IGN recently did something that was equal parts lame and adorkable in the form of a good old list, allowing us to pick our ‘Ultimate RPG Party‘. The selection was not great.
That having been said, I have an overactive imagination. I’m paid for it. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing and I spent far too much time agonizing over my choices, to the point where I felt like I could write a significant amount about each one of these characters deserves a slot on the top eight RPG dream team to end all RPG dream teams.
They’re still not the perfect dream team given that this is something IGN of all people decided to pull, but given the circumstances and what I had to work with I think this team of fictional characters is perfectly equipped to deal with whatever may come their way.
Tifa Lockheart – The Boundless Heart
“Strife was their strength, Highwind was their spirit, but she was their heart and soul.”
This was an extremely easy pick for me. My personal feelings (and the internet’s) about Tifa aside, there’s no team that could call itself better for not having her in the party. An extremely versatile hand-to-hand fighter in her own right, when combined with a varied cache of mastered materia she can provide magical DPS, healing, and utility depending on the situation. Her combo limit break is icing.
However, the real reason she was an easy pick was not because of her combat ability. Tifa’s grounded, down to earth and extremely approachable personality makes her the team big sister. Her loyalty to her friends, capacity for caring and self-sacrifice as well as willingness to call others out when they’re going astray makes her the heart and soul of any good team. In practice, she’s the team therapist and support, and can issue orders, as well as take them, in a pinch. She’s one of those characters you can rely upon to have everyone’s back, and a solid emotional and moral center for everyone else in the team. She’s got the experience to back it up, too – she basically ran AVALANCHE while Barrett was busy being Barrett.
Also, anyone who put up with Cloud’s mopey bullshit for that long deserves some kind of award, and if you can put up with Cloud, stopping an insane supersoldier from hitting the planet with a world-ending meteor doesn’t seem that big a deal.
Yes, I’m a sucker for people who act strong in order to hide their true feelings. That takes more strength than punching an insane supersoldier about to hit the planet with a world-ending meteor in the face.
Mitsuru (Persona 3)
Aqua (KH: Birth By Sleep)
Excellen Browning (Super Robot Wars: OG Series)
Cynthia (Pokemon Diamond/Pearl)
Milla Maxwell – The Noble Spirit
“All beginnings must end. Let it be by my hand! Elemental Mastery!”
Unyielding conviction and firm belief in the righteous nature of whatever cause she gets behind, Milla is the backbone every team needs. She possesses the strength of character to lead and inspire, as well as the strength of will and determination to follow them through, even if it means giving up her life.
Gifted with the sword and naturally talented by design as the avatar of Maxwell, the Lord of Spirits, Milla commands all four of the Great Spirits (Efreet, Undine, Sylph, and Gnome) and can unleash absolutely world-breaking amounts of power. Spiritually sensitive, mature and independent even at the age of six, she makes saving the world her personal responsibility. She’s able to take on abstract, impossible sounding goals without batting an eyelid, and will allow nothing to get in her way. However, that’s not to say she’s not pragmatic. She provides a good counterpoint to Tifa, who will make decisions based on her own emotions and experience. Milla works entirely from her own moral centre – her own sense of justice and an understanding that things have to work together for the greater good. Given time, these two will temper each other and become a force to be reckoned with.
Milla embodies the ideals one should strive for simply by being. The nobility of her character is reflected in a responsibility to protect all living things, and she is determined to carry that through, even if she has little understanding or appreciation for the value of an individual life… at least at first.
Of course, her occasionally clueless and completely literal interactions with more worldly members of the team will be priceless.
Saber (Fate/Stay Night)
Cecil Harvey (Final Fantasy IV)
Beatrix (Final Fantasy IX)
Sheena Fujibayashi – The Sensitive Soul
“If there really is a goddess, why did she make the world like this?”
You always want at least one ninja in your team, even if you don’t want them to flip out and kill people on command. For utility alone, the sneaking about, liberating things from their owners, breaking into, and out of places that have no business being broken into or out of – it’s pretty much a given. Every party needs a ninja. The ability to tap into the summon spirits of not one but two worlds, and build rapports with said summon spirits, is also something I’m looking for. She’ll have mad synergy with Milla almost automatically (since she can, you know, summon Maxwell), and double the summonings means double the amount of extremely high-damage magic DPS.
Sheena’s also extremely principled and in lockstep with her own feelings – but like the two above her, is willing to put them away when it comes time to do what needs to be done. She’s majored in responsibility, charisma, and faith, with a minor in speedster, glass cannon, and empathy attributes. Despite events in her life that would have left a less capable or more vulnerable person a gibbering wreck, Sheena remains untainted by the cynicism we expect to find in more broken characters. Her unflinching idealism in an age of terrors, and the bravery to carry those ideals forward at great personal cost, puts her high up on my list, as well as her utter refusal to give up on those she calls friends. She’s got a good track record too – bailed her party out of a few scrapes essentially single-handedly. Also, can we just agree that anyone who fights with cards is just plain cool?
Life keeps dumping on poor Sheena. In this party, though, things will be different, and it’s largely because of the next few choices…
Rydia (Final Fantasy IV)
Selvaria Bles (Valkyria Chronicles)
Imca (Valkyria Chronicles 3)
Yuri Lowell – The Vigilante Blade
“Oh brilliant blade of coldest steel, rend the infinite darkness and crush my enemies to nothing! Savage Wolf Fury!”
Ambidextrous fighting, cooking, snarking, technique-stealing, avenging, justice-seeking – is there anything Yuri Lowell can’t do?
There’s a lot of talk about Vesperia. I can attribute that in my mind to a lot of people not having known about Tales games but buying Vesperia to tide over their JRPG fix (since Square-Enix was busy shitting the bed at that particular moment in time) and being pleasantly surprised. The other thing people mostly laud the game for is the main character, Yuri Lowell.
Given my usual penchant for overthinking things of this nature, I posit that Yuri represents the wish-fulfillment archetype of a modern hero – or at least one more people playing these games wish they were. He’s firmly post-Link, post-Chrono. He’s self-aware, he snarks and can be funny almost on command, he enjoys a good scrap, he’s heroically self-deprecating, he’s excellent to the point of being a one-man army with a blade and he’s the goddamn Batman. Except for the part where he, you know, actually kills evildoers. I can distinctly recall the amount of people who would not shut up about how Yuri Lowell was what they wished more JRPG heroes were like – more Han Solo than Luke Skywalker, so to speak. Because Han shot first. People went on about it so much it was almost like listening to them talk about Yuri being the perfect boyfriend – tall, dark, snarky, badass, and friendly guy great with animals.
Still, where the group is concerned, time with the girls will mellow him out more and smooth out his vigilante tendencies. Yuri’s dispensing of personal justice via murder will definitely clash with Milla’s commitment to protect, and that’ll be a showdown for the ages, with Yuri’s cynicism clashing against a noble spirit that refuses to compromise its beliefs. Yuri always struck me as the sort who wanted to believe the best of people but was constantly let down, and developed his snarky, cynical persona as his own way of coping. He’s going to have to come to grips with being driven off the slippery slope – that killing people for misdeeds turns you into just as much of a monster as they were. Putting him in a group of people who do actually represent some of the best we have to offer will give him something to believe in and fight for, and work the rust off his sour armor. Given time and proof that people aren’t all terrible, he can lead, and inspire in return.
Oh, and he gets a cool dog as a free pack-in. Have sword, fist, and dog, will travel.
Akihiko (Persona 3)
Granberia (Monmusu Quest)
Eiko Carol – The White Devil
“Listen to me. You should never lie to yourself.”
In every age a Holy. In every time a Double White. In every location a Double Holy.
IGN, you really suck. Of your selection of Healers to pick from, Eiko is the one that I hate the least. So might as well go through the routine of explaining that she could use a life of being raised by non-moogles, some cool big brothers and sisters, each of whom are …if not exactly good, positive influences… and contribute one of the most powerful offensive spells in the Final Fantasy series.
Oh, and she’s a healer. Since people need to heal and all from time to time when they’re not busy getting themselves injured in the business of saving the world, the class kind of explains itself.
….AND a summoner! Boy, I can’t get enough of these walking magical nukes.
Rand/Mel + Gunleon (Super Robot Wars Z Series)
Mia (Golden Sun)
Millenia – The Demon Wings
“You’re gonna burn to a crisp.”
Grandia 2 is one of my favorite RPGs ever made.
Granted, it hasn’t aged quite as well as my nostalgia-hued memories, and the game got a really-quite-terrible port that the PS2 did its best to ruin, but it’s still made an undeniable mark on my soul. The flashier attacks take forever. The English voice acting is a mixed bag. But at the end, it was a fun romp with characters that had actual chemistry and actual thoughts and feelings that actual people could relate to.
I’m just sayin’, I find it really difficult to relate to Cloud. Not because he looks like a lego person, but because his problems aren’t my problems. Cloud’s problems boil down to giving a shit, eventually finding out you’re insane, and an assortment of things, places, and people that can be solved with gratuitous violence. Ryudo on the other hand acts like a regular human being who has been saddled with the unfortunate responsibility of looking after some chick who occasionally turns into a sadistic manifestation of a demonic god with omega-level magic powers and slightly less-than-Lina-Inverse qualms about using them.
I lost my shit the few times Millenia was in my Grandia 2 party, dropping fireballs and magical nukes like it was no big deal. She was the definition of broken, especially when it came to major boss fights, and proved that sometimes there’s no gun like the gun big enough to leave surprisingly perfect large round lakes in the area a handful of years after the battle.
Sure, she’s crazy, but the party’s got enough strong personalities and sane people to counterbalance that. Also Milla could probably shut her down if she ever got too crazy. Millenia’s decisive, impulsive nature makes her a crucial asset in battle, even if she can be high-maintenance. I figure a group of people who are actually looking out for her – once they’ve proved that they’re worth viewing as people and as objects that are not yet on fire – would help mellow her out some.
Terra (FFVI – actually, IGN did include her)
Id – Xenogears
Vyse – Delphinus Rex
“Impossible is just a word people use to make themselves feel better when they quit.”
I’ve got a fun little exercise for you. If you got some paper and pen and marked down all the attributes the person assigned to pulling your ass out of whatever oven you’ve managed to lock yourself in ideally should have, then matched that up against a description of what Vyse the goddamn sky pirate is like, you’d have at least a 75% match. I guarantee it.
There is a very short list of RPG heroes out there that I distinctly believe can actually manage the job of saving the world or whatever it is that RPG heroes do these days (according to Nintendo, it’s fetch cats, and according to Bioware, it’s to get your pecker caught in things). This is because sometime around the turn of the century people discovered that the role-playing journey got more personal for the player and for the character when you came up against those wonderful feelings of impotence. Impotence of grappling with something that’s so much bigger than yourself (empires, gods, ideologues, abstract manifestations of the known laws of the universe) that fighting it seems like a distinct lost cause, and only with great sacrifice and the utmost of preparation can you come out on top.
And even then, you might not make it. It’s a mark of just how heroic (and how much time you put into leveling and getting that pesky UltimateDingdongPlusOne weapon) the hero or heroine is that he or she comes out on top despite all the little insecurities and inadequacies piled up over time. Cloud finds out he’s nuts. Shepard realizes robot space squids are about to omnom humanity and there’s nothing he/she can do to stop the sentient populations of the galaxy from taking sharp nosedives. Squall learns that the fucking moon is monsters. Terra’s a half-esper. Tidus finds out he’s dead. The entire cast of Persona 3 get to choose whether to wait in futility for the world to end or forget about it so they can die happy.
Vyse, on the other hand, suffers through all that shit – but he never lets it get him down. He’s positive, upbeat, and willing to tackle any challenge in the name of Never Gives Up. Because giving up would be, you know, lame. He belongs to a group of sky pirates who only attacks armed vessels larger than their own ships. For kicks. Friends and family held hostage? “I’ll get them back.” Trapped in a fortress nobody’s ever escaped from? “I’ve never tried! I love a challenge!” Home base razed to the ground? “Hey, we were talking about redecorating.”
Now that kind of charisma and attitude is inspiring in a leader. That’s inspiring in anyone you have to follow. And that positive nature does not come from a place of naivety, and not of the holier-than-thou geez-what-crawled-up-your-butt variety either. He’s no superman; he just goes out there and does the close to impossible time and time again simply because it’s there to be done. Where there’s a challenge to be had, he’s there with sword, smile, and stolen warship, keeping the spirit of the party up in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds.
Hell, even the people who worked on his game know how great he is (to the point of giving him a cameo appearance in Valkyria Chronicles, where he’s a supremely effective shocktrooper, taking on supertanks with nothing more than a piddly little submachine gun). That’s why Vyse gets to lead the dream team, and he should lead yours too. Because the last thing you want is to give a quitter responsibility for the fate of whatever happens to be hanging in the balance.
Do you honestly think there are any who could sub for this guy?
Lenneth – Chooser of the Slain
“It will be engraved upon your soul! Divine Assault – Nibelung Valesti!”
Okay, IGN. Your selection of characters just plain sucks. There’s no sense in it. There’s an admittedly anemic list of cherished and beloved characters from JRPG classics and then there’s a whole bunch of Dragon Age characters nobody aside from a handful of pasty white boys gives a single shit about. There’s the bland blond sword guy, the obligatory female archer, an uglier version of FFX’s Lulu…
Then Lenneth appears on the same goddamn list. And having Lenneth as a choice at all is just straight up cheating. It’s almost enough to make me wonder if anyone at IGN even bothered to play her game, or expended minimum effort by pulling a cursory list of RPG characters off of a search of IGN’s own archives.
Lenneth, the Chooser of the Slain, Battle Maiden and LORD OF CREATION don’t need no stinkin’ dream team. Lenneth is her own dream team. Even if you claim that’s cheating and discount her existing legion of Einherjar (souls of deceased heroes), there’s absolutely nothing to stop her from re-summoning members of the party should they happen to inconveniently die in the process of saving the world, ready to fight once more. And without exception, every other member of the dream team has the chops necessary to qualify for Lenneth’s free respawn lol and a free ride to Valhalla, where they get to clink glasses with Thor and crack jokes about how Loki’s more popular than he is in the fandom.
Lenneth is the team’s Doctor Manhattan. The one team member who can do hilariously game-breaking shit and brush it off because she’s a Valkyrie. And that’s exactly what you want when you’re facing off one of many potential Ragnaroks (Ragnaroki? Ragni?)
These eight comprise my dream RPG team (as selected from a shortlist from IGN™). These eight individuals hold enough power to level everything both in and beyond immediate sight range between them, with way too much thought put into character dynamics, power levels, and team synergy. Given the choice of characters on the list, Sephiroth – to bless all the poor, stunted souls who still hold him up as the pinnacle of what was cool in 1997, wouldn’t last five minutes.
And who knows? Maybe one day Overworks will get to work on a crossover RPG that encompasses all eight licenses. Maybe we’ll actually manage to land something on a comet. Maybe we’ll have hoverboards and personal flamethrowers. Maybe the future won’t suck quite as much as we thought. After all, the impossible happened. The Avengers got a movie. And it didn’t suck.
Then again, things like this happen.
2014’s been an interesting year. Come get me, 2015. I’m waiting.