Thanks to Scott Baird of ScreentRants.com for the inspiration!
8. THE EMPTY FUTURE
Final Fantasy VIII is a game about time travel, as the main villain is actually a Sorceress from the future who has found a way to manipulate events in the past. She is able to control the mind of a Sorceress who exists in the present day, which is what happened to Edea.
Squall and his teammates must travel to the future in order to stop Ultimecia. This involves going to Ultimecia Castle and defeating the guardians that reside within, before taking on the Sorceress herself.
The most annoying thing about this segment of the game is that you can explore the world of the future, but everything is covered in a forcefield that prevents you from entering, save for the Ragnarok, where you can win the last few Triple Triad cards.
Why did Square include a future world map and then do nothing with it? They should either give the player a chance to see Ultimecia’s future or restrict their trip to the Castle.
When we get to the future, that’s it. We can’t enter any of the towns, because of “Time Compression”. As Scott states, we can win the last few Triple Triad cards, from Card Club members who survive Time Compression.
The point of no return is a homage to the first Final Fantasy on the NES. Once you went to the past, that was it – you couldn’t go back. Not only that, but you couldn’t enter the previous towns and dungeons. You could only traverse the Chaos Temple, marching towards the final showdown.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy XV let us travel back in time. So does later editions of Final Fantasy I. But are we missing a sense of urgency and finality when we go back in time.
It’s tricky to balance gameplay and narrative. Thematically, why goof around with card games when you have a job to do?
Scott Baird raises a good question: “Why did Square include a future world map and then do nothing with it?” Like in Final Fantasy, we could just travel straight to the gates of Ultimecia’s castle. But then, how would you know the world’s changed?
But you can do some things in the future world. You can visit the Islands Closest to Heaven and Hell, the Chocobo’s Forest and Obel Lake. Also:
The remaining accessible locations are home to Guardian Forces, which can still be claimed if they haven’t been already: Centra Ruins (for Tonberry and Odin), the Deep Sea Research Center (for Bahamut and Eden), Tears’ Point (for Doomtrain) and the Tomb of the Unknown King (for Brothers). The Fire Cavern also remains accessible.
A potential remake can show more of how the world changed and the effects it had on people’s lives. It would raise the stakes and show a sense of urgency the game needs.