Here is February’s top 5 list and this month we’re looking at heroes. The concept of ‘the hero’ in video games is a well-worn path. Those who have been branded with the tag are too numerous to name, and many others fill the role, even if their contribution isn’t recognized as such. But what does it really mean to be a hero, and do our favourite video game heroes really deserve to be called as such? Let’s take a look and find out!
I was inspired to write this article after stumbling across a GamesRadar list from 2012 (up-to-date as ever Pix…), which gave us the 100 greatest heroes in video games. Now, I know that the whole concept of lists causes consternation, and there is an assumption that they have only been created to get people arguing, but when I flicked through I was surprised to see some characters classed as heroes. Now obviously Link is in there, and Mario, but I was a little surprised to see Phoenix Wright and Yoshi. So I wondered, what is a hero?
Well, the nice people at the Oxford dictionary helped me out here:
1. A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
1.1 The chief character in a book, play, or film, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
1.2 (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi-divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek myths.
Ok, so point 1.1 explains Yoshi and Phoenix Wright, but this left me wondering…what do I think of or picture when the idea of a hero is brought up? Well actually, lots of different things. Sure, Link and Mario are heroes, but in my list, I wanted 5 people with a bit more substance, more interesting stories. So, I now present to you my top 5 (not as totally obvious as they could be) heroes.
(*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*):
Dunban (Xenoblade Chronicles)
I said I wanted to look at some of the more interesting heroes, but traditional heroes? Not a problem! Dunban is the Hero of the Homs, savior of Colony 9. He sacrificed a limb to fight off the Mechon at the Battle of Sword Valley and save his people from destruction. He wears a cape and waistcoat, in which he looks rather dashing and fights with a sword! He’s even well spoken, not like his sister and her mates. There really is no disputing his heroic status, and he easily fulfills point 1 of the heroes definition above. However, there are two things which I find particularly interesting about him. Firstly, his story has very little except tragedy in it. Sure they save Fiora in the end, but he loses the use of one of his arms, has his baby sister kidnapped and is then betrayed by his best friends from his soldier days, who all secretly hate him because he’s, erm, too good at being a hero? Don’t get me wrong, he is still cocky like how a traditional hero should be, but still it all seems awfully sad to me. The second thing is that although he is a hero, he isn’t THE hero, as this title is taken from him by an awkward teenage boy who’s in love with his sister and who just so happens to be able to see flashes of the future. Shulk doesn’t really make a great hero in a traditional sense so I’m kind of glad they included another one!
Ok, so Bayonetta is a witch. More typically witches are evil and scary (and persecuted), and not really heroes as such. Also, she isn’t really on a side as far as good v evil goes. As a half Umbran-witch and half Lumen-sage she is caught in the middle. However, I would argue that (apart from fulfilling point 1.3 of the definition of a hero), she is a hero by her very nature, as she is the one who must maintain the balance in the world. In the second installment of the Bayonetta series, she sets out on a single-minded mission to save someone – her best friend Jeanne. I would argue that setting out to save someone else, regardless of the danger to yourself is itself a heroic act. The thing with Bayonetta though, is her personality. Heroes are often (as it says in the definitions) ‘noble’. They are sometimes a little arrogant, but often quite unassuming. Bayonetta’s wicked sense of humour (and dress sense) really sets her apart from those traditional hero characteristics, which is one of the reasons I like her so much.
Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron (Final Fantasy XIII series)
There are a lot of characters in the Final Fantasy series who qualify for this. Most of the ‘heroes’ are slightly odd. I mean Cloud, Squall, Zidane? They all seem a bit unwilling to be heroes for a variety of different reasons. Lightning is no different from this. She does, I guess want to save the world, but her real heroism is her desire to save just one person – her sister Serah. The thing is that she doesn’t ever make it easy for herself does she? I mean, does she want Snow to help? No, of course not (who would?)! But he is handy to have around in a fight. Does she trust Lumina? Hell no. It seems that having a bit more faith in people might actually help Lightning achieve things faster, but this is all part of what makes her such a compelling character and interesting hero. Plus, I think she actually fulfills all of the hero definitions noted above. Final Fantasy can stuff its ‘leading men’, all it really needs is Lightning Farron kicking ass.
Samus Aran (Metroid series)
Samus, like Bayonetta, is in this list because her calling, i.e. being a bounty hunter, isn’t exactly renowned as a heroic role. Yet she saves planet after planet. She even saves the occasional super cute baby Metroid. Presumably, Samus is hired to undertake all of her missions, and gets a handsome reward for doing so. So the question with Samus is not of her abilities to be a hero, she clearly fits into point 1 of the definitions, but since she is paid for what she does, can it be said she really shows any intent or desire to save these worlds beyond her own gain? Wouldn’t she do these things for free if she was really all that heroic? She shows her abilities again and again, but what makes her so interesting, is the fact that her personality is a mystery. She carries out these world saving missions, so perhaps she does side with good vs evil (if things are indeed that simple), but really, we just don’t know what she’s thinking. None the less, anyone that can turn into a ball and roll around at will is alright by me!
Yuri Lowell (Tales of Vesperia)
Being a bounty hunter like Samus certainly adds a question mark to your morality, even if you do save worlds again and again and again. However, our final hero is guilty of a crime which is definitively the wrong side of the line. Yuri Lowell is an extremely popular lead in Bandai Namco’s Tales of series. He has won the ‘best character’ vote at the Tales of Festival so many times that he is no longer included in the vote. He has popped up in other video game series (Project X Zone 1 & 2), and is a favourite for fanfic writers everywhere. He’s even really good with animals. What a hero! Except…he’s a murderer. We often seem to like our video game heroes a little mischievous. Petty thieves to be reformed and teenage runaways who find a goal in life. But Yuri is a murderer. He murders two people in the game, and it isn’t impossible that these are not the first lives he has taken. The real dichotomy in this game is whether or not you can justify his actions. There is no use in pretending here, he isn’t a completely honourable man, he doesn’t seek friendship or behave in a gentlemanly manner, but he does believe he is doing the right thing, and that by killing wrong-doers he is taking one life to save ten. For me, Yuri partially fulfills points 1 & 1.1 in the definitions, but it is much less clear-cut than with our other examples. The real stereotypical hero in Tales of Vesperia is his childhood friend, Flynn Scifo, who is the exact opposite, believing the law must be obeyed at all costs to ensure justice. But who is right?
So, what do you think of my heroes and whose missing from this list? Are there any other peculiarities you like to see in your video game heroes? Please discuss below! Oh, and if you’re more the villainous type, be sure to tune in for next month’s Top 5 *wink wink*.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks to USGamer.net for the featured image!