The following content is an opinion.
Do not allow it to offend or cause problems, such as flame wars. These opinions are also not the official opinions of Final Fantasy Answers, which can be taken to be a neutral point of view.
Hey guys. Me again, this time disputing the popular "Squall is Dead" theory.
I had a lot of fun debating in my older blog about the Ultimecia/Rinoa theory, which I concluded that although I don't agree with it, there is evidence in the base belief to prove that it could be substantial. But this time, I'm tackling the rather ridiculous theory of "Squall is Dead".
I'm here to humbly say my piece, and perhaps I might sway some supporters to realising how bogus the claims are - or maybe they'll do the same to me. Without further ado, let's get on with it. Please note: This blog is merely my opinion and not the opinion of the Final Fantasy Answers community.
This theory states that the protagonist of Final Fantasy VIII, Squall Leonhart, dies in battle with antagonist Edea Kramer at the end of Sisc 1. In the scene, it's shown that Squall is impaled with an icicle and falls to the ground, only to wake up in a torture room during Disc 2. This then leads to the belief that the rest of the game is made up of Squall's "dream world", a state in which he plays out what his life could have been if he didn't die.
If you're interested in the theory, you can read more here.
Like with most theories, it's widely discredited, with only a small amount of supporters defending it. The theory has never been proven, and Square generally ignores the it's existence. Of course the claims to Squall's death are mainly fabricated by fans who are displeased with the story of the game, or generally dislike Squall, so they play around with the story to make it suit their preferences and attempt to make the wider community accept the theory.
Why the theory doesn't work
"Strange things are afoot"
The biggest claim to the existence of Squall's "dream world" is how drastically the story turns from a reasonable tale of mercenaries trying to stop a civil war to a time-travelling adventure through high-tech cities, across outer space and against powerful Sorceresses threatening to eradicate all existence. Many fans dislike this story, claiming it's convoluted and badly written. Personally, I think it's a great story, and as Nem says, it's an "acquired taste".
So fans created the notion of Squall's dream world. A place that Squall creates in his mind before death, and plays out the life he dreams of within a split second before Squall finally passes away. This would explain the drastic plot twists that make Final Fantasy VIII such a unique and wonderful story, such as Balamb taking flight, NORG and the Moombas, and Edea's Orphanage.
That's the basis of the claims. So what, someone doesn't like the story, so it must be a fabrication of the hero's dying mind? Yes, it sounds cool, but it doesn't have anything to back it up. First I'll deal with the supposed plot twists that only exist after Disc 2:
- NORG is mentioned in Balamb Garden computers during Disc 1. Therefore, he can't have been fabricated by Squall's mind, because Squall wasn't "dead" by this point.
- Moombas are shown to exist in flashbacks of Laguna's time. Laguna is Squall's father, so therefore he had to exist, and not just another mental fabrication.
- Balamb doesn't randomly fly, it was built on Centra ruins. It's shown is Esthar that levitating structures are a possibility, so why is Garden an exception? (Keep in mind that Esthar appears after Disc 1, so this is disputable)
- The Orphanage was built as a result of the aftermath from Adel's Sorceress War. All the orphans were gathered by Edea and Cid, and when they grew up, they were all transferred to Cid's Balamb Garden. It's not far-fetched if you pay attention.
The reason why most of the party's past is left vague and they have revelations later on is because of the detrimental use of Guardian Forces - the game states that overuse of GFs lead to temporary memory loss, so most of the party's past is pieced together as the game proceeds. It's not as random as haters claim.
On the flip side, how come VIII gets the third degree, when other games in the series get away with more ridiculous plot twists? Let me remind you of a few...
- In Final Fantasy VII, it's revealed that Sephiroth has been incapacitated for the entire game, and controls an extraterrestrial planet-destroyer that he believes is his mother into summoning a giant meteor for him to cleanse the planet.
- Cecil is actually born from a race of people that live on the Moon in Final Fantasy IV, and doesn't know this for the entire game until he goes to the Moon and meets FuSoYa.
- In Final Fantasy IX, the God of death Necron comes out of nowhere and decides that because Kuja had a hissy fit, he's going to end all existence. He's not explained, he doesn't go on to do anything; he's just there.
Long story short, this isn't the first game to have extreme plot twists. And thee plot twists are actually explained, unlike some games. Yet we never hear about Cloud living in a dream world. You know why? Because people don't like VIII, so they nitpick at every little thing.
Squall's "Death" (and subsequent torture)
So, at the centre of the theory is one singular event - Squall is impaled by a shard of ice that Edea summons during the battle at Edea's inauguration celebration. The shards impales Squall's chest and he falls off the float, limp and lifeless. This ends Disc 1, and leads onto Disc 2 where Edea has had Squall imprisoned and tortured by her right-hand-man Seifer. Squall is surprised to see that he's alive and his wounds have been healed.
For those of you unaware, Seifer and Squall grew up together and have been rivals since childhood. Seifer was placed under a spell by Edea to do her bidding.
So, this is apparently where Squall's dream world begins - as far as the theory is concerned, Squall is on the verge of death in the real world and everything we're seeing is a fabrication built by his mind of what "could have been".
First off, plenty of characters in the series have had mortal injuries which they shrugged off. Let me list them.
- Final Fantasy IV - Rydia was eaten by Leviathan, Yang was caught in the middle of an explosion, Cid fell off an airship with a bomb strapped to him, FuSoYa and Golbez were both hit by a powerful Meteor spell. All of them survived.
- Final Fantasy VII - Fourteen-year-old rookie grunt Cloud Strife was impaled by First-Class SOLDIER Sephiroth in a similar fashion to Aerith and was still able to lift Sephiroth off the ground and throw him off into the reactor. Moments before this, a young teenage Tifa was slashed by Sephiroth and fell down a flight of metal stairs. Palmer got hit by a truck and walked it off, Rufus was caught in Diamond Weapon's explosion, Tseng was slashed up by Sephiroth... all of them survived (according to the sequel).
Those are the more notable examples. I could include characters like Zorn & Thorn, whom the party defeated early on but they showed up alive later in the game. Or even Tellah's encounter with Golbez in which Tellah died from merely casting Meteor whereas Golbez shrugged it off and left.
Now that we've established Final Fantasy characters don't die easily, we must also take into account that in Final Fantasy VIII, they freely cast magic, even outside of cutscenes. Whereas in the previous titles, magic was more often than not merely a gameplay element, it's shown a few times in VIII that healing magic is used outside of cutscenes, such as Seplhie trying to cure the Moomba at the prison or Rinoa bringing Squall back to life at the end of the game. Why can't Squall be revived?
You're going to say "Why would Edea let Squall live?" Ultimecia is from a time where SeeD doesn't exist, with the exception of White SeeDs. She's controlling Edea, and wants to know what exactly SeeD is and why they're trying to stop her. She has no idea who Squall is, and she doesn't know that he's going to travel through time to kill her. Nor is she aware that Squall will soon escape the prison. Also, Squall knows Ellone - and Ultimecia is searching for Ellone. Why kill Squall when you could use him to guide you to your desires? Then people wonder why Seifer questions what SeeD is, despite knowing. He's under a spell, remember? He's asking what Ultimecia wants him to ask. Not only that but he's a twisted bastard and probably enjoys watching his rival squirm.
If I remember, SeeD (which turns out to be Squall and the party) is destined to kill Ultimecia. Therefore it makes sense for Ultimecia to find out what SeeD is, and who better to ask than the leader of SeeD itself?
And, one more thing... why would Squall dream about being tortured?
Squall and Rinoa's romance
Supposedly, Squall and Rinoa's romane blossoms too quickly, and people think that this is because Squall secretly loves her in Disc 1 and so he imagines they're lovers in his dream world.
So, what I understand is that people hate the romance storyline... yet they think it moved too quickly? What, would you prefer sitting through a long and tedious dating game just so that the main characters can end up in a relationship? This is a video game, remember. It's not real life. Let's take a look at Cloud and Aerith for example - they meet, and straight away Aerith claims that Cloud looks like her missing boyfriend and falls for him instantly. Hell, in Final Fantasy IV, Cecil and Rosa are already in a relationship. So why is Final Fantasy VIII denied this? Why should it have to drag out a romantic plotline just to make it more "realistic"? And if I remember, Squall only starts to realise his feelings for Rinoa when she goes comatose; before that he's distant and cold to her.
The game is four discs long. The fourth disc is made up of a few bosses, the final dungeon, then the final battle and ending. The first disc is an introduction where they establish characters, plot, locations and background. That means that everything else has to fit in two discs. Naturally, they're not going to draw things out and act in real time. They need to speed things up. All the plot twists and story development can't happen at the start, because then they're not really surprising. So all the romance and also all the adventure has to fit in two discs, and if you think about the game, that's a lot to fit in. It's a rather rich and intricate story.
Yet clearly because things moved too fast for people, it must be a result of Squall being dead. Uhhh.... what? Yeah, when you think about it, Squall and Rinoa's blossoming romance is a terrible excuse for the "Squall is Dead" theory.
Before Disc 2
People seem to forget that this is a science-fiction fantasy game. Therefore, things are going to be odd. But people ignore all the unusual events that go on before Squall's "death". Let me list a few...
- In the Tomb of the Forgotten King where you get the Brothers GF, you talk to a skeletal ghost of a long-dead ruler who thanks you for freeing his soul. This is seemingly normal to Squall and the party, who don't even comment.
- Monsters roam wild and free, despite normal animals being shown, such as deers, dogs and monkeys. Everyone treats monsters as common parts of life.
- Ultimecia is shown to exist, and therefore it can be assumed that there's a time-travelling witch possessing people with her mind many generations into the future. The proof? Her quote at the festival - "Shameless filthy wretches. Hailing the one whom you have condemned for generations. What happened to the evil, ruthless sorceress from your fantasies? She stands before your eyes to become your new ruler."
There are plenty of odd things going on before Disc 2, yet only the things after Squall being impaled are focused on. The world is clearly not a realistic world, so it shouldn't be treated as such. If Squall truly dreamt up all the weird and wonderful things that happened in the later stages of the game, why didn't ghosts, monsters and time-travel shock him? This leads me to believe that it's not just a mental fabrication, those plot twists are plausible in the world of Final Fantasy VIII.
There are a few more minor things that go on in the world of Final Fantasy VIII which are attributed to Squall's dream world.
First off, people think that Ultimecia's final line is strange - after the party have defeated Final Ultimecia, Time Compression stops. The very fabric of time itself is going crazy at this point, trying to get everything back to where it belongs. The party are right in the centre of Time Compression along with Ultimecia, so their consciousness will be transported to wherever they can mentally project.
This is where Ultimecia's cycle begins - she makes the party think about their childhood at Edea's orphanage. This is so that she can go back there with them and pass on her Sorceress powers to Edea before she dies. This ensures that in the future, Ultimecia will be reborn with her powers intact. Squall thinks about Edea's orphanage, and Ultimecia travels back there with him, passes on her powers, and dies. Of course, that isn't where Squall is meant to be, so when Time Compression reverts and everything is back to normal, Squall is stuck in limbo. Time and space is distorted here, because he's effectively nowhere and there's nothing linking him back to his time period. His memories of his own time begin to fade away as he gets further stuck in this world, and he can't remember his friends or even himself. This is where Squall collapses, presumably dead, and Rinoa brings him back. It isn't shown if Squall is okay or not before cutting to the credits and the video-recorder cutscene.
This leads me on to the second part. Squall is presumably dead, so the camera that Selphie is using cuts out before Squall can be seen in the ending. That makes no sense whatsoever, and here's why:
- If Squall really wasn't there, how come Edea is shown to be back to normal? Wouldn't she still be a Sorceress if it wasn't for Squall? And why is the party alive and happy? They should be either dead or imprisoned by Edea if Squall really was absent for the entire story.
- Why would Rinoa be outside talking to nobody? And why is she pointing up at the sky? It makes no sense unless Squall is out there with her.
- If Squall were dead, why does it then show him outside with Rinoa? By this point if we believe the dream world theory, Squall would be dead as a doornail. There's no reason why he'd be outside staring up at the stars, because he'd be dead and buried. His dream world can't exist if he's dead.
And this leads on to my next point. People claim that the happy ending where Cid and Edea are back together, Seifer is happily fishing away with his friends, and everyone gets a happy ending is supposed to represent that Squall has died and gone to heaven. Ummm... what? So, we can't have happy endings anymore apparently. It seems like people would have preferred it if the ending consisted of Seifer being executed by authorities, Edea blowing up Cid and Garden, and then every character rotting and dying. No, a happy ending is good. Almost every Final Fantasy other than VII and X have happy endings, so how come when VIII has a happy ending it's because it's Squall has died and is partying in heaven? Just take the ending for what it is.
Last two things, first off people claim that Squall musing about Seifer's death and wondering if everyone will talk about him when he's dead is supposed to show that Squall has died and won't accept that he's dead. No, now they're just ignoring character development to create false credibility for their theories. Squall's musing and inner-monologue is supposed to be what he feels inside, yet on the outside people see him as cold and emotionless. Really, he's actually very emotional and has a strong repressed character beneath the wall he built to keep people from emotionally hurting him like his family did when he was abandoned. The player is given a view into what Squall is really like and how much he actually does care, which is meant to contrast with how the party sees him. Would you prefer it if he just screamed "I won't have it!" randomly during the conversation and ran off? Because then you'd just complain about that.
And finally, this was supposedly based off the plot of a Tom Cruise movie. That's how they got the idea to make up the "dream world" where Squall imagines crazy things going on. Like, seriously? If you're going to base a theory off an entirely unrelated movie, nobody is going to take it seriously.
One of the worst and weakest theories that plagues Final Fantasy VIII. Basically what people want to believe is that the entire game was a waste of time, because it's all just a dream world where nothing really happens and you die in the end. I prefer to stick with what the game tells me.
(Section edited due to complaints)
If you support the Squall is Dead theory and want to give your side of the story, just leave a comment. If you're an Squall is Dead supporter who wants to insult my view on the matter, keep it to yourself. Or if you're a fan theory hater and want to include your own reasons as to why Squall is Dead theory is ridiculous, tell me about it.
Have fun folks, and see you later.