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            Can you handle it?
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.

“Wrong Hole, Darling” – Love Story Misses Countdown #1

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Alright ladies and gents, here it is: Riddlethos.com’s #1 worst video game romance OF ALL TIME. The moment you’ve all, assuredly, been waiting for. The moment of truth. The moment of… of… ah… meh, I’m done trying to butter this up. Just read the article.

Pretty... and pink...

Pretty... and pink...

#1 Worst Video Game Romance: Squall and Rinoa

Yet another representative from my beloved Final Fantasy series makes the dubious list today. That’s a bit of a sad statement, yet both spots are more than deserved… especially in the case of Mr. Leonhart and his little squeeze.

If you’ve been following my internet travails for any length of time, you likely know that I adore Final Fantasy VIII. I recognize that a lot (and I mean a lot) of people don’t share my opinion of the game; and to be honest, I can understand a lot of the complaints that often arise. But strangely enough, a lot of the problems others have just aren’t problems to me. I don’t mind the junction system, for one thing; in fact, I always rather enjoyed the hours upon hours I spent fooling around with it. I think the game’s storyline is incredibly enjoyable, in spite of some rather gigantic plot holes that, admittedly, are a little hard to forgive. I love most (key word: most) of the game’s main characters, including the protagonist Squall, who’s long been a popular punching bag for FFVIII haters.

Regardless of all the good points the game has, the romantic subplot – the supposed centerpiece of the game – is a trainwreck. While it has occasional moments of heartfelt sincerity, the utter ridiculousness of it all overshadows anything good about it. What it boils down to is this: Rinoa, Squall’s love interest, is the worst character in the game. She’s flat, ditzy, and immature. She’s meant to be the polar opposite of Squall’s cold, introverted persona, and that’s fine; the difference is, while Squall actually has reason to act the way he does, Lord only knows why Rinoa consistently acts like a horny, airheaded high school girl.

Almost Believable at This Point

Almost Believable at This Point

For the first half of the game, the supposed “love story” can be summed up in a single sentence: Rinoa repeatedly throws herself at Squall, who repeatedly throws her ass to the proverbial curb like she’s a bad habit. Somehow, though, Rinoa only finds his utter coldness attractive, and refuses to give up. Then, after a battle with an evil sorceress, Rinoa falls into a coma.

Somehow, out of nowhere, this makes Squall realize that he does, in fact, have feelings for Rinoa. Where did they come from? Who knows. Perhaps he’s a necrophiliac. Or maybe he just kept his true feelings buried REAL DEEP. Or maybe, just maybe, Final Fantasy VIII is an example of a poorly written romantic buildup.

Yeah, I’m gonna go with that. I mean seriously, it would be fine if Squall showed some concern at her unconcious state, but his reaction was WELL over the top. I could say more, but I think I’ll let my lackey partner Ethos take it from here.

Bio pics 004Ugh. Blah. Also: barf. I know a lot of the “Misses” I write have started out that way, but this one deserves it most. The fact that I hate it is perhaps the biggest testament against this shitty relationship. Why is that? Well if you read the post about Zidane and Dagger, you have an idea: I am a complete and utter sap. I love love. I practically cried the first time I played a game called Flower. FLOWER! It is quite literally a game in which you float flower petals around fields. I’m a fruitcake sap who gravitates to love stories with the same tremendous force that Riddles gravitates to poor life decisions. And I think the Squall and Rinoa love story is such an outright GUFFAW in the face of all Final Fantasy fans, of all fans of love stories, and of all fans of not being treated like a ham sandwich. Because maybe a ham sandwich could believe that what Squall and Rinoa had was love. MAYBE.


Unlike my darling and dumb minion partner, Riddles, I am rather endeared to Rinoa and think that Squall is a complete tart. But despite that disagreement, he was entirely right to imply that there is no chemistry, and no reason that one should be attracted to the other. Not in the way their interactions played out. Because yes, like mentioned, opposites can attract and even make each other better, but there is no progression, no believable human traits that would lead to love, and definitely no sparks. Even as a horny teenaged boy in high school playing this game for the first time didn’t buy the couple. In fact, I was so disturbed by one scene that I instantly had a vision of a short movie to mock it. I made it the next day.

So without further ado, a condensed and far more entertaining summation of Squall and Rinoa’s romance: (I didn’t upload it and the user disabled embedding, sorry!)
Squall’s Stupidity

Anyway, this couple has now officially received too much attention. Good night!

“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…

“Wrong Hole, Darling” – Love Story Misses Countdown #2

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Ugh. Blah. Plugh. Boy does this ever piss me off. I didn’t know I had such hidden rage about the next couple on this list until Riddles and I were brainstorming the feature and I went on a tirade. A screen capture of that rant will be seen in this article, but let’s introduce the idiots first.



#2 Worst Video Game Romance: Jaster and Kisala
Perhaps you could argue that Rogue Galaxy isn’t popular enough to even justify a spot in this list, but this game handles the situation so poorly that we had no choice but to not only give them a place, but the #2 spot. Those who have been following me on the nerd corners of the internet may remember my first published review over at RPGamer.com. I was not entirely friendly to the game, especially when compared to the other 6 reviews. I pointed my disappointment to the general direction of the writing and pacing, and while that accusation still rings true, I didn’t even mention the most insulting, terrible part. Although the #1 couple is a bit more guilty of this, Rogue Galaxy’s biggest failure was even trying to ever bring focus to the romance. If about 3 things in the game were changed, I could accept the two as platonic comrades. Sure, it would be frustrating, but it would be consistent, and at least I’ve come to expect that of JRPGs. But the thing to note here is that the 3 times (maximum) that the romance is implied, it makes some of the most sweeping dramatic statements ever. I would love to describe the stupidity myself right now, but I can’t imagine that it could do a better job than my rant the other night when brain-storming this feature with Sir James Riddles Motok himself. Three things to note before the screen grab though:
1. Lloyd and Collette are mentioned in this conversation and aren’t on the list. SPOILERS.
2. It’s a screengrab…I can’t fix typos like I can for the News Roundup.
3. Those time stamps are accurate.
Rogue Galaxy rant
See what I mean??!!? The major conclusion on this, like, 60 hour game with HOURS of cutscenes is PLAIN TEXT revolving around a romance that CLEARLY DOESN’T EXIST!! There is literally more romance in that special move than there would be if you take the most romantically explicit scene in the game and multiply it by seven billion! And then they have the GALL to revolve the already really shitty ending around this apparent romance? They should have just removed any semblance of story and just told the plot through special moves! It would have made more fucking sense.
Alright. I think I’m calm. What a stupid game. It’s also a waste because Kisala is smoking hot.

“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.

“Wrong Hole, Darling” – Love Story Misses Countdown: #5

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Here we go, folks! We’re starting this a little late, but it just means you have a steady flow of amazingness to look forward to. Riddlethos will be counting down the greatest hits and misses in the video game romance world. This is in our limited spectrum of games we’ve played, obviously, so if you don’t see your favourites, it’s possible we’ve never even heard of them. There will also be honourable mentions in both categories on Sunday as well.
But enough of the foreplay, let’s dive in, do everything wrong, find the wrong hole and jizz too soon with our first pick on the naughty list.

mariopeach#5 Worst Video Game Romance: Mario and Peach -
Ugh. Seriously. I’ve seen these two on so many top ten lists for the exact opposite reason. They cite the fact that Mario has done so much for Peach, that he’s gone through so many castles and trials for her. Yeah, that might be true, but that’s romantic in the same way that Romeo and Juliet is romantic: It’s not. Not only do we see no evidence of romantic chemistry, or even a chance for these two to interact really, but it’s obvious that Peach just uses Mario. All Mario ever gets is a kiss on the nose or cheek, and that’s if he’s lucky. And how I can blame the chick? She’s this smoking hot broad, why would she want to settle down with a fat old mustached man with a terrible accent? Not going to happen. And, for all that Mario isn’t, he can do better than Peach anyway, she’s a complete ditz. Anybody here play Mario Sunshine? Peach has all the intelligence of a balloon in that game. The only time the character is remotely charming is the Paper Mario series, and even then she has better chemistry with that creepy Moon Computer with the crush on her. Hell, Bowser is even better for her with his similar dim-witted attitude. But the ultimate point to why this romance isn’t a romance at all is something I’ve already hinted at, these two are never together. There was never a time for this great love story to even take seed. Peach is a spoiled, vapid princess with a slamming bod who takes advantage of an obviously horny, overweight, god-knows-how-old, surprisingly talented plummer who has been blinded enough by the thought of Peach’s tits to go to ridiculous lengths for her. But anybody who has been in love knows that love isn’t about going great lengths for somebody, but rather the reasons why you go those great lengths. Mario should just bang Roselina anyway, she’s like a less stupid, more sexual Peach.