Final Fantasy 8’s Strangest Fan Theory Makes It a Great Game

Do your self a favor and by no means point out the “Squall is Dead” idea to a Final Fantasy VIII fan. Why? Because you would possibly get dragged right into a fandom hellscape the place lovers eternally torment you want a third-grader berating a second-grader for believing in Santa Claus, enthusiastically destroying a largely innocent phantasm. Yet, extra vital than whether or not Final Fantasy VIII protagonist Squall is lifeless or not is how that idea helped preserve the game alive sufficient although it took over 20 years for Square Enix launch even a easy remaster of the expertise.

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So, what’s the “Squall is Dead” idea?

Toward’s the top of Final Fantasy VIII‘s first disc, protagonist Squall confronts the evil sorceress Edea atop a parade float. During the battle, Edea shoots a large magical ice shard at Squall. The ice shard hits him within the higher chest (some say it really hits him proper beneath the shoulder) and he falls off the float, tumbling down a terrific distance. But within the subsequent scene, Squall wakes up in a jail cell and is miraculously tremendous. He says, “My wound…? No wound…? How…?” however no different reference to the damage is made for the remainder of the game. Instead, Squall and his ever-growing group of companions proceed their journey to defeat Edea and finally the sorceress Ultimecia, who is definitely accountable for many of their world’s conflicts. Still, some followers consider Squall died through the now-infamous fall sequence and the remainder of the game is a few form of…effectively, that’s a matter open to interpretation.

Squall’s “death” has typically been brushed apart by gamers who consider that there are methods he may have simply been healed. Most of the shops within the game’s world even promote an merchandise that allows you to resurrect the lifeless (or a minimum of heal the mortally wounded). Granted, the truth that this main second is just about ignored for the remainder of the game is mostly agreed to be considerably odd. Final Fantasy VIII even begins with Squall being wounded throughout coaching, leaving a scar he has to bear for the remainder of the game. The truth {that a} skin-deep wound is handled as such a serious occasion whereas a seemingly mortal damage is so casually brushed apart is an attention-grabbing contradiction on the very least.

Even should you consider that Squall may have been revived by way of varied magical strategies, it is laborious to disclaim that the concept that Squall died on that float turns into considerably extra intriguing whenever you take a look at how comparatively regular the occasions earlier than his “death” are and the way downright bizarre issues get after that.

Up till the parade scene, Final Fantasy VIII incorporates a fairly regular story by sequence requirements. You play as an orphan boy named Squall who’s attempting to turn out to be a full member of the mercenary group SeeD. After getting back from a profitable mission, Squall graduates, meets Rinoa Heartilly (his love curiosity) at a dance, and is quickly despatched to assassinate Edea. 

After Squall is injured by Edea, although, Final Fantasy VIII’s story turns into about as logical as a David Lynch fever dream. The game’s plot regularly introduces components like evil alien financiers who reside within the basement of the mercenary college they fund, playable flashbacks to occasions that occurred 17 years earlier, a random detour that sees members of your celebration kind a band, and a visit to outer area that precedes a journey into an alternate timeline. There comes a degree within the story whenever you get the sensation that the writers positioned bets to see who may bind the strangest eventualities with the flimsiest of plot threads.

This is the center of the “Squall is Dead” idea. It’s not unusual for a narrative (particularly a JRPG) to start comparatively regular and get stranger as issues go alongside, however what separates Final Fantasy VIII is how cleanly the assault on Squall splits the game’s story in two. Nearly all the pieces that occurs earlier than and after that sequence looks like separate tales unusually unified by the implications of Squall’s dying.

The query is: “If Squall actually is dead, then what is the rest of the game?” The hottest idea is that the remainder of the game is simply Squall’s dream. There’s a sort of inside logic that helps that concept, nevertheless it feels a bit low-cost so as to add “It Was All a Dream” to this idea’s checklist of tropes.

More attention-grabbing prospects abound, although. For occasion, it’s been prompt that the remainder of the game is basically Squall’s journey by means of some variation of purgatory. There’s a stunning quantity of advantage to that concept. Squall was a superb younger man, however he was additionally a tragic character. He was raised in an orphanage and noticed his sister dragged away as a result of of her capacity to ship somebody’s consciousness by means of time. You may argue Squall’s childhood is accountable for his delinquent nature and need to be the hero.

Is it doable, then, that the incredible journey Squall embarks upon was only a realization of his childhood fantasies designed to steer him into the afterlife and be certain that his soul was at peace? By the top of Final Fantasy VIII, Squall will get the woman, defeats monsters and aliens, and helps his mates discover peace. Yes, he faces hardships, however so many of these hardships appear to be tied to the themes of accepting future/destiny and transferring on from the previous. For occasion, an uncommon quantity of NPCs within the game point out that it is Squall’s “destiny” to defeat Edea although that wording wasn’t actually used earlier than his supposed dying. This may additionally clarify why Squall’s misplaced sister unsuccessfully tries to ship his conscience again in time to finish the continued conflict in opposition to Edea. The message is that you may’t change your previous and should settle for the place you’re within the current. 

Along those self same strains is the much more fascinating concept that Squall has pulled a Billy Pilgrim and has turn out to be unstuck from time. There’s an interpretation of the game’s storyline which means that Squall’s sister begins the method of sending his conscience again in time across the time that he “dies.” Is it doable that his bodily dying coincided with (or conflicted with) the switch of his conscience?

Aside from the game’s common fascination with actuality and time, probably the most intriguing argument for this idea comes on the finish of the game when Squall takes a Kubrick-like journey by means of time and area. During this sequence, the face of his love is blurred and distorted whereas Squall’s personal face transforms into what can greatest be described as a black gap. It’s maybe telling that the majority of Squall’s visions of Rinoa throughout this sequence are of her earlier than or through the time of his “death.” The obscured face of Rinoa throughout occasions through which she and Squall have been each clearly “alive” through the game’s story might recommend that there’s some form of drive telling Squall that his recollections of the time earlier than his dying at the moment are very distant from wherever he’s now. Could accepting this be half of the method of transferring on to what comes subsequent for him, or may it’s that Squall seeing these visions is the set off that makes him understand that he’s not grounded to the timeline he thought he was an element of? 

Arguably, probably the most attention-grabbing idea relating to Squall’s dying entails the concept that Rinoa really turns into the evil Sorceress Ultimecia and alters the move of time and the character of actuality so as to undo Squall’s dying and save her lover. This is supported by some placing similarities between most important villain Ultimecia and Rinoa and the persistent concept that many sorceresses on this world in the end succumb to their powers and embrace evil. Could it’s that Rinoa’s love of Squall allowed her to all the time keep some form of readability whilst she went mad? Could Squall’s adventures after his dying be the consequence of a number of timelines and universes coming collectively to kind one timeline through which Squall and Rinoa are united?

That may very well be the case, nevertheless it isn’t. In 2017, Final Fantasy VIII director Yoshinori Kitase shot down the “Squall is Dead” idea and the suggestion that Rinoa and Ultimecia are one (amongst different fan theories). In the method, Kitase killed years of debate, hypothesis, and deep dives into the game’s lore. He additionally offered keyboard warriors in all places all of the ammunition they would wish to kill fan idea conversations. What so many of these folks typically ignore is what else Kitase mentioned relating to the speculation:

“That is a really attention-grabbing concept, so if we ever do make a remake of Final Fantasy VIII, I’d associate with that story in thoughts.”

Maybe that’s as a result of the “Squall is Dead” idea makes Final Fantasy VIII a extra attention-grabbing game. When some followers hear that, they take it to imply that they need to settle for the speculation as a truth. They shouldn’t, and it isn’t. What the speculation is, although, is the right lens by means of which to re-examine Final Fantasy VIII’s deserves and legacy.

The idea touches upon so many of Final Fantasy VIII’s largest and most attention-grabbing themes. It’s a proof that provides the game’s time journey and dimensional rift plot factors the sort of emotional weight that probably the most outlandish items of science fiction so typically want. It turns the customarily stoic and uncharming Squall right into a extra tragic determine whose shortcomings turn out to be a better half of his character arc. It even makes the game’s love story (one of its strongest components) extra memorable. After all, what number of video games look at the thought of love as one thing that gives not solely which means and motivation, however consolation in a world that tries to make us really feel like we don’t belong?

Yet, the true worth of the “Squall is Dead” idea is much less concerning the laborious truths of it and extra about how even disputing the speculation requires you to re-examine Final Fantasy VIII and recognize how the game’s complicated themes and weird concepts have impressed folks to proceed analyzing the journey. Their conclusions might differ, however these theories unite followers of their love for a game that has in any other case been too typically forgotten. It’s oddly applicable that Kitase’s speak of a Final Fantasy remake comes within the context of a dialogue relating to one of the game’s wildest fan theories. Despite the latest launch of the remaster, they’re most likely each simply wishful pondering.

Wishful pondering is absolutely solely harmful, although, if it impairs our capacity to maneuver ahead. The reverse is true of Final Fantasy VIII and its many fan theories. They’ve allowed the game to succeed in a brand new technology of followers even after Square Enix spent practically 20 years ignoring it. “Squall is Dead” not solely affords a compelling clarification for a sequence of occasions that seemingly defy all logic, nevertheless it helps us to know why the too-often misunderstood Final Fantasy VIII is price remembering in any case these years.

Matthew Byrd is a workers author for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days attempting to pitch deep-dive analytical items about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an more and more perturbed sequence of editors. You can learn extra of his work right here or discover him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014

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