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by Ethos

“I Need A Cigarette” – Love Story Hits Countdown: #1

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

While Zidane and Dagger perhaps give us the best love story ever told in a video game, our worthy number one couple is the best love story ever experienced since every action taken in the game is rooted in love. Simply put, love is the entire reason for this game’s existence.

Mono_and_Wander#1 Best Video Game Romance: Wander and Mono
While I perpetually praise this game’s mood above all else – as Riddles touched on himself during Team ICO Week – I have to say that one of the first things that hooked me was the premise. Not just the fact that there were only 16 enemies in the entire game, but that the whole reason the hero was crazy enough to go up against them was that he wanted a shot at bringing her back to life. Yes, just a shot. Not even a guarantee. And while we tragically never see these two share a moment, there are a few important factors that give us back story so that we can emotionally connect to the story properly. It all stems from Wander’s proclamation that Mono had a cursed fate so she was sacrificed. In that simple sentence we learn that despite his culturally instilled belief that she was cursed (he says she “has” a cursed fate, not “she is believed to be cursed” or anything like that), he still stole a sword and made a long journey to an explicitly forbidden land. The weight of those decisions before any gameplay even takes place is very evident and carries throughout the entire game.

Bio-pics-0011-150x150To say the least, Wander’s willingness to battle 16 colossi for the mere chance of reviving Mono shows the intense devotion, and love, that he has for her. The player finds himself wondering what manner of relationship they had in the past – and why it is that Wander is so devoted to reviving her. The strange visions that Wander experiences throughout the game, in which Mono returns to life, only add to the mystery surrounding the two of them. The game is certainly not heavy on storyline, but the player will find themselves intrigued nonetheless.

sotc2Everything Wander goes through during the course of the game is done out of love. Every mile he rides, every monument he scales, every Colossi he slays, is done for love. I know that sounds horribly sappy, especially coming from me. But honestly, it’s true There’s no “love story” to be seen in Shadow of the Colossus, but it’s emphatically implied.

The ending is among the most heartbreaking ever seen. It’s an ending that has to be seen (and played) in order to appreciate; I won’t attempt to describe it here. But suffice to say, Wander’s hopes and dreams are far from granted. As the player, you’ll likely be somewhat disturbed when the true atrocity of Wander’s actions are revealed. And yet, at the same time, you’ll find it difficult to fault him. It was all done for the sake of love.

“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…

“I Need A Cigarette” – Love Story Hits Countdown: #3

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Back again, to once again, end the day on a positive note. One of my favorite couplings from one of my favorite games; let’s talk about Ico and the young princess Yorda. (Beware of spoilers, by the by.)

They have nothing but eachother...

They have nothing but eachother...


#3 Best Video Game Romance: Ico and Yorda
Like Shadow of the Colossus, Ico is one of the last generation’s definitive experiences. Most, if not all of the game mechanics have been done again and done better at this point, but unlike all that came after it, Ico’s mood and atmosphere is not to be forgotten. While it doesn’t quite reach the majestic levels seen in Shadow of the Colossus, the lonely, forboding mood presented in Ico is done beautifully.

The main focus of the game’s puzzles is helping the young, mysterious Yorda through the island safely. She’s quite helpless, after all, meaning poor Ico has to break his back just to keep her safely in tow as he navigates the deadly pitfalls set before him. Yet somehow, much like Ico himself, the player just can’t get sick of her. She’s too innocent and helpless, yet somehow she manages to seem grateful. It’s the little things that count, like how she snuggles with him on the little stone-hewn couches that act as the game’s save points.

Kidding aside, it’s difficult not to develop a bond with Yorda, despite how much of a hindrance she can be. There’s no snappy back-and-forth dialogue, (ala Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) but the utter silence is what makes the game’s atmosphere. Players can draw their own conclusions as to what feelings are developing between the two of them.

But towards the end of the game, their feelings for eachother become more apparent. The final hours see Ico furiously searching for a kidnapped Yorda, and then battling an evil sorceress to get her back. Ico emerges victorious, but wounded – and in a first, final act of gratitude, Yorda carries him to a small lifeboat and sends him away as the castle crashes down around her.

Somehow she lives, of course. I would have preferred a more bitter ending, but then I’m a bitter kinda guy. Regardless, for Ico’s amazing devotion to Yorda (or at least her mobility) and Yorda’s willingness to sacrifice her life for him, we rank them number three among the five best video game romances.

Tomorrow you get to hear Ethos speak about… oh wait, I can’t tell you! Just be here. And by the way, the Thursday edition of Hey! Look! Listen! has been delayed. Sorry. GOODNIGHT FOR NOW!

“I Need A Cigarette” – Love Story Hits Countdown: #4

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Well, it’s time to end the day on a positive note. We shall now discuss one of my favorite video game romances of all time, straight from one of my favorite games of all time.

Bad ASS

Bad ASS

#4 Best Video Game Romance: The Prince and Farah
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the definitive action platformer of the last generation; that’s something that Ubisoft’s recent reboot of the series can’t claim. Brilliant mechanics, a compelling story, and fantastic dialogue make this a game you simply must play.

In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, it’s two against the world, practically. The Prince and Farah are the only human survivors of the catastrophic Sands of Time, and together they must find a way to bring things to rights. Their partnership is somewhat reminiscent of Ico and Yorda, except Farah is actually worth a shit. She runs, jumps, climbs, and shoots a bow-and-arrow like a pro. And, unbelievably, she and the Prince are chatting the whole time.

But really, the dialogue in The Sands of Time is absolutely brilliant. Obviously, the vast majority of it belongs to Farah and the Prince. The banter and conversation the two of them hold during the course of the gameplay is consistently entertaining, and effective in building the subdued, sweet love story that the game tells. Of course, the tension is once again broken by a semi-awkward love scene (which, again, takes place in water). Tragically, the game ends with the two lovers apart – due to events beyond their control.

Lithe...

Lithe...

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within came next, and Farah was nowhere to be seen. Instead we were given copious amounts of skanky, scantily-clad whores, most of whom we had to kill. (The game did feature a shiny new M-rating, after all). Farah’s presence was sorely missed. Instead of sweet, entertaining banter between the Prince and his little companion, Warrior Within treated us to a more Wolverine-ish Prince shouting angry things at himself for hours on end. LAME.

Ubisoft took Warrior Within’s criticisms to account when they released The Two Thrones, which featured, among many other things, the return of Farah. Care to guess what happened? That’s right, the two of them started falling in love again. It was almost sad to see, seeing as how Farah retained no memory of the Prince at all. Disappointingly, the team mechanic wasn’t nearly as prominent in the gameplay as it was in The Sands of Time, but it was certainly an improvement over Warrior Within.

Much to everyone’s delight, the ending was a happy one this time around, implying that the Prince and Farah had a bright future ahead of them. It’s worth mentioning here that The Two Thrones has yet another one of the greatest endings to grace a videogame. For a love that burned (literally) across the ages, The Prince and Farah are given the esteemed #4 spot on Riddlethos’s list of the greatest videogame romances.

“I Need A Cigarette” – Love Story Hits Countdown: #5

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Alright, to counter the tragedy that is Mario and Peach, Riddlethos brings you the number 5 position on the sister countdown of love stories that are worthy of praise.

I Wish

I Wish

#5 Best Video Game Romance: Sora and Kairi -
Alright, I had to fight Riddles a little on this one, and I do know of the slightly confusing relationship between Sora and Riku, but I think there’s more than enough evidence to support Sora and Kairi’s connection to earn them this spot. While these two are apart for most of the series, we do get to see a bit of their past and the growth from a childhood crush to a more deep-rooted desire as opposed to the nothing we see with Mario and Peach. At the beginning of the first game, Sora is obviously nervous around Kairi and reacts in the same way we all did when we were 14 when a friend brings up the issue; he stands in stunned silence until the friend claims he was joking. Sora blushes when Donald and Goofy bring her up, and when faced with the decision to bring her back to life, he doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself. As he grows older, he becomes more aware of his loneliness and can only fill the void by remembering his time with Kairi.

Kairi doesn’t just sit along for the ride either. Her feelings for Sora bring him back to life from his short time as a heartless, and he remains in her heart even when her memory has been scrambled. It’s all very sappy and like the entire Kingdom Hearts plotline, a little convoluted, but there really is a lot of heart, and its sincerity is what has endeared me to the series. I do hope that as the characters continue to mature and as the franchise hopefully moves soon into its third major installment that the series is able to accurately portray a continuation from this point. Chain of Memories and even some of Kingdom Hearts II shows an angry hormonal Sora, and treating teenagers like the horny, passionate beings they really are would be a refreshing change of pace from the glossed over de-sexed characters that typically infiltrate the gaming world.

As it stands, the story of Sora and Kairi having a very important and secure place in each other’s hearts is sweet and strong enough to hold a spot in this list, although you might hear Riddles grumbling a little bit about it.