Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII is a Japanese-style role-playing video game (JRPG) produced by Square Soft (now Square Enix) in 1999 for Play Station and computers. It is the first chapter of the series to have been translated into Italian, to present realistically proportioned characters and with a song as the main theme.
The plot concerns the events of a group of mercenaries led by Squall, engaged in a conflict unleashed by the witch Edea, and is permeated by a series of strong themes (love, friendship, militarism) through a coherent narrative. A cult chapter, he elevated the entire series to the status of myth: 3.3 million copies were sold in just two days.
Released at the turn of the old millennium and the beginning of the new, FFVIII can be interpreted as a fable about destiny and the transition to adulthood, a metaphor for the end of an era, for irreversibility, for fears (of losing the well-being of the end of the millennium) and anxieties - the theme of time, at the end of the 20th century, frightened for several reasons, such as the Millennium bug. It is no coincidence that another great masterpiece with technology, predestination and time at the base of the plot came out at the same time: the film Matrix.
The myth behind the genesis of FFVIII's world is a "divine" figure called Hyne who, in his quest to shape the world, commissioned humans to do some of his work. The humans, however, built everything to their liking, so Hyne decided to punish them by killing many; some rebelled and managed to counter the divinity, which allowed them to obtain half of their body and the possibility of using magical powers.
Hyne's descendants are called "witches": they have existed since ancient times (as evidenced by the memorial statues in the ruins of Centra) and there is one for each generation. To die in peace, each of them must leave their power to the next witch - usually girls with magical powers from birth and protected by a "knight".
Centra was the center of a thriving civilization over 4,000 years ago, characterized by cutting-edge technology - what remains of it is in the mobile structures upon which the Gardens were built.
It was the Centra civilization that founded Dollet and Galbadia after its destruction.
Centra was destroyed by a cyclical and catastrophic phenomenon that has occurred for thousands of years, the Lunar Cry, caused by a surplus of monsters on the lunar surface; the Moon ejects the excessive number into a scarlet mass that crashes to the Earth under the force of gravity.
Following the total destruction of Centra, the nations were: Galbadia, Timber, Balamb and Dollet. And Estahr, isolated from the world.
Galbadia was subjected to a repressive military dictatorship by Vincent Deling (who gave his surname to the capital, Deling City), while Esthar fell into the hands of the witch Adele: 18 years before current events, Adele sparked a conflict called the War of witch. Thanks to Dr. Odine, Adele had the Lunatic Pandora built near the ruins of Centra, a structure to strike Galbadia through the reaction of a new Lunar Weep.
Odine also built a device to join GFs to humans and made it possible for the latter to use magic.
During the Witch War Timber and Dollet came under the martial regime of Galbadia. Meanwhile, Esthar scientists deserted and founded the independent city Fisherman's Horizon.
Laguna is one of the Galbadian soldiers who participated in the Timber invasion along with comrades Kiros and Ward. The three usually drink at the hotel bar in Deling City, where Laguna falls in love with pianist Giulia Heartilly.
Back on a mission, Giulia no longer meets Laguna (for whom she composed the song Eyes on Me) and therefore marries Fury Caraway, a colonel in the army of Galbadia. From this union Rinoa Heartilly will be born.
Meanwhile, Esthar's soldiers scour Winhill for the next witch. In this village lives Ellone, an orphan girl saved by Raine and also adopted by Laguna, who in the meantime has arrived in the village after a series of vicissitudes. The three then form a family.
The idyll is broken by the return of Esthar's soldiers, who kidnap Ellone; Laguna sets out to save her without knowing that Raine is pregnant with her.
Laguna later becomes the leader of the movement to free Esthar from the witch, learning of Adele's obsession with n: the little girl has the power to send a person's consciousness back in time.
Odine and Laguna set up a trap to stop Adele: they lured the witch with a hologram of Ellone inside her, a structure that neutralizes her powers which, later, is thrown into space.
This event ends the Witch's War: Laguna becomes president of Esthar (isolating her from the rest of the world) and Ellone returns to Winhill, where Raine dies shortly after giving birth to Squall.
Ellone and Squall are sent to an orphanage directed by Edea Kramer, called "Matron" by the orphaned children.
The War has made many children orphans: not only Ellone and Squall but also Quistis, Zell, Seifer, Selphie and Irvine are welcomed by Edea, who already knows she will become a witch. One day she receives a young boy on a visit along with a dying woman: she is a witch and has come to pass on her powers.
Edea and her husband Cid decide to found a training center where they combine classical studies and military training so that students are able to fight a witch. The Gardens of Balamb, Galbadia and Trabia are built on mobile structures dating back to the times of Centra.
Garden graduates are called SeeDs and are often recruited as mercenaries to finance the school: in fact, they need a lot of funds that Cid does not have, so he accepts them from the shumi Norg on the condition that he is the sole owner.
The orphans of the Matron's orphanage are sent to the three Gardens, while Ellone is entrusted by Edea to a special group called "white SeeD" who, for security reasons, keep their existence and location secret.
This balance is broken again by a witch of the future, Ultimecia: taking possession of Edea through the machinery of Doctor Odine which simulates the power of Ellone, the witch wants to eliminate the SeeDs and use Ellone to achieve a temporal compression, combining present, past and future in a status quo where she is an immortal and omniscient deity.
Totally changed under the influence of Ultimecia, Edea allies herself with Vinzer Deling of Galbadia by developing an adequate media campaign.
Squall meanwhile has grown up and is close to graduation to obtain the title of SeeD through an exam that he must pass together with Seifer, Zell and Selphie, which is to help Dollet counter the supremacy of Galbadia.
Upon returning from the mission, everyone receives the coveted title except Seifer, who was rejected due to his insubordinate conduct.
The graduation celebration culminates with a dance, during which Squall meets Rinoa.
Subsequently, Quistis asks Squall to follow her to the training center, to a point where the couples meet, trying to declare himself to Squall, who however is not interested in the young teacher. On the way back, the two encounter a girl in distress: Ellone (Squall doesn't recognize her), who is immediately turned away by the white SeeDs.
The next day Squall, Zell and Selphie are sent on a mission: they must go to Timber to help the Wood Owls (a resistance group to the occupation of Galbadia). Rinoa is one of the members of the group and on this occasion she gets to know about Seifer's rejection - if she is very sad, the two have been engaged in the past.
An incomprehensible message is broadcast on the external screen of the TV station due to strong interference from radio frequencies. The message is sent by the witch Adele in orbit from space and reads: "I am alive here bring me back there I will never let you forget about me I will never let you bound me back".
The SeeDs and the Owls try to storm President Deling's train, only to discover that there is a puppet inside: the president is at the television studio to introduce Edea as the "new ambassador of peace"; the witch seduces Seifer into her "knight".
Following these events, the SeeDs are informed that Seifer has been sentenced to death for attacking President Deling.
Soon after, the SeeDs meet Dodoon, the Supreme of the Garden of Galbadia, who confesses to him that the Gardens of Balamb and Galbadia actually want peace and entrusts him with the task of killing the witch Edea. To carry out this mission, the sniper from Galbadia, Irvine, joins the team.
The SeeDs travel to Deling City at the residence of Colonel Caraway (Rinoa's father - his wife Giulia died earlier in an accident) where they set up the mission: Edea must be killed during the parade in her honor, Irvine is in charge to shoot her.
During the preparations, Rinoa decides to trap Edea, but she fails and the witch manages to make her speech to the people, announcing that she really wants to start a new era of terror and occult power. Then begins the parade of the witch, next to her is Seifer: the boy is not dead, now he is her knight.
Irvine shoots Edea, but a protective shield saves her from the bullet. Squall reaches for the chariot to fight her firsthand, but the witch knocks him out by hitting him in the chest with a large chunk of ice.
SeeDs are locked up in a Galbadian prison in the desert. Squall and his companions, however, manage to escape and reach the Garden of Balamb, threatened to be destroyed by the missiles of Galbadia. The Garden is maneuvered and moved away from the point where it stands, saving itself from enemy fire.
Squall discovers that there is actually no peace agreement between the Gardens of Balamb and Galbadia and that in reality Edea and Cid are husband and wife - for the first time he learns that Edea is being manipulated by Ultimecia, Cid knew that his wife was a witch.
The Garden of Balamb crashes into Fisherman's Horizon, the maritime town that declares itself neutral and extraneous to any conflict and which has been occupied by Galbadian troops. Cid then appoints Squall as the leader of the SeeDs and the team flew to Trabia.
The Garden of Trabia (where Selphie studied) was heavily damaged by the missiles from Galbadia. The whole team gathers at the academy basketball court and each begins to recall childhood memories of growing up together in an orphanage - the amnesia was caused by the use of GFs, which cause memory loss. to those who invoke them. They also remember that Edea is the Matron, the one who raised them. They decide to commit themselves to fight it for the common good.
The clash is not long in coming: after breaking into the Garden of Galbadia, following a titanic fight, Seifer is defeated, the evil powers abandon Edea and find space in Rinoa's body. She resurrects Seifer and orders him to retrieve the Lunatic Pandora to trigger a new Lunar Cry. Overwhelmed by the possession of Ultimecia, Rinoa passes out.
Squall wants to meet Ellone to use his power and save Rinoa by going back to the past. But in the meantime a serious conflict broke out between Galbadia and Esthar and Ellone took refuge in the latter city (where her adoptive father, Laguna, governs). The entire team then heads to the futuristic and most secret city in the world.
Squall catches up with Ellone, who is currently in space at the Estharan orbital station, taking Rinoa with him. Ellone confides that even by going into the past with his consciousness, Squall will not be able to change the future.
Meanwhile, the Lunatic Pandora appears, pointing straight to Tear's Point (the place hit by the Lunar Cry): while the Lunar Cry begins, Ultimecia leaves Rinoa's body to awaken Adele and the girl finds herself wandering in space.
Squall manages to save Rinoa incredibly and they both find refuge in the old Estharian spaceship Lagunarock.
Back on Earth, Rinoa is arrested like Adele many years earlier: Squall manages to free her and bring her back to the Lagunarock, before heading to the orphanage - where they promise to meet again.
SeeDs later reach Esthar where they finally encounter Laguna, who informs them that Ellone has been swifted by the Galbadian soldiers and taken to the Lunatic Pandora. Dr. Odine then suggests that the SeeDs fight Ultimecia in the future in order to defeat her, thereby letting the temporal compression take place. To do this, the SeeDs must kill Adele (two witches cannot coexist in the same generation) and let Ultimecia take over Rinoa.
Upon reaching Lunatic Pandora, Adele-Ultimecia enters into osmosis with Rinoa's body. Adele is defeated and, once Ellone arrives, temporal compression begins.
Squall and his companions thus reach Ultimecia's castle: the witch is seated on a huge throne and gives the SeeDs a crazy and megalomaniacal speech. The titanic clash begins, during which Ultimecia probes Squall's mind by putting him in front of his innermost fears and thus making him serve with Griever (lion symbol of courage portrayed on Squall's ring). The witch changes her appearance during the fight, throwing the SeeDs to the borders of space and time.
At the end of the grueling fight, time gradually resumes its course, starting from the past: Squall takes dying Ultimecia to the orphanage to meet Edea and transmit her powers, thus triggering the time paradox that will allow Squall to defeat the witch.
Squall then finds himself wandering in the desert, due to the contraction of space-time, later finding himself with Rinoa where they had promised to meet if fate separated them, in the field of flowers near the orphanage.
Peace finally reigns, the witch has been defeated. Seifer has decided to lead a simple life with his best friends, Raijin and Fujin. Laguna goes to the grave of his beloved Raine with Ellone. The SeeDs celebrate the victory, as do Cid and Edea. Squall and Rinoa are reunited.
Main character. Son of Laguna and Raine.
According to Nomura, Squall was the most difficult character to make. Wanting to make it highly recognizable, she drew him with a scar on his face.
Squall's character is inspired by actor River Phoenix (they both have their birthdays on August 23) - singer Gackt said on a TV show that Nomura was actually inspired by him.
A student of Balamb Garden, Squall specializes in the use of the Gunblade. Cold and resolute, in the course of the story his character will have a gradual evolution.
Nomura's co-star and favorite character (many argue that he was inspired by a particular woman he loved).
Cheerful and outgoing, she is the only character in the group not to have spent her childhood in an orphanage.
Daughter of Julia Heartilly and Colonel Caraway, Rinoa is a member of the Wood Owls. Her weapon of hers is a sharp boomerang - she happens to be joined in combat by her dog Angelo.
Professor of the Garden of Balamb, known for her beauty and professionalism - so much so that she boasts the Trepe fan club, founded by some students.
In love with Squall, she abandons her teaching position to follow him on his mission. She fights with a whip.
Conceived as a character of a shonen (manga for teenagers, aimed at a male audience).
At the age of five he was adopted by the Dincht family in Balamb. Impulsive and trouble-making, at Garden he falls in love with the librarian and the cafeteria sandwiches.
He fights by hitting with his fists. The huge tattoo on his face was made by Nomura after seeing a video on MTV of a man with a fully tattooed body.
Raised in Trabia, she moved to Balamb Garden to become a SeeD.
Self-confident, cheerful, courageous and resolute, she fights with the nunchaku.
Initially she was supposed to wear a jumpsuit, Nomura then replaced it with the iconic dungaree with a yellow miniskirt. Another element that sets Selphie apart is her quirky hairstyle.
Galbadia Garden Sharpshooter. Unlike the other team members, he remembers very well his past as he didn't use GFs like the others. Charming Dongiovanni, he has an American cowboy look.
Arrogant student in strong competition with Squall. He heads the Balamb Garden disciplinary committee with Raijin and Fujin.
He has never been able to become a SeeD due to his temperament and chooses to be devoted servant of the witch Edea, turning his back on Garden.
He also fights with the Gunblades.
Nomura initially had a troubled love triangle in mind between Squall, Rinoa and Seifer, later abandoning the idea.
Protagonist of the parallel plot in the dreams of Squall and his companions.
Galbadian soldier who wished to become a journalist (he collaborated with Timber Maniacs magazine). His fellow soldiers are Kiros Seagull and Ward Zelbak.
In the video game it is not explicit, but it seems that Laguna realizes that he is Squall's father once he meets him.
His character was created immediately after Squall's, resulting in him being a mirror image.
Initially presented as the main antagonist, she is actually a victim of the witch Ultimecia's control.
She is the "matron" who cared for the orphans of the Witch's War. She absorbed the powers as a young woman from Ultimecia via the time paradox.
Edea as a witch is diametrically opposed to the idea without possession, modestly dressed and with long hair down.
Its character design was conceived even before FFVII was made.
She is also the wife of Principal Cid, whose characters the creators were inspired by actor Robin Williams.
Central enemy that appears only at the end of the game. Meanwhile, she is reflexively present through Edea and Rinoa's control. Her personality is defined through Edea's dialogues and the crazy final monologue.
She is a witch of an unspecified future, her goal is to unleash temporal compression by superimposing every historical epoch and canceling every form of life to become like an omnipotent and omniscient divinity.
The GFs are invocations. Since the authors had abandoned the idea of "creatures to train", the new GFs are more like "monsters". The figures of Shiva and Siren (the most anthropomorphic ones) have been redesigned completely naked and without clothes, with some details to cover the private parts.
A more or less long sequence has been assigned to each invocation.
CREATION AND STYLE
Final Fantasy VIII went into production just a year after the completion of FFVII (the most popular RPG ever in the world and one of the best video games of all time), in parallel with the development of the survival horror Parasite Eve.
The team that worked on the eighth chapter of the series was made up of Hironobu Sakaguchi, director Yoshinori Kitase and screenwriter Kazushige Nojima, Yasuke Naora as artistic director, Tetsuya Nomura as character designer and composer Nobuo Uematsu.
With the desire to make the most of the great potential of Play Station, the authors have decided to abandon 3D by embracing for the first time ever a fully realistic style: the characters finally have realistic proportions (great care has been given to the details of the joints. to avoid polygonal defects), designed so that they can move simultaneously in groups of three.
FFVIII was conceived from the outset for an international audience, Nomura therefore created characters with a vaguely Western air - being facilitated by the work done for Parasite Eve, where the characters have style and maturity.
The same propensity for realism has also been extended to the settings, now no longer flat but with "voluminous" elements. Cities are articulated, not just passageways, they have characteristics that define the nature of each place through colors, backgrounds and flags, as well as the numerous details of each neighborhood. And since this video game was designed for a global audience, elements in the futuristic style of Europe (taking full inspiration from Paris) and ancient Greek have been incorporated.
To take a real step forward in stylistic terms compared to FFVII and all the previous chapters of the series, the authors have decided, for the first time, to abandon the dark and oppressive atmospheres: FFVIII is a triumph of light, freshness and futurism.
The Garden itself, where future SeeDs study and train is a place where all the equipment is in harmony with nature and its colors.
Another novelty introduced with the eighth chapter is the complete Triple Triad card minigame, conceived by Hiroyuki Ito to meet the passion of young people for card games related to anime - the Pokémon Trading Card Game was in fact introduced in Japan in 1996 and the USA in 1998, while Yu-Gi-Oh! in 1999.
What is further striking about this chapter are the cinematic sequences, intense and exciting. The authors exploited the "motion capture" technique, employing actors of the same age as the characters in order to reproduce the movements of adolescents.
Through the "overlap" method they then superimposed the game images on the cinematic ones, making everything uniform, not to mention that for the first time the player can use the character during the cinematics itself - a titanic undertaking in terms of programming, counting the more than 90 hours of total gameplay spread over four CDs!
Love, time and destiny are the main cornerstones of the eighth chapter.
The love story between Squall and Rinoa is self-evident right from the box cover.
While many fans have disliked this seemingly cheesy theme, the story between the two protagonists is by no means superficial.
As we know, it all started with the iconic dance scene, in which the two meet for the first time to the tune of Eyes on Me. Since then it has been a crescendo of emotions, on some occasions Squall and Rinoa have left with breathlessness as during the reunion in space. All with the aim of the player's emotional attachment to the characters, as well as in parallel the crescendo of drama until the end of the story.
The development of the feelings and the maturation of the characters (especially that of Squall) are articulated in a race against time to stop the witch and her attempt to annihilate him.
The idea behind the chronological and historical "time" of FFVIII is that it is fixed and pre-established (as Ellone sentences "The past does cannot be changed"). There is a strong idea of predestination at the base of all the choices that the characters make, chasing a destiny already marked and established.
The characters have free will and make choices, but it is also true that there is the superior force of destiny and that whatever they do, even if coherent, takes the story and the plot in a very specific direction. Destiny also unites the characters with each other, who have ties of kinship or ancient friendship. It is no coincidence that the initial musical theme is precisely Liberi fatali, "children of destiny".
By the way, music plays a very important role in FFVIII. Unlike the previous chapter, where the characters were associated with a musical theme, here there is no main theme except Eyes on Me (sung by Faye Wong) which represents the soundtrack of the love between Laguna and Julia and between Squall and Rinoa.
For this chapter Uematsu has made many songs unforgettable, such as Blue fields as a musical accompaniment to the world map, Waltz for the Moon for the famous dance scene and the very curious techno piece The Man with the Machine Gun.
The mystical dimension of witches is perfectly evoked by the harmony of harpsichord, organ and choir de Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec (succession of witches, love - it is not Latin, but an anagram) and the introductory Liberi fatali.
The soundtrack was an incredible success: it quickly sold 300,000 copies, while the single Eyes on Me sold 500,000 copies in the meantime.
The song Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec was also used by Louis Vuitton during the show of the Cruise 2020 collection (from minute 3:11).
FFVIII is full of references to mass culture, music and cinema, as well as literary characters through the choice of character names (just think of Cid, also present in the various other chapters of the saga with more or less different characteristics) .
The full motion video showing the arrival at the moon base is a tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Stanley Kubrick.
Star Wars had a huge impact on this chapter.
Biggs and Wedge take their names from Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles, the wingmen of Luke Skywalker's Red Squadron in Episode IV: A New Hope.
Piet is derived from Firmus Piett, an Imperial officer of the Star Wars movies.
In the Japanese, German and Spanish versions, Martine is called Dodonna, in the Italian one Dodonn; he is derived from one of the first generals of the Rebel Alliance.
Another interesting quote is about the dancers in the Edea parade in Deling City, dancing to the moves of Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Raijin and Fujin take their names from Japanese mythology, the god of thunder and the god of winds. Both are depicted together in Japanese art, as is also demonstrated by the entrance to the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.
There are also a number of references to the real world.
The Monterosa Plateau, located near Galbadia, takes its name from the Monte Rosa massif, the highest in the Alps and located in Switzerland and Italy.
The Deling City Arch is inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, just as the Tomb of the Unknown King alludes to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located just below the aforementioned Arch. The large clock of the Ultimecia's castle could refer to Big Ben in London or the clock in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
The nation of Centra would recall what the Roman Empire was in the real world. Dollet and Esthar were founded by emigrants from Centra: the old Dollet was known as the Holy Dollet Empire, an allusion to the Holy Roman Empire - regarded as the continuation of the Western Roman Empire. Esthar, technologically much more advanced, is therefore to be considered as the Byzantine Empire or the Eastern Roman Empire.
The Deep Sea Research Center could allude to Hashima Island (or Gunkanshima, or "warship island"), located in Nagasaki prefecture. In the past this island hosted one of the most important mining sites in Japan, but in 1974 it was totally abandoned when the use of oil instead of coal was used. It has thus become one of the greatest examples of industrial archeology and a destination for lovers of ruins from all over the world. In 2015 it became one of the 23 industrial historical sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Cid's surname, or Kramer, would be inspired by Heinrich Kramer, the author of Malleus Maleficarum (1487), "The witch's hammer", a treatise aimed at repressing heresy, paganism and witchcraft in Germany - in a time when the latter was seen as a form of Satanism.
The name Cid would instead be inspired by the medieval Spanish leader El Cid (1043-1099).
Analyzing all the temporal traits and the individual dialogues we can say that FFVIII often lacks clarity, but certainly this is part of its charm and the unclear points that fans around the world continue to discuss even today.
FFVIII is a chapter that leaves room for theories that, on the other hand, have never been confirmed or denied by the creators.
The first theory in analysis dates back to 2008 and was written by Diedra Rater and Rahul Choudhury on their website: Squall would have died at the end of the first CD, when Edea (possessed by Ultimecia) hits him in the chest with a huge fragment of ice. According to the two authors, the whole story from there would be nothing more than a long vision of the dying protagonist and his attempts to give coherent explanations to his life with a consoling happy ending.
Through this "ante mortem" vision, Squall would have idealized his relationship with Rinoa: throughout the first CD between the two in fact there is no lack of reproaches and discussions, Rinoa herself shows to be very attached to Seifer, while from the second CD onwards she seems to have totally forgot his feelings for Seifer, focusing entirely on Squall.
The final kinematics, moreover, would show Squall's fictional vision at its end: with temporal compression he sees all life flowing in front of him, even Rinoa's face dissolves.
The footage of the finale adds even more confusion: the camera shutting down due to low battery shows Rinoa alone on the Garden balcony pointing to a shooting star. Subsequently, from another angle, Squall and Rinoa are shown alone: no one seems to have seen them together, so this is Squall's last thought or, according to yet another theory, Rinoa is crazy because Squall died during the temporal compression, and only she can see it with her imagination?
Another theory holds that Ultimecia would have become Rinoa evil, or rather, mad, due to the death of Squall (aka her rider) during the temporal compression.
The original name of the witch, Ultimecia (in the Japanese and Anglophone version of the video game) - or "last messiah" - in the Latin form dates back to and has much in common with Artemisia II (in Greek, Ἀρτεμισία), ruler of ancient Greece, sister and wife di Mausolo: from the name of the latter derives the noun "mausoleum", like the one that Artemisia had built on the death of her consort in her honor - one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Ultimecia lives in a castle whose portals recall the entrance of an ancient-Roman temple, not to mention that inside it is full of works of art and statues.
The witch also wants to take hold of Ellone's power to have the possibility of going into the past: this fact and other clues would suggest that Ultimecia had a knight in the past and that she would therefore like to go back in time to be able to reunite with him. According to this reading Squall should therefore be Rinoa's knight.
Before leaving to face Adele at Lunatic Pandora, Rinoa makes Squall promise that if Ultimecia got hold of her again, he would have to kill her.
When Squall and Rinoa find themselves alone on Lagunarock, Rinoa says, "I don't want the future. I want the present. I want to stay here with you ...", probably alluding to temporal compression.
Squall wears a chain with a pendant around his neck that recalls the Cross of St. James and the Griever, a lion shape also present on his ring and that Rinoa knows very well. During the final fight, Ultimecia materializes the Griever (who fights her SeeDs instead of her) after claiming to be able to probe the minds of her opponents.
This theory, which sees Ultimecia and Rinoa as the same "person", assumes that Ultimecia has completely gone mad and has forgotten her past identity (ie Rinoa): if Squall is indeed her knight in the past, the witch never misses an opportunity to slaughter it and try to eliminate it. Her madness reaches its climax with her speech on the throne, disjointed and megalomaniac.
Surely these theories meet the enormous "frustration" of fans in the face of the imposing complexity of the story. In fact, FFVIII remains an immense masterpiece that still does not stop questioning fans from all over the world and that continues to fascinate.