I'm Brad Nicholson. I've been around, but Destructoid is where my dawgs at. You can see my work here, at MTV, at Giant Bomb or other great places around the Internet. I also run a podcast called The Electric Hydra and work out a lot in my spare time. Yeah. I keep busy.
One of the premier unwritten rules or laws of the RPG genre seems to be so ingrained in developers and artists that we will never see a change. Fresh out of last generation, I was heatedly looking forward to the new consoles and their RPG offerings. I thought that in the future of the oncoming next generation, the RPG genre would spit out fashionable midriffs and blue jeans. A new, less pixilated generation of RPGs ushered in by the new consoles where males and females could be differentiated at a glance.
Holy hell was I wrong.
I imagine the beginning of character ambiguity, androgyny, and funny apparel as a conversation between two Final Fantasy artists. Both artists are slung back in their chairs, removing themselves ever so slightly away from the cubicles. One casually peers over and spies his coworker doing the same. They lock eyes, and our curious artist says, “Hey, I’m not really feeling this fully armored male. I mean, I need to see more abs.” The other artist nods and retorts with, “Dude, look at my guy. I didn’t like the leggings, so I removed them and added a thong. Pretty badass right?” The curious guy scoots out of his office prison a little more, steals a glance, and is delighted.
And from that day forward, RPGs were thusly defined.
Metrosexual is All About the Thong (And Enchanted Arms)
I know I am picking on Kuja from Final Fantasy IX, but come on. Could I make my point any clearer? Kuja, in all his might and power, was reduced to hilariousness as soon as his bare torso and feminine hips were revealed. Who could take this guy seriously? As soon as he was revealed in all his CG glory, I was unable to put away my contemplations on how terrible RPG characters’ garb was.
But, let’s get back to the current generation, and its first Eastern RPG, Enchanted Arms. The protagonist of the game, Atsuma, has some wonky clothes, but can be easily determined as male. The guy sports a pretty mean red blazer and tight leggings. His “badassness” is neither defined, nor diminished, by his tacky clothing. The game progresses nicely, and then the player is hit by the wall of terrible known as Yuki. Yuki is this snazzy little girl, fully equipped with a wide-brimmed hat, bullet necklace, cowboy boots with clasps, mini-skirt, and completed with an audaciously checkered purse. Aside from the obvious foreshadowing of character, why in the fucking world would anyone dress like that willingly? The rest of the denizens of Enchanted Arms don’t deck themselves out in materials related to their psyche, nor are they willing to traverse forests and deserts in mini-skirts. Also, how old is this girl?
Phantasy Star, Blue Dragon and Mistwalker
Then, there was Phantasy Star Online, the successor to the Xbox hit. This one is easy to grab immediately, and it’s all about the choices the developers and artists gave the players. I was ready to start bashing this until I went out this morning. Before I went through my inter-dimensional spaceship portal thingy, I thought it wise to grab one of my girlfriend’s mini skirts and put my hair in pigtails. Skipping through foreign planets, admiring the surroundings of alien deserts, and shooting creatures is an almost religious experience when being scantily clad. I admit, I had my trepidations about disease, safety, and avoidance of nasty things like claws, but no more. So, I apologize to Sega for initially thinking that the human garb for PSO was unrefined, impractical, and silly.
Other than post-hoc mind-blowing revelations, Blue Dragon was a breath of fresh air. I imagine the fashion forward look is more akin to the character’s ages than anything else, but the point still remains that a Japanese developer could present fantasy attire without distracting my senses. Hell, even Zola’s very pronounced camel-toe in her naughty hip-huggers seems more sensible than what I have been experiencing out of RPGs of late.
That was, until Mistwalker screwed it all up with Lost Odyssey. If I were to dwell on the fantasy aspects for a second, why in the face of all gods would a man think that an exposed back is a good choice in the morning? Why would a colorful pirate sidekick believe that metal pauldrons, without accompanying armor, is a decent pull? And why, why would a grown-ass man think that golden armor is somehow dashing, nonetheless masculine?
The PS3 and Regrets
Will the line-up of Eastern RPGs on the Playstation 3 platform deliver us from terrible garb? Not if Square Enix has anything to say about it. The trailers from Final Fantasy XIII serve nothing more but to perpetuate poor clothing choices. Sure, the female protagonist is female, but is the Han Solo belt and random assortment of armor over a skirt the best thing to use when fighting hulking monsters? And if this girl is any indication, it probably won’t be any better.
What about White Knight Chronicles? Pirate hats and booty shorts, you say? How about the other Square Enix offering, Last Remnant? Surely that isn’t schoolgirl dress accompanied by gauntlets, right?
You have got to help me out here a little bit developers and artists. I want to be able to look at my protagonists without laughing, doubting sex, or stealing away from my experience as a whole. At this point, we might as well start dressing characters as food. I would prefer a donut, carrot, or slice of bacon. Anyone else up for that?