From the moment protagonist Squall Leonhart is dragged onto the dance floor by a headstrong girl in the opening hours of Final Fantasy VIII, I knew it was love. I would grow to adore this game and appreciate it despite its flaws, and much of that was because of the central story of Squall and Rinoa. In the 25 years since the game’s release, it has gone through waves of critical re-appraisal, often focused on the game existing in the shadow of its more famous predecessor (the one with the guy with the big sword and a big-budget remake). While it remains an underrated and oft-derided entry in the franchise, Final Fantasy VIII still stands as the best love story in the series.

Moody teenager Squall is a great encapsulation of Final Fantasy VIII as a whole. He’s abrasive on first meeting and it takes time to truly peel back what is going on underneath his exterior. A lot of people don’t like Squall because of his asshole tendencies in the game’s opening hours. If you thought Cloud Strife had a “too cool for school” attitude, then Squall will break your brain in how uncaring he is. His response of choice to any conversation is “Whatever…” But when player’s reach the Balamb Garden graduation party Squall’s persona gets shattered by the simple act of dancing with a pretty girl.

Rinoa, the pretty girl in question, is the complete opposite of Squall: Outgoing and kind. She breaks through Squall’s exterior by dragging him onto the dance floor and forcing him to sway and spin with her. He is terrible at dancing to the point he can’t stop stepping on Rinoa’s feet. The player can’t help but laugh at Squall, seeing for the first time he is nothing but a kid trying to put on a brave face. The graduation party is also one of the best meet cutes in gaming, telegraphing immediately that this is the couple we will watch grow close over the course of the story.

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