Editorial: What Makes a Hero?

Hidey-ho, Lusisprites. As tempting as it is, I am opting not to brighten your day with an essay on the merits of potato farming in Harvest Moon, or the best way to murder your Sims. I had, in fact, intended to review Grandia 2 today, but as mentioned on the latest MAP I just do not have the willpower to sit through that game for extended periods of time. The fault lies mostly with the game’s hero, Ryudo, especially when compared to Justin from Grandia 1, I find that even if I do not measure Ryudo against the mighty Justin specifically, he still does not work for me as a hero. All of this has then led me to wonder what does it take to be an engaging protagonist in a video game, for me at least?

The answer is not as simple as “be like Justin!” because, well, I connected with and related to other heroes who were not always like Justin. Yuri from Shadow Hearts is definitely an example of an anti-Justin hero who I quite enjoyed, rooted for, and became invested in.

Justin could whoop this guy's butt.
Ryudo

I tend to gravitate towards the unwilling hero, the hero who did not wake up and say “Durrr I want to be a big hero and save the day!” I hate arrogant muscleheads from certain games who might be the kinda guy I would want by my side in a fight, but do nothing to garner my sympathy and affection as an outsider at the controller. Watching someone become a hero is far more enjoyable for me than watching someone who already is a hero be a hero, and their successes are so much sweeter when I can see how far they have come. Nobody likes a showoff, though. At least I do not. Therefore I tend to not enjoy those games so much where the hero is unwilling, yet naturally gifted. A world-saving prodigy, if you will. Boring. Struggle some, please.

To bring my ramblings back to Grandia 2, what is truly disappointing me is that I saw so much potential for Ryudo to be my kind of hero. He seemed to be an outcast, and looked down upon by society for being a “Geohound”. He did not seem to deserve the contempt he received. However he has done little to endear himself to me, so while I do feel a bit sorry for him and do wish him all success in his adventures, I am not exactly on the edge of my seat, dying for the story to progress. He also has a touch of that world-saving prodigy syndrome in the sense that he is already worldly and battle-ready. Yawn.

How do you all feel? Do you enjoy the macho hero that you can idolize? The underdog? Or maybe the strong but completely silent and personality-free type?

20 comments

  1. I often prefer the underdog hero, the person who struggles and fails more often than he/she succeeds. The underdog hero that get knocked down, but he/she gets back up and presses forward, enduring all the pain thrust upon him/her. The hero that, to his/her last breath, keeps fighting. I’m talking about the person who, dying at the hand of his/her major enemy, surrounded by a pool of his/her own blood, even, looks up, points at the enemy, and says:

    “Fuck you.”

    The gall and sheer determination of the underdog hero that never stops fighting is what interests me.

  2. How far in Grandia II did you actually get? I think as the story goes on all the main characters in your party become much more developed. I especially enjoyed the romance elements between Ryudo and Elena/Millenia in the later half of the game.

    I will agree with you though that watching someone become a hero, like Justin, is much more satisfying, but you can’t really compare the story of Grandia I to the story in Grandia II, they are two completely different stories each going for a different feel. Comparing the stories, and heroes of Grandia I & II would be like comparing Kiki’s Delivery Service with Princess Mononoke, they’re completely different stories, sure they’re both ghibli films, but they aren’t going for the same thing.

    If you didn’t get very far in Grandia II, I urge you to play more. The story in my opinion really picks up. I’m not sure if they did the same thing in the English version of the game, but there is a point where they start having a lot more voice acting and this is where the real story starts happening, everything up until that point(apart from the introduction) is mostly filler…

    The game isn’t that long for an RPG, I think I beat it in like 22 hours…Give it another chance!

  3. Honestly I would have to say if written well any type of hero can be a good hero. Within the Final Fantasy series there are all these types of Heroes and they have made both good and bad ones on both Levels

    For the macho hero we can say that we have Cloud, he can also be seen as the strong silent type but he opens up in the game and becomes the big guy who can take down the giant evil of Sephiroth and no matter my feelings towards him or the game he was an effective hero and a positive mark on the genre as a whole. There are other macho heroes that aren’t great though within the series, Tidus for example tries to be the macho hero and fails, time and again, sure he can be seen as the second type, the underdog that tries to succeed but fails however I believe him as more the Macho hero because of the personal he shows off, the way he charges into battle, the way he goes against the rules even though he is directly told not to. Seriously, fuck Tidus.

    The second type of hero would probably be my favorite and probably the most used heroes in the whole lot of them. For a positive underdog hero we can go with Zidane, he doesn’t look like much, uses daggers, is an alien from another world, however he battles back from his depression and pulls out of it quickly, realizing that people need him and he needs to step up to help the people he cares about. The opposite of him would be Squall, I don’t even need to go into it but he tries to play the silent type of hero but he is just an emo douchebag, I really hate Squall.

    The third type of hero is usually seen as a support character but they can be heroes too damn it! Auron in Final Fantasy X is far superior to Tidus, if they would have made that game with him as the main hero I would have been happy! but no, they had to make that god damned Tidus… anyway moving along. A bad type of hero for this silent type could be Seifer? I don’t know, I have ran out of ideas and Didn’t know where I was going with this!

  4. Auron was cool but boring. He would have made a terrible main character, but is one of my favorite “old mentor” type characters in an RPG.

    I like any hero I can relate to, really. One who I can look at and go: “Yeah, I’d do the same thing, man.”

    Alternately, I want a hero so badass, s/he breaks the laws of physics. The world needs more Kaminas and more Simons.

  5. Auron was actually the hero of FFX. True fact, search the internet.

    =(

  6. I’d have to agree with you, the heroes that don’t understand or don’t want to be heroes are my favorites. The protagonist (because I hate his unidentified but canon name Randi) from Secret of Mana didn’t know what was going on, his destiny was thrust upon him and had to adapt as the game went on.

    My favorite hero would probably have to be Cecil from FF4. He was already a hero at the start, but was questioning what it meant to be a hero and who he was acting as a hero for. The conflict that he faced was endearing to me in a way that no other hero has met. Sure, they tried with Cloud, but it was less of a legitimate conflict and more “I don’t remember being a hero, but sure I’ll act like one durrrrr.” Not even close.

  7. Three-dimensional protagonists with motivations, flaws and depth only please.

    Spiky-haired wannabes, do-gooders, cliched anti-heroes and noble princes need not apply.

  8. Auron was seriously the only character in FFX whom I really liked. The rest of them were horrible. That was my biggest problem with X-2: not enough Auron.

    Though it had Rikku and she’s tolerable enough. I rather like her.

    The best hero is, of course, Vanille. And Cait-Sith.

  9. I could seriously go for a game starring Auron, Jecht, Cid (circa FFX), and Cid (circa FFVII)!

  10. Sucky hero or not, Grandia II has one of the best battle systems in an RPG ever and is worth a playthrough for that alone.

    It’s been a while since I played Grandia II, but I remember Ryudo being an actual funny/sarcastic hero which was different from the norm.

  11. The battle system was fast and awesome, but I don’t feel that it was sufficient to carry the game. That said, I can hardly remember it (It still surprises me how long the last console generation went on for).

  12. A lot of the SMT games have great heroes. Sure, they sort of tend to do the “main character who’s better than everyone at everything” but you play that main character which helps to make it awesome. Persona 3’s main character saves the world in an impossible, awesome, and heartwarming (…until you fire up The Answer) manner. They kind of retreaded that in P4, but it again worked quite well.

    Probably my favorite “hero” would be Kain from the Legacy of Kain series. He kind of alternated between anti-hero and anti-villain depending on the game, I guess. He’s ruthless, brutal, and generally pretty badass. But he’s also got class. He’ll have no qualms about murdering the hell out of anyone who gets in his way, but he’d never lie about it. It’s sort of how people say they’d vote for the openly evil guy running for President on a platform of using a robot army to enslave humanity because of how refreshing the honesty is. So, of course, the series got cancelled.

  13. Sorry Julian, nothing you can ever say will redeem you from “I want me some grumpy old man fantasy!”

  14. @SiliconNooB Nothing, if you know where to look on the internet. There’s always lemonparty. Though I don’t know if the gentlemen are grumpy or not.

  15. @EP: I wouldn’t cite a silent protagonist as an example of a great hero, just as I wouldn’t cite the choose-your-own MC of a Bioware game. The former has no personality of their own, while the latter is whatever you want them to be. In both instances they are essentially intended to act as a proxy for YOU, the player, rather than being their own man.

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