Final Fantasy VIII starts off with a breathtaking opening sequence that sets the tone for the epic adventure to come. The scene introduces us to the game’s protagonist, Squall Leonhart, and his fellow students at Balamb Garden, a prestigious military academy where they train to become powerful mercenaries.
Table Of Contents
The Second Floor Classroom
Once you’ve finished watching the intro, you’ll begin the game in an infirmary with Dr. Kadowaki, who will ask Squall how he is and for him to “say his name.” The first question prompts a dialogue choice but the decision here has no effect on anything later down the line, so feel free to choose either option. Her request for Squall’s name prompts you to rename Squall should you so choose.
You are then introduced to Squall’s instructor and fellow party member, Quistis. Proceed with her to the classroom. Once there, Quistis will talk to the classroom about the upcoming SeeD exam and request to speak to Squall personally. At this point, you are free to explore the classroom before speaking to her. Pressing the confirm button near the screens where Squall was seated will open up a Study Panel screen.
From here, you can access the Tutorial page and the two GFs, Quezacotl and Shiva. There is also additional information and lore (notably on GFs). You can also access the Tutorial screen at any time from the Menu Screen and the two GFs will be given to you before you leave Balamb Garden if you miss them here.
Talk to Quistis. She will mention the Study Panel and then will discuss going to the Fire Cavern. She will accompany Squall there once you’ve finished your business at Balamb Garden.
Once you’ve left the classroom, you’ll bump into a student and will be able to choose how to respond. If you choose “Are you ok?”, you’ll find out that she’s a transfer student and you’ll have the option to give her a tour around Garden.
Regardless of what you choose, proceed to the bridge. Here you can choose to speak to the man there to obtain 7 low-level Triple Triad cards.
Note: Triple Triad is a card game that is central to several side-quests and can also allow the player to unlock powerful items and magic very early on in the game so if you’re aiming for an optimal run-through of the game then it’s recommended you familiarise yourself with the basics.
After you receive the cards from the student, proceed to the lift and go to the first floor.
If the transfer student is with you, you’ll head straight to the Directory. Here, you are shown how to use it and where the various facilities in Balamb Garden are. After this, the transfer student will leave Squall if you gave the tour.
Exploring the First Floor
Whether you gave the tour or not, you can now freely explore Balamb Garden. Here, you can currently win 2 rare Triple Triad cards and obtain 1 magazine.
(Note that winning the rare cards may prove difficult with low-level cards and it’s possible to leave and return here once you have stronger cards).
For the first rare card, Minimog’s Card, challenge the junior classman that’s running near the stairs by the directory. If you miss him on the first pass, you can leave and re-enter that specific area for another chance to challenge him. If the Minimog card doesn’t appear, keep challenging him until it does.
For the following rare card, Quistis’s Card, (as well as an optional scene), head for the Cafeteria. The fastest way to do this is via the directory. When you get there, you’ll see Seifer, Fujin, and Raijin.
Talk to them for an optional scene with another notable student. After this, proceed to the back of the Cafeteria and head to the table on the right. Challenge “The guy in the back” and if Quistis’ card doesn’t appear, keep challenging him until it does.
After this, head to the library and pick up the magazine “Occult Fan I” at the end of the second group of bookshelves you come across.
Further along these bookshelves, you’ll come across a draw point with Esuna. If you obtained the 2 GFs from the study panel earlier, you can junction “Draw” to Squall and draw Esuna now.
Once you have finished exploring Balamb Garden, head to the front gate. If you use the directory to get there, walk back through the gate to access a Draw Point with Cure. You will walk past it if you decided not to use the directory.
After this, head over to Quistis who will give you a tutorial on Junctioning. Junctioning is integral to setting up your characters’ stats and abilities so thankfully you can review the basics or the Tutorial in the menu in-game at any time.
Once Quistis’ tutorial is complete, You can leave for the Fire Cavern.