The world of Final Fantasy VIII has no known name, being referred to as "earth" and "the planet" in dialogue and the Information section. It is as diverse as it is large, composed of four large continents and one small continent along with several islands of varying sizes.
The overall architecture was designed with western European themes in mind, and as such many structures can be linked back to modern real-world buildings and locations that are both real and theoretical. Travel across the world is facilitated mainly by trains and cars. Because of the worldwide radio interference, communications across the world are suppressed, and no worldwide information network exists, there instead being local networks like the Balamb Garden intranet and the HD cable used by Galbadia. A derelict radio tower from a time before the radio interference engulfed the world remains near Dollet. The world's favorite pastime is the trading card game Triple Triad.
The various locales include: the laid-back seaside towns of Balamb and Dollet, the bustling metropoli of Deling City and Esthar City, the remote and mysterious retreats of Shumi Village and the Deep Sea Research Center, the quiet sanctuaries of Winhill and Edea's Orphanage, as well as the composed environments of the scorching Kashkabald Desert, the lush Rosfall Forest, the enigmatic Centra Ruins, and the dark, foreboding soul of Ultimecia Castle.
- For a location list in the order they are visited in-game, see Final Fantasy VIII locations.
- Fishermans Horizon
- Horizon Bridge
- Great Salt Lake
The world uses gil as currency. People work in schools and universities, shops, bars, and travel agencies. They are recruited in armies, raise chocobos, sail boats and conduct research. One assumes some Final Fantasy VIII residents fish and grow produce to supply their fellow countrymen with consumable goods and that there are markets in every city/village. One job explored in detail is the profession of being a SeeD mercenary.
Because of the on-going cold war between Esthar and Galbadia, and the Horizon Bridge between the two being abandoned (apart from the Fishermans Horizon built around the former central station), it can be assumed the two countries do not do trade.
The world is largely covered with water. There are three large continents and several islands of varying sizes. The world has two main superpowers: Galbadia, a military dictatorship, and Esthar, a scientifically advanced nation.
There are also many other countries. Those mentioned are Balamb, Dollet and Trabia. Timber and Winhill were once independent states, but were annexed by Galbadia. It can be assumed that other countries exist—Centra, once home to the Centran Empire (which was destroyed by the Lunar Cry), appears to be empty, aside from some ruins and Edea's Orphanage.
The climates reflect that of some of Earth's primary western countries (Europe, America, Africa). In the north is a snow-covered, northern arctic climate in Trabia that gradually turns into barren lands and plains further south in Esthar, which were altered by Esthar's experiments. In Galbadia and Balamb, as solitary lands girted by ocean, the landscapes are primarily filled with mountain ranges, forests and green fields. Galbadia also has a desert known as the Dingo Desert.
Further south in the country of Centra the lands are barren due to the events that lead to the Centra Crater, although there are tentative fields in the southern-most island. The world's largest desert, Kashkabald Desert, is also located on this land.
There are two types of fauna: native and alien. Most common animals, such as chocobos, cats and dogs (a deer also appears during an FMV, and a UFO is seen capturing a cow) are considered native fauna, while some other species (namely the monsters) are considered foreign because they originate from the moon, having been brought to the planet via the Lunar Cry. Flora resemble that of the real-world Earth with the exception of plant-like monsters, such as the Ochu and Malboro.
The world is in a constant state of strife. The dictatorship of Galbadia is in a cold war with Esthar, and there are numerous freedom-fighter rebellions in Timber. SeeD is a public mercenary force available for hire from any side.
Some people also believe in ghosts and spirits, and some even in aliens, the supernatural being explored in the Occult Fan series of magazines. Guardian Forces are powerful magical beings found in numerous remote areas of the world, but there doesn't appear to be much mythology based around their existence.
Though mostly relative to real-world late 1990's—particularly 1999—there are some instances in the world of Final Fantasy VIII where the extent of technology dips into the realm of science fiction.
The most advanced civilization is Esthar that prioritizes in space travel, the study of the Lunar Cry, as well as magic and sorceresses. The secretive country possesses flying cars and camouflage shielding that renders Esthar City hidden from the rest of the world. Estharian technology created the Lunatic Pandora and enabled it to become mobile. It was also Estharian technology that enabled the common person to be able to manipulate Para-Magic, a trait long believed only possible for a sorceress. Estharian tech is also used to battle, contain, and even mimic a sorceress power.
The unique gunblade weapon is part sword blade and part gun mechanism. The firing of the gunblade's chambers induces a tremor in the blade, effectively making it similar to a vorpal or vibro blade, escalating its cutting capacity. In Final Fantasy VIII there are at least eight models of the weapon available, each with a unique design and required unique items to modify.
The ancient Centra used mobile shelters. While comparatively outdated in most scientific aspects, the technology of the Centra seems to be embedded or fused with magic, and thus is of a type largely undiscovered in the rest of the world. Primary examples of working Centra technology are the mobile Garden installations, Balamb Garden and Galbadia Garden, both rendered mobile over land and water thanks to mystical Centra technology.
- Humans - The main civilization consists of humans. Some women receive sorceress power.
- Shumi - Humanoids who evolve throughout their lifetime into forms such as Moombas and possibly even humans. They hail from the Shumi Village, but can be seen elsewhere.
- Aliens - A short blue humanoid, PuPu, visits the world of Final Fantasy VIII to abduct numerous artifacts.
- Monsters - Monsters are extraterrestrial beings from the moon that have being deposited on the planet due to the Lunar Cry. Many are aggressively hostile and are not beyond invading towns and other settlements to cause chaos.
Guardian Forces are beings of immense power that can offer their power to complement another's. It is unknown how they are formed, or even where they come from, however, it is known that once their trust has been earned, they remain loyal to their charge. It is possible they are immensely powerful spiritual manifestations that take on the form of deities and legendary heroes that ancient people worshiped and revered.
Esthar developed a junction system that allows people to link with the Guardian Forces to enhance their powers and to summon them at will. Balamb Garden is the only known institution to use it, as there is a rumor that excessive use causes memory loss.
The civilization is fragmented into small city-states and other autonomous groups. The two big nation states, Galbadia and Esthar, went to war two decades ago in a bid for world domination, both wanting to unite the autonomous groups under their banners. The war became known as the Sorceress War, named after the leader of Esthar, Sorceress Adel, a member of the seclusive rank of sorceresses, women able to wield magic. Sorceresses are both renowned and feared for their powers, and legends state they inherited their magic from the god Hyne who is said to have created the world and the people. No one is born a sorceress, but when a sorceress dies they pass on their sorceress power to someone else, and thus the exact numbers and identities of sorceresses in the world are unknown.
The Horizon Bridge connecting Galbadia and Esthar was abandoned when the hostilities began, apart from the middle station a group of engineers from Esthar made their home, and Galbadia conquered Timber. Before the war could escalate into full scale however, Esthar isolated itself and shut its borders with rumors circulating Adel had passed on her powers. Galbadia was left reigning the Galbadian continent, but the war had taken its toll on the populace and many children were left orphaned.
The world is still reeling from the after-effects of the war with Esthar remaining closed, and the mysterious radio interference filling all frequencies with noise, rendering the technology useless. This new phenomenon, whose origin cannot be discerned, further isolates the different nations who can only transmit long-distance messages via physical cables which get frequently compromised by political strife and monsters.
A new military power has risen to prominence: the Garden. Built 12 years ago, Balamb Garden trains paramilitary forces who can wield a power that imitates the power of a sorceress: Para-Magic via Guardian Forces. Based on technology developed in Esthar, Balamb Garden is the only organization in the world to use GFs whose use is rumored to have adverse side effects, although Garden insists otherwise. Those who graduate from the academy become SeeDs who are contracted around the world as mercenaries and take on various missions.
Two "sister Gardens" were constricted in its wake, but although they co-operate and their students can often take classes in other Gardens or become transfer students, they do not train SeeDs, Trabia Garden serving as a military academy for the remote nation of Trabia, and Galbadia Garden focusing on weapon development—the only Garden to use guns—and training officers for the G-Army.
The world is plunged into chaos when a new sorceress surfaces as President Vinzer Deling of Galbadia's ambassador. Sorceress Edea seizes power during her inauguration parade and takes over Galbadia Garden as her base of operations. Appointing her Sorceress Knight Seifer Almasy as the head of the G-Army, the G-Forces are mobilized to search out a woman called Ellone Edea wishes to capture, but with no clues on her identity or whereabouts the search yields little results. Opposing Edea and the G-Forces stands Balamb Garden and its SeeD army, now led by Squall Leonhart. SeeD is a paramilitary army whose operatives can wield magic who are contracted as mercenaries around the world, but their true mission is to enter a fated battle against a sorceress. When the G-Army occupies Balamb SeeD liberates it, and when the G-Forces attempt to burn down Fishermans Horizon SeeD is there to drive them away.
The hostilities culminate when the Balamb Garden SeeDs, led by Squall, face the G-Forces led by Seifer in the Battle of the Gardens. Squall leads his team to infiltrate the enemy Garden where they defeat Seifer and Sorceress Edea, who passes on her sorceress power to one of Squall's party members: Rinoa Heartilly. Rinoa, acting as if possessed, revives Seifer and imparts new instructions on him before falling comatose. As Seifer and the G-Army depart to carry out the new mission, Edea addresses Squall's party with kindness. It is discovered she had been possessed by a sorceress from the future who wants to unmake the world via a magic known as time compression.
Squall and his friends abandon the Garden to abscond to Esthar to find a way to cure Rinoa. The G-Army salvages the Lunatic Pandora, an Estharian weapon of mass destruction that had been sunk to the bottom of the ocean after Adel was usurped and Esthar isolated itself from the rest of the world. Lunatic Pandora houses a crystal pillar that has the power to interact with the moon and direct and amplify the Lunar Cry phenomenon which has monsters pour down on the planet from the moon. Directing it over Tears' Point, a new Lunar Cry initiates, annihilating Esthar.
The out-pour of monsters brings down Sorceress Adel's tomb from space, where Esthar had kept it on orbit with the still-alive Sorceress Adel held in stasis inside to prevent her from ever passing on her sorceress power. It was the powerful sealing mechanism on Adel's tomb that interfered with the radio signals back on the planet, and when the tomb falls radio begins working again.
It is discovered Rinoa had been possessed by Ultimecia when she received Edea's sorceress power back in Galbadia Garden, and via her new host Ultimecia had directed Seifer to start the Lunar Cry and salvage Adel from space to be Ultimecia's new host body. The G-Army finally finds Ellone, and brings her to Seifer and she is held captive aboard the Lunatic Pandora, awaiting for Ultimecia to gain full control of her new host. While Adel slowly recovers from her long sleep, the G-Army begins to question its loyalty to Seifer until even his most trusted friends abandon him.
Ultimecia abandons Rinoa in favor of possessing Adel, but now that it is known Rinoa has become a sorceress Esthar wants to contain her similar to what they had done with Adel. Squall rescues Rinoa from this predicament and they hide away at Edea's Orphanage until being called back to Esthar City for one final SeeD mission.
The president of Esthar, Laguna Loire, along with the Estharian scientist and sorceress expert Dr. Odine, come up with a plan to defeat Ultimecia and hire Squall's SeeD party to carry out the mission. Squall leads the attack on the Lunatic Pandora on the Estharian spaceship, Ragnarok, and they fight through the remains of the G-Forces to confront Seifer. They defeat him, save Ellone, and kill Sorceress Adel who relinquishes her powers to Rinoa.
Ultimecia possesses Rinoa, but Ellone uses her mystical powers to send Ultimecia back in time so she can initiate time compression. Squall's party passes through the compressing timeline to Ultimecia's era where they meet and defeat her. The time compression spell breaks upon her demise and the timeline reverts to normal, Squall and his friends finding their way back to their own era from the rifts of time.
Balamb Garden celebrates SeeD's victory over Ultimecia, but what becomes of Galbadia is unknown with Seifer having returned to his old life, and the nation being left without a leader. Esthar remains wrecked by the Lunar Cry, but is assumed to rebuild as peace returns to the world. Rinoa, despite being a sorceress, remains with Squall at Balamb Garden.
Real world influencesEdit
The nation of Centra echoes the real world Roman Empire, with a somewhat reminiscent architectural style. In the world of Final Fantasy VIII Dollet and Esthar were founded by emigrants from the Centra, the old Dollet being known as Holy Dollet Empire, as an allusion the Holy Roman Empire, a weak, fragmented empire of city states proclaimed as a successor to the Roman Empire. During the present time of Final Fantasy VIII most of the region that used to belong to the Holy Dollet Empire is claimed by Galbadia, and only the duchy of Dollet remains.
The other empire with a claim to being the successor to the Roman Empire is the Byzantine Empire that was more technologically and culturally advanced than the Holy Roman Empire, but also intentionally cut-off and secretive. This reflects Esthar's role in the game.
The archway in Deling City is made after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Similarly, the Tomb of the Unknown King alludes to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one of them located beneath the Arc de Triomphe. "Monterosa Plateau" is the name of an area in Galbadia Continent. Monterosa Massif is the highest massif in the Alps, located in Switzerland and Italy. The Deep Sea Research Center may allude to the Battleship Island (Gunkanjima in Japanese, alternately called Hashima), a small island near Nagasaki, Japan famous for the abandoned city of Hashima built around a coal mine that went into decline after Japanese power plants switched to using petroleum. Both the real Battleship Island and the one in Final Fantasy VIII house ruined structures.
Creation and developmentEdit
The concept art of the map (translated version from Ultimania Archive) shows various differences to the final map. It shows a Trabia Capital/Castle, "Laguna era mysterious tombstone", and new and former capitals of Esthar. Some of the locations still retained in the final game are in different places.
Scenario writer Kazushige Nojima initially envisioned for Laguna's part to encompass the first half of the game. It ended up being cut down "due to various reasons," and the map made just for Laguna's timeline did not get much use.