The Fire Cavern in Final Fantasy 8 is the first time in the game that your ability to use the game's combat and junction systems is tested. With this guide, you will be able to soar through the Fire Cavern, get the Guardian Force Ifrit, and earn the highest marks on your SeeD Report.
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Stocking Up For the Fire Cavern
After you meet with Quistis, exit the Garden. This will take you to the World Map, where your entire party is represented by an oversized Squall running around the map. You can save your game at any time from the World Map. Out in the World, you will randomly come across monsters. In the vicinity right around the Garden, there are several different kinds of monsters:
Bite Bugs - Low health, low damage. Can draw Scan and Fire from them. Scan is a spell that allows you to see the health, level, resistances and weaknesses of enemy monsters when cast. Fire is a standard fire magic attack.
Caterchipillar - Medium health, medium damage. Will cast a Sleep effect. Can draw Thunder and Cure from them. Thunder is a standard Lightening Magic attack. Caterchipillars are found in the woods near Balamb Garden - but watch out, there are monsters in those woods you don't want to tangle with at this level.
Glacial Eye - High health, medium damage. Immune to Frost attacks, weak vs fire attacks. Can draw Blizzard, Cure, and Scan from them. Often accompanied by Bite Bugs.
I recommend you run around the map a little bit, engaging in battles with these monsters. The goal here is to stock around 100 of each spell you can get - Fire, Blizzard, Cure, and Scan. Spread your spells out across Squall and Quistis and don't forget to junction Magic.
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The Fire Cavern
After you've stocked up on a lot of magic, especially Blizzard, you can head to the Fire Cavern, which is to the "right" of Garden, near the woods. Quistis will ask to go over various things when you get there, like Gunblade usage and Magic Junctioning. You should already have Magic Junctioning down, but you may want to take the crash course on Gunblade usage.
Run up and speak to the Garden reps near the cavern entrance. They will ask you to choose a time limit. Note, if you fail to complete the Cavern in the selected time limit you will get "Game Over" and have to reload (so save from the World Map before entering). 10 Minutes is enough time, barely. 20 is plenty. However, to get the highest possible SeeD score (a little bit later in the game) you'll have to select the 10 minute timer, and attempt to use every second of it (the closer you get to the exact time, the better your SeeD score).
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Inside the Cavern - Monsters
Once inside the Fire Cavern there are three types of monsters you will encounter.
Bombs - High health, low damage, but very weak versus Frost. Can draw Fire from them.
Red Bad - Low health, low damage. Can draw Thunder and Scan from them.
Buel - Low health, low damage. Can draw Fire, Thunder, and Blizzard from them.
If you come across a Bomb, use the Shiva GF or Blizzard against them to drop them quickly. The other two monsters will die in 1-2 normal attacks.
The path to Ifrit is straight - you can't possibly get lost in here. At one point you will reach an area that looks like there are several paths leading to the left and right, but they dead end. The first one on the right side dead ends in a Fire Draw Point.
Continue straight down the path to reach Ifrit. Quistis will comment a little bit about your incredible skill once you reach the area Ifrit rises from.
You'll notice by the time I reached Ifrit I had roughly 5 minutes left on the 10-minute timer. With this amount of time I defeated him with 20 seconds remaining using the strategy below.
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Ifrit Boss Battle
The Ifrit boss fight is pretty easy - you can kill him just by using regular attacks if you want, and you'll only have to Cure once or twice. I found the fastest way to defeat him was to have both Quistis and Squall chain-casting Blizzard, which he is weak versus. You can also choose to use Shiva over and over again, but overall this is slower (though it does protect Quistis from most damage).
Using Shiva will cause Ifrit to emote, but other than that there is little advantage. Ifrit has roughly 1,000 hit points, so try to keep track in your head how much damage you are dealing against him so that you can get as close to the timer as possible.
After you defeat Ifrit, he will join you as a GF. Junction him to Squall, and select an ability for him to learn. I recommend Boost first, then Fire-Magic-Refine. Ifrit already has Elemental-Attack-Junction learned (El-Atk-J), which means that you can junction an elemental spell, like Blizzard, to a regular attack. Quistis will tell you to do this before leaving the Fire Cavern, though it really makes little difference at this point. Exit the Fire Cavern, and head back to Balamb Garden.
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Back at Garden
Once you've returned to Garden, Quistis will tell you to get changed and meet her for the SeeD exam, and all of her Magic and GFs will be unjunctioned. On your way back into Garden, stop and draw from the Cure draw point again. Use the directory to head to your dorm, and Save once inside. Use your Action button near the bed and select "Get Changed". Once you exit the dorm after getting changed, the next "cut scene", of sorts, will commence. This leads up to the SeeD exam, which we will discuss in the next article.