The absolute boy
JRPG protagonists are miserable bastards aren’t they? They’re always melancholy about not being strong enough to protect folk, or sad because their village has burned down, or angsty because they’ve got to carry about a giant sword and kill god. They’ve always got something to moan about.
But there is one JRPG hero who, no matter the weight of the situation or how dire his chances of survival, meets every moment of his adventure with a cheeky smirk and a glint in his eye. His name is Vyse.
Vyse is the rogue-ish Sky pirate hero from Skies of Arcadia, one of sega’s most beloved JRPGs. In a genre filled with moapy brats he’s a rare beast; an actual fun hero who enjoys the adventure he’s on to save the world. In fact, saving the world is just a happy by-product of his story; he’s much more excited about sailing the world and making discoveries along the way.
I feel like there’s a shortage of just fun, enjoyable heroes in JRPGs and video games in general. There’s a trend towards tortured souls in videogame writing, as if misery and tragedy are conditions of character depth. I wish there were more characters like Vyse to play as in games.
I’m not pining for some mythical bygone age of cheery video game adventures here by the way.
I appreciate that video game writing has come a long way and developers feel more comfortable having more complex themes in their games. But sometimes it’d be nice if main characters lightened up a bit; if they don’t enjoy being being on screen then why would I enjoy playing as them?
It’s not like Vyse is a particularly shallow character anyway. Skies of Arcadia is a grand, sweeping epic of a tale, with tragedy and romance and adventure and comedy and everything in between. At one point Vyse gets shipwrecked on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, with no hope of survival. But rather than cry about having to kill a dear for sustenance like poor Lara Croft, he worries about his pals and gets to work crafting a boat so he can find them again.
One of my favourite tests for how good a character is is how I’d imagine meeting them in real life would go.
For example, Solid Snake would be a complete downer if you ever met him, but his auld da Big Boss would be brilliant; he’s the only Snake in the dynasty who is a confirmed shagger. Sephiroth would be a bore but Ganondorf (in any incarnation) would be a great laugh.
Vyse would be the kind of guy you’d have the kind of night out on the town you’d still be talking about years later with your pals. Can you imagine Tidus being the same? You’d have abandoned him at the first pub as soon as you heard his laugh.
The term de rigueur that applies to Vyse is “wholesome.”
He’s a wholesome guy, looking out for his pals and getting into scraps all over the world. He wants to live a full life, and the essence of his character is one of the reasons Skies of Arcadia remains such a breezy pleasure of a game, despite its epic length.
There are other RPGs I prefer, but Skies is still the one I enjoy going back to the most.
So, video game characters, please do me a favour. I know you may have lost your family, your loved ones. You might be suffering from amnesia or a case of the “Let’s Kill Gods”. But remember, you’re on an adventure and we might all have a better time if you just enjoy the ride for a bit.