Alright, so with the recent announcement of a PC re-release of Final Fantasy 8 I thought it an appropriate time to take another look at the game. Final Fantasy 8 is a pretty polarizing entry in the series. Personally I enjoy, let's say MOST of the game. I like it more than 7, not as much as 9. But it ranks high up there in terms of soundtrack. I'm not here to talk about the merits of 8 versus the others in the PSX era FF games. I'm here to tell you that Square fucked up in their choice of main antagonist.
Okay, so who is the antagonist in FF8? For the first two discs it is Edea. The sorceress who kills the President of Galbadia, prevents her own assassination, and begins a plot to destroy the Gardens and thus SeeD from the world. At the start of disc three it is revealed that all of Edea's actions were not her own, but instead those of future time witch/sorceress Ultimecia. Ultimecia, shown briefly at the end of disc two, has the ability to send her consciousness into the sorceresses in the past in order to further her own goal. Unfortunately for Ultimecia, there are only three sorceresses left in the period where the game takes place, and one of them is in space.
But what is Ultimecia's plan, exactly? Why does she need the sorceresses? Ultimecia suffers from a similar problem that many JRPG villains also suffer from. She wants to be a living god. But why? Arrogance? Her space alien mother? Nope. She just wants to escape her fate. Her fate being the defeat at the hands of the 'Legendary SeeD'. Which is why she uses Edea to carry out her destruction of the Gardens. But the eradication of SeeD is only one step of her goal. Ultimecia wants to compress all of time into one so that she could absorb all of time, space, and whatnot. She can't just do this from her castle in the future, she needs to go far enough back in the past so that all of time can fall under her spell.
Which is where Ellone, that mysterious girl that Squall often meets, comes into play. Ellone has the unique ability to send one's consciousness into the past, which she does various times to send Squall into Laguna's past. Ellone is Ultimecia's second goal with Edea. By having Ellone send Ultimecia/Edea further into the past, time compression could begin. But, since this is a JRPG, Edea is defeated and Ultimecia is forced to change plans by entering Rinoa's body.
Now, here is where I begin to suggest a different villain should have been used. Ultimecia is all well and good if you like your villains to exist in the future and only interacts with the party by silly body take over moments. No, I'm not suggesting Rinoa be the main villain because that would spark a Rinoa = Ultimecia debate and no one wants that. But, if you'll go back a paragraph or two you'll note I said that there were three sorceresses in the game, Ultimecia not included. Hell, if you've played the game you know exactly who I mean. Adel.
Adel should have been the main villain in Final Fantasy 8.
Here comes the part where I tell you why she would make for a more threatening and villainous villain than Ultimecia.
Adel, unlike Ultimecia, is responsible for many events in the game's past. You experience a lot of events caused by her through the eyes of Laguna. At points throughout the game characters make reference to the Sorceress War, the war seventeen years ago that left Squall and friends orphaned and under the care of Edea/Matron. You take part in bits of this war when you play as Laguna. Adel is directly responsible for this war because she got a bit too power hungry and wanted to dominate the world. And really, when you and you alone have access to powerful magical abilities, what else are you going to do? Adel, the ruler of Esthar, began a two year war for control that was slowly going in Galbadia's favor thanks to them winning Timber. Adel then discovered the Crystal Pillar which could evoke the Lunar Cry.
The Lunar Cry calls monsters down from the moon. Because space whales airships aren't the only thing from the moon these days.
But Adel, as a sorceress, needed to pass her powers onto someone else. Enter Ellone. Ellone was just a little girl in Winhill at the time. She was raised by Raine after Esthar soldiers killed her parents (also Adel's fault) and shortly after Laguna entered her life as well. Eventually Ellone was kidnapped by Adel and Laguna took action to get her back. Adel was unable to be killed by normal means, being a sorceress and all so Laguna, being the master tactician he is, decides the best course of action would be to launch her into space. So they do. And in doing so they rendered all wireless communication useless for a good 17 years.
So Adel is pretty vital in the backstory of Final Fantasy 8. Ultimecia is not. But that's not reason enough for why Adel would make for a better villain. Adels presence and status is hinted at as early as disc one. In Timber, when Squall, Rinoa, and friends witness Deilng's broadcast on the huge television, there is a brief flash on the screen where three sentences can be seen.
"I AM ALIVE HERE" "I WILL NEVER LET YOU FORGET ABOUT ME." "BRING ME BACK THERE."
Adel is alive and super fucking pissed. She has had seventeen years to hold a grudge against the planet and its people for keeping her in deep freeze up in space. A pissed off sorceress with an affinity for domination makes an interesting case for a main antagonist. And, in my opinion, is much more interesting than a sorceress who wants to be a god because she accidentally caused her own time loop cycle of death.
Adel is built up by Odine and various others in the game as being incredibly powerful and smart. So all you would realistically need to do would give her Ultimecia's power of being able to send her consciousness into sorceresses. Odine created the machine that allows Ultimecia to do it, and Odine is not exactly a loyal guy so it could be written that he junctioned it onto Adel and she used it to control Edea so that Edea could restart the war with Esthar. Change the SeeD system slightly. SeeD is a group whose goal is to kill 'the sorceress'. But they are pretty much mercenaries. After the failed assassination on Edea/Adel instead of punishing Garden to get rid of SeeD, Edea uses the Galbadain army to attack Esthar. This would bring Squall into the battle as hired mercenaries to back up the Esthar war effort. Squall would fight Edea and knock Adel out of her. Adel would then inhabit the nearest sorceress, Rinoa.
Rinoa would then proceed to do what she does in the game: release Adel's tomb while Squall and friends talk to Ellone up in space. Back down on Earth, Seifer raises the Lunatic Pandora/Crystal Pillar from the ocean and starts the Lunar Cry to bring Adel back to life. While Squall and Rinoa are fucking around on the Ragnarok, Adel, now with a bunch of monsters and a seventeen year grudge against the world, begins her plan of total domination. The Sorceress War starts again, but this time it is the united efforts of a Laguna-led Esthar, a pissed off Galbadian army, and Balamb against Adel and her Knight, Seifer.
Now here is the part that needs some work, but this is just one person coming up with a silly idea so bear with me. The party would be unable to defeat Adel in their time so they would turn to Ellone who would send them back sometime either before or during the Sorceress War with the express purpose of stopping Adel. By going to the past there would create that self-fulfilling time loopy business where Squall and friends would be the cause of them going to the orphanage in the first place, similar to how Squall was responsible for Edea starting the SeeD program to kill Ultimecia. Have Odine create some plot device similar to the bangle from disc one that would prevent Adel from passing her powers onto Rinoa by removing her sorceress powers in the first place. I dunno, I didn't think that bit through.
But think about it, having Adel as the villain would not be that much of a stretch. You could even have a similar ending where in trying to return to their time, Squall gets lost in time until he is saved by Rinoa. Adel has about five lines of actual dialog in the game and is still a better antagonist than Ultimecia. Her motivation would be simple revenge. She has an actual presence in the game's established history and the party has a connection to her, as small and coincidental as it is.
Sure, having a future sorceress who is the cause of her own prophecy of her downfall is cool, but I think having Adel as the central antagonist would've made for an interesting direction for FF8 to take. Granted it wouldn't fix some of the game's other problems, but eh, those are just details. Adel could've been so much more than just a simple boss fight.
If you've read all of this, thank you. Obviously it's not perfect, but I've been talking with friends about FF8 recently and the topic of its villain was a frequent point of discussion. I'm interested to hear thoughts.