"Final Fantasy 8": Squall Is Dead Theory Examination
Final Fantasy 8 Summary
Spoilers for Final Fantasy 8 (FF8) ahead.
Today, we'll examine an infamous theory regarding FF8, a video game originally released on the PlayStation 1. Here's a quick recap of the plot to jog your memory:
Players control Squall Leonhart, a young member of a military group tasked with protecting the world. Joined by several companions, including love interest Rinoa, Squall combats the efforts of a mysterious witch named Ultimecia. Wielding formidable magic powers, Ultimecia seeks to "compress time" in an attempt to forever preserve her existence, and eventually enslaves Rinoa's mind. The story ends with a dramatic battle, Ultimecia's demise, Squall and Rinoa's happy reunion, and a seemingly joyful ending... But one theory states this isn't the case.
Squall Is Dead Theory
The hypothesis I'm referring to postulates that the main character, Squall, actually perishes in the middle of FF8, and the remainder of the game is merely his dreams playing out as he dies. His final fantasy, if you will.
I didn't create this theory, it originates from this website. You can read the entire examination if you'd like, but due to its length, I'll give a briefer overview, summarizing the main arguments, and then provide my own analysis of the concept's validity. Let's begin!
1. What Happened To Squall's Wound?
First, the alleged moment of death. Check out this rather chilling scene from partway through the game. We clearly see a woman named Edea (who is being possessed by Ultimecia) strike Squall with a large shard of ice. He then plummets off a ledge as Rinoa helplessly watches. According to the theory, this shard of ice fatally wounds Squall, and the rest of the game is his mind frantically trying to piece together how things could have turned out before he dies.
After this scene, Squall awakens in a prison, and strangely, there is no sign of his injury. He himself calls attention to this fact. Even if he had been treated, the theory states there would have been some kind of scar, and the point never arises again. Strange indeed.
2. Why Does The Story Change So Rapidly?
Before the ice impales Squall, the story is fairly straightforward. There are a couple of oddities, but for the most part, it's a basic and realistic story of politics and war.
After the incident, things quickly accelerate. Despite his youth, Squall is promoted to the leader of his task force. He and Rinoa suddenly form a romance, which was nonexistent priory to Squall's injury. Strange truths are also revealed; for example, each main character was actually raised together in the same orphanage, but they all forgot about it due to the memory-wiping effect of magic they employ. The story begins to take the protagonists to surreal environments, including the vastness of space, and introduces many bizarre occurrences.
What Does It Mean?
Basically, our theory states the wild direction of the plot after the ice incident hints at the truth: none of the events after Squall's impalement actually take place. They merely show the dying wishes of a man who wanted to get the girl, save the day, and fulfill his mission.
3. What Do Ultimecia's Last Words Mean?
"Reflect on your... Childhood..."
"Your sensation... Your words... Your emotions..."
"Time... It will not wait..."
"No matter... ...how hard you hold on. It escapes you..."
Finally, consider some of Ultimecia's last words. At the end of the game, she provides these chilling messages while Squall's group assaults her. Doesn't it seem somewhat odd, the theory states, that she would offer cryptic advice such as this when she passes away? No curse upon Squall, no bitter hatred, just the regret of death. Is Ultimecia mourning her own demise? Or is she telling Squall that his fantasy must end; his mind no longer has time to fabricate illusions?
Sadly, there isn't a way to prove conclusively whether or not the theory is true; we all have our own interpretations. That said, at first, I was pretty skeptical. Killing off the main protagonist in the middle of the game in such a subtle fashion that most players missed it? You'd think such a crucial element would be more obvious. Final Fantasy is no stranger to executing its protagonists, but never in such a hidden way.
Additionally, some of the odd story occurrences actually have explanations. While it's strangely convenient that everyone in your group grew up together, then forgot about it, it does have the excuse of the memory-fading magic. A weaker explanation, perhaps, but it's there. And, Ultimecia's final words, while interesting, may very well simply be her mourning the end of her life. Thus, this theory fascinated me, but I never really accepted it.
Do you want to see the image that altered my opinion?
Squall's Eyes Have the Death Symbol
Even the theory's authors missed this concealed hint. Remember the scene previously linked to, where Squall is impaled and plummets off the ledge? Here's a picture of his eye as he falls. Notice the shape his pupil takes: a spade, like in a deck of cards.
As card enthusiasts know, the spade symbol has traditionally indicated ill fortune and death. Coincidence, I think not! Does this mean, without a doubt, that Squall is dead? No. But the symbol, combined with the arguments from the theory, provide enough compelling evidence that I see the game in a new and twisted light. Final Fantasy 8's story may truly be the final fantasy of a young man dying before his time.
Do you believe Squall is dead?
Whether or not you agree that Squall has perished, it's an interesting concept that adds depth to a game sometimes criticized for a nonsensical plot.
Fun fact: Disney used a similar trick to hint at the death of Gaston, the antagonist from Beauty and the Beast. Check out his eyes as he is thrown from the castle by Beast during the climax. Skull symbols rather than spades form the hint, but the underlying message is the same.
FF8 and... "Thriller"?
One final bit of trivia for ya. Take a look at this link if you'd like to examine the scene before Squall gets impaled. He and his sniper teammate assault Edea (Ultimecia's puppet) during a parade, hoping to end the evil witch. She magically deflects the sniper's gunshot, so Squall charges in to finish her, but she impales him.
It's a dramatic moment, but if you pay attention to the background dancers in Edea's parade, you'll notice they're performing the dance moves to Michael Jackson's famous song Thriller!