Laguna, Squall, and Ultimecia

        Picking up Dissidia once more, today we’ll talk about the characters of Final Fantasy VIII, meaning Squall, Laguna, and Ultimecia. By now you may be noticing a sort of trend here- generally all the characters from the same game have something of a similar focus. For instance, Terra and Kefka used exclusively magical attacks, and the Final Fantasy VII characters were all close range physical fighters. For these three, they’re basically all mid to long range fighters.
        In particular, Laguna has no real short range attacks, but a wide variety of moves that can hit from a fair distance. And speaking of him, lets go over his story. As with the others in the sequel, he is separated from the others by manikins, and ends up with Vaan for a bit, but they get separated due to touching a device, which forces Laguna down a different route.
        He then runs into Cloud of Darkness, who fights him briefly, apparently holding back by a considerable amount, before deciding to finish him off, teleporting in front of him. This entrances Laguna, though Cloud of Darkness seems to mistake his staring to be out of fear. He then suffers a ‘leg cramp’, and she remarks that she would actually pity Cosmos for having such a pitiful warrior, if she weren’t her enemy.
        Laguna states that he’s simply ‘working’ with Cosmos so as to get back home and restore the world before Chaos’ warriors overrun it, and notes that with the manikins around, it’s suddenly much harder to do. His little speech seems to make Cloud of Darkness interested, and she tells him of the manikins.
        She explains that they come from the Rift and how their existence destabilizes the world they reside in, and tells him they are coming out of a gate. If it is sealed, they cannot come through… but they are doing so constantly, meaning anyone trying to do so would have to fight through a massive horde of them and will certainly die. She states she is telling him this only because she is curious how he will choose to die. As soon as she leaves, Laguna runs off to tell the others, so they can go off and stop the manikins.
        And that is where his part of the story ends. As for how he fought his way that far, as said, all of his attacks are mid to long range, utilizing not magic, but instead a variety of guns and other such weapons. His basic attack is to fire his machine gun at the enemy, able to run about while doing so to ‘chase’ and keep hitting his stunned foe. He tosses away his weapon and summons a new one after every attack, except Pummel, where he simply smashes them with the machine gun.
        Aside from that, he can throw out grenades, fire a volley of missiles, and pull out a sniper rifle to shoot people at far ranges, and the blast ricochets off walls to strike them if they dodge. On the defensive side he can conjure up a shield that knocks enemies back and reflects projectiles. It lasts a very long time, but can be easily dodged, but he can dismiss the current one and summon another by doing the move again.
        In the air, he can fire off three shots from a shotgun, fire off a homing missile, though it tends to go downwards, still use the missile barrage and shield, and throw a sticky bomb that clings to enemies and surfaces.
        As for his HP moves, his first is Satellite Laser, where he targets the foe, then a giant laser falls down on top of them. The rest of his moves revolve around a giant cannon he conjures up from the Ragnarok airship. Ragnarok Buster has him fire the laser straight, though it does only go so far. Ragnarok Blade has him fire out the beam and slash vertically with it in the air, and lastly Split Laser has him fire out a single shot, which them splits into several, homing on his foe.
        As for his EX Mode, he gains an Aura about himself like he did in his original game in a flashback segment, turning all his weapons gold. His gives him a critical hit bonus, and lets him ignore the recovery time after attacks, meaning he can keep attacking constantly. His EX Burst, Desperado, has him blast the enemy with a rocket, then throwing a grenade at them. He then jumps on top of the Ultimate Ragnarok Cannon and fires his machine gun at them while it charges. You have to keep the crosshairs on the enemy to fire, filling up a damage gauge. If not filled completely, the grenade simply explodes. If done properly, he fires the cannon, destroying the grenade in the process to make a massive explosion.
        Moving onto Squall, in the original game he naturally he searching for his crystal, and comes across Bartz and Zidane. He insists on searching on his own, not out of any foreknowledge of how the crystals operate, but simply because he’s a loner who needs to be alone. However, Bartz leaves him with a good luck charm, a feather from his own world, rationalizing that since he has Zidane with him, he’ll be safe. He forcefully gives Squall the feather and runs off.
        He later runs into Cosmos, suggests that Leon may be regretting running off on his own. Squall says he doesn’t regret anything, he simply thought that no one cared about him. He states he doesn’t need sympathy, but it would be nice to have support, and ponders if he shouldn’t have turned down traveling with them. Cosmos however tells him that he made the right choice, and directs him to find and defeat Ultimecia to obtain his crystal.
        Interestingly, this scene seems odd for several reasons. While Cosmos often appears before her subjects, her theme always follows her, whereas here it is missing, replaced at first by silence, then a different theme entirely. She also speaks more frequently and more readily than normal, where before her words were halting, almost uncertain. And of course, as Squall walks away, ‘Cosmos’ speaks in a distorted voice, all but saying it is not her.
        Later, Squall runs into Kuja, who plans to use him as bait to lure Zidane into a trap. This of course leads to a battle, which Kuja loses outright. He decides that maybe Squall isn’t the best bait- but not because he lost or anything, of course! He flees, leaving Squall to worry about the others, which he quickly chides himself for doing, as worrying won’t help them.
        As he continues, he later runs into the Warrior of Light, who asks why he is alone. Squall explains that Cosmos told him to track down his true enemy, and points out that’s likely why Warrior of Light is alone too. The warrior asks if it wouldn’t be better to have the help of others, since the enemy is in fact working together, but Squall doesn’t seem interested in banter, and draws his sword. The warrior then fights him, to see just how capable Squall is on his own.
        He defeats the warrior, and when asked why his strength isn’t being put to use defending the others, he shows the good luck charm, saying that they do not have to be together to help one another. He received the support of the others, whether or not he needed it, and fully intends to return the favor. Warrior of Light seems satisfied with this, and lets him go on his way.
        Squall later sees ‘Cosmos’, whose voice is not openly distorted, before she reveals herself to be Ultimecia. She says she has been waiting for Squall to obtain ‘that ruthless level of determination’ that will lead him to his crystal. She hammers in this idea that he is indeed ruthless, and says that even when he knew Kuja was going to attack Zidane, he did nothing to aid them. Squall silently rebukes this idea, and is clearly reluctant to fight. Ultimecia says that she will wait til the time is right to battle him, and vanishes from sight.
        He eventually does track her down, however, and objects her ideas of him abandoning his friends by saying that it is become of them that he peruses his crystal. “I know I am not alone. That’s why I can fight by myself!” It seems like a contradiction, but he means that their support is what drives him onward to the crystal. Ultimecia, however, is not alone either, at least in the physical sense, and has Garland arrive to face Squall as well.
        However, Zidane shows up, knocking Garland away to face him himself, and sparing Squall from facing the two all on his own. Next we get a lovely cutscene before the final battle, where Ultimecia dodges all of Squall’s strikes. He prepares to use Blasting Zone, a much bigger slash, to hit her, but she stops time before he can strike. She surrounds him in a in a sphere of bullets and time starts once more, but his quick actions lead him to deflect all of them, and the battle begins in earnest.
        He of course defeats the witch, who warns him that soon he will know that time cannot be reclaimed. As soon as she vanishes, Zidane runs over to tell him that Bartz has been captured, and he needs to be rescued. Squall, despite previously wanting to go alone, immediately agrees to follow Zidane to rescue their friend. And with that said, his crystal appears, and fires out a beam of light that leads straight to Bartz’s whereabouts.
        Of course, we already know from a previous article that Bartz turns out fine, so lets turn to Squall’s gameplay. Unlike Laguna, he is more of a close range fighter, but he still has a very good set of mid range moves. His ground physical blows are slashes from his Gunblade, which, upon hitting, turn into a barrage of blows. However, getting that first hit can occasionally be hard- his range is much less than you would expect.
        On the other hand, he does have impressive magic. Blizzard, Fire, or Thunder Berret has him fire off a blast of the element forward at the enemy, either a homing blast of ice, homing fireballs, or a wave of lightning, the latter even able to pull enemies closer. Fusillade, on the other hand, has him fire off four shots, two ice and two fire, the latter of which home, before finishing with a wave of lightning, after which he can chase them. The move basically combies the two Berrets into something better.
        In the air he can fire off Mystic Flurry, where he fires out ice projectiles that turn into lightning orbs, shocking the enemy repeatedly before slamming them into the ground. He also has the impressive Heel Crush, where he spins at the enemy and slams a kick down on them. The CPU, I recall, has an annoying habit of using that move repeatedly when they can, and for good reason- it can break guards easily and comes out quickly.
        As for his HP attacks, they are very good at closing distance. Fated Circle draws enemies in and deflects some projectiles before everything around him explodes, Revolver Drive has him charge at the enemy and, if he hits them, he can keep running with them pinned on his blade, taking brave damage, until he sends them flying with an explosion. Blasting Zone, which I mentioned above, has him create a blade of energy to extend his sword’s range, and slams it down on the enemy.
        In the air or on the ground he can perform Rough Divide, where he jumps up and launches across almost any distance to slash his opponent. Aerial Circle is the same as Fated Circle, but in the air, and vertical rather than horizontal.
        Finally, we have his EX Mode, where he equips Lionheart, his ultimate weapon. This increases his critical hit chance, melee range, and makes all of said physical blows land more hits per attack since he is pulling the trigger on the Gunblade as he slashes. His Ex Burst, Renzokuken, has him fly at the enemy and slash them repeatedly, a gauge appearing where you have to press Circle in time with the slashes, as indicated by a blue bit on the gauge. When he is done, he slashes through the enemy once more with the Lion’s Heart attack, making them explode.
        And so, with the heroes done, we come to the last character we’ll discuss this time, Ultimecia. She has the longest range of any character in the game, and most of her attacks are very long ranged and tend to keep the enemy at that safe distance. Her attacks are slow but powerful. She has four Brave moves, which work the same on land or air.
        Knight’s Blade has her fire out red energy blades at the enemy, floating freely as she does. Normally you have to press the button to repeatedly to fire, but if she holds down the button, she can fire out twice as many blades at once and automatically as long as you hold it, but will float more slowly. Knight’s Axe normally fires out three homing axes that allow her to chase the enemy, but she can charge up to fire off a giant axe that homes more slowly, but follows more persistently. She can hold this charge for a very long time, but it is more so she can float than anything, as the axe will not change.
        Knight’s Arrow fires purple darts out of her wings, which rain down in the enemy. If you hold it, she will slowly create five arrows, which hand in place. After a short time, they will rush at the enemy very quickly with great precision. Lastly, Knight’s Lance is her close range move. Normally three lances will stab out of her position, sending enemies flying and letting you chase them, but charged up she can hover about and when she lets go, the lances will appear in front of her as an obstacle, hurting anything that touches it.
        Her HP moves similarly can be used on the ground or air, except these first two. Shockwave Pulsar has her toss a magical grenade, and the longer she charges the further it will go. It also draws enemies in. Great Attractor has her charge up energy for a while, floating, and create a small energy ball in her hands. It will grow, blocking attacks and hurting things that touch it, until she fires it off as a fast projectile.
        Her last two HP moves are Apocalypse, where she produces a magical sigil that flies at the enemy and, when the button is let go, sends a wave of magic upwards to hit them. Hell’s Judgement, on the other hand, has her produce magical fire below the enemy, which explodes. Best for a stationary enemy, of course.
        Her Ex Mode is Junction Griever, where she fuses with Griever, a beast she summoned in the original game from Squall’s mind, a representation his idea of ultimate power. In any case, this fusion gives her a boost to critical hits, as well as the new attack Time Crush. By holding R and Square, she will start charging, and, if she can finish doing so, will freeze the enemy in time. This gives her the perfect chance to strike with her EX Burst, Time Compression. When using it, she freezes the enemy in time and summons several magical bolts to hit them, and you help by pressing Circle in time with the strikes, same as Squall’s. In the end she will finish them with Sorceress Heart, a massive explosive spell.

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