What makes a good hero in five minutes

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I’ve been playing a mixed bag of titles over the last 4 or so months and each and every one of them has had their own concept of what should make a rollicking good hero. The usual fare stretches from the expected grim reprobate with a jaw that could sink Atlantis to the quirky, comical pally pal – slinging bullets and high fives with complete disregard for the laws of anything; and of course everything in between.

As expected some of these heroes worked and some of them sunk faster than an opera singer in a diving bell, and this made me think just why. CONCLUSIONS, because I don’t have time to faff about with my hectic playboy lifestyle at the moment: Setting and context.

The setting, in this instance, always justifies the character, their actions and their mannerisms, and when it does not, the character in turn will reflect poorly upon the story, its events and their own actions. Take my newfound whipping boy Alec Mason from Red Faction Guerrilla . Sure this guy’s going to be disgruntled upon witnessing his brother die and Mars going the way of City 17, but to be brutally honest, he never displays an ounce of compassion toward other miners, any clear sense of his present setting or any hint of his grand motives, beyond REVENGE REVENGE AND POSSIBLY SOME MORE REVENGE AFTER TEA. See, Alec is an uncanny character because he does not, first and foremost, fit his setting. If he were the protagonist from, say, Madworld, then his unjustified romping and stomping would probably be a hell of a lot more justified, however, here he is, bogged down in the thralls of reality, with little respect for his own lore.

On the other side of the coin, there is something like Ratchet and Clank. Ratchet and Clank has always revelled in its scope for absurdity – quirky characters, ludicrous weapons, and plots worthy of a silent movie villain. But here’s the thing, Ratchet, Clank and their compadres are these well crafted individuals of cunning and wit, and complete unwavering respect for their setting. Ratchet and Clank CAN get away with mowing down hordes of faceless enemies because that’s what the universe demands. It fits the ethos of the shootem/beatemup without ever straying into serious territory, whilst managing to deliver a compelling story. Crazy, right? This is why I, and everyone else of the face of the Earth should love Ratchet and Clank UNCONDITIONALLY.

My third example here is Final Fantasy XIII. I should probably hide the fact that I haven’t played the earlier ones unless I want to be pelted with stones in the streets. Shit, too late. First off, I’m going to get the fact that I like the game off my chest, but to be honest, I’m liking everything other than the game a lot more than the actual gameplay at the moment, but I’ll come back to that later. Final Fantasy XIII… somehow manages to exist in this vacuum between reality and complete absurd fiction. Within the first half hour of playing, a resistance team named NORA is revealed, comprised of individuals who look like they spent six hours getting dressed in the morning, and showing complete, and utter ignorance for our surround. Shit, some guy just died, let’s all banter jovially and tousle little Jimmy’s questionably well kempt hair. To be honest, it kind of works in this weird way. I mean, even by looking at half the costumes that these characters wear, you can see that they are in silent, arrogant defiance of their surrounding, and the world seems to be down with this. Maybe FF XIII sort of exists in this delicate juxtaposition, sustaining an air of humour, whilst melodramatically monologuing about everyone’s dead relatives. I’m going to divert quickly to talk about the gameplay here for some contrived reason, hey, get back here, this is relevant!

The gameplay is not bad, it just lacks depth, but where it does shine is its consistency with the game’s themes. There was this one battle with Vanille (The enigmatic kook singularity, whom, for some reason I find quite endearing) and Sazh (Probably the coolest guy in the history of the universe who has a Chocobo chick living in his hair) in which they fight these two bizarre hybrids of woodland and train. Throughout this whole crazy battle, this jazzy lounge music would play, turning the whole event into a comedy of errors, casting a humorous reflection on the game’s bizarre themes. Back on track.

So, what have we learnt other than this took way longer to write that I suspected? Characters, or more so heroes are made by their context and setting. They are forever reliant on the balance between themselves and their context in order to create a compelling character narrative, however, when a juxtaposition is created, our old friend satire is reeled into the fray. Say Alec Mason did reveal his intentions as a raving psychopath, it would have been a lot more like Saints Row 2, which clearly states that Volition should stop trying to be so serious.

Miles Newton – Prisoner of some jerk’s idea of education

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2 Responses to “What makes a good hero in five minutes”

  1. searingscarlet Says:

    The setting, in this instance, always justifies the character, their actions and their mannerisms, and when it does not, the character in turn will reflect poorly upon the story, its events and their own actions.

    THIS.

    THIS SO DAMN MUCH.

    If I nod any harder my head would’ve rolled off.

  2. The Machination Says:

    Hey, thanks for the comment my friend. I felt that this point resounded particularly strongly with Mason, as he could have easily been any character from any gruff action game. The setting really only made him who he was, and for me, that was a pretty unconvincing connection.

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