(Editor’s note: There are going to be spoilers for Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
The practice of creating an effective horror protagonist in games seems like it would be a hard one to balance.
If they’re too capable, all semblances of tension and fear go out the window. Make a character too helpless, however, and you run into a situation where it’s often hard to have fun playing as them.
That’s why in the second season of Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed The Walking Dead series, Clementine strikes a chord for so many people. She’s an 11 year-old girl trying to survive in a zombie-filled world. Thanks to her small frame, she can only do so much about any potential threat, but she’s nimble, quick and can handle a gun when needed thanks to Lee’s training in the first season.
It’s those facts, coupled with her constant teetering between life and death, that make her one of my favorite horror protagonists in games.
Call the RPG genre what you will, but one can’t deny its penchant for playing with formulas and conventions.
RPGs, whether from the east or west, are all about what I like to call the three “E’s:” experimentation, exploration, and evolution. Some ideas tank, others often get stale and many succeed and take the genre in new directions.
While western RPGs have always felt mutable, not usually preoccupied with a linear world or “set” narrative, JRPGs are usually centered around story and character templates. Sadly these epic stories can get bogged down by two foibles: being “safe” in which we witness the sophomoric, trope-fiestas we’ve seen and played time and time again, and a failure to interweave an interesting story with player decisions.
Just because you have a nifty story doesn’t mean it must remain static and have no bearing on your choices and method of playing the campaign. We’ve already seen RPGs toy with the idea of having multiple endings based on character decisions and completion goals, but this is an idea that can go much further. There is so much room for experimentation between getting your protagonists from Point A to Point B.
Here are five ideas I’m throwing out at the internet on what JRPGs can do to make their beginning, middle and end all the more intriguing.
For all intents and purposes, a story’s protagonist is one of the most important pieces of the narrative puzzle. In games, that distinction carries even more weight, as everything the hero experiences, so does the player – what they see, hear, feel and do.
In the time spent playing, the player is the hero.
Over the years, playable characters have evolved from dots on the screen to the three dimensional characters we now know and love. But what makes us love them? What invests us in their desires and makes us want to guide them there with our controllers?
Ultimately, the necessary qualities that make a successful hero depend largely on the game, and even then, taste in character is subjective. While Mario is the perfect candidate for his happy platforming games, some people might opt for Leon Kennedy as their knight in shining, horror-filled pleather.
That being said, there are traits that make a bad hero; not in the sense of their morality, but in their ineffectiveness.
For example, I’ve recently been playing a hefty amount of Square Enix’s Bravely Default, and for a game developed by a company known for compelling stories and gripping characters, I’ve been taken aback at how bland some of the heroes are.
Considering that particular Japanese role-playing game is more than 60 hours long, characters are very important. I don’t want to ride an airship with just anybody.
Rather than simply dispensing rage, it’s probably a good time to take a step back and attempt to objectively analyze what makes a good hero and what exactly about some of the cast of Bravely Default doesn’t stack up.
To this day, I regard the Monster Hunter series as the norm when it comes to action role playing games that focus on killing massive monsters. Over the last ten years, these hunting games may have been few and far between, but I find they offer amazing experiences with their heavy emphasis on the heat of battle.
At one time, Monster Hunter was the king of its sub-genre. Any game with a similar concept was considered a clone – take Gods Eater Burst, Ragnarok Odyssey or Soul Sacrifice, for example. They’re all fun and unique, but they just don’t stand up against the Monster Hunter series.
Despite their position in my eyes as the best, I think Capcom and its Monster Hunter series could learn from other developers and maybe make the series even better.
Horror is an inherently mutable genre in media. In order to illicit “scares”, good horror movies, books and videogames adhere to a certain formula, only to change it up once that formula becomes predictable.
With strong signs in a resurgence of survival horror games on the horizon, heralded in by games such as Outlast and the highly anticipated The Evil Within, I think it’s about time the industry takes a look at itself in the mirror and switches the genre up.
We’re starting to see the zipper in the monster’s costume.
We are all taping up our fists in anticipation for the June release of Ultra Street Fighter IV, the final expansion in Capcom’s lauded Street Fighter IV series.
In addition to six new stages from Street Fighter X Tekken and the new fighting mechanics, Capcom has revealed four returning series vets: Poison, Hugo, Rolento and my person favorite: Street Fighter III’s Elena. On top of this roster a new challenger approaches: an as-of-yet unannounced female character.
But who could this mysterious warrior woman be? Series producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that this character “has never been in a fighting game before,” which hints at either an entirely new Capcom creation or someone from the vaults who has yet to make an appearance in a Capcom fighting game. After all, Jill and Felicia have already thrown down in Marvel vs. Capcom, along with a bunch of other Capcom starlets.
All we know is that whoever she is, they have been described as a “good fit” for the Street Fighter universe, ruling out such fan favorites as R. Mika and Karin, as well as NPCs like one of Bison’s Dolls.
I have decided to step into the ring and take a few jabs–some humorous, some based on informed speculation–at who our newest brawling beauty might be.
Judging a book by its cover is a foolhardy act, but for videogames, box art can serve as a doorway into the worlds they harbor.
Fantastic box art has been a staple of gaming since the early days of the NES. Modern artists the world over have even created imagery along the lines of cartridge displays and exhibitions for covers for games that don’t even exist.
Many of these covers are inspired by famous pieces of popular art. Some are even designed by the actual artist’s of those original works.
Presented here, and reflective only of my humble opinion, is a gallery of some of the most beautiful game boxes of all time.
I can’t recall the last time I read a game’s instruction manual out of necessity. It’s hard to remember that there once was an era of gaming where rules had to be learned and discussed before playing. Nowadays, titles usually either teach the player within the confines of the game or simply let them learn intuitively.
But there’s always another way to play a game. With strange, seemingly absurd, self-imposed rules, one can transform a well-known game into an entirely different experience.
Unlike modding, where players can physically create and/or modify a game, the action I describe is more metaphysical. Since there is no official word for playing a game with fan-made restrictions and rules, allow me to share some personal stories involving the craft. Below, I’ve listed the titles I’ve played in a unique way that I found challenging and fun.
For all of the bluster and fuss over “high brow” and “low brow” entertainment, books and videogames are not always so different from each other. Both can be vessels for detailed and highly engrossing narratives.
Many great games have drawn from a rich pool of literature, especially those of the East. The four great epics of China from which we have gotten Suikoden, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and the various adaptations of Journey to the West, all owe their inspiration to their famous source material.
In contrast, the Western canon seems like a well left untapped. Often a movie adaptation beats a game to the punch and we get a game that seems more like an afterthought than an actual faithful working of the source material. With that said, it’s high time we look to books if we are to look forward to some better games.
Here are several works from both classical and modern literature that could easily make for some killer titles.
Much like the duality between good and evil itself, gameplay based on moral decisions can either take the light or dark path in terms of its execution.
Though morality choices within games are nothing new, the feature itself seems to be a more modern trope. Series like Fallout, Infamous, and Fable have all advertised their moral choice system as a selling point. At their worst, moral choice systems remain just that: a selling point adhering to a fad.
At its best, the feature meshes with gameplay and challenges the player’s impulses. The best and most interesting problems never have one right way to solve them.