At the forefront of a rising tide of violence brought on by Galbadia's war declaration is a SeeD cadet named Squall Leonhart. Serious to a fault, Squall has earned himself the reputation of being a lone wolf.
A chance encounter with the free-spirited Rinoa Heartilly, however, turns his universe upside down. Having thrived on discipline, Squall finds Rinoa's carefree attitude fascinating. Yet there is no time to ponder these thoughts, for the job of dealing with the sorceress behind Galbadia's irrational hostility has fallen to SeeD and Squall.Official Introduction
The story of Final Fantasy VIII follows Squall Leonhart, a cadet in a military academy called Balamb Garden. Squall strives to become a SeeD, a mercenary who can wield magic with the aid of magical beings known as Guardian Forces. Balamb Garden is the only institution in the world to allow the use of the beings, and their use mimics the power of a sorceress, women who can use magic naturally who are both feared and revered. Though initially a loner, Squall's quest has him befriend various people and he learns to depend on them as the SeeDs get involved in a mission of protecting the world.
Welcome to SeeD
Childhood rivals, Squall Leonhart and Seifer Almasy, duel on a stormy night. Both are cadets at Balamb Garden, a paramilitary academy training SeeD, an elite mercenary force contracted to help people all around the world. The duel ends in a tie with both leaving with scars across their faces.
The next morning Squall wakes up at the infirmary on the day of his SeeD field exam. He glimpses a mysterious girl who seems to know him, and leaves with his instructor, Quistis Trepe. Quistis aids Squall in retrieving a new Guardian Force, a creature that enables the use of magic and enhances one's physical capabilities, and then deems him ready for his final exam.
The final test to become a SeeD is at the Siege of Dollet, where Squall—together with his squad members, Zell Dincht and Seifer—must secure the central square of the occupied city of Dollet. They uncover the reason the Galbadian Army has invaded: to reactivate an abandoned radio tower, although they cannot fathom why, seeing as the worldwide radio interference affects all transmissions. Seifer abandons his team and disobeys Garden's orders by leaving their post, and a spunky girl, Selphie Tilmitt, joins the party when delivering a withdrawal order. After Galbadia activates the tower the cadets are chased back to the beach by a spider-like war machine.
Back at the Garden the exam results are announced. Squall, Zell and Selphie are graduated to SeeD by Headmaster Cid Kramer, but Seifer does not make the cut due to having disobeyed direct orders. At the SeeD graduation party a girl asks Squall for a dance. He is initially disinterested, but she drags him to the dance floor. The two dance to the "Waltz for the Moon" but she soon excuses herself.
Quistis takes Squall to the Garden's monster-infested training center for a talk, where she reveals she has been relieved of her position as an instructor. On their way out they run into the mysterious girl Squall saw at the infirmary. She calls out to Squall and Quistis who don't recognize her. They defeat the Granaldo that had cornered the girl, and she is led away by men in unfamiliar white uniforms before she has a chance to explain herself.
The next morning Squall, Selphie and Zell are sent out to their first SeeD mission: to aid the resistance faction Forest Owls to reclaim the independence of the nation of Timber, which has been occupied by Galbadia for over a decade. During the train ride the SeeDs pass out and dream of a Galbadian soldier called Laguna Loire and his two friends, Kiros Seagill and Ward Zabac, during the time of Galbadia's invasion of Timber many years ago. Galbadia is a military dictatorship that rose to be the world's de facto power after the Sorceress War's end 17 years ago.
Laguna and his friends battled monsters in the blazing Timber forests, then headed for Deling City where Laguna met a pianist he admired, Julia Heartilly. Laguna confessed his feelings to her, but as he was called away from Julia's hotel room for another mission, the SeeDs awaken to find they are arriving in Timber. Disturbed by having shared the same dream, they nevertheless put the matter aside as they meet up with the Forest Owls.
The girl who danced with Squall, Rinoa Heartilly, is a member, and had been at the dance to enlist the SeeD's help. The Forest Owls plan to abduct Vinzer Deling, Galbadia's president, to force him to withdraw his soldiers from Timber, but once they hijack the president's train they confront only his body double.
Opposing the sorceress
After defeating the imposter they learn the real President Deling is going to the Timber TV Station to make a broadcast, for which Galbadia needed the Dollet radio tower. Despite the radio interference the broadcast is successful. Almost all radio communication facilities were shut down years ago because of the mysterious noise across all frequencies, although short transmissions are still possible. The president announces Sorceress Edea as the nation's new ambassador. Seifer storms the studio and takes the president hostage and Quistis, who had been sent to retrieve the rogue Seifer, requests Squall's party's aid. Squall and his friends rush to the TV studio, but the sorceress herself appears and spirits Seifer away, saving the president.
With Garden's reputation at risk following the incident, and return to Balamb Garden made impossible due to the train services having halted, Squall and his friends flee to Galbadia Garden, one of the three Garden institutions of the world. Unlike Balamb Garden, Galbadia Garden doesn't train SeeD or other mercenaries, but acts as a military academy for the G-Army, although it is not affiliated with the regime. Rinoa accompanies them as the Forest Owls' base has been destroyed and the members have dispersed to lie low. 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.
In Galbadia Garden the SeeDs are enlisted to assassinate the sorceress with the help of Galbadia's General Caraway (Rinoa's father) and the master sniper, Irvine Kinneas. Squall suspects they are being used, as Galbadia Garden's Master Martine wants the sorceress out due to her interest in his Garden, but cannot fathom the general's motive. The assassination is planned to take place at Edea's inauguration parade in Deling City. Rinoa, determined to prove herself, comes up with a plan to suppress the sorceress's power with an Odine brand item, but is dismissed by Quistis when she brings it up.
Rinoa sets out to carry out her plan alone but is struck down by the sorceress. Edea kills President Deling and sets Rinoa up as a sacrifice, but Squall and Irvine save her. Zell, Selphie and Quistis trap the sorceress inside a gated archway, as Squall, Irvine and Rinoa arrive at their post where a high caliber sniper rifle has been left for them to assassinate Edea. Irvine nearly breaks down, but with a little help from Squall he fires at the sorceress. She blocks the shot with a magical barrier, forcing Squall to attack her head on.
Squall is surprised to find Seifer at the sorceress's side, having become her "knight" as per fables. Sorceresses of legends are said to have had male protectors referred to as their knights, and Seifer has always had a fascination with the concept, referring to it as his "romantic dream" in the classical meaning of the word "romantic". Edea is disgusted upon discovering Squall is a SeeD, and pierces his shoulder with an ice javelin rendering him unconscious.
Squall dreams of Laguna's stay in the rural town of Winhill where he stayed with a woman called Raine and her adoptive daughter Ellone after having been rescued by the former when he got injured at the Centra excavation site. Ellone was orphaned when the nation of Esthar raided the town to kidnap girls to be assessed as Sorceress Adel's successor, Esthar's ruler. This was one of the many parts of the Sorceress War, in which Adel set out to the path of world domination, mainly being opposed by Galbadia. The war had suddenly ended when Esthar went silent, but during Laguna's times threat from Esthar forces was still real. Laguna vowed to protect Ellone, Raine and the village. Laguna learned Julia has married General Caraway after her true love never returned from the war.
Squall awakes in Galbadia's D-District Prison where his friends are being held nearby. Seifer tortures Squall on Edea's orders, demanding to know why SeeD persecutes sorceresses, confusing Squall who only knows SeeD as a mercenary force for hire. Squall is knocked unconscious but a worker Moomba—an intelligent animal both Galbadia and Esthar use for labor—frees him, calling him "Laguna", which puzzles Squall further.
He joins his friends in a jailbreak and learns Edea is to retaliate to the attempted assassination and has ordered Trabia and Balamb Gardens obliterated via missile strike. The crew hurries to stop the attacks, but once out in the desert witness missiles launched from the Galbadian Missile Base. Rinoa says that Trabia Garden was to be targeted first, giving everyone hope that they might be able to save Balamb Garden from the same fate. The group splits: Selphie's team tries to stop the next missile launch, while Squall's team goes to warn Balamb Garden. Selphie's party fails to stop the launch and barely survives by hiding inside a wrecked tank when the launch base self-destructs.
Squall arrives to find Balamb Garden in an uproar with students fighting each other, some siding with Headmaster Cid and some with Garden Master NORG. NORG was the one who funded the Garden's foundation and sees it as a mere profit venture. He declared himself the Garden's true ruler and dismissed its true purpose. The conflict of interest sparked the Balamb Garden Revolt among Cid's SeeD and NORG's Garden Faculty. During the commotion Squall learns the Garden can be made mobile and moves the building away from the spot the Galbadian missiles were programmed to target, but as the Garden's steering devices have broken down due to lack of maintenance, Balamb Garden is left adrift in the ocean.
Squall is summoned to the Garden's basement level where he meets Garden Master NORG himself. NORG tries to kill Squall and his companions to appease the sorceress by proving Garden was not behind the assassination attempt, but fails as Squall defeats him. During their conversation NORG let out that Cid and Edea are married, and a confused Squall confronts Cid who admits this is the truth. Cid explains the Garden's true purpose is to enter a fated battle against a sorceress. He is conflicted as the sorceress SeeD is destined to face seems to be his wife, but nevertheless wishes to stay true to the organization's origins.
The adrift Garden is intercepted by the White SeeD Ship and the crew, calling themselves "Edea's SeeD", want to take Ellone away for her safety. Squall is asked to look for her and he recognizes the name "Ellone" from a Laguna dream. When he locates her he discovers she is the mysterious girl who seems to know him. Squall demands to know what is going on, but Ellone is saddened Squall has forgotten about her. She reveals she is the one sending Squall back in time into a dream world, but won't reveal why. Ellone leaves with the White SeeD leaving a bemused Squall behind.
Balamb Garden crashes into Fishermans Horizon, a pacifist town built around a defunct train station on the Horizon Bridge. Squall is reunited with the missile base team when Galbadia sends its military to occupy Fishermans Horizon, and the tank where Selphie and her comrades were hiding in is sent over as well. The Galbadians confront FH's mayor demanding for Ellone's whereabouts as Edea is now searching for her, but the SeeDs drive the G-Forces out and the local technicians restore the Garden into full functionality.
Cid places the Garden under Squall's command, a duty he accepts reluctantly. Cid claims this is Squall's destiny, but a confused Squall rejects the notion. When the Garden returns to Balamb, Squall finds the town under Galbadian occupation. Under the supervision of Seifer's friends—Fujin and Raijin—Galbadia is searching for Ellone under Edea's orders. After liberating the town Balamb Garden heads for Trabia Garden, Selphie's home Garden, which was destroyed by Galbadian missiles.
At the Garden ruins Selphie mourns the wreckage of her home. As Squall, Zell, Selphie, Quistis, Irvine and Rinoa gather to converse over their next action, Irvine reveals that everyone but Rinoa used to live in an orphanage together, cared for by a woman named Edea, but he is the only one who remembers it. As everyone uncovers their buried memories, they realize they had forgotten about their past because of the memory loss brought on by using Guardian Forces, and Irvine was the only one unaffected as he never trained as a SeeD. They decide to investigate the old orphanage to find out why Edea has become evil, only to discover Galbadia Garden has arrived there first.
They prepare for an assault on the flying Garden, now under Edea and Seifer's control, and the Battle of the Gardens ensues. Squall and his friends infiltrate 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 the 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 possesses other sorceresses. Ultimecia is looking for Ellone, whose mystical powers she needs to cast the time compression spell.
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 something of a living god.
A sorceress from the future
Rinoa remains in a comatose state and Squall realizes he is in love with her. He wants to seek Ellone out and have her send him back in time to prevent Rinoa's coma. 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 during his quest seeking a way to Esthar to save the young Ellone, who had been kidnapped there on Sorceress Adel's orders. 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 by crossing the Horizon Bridge. 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. Squall carries an unconscious Rinoa on his back through the Salt Flats where 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 the party arrives in Esthar Squall begins to feel faint and he and his friends fall asleep to enter another dream world. Laguna had entered Esthar, but had been taken captive and was held in forced labor in Lunatic Pandora Laboratory. He broke free and located Ellone within Dr. Odine's lab where Odine had been researching her powers of telepathy and mental time travel.
Upon awakening the party is taken to meet Dr. Odine who inspects Rinoa and Edea is told she is no longer a sorceress. Squall insists on taking Rinoa to see Ellone, and thus at the Lunar Gate the party launches into outer space to Esthar's Lunar Base. The Lunar Base is Esthar's space station for moon study, but unbeknown to most of the world its 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 who 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 exits out to space 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 to 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 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 spaceship Ragnarok, which had been floating in orbit near the Lunar Base.
They find the abandoned spaceship still has oxygen and contact the ground base, Squall being surprised to find radio communication is working. Unbeknown to him, it was Adel's tomb's sealing device that disrupted radio waves back on the planet, and now that the tomb has fallen radio is working. Rinoa has become a sorceress, having unwittingly received Edea's sorceress power when the SeeD defeated her at the Galbadia Garden, and Esthar demands she be handed over to custody as she poses a threat to the world.
After Squall and Rinoa land the Ragnarok, Rinoa, with a heavy heart, agrees to be sealed away as Adel had been before her, and is led away. Squall's friends find him alone in the Ragnarok the Estharians had left behind. They help him realize how much he loves Rinoa and push him into action before he regrets it. He rescues Rinoa and they escape on the Ragnarok back to Edea's house. 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 house should they ever be separated.
Esthar contacts the Ragnarok with a message of 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, Laguna. Laguna was the one who usurped 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.
Laguna's plan had been to return Ellone to Winhill and follow when everything would be over, but Ellone ended up in Edea's orphanage with Raine's new baby after Raine had died, and Laguna had stayed in Esthar. Ever since he has been ensuring Adel is being kept sealed away in space, and it was him Ellone went to meet on the Lunar Base, as Laguna had never learned Raine had had a baby and Ellone deemed herself the only one who could tell him. This was also the reason Ellone had sent Squall back in time to inhabit Laguna: she had wanted to change the past so that their family would not get separated.
Laguna explains Ellone survived the Lunar Base's destruction and landed in the escape pod somewhere south of Esthar, but she was seized by Galbadian forces and is now being held captive within the Lunatic Pandora.
The party discusses Ultimecia's plan of time compression with Dr. Odine. Ellone's ability to send one's consciousness into different eras had been studied by Dr. Odine during the time she was held in Esthar as a child, and he had used the knowledge he had gained to create the prototype Junction Machine Ellone. In the future, Ultimecia is using a future 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, it had become Ultimecia's goal to find the real Ellone to send her consciousness even further back in time to simultaneously exist in the past, present and future. 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 would need to defeat Adel so she would pass her powers to Rinoa, making her the only sorceress left in the present era Ultimecia could exist within. When Ultimecia would possess Rinoa, Ellone would 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.
Laguna explains the only way to survive in a universe of compressed time: Squall and his friends would have to keep their bonds strong by remembering each other and thinking of a place they are connected to. Able to survive through time compression with their love and faith in each other, they should be able to make it to Ultimecia's future and defeat her.
Laguna, and his aides, Kiros and Ward, come aboard the party's Ragnarok to support in their upcoming mission. Kiros and Ward imply being familiar with Squall's parentage, but Laguna is evasive and only says he and Squall will have a lot to talk about later. During their preparations the party has a chance to visit Shumi Village where they learn the Shumi have completed a statue of Laguna in commemoration of his visit to the village years ago during his travels to reach Esthar to save the kidnapped Ellone. The village Moombas had found him injured and brought him in to recuperate, and during his brief stay Laguna had tried to teach the Moombas to talk, although they had learned only one word: Laguna.
The party invades the Lunatic Pandora where they find the Galbadian forces questioning their commitment to Seifer. 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). Ultimecia 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 comments the SeeD has been fighting Ultimecia across generations. The SeeDs confront Ultimecia at the summit of her castle and she divulges her plan to create a realm where the SeeDs are her slaves.
Ultimecia reaches into Squall's mind and creates Griever, a Guardian Force created from Squall's idea of the most powerful force in existence. After Squall and his friends triumph over Griever, Ultimecia junctions herself to it and after again being bested, transforms into her ultimate form to complete time compression in a battle that shifts through the fabric of time and space. Ultimecia begins absorbing all time, space and existence into herself, merging with it to become an omnipotent deity. The links that bound Squall, Rinoa, Quistis, Zell, Selphie and Irvine prove too much for Ultimecia to overcome and she collapses in an explosion that emanates across space.
Reality starts to revert to its original form and Squall and his friends must find their 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 SeeD. Edea is puzzled as she's never heard of them, and Squall realizes he has traveled too far back and reenters the compressed time, unwittingly setting in motion his own destiny; the Edea of the past would go on to have her husband Cid establish the Garden to train the young Squall to become a SeeD so he can take on the mysterious sorceress whose powers she had received.
Squall finds himself 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 house. 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 and falls unconscious, but Rinoa finds him and brings him back to the real world.
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 and share a kiss.