Thursday, February 23, 2012

Final Fantasy VIII~Squall Leonhart


Squall Leonhart

"Right and wrong are not what separate us and our enemies. It's our different standpoints, our perspectives that separate us."
—Squall Leonhart
Squall Leonhart is the primary protagonist of Final Fantasy VIII. A young and aloof SeeD mercenary for much of the game, others view Squall as a cold and focused person. The game's events cause Squall to question the way he has chosen to live his life, and he matures into a heroic and caring swordsman. Squall's weapon, the gunblade, is one of the most iconic weapons of the Final Fantasy series. He is a gunblade specialist and is one of the few people to have mastered the notoriously difficult weapon, along with Seifer.

"Rinoa... Even if you end up as the world's enemy, I'll...I'll be your knight..."
—Squall's thoughts on Rinoa's situation

Squall was born to Raine Loire in the village of Winhill, but she died shortly after his birth. His father, Laguna Loire, never knew Raine was pregnant, as he was in Esthar saving his adopted daughter Ellone from the tyrannical sorceress Adel's clutches. After Raine passed away, both Squall and Ellone; whom Laguna had sent back to Winhill, were sent to an orphanage on the Centra continent.
Squall grew up in the orphanage and, despite the presence of other kids his age, Ellone was his closest friend and he affectionately referred to her as his "Big Sis," although it is unknown whether he knew about their famial bond.
Due to Ellone's unique ability to send a person's consciousness back in time, she is in constant danger from those who would want to exploit her and she is eventually moved from the orphanage. No one tells Squall why Ellone left and, after numerous attempts to find her, he assumes she had abandoned him. As a way to cope, Squall developes a defensive mechanism that eventaully makes him an emotionally detached, highly cynical and introverted boy who wished to go through life without emotional links and dependencies, so he would not have to suffer the pain of being left again.

One day, during one of Squall's attempts to find Ellone, a dying sorceress and a teenage version of Squall appeares from the future. While still attempting to live, the sorceress passes on her Sorceress Power to Edea, a sorceress herself, and then passes away. The teenage then Squall explained himself; telling Edea that he was a SeeD from Garden, that the notions were originally her own idea, brought into actuality in the future to fight the sorceress who had just died before them. Edea tells the teenage Squall he is in the wrong time and the teenager thus disappears back into the time portal.
Following on the teenage Squall's prediction, Edea and her husband, Cid Kramer, start an organization known as the SeeD in order to act as a check against rogue sorceress. As SeeD is being trained as an anti-sorceress force and Edea is a sorceress herself, Cid and Edea decide they can no longer stay together and Edea must go into hiding with the orphans who are not admitted to the Garden or adopted.

As Squall himself theorizes, he was never adopted due to his already difficult personality, so sometime around the age of six Squall was admitted into the newly constructed Balamb Garden to train as a SeeD. He chose to train with the gunblade, which is a difficult weapon to master and takes years of training. He quickly found a rival in Seifer, who mirrored him in many ways including the use of a gunblade and a remarkable aptitude for combat.

Eleven years later Squall is known as a "lone wolf" among his peers. His superiors, such as his teacher Quistis Trepe, regard him as difficult to deal with, but greatly respect his natural talents. The rivalry between him and Seifer has become common knowledge amongst the Balamb students. Due to Squall's use of Guardian Forces his memory has weakened, remembering only the feelings of abandonment he felt when Ellone left, but no longer remembering Ellone herself. In the game's beginning Squall is near the end of his education and, after an eventful field exam, graduates along with Selphie, Zell and Nida.
During the inauguration ball Squall meets Rinoa when she forces him to dance with her. He later learns she is his first employer, and he works as part of a hired group with Selphie and Zell to assist the Forest Owls, freedom fighters devoted to freeing Timber from Galbadia's control. During the train ride to Timber the trio mysteriously fall asleep and experience the same dream of the adventures of Laguna Loire and his friends from the past.

Squall and his friends' first mission with the Forest Owls ends in failure when, in an attempt to kidnap the Galbadian President Vinzer Deling, they end up capturing a body double posing as the President. Having issues with the level of "professionalism" in the Forest Owls, Squall asks to see the terms of employment the SeeD group is under. He finds out they are under the Owls' employment until "Timber gains its independence". Far from satisfied the group nonetheless follows with the Forest Owls' plans to intercept the President's Timber-based broadcast, the first world-wide broadcast in 17 years. Just short of invading the studio Rinoa lets slip her views of the way SeeD live, and Squall remarks about her group's competence in turn. After the two exchange words, Rinoa abandons the plan and leaves.
A few minutes after the President begins broadcasting, Seifer, with Quistis in hot pursuit, takes the President hostage over the air. Under Quistis's request Squall, Zell and Selphie rush to the studio to find Seifer backing away with the President into another room. The President's new ally, whom he was meant to announce on live TV, the sorceress, appears, and convinces Seifer to come away with her. Seifer is later announced executed.

With the Forest Owls' base destroyed, Squall and the others lie low for a while. Contemplating Seifer's fate leads Squall and Rinoa into another argument over their views on life before they are given word it is clear to leave town. On their way to Galbadia Garden the two argue again, this time about Squall's cold attitude towards his team mates. During the argument Squall starts to feel faint and passes out, experiencing another mysterious dream with Laguna. The group eventually makes it to the Garden and receives new orders. They are to assassinate the sorceress during her inauguration ceremony as the ambassador of Galbadia. A new team member, Irvine Kinneas, is assigned to help them. With Squall as their leader the group takes a train to Deling City to meet with their contact, General Caraway, and run directly in the middle of a father-daughter feud between Caraway and Rinoa.
As the ceremony begins sorceress Edea kills the president and claims Galbadia as her own. Discovering Seifer alive and standing next to the sorceress as her Knight, Squall takes his position with Irvine as the rest of the SeeDs take theirs. Irvine chokes just when he is meant to shoot Edea, forcing Squall to reason with him, and Irvine eventually fires, unfortunately resulting in the sorceress deflecting his bullet. Squall faces Seifer and Edea head on. Edea casts Ice Strike, piercing Squall's right shoulder and rendering him unconscious, and the teams get arrested.

After another Laguna dream Squall wakes up to find himself imprisoned. He is tortured by Seifer in the D-District Prison and during Seifer's interrogation/torture Squall learns Edea has ordered a missile strike against both Balamb and Trabia Gardens. Squall, with the help of his team mates, escapes, and the teams divide into two groups: One, led by Squall, to warn Balamb of the missile strike, and the other, led by Selphie, to sabotage the missile base and stop the launch.
As Squall arrives in Balamb Garden he finds it in the midst of chaos, as a mysterious faction with allegiance to Garden Master NORG has staged a revolt against Headmaster Cid. While helping those he can Squall searches for the Headmaster to warn him of the missiles, finally finding him bunkered in his office. The Headmaster instructs Squall of the Garden's past status as a mobile bunker of Centra make. Upon the activation of the ancient system, the Garden transforms into a mobile fortress and narrowly avoids destruction by moving away from the spot the missiles were programmed to target. The seaborne Garden is met by the White SeeD Ship who request they hand Ellone (who was currently hiding in the Garden) over into their protection. Squall suddenly remembers Ellone from one of his mysterious dreams and confronts her about it. Ellone reveals it has been her who has been sending Squall's consciousness back in time to inhabit Laguna, although she doesn't tell him why. Ellone leaves with the White SeeD, leaving a confused Squall behind.

When the Garden crashes into Fishermans Horizon due to a lack of a steering device, Squall and his group are ordered to act as ambassadors and enact a formal apology. Mayor Dobe, the leader of the pacifist city, tells them to leave immediately, as their presence can only cause destruction. Galbadian soldiers invade the town and Dobe heads off to discuss peacefully with the soldiers. The soldiers do not listen and Squall is forced to fight the soldiers in order to save Dobe's life. During the fight, Squall and his team reunite with the Missile Base team, of which they had no word until then. In a rare display, Squall shows himself very happy they are alive and well, something Rinoa does not fail to notice. After the battle, Dobe grudgingly accepts the team's apology, and orders the city's technicians to restore Balamb Garden to full functionality.
Shortly after that, Cid reveals he is sorceress Edea's husband, and presents his resignation as Director of Balamb Garden, appointing Squall as the Garden's Commander and leader, a decision Squall is not at all pleased with. To show him their support, Selphie and Irvine organize a concert in Squall's honor, and Rinoa has an eventful chat with him, encouraging him to trust in them as they trust in him. After the Garden is fixed, Squall sets course to the town of Balamb, only to discover it is occupied by the G-Army. Squall and his team free the town after defeating Fujin and Raijin, Seifer's friends who now work for him.

They eventually head to the destroyed Trabia Garden, Selphie's home Garden. While waiting for Selphie's return and due to a segment in Rinoa's conversation, Irvine starts telling everyone about their past together in the orphanage, which they had all forgotten (except for Irvine, of course) due to a side effect attributed to using Guardian Forces; memory loss. Remembering everything about their childhoods, the team recognize sorceress Edea as their Matron. The team decides to defeat Edea in spite of the past, and the Garden embarks to the old orphanage in search for clues. Balamb Garden is intercepted by the similarly mobile Galbadia Garden and the Battle of the Gardens ensues. Squall leads Balamb's defense, at one point giving a heartfelt speech to Balamb's SeeD and cadets, encouraging them to fight on. Squall and his team infiltrate Galbadia Garden, defeating Seifer once more and challenging Edea to a final battle, ending in sorceress Edea's defeat and Rinoa becoming comatose. It turns out Edea had been possessed the whole time and did not act of her own free will.

Concerned over Rinoa's state Squall decides to search for Ellone. Squall wants Ellone to send him back in time to see what happened to Rinoa, so he can find a way to stop her from becoming comatose. Edea reveals the sorceress they had been fighting was not her, but Ultimecia, a sorceress from the far future who wants to merge time into a single existence through time compression, using Edea as a puppet. Being from the future, Ultimecia had no way of accomplishing her goals without a vessel to exist within. Therefore, she used Edea's body as a vessel to house her mind and spirit.
After learning from the White SeeD that Ellone is in Esthar, Squall and his party along with Edea make their way into the mysterious nation that has had no contact with the outside world for 17 years. After learning Ellone has gone to the Lunar Base Squall and Rinoa are sent to the Esthar space-station. Squall meets up with Ellone and begs her to send him back in time so he can save Rinoa, but Ellone tells Squall she has learned it's impossible to change the past. She still promises to try, but as Squall takes Ellone to see Rinoa, Ultimecia suddenly takes possession of Rinoa and uses her to free sorceress Adel from her space-bound tomb. After releasing Adel, Ultimecia leaves Rinoa to die in space. The station is evacuated as the Lunar Cry begins. Squall decides to save Rinoa and, ignoring everyone's warnings, jumps into space to catch her.

Squall catches Rinoa in space and the two come across an abandoned spaceship called Ragnarok, which they use to return to the planet. During their journey Squall learns Rinoa has inherited Edea's Sorceress Power and has become a sorceress herself. The land base informs them Rinoa is to be seized upon returning to Esthar. Squall lets Esthar take her into custody, but after being forced into reason by his friends, he breaks into the Sorceress Memorial where Rinoa is being held. He frees her and the team heads back to Edea's Orphanage. Rinoa is pessimistic about the future, but Squall promises to be her Knight even if all the world was her enemy. Squall and Rinoa promise to meet at the field behind the orphanage in case they should be parted.
They get called back to Esthar and find Laguna has become Esthar's president and that Ellone has been taken captive inside the Lunatic Pandora. Laguna, together with Dr. Odine, has developed a plan to stop Ultimecia once and for all. Laguna follows Squall and his friends to this mission and during optional conversations within Ragnarok, Laguna's friends talk about Squall's parents, and Laguna tells Squall they will have a lot to talk about later.

Using Ragnarok, they invade the Lunatic Pandora and save Ellone. After Fujin and Raijin unsuccessfully try to convince Seifer to stop serving Ultimecia, Squall and his friends are forced to fight through Seifer and shortly after, Adel. With no other body to possess, Ultimecia takes over Rinoa, which gives Ellone the opportunity to send Ultimecia's mind further back in time. Ultimecia begins the time compression, which allows for Squall and his friends to travel to the future. After defeating her most powerful minions and making it through the puzzles and traps of her castle, the group finally confronts Ultimecia.
After an epic final battle that traverses time and space, Ultimecia finally meets her demise. Time compression is stopped at Ultimecia's defeat and the time begins to revert back to its original form. Ultimecia and Squall go back in time and appear at Edea's Orphanage where Squall meets Edea and implants the ideas of SeeD and Garden.
After witnessing the moment in which Ultimecia passes on her Sorceress Power to Edea, Squall falls back into the compressed time. Squall tries to find his way back to the field where he and Rinoa promised to meet, but is trapped in the Void where he nearly dies. Rinoa uses her sorceress powers to find him and brings him back home, alive.

During a party at Balamb Garden to celebrate SeeD's victory over Ultimecia, Squall and Rinoa are notably absent until they are found to be standing together, outside on a balcony overlooking the ocean. Noticing a shooting star, much as the one he had seen on the night the pair first met, Squall smiles at Rinoa and kisses her as the Garden flies under the moonlight. 
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