Today is Valentine’s Day, and with every nationally observed holiday comes great controversy. V-Day is a holiday that many people love to hate, for lots of different reasons. There’s the classic “commercialism” reason, then you have single folks who don’t want to be reminded that they are single, then there are couples who don’t want to feel obligated to make one particular day more special for their relationship than any other day; for every person who is excited for today, there’s someone who really doesn’t want to deal with it.
Personally, I don’t really have a problem with Valentine’s Day. It is kind of a bummer to not have a Valentine, sure, but being aggressively single and posting all up on Facebook about how much you hate Valentine’s Day is just as annoying as the couples who do nothing but post pictures from their relationship and splatter “I love you” all over everything. As with many things in life, any kind of extremism is bad.
So today, I thought I’d walk the middle road by observing Valentine’s Day, but with a bit of a twist. Rather than celebrating the video game couples that are wonderful and have great love stories and yada yada, I’m going to talk about the couples that just plain stink.
Honorary Mention: Link and Zelda
I get it, I get it, this is probably blasphemy coming from somebody who claims to love the Zelda series above all others. But I encourage you to sit down and really think about it. When you play a Zelda game, do you look at Link and Zelda together and feel happiness and satisfaction? No! You feel gnawing emptiness inside of you because you want them to be in love SO BADLY, and they aren’t. They just aren’t.
While I don’t think the real reasons behind these characters never getting together have anything to do with female empowerment, I should note that it’s cool Zelda doesn’t feel obligated to be with Link just because he rescues her from Ganondorf. That’s not the basis of a good relationship. What’s frustrating is that there’s more than one Link and Zelda, and in some cases it makes perfect sense for the characters to fall in love. What about Wind Waker, where the two meet before Zelda ever knows she’s a princess and they develop a mutual respect for one another over the course of a long journey? Or Skyward Sword, where Link and Zelda have been friends for ages and are already very close? These games can be particularly aggravating when it comes to this relationship. Heck, A Link Between Worlds even sort of ships Ravio and Hilda together. Come on, Nintendo!
The main reason that these two get honorary mention and not an actual ranking on the list is because they would be a good couple IF THEY WERE A COUPLE. If they ever get there, this will probably jump up to a pretty high spot on my “favorite couples in gaming” list. Maybe next Valentine’s, eh?
Couple #5: Donkey Kong and Candy Kong
Okay, this couple honestly just weirds me out. First of all, both of their last names are Kong. DK is related to other members of the Kong family – Kranky, Diddy, Dixie – so is Candy some kind of cousin or something? I mean, I guess that’s legal in some places, but it’s still disturbing territory.
Then there’s Candy’s design…girl monkeys do not look like that, people. If you don’t know what Candy Kong looks like, don’t look her up. Rule 34 is a thing, and furries are a thing. If you don’t know what any of that is, congratulations. Please hold on to your innocence. Anyway, her appearance is really bizarre, she wears makeup, and her name is Candy. It’s just weird.
The main reason these two aren’t higher on the list is because they really don’t do anything couple-y in the games. They exist, characters acknowledge that they are together, but that’s it. So it’s weird, and potentially involves incest, but since it isn’t rubbed in your face it doesn’t make me too angry. Just all skin-crawly and grossed out.
Couple #4: Fox McCloud and Krystal
Speaking of furries…
Star Fox is such a weird series. It really is. Back when I was growing up, Star Fox 64 was a staple. Everyone played that game, everyone knew all the little dialogue blips, everyone hated Slippy – it’s a simple but very fun game. Ever since, the company has been trying to make a game with the same amount of pop-culture punch, but it just isn’t working out for them. Making the climate isn’t right for Star Fox anymore, or maybe they’re trying too hard. I don’t know. Maybe Star Fox Zero will be what the series needs. But for me, the relationship between Fox and Crystal is part of what messes the series up a little.
There’s nothing wrong with having a female pilot in Star F0x. But having a romance just doesn’t work for this game. What made Star Fox 64 great was the simplicity of it all. You pilot a ship, you shoot some bad guys with a lot of personality. There’s a ton of witty one-liners and whether you love or hate the cast, they’re an important part of the experience. After that, the simple formula got bogged down in trying to give these animal heroes these really detailed lives and backstories, and in trying to make the gameplay more like a mainstream scifi game where the characters get out of their ships and have blasters and yada yada. Star Fox didn’t need all that stuff, and it certainly didn’t need a romance for its main character.
I’ll admit that the romance between Fox and Krystal isn’t bad writing-wise. He’s all flustered and awkward about it, they have trouble being honest about their feelings – but it just isn’t necessary. It’s one more layer of complexity on a game that functions best when it isn’t complex at all. Maybe if the relationship was implied rather than spoken about quite so openly, and the banter between the two characters was the basis for players shipping them. I don’t know. Fox and Krystal really aren’t that bad in the grand scheme of things, which is why they are only fourth on this list. This relationship doesn’t necessarily need to be eliminated – it just needs to be done better. Along with the entire game.
Couple #3: Luigi and Daisy
This couple gets on my nerves primarily because they are so forced. I mean, since Mario has Peach, obviously Luigi needs someone, right? One of them can’t be single while the other one has a date. That’s just ridiculous!
In a way, Luigi and Daisy are the ultimate obligatory Valentine’s couple: together only because being single is just “so awful.” Why is it bad if Luigi doesn’t have somebody? It’s not like his relationship with Daisy has any sort of plot significance. They don’t even have enough of an established personality for us to really know if they go together or not. It’s just silly to put two characters together for no reason except that they don’t have anyone else.
Perhaps my dislike of this couple is disproportionate to the crime, but I really just don’t like these two together. As far as I am concerned, Luigi can just stay single. At least until Daisy does something other than drive a car and play tennis.
Couple #2: Micaiah and Sothe
“Who now?” Yeah, this one is a bit more out there. Micaiah is one of the main characters of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and Sothe is the little thief/stowaway from Path of Radiance. By the time Radiant Dawn rolls around, Sothe is a few years older and has really hit his growth spurt. Old enough now to be in love, his love interest is his companion Micaiah, who he was actually looking for in the first game.
If the only Fire Emblem game you’ve played is Awakening, you may not be used to the mechanics of the older games. Before Awakening, you had a limited number of support conversations. Once you had so many, the character capped out. In most Fire Emblem titles, the number is 5, and you can spend up to 3 on one person. Of course, Radiant Dawn was different – you could only have one support partner per character, so up to three support conversations. Now the “upside” of this was that you could literally have any character support any other character. The downside? None of the support conversations had any sort of depth or significance, and you only got something really worthwhile out of it by supporting particular characters together.
Most of the characters capable of getting married throughout the game were building upon relationships established in the first game. Mist and Boyd, Elincia and Geoffrey, these couples made sense and satisfied a lot of shipping from Path of Radiance. Then you had Micaiah and Sothe.
Their relationship is built completely around an unseen history. You get hints of it through their dialogue, but ultimately, all you know about their love is that they’ve already been together for so long that they really care about each other. Any romance between the two is pretty flimsy – their dialogue is so focused around other things. Yet when you unlock the ability to have support conversations, these two ALREADY have enough support points saved up to achieve the highest rank. You don’t even have to get them to like each other – the game just hands you their relationship on a silver platter. They aren’t officially “together” until you beat the game, but for all intents and purposes, Micaiah and Sothe can only be with each other.
If these characters just have to go together that badly, why not start them off in a relationship and build upon that? Let their relationship arc progress from courtship to marriage-ready by the end of the game. Instead they sit just on the line between having a relationship and not having one, and then at the end of the game you find out “oh by the way, they get married later.” There’s nothing to earn, nothing to see, nothing to enjoy – the relationship is just there. It’s a far cry from the support mechanics of Awakening or even of other earlier Fire Emblem titles, and it leaves a lot to be desired.
Couple #1: Sora and Kairi
And the hate comments start right about…now.
Yes, adventurers, I’m going there. I do not like Sora and Kairi.
To explain exactly why, I need to tell the story of the movie Avatar. James Cameron’s celebrated blue-people movie was not a bad movie. It was beautifully designed and a joy to watch from a visual perspective. Plotwise, it left some things to be desired. My date and I were able to predict the entire movie. When we left, I didn’t hate the movie. I thought it was fine. Not brilliant. Not terrible. Fine.
Then came the reaction. People everywhere worshiped this movie. Avatar was the most incredible thing they had ever seen. Favorite movies were immediately cast aside to put Avatar in its place. Everyone praised how wonderfully brilliant James Cameron was and how he needed to make at least six more films building off of this idea. Meanwhile, there I was shrugging my shoulders and saying “meh, it was okay, I guess.”
The more people talked about how absolutely incredible Avatar was, the more I came to hate it. Not because it was literally bad, but because it wasn’t as good as what everyone thought. Yes it was pretty, but movie of the year? Favorite movie of all time? Definitely not. I now despise Avatar simply to cancel out some of the hype surrounding it.
That’s how I feel about Sora and Kairi. Analyzed realistically, they aren’t a bad couple. They’re two kids who grew up together into teenagers, and as they experienced attraction to the opposite sex for the first time, they had each other. How cute. After that, the events of the Kingdom Hearts games put them into a situation where Sora had to look for Kairi, all the while unknowingly protecting her heart so that he could return it to her in a moment of self-sacrifice that made him a Heartless. That’s noble and sweet. I like it. Good stuff.
Enter the fan reaction. “OMG! Sora and Kairi are like, SOOOO CUTE! Kairi is the best character EVAR! I ship them SOOO HARD, and I ship Roxas and Namine just ‘cuz Sora and Kairi!” People go crazy for Kairi in a way that I do not understand. She doesn’t even DO anything. And while Sora’s sacrifice for her is definitely noble, Sora is the kind of guy who would have made that exact same sacrifice for Riku, or even for Donald or Goofy if that had been necessary. Sora’s just a good guy, who did what was right to help someone he cared about.
There’s nothing wrong with Sora and Kairi’s relationship. But the ridiculous love for them as a couple and the overestimation of Kairi’s significance as a character makes my insides boil every time I look at them together. When it comes to those two, I just don’t care about them. Meanwhile, anyone else I talk to about Kingdom Hearts or watch play Kingdom Hearts or whatever ships these two so hard. It’s an unnecessarily passionate reaction to a mediocre love story, and that’s why I put these two at my number one lame couple. Not because they’re bad. Because they’re not good enough to earn all the ridiculous hype that surrounds them.
There you have it adventurers, five couples in video games that really grind my gears. Is there a couple that you hate that didn’t make the list? Do you disagree with my order? Are you going to hate me forever now because of Sora and Kairi? Let me know in the comments, and whether you’re alone or with somebody today, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s.