The Waltz for the Moon scene is more than just a dance

One of the most iconic scenes from Final Fantasy VIII is the “Waltz for the Moon” ballroom dance. It’s the first time in the narrative that we see the Hero and Heroine together. In modern speak, it’s their meet-cute. It also is more than just a cute scene meant to introduce Rinoa into the story. It’s a reflection of the relationship between Squall and Rinoa throughout the entire story, condensed down into an under 2 minute dance sequence.

Rinoa approaches Squall first, which is very much in line with their dynamic in the game. Rinoa is the outgoing one who dives in headfirst, consequences be damned. Squall is introverted and emotionally constipated. He is quite literally dragged into this by Rinoa, which reflects his first SeeD mission and how he and his team are at her unwittingly thrown into an unorganized attempt at taking down the President of Galbadia with a contract that is basically unending until Timber is free.

Their first attempt at dancing (and interacting generally as people later on) is a disaster. They’re out of sync, they’re uncoordinated, Squall is stepping on her toes, and they bump into other people. Rinoa ends up sticking her tongue out at them for their audacity to be annoyed at being run into. Squall even tries to leave once, only to be dragged back by Rinoa. It’s embarrassing for everyone. Sound familiar? This is basically their entire disc 1 interaction together.

Something clicks after she stands up for him though. She never gave up on him. Once he starts to rely on her, open up a little, and trust her (hello disc 2), they start getting the rhythm of the dance down. They work together! They end up being the center of the dance floor and perfected their synchronization, finishing the dance under the lights of the fireworks.

Squall looks very pleased with the development of the dance (one of the rare times he does look genuinely happy in the game), but then Rinoa abruptly leaves him to go speak with Cid. The mirror to this is when Rinoa becomes a sorceress, falls in a coma, gets launched into space, Squall rescues her (still a high bar for romance), and then he refuses to let her be sealed at the Sorceress Memorial. Squall realized his feelings for her after she was no longer around. In the Waltz for the Moon scene, he lets her leave and looks disappointed. By the time he’s learned to open up more and they understand each other better, he’s genuinely fallen for her. The one time they diverge from the Waltz from the Moon scene about their interactions is this one time. That’s because once he realizes his feelings, he refuses to let her go no matter what.

Rinoa initially approached Squall after pointing to a shooting star in the sky. That’s their very first interaction. The last thing we see in the game is Rinoa pointing to a shooting star again, but this time, Squall is the one to take initiative and bring her in for a kiss. Waltz for the Moon sets up their romantic arc, and the parallels throughout the game led to a satisfying conclusion of two flawed people learning to work together, open up, and accept that they deserve to be happy and loved.