Saturday, July 28, 2012

Golden Sun 3's Former Heroes' Aging

So! You’ve got an intellectual property about magical world-saving that was at least moderately successful. You like money, and you want to make more of it. What’re you gonna do? Make a sequel, of course! But the last part of your series was released a good few years ago, and its story was seemingly fully concluded. How do you continue the series in a way that stays true to its origins so you can use the events and characters of your world to their fullest, but also in a fresh, new direction to draw the attention of a new audience?

Why, make the new story all about the children of the original story’s heroes, of course!

Yes, in Golden Sun 3, Nintendo makes the bold decision to follow in the footsteps of adolescent fanfiction writers and Disney direct-to-video sequels, and fills the roles of Protagonist and most of the major cast with the children of the main characters of Golden Sun 1 and 2. I could criticize this for being a pretty standard and cheap way to go about things, but I’m not really going to harp on it, for a couple reasons. First, this trope is, though certainly not foreign to the genre, actually a lot less common in RPG sequels than one could reasonably expect. Second, the entire primary cast of GS1 and 2 are all very bland and unremarkable characters anyway, so if a sequel’s gonna offer me a chance for a re-roll on character personalities, I’m all for it.* So normally, I’d just let this one pass, no need for a rant.

Except that this game does something with this lazy plot direction that nothing else does. In an astounding show of creativity and stupidity, GS3’s writers actually went out of their way to invalidate the entire premise of the Heroes’ Kids Take Over World Saving idea they went with. I was gonna give them a free pass on it, and they went and screwed it up. See, the reason from a writing perspective for starring the kids of the previous heroes I have gone into, but there’s really only one surface reason for passing the hero mantle on to the next generation: the previous generation is too old/too dead to keep up the do-gooding themselves. If the kids are going to be allowed to do the world-saving thing, the parents must be incapable of doing so themselves or else they, as the experienced warriors and ones presumably burdened with an instinctual need to keep their offspring safe, would be out vanquishing bad guys themselves.

Well, the heroes of Golden Sun 1 and 2 are not dead. And they haven’t all been captured or put into magical comas or anything. So the natural reason for them all to be minor side characters instead of the game’s stars is obvious, right? They’re too old now. GS3 takes place 30 years after GS1 and 2, after all, meaning these guys’d be in their mid-40s. In RPG terms, that’s 15 - 20 years too old (and at the same time 20 years too young; once you hit your mid-60s you become viable to fill the spot of Tough As Nails Geezer on a team) to be out adventuring. So no problem, right? Those strong, capable, sleek, experienced fighters of the past are now just a bunch of doughy, slovenly middle-aged chumps, right?

Yeah, not so much. See, according to Golden Sun 3, heroes of the previous games--all 8 of them--have barely aged at all since the end of Golden Sun 2, due to being at ground zero of the magical world-changing end event of GS2. This is a fact that the game takes care to mention more than once, and it’s obvious from looking at Isaac and Garret at the beginning of GS3, as they look like they’re in their late 20s, at oldest. And since you get to see them in action early in the game, while at the same time watch them try to teach their stupid kids the basics about battles and adventuring and such, you can’t even say that they’re too out of practice.

What in the world is Nintendo thinking here? If the heroes of the previous games are concretely established to be still physically fit and knowledgeable enough to be the ones leading the game’s adventure, then what the heck is the point of making the kids take over? Wouldn’t it make even a little more sense for at least a couple of all-powerful parents to join their kids in these world-saving ventures? At the very least, Isaac and Garret could have split forces at the beginning of the game, have one stay put to keep up their all-important plot business and have the other take a jaunt with some of the kids over to the next region or whatever to get the replacement glider machine thingy. That seems a lot more sensible than both parents just sending their sons off to do the errand alone and unsupervised, especially after all the concern the parents had about the kids’ ability to overcome the relatively minor ordeals that the game opens with. Maybe when Golden Sun 4 comes out and continues the story we’ll see the kids and hero parents team up, since the younger generation will then have some experience, but as it stands now, Golden Sun 3’s decision to clearly show the previous generation’s heroes as being more than physically fit to take up adventuring again is puzzling.













* Not that it did much good. Aside from Sveta, GS3’s characters are just as uninteresting as their predecessors, and even Sveta’s only barely noteworthy.

19 comments:

  1. Actually acording to TV tropes Himi(Flat character even though its not her fault) has visions of Issac in grave danger so...

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  2. Isaac's kind of hideously overpowered as the plot goes, though. If he's the Superman of Weyard, I don't see how his kid is in any position to be protecting him from Doomsday. That said, I've never played Dark Dawn, nor do I plan to anytime soon.


    The big draw for me with the first two GS games was the sleek menu system and huge variety in class setups. Still, I did enjoy the characters when they decided to pretend they weren't flat. If nothing else, the designs were distinctive, and even though they were your typical teen heroes, they weren't as juvenile as they could have been.

    Cue a sequel that's even more casual(apparently) than the first games, featuring even less developed heroes. I don't need footlong beards on everyone, but can I get some more JRPG heroes that can buy a fucking BEER without being called Granddad?

    I'm just a GS fan who liked the occasionally challenging battles, complex yet rewarding puzzles, and almost unfathomable depth to the Djinn system, not to mention the Link Arena giving me an RPG with PVP, and waited for years for a new game only to get a game that's by all accounts a watered down version of a game with a watered down story and cast in the first place. But I'm not bitter.

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    1. Sir, not to belittle your own considerable RPG experience, but what games have YOU been playing where a character could be 21 and not be called a Granddad? I mean, yeah, usually the RPG character age is 15 to 21, or 65 to 300, with nothing in between, but if you'll notice, whenever you DO get a party member in their mid-20s to late 30s, the game will relentlessly harp on how incredibly old and over the hill they are. In fact, I'm mostly certain that the doddering fogeys who have so much hair in their nostrils that it looks like they've been snorting tribbles suffer far, FAR fewer jokes about their age in RPGs than any character who looks at puberty as a past event in his/her life.

      Hell, sometimes it's worse than even THAT. I recall several remarks made about how old Arnaud was in Wild Arms 4 at the ripe old age of 18.

      And yeah, even as someone who found the first 2 Golden Suns to be excruciatingly generic and uninteresting, I can see why you'd be bitter on this one.

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  3. Cloud actually ingested alcohol in Final Fantasy VII and would have had an ID to vouch for it, and I don't remember Cid or Barret being called out as senior citizens at the ages of...somewhere near 40 and 33 respectively(IIRC). Zidane may or may not have had a stiff one in Lindblum as well, even though he's not 21; Steiner and Amarant cover the age on his behalf. Grandia 2's Ryudo may count, too. And...maybe some Einherjar in Valkyrie Profile 1 like Arngrim(2's cast was a waste, and unworthy of mention). There...really aren't many examples otherwise.

    Thanks for another reason not to play Wild Arms 4.

    It's not so much an age demand so much as one for social maturity. The bonus with a mature age is that the social maturity doesn't need to be beaten into my head so much, like with Antichrist half-elven "children". Give a guy a beard, instant authority and maturity. Better than some dumbass like Garet literally saying "you should have known that crime doesn't pay!!", and not in an ironic sense.

    I only have a strong opinion about it because I had to recently explain to some plebe on GameFAQs as to why ship captains in fiction all have beards.

    I can only hope he was 10.

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    1. Whoa whoa whoa there, sir. Maybe Barret was never bothered about his age (shockingly enough; I mean, it would've been a perfect setup for a "I'm getting too old for this shit" line to compliment one black stereotype with another), but Cid often referred to himself as being old.

      And okay, fine, there are always some exceptions to the rule, but I still maintain my position.

      At any rate, I'm with you. These young heroes are great and all, sometimes, but frankly I'm ready for a wave of RPGs featuring adults (or, as you say, just generally socially mature people). Being an adult sure as hell didn't hurt Mass Effect's Shepard as a protagonist, or The Nameless One of Planescape: Torment, or Revan of Knights of the Old Republic 1.

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    2. And lets not forget about Final Fantasy 4 and the especaially the after years where every one aged 17 years, Edge is now 41 and still called young master (which make no sense as Edge's parents are dead and young master is used when there parents are still alive)

      I'll post more when I think of them

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  4. --- And yeah, even as someone who found the first 2 Golden Suns to be excruciatingly generic and uninteresting, I can see why you'd be bitter on this one. ---

    How??? Golden Sun 1/2 are amongst some of the best and most memorable RPGs I have played. There was nothing that was "excruciatingly uninteresting" about them. They were portrayed quite accurately for the age they were supposed to be, not like most RPGs were you have the old geezers not fully being "wise", and where you have 10 year olds having more maturity then a 90 year old mom. While they werent really that developed, they were an enjoyable and well liked cast, Isaac, Felix and Piers remain one of my favorite characters.

    The story was also very simple and original and very well written, simple enuff that most "kids" would get it, and complex enuff that the older audience would appreciate.

    Then lets also not forget the amazing Gjinn/class/pysnergy system, almost on par if not better then the Materia or the Chrono Trigger Tech system. Battles were fun and engaging and never got dull, one of the best ideas I think was giving weapons some awesome unleashes, so now your typical normal attacks can become formidable and add another depth of strategy.

    Finally, it was one of the best designed games I can think of at the moment. How, I mean the environments, the dungeon design, the dungeon interactivity. AS much as I like RPGs, i hated how almost 90% of RPGs have lame non interactive dungeons. But then games like Lufia and golden come along and you have a game that is pretty much fun in all aspects, battle, being on the world map, being in towns, in dungeons.

    Finally, the music in Golden Sun 1/2 is simply outstanding, for a hand held it really deserves awards up the heezy.

    In conclusion, Golden Sun 3 did more to annoy the fanbase, but it also allowed new people to get into the game (albeit in a rather annoying.. lets EXPLAIN EVERYTHING every 5 mins kinda way.. I mean I KNOW I need to climb that vine to get up the ledge to pull the switch that will open this door.. -_-). Still, it was an enjoyable and engaging game, stunning visuals as usual, the best world and city, dungeon designs to come across gaming and a very well done battle system and class system. Yes, it can use some fine tuning, and yes the writers will benefit more if they make the game a little more mature and not so kiddy. But aside from Chrono Trigger, Suikoden 1/2, FF12, what game doesnt need a little improvement to be better.

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    1. Sorry, but a cast that, by your own admission, isn't really developed does NOT win points from me. Maybe they're more realistic for their age group than most of their RPG peers (though I would strongly contest this), but if that realism isn't going to provide a memorable, interesting, insightful, or even particularly notable character, then I'll take the (supposedly) less realistic human beings who actually have some worth as characters any day.

      The plot of GS1 and 2 was simple, I'll give you that, and...well, "creative" is an extremely strong term for it, but I suppose it wasn't out and out unoriginal, so I'll give it that. But I'm gonna have to disagree with you about the "well-written" part, as it occurs at a boring, plodding pace, has no noticeable artistic intent or message, is often illogical in its event path, is perpetrated by a lousy and shallow cast, and provides its explanations to the player at such a delayed way that the reasons for why anything is happening are almost all kept in the dark until well into the second game (which means the first game feels all the more empty and confusingly ambiguous), and the whole thing concludes with an ending that's distractingly bipolar. "Uh-oh, something bad...no wait it's good! But wait here's something bad...no wait it's okay! But here's villainous sequel bait...no wait it's taken care of!" The only reason the story as a whole has to span 2 games' time is because of the excessive, nearly irrelevant runaround that comprises most of the games' length--many other RPGs have told more involved stories in less time, and done so better. The most one can say for the dialogue is that it's adequate, the villains are either cheap and unexamined, or confused and miss their cue to be villains altogether. The interpersonal relationships between characters are bland, when they even exist, and rely more on the player imagining significant character interactions than actually providing them. Complexity is added to the plot in the form of niggling details and more time-wasting runaround segments, rather than complexity of meaning or portrayal of humanity. The writing quality for Golden Sun 1 and 2 is subpar at every turn.

      Though still way, WAY better than that of GS3, of course.

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    2. I'll certainly concede that the magic and ability system was done pretty well, but that sort of triviality flies well below my radar when I talk about whether an RPG is good or not. You're a new reader, so you probably haven't happened across a rant where I mention this, but I don't rate gameplay in RPGs as a significant factor of whether they're good or not. Because the way I see it, if you're playing a game for the fun of playing the game, the second-to-last genre on the face of the planet you should be playing is an RPG, a genre whose battle systems traditionally can be simulated by punching simple arithmetic into a calculator and order breakfast off a Denny's menu. Add to that the fact that most RPGs are the most repetitive gameplay ever conceived thanks to literally thousands of nigh-identical random encounters in any given game...You wanna play a game for fun, for heaven's sake go play a FPS, or a puzzle game, or a racing game, or a fighter, or ANYTHING else. It doesn't make sense to do otherwise.

      So yeah, anyway, TL;DR version of that is that I judge RPGs almost solely by their writing elements (characters, plot, villains, creativity, etc). So the Djinn system (which honestly I didn't actually personally like all that much anyway) doesn't hold any real sway with me for how good the games are. The same goes for the game's visual design and dungeon interaction--it's all trivial window-dressing for a game that's written poorly.

      The music was pretty decent. I'm not sure I'd say good, let alone outstanding, but it had its moments. Not even close to enough to make a difference, though. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest has a great soundtrack, and that game's a turd no matter how you look at it.

      Anyway, that's why I don't like Golden Sun 1 and 2. I don't like Golden Sun 3 because the writing went from subpar to just outright bad, and every single problem I mentioned above became significantly worse--the cast actually became even less interesting, the pacing got even more needlessly elongated and dull and so on and so on.

      Then again if you think that worthless crap heap Final Fantasy 12 can't be improved (in the good way, that is, not in the "it's just too terrible to saved" way), I don't think you and I are going to share too many opinions here, heh.

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  5. Actually, if I want to READ a book, Id look elsewhere instead of RPGs. Fact is, an RPG game is a GAME first, and whatever genre the game maybe, its gameplay is of pivotal importance, your opinion is irrelevant in regarding it as a "triviality".. it isnt, its just as important a factor as the story, the writing and the characters. Again, your points about the pacing, artistic intent, explanations are all moot and come off as nothing more than something that does not coincide with your own personal preferences. Golden Sun 1 and 2 were paced quite well, the story always being brought up in intervals that didnt make it annoying, but never delayed beyond the point of non remembrance. The explantions fit with the lore, the GAMEPLAY and the general story, and I dont know what you consider art in terms of writing, but it was artistic visually, which leaves a much stronger impression then a wall of text, again another strong point you fail to see (and probably for most RPGS since your more interested in the text then the actual visual presentation of the material). This is another thing you should probably start to consider in your "rants". How is the story told and portrayed to the player. Take Shadow of the Colossus, a truly artistic game that did a superb job in telling its story that most story heavy games can still not hope to accomplish.. all with out a single line of text. I think you make it apparent that you view all RPG games as nothing more then a visual novel where the majority of the game is irrelevant and you just play to read the walls and walls of text that pop up every now and then and this is essentially makes you scrutinize games as an actual novel or paper back cover and not a game at all. Also, EVERY game is repetitive by nature, FPS, puzzle, what ever the genre they are all repetitive. So I dont know why you would assume Id enjoy FPS or puzzle games.. I do enjoy puzzle games tho, but cant stand most FPS since they are WHAT really get repetitive.

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    1. Yeah, saying that focusing on a game's storytelling elements makes the experience no different from just reading a book is totally not silly, exaggerated, and illogical, or anything like that. Anyway, you're free not to agree with how I determine an RPG's worth, but I'm afraid that since we're talking about an entirely opinion-based subject, on a blog specifically about my opinions, my belief on the matter really isn't irrelevant. And I'll maintain that Golden Sun's clumsy failure with its storytelling process, including its pacing, artistic intent, and ability to explain itself, makes it a bad couple of games, and that its success with its gameplay and its no-more-than-adequate graphics do absolutely nothing to change this fact.

      As for the laughable assertion that visual presentation makes more of an impression that text, well, Planescape: Torment. I win.

      Anyway, the simple fact of the matter is that when it comes to RPGs, their intellectual content is what I value, and I've already adequately explained why. If you all you want out of your 30 to 60 hour experience with a game is a few thousand repetitive menu selections and gape at pretty scenery, rather than to derive any shred of mental stimulation, well, that's your call. But I'm content with expecting better for my time and money, and my rants here are going to keep reflecting that mentality, so you may want to find another blog to read if that's going to be a problem for you.

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  6. Im not questioning your blog and your rant and your opinion, although I didnt expect you to fall on that and use it as means of defending your assertions. I want to know in comparison to what are you saying the things you do about GS 1 and 2 and provide an example of the claims you make against it. It seems like you have set a specific game or games on a pedestal that you compare every other RPG to it... I wanna know what this game is? I also dont understand your Planescape torment victory, the game sold ... hardly anything.. and is not known to most except the most diehard DandD fans, and even then it was only because of its story which still wasent enough to warrant any sequels, prequels and what not.

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    1. Funny, I must have somehow interpreted "your opinion is irrelevant" as you questioning the validity of my opinion. Silly me.

      I'm afraid I don't really compare any given game to any other in terms of quality unless I have some relevant reason to do so (and I'll make it obvious that I'm drawing the comparison from the start) so I'm not sure what example you want me to give. The standards aren't set by any one game.

      Also, did you just equate Sales Volume to Quality? Go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.

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    2. Thought I'd put this here... Planescape is getting a sequel: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/torment-tides-of-numenera?ref=live

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    3. You know, Kickstarter may be the best thing that's ever happened to Western RPGs. Chris Avellone, who's basically a RPG writing god, is working on a new project of his own thanks to Kickstarter, Project: Eternity, there's a sequel to Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden in the works thanks to Kickstarter, and now I find out about this, too. Thanks a bunch for telling me about it, Zenic, you just made my year.

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  7. You ever seen Quovak's LP of Golden Sun 1 and 2?

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    1. Nope. One round with those games is all I care to experience of them.

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    2. It's not really an LP, though. It's more of a lambasting; an in-depth explanation of every moment in the game and why it's stupid. It's in SomethingAwful's LPArchive site.

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    3. ...Well that does pique my interest. Maybe I'll check that out.

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