Cloud Strife and his fellow members of Avalanche strode into a crater at the northernmost point on the planet to save their world from the diabolical Sephiroth. Fei Fong Wong and team took the fight to villains whose millennia-long machinations had all but determined the course of human history. Commander Shepard united an entire galaxy to their cause to thwart the ruthless Reapers. Good times, one and all.
These are heroes whose capabilities ultimately proved to meet and exceed the mountainous challenges that defined their lives. The stakes could not have been higher, but their magnetic personalities pulled powerful allies into their personal orbits. In short, they had the right tools for the job.
Not every video game hero can say that. Many are comparably weak. In some cases, it can be argued that they should not have triumphed over their extreme sets of circumstances. Today, we'll examine a quartet of gaming protagonists who may have lucked out by a worryingly thin margin, but might have been all the wiser to contact local law enforcement instead.
4 Serena and Calem (Pokemon X & Y)
In Pokemon X & Y, players must choose between one of either Serena or Calem to begin the game with (renaming their selection to their heart's content). The character who's left behind becomes something of a rival figure. In other words, we're talking about one of either Serena or Calem here. I'll go with Serena for the rest of this entry, because she's got the cooler hat.
Anyway. Fans frequently deride the Kalos region's obligatory villainous team, Team Flare, for its absurd premise and faulty narrative execution. Hey, that's fine. But you can't say things don't get intense. "We want to make the world beautiful at any cost" is the kind of line where it's really just those last three words that up the ante, and leader Lysandre proves this by unleashing a doomsday weapon upon the nation.
Serena is a kid. Like, sure. X & Y's protagonists are a little older than most of their Pokemon Trainer peers. But not by much. This kid is like, "I have Pokemon, so it's fine." There's only one issue with that sentiment, but it's a big one – it's wrong. A literal psychopath is going to blow up an entire country and a kid with a Delphox is somehow a better option than a legion of Officer Jennys? Seriously, there are so many Jennys that they could feasibly pile atop Lysandre and suffocate him. You know that scene in Game of Thrones? Jon Snow? No oxygen? That could have been Lysandre.
3 The Paperboy (Paperboy)
In 1985, Midway Games introduced us to a bicycle-riding, newspaper-delivering youngster whose commitment to his cause is, to put it lightly, ridiculous. This action-packed classic from the uber-niche scribe-tosser subgenre will stop at nothing to impede the paperboy's progress. On any given morning, he must contend with such charming foes as cars, manholes, tornados, breakdancers (?), and even the Grim Reaper himself.
I'm not saying the paperboy ought to have called the cops on the tornados. I'm wise enough, if only just barely, to understand that this would not have resulted in the arrest and conviction of rotating columns of air. It might have been prudent to reach out to the feds concerning the radical number of drivers who aren't paying a lick of attention to the road in this game, but then, art imitates life.
For all the obstacles the paperboy faces – that's right, the game's manual regards the Grim Reaper as merely an "obstacle" – the true villains are the newspaper subscribers. They will cancel their subscriptions if you're even remotely late. They do not care that cyclones are tearing through the neighborhood. They have no interest in your excuses. These people are evil. They need to be locked away. Forever. But the paperboy is his own worst nightmare, so he never zips home to grab his mom's rotary phone and make the call.
2 Dom (Animal Crossing: New Horizons)
First off, I know what you're thinking. "Dom is not the protagonist of Animal Crossing: New Horizons." That's rather speciesist, don't you think? Dom is the protagonist of his entire life. That counts.
Dom is a cinnamon roll. Not an actual cinnamon roll. He's a bipedal talking sheep, after all. But he is sweet, sincere, and I'll take a dozen, thanks. Being a sheep, he follows. Being a cinnamon roll, he's easily manipulated. (If you think that sentence doesn't make any sense, pray tell me how much resistance pastries offer against predators. You pick one up. You put it in your mouth. They don't even try.)
The problem Dom faces is that he lives on an island surrounded by a capitalist capable of squeezing tenants dry, a bunch of creatures with frightening tendencies, the cat in that screenshot who looks like he's about to eat a late lunch, and we haven't even gotten to the Villager, whose visage has been used in more horror stories than Alfred Hitchcock.
For his continued welfare, Dom should start dialing. Though in fairness, he can't. Cellular service on the island appears to be limited to the island itself. Dom is stranded. Who is he going to ask to take him to the mainland? Tom Nook? That crook would never allow it. Think back to how thoroughly Wilbur tries to get you to hang back on deserted islands, too. It's all about control. These people keep their sheep on a short leash. Fine, Dom. Live with the pain.
1 Vaan (Final Fantasy 12)
I'm sorry. Look at this dweeb. He's got dirt all over his abs. He used to have thrice as much of it before The Zodiac Age remaster. I kind of like Vaan, but I'm prepared to admit that makes me an anomaly. He is utterly so reviled that if there is a single thing Final Fantasy fandom seems to near-universally agree upon,i it is that Vaan is the worst excuse for a perspective character in the franchise.
People hate this "Ratsbane" with such righteous fury. As of this writing, it has been 16 years since Final Fantasy 12 was ushered into the world of RPGs. It will probably be at least another 16 before gamers simmer down already.
Vaan, if you're reading this, it's not too late. You've got one heck of a potential lawsuit on your hands. The defamation, the disruptive name-calling, the threats of violence, it's all there. Don't allow what little is left of your pride to rot away in Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia, a mobile gacha game I dare you to say five times fast. Do not go quietly into the night. It's three simple numbers. Nine. One. One.
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