Monday, February 26, 2007

Star Ocean 3's Plot's Worth

As I have mentioned before, Star Ocean 3 is pretty much the first in its series to be blessed with a plot and cast that are not obscenely boring and generally unoriginal. It's not what I'd call a fantastic RPG, but it's solidly good.

A lot of people, however, dislike this game because of the plot's big twist. For those of you unaware of Star Ocean 3's plot and still reading this (shame on you, spoiling yourselves), basically, Fayt (protagonist) and his merry band of heroes must at one point go to the 4th Dimension, where the beings who created their universe (which is ours, just very far in the future--the first in the series was pretty much the boring, badly-done Japanese equivalent to a very long Star Trek Away Mission) reside and threaten their creations in booming voices with all manners of destruction, apocalypse, and so on. When Fayt and company get there, they find a world that is strange, high-tech, but ultimately very similar to their own. They then learn from a passing 4D geek that their entire universe is nothing but a computer program, a game that people here in 4D land play and/or watch when they're bored (which seems to be more often than not).

So there it is. The big plot twist is that our existence is nothing but a higher dimension's MMORPG. Overall, the game could have done a LOT more with exploring the characters' reactions and feelings on this knowledge--you only really get Fayt's perspective on it in any depth, that being "Whatever, we all count and are important anyway! Now let's go save things like a proper bunch of RPG kids, gang! Scooby-dooby-doo!" And the others just sort of follow his lead. But, besides my annoyance that they didn't develop the potential of this idea with their cast, I say kudos to SquareEnix for a pretty interesting idea. I mean, yeah, it's been done before a few times (most notably in The Matrix), but it's still quite innovative.

Generally, though, people really, really dislike it. It seems that the only thing anyone hates about the game is this single aspect of its plot. The complaints I see about it come in 2 varieties.

First off, people don't like this because they think that, were it true, it makes their lives meaningless. Now, I don't know exactly how they reached this conclusion if they actually have played the game. Maybe they just stopped playing once they reached 4D Space, and never picked the controller up again. Because, see, the game goes to great lengths to point out that, yes, everything DOES matter, whether or not it is "real." What's important isn't which universe is real and which isn't, or whether we're all play-things of gods or not. What's important is knowing and protecting what you care about, having faith in your ideals and yourself. If you can think and trust and defend your existence, then it's as genuine as any other's. And the game goes to great lengths to emphasize this--the entire happy ending of the game hinges on the idea that, regardless of its origin or intended purpose, our existence is self-justified and significant. It can't simply be erased by the higher being that created it; in fact, the will and belief of just one young man that his life and the universe in which it exists is true is enough to prove it so. Ultimately, it's a variation of the common Creation Vs. Creator/Man Vs. God/Child Vs. Parent idea that you see in a lot of RPGs (Examples: Okage: Shadow King, Breath of Fire 3, Treasure of the Rudra, Xenogears, and Final Fantasy 12, to a lesser extent). It just has a pretty innovative way of communicating this theme in its Reality = Video Game idea. But make no mistake: that is still just a vehicle for the main theme of promoting human worth. So I really don't understand how people can be complaining about the game telling them that their supposedly artificial lives are worthless, when it goes to great lengths to say just the opposite. Maybe they played the last third of the game with their eyes closed, or something.

Secondly, there are some people who just say it's a dumb idea. The whole universe, just a program? Dumb! Yes, dumb, most certainly. Because a universe which follows concrete laws governing just about all forces, interactions, and reactions of the things within it does not in any way resemble an extremely high-level computer program.

You know what makes a LOT more sense? Believing that one big, all-powerful dude you've never seen and never will made absolutely everything for reasons that are either unknown or which boil down to Him being bored and wanting entertainment. Or heck, why just one deity? You could believe that lots of deities got together and made all creation! They were having a big old creation contest that night on who could construct the best stuff, and they got carried away and ended up creating a whole darned universe in the process. There was probably some booze involved somewhere in the process, too; how else would you account for the duck-billed platypus, or the way camels look? Or hey, here's another one that makes a ton of sense: nothing created the universe! It's just THERE. No real reason for an impossibly huge expanse of great and wonderful things and infinite possibilities. It's just the result of a big explosion--one minute stuff didn't exist, and the next minute it did, and there's no way that it could have been deliberately set up by a higher being because clearly things just randomly explode when they don't exist yet.

My point here is not to perhaps illustrate that I don't know anything beyond the basics of the Big Bang Theory (for all I know, scientists DO have a scientifically-feasible explanation for what exactly was around before the Big Bang happened that would make it possible). It's just to point out that, in the long list of proposed explanations for how everything came to exist, "It's a huge, fantastically complex computer program" is really not nearly as ludicrous or incomplete in terms of pure logic as a lot of the ones the majority of the world accept.

So yeah. I, personally, think that SO3's plot and its clever way of putting a new spin on an old theme is pretty darned neat, and I really don't see what other people's problem with it is. You didn't see geeks getting huffy over The Matrix's similar spin, and that one was a much more depressing possibility.


  1. Not entirely on-topic,but wasn't this game compared with Mass Effect 3's for being similar to some extent?
    I haven't played either of those yet, so I can't make any links between the two, and was curious if you would be able to draw any noteworthy parallels between this game and the Mass Effect series.

    1. I don't immediately see any strong parallels. I mean, I suppose that you could compare ME's Reapers to the destroyer things unleashed by Luther in being unimaginably powerful doomsday ships, and they both act in the capacity of cleaning up "lower" life forms once they start getting culturally and technologically advanced enough to be a problem (somehow), but the context of why each does this is pretty significantly different (whether or not you accept the stupid ME3 Catalyst Hologram Kid's explanation for it). Aside from that, I can't say there's a lot about their plots that seems any more similar than any other given sci-fi story might be. I mean, I'm not saying it's not true, maybe I'm just missing it, but at the moment, I don't see any strong similarity, at least nothing more than I would expect from any other space opera.

    2. I only heard about it from , which seems a bit far fetched to call similarities on since quite a few different types of media use tropes like that.

      Thanks for your opinioin, though.

    3. Hm. Yeah, most of that stuff is pretty vague; you could only really use it as evidence of similarity if there were several much more significantly similar examples to share.