The FF8 tech demo we’ll never see again

When Sony announced the PlayStation 2, they started a year-long marketing machine that sent it into stratospheric levels of hype. If you didn’t witness it as it was happening, compared to the relative shrug that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X received, it’s hard to capture how the much-vaunted Emotion Engine was played up and how much the gaming press swooned for it. There was a particular tech demo they showed off that featured a floating old man’s head which, even though it seems like a non-sequitur now, was briefly the cutting edge of gaming.

Sony also chose to show off the power of the PlayStation 2 in a unique way for this generation: by recreating an iconic pre-rendered cutscene in real-time. They chose the ballroom dance from Final Fantasy VIII.

We’ll probably never see this in motion in again, much like the PlayStation 3 tech demo recreation of the intro to Final Fantasy VII. It’s interesting to compare these two demos, because at the time of the PS2 demo, Final Fantasy VIII was the new hot title. Arguably, you could also go back and compare it to the Final Fantasy VI mockup for Silicon Graphics, because at that point, it was FFVI that was the new hot title that people were excited to see in a new fidelity.

It’s easy to forget that there was a brief glowing moment when a re-imagining of Final Fantasy VIII was the most exciting thing you could show people, more exciting than redoing a scene from VII or Crash Bandicoot or whatever. Maybe it’s because the cutscenes in FFVIII were so lavish compared to VII that they lent themselves better to this sort of glow-up. But it’s worth remembering how important FFVIII was to Square, Sony, and the PlayStation console family, even if its relevance has dimmed over the years.

I doubt this would have ever led into an actual remake of Final Fantasy VIII for the PlayStation 2 (which was then the next-generation console). It’s more likely a sign that Sony saw Squall and Rinoa and thought, enthusiastically, “This is the face of the future.” That might never come again.

I guess what I’m saying is: Final Fantasy VIII was the Knack of its time. Or more accurately, Knack WISHES it was Final Fantasy VIII.