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Putting Identity to Ethnicity; Dark-skinned Heroes and Villains in Gaming

What makes a good character stand out? The struggle of their character as they ascend from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the leaderboards in character development? The development of what kind of character they’ll be throughout the story? While all of these factors, and plenty more, attribute to the development and construction of a character, there has always been a unique connection – a fine line – that’s crossed or maintained when ethnicity is calculated into a character’s bio.

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in promoting dark-skinned characters through movies, television shows, and comic books (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Black Lightning, Spider-Man, etc.), however, the iconizing of dark-skinned characters has always been prevalent in one form of media or another. In this article, I will display my findings and knowledge towards the establishing growth of dark-skinned characters in video games. I believe this development will garner fruits of representation within the black diaspora and can open the doors towards representing different ethnicities and, from a linguistics point of view, can offer a form of ‘code-switching’ that can be seen from a bigger viewpoint; virtually and culturally outlined with an interactive perspective provided by video games.


  1. Dark-skinned characters to Black/African characters

    Let’s talk about the elephant in the article: Are dark-skinned characters considered to be Black? The answer can be split down the middle, depending on how you view the character and the media it hails from. You could say that dark-skinned characters represent the black diaspora and that each character you find that happens to be darker than most is just another variety of Black/African characters. On the opposite side, you could argue that a dark-skinned character isn’t considered to be black because of their identity within the work of fiction they originate from and could be considered a mixture of different ethnicities – a melting pot – which speaks to the perspectives of different races that aren’t represented in multiple characters BUT is represented in one character. Both answers hold valid points – points that can be made and have been exemplified in various characters over the years within different video games. While some are a bit more obvious in regards to representation with a dark-skinned character, there have been subtler accounts of dark-skinned representation within gaming.


    Suikoden Revival


    A good example of diversity between dark-skinned characters can be found in an old JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) by the name of Suikoden. Suikoden was a notable game for its tactics and implications for war-based strategy, and the turn-based battle system that had players forming a party of six characters rather than the general 4 found in other RPG’s like Final Fantasy. In addition to its unique system of battle, the game gives the opportunity to incorporate 108 special characters into your army that ranges from multiple races and species that inhabit the game. Ever wanted to have flying squirrels, griffons and unicorns as a companion that helps you fight against a tyrannical empire – Suikoden 2 offers that in spades. Ever thought that beavers were capable of dishing out damage and could be a solid foundation for representing third world countries – Suikoden 5 answers that question for you. However, within every entry of Suikoden, there has always been a representation of multiple ethnicities and cultures within the games.



    Starting with the game that introduced the first two dark-skinned characters within the franchise, Suikoden 2, are Hauser (Right) and Bob (Left). At first glance, Bob seems to mirror someone familiar – perhaps iconic – and you would not be wrong in assuming such a thing. Bob’s character is based, in appearance, to that of the legendary musician Bob Marley. From his dreads to the carefree nature that he holds, Bob is a subtle nod to Jamaican heritage within a European fantasy-based war game made by Japanese developers. While he isn’t the main character or a character that’s necessary to the story, the option to recruit him and know more of his history and skills is what makes the goal of finding 108 special characters in each game an intriguing objective. Once you recruit him, you learn that he isn’t actually human but is that of a Lycanthrope (Werewolves) and happens to be the last of his clan. The rune that’s embedded on his right hand, known as the Rabid Fang Rune, doesn’t initiate his lycanic transformation but actually prevents him in being able to transform. His appearance as a dark-skinned male isn’t racially attributed to anything outside of the fact that he appears to have dark skin, however, it’s the subtlety of his history and his lineage that paints a different perspective towards the character. In a description of his village and people, a darker tone is showcased and a word, or two, seems to be relatable to another incident that’s occurred within the bowels of history:


    Once a village of lycanthropes located in the Grassland, Lycanthrope Village was destroyed by Windy in her quest to find powerful runes, leaving only one survivor, a young man named Bob who participated as a soldier in the Dunan Unification War. As a result, Lycanthropes have become extremely rare and little information is known on lycanthropes or the village they once inhabited. The Holy Kingdom of Harmonia has several lycanthropes living within their borders; however, they have been integrated into the non-human class and thus are treated little better than slaves.


    On the other hand, there’s Hauser, another dark-skinned character and one that would paint the argument that his skin and structure would be ideally linked to that of African heritage. Unlike that of Bob, Hauser has importance to the story and is a commander of his own forces before joining that of the hero’s main army. He is a soldier, a knight, and a strong C.O. (Commanding Officer) to the forces he leads. There’s no identifying his race or status, other than being human, but the closest thing he has towards the representation of the black diaspora is that of his facial structure


    Black Male Gaming Characters - Face Structure


    Hauser’s distinct features are linked to a particular art style that’s uniquely attuned to that of Black/African drawings. The structure of the cheekbones, the accentuation of the nose and, most notably, the appearance of the lips. While it’s easy to write off that Bob and Hauser’s ethnical identities are a part of the black diaspora, it’s to be noted that Bob’s appearance, from a visage approach, is ethnically different from that of Hauser’s. Granted that Bob’s appearance isn’t naturally that of a dark-skinned male, and is more of a lycanthropic wolf-man, the two distinct styles in how they were drawn plays against the idea that “all Black people look alike” and that the diaspora of Black/African people can be seen in different views; even as different species.


  2. Implication vs Confirmation

    There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to making a character, especially a character that is linked, or seems to be linked, to a race, or ethnicity, that’s had its fair share of criticisms. While it’s not impossible to make a good character that can represent the black collective, it’s entirely possible that the implication can overweigh the confirmation in the brainstorming process.

    This process can be called “Implication vs Confirmation“. As a writer and storyteller, there’s always an invisible list to which needs to be filled when creating a story that’s comprised of elements which can enhance the reader’s, or in this case ‘the player’s’, experience. A protagonist to lead the story, an antagonist that makes the events for the protagonist, or the story, more difficult, and many other options can be found on this list. The idea of creating a character that’s ethnically unbiased within a game is plausible. Most games that take place in a fantasy setting require that the characters themselves be unified under one term – Humans. The idea of race and individual ethnicities is turned on its head, subverting expectations, which creates a clearer narrative without the addition of white noise in regards to a person’s race convoluting the storyline. This is the Implication.

    The second part that has to be confirmed is, well, Confirmation. Does the character’s persona appropriate or appreciate the ethnicity? Are certain colloquialisms necessary to convey identity towards a culture? Is it necessary for them to be “too much” of a certain cliché or stereotype in regards to their ethnicity? Every decision to these and other questions is what outlines a character – what makes the character shine as their own individual presence. If the implication of a dark-skinned character has to be showcased through certain actions and provocations, does it create the display of ethnicity that grounds their character OR could it be used to heighten their character’s story in addition to character development? Confirmation plays an important role in structuring and developing a character in regards to their personal narrative. When it comes to race and ethnicity, the outline of character can be based off a figure or even constructed to be similar towards one, however, characters shouldn’t be objectified to a list of demands that MAKE the character.



    Another first in the series of dark-skinned characters comes from Barret Wallace from the Final Fantasy series. Barret stands as the first of the dark-skinned characters introduced within the series and one that can be closely identified to Black/African collectives in regards to representation within video games. While his initial introduction and artwork painted him as a virtual copy to that of Laurence Tureaud (Iconically known by the name “Mr. T”) his character within the game and throughout the game is anything but that. He’s the leader of AVALANCHE, a dutiful father, another main character next to Cloud Strife, and much more. His presence throughout the story is filled with various colloquialisms and vernacular English that’s directed towards, or from, AAVE (African American Vernacular English) which portrays his character.

    The implication that was crafted for Barret was to possibly give the image of a Black/African man with strong leadership skills, a brash/ruff attitude, and a character arc that has gone through strife in more ways than one; in the past and in the present. His conflict in trying to save the planet and to save his daughter, who (SPOILERS) isn’t related to him by blood, develops his character and confirms his identity as a man fighting for what is right; under the circumstances, he endures. He isn’t identified as a Black/African male and outside of his appearance to Mr. T, he isn’t considered to be an icon for the race. He just happens to have dark skin, a hi-top fade, a beard that would make Mr. T proud, a gun-arm, and a mission; both personal and economical.


    Barret Wallace Remake


    With the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, a plethora of design choices and tweaks have been made for the cast. No longer exists the old Mr. T inspired look for the leader of AVALANCHE as he has now adopted a more modern design for the hair on top of his head and on his face. Sporting a nice fade from each side, leaving a short but slicked back layover for the top, a rugged but maintained beard lineup, while outlining various elements to his visage from the initial character design; Barret has evolved. In addition to his pronounced features (outlined in the same account as Hauser’s from the previous number) Barret’s appearance shows a confirmation to the modern era of hairstyles and beard lineups, however, he also showcases how a dark-skinned character can appear within video games. While the industry has access to mocap technology, using the contour of models and other personnel to digitally craft features in real-time, Barret’s design proves that a fundamental choice in perspective from one figure can be transcended with different likenesses. He may have been rough and hard to handle in the beginning, but the development of his character visually can, and has, been improved over time.


  3. Dark-Skinned Villains; Reasons, Motivations, and Script

    With every great hero comes a daunting force of conflict in the form of an antagonist or villain. While villains don’t necessarily need to be dark-skinned to impose themselves against others in a game, there have been some candidates in the last couple of decades that have showcased that their skin color isn’t entirely necessary to convey their story as a villain.



    Rolling back around to the 2nd and 3rd games in the Suikoden series we’re introduced to another dark-skinned character: Lucia. As a villain, Lucia was a unique character right from her introduction in the second game. A young leader of the Karayan Clan, a clan of dark-skinned warriors whose cultural background shares an affinity to Native Americans, she fights to protect her people and collaborates with one of the leading characters in order to ensure protection for her people and the securing of new land. Her role as a villain is further enhanced by the means in which she uses to execute her desired goals. She was merciless in nearly killing the main character, showcasing many of her abilities – which are further fleshed out in the proceeding title, she has ideal strategies in regards to war and tactics, something which is further enhanced in other games due to becoming a leader at a young age after the death of her father (Another interesting point that fuels the flames of her villainy), and was willing to do anything to enact vengeance.

    In comparison to other villains within the game, Lucia’s role is rather minor. She appears near the beginning of the third act with little to no involvement in the main story. She’s propositioned land and safety for her clan, she’s given command of her own forces, made a general within the army (albeit until the end), and fights against the opposition due to personal incidents regarding her clan, family, and how it shaped her life.

    As a character, Lucia has motivations which develop her character and those motivations within Suikoden 2 is what makes her a unique villain. Furthermore, going into Suikoden 3, because of her experience from the previous game, she’s further relentless in believing that no kingdom is worth aligning alongside. The disrespect that is shown to her people, the destruction and theft of their lands, play an important part in the formula that makes Lucia a well-established villain.


    Balrog


    Next on the list is that of another popular figure modeled after, well, a popular boxer: Balrog.  Not to be confused with the mythical beast from Lord of the Rings, this Balrog comes from the highly popular fighting game series “Street Fighter” and has been a prominent member of the cast ever since his inclusion back in Street Fighter II. Identified as an African American he’s modeled after Mike Tyson and is quick to make as much fight money as possible. Balrog’s villainy already shows through his moral compass and decisions in regards to fighting for the main villains, yet his race is never an account for his underhanded tactics and infamous moves throughout the story. His countenance is more towards the sin of greed than it is to villainy, however, given the context of working for Shadaloo, an evil organization infamously known throughout the series, Balrog’s conscious decisions do not promote the inner good of doing the right thing.


    08_rog1


    To his credit as a character, the motivations he carries is undeniably linked to his entire persona. He doesn’t feign ignorance to being better than what he shows to others, as he implies that he’s the best at what he does, and his honesty is enough to make a lie detector look stupid; cause his cold hard truth would make it seem inefficient and useless as a device. Since his appearance, he has been a strong, tough, and rash individual that has been seen as a villain. A rough nature and a smug attitude, Balrog’s street skills paints the scene for a villain pugilist with little concern for others well being; with more selfish and greedy intentions just for himself.


     

    ansem21


    Ansem, preferably the ‘Seeker of Darkness‘, is a fundamentally intriguing villain within the Kingdom Hearts series. In explaining his origins, an account that I will not do in great length, showcases that his existence and connection within the story is, for clarification purposes, fundamentally sound and acknowledgeable to the lore that’s presented within the story. However, if you take out the complications with the lore, this version of Ansem was the first and pressing antagonist that started the Kingdom Hearts series. A shrouded figure in the darkness that did research on hearts (metaphorically and semi-physically speaking) he was the imposing figure that stood in the shadows of Sora and Riku’s adventures within the game. His acts included corrupting Riku’s heart with darkness – a poignant act that would play an important role in the character’s development within later games – and the construction of Kingdom Hearts through the obliteration of multiple worlds.


    ansem smirk


    His appearance on screen is unexpected and the appearance he takes is just as foreboding as the voice that comes from it. He doesn’t pardon his actions and he only parleys for small moments with the main cast of characters. His intentions to find Kingdom Hearts and to use it for his own well being, in addition to filling all of the worlds with darkness, is a straight and simple goal for his agenda. What made his goal and presence unique was the lack of involvement he played within the game itself. The game, Kingdom Hearts, associates most of its story to Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they travel to different Disney worlds and preventing their collapse from the Heartless; which Ansem also happens to be, however, this isn’t prevalent within his appearance as it is more of an epiphany in later games. In future games, an explanation is given as to why he has dark skin and silver hair, however, before those games were even a concept, Ansem’s appearance wasn’t a hot-button topic. His attitude, the role he was given, and how it was implicated within the game is what made Ansem a great stand-alone villain within the series.


  4. Conclusion ~ Representation

    As an African American, I’ve learned that representation within different forms of media is a necessity going forward. Black and African figures in today’s media have been brought into the light for the public through the use of comics, instilling a sense of understanding and acceptance to one’s race that isn’t seen as often. Video games have provided chances for African Americans to be expanded within the media, however, I’ve found that the representation for the race has been used in different contexts; whether it’s from the east or the west gaming franchises.

    I avoided putting any American games in this article for a couple of reasons. One of them was because of how the interpretation of race is seen when compared to the most popular games in America vs the fantasy elements found within most JRPGs. Popular titles like the Assassins Creed series deals with the re-telling of history and the amplification of the past and presents involvement. In Assassins Creed: Black Flag’s DLC “Freedom Cry“, the character Adewale, a former slave with an education that would soon become a pirate and eventually would become an assassin, would embark on his own journey which would lead to many historical bouts against the Templar and freeing captured slaves. I appreciated the bold storytelling, the use of history, and its importance in regards to African heritage, however, I feel that the game is only one example that places the character in an ethnically threatening situation which garners a greater change in their character. Other popular games like the Grand Theft Auto series paints a stereotypical image which, in most cases, presents a toxic representation in regards to cultural appropriation. The games are not bad – technically speaking – but the storytelling for dark-skinned characters like CJ (San Andreas) and Franklin (Los Santos) seem to always have a unique turnabout in regards to their characters.

    In fantasy RPG’s, East or West, the context of the story is vitally important to each character. While there are some tropes that can be filled with throwaway characters, the development of any character should always be seen as a vital component in regards to crafting a great story. While most protagonists can be seen from a Eurocentric viewpoint, the choice to make dark-skinned characters protagonists is just as valid to other perspectives. Square-Enix’sFinal Fantasy” series may have gotten the ball rolling with Barret, but the domino effect of different dark-skinned characters like Fran (XII) and Sazh (XIII) have also been introduced into the fold of dark-skinned representations. There identities as humans, or Viera in Fran’s case, are established as their main identity and the way that they speak are clarified to that of their characters; Fran uses her voice as a means to showcase respect and authority, as her race generally acknowledges is a valuable trait, while Sazh uses comedy and blunt statements, mixed with AAVE, due to a tragic past and coming to terms with the world he now lives within; these developments are paramount to the character’s progression.

    In starting with Suikoden for this article, a game which I have personally favored since playing its second installment back in 1998, it introduced to me, a young, African-American man, that a story can involve many ethnicities and that the concern of “race” shouldn’t affect it. From the second title in the series to its fifth installment on consoles, Suikoden has proven to be a game that uses its diverse cast as a means of storytelling. The third installment showcased the Karaya Clan, previously mentioned with Lucia’s appearance from the second game, which amalgamated Native Americans and Africans as a single clan; pressing the matters of land reservation, cultural racism, and hate crimes – yet their clan isn’t the only one who experiences these events; broadening the subject to others, however, making an impactful statement that alludes throughout the entire game. Further titles would introduce new clans that would further represent Africans, Asians, East Indians, Cubans, Anglo-Americans, and many more. Topics of war would continue to be targeted and even topics of social hiearchy would be challenged in each installment; including issues that pertained to Feminism, Sexism and Gay Rights. To me, Suikoden was like the older brother to Pokémon who preferred World History rather than Zoology. While Pokémon has gone out of its way to make 819 creatures based on actual animals, splashed with some creatures that are more akin to folklore/mythology, Suikoden has created 540 characters that have represented most of the races and ethnicities on our planet.

    In conclusion, this article isn’t a compilation of reasons to make more dark-skinned characters. This article is to bring awareness to how dark-skinned characters can be made and the impact it has on gaming and media. While the progression of Black/African protagonists is few and far between, the acceptance of race and its accumulation in games is slowly developing towards a positive retrospect. From Pokémon’s extending cast of different races (The trainers, not the Pokémon) in their games to the rise of more prominent characters that share in the representation of the black community, I believe that representation will be seen as a positive investment towards the identity of ethnicity in games and media going forward.

     

 

Animated Movies, Character Development, Character Structure, Characteristics, Comic Book Movies, Concepts and Ideas, Creative Writing, J's Writing Corners, JRPG, Main Characters, Narrative, Narrative Structure, Plot Structure, Sequels, Square-Enix, Uncategorized, Video Games

J’s Writing Corner: Main Characters

Allow me to introduce you to the first of many articles focused on the scope of writing and development within storytelling. These Writing Corners will act as my personal interpretation into distinct elements for storytelling and other topics that align with the main focus of the centered article. While most of the examples that I will use will be related to video games, I will outline the most important parts, aligning them in reference to written literature structures, and using them as a base to universally connect the two forms of art together. In this week’s WC, I’ll start us off with a concept that is essential to creating a story, a fundamental that is necessary for direction and establishing forms of narrative: Main Characters.

What makes the Main Character the main interest of a story?

In many stories, if not all, there’s a directive notice to the plot in which the MC is either apart of or has a hand in playing which leads to the events that create the story. Their appearance is used in a way to narrate the story, illustrating points and/or details that would’ve had otherwise been overlooked through the eyes of multiple characters. The main character could be considered the “missing puzzle piece” within the story that prevents further conflict from arising within the world or could be the very thing that is causing conflict and is unaware of it.

When introducing the main character within your story, it’s important to remember simple concepts and structures that are to be used with every character:

  • Story and Character Development: A character within a story deserves every bit of detail and attention to their appearance within their works. This application doubles in priority for the main character as they are our eyes and ears to the situation within their titled works. A knight that is tasked with saving a princess and slaying a dragon would be informed about the dragon, how powerful it is, whether it’s safe to fight it now or later, and if it can be defeated. As much detail can be given about the dragon that hasn’t been seen on the screen/page, the same amount of detail can be given to the titular character that isn’t aware they are the main focus for us, the readers/players, as the tale unfolds.dragon-quest-viii-journey-of-the-cursed-king-444835.2 A good example of story and character development for the main character that I found to be one of the better standards was in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. The synopsis of the tale accounts to a cursed king, cursed into a toad-like monster, and his equally cursed daughter, who’s been turned into a horse, roaming the land alongside a single guard who was unaffected by the curse that had been cast by a vengeful jester wielding an ancient and powerful staff. While the title of the game states that the cursed king might have some importance within the game (Which holds true in some degrees) it’s treated as a red herring but, in a twist, it’s subverted in the direction of our silent main character. With the king and princess in their altered states, one more hostile to civilians than others, the guard acts as their liaison, representing the kingdom, fighting their battles, sharing in part their troubles as a soldier, and continues to follow the king and princess, instilling hope in their advances to defeat the man that caused this conflict, lifting the curse and bringing peace back to the kingdom.

    Now, without saying a word, the main character has already shown a distinct sign of loyalty to his king and princess in helping them regain their kingdom. The game follows up with the player in revealing more about the main character as a knight that has served the king faithfully and has suffered from amnesia since appearing at the castle as a young child; showing proof in further testimonies to his development as a character – un-wavered by these memories throughout the entirety of the story. Along the way, he’s met with other characters that join in his quest to help the cursed king. He’s shown immeasurable trust amongst these characters, which furthers develop his ability to lead as the game progresses, and is even recognized through the efforts of the cursed king who deems him worthy as a candidate for marriage with his daughter; something which is exclusively forbidden since commoners are unable to marry royalty without their own royal backgrounds within this setting.


    Despite his silent disposition, he’s established his character as a righteous knight that travels with the remains of royalty from a cursed kingdom and sees the journey to an end in the hopes of making things right once more. His story has a definition to the role he plays within the game, he’s developed from that of a guard into that of a leader while engaging in liaison affairs on behalf of his cursed king, and these developments are made prominent from the involvement of other characters as they progress to the endgame. Not bad for a silent protagonist, huh?


  • Involvement within the story: Plot twists and secret developments aside, the involvement of a character, main or not, is credited as having some sort of part to play within the story. Whether they were a simple cattle boy that tended to a farm before being visited by an intergalactic samurai of the distant past (Star Wars) or a primate that travels across lush jungles while fighting off anthropomorphic reptiles that have stolen his bananas (Donkey Kong Country), the prologue of their beginnings are made clear.job-classes-skills-stat-bonuses-chart-octopath-traveler



    Octopath Traveler
    is a game that uses this concept as its main form of storytelling and focus, giving you control over eight characters whose individual tales play an important narrative in revealing the world to which they inhabit. Unlike that of the pride and true method of some stories, the main character for this game is split amongst the eight party members that you can choose from when starting the game. Each is given their own specific narrative which provides them with a background to their story, a goal they are in pursuit towards, and a climax of events which leads to their stories conclusion.


    While playing a character, the involvement of other characters is virtually unseen within that character’s story. While this could be seen as inefficient to the establishment of character it actually does the opposite. Their narrative is uninterrupted by outside sources, creating a raw and tangible continuation in their tales. For example, Cyrus, an astute scholar, begins his adventure in search of a missing book from his kingdom’s library that’s known for its dark magic; he’s blissfully unaware of this little fact, mind you. Each chapter, in his narrative, showcases that the individuals who had possessed the book had been wrought with great power but with the price of their humanity as the cost. By the end of his journey, he learns that the book was being used to convert humans into a red crystalized substance and that those who knew of this power, which is revealed to be a nice handful of individuals amongst the eight storylines, could lead to the very resurrection of a demonic monster that nearly brought ruin to the world from a millennia ago.

    These events mark an endgame that never occurs within the main story. Yes, I’m not joking, an awesome setup that could lead to our eight heroes fighting against an apocalyptic monster is an optional quest that never interferes with the character’s main narrative. Cyrus’s goal in finding the book, meeting old acquaintances that promote his character along the way, revealing his intuitive detective skills that could even impress Sherlock Holmes, his persona of a high-educated scholar whose goal in life is to teach others in hopes that they will one day become teachers in some way, and his obliviousness to social situations is the life’s essence within his narrative and that of his traveling companions; individually different, narratively sound.


  • The Characters are Extensions of the World: Whether it’s one or two main characters, a character is supposed to represent something new and different; Different parts of the world, different cultures, different groups, etc. The diversity of establishing characters as something unique, distinctly different than the cliche of making them the main focus of a story because of A, B, and C, is an on and off again occurrence within acts of fiction and written literature.ID - MCs

    One example from a film that was executed well in using two protagonists was Independence Day (1996). This particular film as a summer blockbuster used the dynamic star power of Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller and Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, to tell a story from two different perspectives in a story about aliens invading from space. Steven Hiller’s role within the movie was to encapsulate a certain crowd and a distinct measure of authority for his character. He was in the armed forces, a captain, an African American, his girlfriend-turned-wife is a stripper, he had a child, respected as a leader and experienced survivors remorse (In a more angered fashion) all throughout the entire film. On the other hand, David Levinson used to work with the government, now working for the people, an untypical nerd archetype, conflicted scientist, riddled with guilt from his past mistakes (Love and Success), survivors remorse (Incredibly emotional) and an
    evolving mind.


    The two individuals come from entirely different backgrounds, sharing very few similarities in regards to their unknown positions as main characters. They start from the opposite side of the continent, a West Coast-East Coast comparison, which eventually leads them coming together in a place that doesn’t exist, however, is used to center their assault on the alien forces (Area 51) by using the unknown to create a new future (Defeating the aliens). A union of two characters, different personalities, familiar goals and attention to details within their own specifics; he shoots and he will science.


  • Personality: That last thing that any character needs, ESPECIALLY A MC, is the lack, or interest, of having a personality. In my earlier thoughts, I explained how a silent character, whose personality is pretty neutral, can be demonstrated by their actions; this is used to convey an “actions speak louder than words” prerogative. On the other hand, the implication of giving the main character a personality is what sets the tone of their story.Travis Touchdown

    In a game called No More Heroes, the title card protagonist for this game is a man by the name of Travis Touchdown. His personality is a unique blend of social tropes, doused with a bit of realism, subversion of cliches, and a mockery to multiple stereotypes. In other words, he’s the anti-hero to your general perspective of heroes; hence the title. He becomes an assassin just for the hell of it, indulged upon with the idea of getting some “naked tango” lessons from another character if he ends up becoming the number one assassin amongst them all, all while giving very little details about himself including his past and his motivations. He uses this persona to engage the audience that’s clearly playing the game, messing with the meta, yet again, in regards to the 4th Wall Breaking format.


    He uses his personality to subvert expectations to which the story might imply, leading the player along in a world that is, without question, a cliche and stereotyped obstacle that he, our main character, is going to break down. If Travis had no personality, or refused to develop one by the end of the game, his actions to do what he does and his ability to connect with the player, or the audience – as he puts it, would disengage the player and make the game less of a contrived story with flaws that held inner meanings – rather than a game that was just being played because it had an interesting title and story, but with a protagonist that was a dull as loose board.


 

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The Future of Disney Worlds in KH; Predictions and Ideas for KH4

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Outside of the tremendous fun of gameplay that can be found within a Kingdom Hearts game, another thing that most players can agree on is towards the exploration of new worlds; Disney or original to the story. While KH3 gave us a new standard on the term “worldbuilding” it also introduced the players to bigger and more expansive environments to explore, fight within and to test the boundaries of this new development within the franchise. From searching for Lucky Emblems, photographing people, or enemies, for Moogles, to finding every treasure chest in the newly created space for the worlds. As fans, we can only hope that this trend is continued in future KH games, even at the behest of causing it to slow down development, but with KH3’s surprise ending and the secret ending getting the internet into a fuss over what’s the next adventure (Side or main narrative) there’s speculation as to what sort of worlds could be added for KH4. In this article, I’m going to list six worlds that I believe would work in continuing the story of KH and, if I’m guessing correctly, lines up with Tetsuya Nomura’s algorithm of adding old and new worlds to traverse.

Before we start, a few ground rules for this prediction list:
– No repeated worlds (Olympus/Coliseum, Monstro, The Caribbean/Port Royal)
– No Sleeping Worlds (Dream Drop Distance)
– No Obligatory Worlds (Disney Castle, Yen Sid’s Tower)


  1. Wreck-It Ralph (Power Surge)gcc_interior_revised_web
    Partners: Wreck-It Ralph
    Keyblade: IGWI (I’m Gonna Wreck It)


    Starting off with one of my favorite ideas and one that fits in with the criteria of worlds that can be visited in KH4 is the world of Wreck-It Ralph. This idea holds relevance due to a certain fire-breathing summon in the form of Mushu making his appearance in the first Kingdom Hearts game. He was an absolute blast and necessary summon, in my opinion, so the fact that he reappears in KH2 alongside Mulan, assisting in the Team Attacks, was the ripest cherry one could give to this delicious sundae of an idea. Now, granted that summons like Bambi, Dumbo and Chicken Little haven’t been given the limelight since their introduction as summons, being cut instead for Simba, Mushu and Stich from KH2 to BBS, Ralph’s world could be handled in a variety of ways:

    [1] Beginning/Origin: One thing that was improved with exploring Disney worlds in KH3 was the complete synopsis, more or less, of the worlds that were visited. The Kingdom of Corona was a perfect example of inputting Sora and the others without derailing the initial story of Rapunzel’s day out and her eventual arrival to the kingdom. This same scenario would play seemingly close if this was implemented for Ralph’s world. Players would be introduced to an empty Power Surge Station, Ralph could be fighting against Heartless before reuniting with Sora and the gang, he’ll explain his reasons for leaving his world – leading to two different games(Sections) that have to be visited, Vanellope will be introduced, more talk of “Order” within games and “Going Turbo”, Sora and Ralph will fight Turbo and a conclusion will be reached that ends the story/world on a good note; allowing for “The Internet” world to be formed without continuity issues for future games.

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    [2] Hero’s Duty, Sugar Rush and Fix-It Felix Jr: As far as expanding the world with multiple sections and parts that would be relevant to the story, Hero’s Duty and Sugar Rush would be the perfect inclusions to this world; with Fix-It Felix Jr. being an additional sector for a minigame and Ralph’s developing storyline. The Ice Labyrinth in the Frozen world from KH3 could easily be the same, if not better, in Ralph’s world with the challenge of climbing a tower in Hero’s Duty wrought with Heartless, secret paths that will help you ascend the level and possibly a giant Heartless bug that’s waiting for you at the end. On the other side, Sugar Rush would be a sweet treat to the eyes with visually attractive landscapes, fun candy mechanics throughout the level, and a racing mini-game that isn’t as questionable as the one from BBS. Lastly, Fix-It Felix Jr. would serve for playing the game, Fix-It Felix Jr., with the assistance of an 8-bit Sora, for some old school Donkey Kong vibes; possibly adding in some 8-bit scenario battles amongst the fluid 3D battle system; something akin to what was done with the Classic Kingdom in KH2 and mixed with its own unique pixel differentiation for each area within the world(s).

    [3] Visual and Game Mechanics ( In game and in-game): Sora’s array of costumes could be taken up a notch by donning the Hero Duty soldiers outfit while in said game and donning a sweet and stylish mix for Sugar Rush. On top of that – with the inclusion of Ralph’s game – 8-bit graphics sections for Sora could be implemented for Fix-It Felix Jr., first-person shooter segments in Hero’s Duty, and racing viewpoints/options for Sugar Rush.

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  2. Treasure Planet (The Alponian Quadrant)
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    Partners: Jim Hawkins
    Keyblade: Solar Sailor (Based on the board used within the movie)


    After seeing Stitch’s world implemented in Birth by Sleep and the recent developments done in KH3 to The Caribbean world, I feel that we’re at a good point in the series to now expand upon another kind of pirate: The intergalactic kind. Treasure Planet is a hidden gem within the vault of Disney’s films and works as a world that could add to the lore of the Gummi Blocks as well as add to the general idea of how other characters, Disney or Square, travel amongst the stars in this unknown universe. In addition to bringing back a pirating world for Sora and the gang, which can include a new outfit for our pirate-loving protagonist, it can also introduce a few ideas which could be implemented for future games:


    [1] Traverse Town Callbacks: Going back in time – back to KH1 – the beginning to Sora’s journey started from that beginning world, acting as a hub world for other Disney characters and introducing us to even more Final Fantasy characters. While the general world itself doesn’t have to be a hub world for others, it’s not impossible to write in some sort of setup that reveals that Final Fantasy characters have appeared at the ports and maybe even some Disney characters. The world, as a whole, could be treated like Monstro was in the first game; it doesn’t show itself on the map initially and it could spawn different characters to visit it for some unknown requests.

    [2] Treasure Quests: A unique thing that could be introduced to the series is the idea of doing certain quests in order to achieve certain ingredients (Synthesis), un-acquired treasures and maybe even fight a couple of optional bosses (Heartless, Disney, or Square Related). A request board can be set up for these specific quests to which Sora and the gang can fulfill, alluding to future bounties in different worlds, making the world feel much larger in comparison to just another world that needs to be visited; crafting another necessity of being a treasure hunter and, once more, being a pirate that’s searching for the booty.

    Solar Surfing

    [3] Alponian Solar Surfing: Arendelle’s Frozen Slider mini-game was a fun attraction that was made relevant to the story when going through the snowy environment, avoiding an avalanche and building tension when confronted by Heartless. This same involvement could be used for the Solar Surfing in this world and could even be used as a way to transition between different sectors within the world, adding to the fast-paced routes that require sky rising acrobatics that can only be pulled off when used by Sora; adding a purposeful initiative in using the mechanic and something which, in my opinion, could even lead to a fantastic looking keyblade design. In addition to this revelation, the solar surfing board could be used by our good ol’ boy Jim Hawkins and Sora (respectively) within battle for interesting combo potentials.

    [4] Treasure Planet and Portals: The destination of Treasure Planet, the involvement of portals used to get on and off of it, could play a unique role in the management of how to divvy up the world for the developers.

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  3. 101 Dalmatians’ ( The Twilight Bark)
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    Partners: Pongo, Perdita
    Keyblade: The Twilight Bark (A Dalmatian inspired Keyblade)


    Here’s another callback from KH1 that also has a sound reason for being one of many world’s to be properly introduced in the KH series. 101 Dalmatians inclusion in the first game, while questioning who would package puppies in a small box across multiple worlds, was a treat for those who knew of the pups and those who were successful in finding all of them before finishing the game. Now given the fact that this isn’t an origin story for them – in the traditional sense – it could still be implemented in a way that reconnects Sora’s heart with those he hasn’t seen in some time; in addition to shoehorning one of Disney’s biggest and oldest films from the classics vault. From the story to the gameplay, there are a few ways this world could be constructed:

    [1] Puppy Sora: Outside of plenty of merch, Puppy Sora would be another interesting and, dare I say, a “doggone” unique take on animal transformations for Sora. At this point in time, Sora has been a merman (Atlantis), a lion cub (Pride Rock), and a furry monster (Monsters Inc.) in regards to more feral transformations. Whether he’s a Dalmatian, Beagle, or a German Shephard, Sora’s transformation will speak to his character.

    [2] The Environment: One thing that I feel can be combined with Ventus’s appearance within Cinderella’s world in BBS and the Toy Box world in KH3 is the scope of perspective for the player. In Toy Box, the feeling of being so small and having to use so many things to get around was implemented really well for Sora and his toy companions. This same ingenuity can be done when traversing old barnyards, quiet hideouts, empty parks, snow-covered roads, etc.

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    [3] The Twilight Bark: This form of communication could be used as a way of getting around the environment, a mechanic that could involve dogs that you see helping the player to get around certain obstacles and even helping Sora to learn new things while in his puppy form; granted Sora knows how to wield a keyblade within his mouth but let’s say he learns a trick or two; after all, an old dog can always learn new tricks.

    [4] The Story: As mentioned, this would be a pseudo-origin story for the Dalmatians as it would introduce a few things that were left out of their story. For starters, the incorporation of the one, the only, Gle— Cruella De Vil making her official KH appearance within this universe. While it can be argued that her involvement in the story wouldn’t have been as impactful as the villains that sided and congregated with Maleficent from the first game, it’s to be understood that her role as a villain, especially if it leads into the realm of giving her a Heartless, would be a great induction to Disney Villains and their Heartless taking an active role in getting what they want. Just imagine: Fighting Cruella De Vil as she’s speeding down the road like a madwoman, in pursuit to get the puppies back, all while having a seemingly dangerous Heartless (Possibly the puppet one from the Toy Box possessing the toys) taking over her car and making it into just as much of a nightmarish force as the mad woman that’s driving it.
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  4. The Princess and The Frog (The Bayou)
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    Partners: Tiana (Frog), Naveen (Frog)
    Keyblade: Southern Spin (A frog-themed keyblade with a splash of color from various characters)


    My prediction for the Dalmatians was more of a guilty pleasure that had relevance to past characters and revisiting old films that, in my opinion, are still considered one of the best films that Disney has created. This choice, however, is more of a story narrative decision and one that would actually affect the mythos of KH; if done correctly. The “New Seven Princesses of Hearts” have already been eluded towards in KH3 and with the start of their ranks being that of Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa; excluding Kairi from this scenario for story purposes. Another princess, one in the making for quite some time, could be introduced in that of Tiana. In addition to that, a few specific choices to the world would assist in how the narrative would be told – while introducing some crucial plot points for the game’s own narrative:

    [1] Human to Frog ~ Frog to Human: An interesting mechanic which could make for unique traversing in the world, and for accessing parts of the world, would be the ability to transform between a human and a frog. This could be used for when Sora initially meets Tiana and Prince Naveen, as a frog, traversing the bayou levels, while using the human portions to get through more dynamic portions of the level; this could possibly be hidden from Tiana and the others for “Order” reasons; with the exception of Mama Odie and her omnipotence towards Sora’s visit. In addition, given what’s already happened to Sora, whose to say that he won’t learn High Jump, again, from being a frog in this installment.

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    [2] Dr. Facilier: The man of mojo, the myth of the bayou, Dr. Facilier, would be an excellent villain to introduce within the series. While there are various kinds of villains and beings that are aware of the worlds outside of their own (Check out my previous article to get a lock on what I mean), I feel that Dr. Facilier would be aware of this knowledge – if only because of his “friends” – which would further push him in the direction to be involved in Sora’s demise; if Maleficent and Pete would get back into the fray of being villains and not crowd watchers. His control over the Heartless would be undeniable and his boss battle could be a reference to his song “Friends On The Other Side” with multiple phantasms, ghouls and ghosts inspired from his dark magic.

    [3] The Story: Tiana’s story would be a wonderful way to introduce, if ever so slightly, the general concerns of being born poor to being born rich and, to an even greater subtlety, the idea of being black and showing indifference to being white. Sora’s obliviousness could probably hide the racial ambiguity of the message, however, it could be a unique factor that helps to tie the characters together; plus this scene could be addressed while their frogs – making the reveal and presence to Sora that she’s human, without racial tension, a more believable life lesson. Being different and born in different circumstances doesn’t mean that one can’t be happy. This idea, if used in the correct sense, could possibly be seen as one of the most impactful stories and differences found within a Disney world and expressed in a better light through the emotional impact that KH can deliver going forward. Tiana’s story would be told with clarity, Dr. Facilier would have more of a chance to show that “he’s ready” to fight and a lesson of individuality could be shown without ill provocations.
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  5. The Incredibles (Syndrome’s Island or World of Supers)
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    Partners: Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible
    Keyblade: Positively Super (A keyblade with an Incredibles color theme)


    This entry and prediction on the list is not only due to the popularity in which Incredibles has had between its premiering film and its sequel, but this is also because of the structure and narrative shown between the two films – creating a lore of its own to the ideas and identities of Supers within the film; which can be translated for Sora and the gang in future entries within the series. This would be the first and foremost  its most important entry for the world within the series – possibly it’s best and only interpretation of it – that could hit home with a few inclusions from its two films to create the best experience within the game:


    Monologuing
    [1] Syndrome: I think it goes without saying that the main villain of this world and the one that really holds the record of controlling Heartless with a strong will would be our fallen fanboy turned super villain Syndrome. If the world itself is his base, the possibilities for exploration around the island is nearly limitless and his past victories against other supers, ones that had been defeated off screen, could be shown in the various sections that you’re allowed to roam. Syndrome himself could also play commentator for these events since, much like Randall did in Monsters Inc., except his jargon and threats could be backed up by soldiers, robots, and Heartless; in addition to the meta that he already knows for both Heroes and Villains. Include knowledge to other worlds, a fantastic boss battle and a possible return nearing towards the final battle, possible, and you’ve got the perfect Syndrome implementation. (I know it’s a stretch but, come on, if there’s a man that seriously wanted to defy “Order” it would definitely be Syndrome; it’s practically his Modus Operandi)

    [2] The Island: An active volcano, a rising tower filled with soldiers and heartless, lush jungles with scattered caves, water running segments amongst night and day options (Like San Fransokyo but NOT like San Fransokyo). Wall running, Rail Grinding, and Free-Falling portions all on one map? Need I say more?

    [3] Cosmetics: Much like San Fransokyo, the world doesn’t need to make Sora, a superhero within his own right, into a symbol of justice and peace for this world. Hand him an Incredibles Mask, since Donald and Goofy would already be seen as costume wearing crimefighters, and you’ve got yourself a secret identity.
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  6. Ducktales (Old) and Ducktales (New) ~ (Sides of the Same Coin)
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    Partners: Scrooge (New)
    Keyblade: Number One Dime (A dime handled keyblade with dual colors from the 1987 show and the 2017 reboot)


    This prediction and last entry for this list are under the clause of a “Classic Representation” to which Nomura seemingly has introduced ever since the very first Kingdom Hearts game. You could say that Winnie the Pooh was the first classic interpretation before being replaced with the Classic Kingdom in Disney Castle, and the two sharing a seat within the same hub world of Twilight Town for their beginning adventures; one with games and one with multiple mini-games. I feel that the next best representative for the classic category should go in the way of Donald’s heritage and a founding member to an extension of Disney lore within Kingdom Hearts: Uncle Scrooge and both of his Ducktale adventures. The 1987 and 2017 adaptions of the show would be a perfect fit for the role of a classic meets present mashup; it also gives Nomura another chance at the idea of merging the old with the new that doesn’t involve time traveling. Here are some suggestions to solidify why this feathered frenzy mashup could be possible:


    [1] Alternate Dimensions and Relics: Relics like the Cornerstone of Light could be one of many relics that can assist, or threaten, the realms of worlds that are, or aren’t, presently aware in the KH verse. Since Scrooge, and possibly Donald, are no strangers to the unknown (Donald with magic and Scrooge with adventuring) it’s highly likely that treasures in Scrooge’s possession could possess the power to venture into alternate realms. Playing off the idea that Scrooge wants to expand his business practices to other worlds and realms, even if it’s an alternate version of his own, would be an interesting and likely plot for the wealthy duck. A magic mirror, a reverse clause in the Cornerstone of Light, or even an experiment gone wrong could lead to this development of having the two realities meet.

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    [2] The Duality of Uncle Scrooge: Scrooge, from the show to the KH verse, is driven but seems to lack a sense of authority. Selling sea salt ice cream, popsicles, opening a restaurant and traveling worlds seems like something that Scrooge would do, however, since Scrooge isn’t pivotal to the plot of Kingdom Hearts, it’s understandable that his greedy pursuits for money and his drive to be an absolute businessman, at the behest of forsaking others at times, could be shown with this alternate look at himself from the 2017 reboot. His life as a secret agent, adventures with Donald and Della Duck, the heart-wrenching backstory between him and his family, would all play an important role in making the old and the new relevant to one another; it could also introduce the cruel Scrooge from Ducktales past but in an entirely different way.

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    [3] Magica De Spell (Old and New): If Maleficent is the thorn of darkness towards King Mickey’s light, Magica De Spell (both of them) is the eclipsing moon to Scrooge’s sun. While both interpretations have had it out for Scrooge – some more than others – it goes without saying that the appearance of the sorceress could play a very big part in the case that the two dimensions connected. By aligning themselves with the Heartless, two different kinds to showcase the old and new varieties, the two have more in common to completely destroy Donald and Scrooge (If written well) that the interface of one Duckburg clashing with another could be the essential start of something new; perhaps a conflict between the now and “what if” worlds that Disney has established in its canonical lore.

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    [4] Backstory for Scrooge and Donald’s KH adventuring: An old hand to Disney’s initial comics starring Donald and Uncle Scrooge showcase the two of them, in addition to the triplets, going on adventures and finding treasure in the process. This content is canon to the comics and lore between the two, however, what does that translate to within the KH verse. Donald is the head wizard, Scrooge is a wealthy businessman making investments across worlds, and the triplets are selling Gummi Ship parts. An explanation of their connection would do good in explaining a bit more about Donald’s backstory within this interpretation of his character; unless their going to hide the fact that Donald was once a black belt martial artist in one game, or a member of the navy, or a used car salesman, and was even a robot in one Epic game.