Originally a script for a video review, so some parts may stick out and, without visual aids, I recommend having played the game already! Note: this is for the originalTales of Symphonia, so if anything changed in the re-release, I haven’t touched on it here.
Before we set off, Raine delivers the final dungeon disclaimer that there’s no guarantee they’ll return. She and Lloyd get the slow dragon and are last to arrive, while Martel and Kratos are already inside. The others move in and find Remiel, who explains that Martel will lose her heart and memory to become a true angel. Raine also knows a few new details. She promised Martel earlier not to say anything, but now reveals that she’ll die.
Oh, that Martel and her web of lies. To think Lloyd actually believed he found out the whole truth.
Gamers occasionally cry foul on non-interactive cutscenes, saying that developers are emulating movies instead of synthesizing stories with the unique qualities of games. Whether a player likes non-interactivity is a matter of taste. I’m here to question a matter of fact: whether movies are the closest comparison point. I could weigh this out for most game genres—even first-person shooters borrow ideas from cinematography—but I’ll stick to RPGs because they use the same easy-to-reference measure of length that screenplays and novels do: word count.
Movies usually have to fit into two and a half hours, so they need to make the best of every minute. Dialogue stays brief; action moves quickly; camera shots linger long enough but not a moment longer. This is part of the reason that directors typically cut novel content when translating written words onto the big screen. Novels have a certain leeway for wordiness because people have varying reading speeds, but quality movies, like poems, waste no motion. With that in mind, I pasted ten RPG scripts into Microsoft Word for length comparisons and here’s what I found:
The World Ends With You (2008): ~69,000 words (not counting Another Day but counting other optional party dialogue)
Some fairly recent RPGs double or triple the amount of spoken dialogue over the RPGs of yesteryear. The limited amount of space on Super Nintendo cartridges served the same role as run time does for movies, forcing the story to stay snappy, but discs buried that issue so that RPG stories could let it all hang out. This isn’t a guaranteed positive and can allow for the bad kind of fluff and filler to settle in, but it also allows for worlds where not every character is a quick-witted, cut-to-the-chase speaker who delivers lightning-paced lines in high tempo. Less isn’t always more.
Recent RPG stories have longer build, allowing themselves time for more scenes in which “nothing happens” in the sense that characters have subtle emotional shifts but don’t take physical actions to advance the story. Old-school RPGs use swifter action-oriented structures that don’t tolerate delays between plot points. Neither is inherently better nor worse, but the approaches remain different—and as counterintuitive as it may sound, old-school RPGs might have more in common with movies than modern RPGs do.
Long before Shadow of the Colossus and Monster Hunter, 2D game developers understood the power of monsters too big to be contained in a TV. After the player grows used to smaller enemies, a large one leaves an impression.
EarthBound proves that enormous enemies don’t even need to look especially threatening:
One major series that doesn’t take full advantage is Pokémon. The third and fourth generations of games, Ruby and Sapphire and Diamond and Pearl, had a cool Pokédex feature comparing the height scale of a human with any Pokémon the player had caught to demonstrate how small a Diglett or how large a Wailord is, but during battles, size differences only show in the home console games. In the main portable games, almost every fully-evolved monster looks about the same size as any other, whether it’s the fourteen-foot-tall creator of the oceans or a dancing 4’11” Mexican pineapple duck.
The appearance of a legendary Pokémon could inspire awe if drawn to scale, so this could be considered a missed opportunity. Still, the sale of 215 million games makes it obvious that players already love Pokémon and its artwork to death (and I’m one of them), so maybe leaving well enough alone is for the best. If nothing else, the absence of visible size differences helps convey that most Pokémon can contribute to a victory under the right circumstances.