If a game has wonderful game play but utterly flat characters, odds are I won't be interested in it. What makes Bayonetta win over Dante? Julia Chang over Pai Chan? The SSX Crew over the Snowboard Kids? What makes one game win over my heart and my loyalty over another? Flavor. There's a name for people like me that play Magic: The Gathering - Vorthos. A type of player that is defined by what he cares about, not why he plays. Characters, story, world over mechanics. It's why I end up playing games like Chibi Robo: Park Patrol and the Bloody Roar series.
56 characters and you're going to pick Storm, Sentinel and Magneto. Again.
This "expertise" rears it's head most often in fighting games and assures that it's incredibly unlikely that I'll even reach any level of tournament play outside of local. Tiers are worthless to me, aside from that is a target of my scorn. Aside from a point of reference, I don't care who is God Tier or why. I won't play a character just because he or she is high ranking. I will only play them if I like them. Be it personality, style, attitude or story. When Marvel vs Capcom 2 came out way back when, I was hugely excited that my favorite comic book character of all time, Rogue, was playable. However, in a game that has a huge number of characters with fireballs and various keep-away tactics, Rogue was a poor choice. She has to get close or she's doomed. I had people flat out tell me not to play her. In general, I told them to shove it because she's my favorite character and I would make it work. What's her tier? Top of the bottom. To this day, I don't care. I'm competent with her and still hugely offended when a Gambit player (a character I hate) specifically beats my Rogue. In fact, I caused two grown men to run screaming from a room after such an incident. True story.
Just walking around in that dress is a feat.
Savoring the flavor of a game and it's characters is most likely why I still love traditional JRPGs. I don't care about exploring the world. Don't give me a damn sandbox, I want a guided tour. The game will tell me what's important and notable about the world and it's inhabitants. I don't see the need to wall hump everything and get distracted looking for a chest/item/hidden door/cake. If I do decide to find things, it's after the story has been told. I want to hear about new worlds, new people, I am prone to a high suspension of disbelief. There's enough reality in my reality and I lose my keys often enough to not need extra scavenger hunts in my escape time. Final Fantasy X is my favorite rpg ever. (shut up haters, I don't care which one you liked best) Wonderful story, design and characterization. I loved Lulu, most of all. Her outfit and hair was so ornate and complex. Her personality was deep as well. She was not afraid to speak her mind and knew that she might die on the job, as that was part of the deal. I liked Kimahrileast, because he was the most flat. Yes, he was a strange cross of Beast from X-Men and a unicorn, but he had almost no personality at all. Essentially he's a blue mage so his power is not really having a specific power. Great... In game play aspects the sphere grid was obviously important, but it was easy to understand visually (and dare I saw instinctively for people like me) because you just put the character you were leveling up on the path towards the other character you wanted him to be most like. Note: Do not put Kimahri on Lulu's path, it will just end in tears.
The intro says a lot about the game
Even in sports games, flavor rules all. I used to dislike sports games on the whole, until a friend of mine introduced me to SSX Tricky. I know calling this a 'sports game' is using the phrase loosely, but that's the nearest comparison I can draw and I think the phrase "extreme sports" is a little silly, frankly. At any rate, the characters are front and center in Tricky. Yes, snowboarding is "the point", but EA spent a good bit of money on voice actors (David Arquette, Lucy Liu, Oliver Platt and Billy Zane to mention a few) to make their characters true individuals. There was a game mechanic where you could push the nearest snowboarder down and make them fall, thus slowing them down in the race. The catch was that they would gain aggression towards your character. The more you push, the higher aggression. I played as Elise. Her bitchy, queen bee attitude made me laugh. For no particular reason, I had it OUT for Marisol. If I saw her, it was face-plant time for old Marisol. This changed the game for me entirely. There was added excitement. If I saw Marisol coming I knew there was going to be a slap fight. When I finally beat the game, I had Marisol at 100% aggression towards Elise. Marisol would literally throw the race just to knock Elise over and make sure she didn't win either. It was epic and I loved it. I think when EA moved past character development after Tricky & SSX 3 to throw more money at the soundtrack, the game suffered. It's no secret that SSX on Tour and SSX Blur were poorly received. If they love the characters again, then I think a proper SSX comeback could be in order.
I find the flavor monster coming to get me again in Tatsunoko vs Capcom. There are characters I know and love, but also all these new guys that I have no previous experience with. It compels me to play through the game, see their stories, their rivalries, their team mate, and where the hell these strange new moves came from. I'm already digging around Wikipedia and Youtube to learn more about the Tatsunoko characters. For example, both Yatterman (1 &2) have a theme song, as does the Dorombo Gang. I'll continue to dig around for information. What's up with the Gatchaman guys? Does Jun the Swan always have a panty flashing issue? Why does Joe the Condor walk like a stereotypical thug? I find myself aggravated at the players online. I see these piles of players, all selecting Ryu, or on occasion Chun Li because that's who they know they can win with. A flavor they are intimately familiar with, no matter how bland. I'm practicing with the new guys, Tekkaman, Yatterman-2, Jun the Swan and soon, the incredibly intimidating Doronjo and the Doronbo Team. I want people to acknowledge these new flavors, even if I have to beat it into them online.