Friday, April 8, 2011

The ending of our story

I have played so many RPG's that their endings have all begun to blend together. It's just a mish mash of sappy good guys win and get the girl and the bad guy who appeared for no reason in the final act is defeated after turning into some monstrous multi-legged thing that attacks with status effects followed by little vignettes showing how happy every one is. There are only a few that stand out, that have stood the test of time and beer and countless terrible games.

Might as well start with the most cliche and syrupy example. Final Fantasy X went through great pains to make sure the disappearances of Tidus and Auron were sad and drawn out. I didn't much care for Tidus as a character so his angst about never having been real in the first place failed to move me, but I do remember a scene right at the end when Yuna reached out for him and their hands passed through one another. Then he was gone and she had to deal with the loss and decide if it was worth saving the world. It was a good bittersweet ending, not afraid to make the good guys sacrifice something for the better of everyone else. This was completely retconned by the bull shit 'good' ending in X-2, but few people besides me admit to having played that game all the way to the end anyway.

Shadow Hearts Covenant is, to this day, my favorite console RPG. Juri is hit with a curse within the first few hours of the game that is slowly but surely destroying all of his memories. You can see it eat at him throughout the course of his adventures as he begins to forget things. The good guys win, of course, but right as they are about to make their escape Juri decides to stay behind. He chooses death over forgetting the women he loves even though she has been dead since the end of the first Shadow Hearts. There is a bit of time fuckery involved and instead of dying he is sent back to the beginning of the first game where he first met Alice and Karin who had been falling in love with him is sent further back and ends up being his mother which is best ignored, but the theme of a good ending costing something is still there.

Eternal Sonata takes place entirely in a dying mans fever addled brain. It just so happens that the man is Chopin and everything in the world is named after a musical concept. The game wasn't that great, but at the end the real Chopin dies and his dream self spends his final moments playing a piano in a field of flowers. It was just a great image of a guy doing what he loved to the very end. As someone who pretended to be a musician in college, it strikes me as a good way to go.

Yes, I tend to read into game endings. That happens when you spend 40+ hours with the same characters.

After those they start to blend together. The illusion of recency makes me want to think that Lost Odyssey had a good ending, but what I remember most about that is game is the immortal main character remembering that he has a wife and kids just in time for the woman to die. Final Fantasy XIIII comes to mind, but that is probably just because Zidane was an absolute pimp. I will say that unless an ending recognizes that victory comes at a price I am not interested, which brings me to the end of Trinity.

Trinity kills off its main character at the end of the final battle, but it does so in a way that makes his sacrifice more complete and tragic than any of the others that I have listed. After retrieving the only item that could kill his murderous, despotic grandfather Aerues learns that if he actually uses the sword he will not only cease to exist but no one will remember that he ever was there in the first place. Think about it: he gets his revenge and no one will know that he did it, even the people who helped him to do it in the first place. Being a fairly one dimensional video game character he finishes the job without flinching and then vanishes from the universe. I want to say that it was sad, but everyone got what they wanted, they just didn't know exactly why. It was a happy ending but it lacked the jubilation that usually comes from overthrowing a cruel dictator.

This was not a very good RPG. The combat was repetitive, there were not enough areas, the side quests were the same four or five ones over and over, the voice acting was mediocre, the character design was generic Tolkien fantasy, and all sorts of other things that I have complained about before.  All of this was redeemed by the last three hours. I wasn't 'moved' because I am a crotchety old bastard who pretends to have no feelings and has seen it all before, but I will say that this is one of the better happy endings I have come across, mostly because it isn't happy, it just is.


Speaking of Shadow Hearts Covenant, and of things that I really shouldn't do and that are wildly innapropriate, Karin is the proud owner of (in my opinion) one of the finest asses in all of game-dom. This got me thinking: who would be in the top five? Perhaps I have been inspired by the pending release of Duke Nukem Forever, or maybe I am just sick, but the next time I have nothing else to talk about....


  1. Shadow Hearts: Covenant was one of my favorite rpgs too. It was my first game in the series, and sadly I didn't enjoy the first one. Oh well.

    Loved me some SH:Covenant though. That game was so much fun. Was the third game any good?

  2. Honestly, no, and I never finished it. The game was so busy being intentionally weird that it forgot that the story got ignored.