Sunday, July 17, 2011

Silent Protagonist + Chrono Cross

Silent protagonists are pretty awesome, but they don't happen nearly as much as they used to.  That's kind of too bad.  RPGs seem to be built around ever talking protagonists.

Anyway I was skimming SMPS' Chrono Cross Review again. and I noticed this bit and I figured I'd pass it on:

"Chrono Cross is the rare post-SNES JRPG that can accurately be called a role-playing game. Even though the term RPG continues to be used in regard to Final Fantasy, the Tales series, Xenosaga, etc., but there is actually very little role-playing to be found in most of these games. As soon as an RPG's player character begins speaking on his own or making decisions independently of the person holding the controller, the term "role-playing game" becomes a misnomer.

This is why the silent protagonist device is such an effective tool in video games. When the player's character in the game's interactive narrative -- and technically, every video game is an interactive narrative -- is incapable of exercising any autonomy of supplying his own voice and thoughts, there is that much less of a boundary between the player and the world of the game. In Chrono Trigger, the player is Crono, and vice versa (up until the Ocean Palace disaster, anyway). Conversely, in Final Fantasy X, the player really only acts as Tidus's arms and legs, and only when the game cedes control to him. There is no role-playing; Tidus and the player are totally seperate entities. The player nudges Tidus along and views events from mover his shoulder rather than through his eyes.

Chrono Cross uses this tool to a more daring end. Chrono Trigger was designed to be a fantastic adventure in which the player vicariously leads a life of daring action and heroism through Crono. It's a blast, but fairly typical video game fare. Chrono Cross, however, is a story that's less about saving the world from disaster than Serge's quest for identity and meaning. Because Serge and the player are inextricably bound, Serge's existential struggle becomes the player's own."
The review itself is a really awesome read and I suggest you check it out even if you've never played Chrono Cross.  It's long, but it provides a really relevant discusssion about story in video games.


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