The assassination attempt on Sorceress Edea marks, for many, the high point of Final Fantasy VIII. It’s the logical climax of the story that has been told so far. The sorceresses are a line of incredibly powerful women. All magic in the world has been engineered from their power. The last one was the leader of the Esthar nation and started what is now known as the Sorceress War, a global conflict that left an entire generation displaced (more on this later). Now Galbadia, already an aggressive military nation, has claimed that a new sorceress is their choice for international diplomat. Your team of elite mercenaries has been sent into the heart of the enemy empire on a covert mission to kill her.
There’s a rule in literature that suggests never give your protagonists a break. The more trouble you can put them through the more your audience will be interested in your story and the sweeter their eventual victory will be. Square does this well in this section of the game. First, you’re walked through a convoluted plan that involves one team trapping the sorceress’ inauguration parade float under the arch in the center of Deling while a second sniper team sneaks into the presidential palace where they’ll have a clear shot.
Things immediately start off badly when Rinoa, ditzy freedom fighter, decides to take on Edea by herself. She’s gotten her hands on a magic suppressing macguffin which she tries to trick Edea into wearing. Edea’s no fool and sees right through this pathetic attempt. She uses some mind control voodoo on Rinoa and escorts her out on the balcony of the presidential palace where she gives her victory speech to a crowd of cheering Delingians.
Meanwhile, the arch team has gotten themselves trapped in a room far removed from their post for entirely unrealistic reasons (this is a Final Fantasy after all). Luckily, for them there is a secret passage through the sewers that will lead them back to the arch. If only they can get there before Edea’s float passes through.
Edea’s speech reveals her true character as she proceeds to call the masses scum and filth and tells them they’ll rue the day they accepted a sorceress as ruler. She premisses a new age of death and sorrow for the world and, just show she’s serious, kills President Vinzer Deling in front of them. The crowd, brainwashed or bespelled, cheers on. And because no inauguration would be complete without a sacrifice she summons a pair of monstrous gargoyles to kill Riona. So now the sniper team has to save the girl and get to the sniping position on time, and the arch team has to crawl through monster infested sewers to trap Edea’s float. And then, on top of all of this, sharpshooter Irving reveals that he’s never killed anyone before and he can’t make the shot.
Suffice to say, the operation does not end successfully (who thought a bullet would kill a sorceress anyway?). Despite his best efforts to carry out the goal Squall nearly ends up dead. The first disk of the game closes with the heros in peril, the main character barely alive, and a mad powerful villain on the loose. If the rest of the game continued on this same path the story would probably be as fondly remembered by the fanboys as much as Final Fantasy VII’s. However, things take a very different turn that left a sour taste in many a mouth.
I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. But we’ll see. My perceptions of the game have changed a lot since I last played. And from a traditional viewpoint one could make a strong case that it’s all downhill from here.