Posted By BT Community about 3 months, 3 weeks ago
2013 saw the birth of innumerable new video game heroes and villains. A great deal of them found their way into titles on our Game of the Year list, but plenty of other memorable characters have gone unrecognized thus far. Let’s rectify that. These are the iconic men, women, and monsters from the year that we will remember forever.
Note: Some spoilers follow, although we have done our best to preface specifics with a warning.
Puppeteer is destined to be a cult classic. The budget priced platformer flew under the radar despite nearly unanimous critical praise, including my own breathless adoration. Gorgeous visuals, a sharp translation, and epic boss fights mark the experience as yet another masterpiece from Sony’s Japan Studio. Yet, the whole thing would be decidedly less magical without Nick Ellsworth’s turn as the villainous Moon Bear King.
As his name implies, the Moon Bear King is the ursine tyrant that rules the lunar surface with an iron paw. His first appearance in the game concludes with a decapitation, as he bites the main character’s head clear from his shoulders. This leads Kutaro to replace his cranium with various puppet parts and set off on a journey to end the king’s reign. Both the player and the in-game audience are treated to hours of gloriously hammy voice acting along the way, as the Moon Bear King berates his subordinates and affects a preposterously boisterous attitude.
The over-the-top evil performance might have been enough to establish the character as an endearing cartoon antagonist, but there is some surprising depth to the role. Puppeteer‘s finale somehow manages to turn a soul-devouring monster into a reasonably tragic figure, which is doubly impressive considering the scale of the ultimate boss fight. The Moon Bear King will never be as iconic as Bowser or Ganon, but I guess it’s only fitting that such an underappreciated game would star such an unsung antagonist.
Outlast was obviously not a perfect game. It lacked proper pacing, didn’t vary the mood much, and hardly wins any awards for “most original setting for a horror game.” That said, I still rather liked it, and for a multitude of reasons. It looked excellent, had a pretty good soundtrack, defied a couple of expectations, and most importantly managed to effectively insert antagonists with personality—not a common design choice in horror games.
While most horror titles stick to absent, immaterial, Let’s-Only-Show-Up-At-The-End bad guys (Amnesia, F.E.A.R.) or generic army of blood-drenched fodder (Resident Evil, Dark Corners of the Earth, Dead Space, Doom), Outlast drew a middle ground. It went out of its way to create identifiable antagonists, ones that would hound you for nearly the entire game physically, psychologically, or both. None begs for more notice than the curious case of Doctor Trager.
“Quick! Get in the dumbwaiter!” is rarely a good idea, but there comes a time where it’s the BETTER idea than not getting in the dumbwaiter. After carefully weighing my options for a full fraction of a second, I reached this conclusion while playing Outlast and found myself overcome with a sudden wave of relief. I wasn’t prepared to feel so relaxed. The game ran at such a consistent high tension I was testing the limits of blood pressure as it was. “You’re not one of them, are you?” he asked me. I was home free!
Instead, the cheerful walking skinless mutilation I was confronted with sucker punched me and strapped me to a wheelchair. What he does next is between you and your God, but suffice it to say, it’s a pretty stirring scene. The playful maniac is often done in games, but often done far too wrong. Trager’s mannerisms never eclipse the horror of his presence, and when he takes his leave, the scenery remains mercifully not chewed. Combined with your following attempt to escape his personal closed off portion of the derelict asylum with him on your heels made the whole segment a highlight of the game: utterly memorable, terrifying, and will likely stick with me for years. It wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without his presence though, making him an easy choice as one of the best original characters of 2013.
Fun fact: Isabelle’s name refers to the fact that her head is shaped like a bag of Animal Crossing currency, bells. Her noggin “is a bell.” With that out of the way, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite secretary.
Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise already boasts a menagerie of notable creatures from Mr. Resetti to Tom Nook. The addition of an earnest Shih Tzu assistant doesn’t sound particularly endearing at first, but a quick look around the internet makes it clear that she is a indisputable fan favorite. We immediately immortalized her in any number of great webcomics and works of fan art, while the big N wasted no time in assembling a merchandise line for her.
Like Animal Crossing itself, Isabelle’s appeal is how cheerfully unlike most other things she is. Even a cursory glance at this very article will tell you that gamers most readily idolize the dark and gritty–even our heroes are reluctant killers. New Leaf is the joyful antithesis of the industry’s most depressing tendencies, and Isabelle is its mascot. She works tirelessly for the betterment of her town, while falling over herself to help the mayor in every way possible. She definitely deserves a raise.
This year was filled with controversial figures. From Dragon’s Crown‘s Sorceress to Riley the Call of Duty dog, there was no shortage of characters that got people talking. But few of these divisive creations really ended up being interesting within the context of their own story. Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V is the main exception. Even if this list was solely predicated on the ferocity of the video game community’s response, Trevor Philips would still have a secure spot.
As the most violent and unstable of GTA‘s many violent and unstable protagonists, the meth-dealing Canadian needed to sink to some truly terrifying lows to stand out from the pack. To Dan Houser’s credit, Trevor accomplishes this goal. The mission “By The Book” has already become infamous for its depiction of cold-blooded torture, but what makes the entire sequence so much more memorable than equivalent scenes in, say, The Last Of Us or Far Cry 3 is that there is clearly no reason for the brutality. As Trevor explains to the unfortunate victim, “Torture’s for the torturer… or for the guy giving orders to the torturer. You torture for the good times–we should all admit that. It’s useless as a means of getting information.”
Trevor’s personal brand of affable psychopathy doesn’t stop there. His actions throughout the game range from petty verbal abuse to near war crimes. Whether he is casually ruining a friend’s life or falling in love with a hostage, he remains strangely fascinating. Grand Theft Auto V features some pretty uneven writing, but almost all of the scenes starring Trevor are effective in some capacity, even if they are only evoking revulsion.
The lead prosecutor of each Ace Attorney game generally goes on to be a fan favorite and it is not hard to see why. These characters tend to be flamboyant and highly memorable individuals whose goal is to make the hero of the game miserable while also evincing the maximum amount of style possible. Yet, for all the challenge they present players, it is worth remembering that these characters are not actually in fact villains (most of the time, at least). Indeed, they just as easily could (and have) been the heroes of the game. Any new prosecutor introduced into the Ace Attorney series at this point has a hell of an act to follow. This is certainly something the series has struggled with since the original trilogy. *cough* Klavier *cough*
Thankfully, the introduction of Simon Blackquill in Dual Destinies has more than succeeded at creating a character worthy of the ones who came before him. For those unfamiliar with Simon, he is a prosecutor who, when not in court, is serving jail time for murder. It is an unusual setup even by the standards of the franchise, which is not even getting into the standard quirks of behavior and personality that Blackquill, as an Ace Attorney character, is required to possess.
Simon Blackquill is a samurai at heart, always poised for battle, and that is a statement that is more than just metaphorical in nature. This gives Blackquill the kind of strong and forceful personality that all good Ace Attorney antagonists need to have while also letting him stand out from his predecessors as well. Blackquill never feels like just a rehash of, say, Edgeworth or Godot. He brings his own flavor to the legal battles present throughout Dual Destinies. Throw in a badass falcon as an animal sidekick (yes, really) and a terrific visual style and you already have all the makings of a great character.
What takes Blackquill further and into the territory of one of the year’s most memorable new creations is the genuinely affecting backstory surrounding his current situation. Like most Ace Attorney leads, there is more than a small touch of tragedy in Blackquill’s history and while this is a familiar trope to find in the series, that makes it no less of an effective one. It should not surprise anyone that the truth behind the murder Blackquill committed eventually becomes central to Dual Destinies’ plot, but I dare not say anymore on this particular subject lest I ruin the game for those who have yet to play it. What I will say is that Blackquill is a compelling figure who, like the prosecutors of yore, will leave players wanting more. Welcome to the club of awesome Ace Attorney characters, Simon. You are going to fit in just fine.