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            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

“I Need A Cigarette” – Love Story Hits Countdown: #2

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Well there was absolutely no doubt that this couple would make this list. No matter what game I’m complimenting, it usually comes back to Final Fantasy IX. If I like a game’s storytelling, I compare it to Final Fantasy IX. If I like the music in a game, I point to Nobuo Uematsu’s most varied and -in my opinion- overall greatest work. And if a game attempts a love story I, without fail, point to the practically unrivaled:

garnet_zidane#2 Best Video Game Romance: Zidane and Dagger
The reason why this romance still stands the test of time, and why the name Dagger has been a symbol for love in my life since November 14, 2000, is because of all the sides of love this story manages to tell. Let’s go through it together.

Zidane: I’m surprised you found this place.
You got the talent to be a bandit!
How ’bout you and me team up?
We’ll call ourselves “The Betrothed”.
Dagger: My talent’s up to snuff, but that name isn’t.

I love the way Zidane instantly acts on his attraction. He’s used to instantly smooth-talking with every cute girl he meets, and Princess Garnet is definitely no exception. Like any new relationship of any sort between two people, the interactions are hit and miss as the two begin to feel out the way the other works. And as the two are forced to travel together for a short while, his natural flirtations evolve into legitimate feelings. She, at first taken aback and a little embarrassed at his aggression, begins to be incredibly influenced by Zidane. She feels frustration at his constant desire to protect her and tries to press on without him only to admit to herself that a combination of trying to impress him and his encouragement were the things that even made her capable of following through with such risky plans in the first place. And from the very believable state of an exciting new crush, the game then factors in an incredibly real human emotion that takes particular hold over a romantic couple: pride.

Dagger begins to resent that she relies on Zidane for strength, she gets frustrated that he’s in her thoughts, and she wants to be able to prove her worth without him. A conflict grows within her between her swelling feelings for him and the weight and responsibility of proving to herself and her kingdom that she is fit to rule. She is incredibly proud and a lot of her vulnerable moments confronting her feelings happen in her head without explicitly opening up to Zidane. Zidane, while perhaps seeming more open is just as prideful. Or at least when she’s in his presence…

Zidane: Gee, all s/he ever thinks about is food.
Dagger: Well, all you ever think about is girls.
Zidane: Uh, that’s right! My mind is filled with thoughts of… you!
Zidane: (Maybe I’m trying too hard…)

ButtPutting aside Dagger’s passive-aggressive comment, Zidane is right. He definitely tries too hard. He’s so used to his formula with women that his legitimate feelings for Dagger confuse him. He wants to get his feelings across without losing his ladies man image. He wants to be the big strong man for his woman, and shows his weaknesses mostly when she’s not around. Another victory for pride! And speaking of his weaknesses, this brings me the perfect transition to another real side of love that Final Fantasy IX shows: heartbreak.

When Dagger and Zidane are forced to separate later in the game, we see Zidane sobbing like a baby in a bar. I say like a baby both literally and figuratively. Because heartbreak by nature is so overflowing with emotion that people tend to be idiots. Zidane is no exception, and so he just whines, feels sorry for himself, and even acts like a complete idiot when he is finally in her -contrived- presence again. Dagger herself is subdued and disappointed with Zidane’s behavior, but both play the silly games we all play when we wait for the other person to make a sweeping romantic gesture to win us back. Luckily for these two idiots, fate intervenes and Zidane doesn’t hesitate to rescue Dagger, and Dagger doesn’t hesitate to literally welcome it with open arms.

I could obviously go on and on about this couple, and the reason I focused on a lot of their faults is because that’s what makes this such a great romance. No real love comes from a problem-less couple who are perfectly and instantly compatible. That doesn’t exist, and nobody but 12 year olds believe that. While, like usual, the sexuality of the romance is vastly underplayed, at least we do have the famous butt-pat moment that at least helps sustain the notion that they are sexual beings.

In the end, Zidane and Dagger get their fair share of sap, but I dare say they deserve it. They went through hell together as two different, faulted human beings to prove that they constructed a love that was powerful enough to break through physical and emotional barriers.

That’s it. I finally got my soapbox on which to stand on and gush and gush about this unrivaled couple in gaming. Well, practically unrivaled, I should say. We do have one more love story to tell on this list…