In Part 1 of my critique on video game categorization I posed the question "Can the Zelda games be considered RPGs?" My stance is that these games cannot be labeled as Role Playing games on the basis that they do not depict the character growth, statistic building, and depth of narrative required of games of the genre. |
The Zelda series no doubt presents many enthralling story lines, but the characters are subject to the direction of the narrative. Consider these games to be akin to a Greek myth in which the hero is a victim of the fate determined by the gods. Like Odysseus, Link must take up arms, embark upon a journey of epic proportions and cope with an unalterable destiny. The characters of Adventure games are driven by the story. RPGs display the opposite. The characters push the narrative forward.
Despite this critical fact that separates Adventure and Role Playing games one cannot argue that both involve playing the role of a hero on an adventure. This is why I am not comfortable with the term "RPG." Modern video games, and even many retro titles, cannot be pigeon holed into just one genre category. A game such as Secret of Mana is rooted in the RPG basics and incorporates gameplay elements from the Adventure genre. Titles that merge these two genres are too conveniently labeled as Action RPG. This does provide insight on the game's play style, but does not accurately identify the game as a whole. My solution to this is to look at the adventure itself, the context in which it takes place, and whether characters grow as the game progresses.
This is the typical RPG whether it is turn based or played out in real time. These games depict stories which are driven by the protagonist and his or her companions. Character development is illustrated via statistics, but more so in the dialogue or cut scenes. As the characters grow the story becomes deeper much like a film or novel. These games tend to be longer as more time is spent allowing the player to experience the characters and setting. The structure of the narrative often follows Joseph Campbell's Monomyth.
Fantasy Adventure/Action Adventure
The story is set in a fantastical world which has power over the hero. The protagonist's shortcomings do not impact the story; in this case the story predetermines his or her weaknesses. The focus of these games is directed more to the player having to adapt to and overcome challenges presenting by in game obstacles. These games also follow the Monomyth structure, but take the shortened path which is shown in the upper portion of the diagram.
I've enjoyed looking at what constitutes an "RPG" and like that there is no definitive answer. My solution for the categorization problem uses the characters and storyline of the games, as I feel they are integral to a great gaming experience. What are your thoughts on these labels? How do you identify what is and isn't a Role Playing game?
You know, I'm playing through Metroid Fusion for the first time in years and it just hit me-- this is a survival/horror game.
That's right I said it. I don't really know how I didn't realize this. Perhaps it was because that strays so far from people's perception of what Metroid games are 'supposed to be' that they are blinded from seeing what the individual games attempt to be. Take Metroid 2 for example. It is constantly panned for not being like Metroid or Super Metroid. It does it's own thing and people say it doesn't have the Metroid feel. It's kind of funny considering that belief has existed wayyyy before the release of Prime/Fusion etc. Was there ever a set pattern for what the Metroid games are supposed to be?
Not really. The main reason I can think of that people call Metroid 2 and Fusion radical is because they aren't like Super Metroid which is in many peoples' opinion one of the best game ever. Therefore people expect the newer releases to follow suit and attempt to emulate it's success.
And here is where Fusion comes in. It doesn't emulate Super Metroid, and like Metroid 2 it is it's own breed. Because people wanted it to be like Super Metroid or because they had this false perception of what the series 'should be' (me included), they missed what the game really was-- it was a freaking survival horror game.
Am I going mad? Not at all. The story starts out with Samus investigating an explosion on a space station after nearly dying due to a parasite attack which has rendered her extremely weak and without any weapons. From there she must stop the X parasites from inhabiting the other sectors of the research station and overrunning the place.
But then it becomes known that the X parasites are smart and out to kill her. One has mimicked her at full power (the SA-X) while the others begin destroying the download stations so she can't become more powerful to fight them. Pretty much the game turns into Samus fighting for her survival while avoiding the SA-X which is actively hunting her. ADAM (the computer) constantly informs her of her chance of survival (consistently low) and is doing as much in his power to help her survive as he can, all the while trying to have her save the station from destruction.
But really... the majority of the game is Samus running from the SA-X in an attempt to survive and become powerful enough to confront the thing. There are instances where Samus might encounter it and have to run otherwise she'd die instantly. There are instances when the X parasites infiltrate other sectors in an attempt to stop Samus from obtaining upgrades. Often times you have to disobey ADAM in order to avoid being killed by the SA-X.
The game is linear, but this is because Samus only has so many options as to where to go. The download stations available for her upgrades are the ones which the X haven't destroyed, the paths she takes throughout the station are intended to help her flee from her pursuers, and pretty much as ADAM says himself 'survival is your main goal'.
I can't really do justice to this aspect of the game as much as I'd like to. I'm sure if you played the game again and really stopped to think about what is occurring story wise and even gameplay wise (such as where you are exploring and why), you'd realize that the majority of the game focuses on Samus' survival. The other major aspects are slowly unfolded through her attempts at surviving, similar to the way the story in any other survival horror game unfolds.
Comments, criticisms, and flaming all welcome.
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