Temporary party members have long been a staple of JRPGís. It takes its place in the pantheon of tropes along with amnesia and crazy hair. In some cases an awesome character from the story will help you out of a tough spot with (usually) awesome abilities. Other times these characters will be in your party at the very beginning of the game, and then you realize they wonít stick around when they donít level up in the same way as your protagonist.†
This isn't going to end well
I would be remiss if I didnít lay out some ground rules in regards to this list/blog. First of all there will be spoilers for a lot of RPGís, including but not limited to: A bunch of Final Fantasy games, the Xenosaga series, Lunar Silver Star Harmony, and .Hack. Secondly, not all characters who are only around for a limited time count as temporary party members. For example, Aeris doesnít count because she is a main party member for a good chunk of the game and levels up with everyone else. When it comes to temporary members, I mean a character that is only in the party for one battle or one area, who doesnít learn skills in the same way as main party members, and more than likely has static equipment. With that out of the way, letís get on with the show.
Honestly there's no reason for Cloud to even be here
Letís start with the grandfather of the JRPG, Final Fantasy. My first exposure to the temporary party member is a common one. The game was Final Fantasy 7, the location was Nibelheim. It started out innocently enough with my various party members having a discussion at the inn. It wasnít long before we transitioned to the past, and caught a glimpse of the sexy beast known as Sephiroth. After a little chit chat between Cloud and Sephiroth, a battle with a dragon commenced. It wasnít long before I realized Cloud was a huge pussy compared to Sephiroth. On the first turn the Dragon killed me in one hit, and Sephiroth hit me with Life 2, a spell I had never seen before that point. Then the show continued when Sephy shrugged off the Dragonís attack and hit him for 3000 damage. When I got cloud to attack, it hit for a measly 100. This battle perfectly demonstrates why I love temporary party members. It gives you a glimpse of how powerful you can be in the future, while humbling you by showing just how far away you are from being strong.†
Good luck buddy
Moving on to the sequel, we get Seifer and his presence in FF8. Seifer is presented as your rival from the very start of the game, and goes on to become a reoccurring boss throughout. Early on in the game, you get a glimpse of what Seifer can do, and itís not †very impressive. Heís basically a clone of Squall with no distinguishing features. Once again the game designers show mastery of their craft. By showing that Seifer is on the same level as the protagonist, they can later set up how powerful he becomes in relation to Squall. By the end of the game, he becomes a formidable boss that takes your whole party to beat. It also makes you a little more familiar with Seiferís character. Heís not really evil; he just wants a purpose in life.†
Seymour is a huge asshole, but he's got the bite to back up the bark
Now letís jump to the best game in the series. In Final Fantasy 10, we get to utilize the primary antagonist Seymour in exactly one battle. This battle takes place before we learn of Seymourís sinister intentions, and is the second example of Seymourís skills. The first time we see Seymour in action is during a cutscene in which he summons a giant fish monster that absolutely destroys all the enemies you've been struggling with up to that point. Later down the line we get to see what Seymour can do first hand in a boss battle that would be impossible to beat without him. Like Final Fantasy 7, Seymour is basically an example of how powerful you can become later in the game. He possesses the upgraded versions of the spells you can use, and does exponentially more damage then you. He's also unique in that he has an overdrive made only for this battle that most people never see. In order to watch this overdrive, you will have to delay the battle for a good 20 minutes, just getting hit and healing over and over. Most players finish this battle quickly thanks to Seymourís power, so itís completely unnecessary for the developers to include this. To me thatís what makes this battle so awesome. FF 10 HD 2013/2014 GOTY!
Vergil always gets the short end of the stick
Xenosaga is balls out insanity. Making sense of the series requires a PhD in fucking crazy shit, and thatís why I love it. It also makes good use of the temporary party member. In the first game, we get Vergil in our party for a short while. Now by the time I played Xenosaga, I knew how to spot a temporary member. As such I knew once Vergil joined the party I knew the fun wouldn't last. He had only 2 basic attacks and no abilities. Even though I knew he wouldn't be in the party for long, I never expected that they would take him out the way they did. After helping you escape the Gnosis and getting all the way to the escape pods, Kos-Mos mows him down in a hail of minigun fire. The sole reason she does this is because he was in the way of her shots, and thus expendable. Itís an amazing cutscene to watch because it surprises you to see just how cruel Kos-Mos can be. It establishes the fact that Kos-Mos is a robot who follows her programming and doesn't have any human emotion.(Even though this is actually revealed to be false later on).†
"I'm a fucking badass!!"
Flash forward to Xenosaga 3 where we get to use 2 characters we've seen throughout the series finally get into the fight. Miyuki joins the fray with a fighting style almost the same as Shionís, utilizing the same weapon and abilities. While it was cool to finally see Miyuki show up, the best part was seeing Allen fight. Throughout the series Allen is established as the sort of wimpy guy who just wants to be safe and secure. He is shown to have basically zero balls and no physical prowess. Then in episode 3 he becomes the ultimate badass. He joins the battle with a futuristic crossbow and competently replaces Shion in the party. He doesnít have amazing abilities or anything, but the fact that heís an ok fighter completely blew me away. This also helps set up his amazing actions towards the end of the game, specifically when he jumps on a Gnosis and beats the shit out of it to protect Shion. Itís represents a complete transformation of his character, and it's a beautiful sight to behold.
It may be packed full of tropes, but it's still an amazing experience
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is an excellent remake of the Sega CD classic. This game is classic JRPG at its finest; young boy on an adventure, legends of an old hero who saved the world, ancient dragons, and a malevolent villain who fucks shit up. It's an absolute tragedy that I only found out about this game last year. It was refreshing to play a game that so perfectly encompassed the entire genre. Anyway, the game opens with a battle between 4 very powerful characters and what is basically the last boss. Once again itís showing just how powerful you can become by giving you a party of full powered fighters to use. The twist in Lunar is that this party is actually the parents of the main cast, and theyíre powers almost directly correspond to their childrenís abilities. Trust me itís more awesome than Iím describing.
I'm still waiting for a .Hack HD remaster
Finally we get to a somewhat obscure RPG, .Hack. The thing that separates .Hack from the pack is that itís a single player game that takes place in a virtual MMO. Your character is actually a guy on a computer playing an MMO. As such you can check your email and keep a friends list of party members to call upon. At the beginning of the game you are raiding a dungeon with your friend IRL whose character is named Orca. Things are going smoothly as you follow Orca around and leech xp from his kills. Of course things take a turn when a powerful monster attacks Orca and the player. Orca tries to fight back but every attack misses and the monster swats Orca like a fly. Orca tells you to run but youíre character is frozen in fear. Luckily a mysterious spirit appears and teleports you away with a mysterious book in tow. Itís one of my favorite game openings because it so perfectly sets up all the MMO tropes the game follows while introducing you to it's unique storyline.†
I put this picture solely because I really love Kos-Mos
I think thatís enough of a rant for today. I know that there are probably hundreds of characters I've missed on this list, including some from the Final Fantasy series. If I missed one of your favorites go ahead and tell me in the comments, because I love me some honest feedback.