Monday, July 14, 2008

Wild Arms 2's Antenora: A Lovesick Villainess Worthy of Note

One of the more annoying villain types I encounter in RPGs, I've found, is the Villain's Love Interest. This is the chick on the bad guys' side whose role in life is to be infatuated with the main villain. They just seem to be there to drape themselves all over him (yes, always him; no major female villain has this kind of flunky...because, as we all know, people who are clingy and submissive when in love are always women, right?), or at the very least simply stand around and take orders from him in some bizarre kind of devoted, silently pining stupor.

Aside from their generally annoying, clingy, very excessively dramatic demeanor, I typically think little of them as characters because their one and only defining character trait is, almost without exception, barely explored at all. I mean, if a developer's going to burden the game with these melodramatic floozies, they should at least TRY to sell me on their love. But instead, it seems to just be assumed by the makers that I'm going to completely buy that this random woman just happened to get to know this sinister baby-eating fiend (despite his tendency to kill everyone he meets), and was absolutely floored by his ridiculous and selfish plan to remake the world/destroy the universe/take over a country/whatever, despite the complete bullshit motives behind it.

I mean, correct me if I'm wrong here, because I don't claim to know everything about the way women think, but somehow, I feel that if I were to walk up to random women and say something like, "Hey, baby, I'm planning to destroy all civilization and remake it the way I want it, because I have a load of unresolved issues of identity and self worth. Wanna be a general? How about personal concubine? Both positions are open!", I would not get many favorable replies. But somehow, these villains are always able to find some doting, subservient woman to do everything they say without ever questioning them, and shower them with complete, blind love born of seemingly nothing but their role to play.

Gee, you'd never guess these games came from Japan, would you?

But yeah. Legretta in Tales of the Abyss, Lenus in Legend of Dragoon, Violetta in Grandia 3...the list of these annoying villain wenches is long, and has practically no character on it that had any depth or worth whatsoever.

Save, perhaps, for Antenora, of Wild Arms 2.

Now, granted, she seems at first to be a classic case of this annoying type. What you initially see of her is her being focused entirely on romantically following her psychotic leader, Vinsfeld, who also seems infatuated right back with her (which is somewhat uncommon; another stupid part of this cliche is how the villains never seem to give a damn about their followers' romantic aspirations). And, I suppose, I would have to admit that in the end, her relationship with Vinsfeld technically IS the focus of her development. But it's in such a neat way.

See, it's like this. The first inkling you get that there's something more to Antenora than meets the eye is as she's leaving to go on a certain mission. Her high and mighty terrorist boy-toy Vinsfeld makes it known to her that he's concerned for her well-being. Given her history of being clingy and seeking his attention, you expect her to be just about ecstatic at this. But as it turns out, she's really not. She's suddenly distancing herself from him, and kinda just politely giving him the cold shoulder. Weird, you think, and then dismiss it as unimportant and keep playing.

Somewhat soon afterward, she has her final showdown with the game's heroes, and, predictably, gets her butt kicked. Afterwards, though, she doesn't seem too terribly upset over failing her mission and being mortally defeated. And then she tells you why.

As it turns out, Antenora was once the daughter of a family of nobles...until the rest of her family was one day murdered by Vinsfeld as part of his mad vision. Robbed of those she loved and left with nothing, the life she'd led until then completely destroyed, she vowed ultimate vengeance against the man responsible.

Why join his cause and become his devoted follower, then, one might wonder? Why actually contribute to his plans, instead of at least secretly working against him? Well, because she didn't just want your average kind of revenge. Defying him, killing him, stopping him and ending his hopes and dreams...these tame, layman's revenges wouldn't cut it for Antenora. She wanted a revenge where he would suffer pain greater than any he could have imagined, emotional torment as bad or worse than what he had inflicted on her.

So to this end, she threw in her lot with his terrorists, rose up the ranks, and through her devotion to the cause became one of his main leaders. Once she achieved that, she did everything in her power to make him fall hopelessly in love with her. And once she was sure he had, and an opportunity arose...

She went to confront the heroes, and made sure that Vinsfeld could see by video link the ensuing battle, in which the woman he loved was violently murdered by his foes. She wanted to give Vinsfeld the greatest pain imaginable for what he did to her, and man, did she ever succeed. That's a plot of revenge by a woman crossed so emotionally vicious that would do a Shakespeare play proud. Heck, I haven't read everything the guy wrote; for all I know, Shakespeare DID once do the same thing. I really wouldn't be surprised if he had; it's a twist great enough to be worthy of him.

But yeah. Few things are more enjoyable to me in an RPG than to see a cliche character type given a totally new, unique, and intriguing spin to reinvent the archetype enjoyably, and Antenora really does just that.


  1. Antenora was a well-thought character, and her development could have been pushed further.

    Her back story had potential, since it was connected to the History of Slayheim's demise. And they never did thoroughly explain the dynamics and politics in Slayheim (translations issue I pressume?)

    In fact, I can actually say that the Slayheim is Media Vision & Contrail's version of the French Revolution, where Nobles were guillotined.

    She was a survivor, and the game could have made an interesting documentary about it. Aren't we interested in how survivors cope with tragedy?

    By expounding on her story, you could tackle Billy, Brad Evans and Vinsfeld Rhadamanthus's story as well.

    I honestly think part of her appeal is that she had SO much potential, but Media Vision & Contrail didn't develop her at all, because she's just, well you know a side villain.

    *I'm a fan of Antenora's character after I first battled her in the Valeria Chateau. She reminded me of Aeris. After defeating her in Diablo Pillar Antenora, she literally wowed me with her motivation for joining Vinsfeld. It had to be the most brilliant motivation I had ever seen in Wild Arms 2 ever!

    ...which is why I wrote a fan fiction telling her life before the war, how she survived and planned her revenge, and most importantly, how she carried it out... losing her soul in the process.

    It's nice to see that someone appreciates Antenora's character.

    Well-written rant you have here, and more power!

    I'm looking forward to your future rants!

    1. Yes, they certainly could have done more with her. When I wrote this rant, it had been a good while since I had played the game, and I thought she had gotten more characterization than she had, thus this rant comes off as a little more positive than I would have made it after my later second playthrough.

      Nonetheless, I stand by the fact that she's a very interesting character. I wish the developers had recognized it and did more to explore her--and you're completely right, doing so would have given them new windows through which to explore some of the supposedly more important characters, too. Darn shame. Still, what we got is good, at least, and it's enough to stimulate one's imagination.

      Throw me a link to your story. Can't guarantee I'll find time to read it (student teaching is a pretty time-taxing thing), but if I can check it out, I'm sure it'll be interesting.

      Thanks for the comment! I hope you'll enjoy my other rants, as well. Always a (rare) treat to see new readers.


      I actually hesitated to give you the link, but what do I have to lose? (and there's a chance you may not read it anyway, haha)

      Never finished this one because I chickened out.

      I might write it again after I finish an FF8 fic (a game which you're not very fond of).

      So there! You might see me leaving a comment every now and them. Looking forward to your rant today!