I took a break from the story in Final Fantasy VIII to poke my nose into the corners of the world and see what lived there. On a distant and lonely beach I ran into a pair of adamantoise (adamantoises? adamanti?) one of the series’ reoccurring baddies. These turtle monsters have been in every Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy II. They often have high defense and can only be felled by magic. VIII’s version is especially nasty and this battle encapsulated a lot of what I like about the game.
Specifically, that Final Fantasy VIII forces you to explore the interesting fringes of the battle system. FF games have always given the player a lot of options to play with but rarely a reason to do so. Most baddies can be beaten by simply attacking. If an enemy proves to too tough some grinding will even the odds. Higher strategies need not be considered.
However, to many people’s annoyance, the monsters in VIII level up with your character. Grinding becomes useless. No matter how high your character’s levels are they will always approach any given monster from the same place. This allows the game designers to create specific scenarios to test the player’s creativity. Such as this adamantoise battle. These buggers had roughly 2500 hit points (at this level) and my strongest attacks and spells could only do 150 damage or so. That’s all well and good, it just means a long drawn-out battle as I whittled them down slowly. But these turtles also had access to that holy grail of healing spells: white wind. This spell would restore both adamantoise to full health and one of them would cast it every three or four turns. There was no way I could kill one before it healed itself back to full health. I doubt that even if I was using Guardian Forces they would do enough damage in time. I might have given up but the description for these guys read that they were well worth the effort it took to beat as they dropped rare and exceptional items.
Those rare items were mine by right, and I would have them no matter what, by jingo!
Another thing that struck me about the adamantoise was they’re physical design. I’ve always enjoyed watching how reoccuring FF monsters have changed from game to game. I was stricken by how detailed these models were. A far cry from Final Fantasy VII’s gradiented planes. FFVIII might look like a pixely mess these days but it’s still amazing to see how far Square’s modeling and texturing skills came in the span of just one game.
Also, they have a sea turtle aesthetic. And, as should be abundantly clear, sea turtles are a thousand times superior than their dirt wallowing cousins.
As for my adamantoise problem I tried both the silence spell and Shiva’s doom ability but the turtles proved immune to both. Getting my characters into critical life to spam their limit breaks still didn’t allow me to do enough damage before white wind. After several attempts I discovered a solution. In a nearby forest I discovered windigos, creatures most notable for dropping the useful steel pipe item. They also had the berserk spell that I could draw from them. This spell causes a status effect that makes the target unable to do anything but attack. Luckily, the adamantoise were vulnerable to it. White wind was no longer a problem.
Two dead beserked testudines later I had a pair of valuable turtle shells and the satisfaction that I had beaten Final Fantasy VIII at its own game. Though simple, this solution was much more satisfying than just “getting stronger” and a credit to the game’s leveling enemies system.