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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.

hamsandwich_a

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…

“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!

“Wrong Hole, Darling” – Love Story Misses Countdown #3

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Well this is slightly later than I would have liked, but it’s a damn sight better than nothing. As Ethos already informed you I’ve been busy with both Arkham Asylum and work all day, so this has been my first opportunity to sit at a keyboard and get to typin’.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Yeah, that about sums it up.


#3 Worst Video Game Romance: Luke and Tear
Namco’s Tales series is the poster child for bad romantic subplots. Every single one does the exact same thing: scatter a few suggestive scenes here and there, and then proceed to take them nowhere. Ever. Of course, the Tales series is hardly commendable for its storytelling, but some manner of payoff would be appreciated.

But while there are plenty of examples to choose from the Tales series, the most grievous one in my eyes has to be Luke and Tear from Tales of the Abyss. A damn shame too, since ToA remains my favorite in the series. (No, I didn’t think Tales of Vesperia was that great). Again, I thought both Luke and Tear were well-done characters. Luke, the stereotypical spoiled rich kid, and Tear, the oddly mature and determined 16 year-old, seemed like an awesomely unlikely match. Yet somehow, despite the little hints that were dropped during the game’s absurd length, their relationship remained STRICTLY platonic… until, quite literally, the very end of the game.

Word to fiction writers of all kinds: there is such a thing as too little, too late. When two characters have been denied any sort of romantic chemistry for the entirety of the storyline, having the female scream “I LOVE YOU” right before the male character (supposedly) bites the big cheese just… doesn’t… fit. Of course, the game ENDS abruptly afterward, so we never actually get to SEE when Luke and Tear’s sweet love blossoms.

A damn disappointment. Yet again. But then, what can you expect from a Tales game?

“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.

“Wrong Hole, Darling” – Love Story Misses Countdown #4

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Okay, well Ethan’s had his fun. It’s MY turn to weigh in on the best and worst of videogame romances. You might be asking, “how is Riddles qualified in the least to speak on romances, virtual or otherwise?” My answer to you is: how is anyone?

That aside, let’s discuss one of the more tragic romantic blunders in gaming.

So romantic.

So romantic.

#4 Worst Video Game Romance: Tidus and Yuna

Oh, this one hurts. Final Fantasy X tells a fantastic story, and the romance between Tidus and Yuna had such potential. Unlike many others, I actually liked both Tidus and Yuna as characters. Tidus was portrayed perfectly as the rich-kid sports star who suddenly found himself in a completely different world. And while many people found Yuna boring, I thought her subdued determination was both touching and sincere.

For the first half of the game, the romantic buildup was done very well. The first scene where the two of them spoke in front of the bonfire was a perfect beginning. The infamous “haha” scene is extremely painful, yes, but still heartfelt and sincere in an extremely goofy way. Tidus’ increasing devotion to protecting Yuna and seeing her quest to the end is very believable, as is the increasing attraction that develops between the two youngsters.

Finally, we reach the infamous scene in the spring. After a tense, subdued, and slightly saddening conversation, the romantic buildup reaches its breaking point. We’re treated to a beautiful (though admittedly rather odd) love scene, in which the two of them spin around in the water and suck face. Khimari, sick fuck that he is, witnesses the entire thing.

And then… NOTHING.

For the remainder of the game, Tidus and Yuna’s romance is not explored in any way, at all. It practically falls off the face of the map, and leaves the player wondering if they missed some sort of serious discussion in which the two mutually agreed to keep their pants zipped and their eyes on the prize.

It’s something of a disappointment, to say the least.

In fact, it’s a damned disappointment. The ending to Final Fantasy X is a beautiful, emotionally charged experience, and to this day it remains one of my all-time favorite endings. However, it still feels like too little too late when it comes to Tidus and Yuna.

Of course, then Final Fantasy X-2 came along and just ruined EVERYTHING, but that’s a rant for another day. I have a feeling that a lot of you might disagree with what I’ve said here, and if that’s the case, let the comments rip below. But in my firm opinion, Final Fantasy X’s romantic subplot is one of the biggest dropped balls in gaming.