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The 5 Weirdest Plots in JRPGs
If the gods are good, JRPGs will soon make a comeback in the industry. After a pretty vapid run in the previous console generation, things are starting to look up for JRPGs, with the announcement that Square Enix will refocus on the genre following the success of Bravely Default. In addition, with promising forthcoming titles like Final Fantasy XV and, much more immediately, Child of Light, there is much to look forward to.
One of the biggest parts of JRPGs, of course, has been plots, and while ruminating on some of my favorites, I can’t help but return to the more bizarre plots I’ve come across in gaming. I have therefore compiled my top five weirdest plots in JRPGs. Please note that this list is limited to games I’ve played or, in one instance, know most everything about. And yes, there are major spoilers ahead. You have been duly warned!
5. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
The Valkyrie Profile series isn’t terribly bizarre, but the second installment definitely takes a turn for the weird. Not too far into the story, a key villain from the original joins the player’s party, despite the game preceding the original by a few centuries. The main characters, meanwhile, inhabit one body, as the valkyrie Silmeria is housed within the body of Alicia, a princess. What renders the plot exceptionally bizarre, however, is the revelation that the game is in fact not a prequel, but an alternate timeline from the original game, rendered so by the appearance of the aforementioned villain-turned-protagonist, who used his incomparable magic to travel through time and alter history. The first game’s protagonist, the valkyrie Lenneth, arrives in the alternate timeline, albeit as the new god of the world, which she became at the end of the first game. Together, they defeat the time-traveling menace, though at the ambiguous cost of all the valkyries’ lives, as well as Alicia’s. Bizarre as it is, the ambiguous ending wherein the heroines’ fates are primarily left to speculation makes it even more so.
4. Earthbound (Mother 2)
It’s not even so much the plot of this game that’s so bizarre as it is every other element in the game. Defying RPG tropes at the time by using a modern setting in lieu of the traditional Medieval theme, Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) made comical use of modern elements, such as hippies and suburban life. In a game where the all-knowing guide/prophet is killed by one of the characters’ moms for looking like a dung beetle, not much can be taken seriously. The plot at large involves a boy with psychic abilities seeking the means to destroy an evil entity who has become too powerful to defeat in the future. After being sent back in time as robots (because their bodies cannot withstand time travel), they find Giygas, but it is ultimately human emotion that defeats him. After that, the characters live happily ever after in their crazy, satirical world.
3. Chrono Cross
After the success of Chrono Trigger, fans cried out for a sequel. Though not exactly what many hoped for, Chrono Cross had its own charms, albeit dealing with interdimensional travel rather than time travel. The most peculiar aspect of the plot is that connections to Chrono Trigger don’t fully manifest until relatively late, first with apparitions of three of the original’s playable characters and later with some of the supporting cast. Ultimately, it is revealed a supercomputer and a time research station formed the game’s world and, after a crazy series of events in which the protagonist switches bodies with the primary villain and switches back, it is discovered that Schala, one of the aforementioned supporting characters from Chrono Trigger, is going to merge with that game’s antagonist, Lavos, and create the Time Devourer, which could destroy spacetime. It is further revealed that one of the main character’s is Schala’s clone and sent back in time as the catalyst for a project to prevent this destructive merger. No need to think too deeply about time travel or interdimensional travel here, folks! It’ll only ruin the experience.
More convoluted than flat-out weird, Xenogears was an attempt to coalesce philosophy, theology, and psychology in a gameplay-driven experience. Combining elements of the teachings/writings of Frederich Nietzsche, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud, the game deals with the main character’s struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Id, as well as the whole “God is Dead” motif, ultimately leading the main characters on a journey to kill God. This god, of course, turns out to be none other than Deus, a dangerous machine that had become self-aware and created human civilization on a planet so that it could one day absorb those lives and regain its strength. Basically, it’s an overstuffed episode of Star Trek spanning 40 hours of gameplay, and each of its facets would take far more time to describe than I care to spend.
1. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
If you’ve played through this game before, this one should come as no surprise. No RPG that I’ve played before or since has had quite as weird of a plot. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time starts out RPG-ish enough with a boy living on a futuristic planet being thrust into a Medieval-style world. Accordingly, several different characters are thrown into the mix spanning different civilizations and with varying technology at their disposal. Where things get weird is when it is revealed that the entire universe in which the characters exist is actually a giant MMO. The characters then escape the MMO (because somehow they’re able to exist outside the game, known as “4D Space”) and fight the creator of the game for their liberation. Sounds like a crazy mash-up of Inception and The Matrix!
What RPGs do you think have really weird or bizarre plots? Share them with us in the comments!