In the new Prince of Persia, the focus is as much on Elika as it is on the new, roguish protagonist. As Kyle Orland says in his Prince of Persia review, the new Prince and Elika complement each other throughout their whole adventure.
Sidekicks speak to an essential truth about the heroic quest: Sometimes, even the toughest, luckiest, most clever heroes need a helping hand when it comes to defeating the dastardly. Whether it's solving a really f***ed-up mystery or saving your entire plane of existence, a good partner can give you an extra pair of hands, a person to sound off to, or a reminder of what the stakes are. Great partners manage to do all of that and then some. In honor of the new Prince of Persia game and the unique co-dependency of its characters, we're taking a look at some more terrific two-person tandems throughout gaming history.
Mario & Luigi
Arguably gaming's most famous brothers, these flagship Nintendo characters have entertained every gaming generation going back to their arcade antics in Super Mario Bros.
Energy Level: Medium to High. This tends to vary for the Italo-American plumbing duo. Mario seems more like the hothead alpha male, while Luigi often comes across as more subdued and occasionally even frightful. (Luigi's Mansion, anyone?)
Where You Can See Their Best Work: To see excellent SMB teamwork, it's a toss-up between the Paper Mario games and the Game Boy Advance title Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. The role-playing style of the Paper Mario titles often has them attacking in rapid succession, and Superstar Saga boasts special Bros. Moves that can be used in combat and puzzle-solving.
Second-Banana Angst?: In many games, Luigi's shown to be a faster runner and better jumper than his pudgier brother. But, let's face it: Luigi's often portrayed as a wuss. A real hero would have scored with Princess Daisy by now. Just saying.
Future Team-Ups?: These two show up in pretty much every other Nintendo title across the different platforms. You'll never see Luigi's name in front of Mario's, though. Never.
Ico & Yorda
"Are you sure you know where you're going, boy-with horns?" "Shhh, pale girl! The malt shop used to be right around here. You'll never get an egg cream if you don't stop badgering me?"
These two outsiders appeared in the hit PlayStation 2 game Ico, in which the titular horned boy had to lead the frail, pale damsel out of a crumbling castle. Ico had minimal dialogue but the excellent animation and art style hinted at a shy yet deep bond between the two.
Energy Level: Low and High. Ico did everything in this adventure title, from swatting shadow creatures to solving puzzles. The slight, wan Yorda epitomized the damsel in distress, unable to fight off threats or jump across larger gaps. The frantic scramble to keep Yorda safe was offset by the game's quirky checkpoint system, which had players sit on a bench to save their progress.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: All throughout the game, Ico must call to the seemingly distracted Yorda so they can move onward. The most wrenching moment of the game comes when their roles reverse, as Yorda tries to save Ico from a crumbling bridge. Her failure to do so underscores just how much they need each other.
Second-Banana Angst?: Yorda essentially exhibited all the giddy-up of a heroin junkie and a severe case of separation anxiety.
Future Team-Ups?: While Ico and Yorda haven't been seen since the game's 2001 release, the development team behind Ico went on to create 2005's Shadow of the Colossus.
Jade & Pey'J
Seen here in the first Beyond Good & Evil, Jade and Pey'j come to grips with the facts that his farts are visible.
Seen in Ubisoft's multiplatform cult classic, Beyond Good & Evil, the human photojournalist and her porcine uncle worked to foil a conspiracy between an invading alien race and the military forces protecting the planet.
Energy Level: Medium. BG&E combined racing and platforming gameplay with some RPG elements for a varied mix. The third-person action focused on stealth and exploration based around her camera. Jade did more than just snap pics, though. When she had to, she fought off the evil Alpha Sections with melee attacks and ranged weapons as well.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: Like other games on this list, players could control Pey'J and another sidekick character with a series of contextual commands. The parental bond between Pey'J and Jade made for a unique dynamic in the game's story.
Second-Banana Angst?: For much of the game, Pey'J harbors a secret that's crucial to saving the planet. Jade learns the truth, which helps her free Pey'J from captivity. Once he's freed, though, the cliffhanger ending reveals that there's something else that he chooses not to tell Jade?
Future Team-Ups?: After years of an uncertain future, Ubisoft recently announced a sequel to Beyond Good & Evil. We'll soon see if Jade and Pey'J's special bond can win them a broader audience this time out.
Banjo & Kazooie
The Nintendo 64 games featuring the bear-and-bird duo represent some of the best to come out of British development studio Rare. The wacky animals headlined two games: In the first title, they had to rescue Banjo's sister from evil witch Gruntilda; in the sequel, they battled her sisters.
Energy Level: High. Banjo-Kazooie featured a hybrid of action and platforming gameplay in the Super Mario 64 style. But, the worlds were bigger, the controls sharper and the attitudes wackier than anything in Super Mario 64.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: The furred and feathered buddies made a funny game even more hilarious by breaking the fourth wall often in Banjo-Kazooie. Other characters also address the gamer in loopy, self-aware ways, too.
Second-Banana Angst?: Banjo's definitely the central character of the series but Kazooie doesn't seem to manifest any ill will at being a glorified wingman. (Pun intended.)
Future Team-Ups?: The pair's long absence finally came to an end in the new Xbox 360 title Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, where building bizarre vehicles becomes the gameplay challenge.
Ratchet & Clank
Roles get reversed in this promo art for Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters. Who's got the short jokes now?
The unlikely team -- an impulsive, inventive Lombax engineer and a diminutive, cautious robot -- have risen from being one of many PS2 platformer franchises to the A-list option on all Sony's game hardware.
Energy Level: High. R&C games always feature the craziest weapons in gaming and huge, galaxy-spanning adventures. Sure, all the collecting and fetching may feel rote, but you're usually laughing so hard you forget to care.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction remains one of the best PlayStation 3 games more than a year after release. The downloadable Quest for Booty shines, too, but the PlayStation Network release, which deals with Ratchet's search for his missing friend, is pretty much Clank-less.
Second-Banana Angst?: Whether it's his many helpful transformations or his Giant Clank form, the automaton with an attitude comes across as just as heroic as his long-eared bud. Heck, in the PlayStation Portable adventure Secret Agent Clank, he had to save the Lombax's hash.
Future Team-Ups?: The as-yet-unnamed but entirely expected sequel for Tools of Destruction gets teased at the end of Q4B, so expect to see Ratchet & Clank reunite in 2009. There may even be tears.
Master Chief and Cortana
Sure, they can never touch and he can see right through her, but the Halo characters have a bond that goes deeper than corporeal existence.
Over the course of three blockbuster Halo titles, the armored Spartan soldier and the virtual personality became the focal point of humanity's war against the coalition of alien races called the Covenant.
Energy Level: Medium to High. Sure, Master Chief's the cyborg super-warrior of the far future, but his AI helpmate is never the decisive force in any of his battles -- at least, not from a plasma sword-wielding standpoint.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: The banter that launched thousands of slashfic stories is best on display in the first two Halo games.
Second-Banana Angst?: Cortana became a digital damsel in distress in the final installment of the Halo trilogy.
Future Team-Ups?: The cliffhanger ending of Halo 3 certainly leaves room to revisit Bungie's bionic man and artificial woman. In the meantime, we will see more of the world of Halo in franchise spinoffs Halo Wars and Halo 3: Recon.
Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago
The worst part about a nonstop, no-holds-barred fight for the survival of humans on Sera? No time to exfoliate. Believe me, all that time fighting underground wreaks havoc on a man's pores.
In each of the Gears of War games, these two grizzled veterans lead an elite core of COG soldiers to the front lines of the apocalyptic war against the subterranean Locust race.
Energy Level: Insane. Both these huge dudes bring it in the Gears games. Even if you take away the Lightmass Bomb from the end of Gears of War, they've still probably killed a metric ton of Locusts by their lonesome.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: Well, Dom did get Marcus out of prison in the first Gears. But, from a gameplay standpoint, Gears of War 2's Horde mode stands as one the best multiplayer offerings this year. If you don't work together, you'll wind up as Locust lunch.
Second-Banana Angst?: Dom's anguish over his missing wife informs much of the subplot in the Gears sequel. Still, Marcus' life wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, either. He went AWOL to try and save his father, who died anyway. Then he winds up in jail. You don't seem him getting misty, do you, Dom?
Future Team-Ups?: Given that GoW2 has already sold more than 2 million copies, it seems like another visit to Sera will be in order. When or what remains to be seen.
Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher
The Uncharted duo comes face-to-face with something even scarier than ancient zombies: the new Tomb Raider game.
In 2007's standout PS3 excusive Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, the antiquities hunter and the journalist followed clues that would lead to the treasure of Drake's supposed ancestor Sir Francis Drake.
Energy Level: Medium. Even though he could throw a punch and do the stop-and-pop with the best of them, Nate came across as a more reluctant fighter than your typical videogame protagonist. Elena would shoot at enemies in certain scenarios, too, but generally left most of the gunplay to Nathan.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: We'll let Tom Chick do the heavy lifting on this one: "As far as quality of characterization -- a rare and precious commodity in videogaming -- Nate and Elena in Uncharted were a great duo. There was even a sense of chemistry between them, thanks to the excellent animation, writing, and voice-acting. It was a nearly perfect trifecta of characterization."
Second-Banana Angst?: When she and Nathan get separated, Elena gets captured by the bad guys. The damsel in distress bit feels like a bit of a misstep, given how sure-footed the rest of the characterizations were.
Future Team-Ups?: Official confirmation of a snowy sequel to Drake's Fortune just came down the pike, so we'll most likely be revisiting Nate and Elena's banter sometime in 2009.
Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance
Don't matter how cold it is in the post-apocalypse, Gordon and Alyx are still hot.
To many, Valve's hit first-person shooter franchise, Half-Life, hits its peak when the theoretical physicist protagonist meets the scrappy resistance fighter in Half-Life 2.
Energy Level: High. The player essentially is Gordon Freeman, and the artificial intelligence-controlled Alyx keeps pace with all the mayhem that you'll cause in the bid for freedom.
Where You Can See Their Best Work: Just listen to Game Truster Gus Mastrapa: "She may be the best sidekick ever, because a) she kicks ass and never dies and b) you're encouraged to fall in love with her."
Second-Banana Angst?: None whatsoever. We meet Alyx after the interdimensional Combine aliens have already taken over earth, yet she manages to be jokey, playful and flirty. And, lest we forget, she gives Gordon the Gravity Gun, the defining weapon of the series.
Future Team-Ups?: Episode Three for HL2 has been confirmed for some time, but an actual release date remains anyone's guess.
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