Characters we can’t stand
The launch of Final Fantasy VII was a watershed moment for the gaming industry. After a decade-plus of trying to get western gamers into the JRPG genre, it exploded in the US and Europe with its memorable cast and animated cut-scenes that were far superior to most other games of the era but laughably bad in retrospect. Despite not being the best looking game two decades later, I thoroughly enjoyed my first go with it when I played it on my PSTV just a few years back. The story and the gameplay hold up well, and I’d be all for giving it another playthrough except for the fact that I cannot stand Cait Sith.
I don’t throw the word “hate” around much because it loses its power when ascribed to anything that even remotely displeases me. That goes doubly for games. Obviously, there are games I don’t like. I’ve reviewed some that I scored with a two or less and earlier this year I dedicated a Destructoid Discusses question to my displeasure with Major Minor’s Majestic March. Yet I wouldn’t say I capital H-A-T-E any of those games. They’re just… bad.
Cait Sith, however, I hate. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate him or her or it or whatever the fuck this creature is. I shouldn’t though. I was kept in the dark on most of the story elements of Final Fantasy VII for nearly 20 years when I finally got my chance to play it. As somebody which a cursory knowledge of the plot, I just assumed Cait Sith would be one of my favorite characters. Why not? It’s a cat riding a giant stuffed toy or something. It attacks with a megaphone. That’s all I need to fall in love. So when it joined my party, I put it directly into my main party. Everything was going well until — SPOILER ALERT — that motherfucker double-crossed me.
I’ve known the fate of Aerith since the ’90s, but Cait Sith’s betrayal had me dropping my controller in disbelief. First, it steals the Keystone from me, then I find out the person controlling it has taken Marlene hostage, forcing my team to take it along with us. I know the cat eventually sacrifices itself to help my team and soon becomes a spy for AVALANCHE, but I’ll be honest, I’m still not over what went down at Gold Saucer. As soon as its intentions were revealed, I removed Cait Sith from my main trio and never put it back into play.
As ridiculous as it sounds — and it sounds incredibly ridiculous when I say it to myself out loud — I still hold an actual grudge against the character like an old lady with dementia who thinks her stories are real. Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite games ever, but I just may very well go to the grave with a deep-seeded hatred of Cait Sith.
So, here’s the thing. When it comes to characters, I have a hard time disliking anyone. Sure, I have my preferences, and can recognize when I don’t actually like a character. But as long as a character gives me a reason to believe they’re trying to be good, and the writers tried to make them good, I can forgive their shortcomings. Even in the event of a half-assed heel-face turn, I may not like them, but nor do I dislike them.
Go figure, then, that my one big pet peeve for writing characters is “characters who try to be more bad than good, but are still treated as if they’re good”. CJ’s example is close to this, except that party’s decision is driven by a threat they begrudgingly comply with. That example is still treated like they’re bad. What I dislike is more along the lines of a heel-face turn that looks as if it’s leading to an obvious betrayal, yet it was written as if you’re meant to unironically trust that character. I don’t know many characters like this, but one of the first to come to mind is Vira from Granblue Fantasy.
To be fair, I like Vira… as an antagonist. She’s manipulative, she’s batcrap crazy, and she’s driven by her passion for her “sister”. But I don’t like having her in my party. The first thing I hate about her is that some vague time after her introductory arc, she just… joins the party. Like, she literally shows up out of nowhere, presumably having stalked you. Sure, everyone is skeptical and/or afraid, but nobody outright stops her, even though they already beat her before. I understand this is a mobile RPG where you collect new party members literally by the boatload, but less treacherous antagonists had to do so much more to win the party’s trust.
The other reason I hate her is that despite this, she’s one of the most prominent allies in the game. And I can see why. She’s insanely popular, largely because yandere, thus she gets more content dedicated to her. It bugs me to see a character I can’t accept as an ally be glorified so much. Is it petty and selfish for me to hate her more because other players like her more? It sure is. Do some of her later story scenarios give me reasons to trust and accept her? Possibly, and it’d only be fair for me to give her that chance. But when I already have more characters than I know what to do with, I’d rather give into that spite and avoid using her.
Honorable mention goes to Peri from Fire Emblem Fates, who is such a sociopath that the player’s other allies become a little sociopathic by proxy just tolerating her presence.
I love the Yakuza series. I’m pretty sure I’ve made that point clear (even if I gave Yakuza 6 a 7/10). So, this might come as a surprise to people, but I really hate Masayoshi Tanimura in Yakuza 4. The fourth entry in Sega’s Japan simulator was the first time players were given the chance to control someone that wasn’t Kiryu and while two of the characters became series mainstays, Tanimura has been relegated to just 4.
While the logical reason is that the actor who portrayed him didn’t want to return for Yakuza 5, I like to believe it’s because Tanimura sucks. His story is relatively interesting and I like the idea of a Chinese outsider having to work in Japan, but holy shit does this dude suck in combat. Yakuza games are about hard-hitting combos, flashy heat moves, and general badassery. Tanimura is the exact opposite of all of that.
Not only does he not really have heat actions, but all of his combos are based on grapples and reversals (probably a form of Wing Chun, due to his Chinese ancestry). What this makes is a guy who routinely gets his ass handed to him in large groups and one that has the absolute hardest final boss fight in the series (again, a large group that just mops the floor with him). There is also a long, unskippable sequence in his third chapter that I had to watch three full times to get the stupid platinum trophy, so I can’t forgive that.
To rub more salt into the wound, the series’ signature hidden boss, Amon, even takes a jab at him for not returning in Yakuza 5, as if the devs also knew Tanimura was awful. When it was revealed that he wouldn’t be returning for any future sequels, I let out a sigh of relief. Hopefully, for whatever Shin Ryu Ga Gotoku ends up being, we won’t see some “miraculous” return of Kamurocho’s dirty cop.
Just as an aside: I think Vira (disliked by Chris above) is really cool because unlike most Granblue Fantasy characters, she actually has an arc. The drawback, though, is that you have to roll like, 4 or 5 different ultra-rare characters (all of whom are different versions of Vira) in the wife-casino to get that arc (unless you cheat/do the smart thing by reading the wiki, of course).
Anyway, I rarely react to game characters on an emotional level, partly because suppressing visible reaction is my coping mechanism for life, and also because it takes a lot to really get me to have “all the feels“.
That said, I fuckin’ hate Solas from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Besides looking really weird — as in, weird even for the weird way Dragon Age likes to model its elves — Solas is a condescending jerk who seems pathologically incapable of granting anyone but himself some goddamn respect. His backstory and actions in the game (not to mention the Trespasser DLC epilogue) help to explain this a bit more, but even with those details, he remains thoroughly insufferable. Ironically, this quality makes him feel like one of the most vividly written game characters anywhere. That he can inspire a visceral dislike in me, a charcoal-hearted shell of a man, speaks highly of Bioware’s ability to push people’s buttons and occasionally write well-realized characters.
I can’t wait until they put out Dragon Age 4, so I can murder his skinny egg-looking ass.
I don’t particularly enjoy talking about things I hate. I’d much rather be telling you about all the characters I think are interesting, funny, or just plain cool. But since CJ has decided to pose this question…
Can we all just agree that Aiden Pearce is fucking awful?
Worse than awful: Aiden Pearce is a deranged maniac. The opening act of Watch_Dogs already has Aiden torturing and attempting to execute a man, which only fails because his partner-in-crime (and much better character) Jordi removed the bullets from his gun as a precaution. It’s okay though because the man Aiden has been torturing killed his niece. That makes Aiden the good guy and completely justified in everything he does, right?
It never gets better from there. Over the course of the game, Aiden causes wanton destruction, kills or severely injures any number of people with various degrees of innocence, threatens his allies, violates innocent people’s privacy for shits and giggles, blackmails a down-on-his-luck kid into betraying the gang that just barely tolerates his existence, and endangers his own family.
All the while, the game treats Aiden like he’s a hero. He’s “The Vigilante” (or alternatively “The Fox”, because this game can’t keep its own plot straight) fighting the good fight. Except he’s not.
If Watch_Dogs was a better game it could’ve been an intriguing deconstruction of vigilante justice; how it does more harm than good, how it endangers everyone and every community involved, and how Batman is only cool because he’s a fictional character. Instead, Watch_Dogs was a mediocre game with the worst main character I’ve ever seen.
Occams Electric Toothbrush
Hate is a strong word. Stronger than we give it credit for. There was a time when hate was reserved for truly deserving subjects like Nazis, terminal illnesses, and vegan bakeries. Now we live in a world in which we are all connected and our thoughts are shared and streamed and conveyed almost endlessly. And in that deluge of expression, the impact of words is lessened. Today’s hate is more akin to annoyance and irritation. But I remember the old ways of words. And like Paul Atreides, I know the power in choosing your words carefully. It’s in that spirit that I can safely say with a fully realized heart and mind that I fucking hate Vaan from Final Fantasy XII.
I remember playing XII and being bummed out that I had to watch the story unfold around this dopey, annoying kid. Fran and Balthier were right there and could have, should have, been the main cast but no, we had Vaan. Reading up on the game, it turns out Vaan was originally written more grizzled and world-weary but that was changed to appeal to the game’s demographic. To quote the grail knight, “He chose poorly.”
I had so much trouble getting into the game because of him. Every time I started to fall into the story and the world, Vaan would appear acting like he just stepped off the set of a Disney sitcom and ruin it. With Fran and Balthier, you could have had a True Romance take on Final Fantasy. That would have been something. Instead, there’s Vaan. Dumb, dopey, fun ruining Vaan. In my head, Fran and Balthier sell Vaan to slave traders. Vaan ends up being a drug mule and is found in a ditch. They have to use dental records to identify him.
There have been a couple of characters in games that I’ve hated with a passion burning as intensely as a thousand fiery suns (see also: Moeka Kiryu in the Steins;Gate series), but none quite so vehemently and none quite so irrationally as Mikan Tsumiki from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Sure, she’s a murderer, but so is half of the cast, since the series’ premise is essentially Battle Royale with plushies, detective work, and swimwear. In fact, Mikan killed someone while being brainwashed, so strictly speaking, she’s more of a manslaughterer(?).
Yet her meek, cowardly personality at the beginning of the game didn’t endear her to me – instead, I found her characterisation to be contrived and overly reliant on traditional anime tropes. When she falls over during the first case and a plate of food just happens to land strategically in her lap to, ahem, hide her shame, I was a little bit taken aback and very much giving Spike Chunsoft some well-deserved side-eye. She was a caricature throughout her tenure in the game, and while a lot of the female characters in the Danganronpa series are hardly given the most nuanced portrayals, at least Ibuki and Hiyoko were so much more than ditzy, helpless women designed specifically to tease the audience. Hard pass on Mikan.
Throughout my whole life, I rarely came across supporting characters I loathed in my favorite stuff. While I came across a few villainous scumbags here and there, they were designed to make their defeat feel satisfying. Since I wanted to stay away from bad guys for this week’s topic, I had a bit of trouble with this subject. Fortunately, I remembered a certain character that ruined my time with the second half of Avalon Code for the Nintendo DS.
Throughout the first part of the game, your character was winning the affection of the people in Rhoan. You were on a quest to awaken a couple elemental spirits, along with overcoming any possible threats to the area. No matter how hard you try in this segment, the region’s ruler, King Xenonbart, blames you for any crisis that affects his kingdom. During the first time, I was okay with it as it dove into the trope where the hero is blamed for something they didn’t do. However, you start to question his intelligence when he puts you in prison for something the main villains committed.
After this moment, I was furious at this ruler. I worked hard to become a great hero and then I watch my progress go down the drain in an instance. Seeing that the old guy only cares about making a mark in history, I questioned his capabilities as a king. While the game forced me to protect his land, I was wishing for Avalon Code to have an evil route. That way, I could make the guy suffer for humiliating me and making my well-earned fame feel pointless. Considering Avalon Code‘s theme revolved around your character gathering data to create a new world, my desired route would’ve complemented its theme of destruction and reaction.
Seeing that I couldn’t make Xenonbart suffer, I stopped care about the rest of the game. In fact, the idiot who screwed me over doesn’t deserve to be saved. The funny thing about my dilemma is that they mysterious shady man who lives under the castle has the potential to be a better ruler than this joke of a king. Most importantly, he treated me well.
If anything, the only way to make that royal loser pay is to get close to his competent daughter, who’s capable of ruling the kingdom better than him. Sadly, I wasn’t able to do this since I might’ve been focusing on a different girl.
Pixie the Fairy
My hatred of a character usually stems from a creator’s need to drag out why they’re so important by either killing off or taking other, better, more interesting characters down a peg. This could be over the course of one game or a series.
As an example, Hal Emmerich of Metal Gear Solid starts off as this otaku dork scientist who wet himself at the sight of danger, but also wants to put his wrongs to right and has a crush on a cold-blooded sniper lady who let him pet her wolves once. It was puppy love. Infatuation.
Solid Snake has to take her down in an epic, pulse-pounding sniper duel and emerges victorious while she bleeds out in the snow. She does her part to raise his legend up Kurosawa-style, talks of her tragic life and asks as one warrior to another for him to end her life. It’s in this moment Hal is emotionally crushed by the loss and comes to understand the ways of these warriors and what the stakes really are before asking Snake to switch to Disc 2.
Had it been just that moment, I would have been fine with it, but several more people will die throughout the series because male Emmerichs can only rise to relevance if people die. By the end of the series, seven other characters have died to advance these two. Hal couldn’t even be born, raise a child, or score without a woman dying eventually.
Sora from Kingdom Hearts has the same problem. Every other better playable hero in the series gets sidelined in favor of this pinhead because his heart connects everyone somehow. Even Donald and Goofy get kicked to the curb during final boss fights as if to show how awesome Sora is.
I put up with that insipid crafting system to give Goofy and Donald their ultimate weapons for a reason, you know. It wasn’t to be gated off in the final fight. I thought this game was about the power of friendship