Somewhere in the multitudes of comments we get here at TA on our Top Five articles, it was mentioned that we should do something with "relationships." Since this is a bit broad, we broke it into different parts, and I volunteered for Romance. Being a romantic at heart, I thought this article would be a breeze to write, but as I've searched, I've discovered how very mistaken I was. If one does a search of "Top Video Game Romances," the same pairings show up again and again: Mario and Peach, Mr. and Ms. Pacman, Link and Zelda...um...really? Don't get me wrong; these are all cute couples, but this is love we're talking about, and love ain't cute. Before getting an Xbox 360, I spent years on my PS1 and PS2 and saw some beautiful, complicated, deep love stories there. Anyone familiar with Fei and Elly, Black Rose and Zieg, and the Final Fantasy series knows what I mean.
So is there anything comparable in the Xbox 360 world? Can we find trust, depth of emotion, lust, love?
Yes, I think we can.
Dragon Age: Origins Achievements
The Dragon Age series has a long history of romance. Your romantic interest depends entirely on the choices you make - the paths you choose to follow as well the the dialogue trees you trigger. Like in real life, you build affection or disaffection with members of your party by your actions and words. With an unwisely spoken word, you can wreck your chances.
Fable II Achievements and Fable III Achievements.
Any Fable fan is familiar with its bawdiness. Fable's approach to love and sex stays largely light-hearted without the darker side of relationships. Whether you want to spend all of your time with prostitutes, casual one-night stands, or in a happy marriage is entirely up to you.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Achievements
I debated whether or not to include Skyrim in the list since the love and marriage mechanics in the game don't have a lot of depth. There aren't a lot of hoops to jump through or choices to make beyond deciding whom one wants to marry. Simply get a love medallion (ie an Amulet of Mara), choose your would-be spouse, and perform a small side-quest for your beloved to get married. Though it's a rather simple system, I've included it because I found it very charming, comforting to come home to Farkas (how can one not love being in love with a fellow werewolf?); his shop came in handy, too.
[WARNING - There are adult scenes and spoilers beyond this point. If there's something here you don't want to risk seeing in any of the related items below, turn back now. You've been warned.]
TA's Top Five Romances
#5 - Geralt and Triss - The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Achievements
Geralt of Rivia is a very powerful man, but his power has come at a price, one easily discernible by the amazing array of scars he carries. In addition to the fighting skills he's so painfully acquired, his Witcher abilities have made him a pariah - a man distrusted and feared regardless of his kindness or compassion. While Geralt has no trouble convincing any number of women to share his bed, there's really only one lady that keeps turning up as a love interest since the death of his beloved Yennefer, and that is the lovely Triss Merigold. While Triss and Geralt don't always see eye-to-eye, there's a great deal of trust and respect between these two, perhaps even a fair amount of love.
#4 - Dom and Maria - Gears of War 2 Achievements
Dom and Maria Santiago were high school sweethearts who married when Maria found out she was pregnant. At sixteen, they were young to be married, but they were happy. A few years and two kids later, Dom was back from the war in one piece, the kids were healthy, and they were all together again; all was well in the world for this happy family. One night, Maria sent the kids to her parents' home so that she could spend some quality time with her man. Tragically, that's the night the Locust struck, and their children, along with Maria's parents, were lost. Thus began Maria's heartbreaking descent into madness, a madness that would eventually send Dom on a ten-year search to find her. But when he does finally find her, she's become an empty husk — a creature emptied of her mind, herself, her body worked beyond going as a Locust slave. Dom has found her at last, but there's nothing left he can do for her save end her misery.
#3 - Master Chief and Cortana - Halo 4 Achievements
Master Chief and his AI guide Cortana make a formidable pair. With Master Chief's daunting physical prowess and Cortana's seemingly limitless intelligence, the two are nigh on to unstoppable. It seems, perhaps, an odd pairing between a legendary soldier and a computer-generated woman, but it all comes down to to the same things we've seen in other love stories — trust, love, need — they're all here. There's a flirtatious side to their relationship all along, but it isn't until Halo 4 that we see their feelings genuinely come bubbling through. Master Chief has risked his life to save Cortana, and now she's returning the favor, except for her, there's no return this time. If one were to wax literary about the following scene, we could discuss how she comes to him devoid of armor while he remains encased in steel, how she reaches out to touch him while he remains enclosed in his metal housing, her emotions flow clearly across her face while remains silent behind the screen over his face. The lines between man and machine are plainly blurred here and with good reason. With Master Chief and Cortana, one picks up where the other leaves off, and we literally see the world come crashing in around him as soon as she's gone.
#2 - Jansen and Ming - Lost Odyssey Achievements
Lost Odyssey has a lot of romance in it; it also has a great deal of sorrow. Kaim and his wife Sarah, for example, are reunited after many years apart. One knows the love is still there, but so much pain has fallen upon them that their relationship remains subdued throughout most of the game. This is the story of five immortals who have come to our dimension to have a look around. When one decides to stay and take over the world, the other four stay to stop him, but he blots out their memories and scatters them to the winds. Over the course of a thousand years, they've wandered only now to break free of his spell and fight back. Among all the grief of this tale is one bright spot — Jansen and Ming. Jansen Friedh is your basic no-good bum. He does things he shouldn't because he can get paid for it. Yet, the man has a good heart. When asked to do things truly reprehensible, he cannot. Ming Numara is as far up the ladder of success as Jansen is down — the queen of Numara. Yet she's a woman who has spent 1,000 years alone. A tremendous fighter with her magic, there is still an innocent, almost child-like quality about her that makes this pairing unexpected and lovely.
#1 - Commander Shepard and... - Mass Effect 2 Achievements and Mass Effect 3 Achievements
In the Mass Effect series, Commander Shepard has the option to romance almost everyone in his or her crew, so it's entirely up to you who Shepard ends up with. I've gone back and forth on how best to handle this romance since I'm dealing with a largely male audience for whom my choice for Shepard romance is unlikely to be yours. Yes, I know you love Tali. Yes, I know you think Liara is hot. But in this particular instance, I'm going with my choice — Garrus. As a gaming girl, I play female characters whenever they're available, so my Shepard is Commander Jane Shepard, and of all the romantic choices available to her, Garrus is easily the best. He's smart, funny, and absolutely lethal. Not only is he the perfect comrade to have along in a fight, he's also the perfect companion for Shepard. He isn't afraid of her strength; he's proud of it. At the same time, he provides a place for her where she doesn't have to be strong all the time, a place that's safe for Shepard the woman to be Shepard the woman, and that is priceless.
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!