For those of you who don't know, "shipping," occurring within fandoms, describes the act of desiring two (or more) characters together in a romantic and/or sexual fashion, rooting for the progress of their relationship. Don't make the mistake of not taking this seriously. Some shippers don't mess around. When two popular pairings conflict, the results can be catastrophic. Think Alien vs. Predator. Godzilla vs. Mothra. Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda.
These Ship Wars have ravaged several video game franchises. Here's a closer look at 6 of the most infamous examples.
Beware of potential spoilers.
This debate has been raging on for almost two whole decades, and the opposing sides don't seem to be any closer to reaching a resolution. Screw Sephiroth. If you go on Tumblr, the real villain of FF7 is apparently either Tifa or Aerith, each being frequently demonized by the rival perspective. Who should Cloud be with?
Tifa and Cloud go way back. Originally childhood friends, Tifa convinces Cloud to join AVALANCHE to fulfill an age-old promise to protect her, though it's really she who wants to keep a closer eye on him. Tifa is there for him after he's manipulated by Sephiroth. She's there for him again when he's consumed with guilt. And finally, she's there after the defeat of Sephiroth's remnants, giving Cloud a family to come back to.
Two words: Tragic. Romance. Remember that spoiler warning earlier? Pull it back up, because this is kind of a big deal. Ready for this? Aerith dies. It's like one of the most famous video game deaths ever, I'm kind of surprised you didn't know this yet. It's pretty clear that Cloud and Aerith shared a deep connection, especially given her spiritual reappearances throughout the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. Things get significantly more complicated, however, when you throw Aerith/Zack shippers into the mix. So let's not.
Tales of Symphonia, part of a well-known Japanese RPG series, follows Lloyd Irving as he accompanies Colette on her journey to replenish their world, Sylvarant, with life-giving mana. On the way, they meet Sheena, an assassin from a parallel world, Tethe'alla, which vies for the same supply of resources. The two worlds aren't the only forces at odds with one another, however. The Lloyd/Sheena vs Lloyd/Colette ship war easily dwarfs that conflict.
While admittedly not quite the "official couple" of Tales, Lloyd and Sheena have crazy amounts of chemistry and a quite a bit of heart. Lloyd admits that he feels like he can be himself around her, despite how flustered Sheena seems to get, and their mutual feelings become clear in the optional "skits." But that's just it. Most of these skits are optional. The player has to choose them to really get to the meat of their relationship.
Another pair with childhood friend points, Lloyd/Colette are very in tune with one another's thoughts and feelings and are bolstered by non-optional affectionate scenes near the beginning of the game. There's even a scene in Dawn of the New World, in which Lloyd tells Colette he loves her. That is, however, one of the optional skits. So even though Tales lays the groundwork for this pairing, the player has to follow through if they want it to be legit.
For almost 30 years, Princess Zelda and Link (known colloquially as "Zelink") have been the couple of the Legend of Zelda series. Sure, they've had their share of alter-egos that ironically were considered threatening to the ship (Link/Sheik shippers can be pretty intense), but overall they seemed pretty stable. Well, stable until their first legitimate challenger came on the scene in 2006 with Twilight Princess: Midna.
Granted, a significant portion of the fandom doesn't bother with shipping at all since Link isn't very, y'know . . . vocal about his feelings, but the small groups of die-hard Zelink and Midlink shippers have made this clash the talk of Hyrule.
Um, hello? She's kind of the main character of the series. Zelda appears in almost every game, and it is her legend. For each incarnation of Link, there seems to be an incarnation of Zelda, so they have the whole "soulmates in every lifetime" thing going for them. Plus, they've been through a lot together. Hyrule is perpetually in danger and date nights spent battling Ganondorf are frequent and mandatory.
Link and Midna spend a lot of time together in Twilight Princess. Like a lot of time. Their relationship is fun and dynamic, and also laced with some romantic undertones. It all culminates when Midna regains her true form and she jokingly asks him if she has become so beautiful that he cannot speak. I mean, he doesn't say anything, obviously, but he seems pretty choked up by her appearance. And then, as Midna is leaving, there's that highly interpretative unfinished sentence before the Mirror of Twilight is shattered forever . . . "Link... I... See you later."
For a franchise about super-fast hedgehogs freeing cute woodland creatures from diabolical robot casings devised by a mad scientist named after eggs, you wouldn't think relationships would factor in too much. You would be so, so wrong.
In mirroring the Mario/Peach relationship sweeping the gaming industry, Sega initially introduced Amy Rose as a damsel in distress. This quickly evolved into a one-sided obsessive crush. Seriously, Sonic should have filed a restraining order. But he didn't. And Amy mellowed, eventually. And while they're still not Facebook official, "Sonamy" seems to be getting closer and closer to canon.
Two destined rivals bound in eternal conflict . . . sounds . . . steamy? Okay, so I don't personally buy into hedgehog sexual tension, but a large chunk of this fandom does, so more power to them. If you look at it from the perspective of Shadow, you can kind of see it. Like, Shadow is already more-or-less obsessed with Sonic. Sometimes the lines between hatred and love can be a little blurry. The hedgehog heart wants what the hedgehog heart wants.
Roxas, Axel, and Xion, the fan-dubbed "Sea-Salt Trio," are the major players in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, during which they complete missions for the antagonistic (and highly shippable) Organization XIII. Despite being told they don't have hearts, these three all demonstrate deep emotions throughout the game and manage to establish a norm-defying friendship with one another. Naturally, the fandom decided that all these feelings needed to be channeled romantically. Only one question remains: with which pairings?
Kingdom Hearts II includes a pretty significant subplot in which Axel attempts to retrieve the critical "Key of Destiny" Roxas after the thirteenth member goes AWOL. It soon becomes clear that Axel isn't doing this just because the boss told him too. In fact, he himself ditches Xemnas soon afterward to find a way to bring Roxas back from his summer-ending merger with Sora. Rumors were soon flying about that these two weren't just "buddies," as the English translation states, but actually "partners," as in the original Japanese. They certainly have enough meaningful exchanges to make it a valid interpretation. And if all of that doesn't sway you to Team AkuRoku (a portmanteau based on their Japanese names), remember Axel's dying words to Sora. "[Roxas] made me feel . . . like I had a heart."
Poor, sweet Xion. When she was first introduced in Days, AkuRoku shippers were already out for blood, assuming that the mysterious fourteenth member had been shoved into Organization XIII for the sole purpose of ruining their One True Pairing. Whether you love her or hate her (and there doesn't seem to be an in-between), there's no denying the strong feelings between Xion and her counterpart, Roxas. And if you didn't break down when Roxas cradled her dying body, then maybe you don't have a heart, okay? I just . . . I just need a minute.
The Kingdom Hearts franchise is launched with a love triangle between childhood friends Sora, Riku, and Kairi (dubbed the "Destiny Trio"). Somewhere along the way, however, Sora moved out of a tangent role and into the epicenter of the great relationship debate. Ironically, this beloved series built around friendship and Disney characters has triggered one of the nastiest ship wars in video game history.
There's a strong case to be made for SoKai. For one thing, they're probably as "official couple status" as any original pairing will ever be in Kingdom Hearts. Kairi is constantly referred to as Sora's "special someone" or his "light" and he thinks about her constantly while they're apart. Sora carries her lucky charm to the end of the worlds and back twice. Kairi's heart is able to restore Sora's form after he sacrifices himself to save her. Then there's the whole thing in Kingdom Hearts II where they're both super willing to take on Saix mentally or, in Kairi's case, physically for the possibility of their reunion. Oh, and Sora draws himself giving Kairi a paopu fruit, basically the most romantic gesture in the KH universe. And Kairi reciprocates.
Riku may have started out feigning a crush on Kairi, but he quickly drops that and proceeds to be as gay as humanly possible for the rest of the series. All of his actions - following the path of darkness, trying to redeem himself, taking on Ansem's form - were all for Sora. By the time Riku's swooping around to wake up his best friend between Days and Kingdom Hearts II, the fandom forgot about their rivalry entirely. This is obviously a boy in love. When everyone's finally reuniting before the final showdown in the World That Never Was, Sora actually falls to his knees, crying, begging Riku not to go.
Shortly afterward, they have the most romantic fight with Xemnas ever and happily resign themselves to dying together on the Dark Margin. Just to really hammer it in, Dream Drop Distance has them going on another adventure together in which their hearts are intimately connected and Riku dives into a nightmare to awaken Sora's sleeping soul. They're like a regular Orpheus and Eurydice, except with a happy ending.
It's such a shame when ship wars get in the way of enjoying a great franchise, especially when there's such an easy, perfect solution. Do you ship? What are some clashing pairs you've run into? Tell us in the comments below!