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Why Charles Barkey is the best written JRPG protagonist to date


So I blasted through Barkley, Shut Up and Slam: Gaiden today, and while still reeling from the insanity of it, I decided to do my first real blog post under the influence of slamming and jamming. This should totally be a good idea. So, with English Literature 101 still fresh in our minds, lets dive into the Masterpiece of Game writing that is, Charles Barkley.

This is not a spoiler-free essay, considering the game is free there really is no excuse to not play it other than time considerations, or that you hate fun and awesomeness. the link is here

Charles Barkley is an actually interesting, struggling protagonist

JRPG's these days can have a bit of a problem; A lot of the time, the protagonists tend to be a bit on the bland side. They sometime get around this problems. Persona tends to put the player as the protagonist, so its okay if the main character is a blank slate.

In the whole 20 hour tutorial of FFXIII, however, I never gave a shit about Lightning. I was almost entirely advancing to see what comic relief Snow would bring, and I get that impression that isn't exactly universal. And lets not even talk about Hope. I'm not saying these Characters are bad(I never really got far enough into the game to find out); what these these characters lack is a hook. The game just expects you to want to find out more about them. Does anyone care about Sora? His character in the KH series is really just an excuse to have his archetype to prance around the universe, with the vague impression that this archetype and that archetype have a relation of some sort. We get attached anyway, because of those relationships, but not for Sora's actual character. Which is fine, really. Nobody is asking for the Terminator to have the best performance of the year.

I'm just saying Charles Barkley in Barkley, Shut Up and Slam: Gaiden totally does.

Charles Barkley, right off the bat, struggles with being a single parent in a dangerous city, guilt for perfoming the Chaos Dunk that began the B-ball purges, and with how other people percieve him for that. Lets start with the son, Hoopz Barkley. It becomes rather evident that Charles is not having an easy time as a single parent, though he is loving. It shows from the very first playable screen of the game; Charles notes that Hoopz sleeps on the one bed in the house while Charles sleeps on the couch. But there is something else there as well. What that first scene opens on is Hoopz practicing dribbling in front of his father. But when he demonstrates, the sprite changes from a unique sprite to the generic basketball player sprite

Now, it might easy to say that this change happens because of technical limitations or as parody of similiar occasions in other JRPGs, but I think there is actually a hidden meaning to this change, which has to do with Barkley's struggle as a parent. When Charles sees Hoopz dribbling, he ceases to be his son, but becomes the image of a B-ballerr. Charles sees potential. But, there is guilt there too, because in Neo New York, there is no B-ball, and as far a Charles cares, its his own fault that his son can never amount to what he could become in another setting. The struggle of the parent is universal; Charles here becomes more than the archetype of the father, either good or bad, and we are aware of this struggle right away. He becomes interesting in his guilt of taking away his son's future. Which also leads to his general struggle with being the Chaos Dunker. The Chaos Dunk also killed his wife. Certainly, it wasn't on purpose, but rather, in the heat of the first game his son attended. The younger Charles didn't want to fail to impress, so he did what he felt he had to; he had no idea it would end up killing so many and having so many consequences, But this struggle also informs Charles, and again expands on his character. The burden of being the cause of the end of an era weighs heavily on the conscious of anybody, and Barkley, who did so in his recklessness, has an even higher burden. It expands him from being generally grumpy to a different person than he used to be. When beginning side quests, Charles always seems rather resentful of having to get involved in random tasks. Now it could be said that this is lampshade hanging on the irrelevance and time-wasting nature of JRPG sidequests, but rather this is serious character flaw of his: Barkley doesn't want to have the responsibility of having others trust in his abilities after he saw what he could do when he tries to hard. He simply doesn't want others to get hurt. this takes longer to see, but it does add to making more than just an archetype
Slightly separately is Charle's tendency to deny his identity. He struggle so hard, not being able to handle the guilt of ending the world as he knew it that whenever someone asks, he more often denies that his name is Charles Barkley. He just wants, socially anyway, to escape the guilt of his actions, but characters always somehow figure it out anyway. Charles has to own up to the fact that he can Chaos Dunk, a factor which becomes important to the story later.

Now Compare that with say, Tidus of FFX. In the first ten minutes that we see him, what draws one to him, character-wise? A whiny little hotshot jock? No, I think I can say it wasn't Tidus that lured people to keep playing, it was probably the mysteriousness of the man with the glasses and the Samurai sword and the coat. Its the promise that Auron will be explained that kept me going past the first 2 hours.

with the big sword, and the booze, and glasses, how could you say no?

If you think about it, not even FFVI, which I still consider very good, has characters that get this interesting this fast. Sure, Edgar and Sabin are awesome, and the mystery behind Terra can draw a player in, but even when fully developed, they cannot even touch the pure written genius that is Charles Barkley.

Hope you enjoyed what comes down to a freshman english majors review of Charles Barkley. Disagree? Have your own "Best Written" game character? Now you have a place to comment.
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About SomeWhatGreyone of us since 9:00 PM on 11.20.2008

I've decided that I'm going to take a stab at this game analysis/Critic thing. It's gonna be rough. But lets see what happens.