Thursday, 25 October 2012

What Hero is Best Hero?

Over the last few days I've bee thinking a lot about what makes a good video game ending. As tends to happen, as a result I have come upon some realizations. I wanted to write an article about all the things I've decided about endings, but no matter how hard I try this article keeps ending up being about what makes a good hero. So screw it, I'm talking about heroes! The two are more connected than you may think, actually. I think my discoveries also speak a lot to the importance of good dialogue. I'll just have to get back to the whole talking about endings thing once I have this other stuff out of my system....

Anyways, this whole thing started because I remembered, and subsequently re-watched this video:

It's a pretty awesome video, assumedly taken from some sort of F-Zero anime. However after watching it, I saw in Youtube's related videos a video entitled "The Real Falcon Punch":

Now I don't know anything about F-Zero or this Anime, but I think the difference between these two videos speaks volumes. The first video can pretty much be summer up as, "yeah! Captain Falcon is awesome!". The second video doesn't have all that much more to it, mostly just a couple extra lines of badly translated dialogue. Yet even amid the bad translation, 3 simple lines by Captain Falcon completely changes the context of this clip I know nothing about completely.

"Black Shadow! Going to Hell seems to become you and me."

"Falcon Only person who exceeds it can become Falcon."

"Rick Wheeler. You are Captain Falcon from today."

All of a sudden this video goes from "hell yea!" to a tale of Captain Falcon sacrificing himself, assumedly to save the world/universe/whatever. What's more even though the second line makes no sense, it's pretty obvious that he's summing up what it means to be a hero and carry the name "Captain Falcon", and saying that this Rick fellow has what it takes to carry on the moniker. To me the second version is instantly more touching and Captain Falcon comes off as a much more likable hero, even if it is a little bit less awesome. The scene isn't about cool explosions any more. Now it's a tale of a legend's magnificent feats and unfortunate demise, leaving behind what is asumedly some form of protege, now masterless.

Watching this video made me think about all of the heroes I've liked before. Surely there are some that are just badasses or what have you. When I think about it though, every hero that comes to mind who really left an impression are those who made sacrifices. Now, I like to think of myself as a somewhat stereotypical stalwart male when it comes to emotions. When I think about the most impactful heroes though, they all got to me in one scene or another and made me feel something. I think a big part of it is having the right music to accompany the scene, but no matter how awesome music is that's not whats on the plate today.

So to me at least, a good hero is one that makes sacrifices. What does that mean though? It's not the easiest thing ever to decipher. I can think of plenty of lame-o heroes who sacrificed their lives and I just thought "well that was stupid, why did they do that?". There are plenty of heroes who live to a ripe old age, but still manage to strum on the ol' heart strings.

I think what it comes down to is the player's ability to feel the weight of the hero's burden and the strength of their resolves. You need a hero who is committed to their belief, and struggles because of it. The hero needs to have real adversities to face, and suffer as a result. What's more, the hero's struggles need to be believable within their universe. Good heroes aren't always stoic either. When the hero falters they actually become more relateable. All you really need to define a good hero is a single shining moment when that person is able to see past adversity and do what's needed by force of will. Sadly the hero that tries really hard and just kind of ends up doing everything right (say, Mario) just doesn't really work for me.

As an example, DC comic book heros are a pretty good example that anyone should be familiar with. I'm no expert, to be sure, but everyone knows the dark past that haunts Batman, and he is one of the most revered heroes of all time. Even Superman, who I have always considered kind of lame, fits the bill pretty well. Sure he's the Man of Steel, but he does all he can to be the hero despite being agonized by the people he can't save. Look at the 82 seconds of Captain Falcon up above. He gave his life to protect whatever it is he was protecting, and yet his last words were words of encouragement and reassurance. That's a hero. Ok, technically his last words were "FALCON PAWNCH", but you get the point.

Anyways I'm glad I've stumbled upon this realization. It may be storywriting 101, I don't know. It seems like it would be any writer's goal to make the consumer feel for their characters. Yet there are so few that really manage to strike gold. If nothing else I've learned to look at characters in a little bit different light in all forms of media.

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