Video games hardly have a glowing track record when it comes to making the player feel all warm and mushy inside. Traditionally, they’re far better at explosions and pew-pew-pew than romance and snuggle-wuggles. And when the medium has taken a swing at courting, it’s often been reduced to nothing more than picking the right dialogue choice so that you can bed anyone in the near vicinity. If only it were that simple, eh?
Romance? In my videogames?
However, a few games have succeeded in their attempts to capture the tender side of human relationships. Here we use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to look at some of the sweeter moments of romance that the medium has to offer while Clinton Cards rub their hands over their quarter one sales figures.
Gitaroo Man – The Legendary Song
Gitaroo Man may tread familiar ground when it comes to plot (not another coming-of-age tale of an outcast schoolboy given a mystical guitar by an interstellar dog), but it also tackles the painful longing of those will-we won’t-we moments. The aptly named “Legendary Song” scales back the madness of trumpeting bees and mariachi skeletons as you gently serenading your love interest under a tree at sunset. A beautifully, unexpected change of pace that manages to capture the butterflies of being picked for the slow dance at the school disco.
The Darkness – To Kill a Mockingbird
Childhood sweethearts Jackie and Jenny generally have a rough old time of it and rarely find time for romance during The Darkness, but there is a glimmer of light in The Darkness. Early on, the player is given the opportunity to cuddle up on the sofa and watch the entirety of To Kill a Mockingbird. Although a racially charged, sexual assault court drama is perhaps not everyone’s first pick for a date movie, it would take a very cold heart not to melt as Jenny gently nuzzles into Jackie’s shoulder before falling asleep. Probably best not to mention what happens next.
Catherine – The Wedding
To say that Vincent and Katherine’s relationship has its ups and downs would be under selling it slightly, but if you do manage to navigate your way through the nightmares and dialogue options it is possible to see them happily joined together in holy matrimony. Although holding the reception in the same bar that Vincent first encountered the devilish temptress Catherine may lack a certain romance, it’s hard not to believe that they were meant to be as they whisper “I love you”. I give it six months.
Noby Noby Boy – Back for Good
Keita Takahashi’s bizarre sandbox had players the world over contributing to the length of GIRL in her journey through the solar system, by stretching and manipulating the long suffering BOY. Late last year she finally made it back home to Earth after nearly seven years and God knows how many man hours. That’s some dedication. But the sight of her enormous face as it gently makes contact with Earth makes it all seem worthwhile. Together again at last.
Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time – The Goodbye
Ocarina of Time’s fondly remembered bridge scene sees Saria bid farewell to Link as he leaves Kokori Forest and is also the first time the player gets their hands on an ocarina. But it’s in the last few moments, as Link reluctantly edges away and Saria silently looks on, that you may feel your heart breaking. Here is a relationship based on what-could-have-been and if-only-we-said. The one that got away.
ICO – Save Point
Save points are often a moment to catch your breath, but Ico’s also serve as a time for quiet contemplation. Freed from the threat of the shadow creatures, Ico and Yorda are able to simply sit side by side and enjoy each other’s company in silence. Although their relationship is one borne of circumstance, it’s in these times that they are able to become friends rather than companions and to ignore the language barrier that keeps them at arm’s length even when they are desperately cling to one another’s hands.
Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan – Over the Distance
iNiS, the developers of Gitaroo Man, obviously have a fondness for confounding player expectations as they pull a similar trick in the DS import favourite Ouendan. After bombarding the player with visual lunacy and fast-paced rhythm action goodness, they slow the tempo right down and tell the story of a recently deceased man trying to make contact with the woman he left behind. As the cheerleading troop spur him on to deliver his final message alongside the sweeping, soaring score you may find yourself distracted by the lump forming in the back of your throat. Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore don’t have a thing on this.