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The Rinoa/Ultimecia Theory

No one knows where the theory originated, but since the early days of the FF8 fandom, the idea of Ultimecia being a future, corrupted version of Rinoa has been both staunchly supported and attacked by gamers. I hope you'll see it with intrigue and amusement. Nothing is really canon after the game ends anyway, so let's just have fun with it and allow fans to indulge in harmless personal interpretation!

Section Quick Links:
Theory in a Nutshell | Points & Reasons
Benefits of Acceptance | The Uncanon Problem
The Original Article | Conclusion + Links

theory in a nutshell

There will be an Ultimecia in the future. Her existence, persecution, and defeat are inevitable. You can't change the past, and Ultimecia's death in the past created the present and future. Now what if that Ultimecia was not a random person yet to be born, but one of the fighters who would perpetuate her own tragic destiny?


Longevity.The theory starts with Rinoa living for a few hundred years longer than her peers. Her extended life could be the result of being sealed by Esthar technology or an anomaly caused by her inheritance of powers from three different witches. From there, there are a myriad of reasons why she changes. Some possibilities are amnesia and plain insanity. The simplest and best one is that she grows jaded and bitter from what ever horrors human unleash upon her. By then, Squall and anyone else she ever loved would have died long ago. They could have even died trying to protect her.

Motives. Whether she's corrupted, forgetful, or just crazy, she decides to compress time, just as she desired on the Ragnarok generations ago, to escape her fate. An alternative explanation is that she is only playing the part of being evil. She may remember everything, but realizes that her campaign needs to happen for her younger self to be happy, if only for a brief time. Which ever the reason, she knows all the complex details she needs to do to accomplish that goal.

Realization. As Ultimecia dies, falling right into the destiny that tortured her for most of her life, she tries to send a final message to her younger self. Treasure your youth and these precious times. There's only hell to come, and there's nothing you can to do about it. So right now, in the present, appreciate it. Then she warps back to Edea's Orphanage, to start the vicious cycle again.

(For people who hate unhappy endings, some have suggested a parallel universe Rinoa/Ultimecia, or multiple timelines created when you change history. This may be easier for some fans to swallow.)

points & reasons

Independently, these observations aren't conclusive. Collectively though, they're enough to stimulate creative fans and strongly give this theory the benefit of a doubt.

#1 The World Hates Witches #2 The Guardian Forces

They've been traditionally despised and Adel left a nasty impression. Many people haven't forgiven Edea and Rinoa was urged to be sealed immediately after awakening. Now people know Ultimecia is coming. But they don't know who she will be. Rinoa is now the only publicly known sorceress, and a powerful one. Her continued persecution is very likely.

Griever is the big one. I find it hard to believe that Ulti would use a newly created GF in the biggest battle of her life. She would use her best and most compatible one. The name is something Squall and Rinoa knew. Additionally, both Tiamat (corrupt Bahamut) and Omega Weapon (based on Ultima Weapon) are seen at her castle.
#3 Rinoa's Foreshadowing #4 Squall's Visions

On the Ragnarok, Disc 3, as Rinoa dreads her impending future as a new sorceress, she states, "I don't want the future. I want the present to stand still. I want to stay here with you." This is reminiscent of time compression. Furthermore, in Centra, Rinoa contemplates the idea of fighting everyone and being killed by Squall. "I guess it's okay if it's you Squall. No one else."

As Squall lies dying in a wasteland outside of time, he sees bizarre imagery. He sees Rinoa dying. He sees Rinoa's face juxtapositioned against Ultimecia's face. He sees the image of Rinoa's happiest times fading away into obscurity. He cries afterwards. It's possible that he is receiving information about the future which his mind translates into symbolic imagery in a way that he can understand.
#5 Edea's Foreshadowing #6 Aesthetic Style

After passing on her sorceress powers, and looking back on when she first saw Ultimecia as the orphanage, Edea tells Squall, "I now understand there is an end, no matter how painful it may be. Therefore, Squall, you must fight to the end! Even though it may bring tragedy to others." She knows they must fight Ultimecia to complete the time paradox, but what tragedy is she referring to?

All witches shown have unique colorings and markings... except Rinoa. Rinoa does have a sorceress form, but it hasn't manifested yet. It'd be unreasonable to expect Rinoa to look like Adel, but given their winged motifs and beautiful faces, Rinoa could reasonably look like Ultimecia. Additionally, both Rinoa's room/mansion and Ultimecia's castle have similar Gothic Victorian style.
#7 Ultimecia's Foreshadowing #8 Dissidia Weapons

As she dies, Ultimecia tells the SeeDs, "Reflect on your childhood. Your sensations. Your words. Your emotions. Time. It will not wait, no matter how hard you hold on. It escapes you." For someone who has spoken so violently to her enemies, these melancholy words are very out of character if you take the story at face value alone.

In Dissidia, Ultimecia's exclusive weapons all share the same names as Rinoa's exclusive weapons. Valkyrie, Cardinal, Shooting Star. These weapon names debuted with Rinoa. Most Dissidia villains had unique weapons or weapons with a long history. No other villain had all exclusive weapons from one opponent. It's like Square wants to confuse us.

These are just a few of my favorite observations. There's A LOT more. For example, the fact that Rinoa states she "wants to become a lion" and Ultimecia has lion feet. I highly suggest checking out the links at the bottom of this page to read about further game observations.

benefits of acceptance

[+] Eliminates the Necron Problem
Final Fantasy has this nasty habit of tossing in random final villains with little to no connection to the storyline up to that point. (See Giant Space Flea From Nowhere.) Not only is it anti-climatic, it leaves the player with no real reason to fight, nor a feeling of success when they win. Under the R=U theory, there is a definite connection between Ultimecia and your party. No longer is she a bland evil boss. Now you understand why she's evil. Now there is a touch of sadness and tragedy in your final fight. Now her chilling last words mean so much more.

[+] Thoughtful Commentary on Human Nature
Prejudice, persecution, condemnation, and degeneration. Theses are things we are familiar with. FF7's storyline made itself relevant with its capitalism and industrial corruption that echos our own society. Similarly, FF8's storyline made itself relevant with the genocide and retaliation that echos our own horrific history. The personal decay of Rinoa's idealism is something that most people can understand on an individual level as well. The idea of being in love, yet feeling as if this is fated to end, hits closer to home than a happy ending.

[+] Consistent with Themes & Fills Plot Holes
This theory is actually consistent with the game's themes of love and a time paradox. In regards to love, the story often tells you that you should value the love you have in the present. An upsetting future actually increases the importance of cherishing your loved ones in the moment. In regards to the time paradox, there is the stunning conclusion where Ultimecia gives her powers to Edea in the past, starting this whole story. By having Rinoa be the one who kills her future self, it furthers the significance of the self-fulling prophecy.

Additionally, this theory connects with the SeeD's decision to have power by sacrificing memories (via Guardian Forces). If accepted, it could also explain how Ultimecia knew so many details to carry out complex manipulations and how Rinoa stayed alive in space with no life support system.

the uncanon problem

The biggest problem with the theory is simply that it is unlikely to be canon for a Final Fantasy game. Square likes their Final Fantasy games to be positive, or at least, idealistically ambiguous. They like happy endings. While they do often touch on mature emotional elements, such as death, war, and so on, the company wants the game series to emphasize wholesome values as a last note.

How can we tell? Other games. Xenogears was a RPG game for the Playstation. Its storyline included generations of reincarnated tragedy, a gruesome caste system, broken faith, cannabalism, and mass human exploitation. It was also originally written to be the story for Final Fantasy VII. In an interview with Soraya Saga, one of the writers for Xenogears, discussed pitching the script for FFVII: "While we were told that it was too dark and complicated for a fantasy, the boss was kind enough to give Takahashi a chance to launch a new project". (source)

The same thing happened to Final Fantasy creator Sakaguchi on his Wii RPG title The Last Story. Nintendo slapped a "NG (no good)" verdict on his original story, prompting the game veteran to reset development. (source) This demonstrates that multiple game companies place a limitation on morose story material in fantasy games and it overrides the intentions of the original creator.

Such a depressing future for one of their main protagonists would cross the line on their standards. Thus, it's possible that the writers are insinuating such a connection in the game, or that it was originally in the story but later edited out. However, it's doubtful that Square-Enix would ever release a confirmation on a dark interpretation of events.

It can't be proven. But since Square never specifically denies it, we can still indulge in this theory.

original article

In November 2001, I wrote a short page on this website called "Rinoa is Ultimecia Theory". Somehow, it started to be posted at casual gaming forums by people pretending to have written it themselves. Even 5+ years after writing it, I still found new posts with my text. When I confronted the posters at these forums, I was met by apathy and rudeness by both the copiers and other forum members. It's not that the article was well-written (It wasn't. I was just a kid.), it's upsetting that a young 14 year-old fan was disrespected and dismissed by fellow gamers. Such behavior leads to bigger long-term trends.

plagiarism, both textual and and graphic, is a big problem online because copiers operate under a sense of anonymity and we don't punish them. Large analysis compositions are copied on blogs seeing the work as "just news". Writers have their online fiction stolen and published for real money. When this occurs, writers and artists are given less incentive to share their work online. If you see someone posting written work by another, please call them out on it! It is vitally important to address plagiarism, even the smallest instance, to prevent furthering the large-scale plagiarism that is already a crippling digital poison.

That said, here is my old, outdated blurb for reference.

I know what you're thinking. "How is it possible that Ultimecia and Rinoa are the same person? No way, you're crazy!" But the idea is an interesting, complicated, and very possible theory. Keep an open mind, and think about it.

The Main Point? Ultimecia is the future Rinoa. Rinoa grows up to become Ultimecia. When Rinoa is older, some great tragedy could occur that deeply affects Rinoa and changes her slowly. This could be the death of Squall (or other loved ones) or some other disaster that happens in the FF8 world. Slowly over time, she grows more depressed, and her sorceress powers feed the dark sadness inside of her. Her sorceress powers prevent her from dying naturally and continues to live for eons alone. Eventually, gripping on the brink of insanity, she becomes Ultimecia. This would explain why Squall shows up in the game Kingdom Hearts without his love Rinoa, perhaps they were seperated.

Ultimecia's intentions? Ultimecia/Rinoa wants to go back to the good old times. Before tragedy would strike her, when she she was with her friends during the timeline of FF8. So she dedicates herself to going back in time. Maybe she wants to prevent the disaster that will happen, or to warn the young Rinoa of the future. Regardless, because of the long, sad evolution from Rinoa into the cold-hearted Ultimecia, she's messed up by the time she accomplishes time travel. Thus doing more evil when she gets there, than good.

Evidence? One, Squall's ring Griever and Ultimecia's summon Griever. Coincidence that they're both the same name, and that the game put an emphasis on naming Griever? I think not. Ultimecia named her summon Griever as it was one of the memories of her past life as Rinoa. Two, they're both sorceresses. That's not a common power identity to have, sorceresses are rare. Three, Rinoa's symbol if white angel wings and Ultimecia has black angel wings. Black wings are the symbol for fallen angels, just like how Rinoa has fallen from pure white wings, to darker ones. Four, Ultimecia's castle is located near the same place as Rinoa's "Promise" flower field. The love Rinoa felt for Squall led Ultimecia back to the place she made a promise. See, she did wait for him there.

But Rinoa is good and Ulti is evil, right? Like Squall says, "There's no right or wrong. Just two sides with different views." Anyway, anyone can attest to the fact that PEOPLE CHANGE over time. Can you honestly say you haven't changed at all during your lifetime? Most likely, in the past years, you do things you never thought you would've done years ago. Humans change constantly. Now factor in that Rinoa is leading an extraordinary life. She's in a fantasy world with lots of adventure, drama, emotions, and powers. As sad as it is to think angel Rinoa could become evil Ultimecia, remember: People change.

Why Kill SeeDs? Obviously, after all those lonely eras of turning into Ultimecia could easily drive Ulti/Rinoa to insanity. Power corrupts. And it's quite possible she's lost it to the point where her conscious can't even recognize her friends anymore. Or maybe we don't give Ulti enough credit. She could've known all along how this would play out. She always said that a SeeD was prophesied to destroy her. Ulti/Rinoa knew her attempts to kill the SeeDs would bring everyone together, and did it to bring about the good relationships that resulted from her war.

Deep down in her subconscious, she knew she would die. Even while her evil outside was being.. well, evil. Or maybe she wanted to kill Rinoa because she didn't want her to go through the pain she would, Ulti/Rinoa wanted to end her own life. Or she wanted to take over the world to be in control, she bad things wouldn't happen. After being unable to prevent bad things around her for so long, Ulti/Rinoa would think of such a thing. There are many possibilities in the Rinoa=Ultimecia theory. Squaresoft left so many open ends in the story, we can only begin to imagine.

conclusion + links 

The Rinoa/Ultimecia theory is a dark, twisted explanation that has given new depth to how many fans look this already brilliant storyline. There are weak points, of course. It is always easier to reject an idea than it is to hold the burden of proof. But there are also many ambiguities in the story that support it and a lot of ways that it would contribute to the game. So take it easy on the Ultimecia Theory bashing - it's admittedly uncanon and possibly beneficial. As a FF8 fan who enjoys seeing thoughtful analysis and creativity in the community, it's not a bad interpretation at all.

If still curious, here's some recommended further reading: