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Party Edition (Part 2)

O.V. here, and I am NOT a beer. And if you got that joke, then you're just drunk enough to enjoy my column. Anyway, last time I was kicking around this crib, I was talking about all the annoying things that are wrong with parties in RPGs. I spread the gospel on wondering what the other party members are doing while the active ones are kickin' some serious butt, why the lazy ones do or do not get experience, and the unfortunatism of losing a party member after putting so much effort into their advancement. I said at the end, I'd be talking more about what's wrong with parties. Man, I really should've planned for this. What else can I say about them RPGs? I feel like I'm about to take an exam without even showing up to a single class. Boy, that sure takes me back to college. What a depressing semester.

Well, I'll tell you one thing that confuses the hell outta me: Why is it that when a party member leaves for a while, they come back far more buff than when they left? I mean, seriously, you lose a Level 10 elf mage so that she can tend to her ill mother, and then they come back into the plot a few hours later, and they're suddenly Level 20! Was that elf-mage pumpin' some iron while putting Polysporin on her mama's hemmorhoids? Did she say, "Hark! I shall return, Mother, to deliver thy Benadryl, but first I must defeat about a thousand forest goblins to keep my strength up, lest my travel colleagues cross my path again!" It's nice that I don't have to grind that character myself, but how was it done? Why was I forced to grunt and groan for hours on the same forest trail while some oaf who can't stick around gets a free ride? Maybe that elf-mage was pulling a Lance Armstrong. I'll gladly have my warrior and archer bend over for a needle full of sunshine if it means saving many hours of fighting the same ridiculous one-eyed trail snake over and over.

I'll tell you something else that kinda yanks my poodle. It's pretty much a mega-cliché (one of those larger than expected clichés where you're pretty much aware of it even before you flick the console's on switch). In pretty much every RPG (usually within the party), there are always two characters who you just KNOW are going to fall in love or something like that. Sometimes it DOES actually happen, like in Final Fantasy X when Tidus and Yuna decided to lock lips and all that. We expected it. He was gawking at Yuna like a cat eyes up a storewide tuna sale. And it's nice when romance blossoms in the air, even when it a) seems to eventually dissipate in the end, or b) happens to people who aren't me. I'd much rather it happen to me. Maybe I should grab a dating sim.

(Final Fantasy X vs. Dragon Warrior III: The winner is simplicity.)

Anyway, romance isn't always the case and unfortunately, some characters are just too stupid to start up a relationship. In Shining Force II for the Genesis, it initially appears that the main character, Bowie, is clearly going to shack up with Sarah, the cute blue-haired healer. Later, it turns out he's destined to be with the Princess of the land, and Sarah's instead hooked up with some other wizard she's not really interested in. Way to mess up the romance, Sega! Of course, they're always titillating us without ever throwing us a bone. Move ahead to Shining Force Neo, and the two main characters, Max and Meryl, still never end up together by the end, even though he's like her hero and she's a total catch. Well, at least in that pathetic village where they live with its population of twenty. Same for any Sonic game from the last fifteen years: Why isn't Sonic having a date with Amy Rose? Is he waiting for that nocturnal hussy Rouge to make her move? You know what? Maybe it's just Sega that pulls this nonsense. ...Well, maybe not. Tales of Symphonia, as another example, never has the two male and female leads hook up, even though it's painfully obvious they should. Developers take note: If you have a male and female main character, marry them. Have them stay at an inn together. Set up a coffee date! Do something! We want love, not friend zoning!

One more thing before I head back to my coffin for another double-fortnight snoozer... I think the issue is, why do we often have so MANY characters in our party? I don't need five, six, seven, or even more than that. I can't use them all at once, and inevitably, I'm going to only use the strongest and/or the most favourable ones, leaving the remaining members to stand around, picking their noses in search of Golds. In many RPGs, I still have to clothe and arm these people, even if I think I'm never going to use them, just because you never know when the game might force me to toss them into the arena. Some RPG purists will say, "Oh, it's just so you have more variety in who you fight with!" Shut up, purist. You do not amuse me. You want to give me variety? Let me pick and choose who I want to take with me. Dragon Warrior III certainly had the right idea: Go to the local tavern and recruit three additional characters of your choice. You give them a name, and you select the class. No fuss, no muss. That game did it the right way, not to mention the fact that it wouldn't allow MORE characters than those that could be used at a time. Some games bug me that way: Final Fantasy X employs up to seven characters; Tales of Symphonia gives eight. Didn't Final Fantasy VI throw twelve your way? Highly unnecessary.

I'm sure there are other problems with having a party in an RPG. Just throw your two cents into the comments section because I'm tired. I'm also upset that videogame characters still get more love than I do! What's a guy gotta do?! ...Bah! Good riddance!

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