By William Haderlie / February 16th, 2016
To keep this article fairly concise, I’ll just list five of my favorite video game couples. I could also come up with a separate list for anime couples, but for this Valentine’s Day, I’ll stick to these five. Love, of the romantic non-filial type, is my favorite theme in all of art. As much as an incredibly well written piece of classic literature or science fiction or fantasy novel will captivate me, it is romantic elements that will always affect me the most. Almost all of my “guilty pleasure” books are strongly romantic themed. This preference does extend to my video game habits as well. And, given that I’ve been gaming for almost the entire history of video games, coming up with a minimum five games was easy, keeping it down to five was extremely difficult. The first four of these titles will be in the order which I have played them, but I will save up my favorite one for the last.
Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III Originally in the United States) – Celes and Locke
One of the first great examples of a classic romantic relationship in video games was Celes and Locke from Final Fantasy VI. It was not the first, even within the series of Final Fantasy itself, at a minimum Cecil and Rosa comes before them. However, the stronger story beats of Final Fantasy VI, the stronger character development, and the additional technology allowing better sound and graphics, makes this a much more memorable experience than other games before it. Initially it was just the rogue thief (treasure hunter!) Locke and his rebuffed advances upon the former Magitek General Celes who has too many other things on her mind than to worry about that scoundrel trying to get into her pants. But after her impromptu performance at the Opera House, one of the most famous and beloved scenes in video game history, the prospects of love start to change for both of them. By the time the end credits roll, it becomes a given that these two will have their happily ever after. The graphics have a wonderful painterly feel to them, even to this day, but one of the strongest aspects of their relationship to the gamer is the wonderful music associated with it.
Xenogears – Elhaym Van Houten and Fei Fong Wong
It should not be a surprise to see this title here on oprainfall. However, I loved this game long before this website existed. The first game of the Xeno series, it has all the elements of space-time spanning Jungian and Freudian themes in a science fiction universe. However, there is also a very strong through-line of this romance through the ages. These two keep on meeting each other throughout time and space in different lives, inexorably drawn to one another, but it continues to end badly for them. Will they finally defy the fate that both draws them together and then keeps them apart? Who are we kidding, if I’m listing it here, that means yes, they do find a way to be together.
To the Moon – River and Johnny
Like River, I am also an adult living with Asperger’s Syndrome. So this couple is almost my favorite of all time. I definitely empathized with her struggles to make Johnny understand her. The title is a small indie video game made on the RPG Maker engine. It is fairly brief, you can go through it in a few hours, and there is no combat. But what there is, is a very strong and romantic story along with a compelling mystery. It is both tragic and beautiful, and it might have made my top spot if both River and Johnny had gotten their happy ending, instead of just Johnny. Oh well, life isn’t fair either, have some beautiful music instead by the artist who wrote and performed the theme song.
The Fruit of Grisaia – Michiru Matsushima and Yūji Kazami
Here, I am referring exclusively to the non-censored Visual Novel. I have not watched the anime, nor do I want to, and also the sex scenes are important to the story and the characters. Really I could have chosen any of the girls for Yuji. Each of the girls are well developed as a character, and each is beautifully represented. They all have pretty dire flaws and circumstances, but if anything, that makes them even more attractive to me. I chose the bottle-blonde Michiru for this though, for rather personal reasons. Her fake tsundere routine, her humorous story bits, and general airheadedness make for an attractive combination. But also her tragic flaw is something that is personally important to me. This Visual Novel is getting on in years, so I don’t feel too bad discussing it, but ignore the rest of this if you don’t want to know. She has dissociative identity disorder, commonly known as multiple personality disorder. And while I didn’t necessarily like the way in which she was said to gain such a trait, I prefer the much more scientifically accurate methods, it is still something that resonates with me a lot. Without divulging too much and in order to protect the identity and privacy of the person in question, I will just say that I was once also in a relationship with a woman who had the same condition. And that still brings back good memories.
Finally, the last one is my favorite in video game history thus far.
Mass Effect Trilogy – Liara T’Soni and Female Shepard
You will, no doubt, notice that I specified the Female version of Commander Shepard here. While I do certainly enjoy lesbian relationships in my games, that is not really the reason I chose that pairing as the superior one, or I would have just said either version. The reason I made that distinction is primarily because of the voice work of Jennifer Hale and the dynamic that exists between her voice work and the voice actress of Liara, Ali Hillis. For anyone who doesn’t think that voice work matters, just play through all three of these games as Jennifer Hale. One of the greatest voice performances in all of video games. I do have a special place in my heart for the romance between Male Shepard and Tali’Zorah vas Normandy, she is so very sweet. But if you keep your relationship steady with Liara through all three games, it forms a relationship that I consider unparalleled in all of gaming. And, yes, with the Lair of the Shadowbroker DLC addition in Mass Effect 2, you can also continue your relationship with Liara in that game as well. Even if you don’t have it, you still meet her in the game, but that DLC makes their relationship even better. I do wish they had a happily ever after ending, but I take some solace that somewhere there is a bunch of little blue girls running around with half of FemShep’s personality in them, and what a nightmare that must be for their wonderfully sweet, shy, and intelligent mother.
So there you have it, my top five picks for romantic relationships in video games for Valentines Day 2016. Hope you enjoyed them even if you don’t necessarily agree.
Final Fantasy VIMass Effect (trilogy)PCPS1RetroSNESThe Fruit of GrisaiaTo the Moonvalentine's dayXenogears