, allowing Ultimecia to cast time compression. Ellone would then sever the link sending everyone back to their respective eras, temporarily halting the spell... but leaving SeeD in Ultimecia's era, free to defeat her.
The Two Lines, No Waiting are united as President Laguna Loire and his aides Kiros and Ward come aboard the Ragnarok to enact the plan. (Kiros tells Squall that he should be glad he takes after his mother. If you duel Laguna at Triple Triad, he has Squall's card. Laguna was living with Raine when she became pregnant, and Ellone is Squall's adopted sister. The subtext is pretty clear here: Squall Leonheart is the son of Raine and Laguna.) The party invades Lunatic Pandora, with Laguna's group heading out for Ellone and Squall's team looking for Edea. Within, the Galbadian forces are questioning their commitment to Seifer, with some, like Biggs and Wedge, deserting outright. Fujin and Raijin try to convince Seifer to stop serving Ultimecia and go back to being their friend, and set Ellone free. Seifer says it is too late to turn back now and captures Rinoa and offers her to Ultimecia (now in the body of Adel)...
Disc 4Ultimecia junctions Rinoa to Adel's body, but Squall's party fights Ultimecia (as Adel). As Adel's body succumbs she passes on her sorceress power to Rinoa. With no other vessel to exist within, Ultimecia possesses Rinoa, allowing Ellone to send Ultimecia's and Rinoa's minds into the past. With her mind in all eras, Ultimecia casts time compression, though it is temporarily halted when Ellone severs the link, sending her mind back to the future.
The partially compressed time allows Squall and his friends to travel to the future and reach Ultimecia Castle. The party finds a dark world ruled by Ultimecia and the corpses of White SeeD around the shoreline of the old orphanage that no longer exists in the future. Squall observes that SeeD has been fighting Ultimecia across generations.
Though Ultimecia's Castle is the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, through careful maneuvering Squall can return to the Ragnarok, which has a small contingent of Balamb Garden SeeD and various resupply options.
The SeeDs confront Ultimecia at the summit of her castle after fighting their way through a number of mini-bosses, all of which unlock various Junction commands when defeated. Afterwards, Time Compression starts to unravel, and Squall and his friends must find a way back to their own time. Ultimecia and Squall travel back in time to Edea's orphanage, to a time when Squall was only a child and the Garden hadn't yet been built. Squall witnesses Ultimecia passing her powers on to the Edea of the past before fading away. Squall speaks with Edea and mentions Garden and the SeeDs, but Edea is puzzled as she's never heard of these terms. Squall, realizing he has inadvertently created a Stable Time Loop, resumes his struggle to get back home. He ends up in a place gradually slipping into nothingness. He tries to concentrate on Rinoa to make his way back home, but is unable to picture her face. In the present era, Rinoa waits for Squall at the flower field at Edea's orphanage. She transforms a flower petal into a white feather that locates Squall trapped in lost time. He grasps the feather but is too weak to make his way back... but Rinoa has found him.
Seifer spends his days in the company of Fujin and Raijin in Balamb Town. As Balamb Garden passes overhead he looks up and smiles, implying he has moved on. Laguna visits Raine's grave on the hills outside Winhill where he recalls proposing to her, while Ellone, Kiros and Ward watch on at a distance.
The SeeDs reunite at Balamb Garden for a celebration party. Edea has abandoned the mannerisms and dress sense of a sorceress and attends the party with Cid. Irvine and Selphie use a video camera to document the festivities, while Squall and Rinoa stargaze on the Balamb Garden balcony, kiss, and Squall — for the first time in the game — smiles.