Balamb Garden
Beginning of the Adventure

The title screen for the remastered version of Final Fantasy VIII

Welcome to the walkthrough and strategy guide for Final Fantasy VIII! Before we dive in, as with any strategy guide or walkthrough, please be aware that this guide contains spoilers. If this is your first playthrough and you wish to avoid story spoilers, proceed with caution, and don’t read too far ahead!

Now, let’s begin…

Start Game Screen

The game begins with an opening cinematic involving each of the main characters.


Final Fantasy VIII starts off in the Infirmary area of Balamb Garden after the lead character gets his ass handed to him by Seifer. Answer Dr. Kadowaki’s questions so we can move on and get into some of the more enjoyable parts of the game! The answers you select at the start will not have an impact on the game’s outcome.

Dr. Kadowaki will ask Squall about his name, and this is where you will be given the opportunity to choose the main character’s name. The default name is Squall, and this strategy guide will consistently refer to him and each of the characters by their default name.

Any other name besides ‘Squall’ seems unfitting, so you should just leave his name as the default selection.

Start of the game with Dr. Kadowaki asking Squall how he is feeling

Quistis will meet up with Squall in the Infirmary and escort him back to the classroom while attempting to get to know him better. Quistis serves as Squall’s instructor at Balamb Garden, but she is also your first party member and will be with your team for the remainder of the game. She is an excellent party member to use; her attacks are very strong and her Limit Breaks provide great utility from start to finish.

Refer to the Characters section for more information on the strength and weaknesses of each party member and for guidance on constructing the strongest team:


Quistis will explain to the class that the SeeD Field Exam will be taking place later in the day. Once class has concluded, she will ask to speak to Squall one-on-one. Walk up to her at the front of the class and the other students will step aside.

Quistis accompanying Squall back to class

She will explain to Squall that he needs to have passed the prerequisite exam in order to take part in the SeeD Field Exam later this afternoon; the prerequisite being a trip to the dangerous Fire Cavern. Quistis opts to accompany Squall to the Fire Cavern and tells him to brush up on his skills at the study panel back where he was sitting.

Quistis in the classroom pointing out the study panel

Walk back to the study panel and press the XButton near it to open it up. You can skip this section if you are already familiar with the game mechanics for Final Fantasy VIII, but if this is your first time playing through the game or if it has been a while since you last played, the study panel offers all kinds of useful tips. Alternatively, check out the Tips and Tricks section of this strategy guide, specifically the sections under the “Basics” heading:

Once you open the study panel you will be given your first two Guardian Forces (GFs), Quezacotl and Shiva. If you skip past the study panel without viewing it, Quistis will give you your first two Guardian Forces when you meet up with her out by the front gate instead. In other words, its impossible to accidentally miss getting them.

Exit the classroom once you have read up on everything that you wanted to review at the study panel.

2F Hallway

Head down the hallway and Squall will be hit by another student that comes barreling down the hallway. Squall will be presented with an option for how to respond. If you select “Are you ok?” the student will ask if Squall can take her for a quick tour around the Garden. Select “Sure” if you would like a quick walkthrough (or a reminder, if you’ve played before) of the layout of Balamb Garden.

Squall asking Selphie if she’s okay after she bumped into him

Although this student does not have a name currently, and she does not introduce herself just yet, this student is someone that you’ll run into later on in the game (Selphie!).

Head down the hallway on the right side of the screen and speak to the man in the green and yellow clothing on the south side of the hallway. The man will ask you if you would like to have some free cards for playing Triple Triad.

Obtaining the first set of Triple Triad cards from the player on the second floor of Balamb Garden

He will give you a very brief overview of the card game before providing you with all seven of his cards (Geezard, Funguar, Red Bat, Gayla, Gesper, Fastitocalon-F, Caterchipillar). Having seven cards on your person is enough to begin challenging card players to a game of Triple Triad around Balamb Garden.

This strategy guide and walkthrough will identify all of the points in the game where it is important or efficient to play some matches of the Triple Triad card game, so don’t worry about missing anything important.

While there are some important cards that you can pick up around Balamb Garden right now, it is much easier to begin collecting these cards after you complete the Fire Cavern portion of the game, as you will be given some powerful cards along the way making it much easier to win games. So we are going to skip over obtaining some of the rare cards for now.


Make your way down from the elevator and Squall will point out the directory in the center of the walkway (if you opted to show Selphie around the garden). Squall will point out each of the wings of the garden and you can use the directory to quickly warp to any of these areas more quickly.

The main screen of the Balamb directory with the pointer on the dormitory

Start off by warping to the Cafeteria which is in the top-left corner of the directory and the north-west corner of the garden.


Squall will run into Seifer, Fujin, and Raijin in this area. Walk behind them and speak to the lady behind the cafeteria (the one on the left) and choose the “I’ll lend an ear…” option when presented with the dialogue screen. Next, choose “I’ll lend an ear…” again.

Completing this step is a requirement for a short cutscene later on in the game. Exit the Cafeteria now and make your way to the Library (which is located in the south-eastern corner of the garden).

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

It has been noted by many players that this side quest is either bugged or has been intentionally changed for those playing on the remastered versions (PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 as well as the Nintendo Switch).

Try facing different directions, entering and leaving the area a few times, etc. but if you’re playing the remastered version of the game you may have to come back and speak to the cafeteria lady. Don’t worry though, this guide will provide another reminder later on.

Seifer, Raijin and Fujin in the cafeteria


Examine the second bookshelf in the Library until you locate an item called Occult Fan I. These magazines provide hints and useful tips for completing many of the side quests throughout the game, and while you will not need them for that purpose (as you have this guide already), it is still important to try to collect all of the items that you can find throughout the game.

Picking up Occult Fan I magazine in the Balamb Garden library

There is also a Draw Point in the middle of the Library that contains Esuna. In order to Draw from it, Squall will need to have a Guardian Force junctioned and have the Draw command equipped as well. Now you can make your way to the front gate to meet up with Quistis.

Using the Draw Point in the library to pick up Esuna magic

Front Gate

Walk up towards Quistis and she will give you a quick explanation of how to junction Guardian Forces if you have not done so already. Equip one Guardian Force to Squall, one to Quistis, and before you head out, open up the menu and select the “GF” option.

Quistis giving an explanation of the junctioning process for GFs at the Balamb front gate

You should make a concerted effort as you play through the game to track abilities and skills that your Guardian Forces are learning as you earn Ability Points (AP). Your party members and your Guardian Forces will earn AP points at the end of every battle. Check out the Ability Points (AP) section for more information.

Quezacotl and Shiva will already be setup to begin learning the SumMag+10% ability which simply increases the amount of damage they do in battle when you summon them. While this can be helpful, it is much more important to begin having them learn abilities and utilities that you can harness in battle and important skills that you will need throughout the game. Simply put, there are much more powerful options for abilities that you should have your Guardian Forces begin focusing on at this stage.

The first abilities that you should have any of your Guardian Force learn are junctioning abilities. These are abilities that allow you to junction magic to specific character stats. The process of junctioning magic to a character stat is that it allows you to greatly increase that stat depending on how powerful the magic is that your able to junction. Junctioning magic is an incredibly powerful tool that you can use to increase the power of your entire party.

Have Quezacotl begin learning the following abilities:

Have Shiva begin learning the following abilities:

Quezacotl comes with the Mag-J ability pre-learned while Shiva will already have Spr-J. You will not have any magic to junction at this stage (unless you used the Esuna Draw Point) but you can soon begin junctioning magic to these stats.

Travel back away from the front gate, towards Balamb Garden, and grab the Draw Point there that contains some Cure magic. Head out the front gate once you are ready to continue.

Using a Cure Draw Point near the front of Balamb Garden

This is where Quistis will give you your two Guardian Forces, Quezacotl and Shiva, if you didn’t examine the Study Panel in the classroom.


You will receive the Quezacotl Trophy and the Shiva Trophy as soon as you receive Quezacotl and Shiva as Guardian Forces. Your first two Trophies have already been achieved!

Quezacotl Trophy

Alcauld Plains

The area of the world map around Balamb Garden is called the Alcauld Plains. When you first leave Balamb Garden, you can actually see the Fire Caverns not too far away, if you rotate the camera around. You can also press the SelectButton to pull up a map of the surrounding area.

Peaking over the forest to see the Fire Cavern in the distance near Balamb Garden

It is important to level up Squall and Quistis though before you head straight for the Fire Cavern. The best way to do this is to travel down to the beach area and look for enemies called Fastitocalon-F. These goldfish-like looking creatures offer the most Ability Points (AP) when you kill them, so take out a few of them to level up your Guardian Forces.

Walking along Balamb Beach on the World Map
Battle against a Fastitocalon on the beaches of Balamb

Make sure you junction the Draw command to both Quistis and Squall, and get into a habit of Drawing Magic from each of the enemies that you encounter. This can be a painful and annoying process as, ideally, you would like to have 100 of each Magic-type that you draw.

The more Magic you have in your inventory junctioned to a character stat, the higher that character stat will go. Check out the Magic Junctioning Guide for more information:

You can Draw magic from the following enemies:

Battle against a Caterchipillar

The Fire Cavern dungeon is fairly easy, and you certainly are not required to obtain anything before you head there, but you can make things much easier if you Draw some Cure magic from Caterchipillars or Glacial Eyes, some Blizzard magic from Glacial Eyes and Fastitocalon-F, and it would be helpful if you managed to have Shiva and Quezacotl learn one of their junctioning abilities (by earning 50 AP).

Head to the Fire Cavern when you are ready.