Jeremy enjoys gaming when not helping manage the college he graduated from.
Final Fantasy 8's Dark Background
Note: Spoilers for Final Fantasy (FF) 8 ahead.
Boy, there sure are a lot of ominous theories regarding this game, aren't there? Last time, we examined if Squall Leonhart could be dead, but today's premise states that his love interest, Rinoa Heartily, ultimately turns into the sinister antagonist Ultimecia.
That's ridiculous, right? Rinoa and Squall fell in love, so why would she work against him? Well, there are a couple of interesting pieces of evidence that may sway your opinion.
First, let me quickly provide some crucial information about FF8, then we'll dive right into the clues and analyze if the theory holds any validity!
Sorceresses and Knights
In FF8, a group of teenagers, including Squall Leonhart and Rinoa Heartily, fight against Ultimecia, a mysterious witch from the future who seeks to "compress time".
In the Final Fantasy 8 world, there exists a small group of women named "Sorceresses". These are people who can use advanced magic. They receive this trait by having it passed down from another Sorceress; a Sorceress cannot die until she relinquishes her powers. Very traumatic experiences may cause a Sorceress to accidentally transfer her abilities to another, but she will live through the process. Though often feared and scorned by the public, not all Sorceresses are evil.
They often enlist the aid of a "Knight", a male guardian who vows to protect the Sorceress at all costs. We know for a fact that Ultimecia is a Sorceress from the future, Rinoa becomes a Sorceress partway into the game, and she chooses Squall as her Knight. Also, remember that this world has entities called Guardian Forces, magical creatures that can be summoned to help in battles. They prove to be strong allies, but gradually erase a user's memories.
Rinoa Equals Ultimecia?
Now that we've reviewed some key information, let's examine why some fans believe Ultimecia is a future version of Rinoa.
The idea is that Rinoa, who we know is a Sorceress with increased longevity, has to watch as all her friends and family die, as they have normal lifespans. Even her love, Squall, eventually passes away. Now, many years into the future, Rinoa holds onto her powers, keeping herself alive, as she tries to think of ways she can be reunited with Squall. Her usage of Guardian Forces has warped her memories of him, but she knows she was happy during their time together.
Taking a new name (perhaps she forgot her own), she seeks to compress time, believing that if all of existence is pushed into a singular moment, she will once again reunite with Squall. When Squall's team battles her at the end of the game, she doesn't even recognize him and thus doesn't know she's clashing with the one she yearns to see again.
This may sound like a mediocre fan-fiction, but can you imagine living hundreds of years after the love of your life has passed away? Perhaps you too would attempt anything to recover your past. Still, we need evidence. Let's see if any clues can persuade us!
1. Ultimecia's Motives
Ultimecia has very little information known about her. Most Final Fantasy villains (Sephiroth, Kuja, etc.) will reveal their origins and goals to us, but Ultimecia keeps much of her life hidden. We know she fears Squall's group, can control time to an extent and is prophesied to be defeated one day.
Some fans find today's theory appealing because it adds many new layers to 8's villain. True, her lack of a backstory may simply be poor writing, but it could also hint that we already know her past.
When Squall's team battles Ultimecia at the end of the game, she utilizes a powerful Guardian Force, Griever, that resembles a black lion to help her fight. Some believe she accessed Squall's mind and created Griever from his idea of a powerful warrior (Squall is associated with lions, and has a necklace featuring a lion's head).
However, others cite the time when Squall talked to Rinoa (and only Rinoa) about his idea of Griever, and eventually gives her a ring bearing a lion's image. Isn't it possible Rinoa uses this token to construct a Guardian Force after Squall dies? If she can't have him defend her, perhaps she did the next best thing—she used his idea of strength to create Griever.
Also, Griever's name is interesting, and with Rinoa's dog Angelo, we see that animal names are meaningful (Angelo = Angel, Rinoa's motif). So why "Griever"? Is that indicating "grief", a hint towards Ultimecia-Rinoa's sorrow towards her lost love?
3. Rinoa and Ultimecia Imagery
Ah, time for some indisputable facts! First, Rinoa's mansion and Ultimecia's castle have eerily similar Gothic designs. Second, near the end of the game, Squall is lost in time and begins having some disturbing visions. They conclude with rapidly changing images of Rinoa and Ultimecia juxtaposed against each other, then a glimpse of Rinoa in space, with her helmet shattering.
Could this be a foreshadowing of the innocent Rinoa breaking, and becoming the cruel Ultimecia? Plus, throughout the game, Rinoa is clearly associated with white wings and Ultimecia with black. Does this contrast hint that the pure wings of Rinoa evolve to the misguided ones of Ultimecia?
Ultimecia's color scheme is also interesting, almost like upon losing Squall, Rinoa switched from her former blue duds to his preferred colors of red, black, and white.
4. Faceless Squall
Above you'll see arguably the scariest image from any Final Fantasy game. Blink and you'll miss it, but this picture is very briefly shown (4:22 in the above link) during the trippy segment of FF8's ending. What does this image mean? Here's my theory, bear with me.
So, one of the critiques of the Rinoa=Ultimecia theory is that if true, why would Ultimecia attack Squall, her former lover? The probable answer is that Ultimecia remembers loving him, but not what he looks like (similar to how Squall remembers his feelings of abandonment when torn from his sister Ellone, but doesn't actually recognize her). Remember, using Guardian Forces erases memory, so this image could be a subtle clue that Rinoa (now Ultimecia) only remembers her emotions towards Squall, not his actual face.
5. Rinoa's Confession
In the story of FF8, Squall and his team attack the Sorceress Edea, who had been possessed by Ultimecia. Edea is defeated, returning to her kind self, but inadvertently transfers her powers to Rinoa, turning her into a Sorceress. Soon afterward, in the scene this picture comes from, Rinoa tells Squall some interesting things. Are they merely the wishes of a girl in love, or do they resemble Ultimecia's time compression goal a bit too much? You be the judge:
- "I guess it's okay if it's you Squall. No one else."
- "I don't want the future. I want the present to stand still. I want to stay here with you."
The first quote demonstrates Rinoa's belief that if she turns evil, Squall should be the one to end her, and the second states her desire for time to halt. Coincidence?
Also, Ultimecia's final words are . . . rather calm. Her previous dialogue was full of spite and hatred towards those trying to destroy her, but her last lines are almost more like advice (to her younger self?):
- "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."
|Weapon||Wielder in FF8|
6. Dissidia's Clues
Ever played the fighting game, Final Fantasy Dissidia, or its sequel, Dissidia 012? These titles take the heroes and villains throughout the Final Fantasy series and let you have them duke it out in battles. Every character can collect various weapons throughout the game to increase their attack power.
The interesting thing here is that each of Ultimecia's three exclusive weapons is taken from Rinoa's arsenal in FF8. Other battlers in Dissidia also borrow weapons from characters in their respective games, but few will exclusively receive from one source. Additionally, if you have Ultimecia battle Squall, she will say, "Shall we dance?" as the fight commences. This is similar to how Rinoa asks Squall to dance near the beginning of FF8.
7. Rinoa's Cardinal Weapon
Here's one last possible clue I found that's easy to miss. Rinoa uses ranged discs as her weapon of choice, and one of her upgraded models, Cardinal, somewhat resembles Ultimecia, both in shape and coloring. Cardinal also means "important", almost like this is a subtle yet meaningful hint.
Alright, now that we've examined the hints, does this theory hold any weight?
In my opinion, yes, it's certainly worth considering. There are many intriguing clues, both in 8 and Dissidia, that seem too numerous to be pure coincidence. However, keep in mind that Square Enix, the makers of 8, released a statement declaring Rinoa and Ultimecia are not the same people.
This may completely shut down the theory for some, but you're always welcome to interpret the story as you wish. Dissidia 012 came out many years after 8 did, and more evidence arose in it. In fact, I believe Square is trying to spread purposefully vague clues—that way, there are enough hints that R=U advocates are validated, while non-believers are equally supported.
No conclusive answer exists, but if you (like myself) feel that 8's story is enhanced by having Rinoa become Ultimecia, or that it adds some needed depth to Ultimecia's character, by all means, consider the concept. And if you really want to get surreal, it's worth considering that the idea doesn't conflict with our already-explored theory that Squall dies partway through the game.
As a fan, survey the evidence and decide if you believe in one, both, or neither of the theories. No matter what you choose, thanks for reading today's examination!
If you want to end this article on a chilling note and view some trivia, check out the original speech made by Edea during the famous parade scene! (Edea is being possessed by Ultimecia, and she is using magic to force the crowd to cheer). The speech, a direct translation of the original Japanese dialogue, differs from the one English players received (which you can see at 2:40 in the video below).
Edea's Original Speech
Since time immemorial, we witches have lived within illusion.
The foolish fantasy you produced.
Adorning their bodies in dreadful costumes, the witches who curse virtuous humans by means of cruel rituals.
The terrible witch who burns your green fields and freezes your warm homes with ruthless magic.
Now that the witch from the illusion is come to be seen as a friend of Galbadia, you sigh in relief?
Who is dreaming fantasy after fantasy?”
Ultimecia telekinetically lifts a man into the air and begins killing him.
“Reality is not at all gentle.
That being the case, you fools!
There is nothing for you but this!”
Ultimecia telekinetically throws the man's lifeless body.
“Escape into your own fantasies!
I shall continue to dance for your world of illusions!
I shall dance for eternity as the witch who brings you dread!
You and I.
Together, we shall create the final fantasy.
Within are life and death and sweet dreams.
The witch travels toward the eternal illusion!
The witch and Galbadia on to eternity!”
© 2015 Jeremy Gill