Referencing a GameSpot community union (prior to the site’s removal of the feature since their makeover) I formed and administered during my then-heydays, ‘Philosophical Gamers’, it was an experiment that mixed like-mindedness and philosophy (or either) with the current and general discussions within the video game medium. Since then, I’ve seen a lack of this from official video game sites/community as far as intellectual thought processes go which for me I prefer to talk about despite whatever holds them back. (Or perhaps I’m not looking in the right places, I have no idea.)
As such, ‘Playtotle’ (a refined variation of a codename in my attempt to revitalize the union ala “Project Platotle”; a play of words between Plato & Aristotle) is another experiment on my end, blog-wise this time, and has been something I’ve debated on doing for a year or two after I actively used my WordPress page since I parted with GameSpot and gaming community sites altogether. With that, I shall start with the debut topic:
Playtotle 001: Character Design
Having read this US Gamer article as mentioned on the Hart and Usagi Podcast #49, it reminded me of character designs but beyond the generalization we’re all accustomed to as far as appearances go. I sometimes think character designs in video games also have an importance as far as game design goes; regardless if the game’s design originated from the protagonists themselves. Some examples (familiar or otherwise), if I may with a grain of salt:
I tend to find it a rarity when art, music, and story work well with the game’s design and concept; and even rarer when the protagonist you control compliments all of them. That’s what I got from the sun god Amaterasu given her wolf form and the way then-Clover (now since then Platinum Games) designed her in the final product (as opposed to the realistic look during development). Ammy’s tail brush serves purpose when it comes to the game’s objectives in ways that are consistent rather than “just because”. Even when she runs, the flowers that flourish also compliment her aspirations, among others. It was pretty obvious Hideki Kamiya and his team put a lot of thought into her design and the game’s world itself.
BANJO & KAZOOIE (Banjo-Kazooie series)
I found the duo and their merged attributes to work well with the platforming in the series. Banjo’s buff/slow/strong and Kazooie’s light/flappy/beaky tactics to be specific, respectively. Tooie took it even further by including new ideas within the original formula, especially when it came to separating Banjo and Kazooie and their exclusive movesets to broaden the concept of that game’s world. It was one of the “rare” times (for me, that is) Rare Ltd. took advantage of their characters’ designs, and it’s one of the reasons Banjo-Tooie is my personal favorite from their catalog.
DE BLOB (de Blob series)
Despite only having played the sequel, de Blob’s color-blend concept was simple and to the point. Given of the series’ plot surrounding the political struggle between grayscale world order and the colorful freedom fighters, that also brought consistency for said protagonist. Using colors to paint certain buildings, attacking certain enemies, and even blending the primary colors into secondary, etc.: I found that simple concept gave de Blob more complex as more game design ideas came about. It also expressed his “true colors” when it came to said levels’ music, implying the “variety” symbolism even further.
FLOWER PETALS (Flower)
Sometimes minimalist design choices can work to their advantage, which is something I noticed immediately when playing Flower a few years ago. The more petals you collect, the faster you go. It wasn’t just that, but the petals themselves flourished metaphors and symbolisms within the game’s narrative structure. It also was one of the few games/interactive experiences that put me into positive expressions the more petals I collected; not saying this alone will apply to everyone.
KIRBY (Kirby series)
There are a number of reasons why Kirby’s my favorite Nintendo character, and one of them is his character design. A pink light puff ball that can float with a big appetite. He can swallow items and enemies and use them at a projectile. Or he can eat certain enemies whole and transform with their respected abilities. In some entries, he’s able to mix enemies for even more unique abilities. The level design also plays a part when it comes to reaching certain goals the ordinary Kirby is not able to fulfill. All in all, it’s pretty obvious Kirby’s design was definitely created from the ground up since the series’ debut.
KLONOA (Klonoa series)
Having played Door to Phantomile back in 2012, I immediately fell in love with Klonoa’s look not just in terms of characteristics but also due to the way it served a purposed within the game playthrough. The typical conventions of platformers were there with a dash of Klonoa’s attire to support it. Using his ring to grab enemies and carrying them with your ears (or use them to stun bigger/stronger ones) and the decision to use them as projectiles in every direction or as a means to double-jump; among other things. His ears can also temporarily allow him to flap mid-air before making a nose dive (or something like that). Other than that, there’s really not much to say. Okay, “WAHOO!”
KRATOS (God of War series)
As much as I didn’t care for the action sequences in the first two games (only played them for the puzzles, whatever), I did appreciate the origin surrounding Kratos’ chain blades and how it faired with the combat. Such a concept made the fight sequences refreshing considering the possibilities you’re able to pull off using his signature weapon (then again, I find that action games tend to go about that philosophy/approach). That along with the secondary weapons and other items attributing to the Greek mythos the series since then is accustomed to. It’s hard for me to explain in grand detail why Kratos’ design fits well, but like the majority of action games, “Less Talk, More Hit”. *heh*
RAIDEN (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance)
Regardless of this spin-off’s development history, the Blade Mode concept alone worked perfectly well in regards to Raiden in general. Some say it’s a novelty, others say it’s satisfaction. Not just that, but the whole “ninja” aspect within the character especially the developer behind the “reboot” (Platinum Games), such fluidity and agileness based on a character’s personality and traits go a long way to create a game that embraces it. Same can be said about Bayonetta; another game by Platinum.
RAYMAN (Rayman series)
Whether or not the concept is a novelty, I absolutely fell in love with Rayman’s look when I first played Rayman 2 in the late 1990s. His hair propellers (taking cues from Miles Tails Prower perhaps?) along with his hands for punching freely or to shoot projectiles, and using both in various situations. Or using the projectiles to swing on specific platforms. His design is also a tool to develop his personality and the like, but all in all Rayman’s novelty-ish(?) presence compliments the world and universe his non-attached legs set forth in.
SAM GIDEON (Vanquish)
Strange that I’ve mentioned characters from Clover and Platinum on this example of a list (maybe because I really like the way they compliment whatever they’re doing on said games? lol). Anyway, Sam for me is very interesting not just for his smart-ass personality but also for the suit he wears. The ability to slow time when needed (or if severely injured) and especially(!!!) the Slide Boost technique. Given this is a Platinum game after all, Sam’s suit personifies the reflex-centric battlefield the synthetic threats in the most extreme intense ways possible. Similar to some of the mentioned characters above, Flash and Substance within his final design mesh together beautifully; especially given the case in-game.
Thoughts? What main characters in video games do you think their design works to their advantage within gameplay/game design? Comment away, if you like.
Until next time,