It's Valentine's Day and there are hearts everywhere. They're at the store, in your office, on your Facebook wall, everywhere. You know where else they are? Video games. Sometimes they make sense, others, not so much, especially if you think about them for more than a few moments. Here are the top ten unusual video game hearts.
#10. Popeye - Hearts represent love and life in video games a lot. It's when you start to think of said hearts as physical objects that things start to seem a little odd, especially when said hearts aren't an abstract powerup item. In Popeye, Olive Oil tosses these hearts down at you and there's always been somethign a little off-putting to me about the way they fall. It's like they're leaves or something. Why would these hearts have this kind of weight? What are they made of? Love? Is love made of feathers? I have so many questions!
#9. Love Lab from Rhythm Heaven - Here we see hearts representing love again, but this time it's through science! In this Rhythm Heaven minigame, you are charged with making a love potion by making hearts pop out of the top of your flask when you shake it the right way. If done correctly, the hearts combine with another scientist's hearts and then fall into a... heart bag? I don't even know what else to say. I mean, Rhythm Heaven is fantastic, and so is this particular minigame, but the tangible nature of those hearts again vexes me.
#8. Stage 13 in Bubble Bobble - Bubble Bobble is adorable, and each single-screen stage has some sort of pattern on it, so a heart shouldn't seem out of place. The trouble is that everything in this stage is out to kill you! This is the pinnacle of things only getting weirder the more you think about it. If the story is to be believed, your cute little dinosaurs are traveling through the cave of monsters to save their loved ones, and there's a part of this cave that's made entirely out of hearts? And I'm on this lovely stage with the super-cute Bubble Bobble theme music playing in the background and then some flying whale monsters show up to try to murder me? What the hell? It's weird. Also, it's really hard to get inside the heart to kill the trapped whale monsters. Was that supposed to mean something? Like, it's hard to get inside someone's heart? Or maybe it's just a level in an adorable video game. Whatever. It's still weird.
#7. The Companion Cube from Portal - This is still one of the most brilliant segments in the history of gaming, and partly because it's so bizarre. The game expects you to feel differently about this inanimate cube because they called it your companion cube and put hearts on it. BUT IT WORKED! When it came time for me to "euthanize" the cube, I kept looking for a way out of it. I didn't want to destroy my companion cube, it was my friend! It loved me! See? It's got hearts on it! Really, one of the most remarkable game experiences I've ever had. The only reason it's not higher on the list is because I'm not ranking best, I'm ranking unusual.
#6. Kano Wins - So, let's think about this. This dude Kano not only has the ability to rip off Blanka from Street Fighter II by somehow levitating himself, curling into a ball, and spinning around like Sonic the Hedgehog except in a straight line, and a seemingly limitless supply of laser knives stashed away in his pocket-less outfit, but he can also just shove his hand into a person's chest and rip their heart out? Why the heck wouldn't you lead with that? Who cares about spinning around like a ball when you can just get close enough to end whatever fight you're in with some good, old-fashioned heart removal? Also, I've never really been able to figure this out from looking at the animations, but does he take a bite out of the heart, or is it just animated weird? I would think he'd have blood on his face if he took a bite out of it, but he seems as clean as he was when he started the match. Of course, there should probably be blood all over him by this point anyway considering how much blood there is in the game as is. Why would he wear white to an occasion like this?
#5. Powerup hearts in Double Dragon for NES - So, this is weird. Hearts in games are usually tied to some sort of health or something, except here in Double Dragon they represent how many ways you can beat dudes up. The hearts are the basically the level-up structure. The more points you get from punching folks, the more hearts you get. The more hearts you get, the more effective ways you get to beat people up. I have no problem with a level-up system in my bean-em-up, but why hearts? Why not a simple number system? Who thought using hearts to show how high a level you were on and using a series of rectangles to show health made any sense at all? Crazy people, that's who.
#4. This heart container in Zelda 2 - Like Olive Oil's hearts in Popeye, heart containers really seem weird the more you think about them. As a physical, tangible object you can pick up in Zelda games, the more you think on it the stranger that really seems. But at least they're usually only awarded in special circumstances. You beat a boss or find a secret cave or something. This one though, is just chilling next to some rocks in a field like someone just left it there. Like someone was just passing through and decided "I'm done with this thing" and tossed it. And there's this single Goriya there hanging out with it. Did he not think of picking it up and keeping it for himself? Is he just chilling in this field with the rocks all by himself guarding the heart container? What kind of life is that? And how exactly is the heart container standing up like that? Shouldn't it be laying on its side or something? Is it levitating?
#3. The Fiend's Cauldron from Kid Icarus Uprising - Hearts as currency are just the way things are in the Kid Icarus universe. That alone is weird enough to earn it a high spot on my list, but when it came time for the 3rd entry int he Kid Icarus franchise, the powers that be took things a step further with the Fiend's Cauldron. At the beginning of each stage you can toss your hearts in the blasted thing and basically bet on how well you're going to do. The more hearts you throw in the cauldron, the harder the difficulty is, but also the higher the reward if you beat the level. Why a cauldron? What good does cooking the hearts do? I get the betting system, but does cooking them make them taste better? Are we eating hearts now? I thought they were money. Are you trying to save the hearts from being burned in the cauldron? If so, isn't there a better way to show betting with hearts? Couldn't there just be some sort of bank system? I know they have credit cards in Angel Land. Man, that's weird.
#2. Hearts in Castlevania - This is basically combining all the weirdest heart traits into one. They're not currency like in Kid Icarus though, ammunition for your weapons. As in the more hearts you have the more axes you can throw. I'm sorry, but what? What kind of sense does that make? Oh, and where do you get these hearts? Candles. That's right, if you take a whip to a candle, a heart might fall out. If it's a small heart it will fall like a feather just like in Popeye. If it's a big heart, it will just plop on the ground like a brick. It won't bounce though, it will just land on its pointy end and sit there looking all red and whatnot. So, they have relative weight? At half the size they're lighter than air, otherwise they fall like bags of fruit? And let's not forget just how weird it is to see adorable, lovely hearts all over the place in the gothic setting of Castlevania. Dracula's got some weird stuff going on in his castle.
#1. Losing a life in City Connection - There are hearts all over this weird little game, but there is nothing more strange than what happens when you get into a car accident. Nothing. I... Just watch.
Nope, we're not getting any weirder than that.
And there's my list. What did I forget? I'm sure there's something. There's no shortage of weird video games out there.
Anyway, happy Valentine's Day!