Zell’s obsession with hot dogs.
Final Fantasy VIII was the first Final Fantasy focused on love. Perhaps the Japanese thought highly of it, but it unimpressed many Western fans. Some see Squall and Rinoa as falling in love naturally, while others saw it as forced. Once Final Fantasy IX and X introduced their male and female protagonists’ love arcs, Final Fantasy VIII’s just wasn’t convincing.
But love takes a different meaning in Final Fantasy VIII. In fact, it takes on multiple meanings. We tend to think of deep affections, romantic or sexual attraction. But Final Fantasy VIII captured the full scope of it.
It was love at first sight during the ballroom dance. Yet we get to see Squall and Rinoa fall in love. Squall does exhibit some of the characteristics of falling in love: confusion, moodiness, etc. Rinoa, a flirt, ends up understanding the difference between puppy love and dependability.
Final Fantasy VIII also captured the misplaced feelings of love in Quistis. It captured Irvine’s childhood infatuation towards Selphie. Selphie and Zell both “loved” trains, inanimate objects. They were also child-like in expressing their love towards others. Selphie begins to feel “weird” when she ends up having feelings for Irvine. Edea loves her husband Cid, but also the children she took in at the orphanage. Both Cid and Irvine hesitate to harm Edea because they love her so much.
Love can also take on unhealthy obsessions (apart from consuming hot dogs and flavored bread). Seifer loved teasing and antagonizing Squall. He also had a romantic dream, which was to become a knight for a sorceress – whom he idolized. Ultimately, we find out Seifer loves the idea of protecting more so than actually protecting. He loves the idea of himself as a protector. In this sense, Seifer is a narcissist in love with himself.
Laguna has an unrequited crush on Julia. He ends up loving Raine, who in turn falls for him. Laguna has a love of justice and adventure. There’s also a love of brotherhood between his friends Kiros and Ward (just as Squall learns to value his friendships). Ultimecia has forgotten to love, and her parting speech shows this.
This is why Final Fantasy VIII is a love story; not just for the sake of Squall and Rinoa, but for the sake of the themes. Squall and Rinoa’s love seemed flat because they wanted to portray all forms of love equally.