Darth Sidious – Sith’s Biggest Hypocrite

Darth Sidious – The Galaxy’s Biggest Hypocrite

Spoiler: This article delves into information that has been disavowed by Disney following their purchase of Lucasfilms. This back-story has no role in the official Star Wars canon.

The Rule of Two. The law set down by the ancient Sith Lord Darth Bane. There can only be two Sith: one to embody the power of the Dark Side; the other, to covet it. The Rule of Two was implemented by Bane after the destruction of the Brotherhood of Darkness, the era’s strongest Sith organization. Since the Sith turned on each other in the pursuit of greater power, the Rule effectively halted the Sith’s self-destructive cycle (their greatest weakness). Palpatine’s – aka Darth Sidious – success in crushing the Jedi and creating an Empire from the ashes of the Republic is not entirely his own: he is simply standing on the shoulders of the Sith Lords that came before. Palpatine owes everything to the Rule of Two. In the midst of double-crosses, sadism, sacrifices and manipulations, the Rule of Two is the Sith Lord’s sole inviolable tenet.
Yet Sidious breaks the rule every chance he gets.

It happens all the time in the merchandise juggernaut that is Star Wars. In 1991 Timothy Zahn created Mara Jade. Initially a smuggler, Mara was ultimately a high-ranking servant known as the Emperor’s Hand. The Hand was Palpatine’s confidante, closer than even Darth Vader. In fact, Vader knew nothing about the Hands. But then, Palpatine isn’t exactly known for his sharing skills.
1993 introduced the Prophets of the Dark Side, a cult of Darksiders specializing in Force visions and prophecy. Created by the ancient Darth Millennia, these Darksiders escaped the Jedi scourge by hiding upon the planet of Dromoud Kass. But they could not hide forever. The Sith Lord should have destroyed the lot immediately. Instead, he broke the Rule by turning the Prophets to his side, where they aided Palpatine by using their visions to detect Force-sensitive beings.
And now, in 2016, we have the Inquisitors, introduced in the canonical Star Wars: Rebels animated series. In the comics and other entertainment media, Darth Vader made his bones by hunting down every Jedi that survived Order 66, cementing his place as the symbolic terror of the Dark Side. But now, it seems, Vader has his own minions to do his work for him. For audiences who have grown up with Vader being the scourge of the Jedi, to have other strangers under his command, it kind of undercuts his authority. Vader is no less dangerous than he was, no question. But not having Vader as the galaxy’s sole Jedi hunter does pull the rug right out from under him.

The Rule of Two was created to halt the in-fighting that ultimately led to the Sith’s downfall throughout the centuries. It created the foundation of the Sith’s legacy: each Sith Lord was a stepping stone towards the ultimate goal of galactic conquest. And it worked. Palpatine embodied two millennia of secretive, ambitious planning. Palpatine owed much to the Rule, but like many others who court ultimate power, Palpatine grew restless with the limitations that tradition placed on him. No doubt he believed that he controlled Darksiders with the same ruthless strength he lorded over the Empire, but knowingly or not, he betrayed the Rule that gave him his destiny. It was the pursuit of power that blinded him to his own ruin. In the end, he’s just one giant hypocrite.

Thanks for reading. Now go see Force Awakens. It rocks.

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Tales of Legendia

Tales Of Legendia: Something Classic, Something New

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The Tales series of videogames has proven itself a contender in the RPG (Role Playing Game) market because of one simple gimmick. Players can assign specific attacks to the controller’s directional pad; very similar to combat systems found in Street Fighter and other fighting games). All Tales games have adopted this tactic, and though there have been many imitators over the years, the Tales series still stands on top for injecting new vigor into a classic RPG formula. Today’s focus is the Tales of Legendia game, the seventh installment of the Tales series. Does it break the mold? Read on and find out.

While previous Tales games have had their own variations to the combat system, Tales of Legendia returns to the classic form. Everything’s there: characters on a two-dimensional plane, able to walk and run in a straight line, initiating combat through manipulation of the controller’s directional pad. Except now Legendia boasts three-dimensional avatars of its battle parties (whereas previous installments had two-dimensional, “picture-esque” sprites). Just another innovation for a game series that prides itself on innovating itself.

Now we get to the meat of the game: the fighting. The special attacks characters use are divided into two categories: The “iron eres” – attacks involving physical attacks via bladed weaponry – and the “crystal eres” (magic spells). Iron eres are simple enough. You get to a certain level, you gain the new attack. Use said attack fifty times, and you are able to learn an “arcane eres,” (essentially the combination of two ere techniques). Classic Tales traditions.

It’s the crystal eres (magic spells) that are complicated. Every time an enemy is defeated in combat, there’s a random chance they will drop a “sculpture piece.” Gain a predetermined number of said sculptures, and characters learn the eres. Unfortunately, certain sculpture pieces can only be gained by enemies available in locations the players have yet to visit. Oftentimes this means walking into a dungeon without the spells enemies are vulnerable to, which gives the party a devastating disadvantage.

Furthermore, there’s a certain amount of unbalance to combat. Of the four characters able to wield crystal eres, only three of them have healing spells. Of those three, only one character (Norma Betty) has a spell that heals the whole party. RPGs are supposed to give the player to mix and max the combat party however they like. Legendia effectively forces the player to keep Norma in the active party at all times. Legendia comes off as giving the player options, while in reality those options aren’t practical.

However, Legendia does offer ground-breaking strides in regards to its characters. While they are mainly stock characters, the game dedicates it second half to tying up loose ends: Senel Coolidge grows out of his “loner” complex; Will Raynard reconciles with his estranged daughter Harriet; Moses Sandor is forced to release his pet gaet (tiger/wolf hybrid) Giet back into the wild; so on and so forth. Such care for characters comes maybe once a generation; certainly I haven’t found it anywhere else in the nine years since its American release.

The Tales series has managed to stand toe-to-toe with RPG giants such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest because of its innovation on simple formulas. Legendia is no different, but it does tend to stumble in its efforts to honor its predecessors’ innovation. But don’t take my word for it. The elements I found lacking may be something incredible to you. Play the game yourself. Make your own decision. That’s the best advice I can give you.

As always, have fun.

Chrono Cross

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Chrono Trigger was a magnificent game. Its characters were vibrant, the combat system was exciting. It even tied up most of the loose ends that come with a story about time travel.

Most. Not all.

The question on everybody’s lips, the question that inspired thousands of fan-fiction, was the fate of Schala, the princess of Zeal. It’s this question, though slowly uncovered, is the heart of Chrono Cross, Trigger’s sequel. However, Schala’s fate isn’t revealed until the story’s end. So instead, let’s discuss what makes Chrono Cross so unique.

At first glance, it’s hard to believe that Cross is related to Trigger. While Trigger dealt with time travel, Cross deals with parallel dimensions – particularly with protagonist Serge, whose counterpart’s death is what split reality into two. In addition, many of Trigger’s features are lost or revamped; particularly the Element Grid and combat.

The Element Grid is a multi-tiered grid, in which “Elements” (elemental spells found or bought) are placed. As the game progresses, the Grid increases in size and levels. Elements of higher levels can be placed anywhere, but if an Element is placed in a slot beneath its assigned level, the Element loses some of its power.

Combat is intrinsically tied into the Grid. Characters have 7 Stamina Points, which are expended by attacking. The number of Stamina spent is equivalent to what level spells the characters can cast. Expending three Stamina Points allows the player to cast Level 3 spells the next turn. Executing said magical attack forces the Stamina gauge to go into negative numbers. The player must carefully select Elements of different properties (Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Dark and Light) to exploit elemental weaknesses, and to account for characters’ inability to act while Stamina slowly replenishes.

Character-wise, Cross bit off more than it can chew. There’s forty-five playable characters in Chrono Cross. Their recruitment is part of a creative plot twist: Halfway through the game, Serge switches bodies with antagonist Lynx. With most of Serge’s entourage unavailable, Serge recruits the enemies he once fought. All characters are accessible at game’s end, leaving many characters with nothing to do.

Trigger’s Tech system (special moves), is diluted. Forty-five characters comes at a cost: only three Techs per person. Trigger’s Double Techs (combination of two characters’ Techs) number in the dozens; Cross boasts only three or four. Instead of Trigger’s fifteen Triple Techs, Cross has two.

Is Chrono Cross fun? Yes. But players expecting the same experience of Chrono Trigger are going to be disappointed. Chrono Cross is an entirely different beast. It boasts an amazing story, but sometimes the combat and massive number of playable characters fail to mix properly with the plot. Character experimenting is fun, but the game runs out of things for those characters to do quickly. The plot’s payoff goes at a snail-like pace, so patience is required. If the player wants a unique experience, then by all means play Chrono Cross. Just don’t expect it to be Chrono Trigger.

Conan the Barbarian – Karela

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Writing a Conan novel is usually a one-shot deal: each book is its own world. Even if the author makes additional novels, each one stands alone from the others. Robert Jordan is the exception. Not only has he written seven Conan novels, but he binds them together with a small cast of recurring characters. While that doesn’t sound important, keep in mind that much of the Conan universe takes place in a vague mass of locations and time periods. Conan himself is the only common factor between stories. Jordan’s recurring characters give a sense of continuity from one novel to the next, charting a path of continuity to an otherwise archetypical character.

Of all of Jordan’s recurring characters, the bandit queen Karela is the most remarkable.

Today’s psychologists would call Karela “emotionally challenged.” For those old-school fans, she’s just a stubborn wench. Karela is the notorious Red Hawk, the leader of five hundred bandits (referred regularly as her “hounds”). Her mission in life? To raid and ravage the countryside of Zamora, stealing anything and everything she can. One passage describes her as a “lioness given human form.” It’s the perfect description. She’s proud, she’s graceful, she’s beautiful . . . until of course you get too close. Then you’re at the mercy of her wrath. Good luck surviving that.

Everyone has a few flaws. Karela’s is her pride. The quickest way to piss her off? Save her life. You read that right. One would think that protecting her from danger would earn her gratitude. Not with Karela. Instead she blames Conan for thinking her too “woman-ish” to need saving in the first place.

Furthermore, Karela sees relationships as a contest of wills. She repeatedly declares that she is the one in command. She cannot conceive of a partnership where both parties are equals. Every kindness Conan shows Karela is regarded as a trap, continually thinking them the prelude of his eventual betrayal and usurpation of her band.

Don’t get me started on love. Karela wouldn’t know love if it was right under her nose. To her it’s another kind of weakness. “One day I would find myself walking a pace behind you,” Karela says in Conan the Triumphant, “silent lest I should miss your words, and I’d plant a dagger in your back for it.” Her hatred for women – for subscribing to a man’s whims – is superseded by her hatred of men (for their arrogant assumptions that women will naturally let themselves be enslaved). Only Conan is the exception. Unfortunately, love is slavery to Karela.

Each Conan the Barbarian novel is a chapter in a murky expanse of time, oftimes standing alone from other novels. Robert Jordan used his recurring characters to provide a chronology, a sense of progression and permanency to Conan’s otherwise archetypical traits. For more about Karela the Red Hawk, I’d find Robert Jordan’s Conan series. Once you pick them up, you’ll be wondering how you got through the day without it.

Conan the Barbarian – Hordo

Conan the Barbarian – Hordo

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Asking a writer to create a story in an already-established literary franchises (Star Wars and Star Trek come to mind) is harder than it sounds. Everything the guest author does must fit a very specific formula. The writer must adhere to the book’s metaphors, catch-phrases, customs, everything. It all has to be perfect. Furthermore, writers contributing to a franchise must resign themselves to the fact that their creations might not be considered as canon (deciding whatever or not a story’s acknowledged in the franchise’s chronology). It makes it difficult for the writer to invest time and patience to characters and plots that might never see the light of day again.

One notable exception is Robert Jordan’s Conan stories. One notable character is the bandit Hordo.

Hordo debuts as a very one-dimensional character. He is the right-hand man to Karela, the infamous Red Hawk bandit and her five hundred rogues. From the very first moment, Hordo is infatuated with Karela. He takes her every word as gospel. His loyalty to Karela comes before the money binding the others. A man who insults the Red Hawk must face Hordo’s blade afterward. They’d be lucky to leave with their manhood intact.

It’s the growing correspondence with Conan where Hordo shines. As mentioned before, Karela comes first to Hordo. Since the others only care about the gold they get, Hordo stands alone amidst his peers. He doesn’t have anyone else to talk with until Conan comes around. Their relationship grows from rivals to friends to brothers because they actually care about Karela. A rare evolution that few writers can manage.

Hordo acts as a foil to both Conan and Karela. Hordo is the voice of reason when they takes unnecessary risks (something Karela does plenty of due her feelings for Conan). This worrying earns Hordo his share of “old crone” jokes, but more often than not Hordo survives when others perish because of his caution. Everyone needs someone to tell them when they’re being stupid, and Hordo is that man.

Unfortunately, Hordo’s loyalty to Karela often gets in the way of his common sense. His debuting story ends Karela’s disappearance. He lets Karela go . . . but in the next story he abandoned both a marriage and an innkeeper’s career to find her. And at the story’s epilogue, when Karela clearly expresses that she doesn’t want to be followed, Hordo rides off to do exactly that. Some people just can’t help standing in their own way.

Asking a writer to contribute to another person’s universe is frustrating. It’s difficult to create a character with little chance to emerge in succeeding stories. If such characters do appear, chances are they are relegated to some obscure footnote. Not with Hordo. The burly bandit found success not once by twice, leading platoons of men just as well as his former mistress. Not bad for the man once known as the Red Hawk’s hound. Not bad at all.

Farscape

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Imagine you’re an astronaut. You’re on a ground-breaking but completely safe experiment. Except that things go awry and you find yourself on the other edge of the universe with no way to get back home, and you’re stuck on a sentient ship with aliens who would just as rather kill you than talk to you. That’s the life of Farscape protagonist John Crichton.

That’s what makes good television.

There’s a lot of things that made Farscape a gem of the science fiction community, but first and foremost are the chemistry between the actors. Just watching one episode tells you that these people aren’t really acting: they’re best friends. The initial tension and its evolution into friendship (and beyond) is a parallel of the comradery these people have in real life. Its authenticity is what brought fans coming back for more.

Farscape also had the distinct gimmick of letting its villains stretch their muscles. Each Farscape season had a primary antagonist, and each succeeding season had that villain become part of the crew. Even Scorpius, the malignant alien whose passion for torturing and hunting down John Crichton was legendary, had a turn at the ally table. It’s nothing new; most soap operas thrive on the ever-shifting quagmire of allies and enemies. But no show – science fiction or no – has managed to capture it the way Farscape has.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that Farscape had some of the most ambitious plot arcs to date. Scorpius did more than just torture Crichton. He put a miniscule version of himself inside Crichton’s head. The entire second season deals with Crichton and his split personality “Harvey.” Actors Ben Browder and Wayne Pygram (Crichton and Scorpius respectively) did more than the good guy/bad guy buddy arc going. They literally brought the best out of each other. They literally were in one another’s skins.

Then of course there’s the clone plot. Every person on Moya – the aforementioned sentient ship – gets cloned. But John Crichton’s clone survives. This leads to a bit of tug-of-war between the two as they try to establish their identities in ways no other person struggled. But the real beauty of this idea shines with the main characters separate. One Crichton – hereon referred to as Blue-Shirt Crichton – leaves Moya with Aeryn Sun (Crichton’s love interest) while the other – hereon referred to Green-Shirt Crichton – stays on Moya. The two have different adventures and develop in different ways, but both are distinctly John Crichton.

So eventually the inevitable happens: Aeryn and Blue Shirt Crichton hook up, but fate is never kind in these situations. Blue Shirt dies in Aeryn’s arms. So when Green-Shirt Crichton reunites with Aeryn, things are naturally frosty. It takes a lot of episodes for Aeryn to realize that she loves John Crichton the person.

This relationship could have easily gone awry in any number of ways. Certainly the rulebook concerning the on-again/off-again romantic relationship has never been tested like this. But again, its success falls upon the strength and chemistry of the actors involved. Ben Browder and Claudia Black are magic together. Finding a balance between two completely different characters is difficult at best, but they pull it off flawlessly. Every scene they share bursts with genuine emotion.

Science fiction has always been a hot-bed of creativity. The best shows, however, rely on the characters’ relationships to support the stories. Farscape exceeds the concept in fantastic ways. You can feel the love between this mismatched family because that’s what they are: family. One episode, and you’ll be hooked.

Have I ever let you down?

Saga Frontier – A Tale of Seven Heroes

SaGa Frontier – A Tale of Seven Heroes

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In the entertainment world, it’s the hunt for that intangible, untranslatable appeal that keeps companies in business. This is true for books, television shows, and even video games. However, the reliance of these successful elements can paradoxically run the risk of stagnation. Bored players are the enemy of entertainment franchises; once the magic is gone, they move on to the next big trend. So entertainment companies are caught up in a Moebius loop: harvesting old successes for nostalgia’s sake, while researching new ways to keep the target audience coming back for more.

Square-Enix – the videogame company responsible for the mega-hit Final Fantasy game franchise – is no different. Their black sheep of their videogame family? SaGa Frontier (seventh of the series and ported to Western shores in 1997) is my first journey into the SaGa games, and so this article will focus on that.

From the very beginning, it’s obvious that Frontier isn’t resting on Final Fantasy laurels. The game’s biggest strength is its non-linear progression. The game features seven protagonists and their individual quests. At the game’s start you can choose any of the protagonists and complete their scenarios in any order you wish. And although there is little overlap between the protagonists, all the optional, battle-ready characters come from the same pool. Players can find and recruit their favorite characters in almost any scenario (which strangely makes it more common for players to identify with the optional characters instead of the main protagonists). But that’s the kind of game Frontier is.

This sense of freedom is also evident in terms of plot progression. Instead of going from Point A to Point B to progress through the game, the player can theoretically go to anyplace they want. In fact, the Lute scenario gives the player the choice to entering the final dungeon and beat the bosses almost straight from the start. It’s not recommended, but it is feasible.

However, this sense of freedom comes at the cost of a cohesive plot. The player will most likely spend most of their time going through the trials and tribulations of gaining various magic spells, which is key for defeating the escalation of stronger enemies. However, only certain characters can use certain spells, and oftentimes a character that is trained to use one magic type cannot use another (a character wielding Time magic cannot use Space magic and vice-versa). So success requires creating characters with a wide range of spells; that, in turn, allows the characters’ strengths to complement the others’ weaknesses.

This kind of strategy is evident in combat as well. Ordinarily in RPGs characters gain special techniques and magic spells through the gaining of experience points and progression of levels (numerical representation of individual character stats like strength and speed). In SaGa Frontier, things are different. Every time a character attacks, there’s a small chance that the character will learn a new technique inherit to the weapon the character carries. With seven different weapon categories, the number of total weapon techniques is astronomical. With the additional feature of characters learning a special technique that combines two or three basic techniques, combat is a very interesting experience.

Success in entertainment means finding the elements that peaked audience’s interest while introducing new features to keep players coming back for more. The SaGa Frontier game series is Square’s answer to that originality. If you want a change of pace from ordinary gaming, then the Saga games are exactly what you’re looking for. Have fun.

Andrew Cheronkov

Andrew Cherenkov

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“I was brought into this world as a weapon of warfare . . . It happened all the time back then. Killing was my . . . no, Our whole reason of existence . . . I tried to adapt, but the language I spoke was so different from the rest of the world . . . But I had to rely on the drugs to communicate with the rest of the world.”

We’ve all heard these phrases before: on the news, in literature, from our family and friends who have a returning veteran struggling with civilian life. But what may surprise you is the fact that these words didn’t come from a news report or a writer’s imagination. It came from a video game. Specifically, the Xenosaga: Der Wille zur Macht video game. On the surface it may seem like spaceships and robots kicking butt, but underneath the games put a new spin on issues that hit a little close to home for many of us. One such issue is the condition of mentally-disturbed veterans. For Xenosaga, that issue is embodied by one Andrew Cherenkov.

A common compliant amidst disturbed veterans is that the atrocities of war follow them home. Coming back from a place where friends die all around you, where even children are trying to kill you, is hard enough. But the real difficulty is explaining the experience to those who haven’t been there firsthand. There’s no poetry about having to kill people, no words to describe the decision between shooting mothers and their babies. The memories are hammers, tapping at the subconscious, always reminding. Moving on from those experiences are difficult at best, impossible at worst.

Andrew Cherenkov isn’t even given that option. He was artificially bred to be a weapon. He was worked over so that his first instinct is to kill. He lived, breathed and slept about killing. And yet he is just expected to construct some semblance of life when the war ends. But how could he? Killing is all he knew. It’s his first response to everything. The authorities make it clear they don’t give a damn about him. Instead of treating him like a human being, Cherenkov is used as a guinea pig for “Personality Re-conditioning,” which is the science fiction equivalent of brainwashing. The doctors don’t know how to help, so they erase the entire experience in the hopes that the problem will go away on its own.

The most terrible wounds of war are the ones that follow soldiers home. It’s not just about serving one’s country, but the mental sacrifices they don’t teach at boot camp. At the end of the day, it’s about killing people. It’s about people dying horrendously right in front of one’s eyes. Andrew Cherenkov is the perfect example for returning veterans. The world’s suddenly gone deaf, and because we instinctively shied away from the atrocities of war, we would rather shove drugs down the throats of our veterans and hope the problem magically goes away.

Not bad for a video game, huh?

Wild Arms II – The Brad Evans Conspiracy

Brad Evans – The Controversy

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Wild Arms 2 had a lot going for it. It took the elements responsible for its predecessor’s success and built up on them, crafting a tale straight out of a Clint Eastwood Western: the good guys have guns and they’re going to use them against the bad guys. Obviously there’s more going on to the game than that, but we’re not going to get into that here. This article will explain a controversial rumor hotly debated even fifteen years after its release.

Brad Evans is the no-nonsense guerilla warrior haunted by his past. The typical motif of soldiers is the closeness of one’s comrades. “Strangers become family in foxholes,” is the phrase. It’s a sign of trust to soldiers to look after one another. Concurrently, Brad has that kind of relationship with Billy, a former comrade made comatose by injuries. Not a problem, right?

Except that the controversy of the game revolves around a homosexual aspect to Brad and his war-time buddy Billy. The evidence is mainly speculative in nature, deriving from Brad’s response when talking to a comatose Billy: that he is tired of being a martyr. Billy, through the connection of a mythical conduit: declares Brad to be his “hero.”

So how do heroes and martyrs translate into a homosexual relationship? One must understand that the Japanese language operates on rigid rules. There are different designations for conversation: First names are used when talking to people the speaker has known since childhood. Using the person’s last name plus the prefix “-san,” is the polite response 90% of the time. So some words and phrases get lost in the translation. One word can mean one thing . . . and also another in a different context. So while the English translation chooses the innocent term of a soldier’s bonds formed in wartime, in Japanese a slight alteration could vaguely suggest – and I do mean vaguely – something else entirely.

So what’s the answer? Sony (the game’s production company) executives delivered the verdict: Brad Evans is not gay. The controversy stems from the intricate webs of Japanese society and language, where similar words can have decidedly altered meanings in different contexts.

The conspiracy of Wild ARMs 2 came to a close when the Sony higher-ups denied a romantic connection between two men. Instigated from a misunderstanding of Japanese language and the difficulty on game translators to correctly collaborate on the minute details of an intricate system of rules concerning on dialogue, Brad Evans continues to be an icon for gay culture as a whole, proving that meaning – even vague meaning – means different things to different people.

Tales of Vesperia – Yuri Lowell

Yuri Lowell – A Different Kind Of Hero

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One enduring tradition in the Tales series of videogames is what I call “the clean slate” principle. The main protagonist is often young, idealistic and perhaps a little bit naïve. The protagonist and the player are strangers in this world; as one grows up, so does the other. This is meant to create a bond between player and protagonist, which gives the gameplay experience a broader depth.

Yuri Lowell, protagonist of Tales of Vesperia, is the exception to that rule.

Yuri is not the clean-cut boy of his predecessors. He doesn’t dream of boundless horizons, or idolizes legendary heroes. He lives in a world where the nobles get rich off the backs of the poor. Where the only certainty is that the downtrodden will always be discarded like yesterday’s trash. So when the slums’ magically-generated water supply is stolen, Yuri does not leave the matter to the authorities. He goes after the thief himself, unknowing that this is but the first step of a crusade where the world hangs in the balance.

Not that Yuri considers any of that. Unlike his friend Flynn Scifo – who joined the royal army in order to change the system from within – Yuri solves short-term problems affecting people in the here and now. This world-view is commendable for giving relief to those already suffering, but the world is not so black and white.

This contradiction forces Yuri onto a path other Tales protagonists would abhor. Several times during the game, minor antagonists commit atrocities and get away with it due to noble connections. It’s just another example of the rich helping the rich, and the poor getting swept under the rug. Very frustrating. So frustrating that Yuri ultimately decides to take matters into his own hands. He is the first – and so far only – Tales protagonist to commit murder.

One trademark rule in heroics is to never kill your enemies. Yuri breaks this rule not once but twice. Yuri doesn’t display the hesitation that would plague younger Tales protagonists. Yuri already knows the kind of world he lives in and his role in it. His fully-formed persona is a breath of fresh air compared to the shocked revelations and philosophical debates that less-developed protagonists go through.

Yuri Lowell is not one would call the ideal hero. But at least he has the breadth of mind to realize his mistakes – even if the revelation takes it sweet time. That’s more than I could say about most people I know.