In case you haven't noticed, today is February 14th, the day that many of us set aside to celebrate all things love related. (and if you truly haven't noticed, that may explain the nasty looks you are getting from your loved one today) Over the centuries that we have existed as an established society, what have we adopted as the universal symbol of love but an iconic representation of that fist-sized organ that beats steadily in your chest, the heart! While a real heart serves the very necessary purpose of getting freshly oxygenated blood to all the various parts of your body, we have found that the iconic heart can serve many other purposes, depending on who you ask or what video game world you are in.
So today, I would like to take a moment to raise a glass of your favorite toasting beverage in a very special Valentine's day tribute to the heart and its various uses in gaming.
Of the four traditional card suits - Diamonds, Clubs, Spades and Hearts - None hold as much romanticism as the crimson red heart. Sure, Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but we all know that the reason she is out at the Clubs every night, meeting strange men in Spades, is because she is searching for the right King (or Queen, you never know) to give her Heart to. Unfortunately, more often than not she ends up with some Joker that doesn't know Jack and is a complete pain in the Ace.
Anyone that has played as or with a Hunter is more than familiar with this little symbol. For Hunters, it is a rite of passage to go out and tame your first beast, a trusted companion that will fight by your side through thick and thin. You track down the creature of your desire, and your eyes meet across the plain/savannah/grassland/forest as two lovers across a crowded ballroom. With all the passion you can muster, you start making mad kissy faces at the creature, hearts floating serenely from your head as the beast tenderly frolics towards you as if in a feminine hygiene commercial. And then, as you lovingly reach out to embrace, it savagely rips at your flesh for the rest of the duration of the spell cast. Dear god, the pain. But as long as you endure, the beast will learn to love you for who you are and follow your every order. Of course, if you don't endure you get to become critter chow, which is part of the other Circle of Life that Disney didn't bother to make a movie about.
Around this time of year, there is a lot of talk of those "three little words" that people long to have whispered in their ear. But if your name is Jackie Estacado, those three little words are "Eat his heart!" and you long to have them stop. Poor Jackie spends more time feeding fresh human hearts to the Darkness that lives inside him than Pac-Man spends feeding himself power pellets. Sure, it helps keep Jackie alive, replenishing a quarter of his health each time and healing over those annoying bullet holes he keeps finding in his body, but still, its hard to find love with two hungry mouths to feed... especially when they are growing out of your shoulders.
As a game mechanic, the heart-based ammo system of the CastleVania games simply works. You pick up hearts, which lets you throw more of your sub-weapons, like daggers, crosses, axes and holy water. Its simple, its streamlined, and its made of pure, unadulterated awesome. But have you ever stopped to think about what is actually going on here? Does he devour the hearts for the calories needed to make a throwing gesture with his arm? Do the hearts magically turn into the required item as needed, allowing him to throw organic-based weapon dopplegangers? While we are on the topic, why does he get hearts from destroying candles, sconces and torches? What is it about extinguishing a flame in the CastleVania universe that makes them turn into beating, body-less human organs? There is no rhyme or reason to the system, and yet we love it. Though I will admit, I would never want to witness a Belmont blowing out his birthday cake. That would be nasty. Grant DaNasty, even.
Okay, this one is a bit more tricky to talk about than the others on this list. Here at GameGeex, we go to great lengths to keep our site as Spoiler Free[TM] as possible. Kingdom Hearts, the game series, revolves around the secret of what Kingdom Hearts, the object, is, and why they should protect it. I'm not going to discuss what Kingdom Hearts actually is here in this post. Like Morpheus states about the Matrix, you cant really be told what it is, you have to experience it for yourself. If you haven't played the Kingdom Hearts series, you really should start at the beginning and play through it all.
And once you are done, can you do me a favor? Explain to me what the @#$! Kingdom Hearts actually IS? Because I have no farging clue at this point, and I've beaten most of the games. Like a cat chasing a laser pointer, I am oblivious as to what is actually going on, yet I cant get enough of it. Can I haz Kingdom Hearts 3 nao?
Nothings says "I Win" quite like ripping your opponent's heart out with your bare hand, and Mortal Kombat lets you do exactly that. While there have been a plentiful number of bizarre and disgusting Fatalities over the years (not to mention all the other -alities that they threw at us in various iterations of the game), few have been so blunt and straight to the point as the Five Finger Aortic Extraction.
Note to Self: Talk about how these games were a triumph; a huge success. Overstate my satisfaction, if I can (it may be hard to do so)
Poor, poor Chell. Not only does she have to perform more lab tests then a Pinky & The Brain/Dexter's Laboratory crossover, but shes got to go through it all alone. Sure, she has a little bit of company the second time around in the form of the blathering BritBot Wheatley, but theres only one actual companion that stole our hearts from the moment he appeared on screen. He didn't say much, but his stoic silence only endeared us more. He did everything that Chell requested, as he knew that for her - and for science! - he must. The moment that Chell made that fateful choice to-
No. I cant go on. I cant face what you did to him, Chell.
And here we are, the most iconic use of the heart symbol in video games. Somewhere along the process of developing the original The Legend of Zelda, it was decided that hearts=health and that was that. Ever since, the heart has become the international symbol of health units, whenever Health Bars and straight up Hitpoint Numbers are not being employed. The Zelda series even goes so far as to allow you collect small heart icons (Heart Container Pieces) to form bigger heart icons (Heart Containers) in order to hold all your other heart icons (hearts you pick up from defeating monsters), officially making this series more heart friendly than a bowl of Cheerios with Quaker Oats and Bayer Aspirin mixed in.