Top 10 Video Game Characters – #9

#9 – Colonel Jade Curtiss

Summary

At the young age of 9, Jade Balfour used his knowledge in the field of fonic artes to  co-create Fomicry: a new type of science that allowed for living entities to be replicated. Recognizing his excellence in the field, Jade was adopted by the Curtiss family: a high-ranking part of Malkuth’s military. However, Jade’s failure to create a replica of his beloved teacher Gelda Nebilim caused him to give up the craft for good. He then earns the position of colonel of the Malkuth military due to his ability to utilize powerful fonic artes. He eventually meets up with Luke fon Fabre, who’s very existence once again forces Jade to face his past mistakes as the Father of Fomicry.

Personality

Despite his dark past, Jade appears to be rather cheerful on the surface. He’s constantly sporting a smile on his face, and likes to use his superior intellect to pick on the other members of the party. He’s often very sarcastic, and uses his snide comments as a way to get his points across. Sometimes he comes off as a bit cruel, but his harsh words are often used as a way to help other characters develop. He’s always streets ahead of his companions, and is usually the one to offer the explanation as to why something happened/is going to happen.

Jade’s sarcasm leads to a lot of the game’s best moments. He is the primary comic relief character, despite the fact that he also has one of the deepest and darkest backstories in the group. He constantly makes fun of his companions, but in a way that makes them, and us, love him even more. Jade is a completely serious character with a hilarious personality that brings out the best in the characters surrounding him.

Development

The one thing I don’t like about Jade is that his character development is kind of hard to find. He never really develops through the game’s main plot, and instead develops through various side quests and optional dungeons. In a way, this make’s Jade’s development a bit more rewarding to experience, but also very easy to miss. I was lucky enough to find it during my first playthrough of Tales of the Abyss, which is one of the reasons why I found him to be such an interesting character.

Unlike most Tales characters, Jade is a very despicable person. He’s guilty of some pretty heinous things, and covers them up with a smart-ass attitude that sometimes borders on the line of being down right cruel. He’s kind of hard to sympathize with due to the fact that most of his sins were a result of his own overconfidence and carelessness. While he does feel sorry for them, he tries much harder to cover them up than he does to actually atone for them.

But it is Jade’s lack of likeability that makes his development that much more meaningful. The rare moments in which Jade is sincere are some of the best moments in Tales of the Abyss. When we finally see him cast away his snarky persona in the face of his sins, we finally begin to sympathize with him. He spends such a huge amount of time hiding behind his intelligence, which makes the few moments where he acts like a normal human being that much more meaningful.

Why does he deserve the #9 spot?

I’ve never seen a character who was both the most and least likeable character at the same time. Jade is likeable because his crass personality leads to some of the funniest moments in the entire Tales series. The way he makes fun of the other characters, Luke and Guy in particular, just never seem to get old. But the way he tries to sweep his terrible past under the rug makes him a pretty detestable person.

While I wasn’t necessarily moved emotionally by Jade’s past, it is still one of the most powerful stories I have ever seen in gaming. When we finally see someone as egotistical and borderline narcissistic as Jade acknowledge the kind of person he actually is, we can’t help but feel something. The way his development is structured in Tales of the Abyss makes it that much more powerful. We must work hard to find the truth behind Jade’s past, just as he himself must work hard to finally admit what kind of person he truly is. All of this makes Jade Curtiss one of the most well developed characters I have ever seen.

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #5

#5 – Jecht

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Look at that guy. Look at him. That dude OOZES manliness.

Writing about why Jecht is a good character is a bit difficult due to the fact that most of his development happens off screen. He isn’t a playable character, and he’s only third on the list of FFX’s villains at best. That being said, the stories we hear about Jecht, paired with the small amount of screen time he is given tells us the story of a very realistic, albeit somewhat despicable, character.

What makes Jecht so memorable to me is that he is highly flawed, just like any real person would be. However, his flaws are different than those of most other Final Fantasy characters. Instead of being an endlessly depressed man with a dark past, Jecht’s flaws are more comparable to those that a real person might have. His status as a star athlete gives him a larger-than-life ego, which then results in him becoming a careless alcoholic who neglects his own son. In a series full of characters with somewhat silly motivations, the realism behind Jecht’s character is what makes him memorable.

When Jecht is transported to Spira one day while training at sea, he loses his fame and is forced to become just a normal guy. However, his ego and love for alcohol is still there, which results in him getting thrown into prison. Humbled by his experiences in Spira, Jecht teams up with Braska and Auron in a journey to defeat Sin and restore peace to the world for a short period of time. As his journey goes on, Jecht begins to see just how bad of a person he was back when he was in Zanarkand. He finally realizes that his son Tidus is justified in hating him, and hopes to find a way to redeem himself. He takes one last shot at redemption by sacrificing himself in order to become the fayth for the Final Aeon needed to defeat Sin, which results in Jecht becoming the very essence that allows Sin to live.

In an attempt to atone for his sins as a horrible father, Jecht uses his power as Sin to bring Tidus to Spira to embark on the same journey that he did a few years ago. When father and son are finally reunited, Jecht acts like the asshole he used to be on purpose in order to motivate Tidus to kill him along with Sin. Knowing how his son truly feels about him, Jecht walks away, leaving the most memorable image in the entire game:

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But Tidus never sees the sadness on Jecht’s face. Jecht then turns around to face his son, and reverts to his asshole persona to once again motivate his son to kill him.

Jecht went from a complete asshole to perhaps the most likeable character in the game. He sacrifices himself twice in order to save the world, and jeopardizes his relationship with his own son in order to do so. Jecht deserves the #6 spot on my list because of his realistic flaws, solid development, and honorable sacrifices. Also… manliness. Lots of it.

Graceful Charity

At long last, Tales of Graces f is set to be released this Tuesday, and I am HYPPPPPPPPPEDDDDDD. The future of the Tales series in the United States is upon us, and its fate lies in our hands. Namco Bandai has finally given American gamers one final chance to prove its dedication to the series who’s lack of U.S. releases has caused so much anguish and dismay amongst dedicated fans. Will the crusade to revive interest in such a niche series be successful, or will Bamco’s good graces go unnoticed?

Given how Namco Bandai handled the 3DS release of Tales of the Abyss, I would say that things are looking up. Let’s face it: Tales of Graces f isn’t going to be a big seller, especially since RPG juggernaut Mass Effect 3 was released only one week prior. However, Bamco has taken the necessary steps to maximize their potential profit. While Tales games have always been printed in short supply, Bamco printed even less copies of Tales of the Abyss than usual. While this may sound like a bad thing, printing less copies means less money spent on Bamco’s end. Instead, they print enough copies to allow the dedicated fans to pre-order their copy, as well as provide 1-3 extra copies for each store to have just in case someone without a reservation may want it. This also prevents used copies from saturating the market. For a series as niche as the Tales series is, this is a very smart business tactic that may result in the growth of the series. Using this same tactic with Tales of Graces f would be a smart move on Bamco’s part.

Over the last couple of years, it has been increasingly difficult for JRPGs not ending in “antasy” to survive in the video game market. Less JRPGs are being made, and even fewer are being brought over to the North America. This also works in Tales of Graces f’s favor, because the bar has been lowered to a reasonable height. This, combined with the smaller shipment strategy mentioned above, will result in a much more reasonable profit projection from Bamco. Also, fans of the JRPG genre are starving for a new experience. While releasing the game along side Mass Effect 3 may have been a small mistake, avoiding the release of Final Fantasy XIII-2 was a brilliant decision. For the next few months, maybe even a year, the only new console JRPG out there will be Tales of Graces f, which will also help contribute to sales figures.

For the first time in a long time, things are looking up for one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of gaming. If Tales of Graces f is as successful as it should be, we should finally start seeing more games brought over to North America. Now, I must call upon all of my JRPG brethren: BUY THIS GAME! This isn’t just the Tales series we are talking about here, but the genre as a whole. If we want to see JRPGs have a future on consoles, this game is going to have to do well. Something needs to prove that there is still a demand for JRPGs that aren’t developed by Square-Enix, and this game is probably our best shot.

My Favorite Video Game Series – #10

#10 – Kingdom Hearts

KINGDOM HEAAAAAAAAAAARTSS!

Favorite game in the series: Kingdom Hearts II

Least favorite game in the series: Kingdom Hearts Re: coded

Kingdom Hearts is… something. I seem to find my opinion towards the series shifting almost by the minute. One day, I might think it should be in my top 5, while on another day, I want to kick it off of the list entirely. The series has so many great high points, but an equal amount of disappointing low points as well.

Kingdom Hearts was the second game I ever played on the Playstation 2, which certainly adds nostalgia into the equation. Even though I was never that interested in Disney when I was growing up, I was still drawn in by the Final Fantasy cameos. Kingdom Hearts does an amazing job at providing fan service while also building upon its own legacy.

At its core, the Kingdom Hearts series is great. It provides a compelling story, a unique and enjoyable battle system, and a wide world of both new and old characters who are fun and interesting. However, the problem with Kingdom Hearts is that it refuses to evolve. It has been almost SEVEN years since the last numbered entry in the series was released, which has turned me off of the series quite a bit. Instead of expanding the core storyline introduced in KHI and KHII, Square-Enix continuously releases spin-off games with very little impact on the overall plot. While I can’t call these games bad, they don’t really add anything new or interesting to the series. Because of this, the Kingdom Hearts series is beginning to become increasingly stale, which is truly a shame for such a unique series.

The story in the Kingdom Hearts series is solid, but can sometimes be nonsensical and confusing. Due to the large number of spin-off titles, Squsre-Enix has introduced tons of new characters who are often paired with confusing storylines. For example, the main villain in the series, Xehanort, seems to have 5+ different forms of existence in 5+ different time lines (I’m exaggerating, but it really is something crazy like that). I, for one, welcome these complicated storylines. A deep and complex story allows for the characters within them to grow and develop in a way that other characters cannot. But the problem with Kingdom Hearts is that it hasn’t fully resolved any plot line in the entire series. Each new spin-off has a new protagonist, while the others may make a cameo appearance if you’re lucky. This is really frustrating for people like myself; people who have been invested in the series since the beginning. We crave answers to a storyline that is complex and interesting, but sadly, we get nothing.

The potential for Kingdom Hearts to become an all-time great series is all there. Maybe Square-Enix is just preparing to make Kingdom Hearts III a super-game that finally brings the series full circle. When and if that happens, the series definitely will be moving up on my list. But for right now, I can’t help but voice my frustrations with the series. I just hope that they don’t waste the enormous opportunity they have at making something truly special just to squeeze more money out of me in the form of spin-off games.

My Favorite Video Game Series – #11

Here’s another one that may ruffle some feathers. Part of me hates this series because of how it may or may not have changed the video game industry. This series may have inadvertently caused a lot of the problems that plague today’s video game market, but I cannot ignore the joy that it has brought me.

#11 – Halo

Favorite game in the series: Halo 2 (yes, really)

Least favorite game in the series: Halo 3: ODST (duh)

Yep. Halo. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny Halo’s impact on the gaming industry. Halo single handedly transformed Microsoft into a gaming powerhouse, and still continues to impact the industry to this day.

What I love about Halo is its simplicity. By no means is it the most advanced shooter out there; in fact, it’s probably one of the most basic games I can think of. What makes Halo’s simplicity so great is that it allows new players to stand a fighting chance while still offering certain mechanics that will allow dedicated players to improve. It’s easy to learn, but tough to master, which is what I believe all multiplayer-focused games should be.

You can’t discuss the Halo series without bringing up the Call of Duty series. In my opinion, Halo’s balanced gameplay and accessibility is what makes it the superior franchise. There are so many weapons and perks in Call of Duty that are overpowered to the point where you cannot win if you aren’t using them. Also, these weapons and perks are only accessible once you reach a certain level. While Halo does have its own share of power weapons, they all have their own draw backs that help balance them out. Sure, the rocket launcher may kill anyone in one shot, but you only get two shots with it. The sword may be a great melee weapon, but you can take out a sword-wielder pretty easily from a distance.  As opposed to Call of Duty, Halo’s power weapons are available to everyone from the beginning, which makes the game fair and balanced.

I cannot even begin to count the number of fond memories I have playing Halo. For me, Halo was the ultimate social experience. There was nothing better than going to a friends house, hooking up 5+ TVs/Xboxs, and getting down on some 10+ player Halo LAN action. It was a fun, casual experience that everyone could enjoy, no matter how good or bad they were at the game (although me being second best in my group of friends certainly doesn’t hurt). Even though those days are long gone thanks to the rise of Call of Duty, the memory of them is what influenced me to put the Halo series on my list.

Random Game of the Day #1 – Curious George (GBA)

Since I’ve had trouble finding enough time to dedicate to this blog, I feel like it would be a good idea if I could find something that was both somewhat interesting and easy to fit into my schedule. Every couple of days, I am going to pick out a random game, play it for about an hour, and write a brief review/write up for it. I hope that doing this exposes me to new gaming experiences (both surprisingly good and hilariously bad), and also allows me to write about things that not very many people have written about before.

Since these games are being chosen at random, I’m going to have to hold them to a lower standard than I would a normal game. Given the huge amount of crap the video game industry churns out every year, most of these games probably won’t be very good.  I am going to be doing this with an open mind, knowing full well that pretty much none of these games are going to actually be good. That being said, let’s get to Random Game of the Day #1: Curious George for the Gameboy Advance!

First of all, I should apologize for my general lack of knowledge of the epic Curious George saga. From my point of view, this game is about a little monkey named George who is stalking some dude who has a hat that looks like a banana. George is also obsessed with fireflies, and possesses some sort of magical ability that allows him to spawn bottles of them by simply poking random objects. Pretty frickin’ cool if you ask me.

My ignorance about the premise aside, let’s discuss how Curious George functions as a game. Curious George is….. actually kind of fun. It’s a fairly simple run-and-jump platformer, just like any other “cartoony” licensed video game adaptation. Nothing really stands out about Curious George’s gameplay, but the controls surprisingly work pretty well. I’s even say that it is somewhat fun trying to run through a stage as fast as you can. A lot of licensed platforming games I used to play when I was younger had control schemes that at times didn’t work in the way that they were supposed to. Curious George’s controls may be simple, but if you’re going to be making a cheap game on the GBA, that is exactly what they should be.

However, Curious George is not without it’s flaws. The biggest complaint I had was that the enemies in the game were absolutely horrible. George has no way to defend himself, and therefore cannot defeat any of the enemies in the game. The enemies in the game are  other animals that run back and forth between a single area, and at times they can be extremely frustrating. There is one level in particular in which you must enter windows of an apartment building. However, you cannot see what is in the building until you enter it. Basically, if there was an enemy who just so happened to be near the entrance at the time you entered the window, there would be no way to avoid getting hit. While this doesn’t necessarily make the game hard, it is this kind of artificial difficulty that can really hold a game back.

Overall, I was actually surprised by Curious George. By no means is it a good game, but it is a lot better than most other licensed platformers. Let’s recap:

PROS:

  • The controls work surprisingly well, which makes running through levels quickly fun
  • Simple gameplay fits perfectly on the GBA

CONS:

  • The game’s enemies cannot be killed…Seriously?
  • Lots of artificial difficulty that only exists because of the game’s own limitations

FINAL VERDICT:

6 Derpy Monkeys out of 10

My “Favorite” Game of 2011

I apologize to my non-existent readers for the lack of posts (broken water heater, Christmas stuff, fantasy basketball drafts, and laziness). Anyway, let’s carry on with subjective opinions and nonsense! *clap*

Today, I’m going to be talking about what was my “favorite” game of 2011. Don’t get me wrong; Skyrim, Skyward Sword, Uncharted, etc. are probably better games, but the game I am about to talk about deserves some love too. I understand that not many people have played this game, or probably even heard of it, but damnit, I’m going to write about it anyway!

:D

Most people just said “lol wut,” while a very small number of awesome people just said “yessss.” That’s right, screw all your fancy lookin’ shooters and western RPGs, my favorite game released in 2011 is Atlus’ Radiant Historia for the Nintendo DS.

As I have discussed in previous posts, the video game market we are in this generation has forced a lot of JRPG developers to switch to handheld systems. While this may be alarming for some, Radiant Historia may help relieve some of your fears. Radiant Historia shows just how great JRPGs on handheld platforms can be.

Radiant Historia has everything that its console counterparts have, and in some cases, it offers even more. Great gameplay, music, graphics, story, and length; the restriction normally placed upon handheld games absolutely do not apply to Radiant Historia. Once again, Atlus has proven that it is the true king of the JRPG genre.

Instead of treating this like a review, I’m just going to point out a couple of things that make Radiant Historia stand out as my favorite game of 2011. Perhaps the best thing about Radiant Historia is its battle system. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Radiant Historia MAY have one of the best battle systems of all time. It’s a bit hard to describe without seeing it with your own eyes, but think of the battle system as blend of traditional turn-based combat with some additional real time strategy aspects thrown in. Enemies are placed on a 3×3 grid. You can use your characters’ skills to push and pull enemies across this grid. If you can get multiple enemies on one block, you can attack that block to deal damage against all of the enemies standing in it. Also, one of your characters can lay down traps, while the others can try to force them into it. It sounds kind of complicated at first, and my shoddy description isn’t really doing it justice, but the strategical aspects this game offers is what makes it that much more fun.

Another strategical element Radiant Historia offers is the option to manipulate your characters’ turn order. You can allow your opponent to attack earlier so you can get more consecutive turns later. You deal more damage when you have a higher combo, so stockpiling turns is usually a good way to dish out a ton of damage against bosses. However, if you give your opponent too many turns, they will kill you. Radiant Historia also has a nice amount of difficulty to it. You need to know what you are doing; you can’t just spam your strongest attack and expect to win. However, the game still eases you into this system flawlessly. Take it from someone who normally blows at anything having to do with strategy and contemplation, the game will make sure you are comfortable with its battle system before it throws anything overwhelmingly difficult at you.

Radiant Historia’s also boasts an amazing storyline filled with a cast of endearing characters. You play as a man named Stocke, a young soldier working for a country named Alistel. Due to his skills as a soldier and the compassion he shows for his companions, Stocke is granted the power to travel back and forth in between different timelines. Stocke must use his time traveling abilities in order to find a way to end a long lasting war between Alistel and the nation of Granorg, while also ensuring the safety of his comrades and friends. The story has its fair share of twists and turns that will keep the player entertained and interested in what will happen next.

While the story itself is very good, what really makes it stand out is Stocke. Stocke has become one of my personal favorite lead characters in any RPG game. What makes Stocke such a good character is that he (for the most part) is fully developed at the beginning of the game. Most JRPG protagonist have to go through some sort of life-changing process that finally shows them what kind of person they should be. It’s refreshing to see a character who doesn’t start out as either a complete asshole (I’m lookin’ at you, Squall), or a complete wuss (I’m lookin’ at you, Tidus). Instead, Stocke always does what is best without bitching and moaning about how his actions may or may not negatively impact himself.

Stocke shows how good JRPG characters can be by finally going against typical JRPG tropes

So… When I first decided to do a post on Radiant Historia, I only expected it to be about 300-400 words long. Yeah… I was wrong. This just shows how much I loved this game. In my opinion, Radiant Historia is the best RPG to be released since Shin Megami Tensei: Person 4 (December of 2008). It has absolutely everything a JRPG fan could want, despite the fact that it is on a handheld system. Even if JRPGs continue to be forced onto handheld systems, I will have absolutely no gripes as long as they can match Radiant Historia’s quality.