Balamb Garden - Beginning the Adventure

Welcome to the walkthrough and strategy guide for Final Fantasy VIII! As with any strategy guide or walkthrough, please note that these pages are full of spoilers. Don’t read too far ahead if this is your first time playing through the game and you’d prefer not to spoil the story.

Final Fantasy VII Intro Screen
Helpful Hint…

This strategy guide has been updated to include any changes or modifications made to newer versions of the game, including the Final Fantasy VIII Remastered version for PlayStation 4 (PS4). Notes have been added to each of the relevant sections that have been impacted.

Let’s get started…

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

Balamb Garden - Infirmary

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 fun parts of the game! Your answer selections will not impact the outcome of the game.

Dr. Kadowaki will ask Squall what his name is and this is where you’re given the opportunity to choose the name of the main character. His default name is Squall and this guide will refer to each of the characters by their default names throughout. Somehow, any name besides Squall seems unfitting anyways so you should just leave his name as the default selection.

Dr. Kadowaki speaking to Squall in the Infirmary
Quistis during her introduction cinematic

Quistis will come meet up with Squall in the Infirmary and will escort him back to the classroom while she tries to get to know him better. Quistis is 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 a great party member to use - she is very strong and her Limit Breaks have great utility throughout the game.

Check out the Characters section for more information on the strength and weaknesses of each party member and how to go about constructing the strongest team:

Balamb Garden - Classroom

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.

She will explain to Squall that he needs to have passed the prerequisite exam in order to take place in the SeeD Field Exam later this afternoon - the prerequisite being a trip to the Fire Cavern. Quistis decides 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.

Walk back to the study panel and press the X Button Button near it to open it up. You can skip this section if you’re already familiar with the game mechanics for Final Fantasy VIII, but if this is your first time playing through, the study panel offers all kinds of useful tips for playing the game. 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.

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

Balamb Garden - 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’d like a quick walkthrough (or reminder, if you’ve played before) of the layout of Balamb Garden.

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

Balamb Garden during the opening cinematic
Selphie running past Squall in the Balamb Garden hallway

Head down the hallway on the right side of the screen and speak to the man in the green/yellow clothing on the south side of the hallway. The man will ask you if you’d like to have some free cards for playing Triple Triad. He will give you a very brief overview of the card game before providing you with all seven cards (Geezard, Funguar, Red Bat, Gayla, Gesper, Fastitocalon-F and a Caterchipillar). Having seven cards on your person is enough to begin challenging card players to a game of Triple Triad around Balamb Garden.

Card Player meeting up with Squall in the hallway
Triple Triad

Triple Triad is an optional card game and side quest that you can play as you progress through Final Fantasy VIII. In addition to offering some challenging trophies and rewards to obtain along the way, you can actually use the Card Mod ability to change extra cards into powerful items, which can be modified again into powerful magics!

As a result, not only is Triple Triad a fun side quest with plenty of rewards to obtain, it also serves as a powerful tool for powering up your characters early on with high level spells and abilities. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you play Triple Triad as you progress through the game.

Refer to the Triple Triad section of this strategy guide for more useful information about this side quest / mini-game.

This strategy guide and walk through will point out all of the points in the game where it is important or efficient to play some games of Triple Triad, so don’t worry about missing anything important! And, while there are some important cards that you can pick up around Balamb Garden right now, its much easier to begin collecting these cards after you complete the Fire Cavern portion of the game, as you’ll gain access to some powerful cards along the way. So we’re going to skip over obtaining some of the rare cards for now.

Balamb Garden - Hall

Make your way down from the elevator and Squall will point out the directory (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 various areas.

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.

Balamb Garden - Cafeteria

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).

PlayStation 4 Remaster Note

Note that it has been reported that this dialogue cannot be initiated at this point of the game in the PlayStation 4 Remaster version of the game.

Balamb Garden - Library

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 won’t need them for that purpose (as you have this guide already), it’s still important to try to collect all of the items that you can find throughout the game.

Squall at the elevator in Balamb Garden
Squall checking out the Library sign in Balamb Garden

There is also a Draw Point towards the back 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.

Balamb Garden Map
Occult Fan I in the Balamb Library

Balamb Garden - Front Gate

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

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 AP section for more information.

Quezacoatl and Shiva will start off 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, its much more important to begin having them learn abilities and utilities that you can harness in battle; there are much more powerful options 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 and increase them depending on how powerful the magic is that you junction. Junctioning magic is an incredibly powerful tool that you can use to increase the power of your party.

Have Quezacoatl begin learning the following abilities:
- HP-J
- Vit-J

Have Shiva begin learning the following abilities:
- Str-J
- Vit-J

Quezacoatl comes with the Mag-J abilities pre-learned while Shiva will already have Spr-J. You won’t 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.

Triple Triad: Learning Card Mod

Focus on having Quezacoatl learn junctioning abilities (HP-J and Vit-J) first and foremost, however, once he has learned these two abilities, have it start learning the Card ability, followed by Card Mod.

Card Mod is an incredibly powerful ability that allows you to convert Triple Triad Cards into items. You will then gain other abilities (called Refine abilities) which allow you to refine items into other items or magic. This process allows you to obtain powerful abilities and items by playing Triple Triad across the world and is the crux of the Triple Triad Power Up Strategy.

Make sure to have Quezacoatl learn Card Mod early on in the game (ideally before you reach Disc 2).

Travel back away from the front gate, towards Balamb Garden, and grab the Draw Point there. Head out the front gate once you are ready to go.