Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Gaming Romances that Stick With You

Valentine's Day. For some it is a time to reflect on their relationship, others indulge on a multitude of candy shaped hearts, and a lot more await the following day when the candy shaped hearts will be half off.

It has me thinking about the amount of romantic encounters or couples in the gaming world. Most games act out the classic tale of boy meets girl or hero saves princess; Mario and Peach, Link and Zelda, Earthworm Jim and Princess What's-Her-Name. Lately, however, you find much more complexity and realism thrown into the game's main story, and that makes for some memorable and sometimes heartbreaking romances. From open ended RPG romances to the established cookie cutter damsel in distress, these are the romances that come to mind.

The Blissful

Kairi and Sora - Kingdom Hearts Series

In a story all about dark and light's coexistence, Sora's constant fight for his friends is what keeps him going. Despite the close bond with his friend Riku, Kairi is the standout, especially in the first installment. His desire to unite his friends again has this underlying hint of unrequited love to it all. Kairi is the voice that calls him back after turning into a Heartless, basically being consumed by darkness. It was a huge moment in the franchise, and one that solidified this desire to see them end up happily ever after. She is the continual source of drive in his journey, and hopefully we will see more of their story evolve in the upcoming installment.

So...Netflix and Chill?

Elena and Nathan Drake - Uncharted Series
When you take a character as colorful and unique as Nathan Drake, you do not just set him up with an average girl. The key to the relationship between Elena and Nathan is how much she challenges him. She is far from helpless, and not only goes toe to toe with him in witty banter but stands at his side in a firefight. Their relationship's evolution from the first game to the third constantly has them at odds with each other, as if fighting their true feelings or unwilling to be vulnerable in any way. It is the lively, engaging banter that really helps them stand out. Even a brief separation could not keep them apart long, and Uncharted 3 solidified their dedication to each other.

Squall and Rinoa - Final Fantasy VIII
Most are all about Titus and Yuna, Cloud and Tifa, or Garnet and Zidane if you name a go-to Final Fantasy couple. For me, Final Fantasy VIII was a personal favorite entry to the series. The captivating world, the addicting card games, and the satisfaction of using a gunblade made it a standout for me. But primarily, it was the interaction of Rinoa and Squall that led me to add this above the others. Rinoa's constant bubbly personality clashing with Squall's reserved shell across four discs was an entertaining sight with some genuine moments. Eventually chipping away at him, he stands by her side throughout her possession, abandonment, and imprisonment.

The Tragic

Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong - Resident Evil Series
The rookie cop and the woman in the red dress with a hidden agenda; it was one to be remembered. In the midst of blood thirsty zombies, an unstoppable bioweapon, and dangerous humans attempting to cover up their mistakes; this was an environment that should not foster a love connection. Yet, Leon's agenda to protect the few living beings he encounters finds him going out of his way to protect Ada, even going so far as to take a bullet for her. At the time, Ada's true motives and ominous shadow in the final battle gave hope that we would see her again, and Resident Evil 4 paved the way for future meetups. They constantly bump into each other in installments after that, but separate agendas have them at odds. You never see the loving embrace, or house with picket fences; instead it seems they are cursed to never settle so long as the threat of Umbrella exists.

Hopefully nobody unplugs the router...

Cortana and Master Chief - Halo Series
An AI is not suppose to feel emotion, and events in Halo V could take this any direction (I will withhold that spoiler). Yet, throughout the series Cortana has been with Chief for much of his life. She has seen the battles he has waged, the friends he has lost, and guided him every step of the way. It is an unconventional relationship, but one that really tugged at your heartstrings in the fourth installment. With Cortana's impending rampancy, there is a moment with Master Chief that she has essentially longed to experience; a true one on one. There is a sadness that overtakes Chief, and knowing that this is a unique relationship that can never be only makes it a tragic one. Hopefully we will get some closure in the last installment, but Halo V solidifies his dedication and undeniable bond with Cortana.

Isaac Clarke and Nicole Brennan - Dead Space

Another survival horror love gone wrong. Isaac Clarke spends the main game of Dead Space in hopes that the horrors he encounters in the space station have not consumed the love of his life. After finding her in the station and communicating with her over the coms, there is a glimmer of hope in escaping together. His feelings end up being twisted by the Marker, and in a turn of events, the video he replayed over and over finally shows the ending - Nicole committing suicide as the outbreak intensified. The visions of Nicole would plague him in the following game as well, and the haunting talks he has with her really struck a chord. It is a tale about letting go, something that Isaac struggles with but ultimately accomplishes thanks in part to his newfound interest in fellow survivor Ellie.

The Personal

Bastila Shan - Knights of the Old Republic
When you first start your path of the Jedi, one character is there to guide you. She acts as your mentor and you, her padawan. During my playthrough there were multiple moments of discussion on the ship, battles fought together, and I felt unstoppable if she was also in my party. It flipped when she was captured and later turned to the dark side. It took me aback as she stood with Sith garments, telling me to join her in her quest for power. In a final battle, I was able to turn her back to the light using our relationship as the basis for the good I still saw in her. The thirty plus hours fighting by her side made the ability to turn her that much more memorable.

Let's be honest, I'm doing this to buy your house

Wife Villager - Fable II
This one was a little different, but one with impact. In Fable II you can take a wife, buy a home, and have a family. Funny thing was, I found myself returning to my home in the hills to visit my family on more than one occasion. My son would run out to meet me, my wife was quick to welcome me home as I stepped inside. It was subtle, it was endearing, it gave a break from the action. Watching this random NPC suddenly take shape into a character of interest was an interesting transition, and one that stuck with me as the credits rolled.

Triss Merigold - Witcher Series
The Witcher has a complicated story and features a classic love triangle.  I entered into the franchise with the second installment and the primary love interest automatically directs you to Triss Merigold. She was a loyal and trusted compatriot, siding with you when everyone else turned, and assisting Geralt when he awoke with amnesia. When my memory was restored, it was revealed that I was initially in love with a sorceress, Yennefer. I was torn. Stick with the initial love that was unbeknownst to me or continue with the love I knew. I chose to stick it out with Triss, but it was a decision and situation that did not come easy.

The Bizarre

Chell and Companion Cube - Portal
In a game where you are trapped underground in a twisted game to get to the surface, your most loyal companion ends up being a cube with a heart on its surface. Holding your buttons while you leap around, loyal to the core with an...unmoving personality. The companion cube slowly took shape through jests and chides as your most trusted compatriot. It was a relationship that fit well with the hilarious demeanor of GLaDOS, and you ended up giving some sense of empathy with the hollowed out block of plastic.


Yeto and Yetta - Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The Snow Cap Ruins was a memorable dungeon because it was so unconventional. You basically worked your way through someone's home. As you make your way through, the mirror fragment you seek in this dungeon has driven Yetta mad, and upon her defeat the couple reunites and fills the room with hearts. It was awkward, it made no sense physically, and it introduced the furry fetish in a game where I was part wolf...

There are plenty more to consider with this blog in each of these categories, but these were the personal standouts that stuck with me the most. As long as writers have unconventional characters, there will be a plethora of coming gaming couples that will have their share of bliss, tragedy, and oddity.

Have a romance or gaming couple that stuck with you?

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