Love is in the Air - Weekly Recommendations 14/02 - 20/02

 

Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.

It's that time of the year when we express our fondness and appreciation for the special person in our life, no matter how cold and unloving we may be for the other 364 days a year. The gaudy Valentines cards and trinket shop tat will soon find its way into the dustbin, but the gesture will not be so quickly forgotten.

For all their charms, video games are not the most romantic of medium. Yet love is a central theme in many, and there is no shortage of touching and unusual romances to be found in our favourite games.

So here are three recommendations with romance, no matter how unconventional, at their core.




1. Love Plus – Nintendo DS (2009)

The Japanese dating-sim Love Plus has much in common with Tamagotchi, only with 16 year old girls instead of digital pets. You step into the shoes of a high school student looking for love, nurturing, amusing and endearing yourself to one of three inoffensive young ladies. In choosing your love interest you must pay close attention to their interests – ranging from fighting games to housework – and all important blood type.

Once you have settled on a favourite you go about winning them over with activities, stimulating conversation and your stylus penmanship. Running the DS stylus in circular motions across the forehead, cheeks, ears etc of your intended beau causes her to purr with content, like some hideous wide-eyed cat, now much more likely to give you a kiss. The whole thing is a little creepy, and frankly quite dull, though it never goes beyond an innocent smooch. Not a great game, but one I would recommend if you are looking for something quirky and different.

Love Plus and the imaginatively titled follow-up, Love Plus +, have been, and continue to be hugely successful in Japan, and there is even an arcade equivalent for when your DS runs out of juice. One gamer fell so completely head over heels for his digital better half that he married her in a lavish ceremony, garnering the attention of the international press in the process. Now that’s romantic.

2. Final Fantasy IX – PlayStation (2000-01)

It would have been far too easy to populate these recommendations solely with RPGs, a genre littered with tales of true love lost and found. More specifically, the Final Fantasy series could have easily been the subject of all three recommendations. The angst-ridden romance between Squall and Rinoa in VIII, FF VII’s love triangle and the doomed young lovers of FFX all had their moments, but it’s the forbidden love of a princess and a thief that stands as the most memorable.

There are plenty of other, arguably more interesting, things going on in Final Fantasy IX, the franchise’s PS swan song, but it is the relationship of Zidane and Garnet that keeps it all together. The cutesy charm and nostalgia of IX, in stark contrast to the more gritty and realistic settings of its PS predecessors, provides the perfect setting for the blooming relationship of our leads. A fairytale romance is perfectly in keeping with the lighthearted dialogue, charming cities and likeable cast, able to thrive away from the steam punk aesthetics of VI-VII and mercenary values of VIII.

FFIX introduced a number of new features including Active Time Events and Mognet, and it boasts the most impressive and rich world map of the series. FFIX stands as the most distinctive Final Fantasy of the last 15 years, a classical romance that has endured and maintains its popularity.

3. Noby Noby Boy – PlayStation 3 (2009)

A brightly coloured quadrupedal stretching to absurd lengths, swallowing and then excreting anyone that stands still long enough, is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think of romance. But everything that Boy does he does for love, the love of the equally supple Girl, to be exact.

Controlling the draft-excluder-like boy across any number of randomly generated levels, the objective is simple; stretch as much as possible, wrapping around all manner of structures and weird beings. Points accumulated by Boy are then submitted online causing Girl to stretch from Earth into outer space. The Noby Noby Boy community currently has Girl just beyond Saturn, rewarding players with extras as she reaches new planets.

As Boy stretches he emanates hearts, a constant reminder of his heartfelt motivations. However, the more he does for Girl the more he pushes her away, as she is propelled further into space, out of reach of even the most elastic of creatures. Heartbreak aside, Noby Noby Boy is one of the PlayStation Network’s finest curiosities, a unique experience and a game in only the loosest sense.

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