Rationing Your Details – Dragon Quest VIII

Playing your whole hand at the start of a story is generally an imprudent move. Whether it be a character’s entire backstory, the complete purpose of the plot, or a point-blank run-down of events – don’t expect your audience to stick around. What do they need with the meat of your work when you already fed them the cookies?

The intrigue is in the details, and how you parse them out. When done right, they can work as clues that draw the audience toward the greater scope of the tale. What do I mean?

Look here at this fella. As you can tell by the lack of color, this is your run-of-the-mill flashback. Like any device of fiction, the flashback can work for or against the narrative.  At times it’s used as a lazy way to establish the backbone of the story; here, it serves as a bridge between what’s been shown and what’s yet to be revealed. A far more tantalizing premise!

At the start of Dragon Quest VIII, before this flashback even rears it’s sepia-toned head, we’re given only the barest details on our heroes and their story: two apparent mercenaries have been traveling with an odd frog-monster who calls himself a king, and they all refer to his cart-horse as “princess”. The audience clearly requires some explanation here, but Dragon Quest takes its time to supply it. It knows, however, where and how to drop its hints.

For example, let’s focus on these mercenaries: what do we know about them? Well, Yangus (pictured at right) is a bit crude and uncultured (can’t you tell by appearance alone?); we also get the vibe he’s been unscrupulous in the past. His story is expanded in short time, but what about our silent protagonist (pictured at left)? Is there any way we can know about him and his connection to this larger tale?

There’s a genius use of RPG tropes in this case. Because when you first see your party’s inventory, you notice our lead possesses a “Soldier’s Sword”. Now, any RPG will have your typical starter weapon equipped to the main character, which you’ll quickly trade for the first available upgrade in town. But doesn’t it arrest your attention that this lead’s sword is so specifically described?

He certainly doesn’t look the part of “soldier”. Sure that head wrap is swag, but it’s no formal helmet. What’s the real story on this classically mute hero?

You’ve probably made your own deductions already, right? That’s what a story is supposed to help you do. That way, when you come to the flashback later in the game, you’ve intuited something of this fellow’s background already – and his connection to the plot as a whole.

And guess what the game does with that flashback? That’s right – It leaves you with MORE questions to be pondered!

Well, isn’t our hero a special little snowflake?

Think of it this way: Are you more likely to develop a friendship with someone who shares their experiences in engaging parcels? Or with that random person who approaches you in the grocery store and tells you all about the surgery they had on their intestines last Thursday? (I mean, maybe you do meet your friends that way. Who am I to judge?) Let the subtle details of your story cause the audience to want to pursue what you have to offer. Prove there’s still some patience to be found in this era of instant gratification.

 

Dragon Quest VIII is the property of Square-Enix. You can purchase it to play via Android, iOS, or Nintendo 3DS.

Meeting Characters – the Dynamic Way! (Part III)

[Currently listening to: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze OST.]

We’ve talked about meeting out of need and meeting to establish motivation. But remember my obsession with three’s?

Let’s talk meeting to foreshadow!

  • Mallow: Super Mario RPG

So fluffeh.

Poor Geno. Even though he’s the poster boy of my childhood I still have no blog idea planned out for him. (His introduction is definitely dynamic, though. SMRPG sure knows how to give its characters an entrance.)

But yeah, we’re still talking about Mallow. The main reason may be that even though Geno is super swag, he’s kind of Mr. Exposition and therefore a bit of a clunky plot point.

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#Genoswag

Super Mario RPG was an incredibly fresh game in so many ways: visuals, gameplay, story… *cue old codger voice* Back in the day it was a surprising detour from what we’d come to expect from Mario in years past. Being an RPG in a heretofore platform-specific series, it had to introduce plot and new characters in a way that convinced players this story was worth investing in.

Enter Mallow, the first party member Mario encounters on his quest to save the princess (or IS that the main goal? Plot twist impending…). Mario fans were already well-exposed to smiley-faced clouds at this point in the franchise, so there’s an established familiarity with this fluffy character.

Upgrading from walkway to main character, like a baws.
This begs the question: at what point do these clouds become sentient beings?

But how (the game writers may have asked) can we make sure he’s immediately intriguing to the players?

Well, how about this: when he cries, it rains buckets. Also, he thinks he’s a tadpole.

From this introduction we understand there’s more to Mallow than meets the eye. Not only does he have some uncanny emotional control over the weather, but he’s also naïve enough to believe that tadpoles can look like cauliflower heads.

So while we help him solve the current dilemma of a stolen Frog Coin, we’re also interested in what more this character has to offer – and where his personal journey will take us. It’s simply done – it’s a simple game, after all – and Mallow’s origin is pretty obvious from the start, but it’s still a clever set-up. From the Exor reveal at the game’s get-go, to this cute sub-story beginning with Mallow, we’re already aware that this game intends to broaden the Marioverse beyond what we’ve previously known.

Honestly, when I first played SMRPG, I was far more interested in discovering Mallow’s home than I was in reaching Smithy to repair the Star Road. The foreshadow was just that appealing to me.


All right, all right, I’ve said all I want to say. But I’m sure I’ve missed talking about quite a few dynamic introductions. Want to share a few in the comments? You know the drill.

 

Super Mario RPG is the property of Nintendo/Square-Enix. You can purchase it for your own enjoyment through the Wii or Wii U Virtual Console.

Meeting Characters – the Dynamic Way! (Part II)

[Currently listening to: My dad chopping up pickles for a potato salad. Ah, vacation.]

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Welcome to our next installment of dynamic introductions! If you recall, last month we talked about introducing characters out of a sense of need. This month we’ll look at meeting a character to establish motivation.

But enough prelude; let’s get to the good stuff!

  • Robo & Magus: Chrono Trigger

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You can’t keep me away from my CT. It just ain’t gonna happen.

By the time Crono, Marle, and Lucca run into Robo, we’ve had a great deal of excitement: Crono has just escaped execution, the trio find themselves sent to a dystopian future, and they’ve just discovered a planet-consuming parasite will be the doom of their world.

With so much plot on our plates it’s a good time to offer a more unassuming character introduction – though without losing the pace. This is where it helps to inject a little motivation into the scene. What do I mean?

Well, when the trio meets Robo in Proto Dome, the setting is pretty relaxed. The team is in no immediate peril – unlike in the intro to Frog or Ayla – and it’s a good time to allow for extra character and plot development.

In this case, we begin to learn a little more about Lucca and some of her motivation behind being an inventor. PLUS, when introduced to Robo we learn something of his own background; and his offer to help the team sets in motion his own incentive for helping to save the world.

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If you’re looking for the ultimate introduction via motivation, though, it’s really best if we move on to everyone’s favorite blue-haired anti-hero (anti-villain? Whatever): Magus!

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Magus has a kind of dual introduction: meeting him results in an almost immediate knowledge of his core motivations, but you also get to dynamically kick the crap outta him while his sweet, sweet theme plays in the background.

What do we learn about Magus upon first meeting him? Well, I’m soooo glad you asked me to answer that in a group of three factoids!

  1. He’s assumed to be Lavos’s creator but is in fact interested in slaying the creature.
  2. He has significant magical prowess – being able to cast all types of elemental magic we’ve seen so far.
  3. He’s certainly interested in the fact that Frog can wield the Masamune, but that doesn’t seem to be his primary concern.

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This is definitely enough juicy character background for players to get intrigued. If he already knows about Lavos AND has a vendetta against it, there’s no doubt we’ll become more acquainted with Magus as the game progresses.

And now for a somewhat different take on meeting to establish motivation:

  • Alena, Kiryl, & Borya: Dragon Quest IV

This is a unique scenario in that the characters themselves already know each other, so the “meeting” is less about introductions and more about how (and why) they all get into the same stew.

Alena, perhaps a pioneer of the “tomboy princess” stereotype, is set on adventure and combat outside her castle walls. She would prefer to travel alone, but her fretful retainers Kiryl and Borya have other ideas (and motivations. See what I did there?).

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When we get these three in a party together we’re alerted right away to their individual goals. Alena, we already know, is eager to explore the world. Kiryl makes it quite obvious is totally discreet about the fact that he’s traveling so he can crush on Alena in close proximity. Borya establishes himself as the begrudging papa bear who insists that he finds Alena insufferable, but worries over her nonetheless.

With party chat these motivations are far clearer as the journey progresses, but even without that feature it’s clear from Kiryl’s and Borya’s insistence to accompany Alena that they’ve got their reasons for sticking around.


 

Using motivation in a character introduction not only makes the meeting of characters more memorable, but it also creates intrigue that can carry through the story and hold your audiences attention.

You know what time it is now: sharing time! Talk about your own favorite character motivations in the comments below!

 

Chrono Trigger is the property of Square-Enix. There are many ways you can purchase and enjoy this game.

Dragon Quest IV belongs to Square-Enix. You can purchase it to play via Nintendo DS or as an app on your phone. (Go with the phone for party chat.)

Meeting Characters – the Dynamic Way! (Part I)

[Currently listening to: Mega Man remixes.]

I’m starting to realize the value of a dynamic introduction.

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Typically, I adopt the Dickensian manner of characters meeting each other: an individual bumps into another individual and discovers a memorable quirkiness about this new acquaintance. These two characters now proceed to quip about their backstory at length (or sink into a tense silence where they hide something important about themselves) and join each other for my convenience as a writer who wants people to meet because plot, that’s why.

But far better introductions are made out of need or a certain character’s motivation. It gives a better glue to the upcoming relationship between characters than if they were just to meet by happenstance.

Video games by rule must pull this off if they want to keep a good pace in gameplay. So over these summer months we’re going to have a look at the ways we can adopt a VG method of character introductions.

(These introductions will mostly include heroes meeting fellow heroes/anti-heroes. I feel like the subject of meeting the villain is a whole ‘nother topic on its own.)

COMMENCE WITH PART ONE!

Part I: Meeting Out of Need
  • Frog & Ayla: Chrono Trigger

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In an attempt to rescue Queen Leene and restore the timeline’s continuity, Crono and Lucca find themselves in a pinch when they’re assaulted by Fiends at a highly-suspect chapel. Just when they think the battle is theirs, one Fiend catches Lucca off guard and assaults her. Is it all over for Lucca? Will she die a brutal death 400 years in her world’s past??

No, because outta nowhere this frog warrior springs in and cuts that Fiend in half (at least, that’s how I interpret the flickering pixels). And he’s like, “Don’t let your guard down, fool.”

And Lucca’s like, “AAH, GROSS, A TALKING FROG.”

And Crono’s like, “…”

The party of three goes on to form a brief alliance based on their mutual search for the Queen, but already we know a great deal from Frog’s dynamic entrance with him having to explain very little:

  1. He is in some way connected to the Queen.
  2. He’s more than skilled with a blade.
  3. His physical appearance is unnatural (revealed by Lucca’s shock upon seeing him).

How would it have been different if Crono and Lucca just randomly bumped into Frog while they were exploring Guardia castle? They might spend a few dull text boxes explaining to each other why they mutually need to find the Queen, then figure out why they should join forces; and if the writer was feeling particularly verbose he could add in a dash of Frog angsting about his appearance.

Instead, since the three of them must meet in the immediacy of a search-and-rescue mission, the introductions have to be brief – and give just enough intrigue for us to wonder how this Frog fellow is going to contribute to the rest of the story.

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Ayla’s introduction is practically identical to Frog’s, but it drives home the same point: introductions made out of need reveal the essentials of a new character. This primal woman can mow down six imposing Reptites. BY HERSELF. Ergo, the player knows right away, “Dang, don’t mess with this chick.”

You know what this post needs? A kick-butt gif.
You know what this post needs? A kick-butt gif.

Her scenario also establishes the setting, as well as many of her own plot points:

  1. There’s man-dinos terrorizing the prehistoric era.
  2. Humans and man-dinos are apparently not on friendly terms.
  3. …I don’t really have a third point. I just like writing things in three’s.

In summary (wow, this went all “college thesis”, didn’t it?), Frog’s and Ayla’s intros play out brilliantly when it comes to setting up their interaction with other characters in the party – as well as drawing the players into their personal stories. We don’t need long exposition telling us who they are or why they’re intent on joining up with our heroes.

Oh, but don’t you dare think we’re done yet. We’ve got to talk about one more character from a different video game:

  • Jeff: Earthbound

Dynamic Introductions2

Who doesn’t love this nerd? And why DO we love this nerd? Is it the diverse array of firearms at his disposal? That stylin’ green slacks-and-coat combo? The fact that he can create a beam gun out of a broken harmonica?

Well…yes, actually. ‘Cause that’s all pretty boss.

But alongside all that, he’s a character that arrives out of need, which gives the player a sense of purpose as we lead him toward rescuing Ness and Paula.

Our introduction to him is far different from how we’re introduced to Frog and Ayla. We don’t get to see his interactions with the other characters immediately; instead, we’re brought into his personal world and shown what he must leave behind and face in order to help a couple of strange kids he doesn’t even know.

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We’re essentially drawn into his needs as he tries to respond to the needs of new friends. This is itself a genius move, because it creates empathy without requiring excessive explanation about this new character.


So now that I’ve geeked out for lines and lines on this post, here’s a question for the comments section: what makes a character introduction stick with you?

Next month we’ll look at “Meeting to Establish Motivation”. No sneak peeks at the characters I’ll pick for that topic; you’ll just have to come back to find out!

 

Chrono Trigger is the property of Square-Enix. There are many ways you can purchase and enjoy this game.

Earthbound is the property of Nintendo and Shigesato Itoi. You can play it via the Wii U virtual console.

Writing to Bore – Working as Torneko in Dragon Quest IV

[Currently listening to: the Super Mario Galaxy OST. Holy buckets, that game was a masterpiece.]

Have you ever been bored with a story?

No, no, I’m not talking about bad writing or poor pacing that leads to the onset of ennui. I’m talking about intentionally inspiring you as the reader/player/viewer to feel bored. Have you ever found a character’s situation so empathetically dull that you exactly understand their desire to break free of routine?

Let’s explore via example. In celebration of Dragon Quest‘s upcoming 30th anniversary, I present to you:

Torneko1

Torneko Taloon!

Some months ago I was playing Dragon Quest IV on my phone. (What? I wanted party chat. Don’t judge me.) I’d just finished Alena’s chapter – kickin’ tournament butt and taking names – and was about to roll from there into Torneko’s merchant story. I knew ahead of time that his chapter would adopt a slower pace from my time playing as the rough-and-tumble princess, but I didn’t figure on how firmly the plot’s brakes were going to be pressed.

Torneko is a family man, working his daily 9-5 to provide for a wife and son at home. He’s a mumu-wearing middle-aged shopkeeper with an ample tummy: not exactly your typical RPG hero. The chapter opens on him getting ready for the work day, with his wife packing his lunch and scolding him good-humoredly on sleeping in. Then, as the player takes control of his movements, we’re given the opportunity to start Torneko on his EPIC JOURNEY…

…across town to his full-time job.

Torneko2

(I mean, you could take him out to the world map, if you want to get totally pasted five steps later.)

Basically, Torneko starts out with inadequate equipment for dealing with the battles outside town, and his stats without weapons and armor aren’t all that great. The opportunity’s there to buy him a sword and cuirass, but that takes a bit more money than he starts out with, which means – you guessed it – he has to work.

My first day helping him on the job, I was laughing. These customers come in and ask to either sell or purchase an item; it’s a simple, straight-forward process. Most times they complete the transaction with no issue, but from time to time a customer will ask to buy a weapon, then realize they either don’t have the money or they can’t even use it. And they flake out. I thought, “Oh man. What a hilarious representation of retail work.”

Torneko3

But by the third day, when one of those customers realized they couldn’t purchase their item, I was like, “DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND I’M GETTING PAID ON COMMISSION?! I NEED TO BUY SOME FLIPPIN’ ARMOR SO I CAN GET PAST THIS GRIND.”

This is the precise feeling Torneko’s chapter needs to convey. As we learn more about him, we figure out that his real dream is to be proprietor of his own shop (not a counter worker), and that, as an aspiring weapons dealer, he wants to find the legendary Zenithian Sword.

Imagine him slouching at the shop’s counter with his jowly cheeks in his hands, trying to muster up a little extra charisma to make his sales. What he really wants is a chance at entrepreneurship – and maybe a bit of adventure – but to get there he’s got to save a few Gold. The process is dull to the extreme.

With our expanded game memory and new innovations nowadays, there are ways to present merchant gameplay as interesting and engaging. Dragon Quest IV, originally released on the NES, didn’t have such luxury; but even so, I think if they’d had the ability to make it more complicated, it would have taken so much away from the story Torneko’s chapter was trying to tell.

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#throwbackFriday

The effect may not have been intentional, but in any case it worked. By the time you as the player can finally venture out with Torneko onto the world map, you feel an excited sense of freedom. That’s some great “show, don’t tell” if you ask me.

I can’t think of a book that’s given me an intentional “bored” feeling. Maybe authors prefer to focus on the more passionate emotions: love, sorrow, anger. I bet there’s a way, though, to capture effective tedium in the written story, too. What do you think it’d look like?

 

Dragon Quest IV belongs to Square-Enix. You can purchase it to play via Nintendo DS or as an app on your phone. (Go with the phone for party chat.)

Writing Redemptive Characters – Frog from Chrono Trigger

[Currently listening to: the Undertale OST again. Even after 50+ listens, Megalovania never gets old.]

A common plotline in stories is the redemptive arc: the journey of a character from failure to hope. Think of Thor in the Marvel movie (I don’t read the comics, okay), who is cast down from Asgard and must overcome his flaws in order to be worthy of Mjölnir again. We root for him to reconcile his failures because it’s something all humans confront and desire to conquer.

(Aw yeah, appealing to other geek groups on this vid-ja game blog.)

But what traits in a character make for a memorable redemptive arc? Look no further, all y’all story buffs, because to solve this problem we’re going to delve into the psyche of the GREATEST VIDEO GAME CHARACTER OF ALL TIME.*

Frog2
*Blanket statements on “Game & Write” are purely subjective and should not be considered absolute fact. But seriously. This dude.

Believe you me, I’m going to have a lot to say about Chrono Trigger on this blog (Lord willing I keep this nonsense going). So much brilliant storytelling to discuss in that game. SO MUCH. It may have even been the first video game to show me what such a medium was capable of. But I digress. Let’s look at why Frog’s story of failure and redemption is so amazing.

Spoilers abound, naturally.

Even his successes aren’t enough.

Frog1

When Frog saves Queen Leene – and we see how capable he is at the rescue – it comes as a surprise when he announces his retirement as her guard. He’s clearly no slouch and was in fact (we can assume) the only castle member to see through the Chancellor/Yakra’s ruse.

Despite all this, he’s in a place of such regret that near-failures are enough reason for him to retreat.

A character’s broken past can affect them in many ways. What I like about the approach for Frog is that he isn’t a screw-up when introduced, so we have no reason to believe he should doubt himself. This character we start off admiring is given dimension through his unexpected self-abasement. He might be more like us than we supposed, and that makes us want to know more.

His struggle is not his whole personality.

Frog2

Let me make something clear: I hate strongly dislike sullen characters (and I’m ashamed to say I’ve written a few). In the fictional realm, imbuing someone with too much “sulk” can make for a flat and unlikeable person.

(I’m looking at you, Squall; the Edward Cullen of Final Fantasy.)

But before I polarize this entire conversation – *ahem* – Frog’s brokenness works because it’s not in our face ALL THE TIME. He has hurts that keep him guarded, but he’s still cordial to friends and retains a sense of honor.

He doesn’t blab his whole story.

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Many RPGs have this point where everyone’s gathered together (usually around a campfire – uh, like that Chrono Trigger scene, I guess), and one or more characters decides this is the perfect time to fill twenty minutes with bloated backstory.

Now, I enjoy a good dose of backstory as much as the next person, but a video game should also, y’know, be about GAMEPLAY. A half hour onslaught of character background not only loses my interest, it’s also a sloppy demand that I care about a person just because I’m aware of every experience they ever had.

Frog’s backstory takes, maybe, five minutes, and he never shares it in dialogue. As far as we know, the others on the CT team never heard it from him. The player knows only what’s necessary to understand his internal struggle.

I guess in summary: Backstory should serve character. A character shouldn’t serve his backstory.

His redemption isn’t immediate.

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I suppose this one is dependent on whether you choose to complete the game’s sidequests or not. (And why wouldn’t you?)

Frog’s initial purpose in the grand scheme  (or “dream”; hehe, in-game pun) is to defeat Magus. He bears the Hero’s Badge, can wield the Masamune, etc., so the game writers could very well have said, “Once the Magus fight’s over, Frog’s story is done. We’ll resolve his baggage, make him hunky-dory, and get on to that way more interesting floating magical kingdom deal.”

The great thing about Chrono Trigger is: every character’s story is never quite done, even when their main purpose is served. (Well, our silent protagonist Crono is debatable, but whatever.)

From a story perspective, this is a key element. We’re all works in progress, and rarely are we ever 180-degree changed by one event. Besides which, the CT writers – whether aware of it or not – showed through Frog the difference between a surface action (whuppin’ Magus’ sorry backside) and addressing the inner healing that needed to take place after the surface problem had been dealt with (Frog confronting his guilt over Cyrus’s death and accepting his role as Hero).

His redemption doesn’t come from himself.

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This is perhaps a matter of preference, but…I generally don’t appreciate self-actualization stories. Like: the character who’s got a struggle but ends up solving it because they “discovered their greatness within”. It can work, but a character’s redemptive relationship with only him/herself feels…empty. With Frog, he’s able to heal because of the impact Cyrus’s life had on him.

Which, you could argue, makes him the humble Hero he is instead of one who self-affirmed his baggage away and now thinks of himself as da bomb.

His overall change is subtle.

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Even when he comes to terms with his past and makes peace over his failures, Frog doesn’t become a completely different person. He’s still a bit serious, a bit snarky, and he keeps up the role of honor-bound swordsman. We only know about his change because he finally accepts Queen Leene’s offer of a home and expresses closure when leaving Cyrus’s tomb.

And really, don’t we all keep an intrinsic personality, even when we deal with external change? It’s the nuance that makes Frog’s redemption so relatable: He didn’t have to change himself to receive forgiveness.


Perhaps these observations are less of a guide to writing a redemptive arc…and more just me going full geek while I have you readers at my mercy. But I hope the study at least gave you a little inspiration! If you’re familiar with Frog/Chrono Trigger, what are some other qualities you connect to in the character(s)? Has a different video game taught you the importance of a certain value?

 

Chrono Trigger is the property of Square-Enix. There are many ways you can purchase and enjoy this game.

Release Date: March 9th, 1996

super_mario_rpg_logo

Happy 20th anniversary, game of my childhood!

When I was a kid I had these stickers of all the main characters, and I thought they were meant for glass so I slapped ’em up on my bedroom window.

As it turns out…they were regular stickers, not window clings. And man, they were tenacious little suckers. I couldn’t even peel them off to take with me when I moved out for college.

They might still be on that window down in Wyoming, perplexing some new 10 year-old girl who wants to know why she’s got the Mario crew plus a cloud kid and blue-caped wooden doll obscuring her view outside.

(No doubt my mom scraped them off during the move. But it’s a romantic thought, okay?)

Geno-real-name
My main team forever.

Super Mario RPG: Lessons from a Fluffy Tadpole

[Currently listening to: Undertale OST]

Since Super Mario RPG is pretty much the epitome of my childhood, I can’t think of a better way to launch this blog than by opening up a big ol’ can of nostalgia. Plus, we’re coming up on the game’s 20th anniversary! (Wow, now I feel old.)

So let’s start by talking about this game’s adorable, cottony protagonist: Mallow.

So fluffeh.
So fluffeh.

This kid cringes at fights, forgets even the most important things, is totally naïve, and thinks he is what he’s not. And yet – you won’t find a gutsier person on the SMRPG team. Why?

Consider this: lost as a baby, Mallow floats into a community of tadpoles where, though he’s fluffy and short and not at all a good jumper, he’s raised to believe he’s a frog. Say he lives eight to ten years thinking he’s a tadpole, and he tries all the while to do the things a tadpole is expected to do – but badly.

But it’s not that rotten a life for him, really. Even if he can’t play the part of a tadpole that well, his grandpa Frogfucius loves him, and he seems to get along swimmingly (haha…puns are great) with the other polliwogs.

Then, after blissfully living this lie for most of his childhood his grandpa sees fit to inform him: no, you’re not a frog. No one knows what you are or where you came from.

Say WHAT??!
Say WHAT??!

Now, the game plays this revelation for laughs (it’s clear Mallow’s more fit for a s’more than as an amphibian), but think about it: has your world ever been shaken in a similar way? How did you handle it?

Well, Mallow does this: after a bit of a cry, he bids his grandpa farewell and heads out to find his real home. Just like that! Hardly a complaint, no existential crisis, not any sort of “why me” attitude. Sure, he’s sad that he’s not a frog, but he’s also brave enough to find out what he really is.

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I love the way the trope gets flipped with Mallow’s story. Instead of playing out in a Little Princess fashion – where the adopted tyke is mistreated until s/he finds her/his “real home” – Mallow has to have the courage to leave a life he doesn’t mind and a family he honestly loves. That’s a whole different sort of conflict with its own challenges to overcome.

On a note of personal application: There’s a great deal of pain in this world, and there’s a time and a place for the “why” to be asked when we grieve and are confused. But let’s not become stuck in that attitude! Sometimes we have to lose what we cling to in order to make way for a better perspective. We cry that we’re not frogs so long that we miss what Mallow found: the value of our true heritage.

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Oh. Uh…spoilers.

 

Super Mario RPG is the property of Nintendo/Square-Enix. You can purchase it for your own enjoyment through the Wii Virtual Console.