Thursday, September 20, 2007

General RPGs' Love Hina Syndrome

I will occasionally, when talking to friends and acquaintances, talk about an RPG as having a case of Love Hina Syndrome. I don't think that I've mentioned it in these rants yet, but I know I'm sure to sooner or later (it will probably be in the first sentence of any potential rant I do on Rogue Galaxy or Legend of Dragoon). So today I'm not going to rant so much specifically on one or more RPGs as I am just going to define what I mean by Love Hina Syndrome.

First of all, I'm apparently not the only person to use the phrase--I tried Googling it a few hours ago, and was surprised to see a few results showing other people saying it here and there. But there doesn't seem to be any set definition for it (one person was using it to describe a flawed main female character, another to describe bad manga-to-animes, and so on), so I'm gonna keep using mine until someone semi-officially recognizes a concrete definition.

So, basically, there's this anime, Love Hina. Some of you have seen it. Others of you, people who are much, much more fortunate, have not. It is, pretty much, the quintessential "harem" anime. While not even close to being the worst anime I've seen, or even the worst of its genre (Hand Maid May easily wins that dishonor--and if anyone disagrees, and knows of a harem anime that is even WORSE, I heartily encourage you to keep the filthy thing to yourself and don't tell me about it), it's still a terrible, empty pile of crap. Its plot is pointless, stupid, and shallow, a mindless story of ridiculous, annoying, and predictable circumstances leading two ridiculous, annoying, and predictable characters into a ridiculous, annoying, and predictable romance. You'd have trouble finding an anime love story cliche that it doesn't squeeze into its monotony. The main character is a talentless moron with no redeeming feature whatever, the main female is a raging nitwit whose character development really never quite goes any further than "This character has boobs," and the only positive aspect about their unoriginal "Let's make it obvious from Episode 3 that we dig each other but only actually commit to any kind of relationship in the last 10 minutes of the final episode, something like 35+ episodes later" is that at least these two dysfunctional morons will be making each OTHER miserable instead of any innocent, potentially decent other character that they might otherwise of hooked up with.

Sorta like FF8's Squall and Rinoa, really--the love story is hackneyed and laughable, but you still support it because they're such terrible, worthless people that the only ones lousy enough to deserve them are each other.

Anyways, so, the plot of Love Hina is mindless garbage, less interesting and believable than a plot arc of an ABC Daytime Television soap opera. And the only time that the main characters aren't extremely boring is when they're extremely annoying. BUT, the show very oddly has one notably GOOD aspect to its writing: the supporting cast. Almost all of the secondary characters in the show are genuinely decent and reasonably deep characters. Don't get me wrong, they're not really great or anything, but they're good, at least, and that's a real abnormality for Love Hina. They have issues to deal with (REAL ones, not the stuff like "I wonder what present I can get the girl I like so maybe she'll stop putting her fist through my face!" that the main characters have), personalities that develop and grow, and lessons to learn and to teach. Shinobu's quiet trials of growing up into a young adult, Motoko's attempts to reconcile her warrior's life with her gentle nature and emotional weaknesses, Kentaro's subtle, mostly unseen, but still noticeable transition from a self-centered jerk to a pretty dependable friend, and so on...there's lots of good stuff there. Most of it is, however, sadly never developed to anywhere near its potential, because, hey, why waste time building up the characters with depth when you only have 20 more episodes to spend almost-but-not-quite getting the main fools together?

So anyways, now that I've totally ruined the RPGs Only policy of this blog thing by ranting on an anime, let me get to the point. When I say an RPG has Love Hina Syndrome, what I mean is that it, like what I described above, has a supporting cast that is mostly or entirely made up of deep and involving characters, who more than likely are underdeveloped and overshadowed by the main characters, which are tiresome and cliched. The plot being sucky is also often associated with it, although not necessarily.

And let me tell you, Love Hina Syndrome drives me nuts. I mean, you take a game like Grandia 3, or Star Ocean 1, a game where the entire cast is just boring and stupid, written by people who either don't care or whose creative skills are so dismal that they should only be qualified to write nutrition labels, and that will annoy me. A lot. But you get a game like Legend of Dragoon, or Dragon Quest 8, one that suffers from Love Hina Syndrome, and you basically have a game that shows you that its creators DID have the ability to create great characters, but nevertheless made the most important one(s) shoddy and unlikeable. It just screams "wasted potential" to me, and that's what makes me irritated at such a game way more than just at one that's terrible all around. Take Rogue Galaxy--the minor characters Steve, Jupis, Simon, and Deego (especially Deego) all have great moments that really grip you and get you emotionally involved, interest you and get you thinking. But that's all they are: moments. Deego gets a bit more than the others, but it's still not nearly enough. Meanwhile, you get Jaster and Kisala, the Main Hero and Romantic Interest respectively, and they just wander their way through a rehash of dozens of previous stereotypical Main Heroes' and Romantic Interests' situations, without a single original twist or skillful execution the entire time. You're just sitting there, seeing what you've seen countless times before, while other characters sit on the side, their intriguing stories languishing. It sucks.