The Destructoid staff opens their hearts
It’s John Wick Chapter 2 weekend and that means Valentine’s Day is just a few days away. For some, that day will be spent sharing romantic moments, flowers, chocolates, lingerie, and disappointing sex with the one you love. For me, it will be Tuesday.
Even though I’ve been criminally single for the past 13 years, I’m always optimistic that love is right around the corner. My spirit is kept up with movies about falling in love, TV shows about people in love and video games where the protagonist risks his or her life to save their one true love.
Yes, I am that pathetic, but this week and the build-up to another lonely night got me thinking about gaming and love. Video games are often looked down upon for their poor story telling but I think many of us at one point or another have found ourselves completely immersed in the passion shared between two pixilated characters. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to know what the Destructoid staff considered to be their favorite video game love story.
Oh, and be warned: this article contains spoilers.
Now that Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a game, I’m allowed to talk about the manly love between Griffith and Guts. It’s a friendship that begins with the former dislocating the latter’s shoulder, followed by an utterance of the phrase “now you belong to me,” and some naked horseplay. Berserk is oddly heartwarming at times, but it quickly diffuses any semblance of hope in any given scene and relies on a sense of grimdarkness that other stories only wish they could pull off.
The original anime (not the truncated movies) and the manga are able to painstakingly build up their relationship to a believable level, which makes the painful events that follow all the more heartbreaking. The game mostly gets that right, focusing roughly 10 of its 20 hours on the Golden Age Arc and their friendship.
As someone who isn’t exactly experienced in love and romance, I nevertheless like a good love story in my games. However, I’m not someone who easily buys into “main character and his designated love interest”. I don’t like love stories that feel arbitrary or forced. If characters need to end up together, I need to see touching shared moments, genuine bonding and more subtlety than “we’re in this war together, let’s make out”.
To the Moon provided that better than any other game I’ve seen. We follow the story of Johnny and his wife River from an early age all the way through until a long-lasting marriage, and it hit all the right notes for it to feel real to me.
Johnny first became interested in River because she was aloof and quiet, and a little interesting and mysterious as a result. After an awkward date invitation (and an even more awkward actual date), we see the relationship between the two naturally grow and prosper. Despite having to deal with psychological and medical issues, the two remain utterly committed to each other, until ultimately death does them part.
Theirs is easily one of the most touching stories I remember from any video game.
I’m going with Chu Lip (or as some type it, Chu<3Lip), and not just because I just wrapped up a 3 part interview series with the game’s creator. I’m choosing Chu Lip because it’s the only game I’ve ever played where your main goal is to love everyone in town.
Just as in real life, mass seduction doesn’t come easy here. Smooching all fifty of your love interests (including a giant frog, a Dtoid-style robot, and a reanimated pile of cremated ashes) takes over 7 hours, even for master pick-up artists.
In the immortal words of Martin ‘Martin’ Lawrence ~ “Damn, Gina.”
Rolf and Nei from Phantasy Star II. Rolf isn’t in romantic love with Nei, they were more like bros from another Mother Brain. The way shit goes down in that game has left me scarred for life, and cautiously optimistic about my future hyper-strong robot waifs. Also, I have to cite very old games because I’ve lost all feeling in my chest since the Clinton administration.
Love comes in many shapes and sizes. Something the person you think you’ll end up with isn’t who you thought it’d be. Sometimes the person you fall in love with isn’t even a person, but a line of code programmed to be the perfect girlfriend. And sometimes the person you fall in love with is someone you buy at a store.
Okay, this is getting weird, but when I look at the many love stories I’ve seen in gaming, the one that always brings a smile to my face is that of Sal 9000 and his girlfriend Nene Anegasaki, one of the stars of the never-localized Love Plus for the Nintendo DS. You might have heard about this when it happened: a Japanese man is so in love with his virtual girlfriend, he broadcasts their wedding ceremony over the internet. It was cute, it was weird, it was decidedly Japanese.
Life sucks, and it sucks more each and every day. All of us look for ways to find happiness in life and this guy found happiness in a girl who only exists as a few thousand 1s and 0s perfectly sequenced to his liking. That’s a type of happiness I can only dream of finding in my life.
As I’ve gotten older, I find that love stories that demonstrate dedication and commitment resonate more with me than stories of burning hot passion. It’s harder to find a more dedicated couple than Guybrush Threepwood and Elaine Marley from the Monkey Island series of adventure games. They’ve stayed together through five adventures, and both parties have been dead, zombified, or worse on multiple occasions. Through it all, they stay utterly devoted to one another. It’s hard to find someone who’ll stay with you through a full body transformation, but their relationship has been tested by far more than that!
Despite the constant challenge to their union posed by the villainous LeChuck, Guybrush and Elaine have never wavered and face all their challenges together. Although each of the Monkey Island games features Guybrush as a protagonist, Elaine is always there in the background and is usually depicted as far more competent than her partner. It’s pretty clear Elaine wears the pants in their relationship, but Guybrush is just happy to see his Plunder Bunny after a long day on the Caribbean seas.
It’s been interesting seeing their relationship grow from love at first sight in The Secret of Monkey Island to their marriage in Curse of Monkey Island and a comfortable domestic life in Escape From Monkey Island and the TellTale series. From pixels to paintings to polygons, the Monkey Island series provides a template for long-term relationships that I hope I can live up to.
Twilight Princess may not be the best Zelda game out there, but it did some cool things to try and better explain the world in which you inhabit. One of those details was the setup for the game’s best dungeon, Snowpeak Ruins. You weren’t simply going into some long abandoned mine shaft and poking around but were invited into the home of some yetis to help them.
Yeto, the gargantuan guy in the picture, nabbed one of the pieces of the Mirror of Twilight as a gift for his wife, Yeta. This, in turn, turned their home into a mess and gave his wife a sickness. As you’re roaming around trying to figure out the cause of their blight, Yeto is in the kitchen brewing a soup for his beloved. Each time you bring him an ingredient, he shoves you over and immediately throws that sucker into the soup.
The boss battle for the dungeon culminates when you find the key to their bedroom and the Mirror fragment possesses Yeta. After knocking sense into her and removing the blight from their home, Yeto comes in to hold his frail wife. She is initially upset that she lost the gift from her husband, but he consoles her and tells her, “Look into eyes of Yeto. There true beauty.” They then embrace and culminate in a flurry of hearts and a heart container.
Say what you will about how elongated the tutorials of Twilight Princess are or how much needless bloat there is between dungeons, Snowpeak Ruins’ bittersweet tale of a loving couple makes the game.
There’s an infinite number of ways to extract meaning from anything, including games, depending on your experiences and what you are looking for. That is especially true of artistic media like Ico that are less explicit than their colleagues and even go so far as to leave things to the audience’s interpretation. So whether you took Ico and Yorda’s relationship to be romantic or not, an undeniable bond was forged between the two.
Throughout the game, Ico must escort Yorda safely around the castle as they attempt to escape from their imprisonment. Yorda is mostly useless, doing little beyond opening the occasional gate in return for Ico who is working tirelessly to save her. Therefore Ico, controlled by the player, must not only create safe passage for Yorda but literally hold her hand and guide her, requiring the player to hold R1 while doing so.
Many people point to the ending as the big emotional moment, but in my opinion, the most important and moving moment is a quick one. Somewhere around the middle or perhaps the second half of the game, Ico and Yorda reach the bridge leading out of the castle. Turns out they can’t escape and the bridge starts to split, with Ico and Yorda on either side. Ico attempts to leap back across and is falling short when suddenly Yorda’s hand appears and catches him.
He still falls, but her reaching for him is the moment she finally returns the favor, grabbing his hand instead of the other way around, possibly a metaphor for returning love. This is the culmination of all the hard work Ico put in for her and the entire game’s premise of connecting the player to Yorda. The ending would not have as much of an impact without the bridge scene.
While there are a lot of true romances to choose from including Tidus and Yuna in Final Fantasy X and definitely a lot of joke answers to go with, that one moment in Ico resonated with me than any other moment in games.
Robo Panda Z
The correct answer, though, was the friendship between Undyne and Papyrus.
Man, I’ve been thinking about this question all week and couldn’t come up with much. The first thing that came to mind was the familial love that I had for Nanako while playing Persona 4. There are many touching moments in that game, but only one, which involves Nanako, brought tears to my eyes. It’s a different kind of love than this post was going for, but damn if I didn’t feel like a big bro to Nanako.
Then it hit me: Catherine! Definitely not a role-model story of love, but a very adult one. Love and lust are the main themes while playing and the beauty about Catherine is how those elements are explored through the puzzle-climbing aspects of the gameplay. Imagery and difficulty are aplenty, perfectly representing what Vincent is going through. Love is explored in other ways too, like the relationship between Erica and Toby or the sheep’s stories in the landings. The best part about Catherine is how fully the ideas of love are explored, instead of just being some lovey-dovey kiss-kiss smooch-smooch hugfest.
Those are the loves that we love. Let us know in the comments what love stories you consider to be the best video games have to offer.