hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts


armless-phelan's blog

11:39 AM on 11.04.2009

Unhappy Endings and Why They Matter

The first thing to note is that this post will be filled with spoilers. Considering what the subject matter is, though, that shouldn't be surprising.

Not just in videogames, most forms of media follow the typical beginning, middle, ending format. And while the majority of the time is spent in the build-up to the end, the ending itself is often the most memorable part of any narrative. Could anyone forget Snape killed Dumbledore, or when Fran and Peter flew away from the mall in the helicopter? These are two very different endings, one heartbreaking and one encouraging (despite Stephen's death).

Gaming itself is just now realizing that not every game has to end with the world being saved. Sure, there are cliff-hangers to make you buy the sequel (see: Halo 2), and games that have endings for sequels that will never come to pass (Advent Rising, I'm looking at you), but by and large the player is left with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment because what they did mattered.

Dreamfall, sequel to the PC adventure game The Longest Journey, has what is considered one of the most controversial endings in videogames. It was meant to be a cliff-hanger to get people to buy the sequel (which I am STILL waiting for), but unlike Halo 2 it left on a low note as opposed to a high one.

The game starts and ends with Zoe, the main heroine of the game, in a coma as she “tells” the player in a disembodied voice her story. I'm delving too deeply into it, but Dreamfall has one of the most mature and thought-provoking storylines centered around a theme of losing faith. The final moments are littered with obvious bait for a sequel, but what is probably the most depressing parts of the finale to the game is the character Faith.

Faith was a little girl who had been leading Zoe, the main character, through her transitions between the two worlds of Dreamfall. Through the story you learn about Faith's back story and it is truly heartbreaking. Then comes a scene in gaming that takes the death of Aerith in FFVII and makes it look like a soap opera:


The only other game I can think of that ended with a little girl's death was Persona 4, and that was the bad ending that I'd achieved on my first play through.

Speaking of Aerith, there is another ending that, while not as mature and thought provoking as Faith's demise, instead relies entirely on the player's attachment to a character. While everyone knew the ending to Crisis Core before ever putting the UMD into the PSP, nobody knew just how well done it would be.

Whereas Cloud, the protagonist in the main game of the FFVII compilation series, was introverted and and eventually came to rely on others (in a completely different way from Squall in FFVIII, I might add), Zack immediately started out likable. He was your stereotypical teenager character: loud, overly confident, etc. He wanted little more than to become a hero. While the game didn't delve into Zack's past, it did a very good job showing his growth and maturity as he realized everything he had taken for granted in the beginning parts of the game was little more than a house of cards in a tornado.

As everything fell apart around him and the heroes (Sephiroth, Genesis, and even Angeal) that had inspired him fell from grace, rather than wallow in self-pity like the main FF characters of the PSone era, Zack adapted while staying cheerful and optimistic.

And after the final boss battle with Genesis, I settled back to watch the cutscene ending. Then came the biggest surprise of the game: when Zack and Cloud were found by Shinra, the battle screen kicked in. The normal rocking battle music was replaced by a sad violin and guitar, and no matter how hard Zack fought, every enemy taken down was replaced by another one.


Watching the much-maligned (and deservedly so) DMW break down as Zack began to lose his memories, it did more than any cutscene ever could, because the player had been with him when those memories were made. Seeing Zack slow down and drag his sword after you had run out of healing magic and potions in an attempt to delay what was inevitably coming.

Partaking in Zack's death gave the player a feeling of failure. The euphoria of victory from the defeat of Genesis is completely erased, leaving one vulnerable to what was next to come:


While I won't argue that every game needs to be depressing in the end, and I very much like saving the day, if that's all you ever do then it will eventually lose its impact. If everything ended on a high note, then the medium of gaming would become stale. That's why novels need Rhett Butler to give up and leave Scarlett, and movies have to have their Spirits Within. (I may be the only person in existence that liked the movie, but it was a depressing ending.)   read

1:04 AM on 11.03.2009

Intro post

This is technically my second blog post, but I'm going to go ahead and do the whole intro thing.

When asked what type of gamer you identify as, I usually answer RPG. For the longest time, it was in relation to JRPGs, but after some curiousity on my part I bought and thoroughly enjoyed Mass Effect and Fallout 3 (which I bought for all 3 platforms). Fable 2... not so much.

I also love point-and-click adventures. Pixel hunts are a pain, but figuring out that final puzzle is such a feat of accomplishment for me. Other adventure games, such as Dreamfall and Indigo Prophecy, are also my bread and butter.

The things I seek most out of a game are narrative and the world. A strong narrative is a must, but if not then a compelling game world can make up for it. Dragon Quest VIII may not have the most original story, but darn if I didn't want to go to the next town and explore every inch of that world map.

If there are game genres I don't like, it's sports and/or wrestling. I'm not going to say that they're bad, just that they hold no interest for me. If the game is going to be released yearly, I fail to see the need to buy it when the only discernible difference is that a few more polygons are being pushed out.

As of right now, I'm between jobs. I do have a history of being an assistant front end manager at a grocery as well as a hardware store, but retail is a horrible business. That means that many of the upcoming game releases are out of the question for me. I might scrape enough together for Mass Effect 2, but no promises are being made.

I'm also a hoarder, which is evident by my insanely large videogame/console collection. I have a Wii, PS3, 360, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, N64, Saturn, Psone, 3DO, Genesis/CD/32X, and one of those S/NES combo things you get off ebay because my SNES gave up the ghost. There's my PC (which isn't that much of a powerhouse, but can run Fallout 3 fine despite the horribly outdated graphics card), my PSP, DSi, GBA SP, and Game Gear. I suppose I could include my Zune and Zune HD as they play games, but... yeah, not so much. I do have pictures of my old set-up, but I'll probably hold off and take some pics when I'm done with the transition to the new one.

And I'm the type of gamer who sucks at games. I played the first Halo on the easiest setting and still got my ass handed to me by the Flood on numerous occasions. And even though I love Megaten games, Persona 4 is the only one I managed to beat, and that was by accidentally getting the bad ending. :( It didn't help that the HD on my BC PS3 (so many abbreviations...) got erased in a bad linux experiment, so I lost my save file.

That's probably all that's important about me. I might now comment on every blog post or update daily, but I'm looking forward to being a part of the community.   read

1:01 PM on 10.24.2009

The Unimportance of Moral Choices in Video Games

I suppose I could use my first post to introduce myself, state my interests, etc., but I'm going to be one of the pretentious a-holes that skips that step and jumps right into an overly serious and unnecessarily complicated blog.

There are a lot of complaints about games with moral choices lacking a grey area. Everyone is either good or bad, black or white. While there are some games that do offer a grey area (Fallout 3 was an excellent example, but that game gets enough gushing as it is), I agree that many do not. The thing I want to know is: why does that matter?

People Molyneux once said of Fable that a lot of players either play straight out good, or start out evil and feel bad and switch to good. Very few people actually take the evil route. And Fable is the kind of game that doesn't seemingly offer a middle ground, but it does let you run around and do whatever you want. You can choose to kill someone or save them or just walk away. That last option seems pretty grey.

But what kind of ramifications would an alleged grey choice offer? Would it change how the citizens of the gaming world view you? Many games are geared towards making the player be the hero. Big hits such as Halo, Final Fantasy, and Uncharted (albeit on a much smaller scale) are about saving the day, being the hero: it's about giving the player a sense of accomplishment for being the good guy.

Despite what critics of the gaming world would think, the only games that really let you play as the villain are the ones designed with that in mind, and they are incredibly uncommon. Overlord and Badman are the only examples of this I can think of off the top of my head, and I haven't played either one.

Maybe it isn't on the same level of “your choices matter” such as games like Fallout and Mass Effect (which only had a few choices really matter in the long run), but the perfect grey area game doesn't realy exist outside of opinion. One could argue that Rockstar are the masters of the grey area with the GTA series as well, but I haven't played too many of those so I can't comment on whether or not being a criminal in the game changes the fact that you are still playing the “hero.”

And I am one of the masses that does prefer to play the good role in games that offer you a choice. I like to get the occasional stimpack that the citizens of Megaton had to scrape their money together for; letting the Queen of a sentient race of alien cockroaches go as opposed to killing her makes me feel good because I can't stomach the thought of participating in genocide.

Not my Shepherd, but it'll do.

What few games do, however, is give a glimpse at both sides of the issue at hand. It's always a good guy rising up to stop the bad guy who is evil just to be evil or wants to destroy the world because he can. The only game in recent memory that even tried to tackle this sort of complexity was Tales of Vesperia.

The game took a three-pronged approached to the world. There was the Guilds, the Empire, and the party the player controlled. And nobody (not even the final boss) was a villain. Sure, there were people in the empire manipulating things, but there were also people like Flynn trying to do some good. The Guilds, the only ones aside from the Empire with influence in the world, weren't standing up for the little guy against the mighty Empire. They did everything for the sake of the guild, not the good of mankind.

The most interesting aspect of this, however, was the player's party. Yuri, who is arguably the “hero,” is the one the player spends the most time with. And despite being a hero, Yuri is definitely not a good person. He's a cold-blooded murderer. One could argue his victims deserve what they got, but that doesn't change the fact that (for a little while, anyway) there were serious ramifications to his actions.

The point I'm trying to get across is this: moral choices don't really matter, even when they're “offered,” because at the end of the plot you're still a hero. And isn't that why people play games to begin with?   read

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -