The Ending of Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII is my favorite title of the Playstation era, bar none. There were plenty of excellent titles released for the system, of course, but FFVIII sticks in my brain like none other. Oh, sure, FFVII was a transcendent experience for a number of reasons, but I've always felt a bit more connected to the characters of VIII. Part of this was because the designers explicitly made all the characters recognizably human, both in the cutscenes and in the actual game. Gone were the blocky Lego characters from VII, and there wasn't a Red XIII or Khimari in sight. And there was certainly no freakish main character with a tail.
Rinoa Wins Over Squall
The ending is as cinematic and heartwarming as any film.
The second aspect of my geeky, fanlike adoration of the game revolves around its main romance. This is where the love-it-or-hate-it aspect of it usually comes into play. Either you thought Squall was standoffish and cold because he was a jerk--so you therefore disliked him--or you thought Squall was standoffish because of some repressed Wagnerian broodiness, in which case he was kind of interesting. Regardless, the fact is that Squall and Rinoa's relationship throughout the game changes dramatically, mostly because Squall realizes that a life lived alone-- something he was a strong advocate of at the beginning of the game--just isn't worth living.
That's the main reason I found the ending of the game so brilliantly realized. After defeating the final boss, a time-warping sorceress, Squall and Rinoa find themselves trapped in separate parts of a vast, empty plain, seemingly outside of time itself. A series of visions appear to Squall in which he sees his past both without Rinoa and without anything but Rinoa. In the end, he's defeated by his own indecisiveness and then slumps to the ground.
Then the music swells, Rinoa finds Squall, and one of the most satisfying endings in role-playing game history kicks off its climax. It's an ending that's very easy to be cynical about (as well as laugh at), and perhaps there's more than a bit of ridiculousness to it, because it's certainly not subtle. However, one of the great things about RPGs is that if you identify with the characters, you're going to have 40 or 50 hours' worth of time to spend with them. And the designers of FFVIII took full advantage of this. Squall changed perceptibly, albeit very gradually, throughout the adventure. So by its end, he's forced to come full circle and apostatize what he previously desired. This makes the events portrayed in the final cinematic all the more impactful.
And although FFX showed that a sad ending can work, and work beautifully (admit it, you cried a little!), there's still nothing quite like a good old-fashioned first kiss at the tail end of the credits to make us feel completely satisfied with an epic RPG...especially if a bit of a sentimentalist lurks beneath each of our ossified, cynical hearts, as I willingly admit is the case for me.
CJ and Denise - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Not Your Average Girl
Hi, my name is Denise. I enjoy candlelight dinners, long walks on the beach, and emptying my 9mm on fools.
You're a young man who's about to take a girl out on a first date...your first date with her. It's possibly your first date, period. Your green sweater and khaki pants are fresh from the wash, so you're looking sharp and are dressed like a million bucks. You roll up to her house in your new car, and you tap the horn to get her attention. She pushes open the screen door, and just from the sight of her fresh braids and her confident stride, you can tell this is going to be a good night. She slides across the bench seat in your drop-top, and now come the internal questions: How do I impress this girl? Does she like the bar scene? Would she rather have a nice table-for-two dinner? Or maybe just a nice, scenic drive around the city...
"Let's go dump on some bustas!" maybe isn't the response you expected from this little sweetheart, and it probably wouldn't be even remotely romantic under any other circumstances. But this is San Andreas. The reality is a little bit different here. You're not a man to argue, so you grab your heater from under your seat, roll into Ballaz turf, and let this girl represent the Grove Street Families to the fullest. Watching her empty clip after clip into the small crowds of purple shirts, you think this just might be "the real thing."
But alas, complications with the law end up driving you out of town, cutting short your relationship with this seemingly perfect gangsta's girlfriend. You'll romance plenty of other women all across the state of San Andreas--including mechanics, lawyers, nurses, and ex-cops--but none will be quite as special as your drive-by date Denise.