A cavern near Balamb Garden where a Fire element GF lives.
The Fire Cavern is the first location the player is asked to visit and functions largely as a tutorial with Quistis guiding Squall through the trial. The cavern doesn't hold any secrets or reason to return, but is still accessible during endgame.
The Fire Cavern is situated to the east of Balamb Garden and on the hem of the Gaulg Mountains overlooking the Albatross Archipelago. The cavern inside is filled with magma, giving it a reddish glow, with only a small path to travel across, made of rocks. Alongside the small path are either harsher, impassable stalagmites, or simply flowing magma. It is populated entirely with fire-elemental monsters.
The Cavern Entrance consists only of a dirt path, presumably carved by the Garden, across the grass, leading into the cavern's entrance on the side of the mountains. The small path is surrounded by small rocks either aside, with larger rocks across the grass which the path cuts through. The entrance upon approach is guarded by two Garden Faculty, who are there to ensure the visitor has authorization and, if during a prerequisite exam, has the necessary preparations completed and another faculty, such as a teacher, to assist them during the time within the cavern. This section consists only of two areas, one larger area overlooking the cavern, and a smaller one on approach closer to the Garden Faculty.
The Cavern Depths comprises four different areas, representing a path within the cavern that leads to Ifrit's Dwelling. The first three areas are straightforward: the first area is a path upwards which bends slightly to the right, the second area is a path across magma leading right before bending upwards, and the third is a longer stretch upward through magma with long stretches of rocks across near the end of the area. The fourth area of the path has many branching paths; near the start is a short branching path leading left which contains nothing, and opposite it is a short branching path right that leads to a Fire draw point. Ahead from the main path is another short branching path that leads nowhere, and at the end, the path bends slightly right before leading to Ifrit's Dwelling.
The Cavern Depths are populated with various different fire-elemental monsters, including the Bomb, the Buel, and the Red Bat. Buel and Bomb are fixed at level 5, while Red Bat is fixed at level 4. There are no encounters on the path that leads to the cavern. During the first run through under a time limit in which the goal is to defeat Ifrit, it may be best to simply run away from these encounters, as they can be fought after defeating Ifrit. After returning to fight them, it is best to junction Blizzard to Squall and Quistis' normal attacks to deal more damage against the enemies. From the Buel, Squall and Quistis can draw all three elements (Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder), meaning this presents a good opportunity to draw for these spells and reach the maximum.
Ifrit's Dwelling consists of two areas: the first is a long stretch of rocks forming a path to the dwelling, and the second is inside the dwelling. The dwelling itself is a small, round patch of rocks in the middle of the magma, with large, sharp stalagmites from the lava surrounding it. At the center of the dwelling is a pit of magma, in which Ifrit dwells. Ifrit will awaken and emerge from the magma upon approach, to face whatever the challenger has to offer.
The first area features encounters similar to the Cavern Depths, with the same rules applied, while the second solely consists of Ifrit.
After getting to the Fire Cavern two members of Garden Faculty wait at the entrance and let the player choose a time limit for their challenge. The options are 10, 20, 30 or 40 minutes. At the end of the cavern Squall and Quistis fight Ifrit, and the amount of time left on the clock at the end of the battle determines the Judgement section of Squall's SeeD score he receives after the exam.
In order to obtain the maximum score, the player should aim to defeat Ifrit with 7 or fewer seconds on the clock for the maximum test score, while being aware that Ifrit's dialogue at the end of battle also counts toward the limit, and if the player runs out of time during the post-battle dialogue, they still lose. The player can allow the game to remain in the screen where the player names Ifrit, and let the time run out during it to get maximum score; although the timer does not appear on the naming screen it will keep counting down.
In the Japanese version, the timer only stops after the player makes it back to the entrance and talks to the Garden Faculty there.
The Fire Cavern's theme is "Find Your Way", which is the standard dungeon music shared by other places in the game.
Balamb Garden (炎の洞窟Name used in Final Fantasy Record Keeper., Honoo no Doukutsu?) appears as a location.
Squall has undergone rigorous training as a student at Balamb Garden Military Academy. Now, to earn a chance to become a member of SeeD, Garden's elite mercenary force, he and Quistis head for the Fire Cavern.
- In the Japanese version, the Garden Faculty would tell Squall he will receive his credits at Garden after he has obtained Ifrit and is leaving the cavern. This line was removed in later versions, and the Garden Faculty are no longer there when the player leaves.
- In the English version, when Quistis jokes her presence at the test makes boys nervous, Squall replies with "whatever". In the Japanese version, he says "...you're a teacher" implying he disapproves of Quistis's behavior.