For this monthís monthly musings I decided to write on a specific cutscene of a specific game that has become one of my all time favorites and it isnít the death of aeris despite the obvious setup. Instead I want to write about the cutscene after the first mission of chapter 8 of valkyria chronicles. This scene amazed me because of the level of characterization that happened in that scene that up until that point I havenít really seen in video games. Now would be the time where I give a spoiler warning for anyone that hasnít played the game yet but has plans to do so.
What really amazed about this cutscene was how human the characters felt and how much the game made me care about the plights of the characters and made me feel bad for having to eventually kill off one of the characters involved in the cutscene even if the way the character dies is nowhere near as high quality as this scene.
While all three of the main characters in this cutscene are important I want to elaborate on the character of Berthold Gregor, a general in the enemy army. He is a character that is established very early in the game as having a very low opinion of the enemy he is facing and is supremely confident, stern, severe, and decisive. In his first few spoken sentences he refers to the playerís squad as mongrels, peasants, and barbarians and refers to the soldiers that lost a bridge to your squad as cowards. This isnít specific hate for that squad as he later states that he feels that the empire has all the tools it needs already to conquer the entire continent. It is this character that makes the cutscene as meaningful and impactful as it is.
Iíll set the scene before the cutscene in question. You (Welkin) and your sergeant( Alicia) got separated from the rest of your squad by an enemy ambush in a forest. It is late at night and your sergeant is injured. She can walk but very slowly you cannot abandon her. There are mortars going off all around you to try to lure you out of cover and there are searchlights scanning the area that will radio in your location to the people sending the mortars. The two of you slowly work your way out of the woods and find an abandoned cabin with some medical supplies inside you tend to your sergeantís wound then the cutscene begins.
The first key point of the scene is when Welkin is keeping guard while Alicia sleeps. Welkin hears a rustling and wakes Alicia up. An enemy soldier stumbles into the cabin but is very badly injured. Welkin lays him down and tries to treat the wound as best he can but thereís nothing that can be done to save him. At this point the soldier is delusional and is screaming in fear for his mother. Alicia takes his hand and comforts him and pretends to be his mother just so he doesnít die afraid.
The second key point for me was the following morning after the soldier was buried. Gregor and a few of his soldiers find Welkin and Alicia in the cabin. Despite the plot armor most protagonists have it really feels like they are done for or will at least be taken prisoner just based the character Gregor was given early in the game. One of the soldiers notes that the soldier buried there was one of their squad and that there were signs of medical treatment inside the cabin. Without wanting to spoil too much or writing out the entire script of the scene there was a very touching scene in which they come to an understanding about valuing family and human dignity even during war (Iím probably not doing this justice but watch the scene for yourself).
Finally the scene ends when you hear an explosion off in the distance and Gregor ends the scene with Gregor apologizing and leaving regretting what the war will eventually force one of them to do. To see such a human reaction coming from a character in a game, particularly from a character established so clearly as a tough character and an unambiguous villain, gave me goose bumps by allowing me to watch and be a part of that. Simply amazing.