Thanks to Cavelcade for the inspiration!
We all know by now that Kitase went through and debunked a few of the more prominent Final Fantasy fan theories. Kitase dismissed the Squall’s Dead theory, but likes it as “a very interesting idea”. He might consider incorporating elements into a Final Fantasy VIII remake.
The ‘Rinoa is Ultimecia’ theory, however…
“No, that is not true,” Kitase said. “I don’t think I’ll incorporate that even if we do remake the game. But that being said, both Rinoa and Ultimecia are witches, so in that sense they are similar, but they’re not the same person.”
That’s too bad. ‘Rinoa is Ultimecia’ is genuinely interesting. It adds a level of depth to the story and the characters unseen in the series.
And this is exactly Cavelcade’s point, as he says in the post Rinoa = Ultimecia makes sense on a thematic and symbolic level, but ultimately represents an abandoned experiment by Square. Cavelcade’s unedited analysis of the ‘Rinoa is Ultimecia’ theory’s explains how much more fulfilling Final Fantasy VIII could have been.
Cavelcade gives the pros and cons of the ‘Rinoa Is Ultimecia’, and then continues with the themes surrounding the theory. According to Cavelcade, Final Fantasy VIII has two major themes:
- The importance of relationships in our life.
- The importance of how our memories define us.
As for the theory:
How does this relate to Ultimecia? We’ll start with the obvious connection; if Rinoa is Ultimecia, then the fact that GF’s make a person lose their memory suddenly becomes relevant, instead of being completely pointless trash. We see that the group decides to keep using the GF’s as they need them…and Ultimecia has at least one GF going for her, a dark version of Bahamut. This has slowly leached away from her mind and identity until she turns into this mad creature, who only knows it was better in the past. Like Squall, she remembers bits and pieces…but mostly she remembers emotions. Just as Squall remembers the loneliness and feeling of abandonment of his childhood without necessarily knowing where they come from or even consciously acknowledge them, she remembers, love, excitement, joy and knows that she had those feelings in the past…but no more. She has lost her identity, even when she’s face to face with those who helped define it. Even when face to face with herself, experiencing these emotions!
That is if memories make a person who they are, and Rinoa forgets, she no longer becomes a person. Rinoa, in front of Ultimecia’s throne, might feel fear and excitement, whereas Ultimecia feels nothing but hate and rage. Without knowing who the other is, there’s no way they can have self-awareness of themselves. Memories of one or the other literally define their actions. Had only Rinoa remembered Squall, this encounter would not have happened.
At this point, Final Fantasy VIII becomes a case study in consequences.
What about the Law of Non-Contradiction? Physically, one can’t be in two places at once. Yet, consider that Rinoa and Ultimecia wouldn’t technically be the same person. One is necessarily older than the other. In this sense, they could be in the same place at once. The disconnect with their memories further illustrates how different they’ve become. However, had one of them been aware of the other, the event would “screw” with the “laws of the universe”. However, I’m certain that the universe would correct such an anomaly so that it would never happen.
It’s also worth looking at her knights. Ultimecia has one failed knight throughout the game – Seifer. He keeps trying to be the Knight he always dreamed he would be, but he never succeeds. That’s because part of the Knight’s duties is to keep the Sorceress from going down a dark path…which he can’t. He’s unable to turn her, not that he really seems to want to. It’s enough for him to fulfill his childish idea of the romantic knight…just as he represented the childish idea of romance that Rinoa had. A superficial (but fun!) fling with him that ultimately was not what she needed and she moved on to find her true knight/love – Squall. But a sorceress lives on while her Knight must die – Rinoa lives on long after Squall passes. While he lived, she was kept on the straight and narrow; without him, she falls. Hence white wings with Squall, black wings without; she is literally a fallen angel at that point.
This is an interesting point. Why else would Ultimecia have black wings? Do wings denote how long someone has lived as a sorceress? If so, then it would make sense that Rinoa would have small white wings. It would show that she hasn’t been a sorceress for long and that she’s basically good. However, this symbolism remains unstated, to the point where any subtly to this idea might as well be shallow.
All of the naive idealism Squall and Seifer have in their teenage years have an effect on the future. Squall must shed his cold, selfish introverted nature to protect something greater than himself. In this sense, it would be the love of another person. He would have to do whatever he could to save the person who needs him. His reserve, indifference, and cynicism would give way for this one important battle. But of course, if he only had the knowledge Rinoa became Ultimecia, he would soon know true cynicism.
Likewise, Seifer would realize how naive his arrogance, outspokenness, and romanticism. No matter how much he felt about his self-absorbed dreams, he wouldn’t be able to truly live them. And his actions would have consequences. Sure, the ending hints he learned his lesson, as we finally see him laugh. But even Seifer deserved a more existential awareness in the story.
In this sense, Final Fantasy VIII would become a much more poignant coming of age story.
It also ties into the idea that we have to accept the past for what it is before we can heal and let our relationships grow and move on, as expressed through the Ellone-sends-you-to-the-past scenes. Tying these into one of the overarching themes of the story (or both, really, when you consider who Laguna is the father of) by having those themes be identity and relationships is interesting – and tragic, as you consider that Ultimecia could have learned to come to terms with the past and the relationship Squall and Rinoa share using her the-past machine…if she could only remember what it was she was trying to come to terms with.
By looking at Laguna, Squall could have realized something about himself. It doesn’t matter how you look. Sure, you can be a complete idiot. But what matters is putting yourself out there in the world to accomplish great things. Laguna went from Galbadian Solider to neighborhood watchmen to journalist to President of a country. And he did so by interacting with the world. Squall needed to learn this lesson. Did he? Well, maybe. But the story doesn’t hint that he learned anything from these visions. In fact, Laguna’s story might as well just be for the player only, to hint at a big twist.
Yet, all of these missed opportunities can’t be coincidences, can they? They seem to insist that we continue to look beyond the surface. In this sense, Final Fantasy VIII is a genius.
Or would be, had Kitase not debunked Rinoa as Ultimecia.
Why? Well because without the connection, all of the in-game symbolism means nothing. The only narrative relevance memory lost has is the Orphanage Scene and Ultimecia’s ending speech. But all of the meaning of failure, feeling lost and following one’s dreams is a connection of pithy statements.
Final Fantasy VIII had the potential to be one of the most thought-provoking Final Fantasy of the PlayStation generation. Of course, all of them did, but only Final Fantasy VII and IX’s themes carried through. But since we know these well-stated themes, these two Final Fantasy games are perfect the way they are. What we see is what we got. With Final Fantasy VIII, we could have had much more.
Maybe Kitase will see this theory as interesting and find ways to incorporate it as well if fans demand it?