The announcement of the Retro Video Game System, a cartridge-based console, is the latest case study in the debate of whether gaming should continue evolving beyond its roots.
The unsung heroes of gaming
Everyone remembers the final moment in their video game, when the hero thrusts his swords or releases a hail of bullets into the villain and saves the day. Bravo to those men and women who took it upon themselves to save my fictional world! However, I think we should all take a moment to appreciate the unseen hero. The person who has the answer to the time old question, ‘Where did that weapon even come from’. Why, from the merchant of course. And without those merchants, would the day have been saved?
I’ve created a list of my top 5 video game merchants. These of course do not reflect the gaming communities opinion, only my personal preferences from the games I’ve played.
5. Beedle – The primary shopkeeper in several of the Legend of Zelda games, Beedle is always ready to sell you different knick knacks and useless items at ‘reasonable’ costs. That is of course pending you can find him when you need him. In Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker Beedle’s merchant ship sails around the waters, only stopping when you are near enough to him. Later in the game, the merchant kind-fully drops anchor if you fire a canon in his direction. Beedle is one of my favorite merchants in games, primarily because it’s such a challenge to get to him. Especially in Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword where the player has to ring a bell hanging from his flying shop. Maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment, but I think that going to the merchant quarter of some city is just overrated. When I have difficulty just purchasing items, I find that I’m actually excited to see what is for sale.
4. Master Librarian – When first meeting the Librarian in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night he is quick to inform Alucard that he “Cannot help anyone who goes against the Master!” “You will be well rewarded” “Really?! In that case…”. His voice makes him sound like the perverted step-brother of Deckard Cain, and his Santa beard only adds to the hilarity. If you want more items, say Draculas Tunic? Or maybe even the Axe Armor? No problem! Just navigate your way down and through the Lord of Evil’s castle beneath his librarians toilet shoot, and launch yourself up into his shame soaked seat. Want to sell him something, hope it comes in gem form because that’s all he’s buying! You could have a sword you purchased from him not two seconds ago, or even the goddamn Holy Grail, and he won’t buy it. His character is absurd in this dismal labyrinth of darkness, yet I find my spirit lifted every time I return to his shop. Because despite everything, he’s good for a laugh. Which is much needed during a first play-through of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
3. Drebin 893 – I’m not sure who I love more. Drebin for all his wit, charm, good looks and Chris Tucker look alike hair from the 5th Element, or his caffeine addicted smoking monkey. Drebin as a merchant pops up at various points during Metal Gear Solid 4, driving his APC into the heart of any battlefield to assist Snake. He offers both advice and guns, leaving you wondering sometimes which is the more valuable. Often I wondered while playing if whether Drebin was the more suitable agent of destruction as the main character. He’s always calm, collected, and knows more than Snake pretty much the entire way through. If the series needed a merchant, I’m thankful that Konami took the time and energy to design one who fit the style and theme of the games.
2. The Merchant – The nameless merchant in Resident Evil 4 a simple character, who’s dialogue varies between one of two lines. “What’re ya buyin?!” or “What’re ya sellin?!” He was a man of few words, but a true hero who stole out into the night during this zombie bug thing outbreak, marching through rain and mud, blood and flesh to offer your character some of the best deals money could buy! Nevermind that you’re the only person left alive on the island, or that you could have just killed him and taken everything. His creepy demeanor, and what I assume is an invisibility cloak make The Merchant so fascinating that I half expected him to be the final boss. But in the end this merchant will go down in history as ‘The Merchant’ of video games. Why? Because in some odd way, his presence made about as much sense as it could have. It some strange way, I was able to believe that if this were real, maybe some weapons dealer would risk life and limb to come sell weapons to whoever was left alive just to make a quick buck.
1. The Mudcrab – Mudcrabs in Elder Scrolls: Morrowind were low level enemies that wandered the beaches. These creatures were easy to kill, and were ridiculous enough looking that the player could get some unusual feeling of self-satisfaction from stomping on these tiny monsters. But, among the legion of these pathetic things one stood above all others. The Mudcrab merchant was not only a hilarious addition to this game as an easter egg, but also incredibly useful since he would buy items at their base price and had the largest amount of gold over any other merchant. He was drunk all the time! And would buy Skooma from your character, probably so he could stay intoxicated! He was funny, he was rich, and he knew how to party.
There’s the list for you guys! I invite anybody who reads this to comment with some of their favorite merchants from video games as well. I’m certain that there are some other great ones out there that I just forgot, and have never seen.