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Article - 'Cool Characters' by Angroth

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Feb 11, 2005


An article about what makes a character cool, examples and pictures.


What This Is About

I was thinking about characters the other day. Namely the characters that I personally find interesting and cool, obviously some people prefer certain kinds of characters that others might not. Anyways, I thought that there were several reasons for a character being cool. You could pretty much sum it all up into two categories, what they can do and what they’re like. All of their awesome abilities, spells or anything go under the first one and the personality, history and anything like that would go into the second category. Before I go any further I’ll explain a character that can demonstrate what I’ve just said:

Kain from Legacy of Kain/Blood Omen games: Yep, he’s a cool guy but you have to admit that if he couldn’t suck blood, transform into wolves, bats and an eerie mist that lets him pass through certain objects, he wouldn’t be half the man he is now. He can also leap really far and is much stronger than a human. Most of his coolness would reflect upon the first category. But he’s also an example of a character with both traits; his philosophical badass personality also aids his interest. I find the way he interacts with Raziel is very good, much more interesting than a powerful character from say… Dynasty Warriors 3. No matter how good one of those characters were they would never be as good as Kain, it’s the fact that he has a developed personality. So he’s a cool character in both categories, making him one of those universally awesome people (like Sephiroth). A good character should hopefully delve into both categories.

Basically in this article all I really plan on doing is talking you through some characters and dissecting them a little to find out why they’re cool. Read on if you’re interested. I’m also going to include some pictures so you don’t get bored.

Cool Due To Abilities

Ryu from the Breath of Fire games: I figured he was a good guy to start from. To start with, how could anyone be any cooler? He turns into dragons! He summons dragons! He wields big swords and has blue hair, what a great guy! Seriously, his powers are such a great idea for a game to base a character around. Such a game could be very rich in plot and involve some great gameplay.

But I can’t help thinking if it was just me that thought he was a pretty average, non-memorable character within playing and completing the BoF games. I mean in comparison to the likes of Garr, Rei, Cray and the dog-man who stuttered etc. Well why would this be? He doesn’t have a particularly developed personality? The fact he never speaks doesn’t help him gain any points there, he usually has quite a history behind him but it’s all acted through other characters. Ryu is almost a bystander in any BoF game, whilst stile being the focal point. This is really bizarre and it holds him back from being the character he could be. My analysis of this character is based mainly on BoF 3 & 4 and definitely not Dragon Quarter (I’ve not played that one).

Rayne from the BloodRayne games: Okay, I’d just like to straighten it out that I haven’t played BloodRayne 2 so this is made solely on the assumption of the original game. Some of her smarmy comments are pretty cool but she’s definitely a lot like Ryu. She does have a personality and she does talk but her personality has the depth of a small puddle. The game focuses more on her sexiness and powers/abilities. She notably has an extra area of interest in that she’s a hot babe vampire (with red hair, the sexiest colour!). I mean… I dream about that stuff all the time… Ahem, well I just meant that it helps her “cool” factor a lot.

What can she do? She carries a load of guns, sucks blood, flips around carving chunks into big beasts with these funky blades on her arms, slows down time like the Matrix, can detect heat like the Predator and can zoom into things like a sniper rifle! She also makes semi-orgasmic sounds while sucking people’s blood! It’s worth playing it for that alone. But as you can see, it’s once again mainly her skills that make her interesting at all. If she couldn’t do anything I mentioned it would be like Tomb Raider but without guns. Which is a dreadful thought.

She is just my backup evidence of characters with cool abilities alone aren’t that amazing. It’s true though, she isn’t really cool at all, I went off the game because it got too repetitive. With no interesting story or characters the game would inevitably rely solely on the gameplay. Which turned out to be good but very mundane!

Maia from Summoner 2: Another hot babe but this time with a difference. I found Summoner 2 to be a very good game. It was slightly dark, grim and held some roots to realism whilst having a fantasy setting, it reminded me much of Vagrant Story (which was also great). If you didn’t like Vagrant Story due to its combat system then there’s no need to worry because this was basically the same but with the combat system you’ve always wanted.

Anyways, back to Maia! She can transform into different creatures. The cooler ones being the Blood demons and the Sand demon, in fact they’re all good in there own ways. She can also swing a sword around and cast magic (which is almost minimum requirements anyways). So if you think about it, she’s in the same boat as Ryu from BoF. But wait… What’s this? She talks! She not only talks but she has a personality and the game has a pretty good story. She’s not quite on the same level as Kain but she’s got a hell of a lot more going for her than Ryu. Personally I’d say she’s a pretty good character, being the focal point of the entire story she’d better be good too!

Maia is my evidence that characters who have at least some personality as well as cool abilities are much more interesting.

Others: Other characters who have little personality (but are only cool at all for abilities) are the heroes from: Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Might and Magic games and anything of those sorts. Even Lance and CJ from GTA games to some degree. After all, it’s cool that you can blow stuff up, not their small story cut scenes (although the cutscenes are sometimes cool, I bet you speak to your friends about certain stunts and things you did rather than the cutscenes).

Cool Due To Personality

Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII: Men want to be him and women want to be with him. That’s how all cool male heroes should be, but hoho he’s not a hero! Alright Sephiroth can do some pretty awesome stuff as in summoning meteors to destroy the planet and being way more powerful than you were back many years ago in your memory, but I’m going to stress that his personality and actions are more important in his coolness. He’s a good kind of character to have, especially as the bad guy because of his mysteriousness. If there’s not much to reveal then there isn’t much interest. But with Sephiroth you feel like you know him but you don’t really know all that much and you’re intrigued to find out more. I can’t really explain what I mean by “knowing him” but he’s just one of those characters that you have an affinity for a kind of know how they might act. Like, he also does the “cool” things in situations like in that Freddy movie when Freddy is cutting people up and that man says “Hey, it’s okay. We can help you.” And he replies “Help yourself fucker!” and then slashes him across the face. What cooler option was there? Although you didn’t know Freddy was going to do that exact thing, you’d expect him to act in that way. That’s what I got from Sephiroth. Like when he burnt down that town, was that cool or not? He makes you want to “dislike” him but really he’d doing what you want to see being done in games. So it’s his mysteriousness which makes him cool. As well as his actions, he’s certainly not an “all talk not action” character.

Sydney from Vagrant Story: Sydney is my evidence to back up what I was trying to say with Sephiroth. He is the mysterious character that makes games good. They do what moralistic heroes can’t and have some cool abilities (which isn’t what their coolness is derived from). I mean, Sydney isn’t cool because he summons that dragon at the beginning. He’s cool because of his mysterious, evil and eccentric personality. I’m not going to talk anymore about Sydney because he basically is Sephiroth (without the cool white hair) and I mentioned most of what I wanted to say earlier.

The “good” version of this mysterious character would be someone like Auron or Garr. Notice how in games with hero versions, there isn’t usually an enemy who’s like it? There always needs to be the silent seer type character. It works best on bad guys though in my eyes. This leads me to my next section. They aren’t particularly “cool” characters but their personality is the only thing making them of any importance.

Other Interesting Character Types

Barrett from Final Fantasy VII: To start off, he’s very predictable. You just know he’s going to clash with some of the other characters and he has quite an extreme reaction to events that take place. He’s going to end up shouting and cursing before long. But don’t you feel pretty safe around him? He sure is powerful. People like him aren’t always cool but they’re a necessary role in a game. Barrett is the friend and the one who helps you show off that the other characters really do have personalities and things they like and dislike. You also probably feel safer around him because he is one of those people you know and understand much more easily.

Others: Here are some examples of the Barrett type role: Zell, Cray, Steiner and Taurgis. Isn’t it funny how they are all people who would probably clash with others without even having to see them with anyone else? Steiner and Taurgis are both knights, noble and strong within their views and upholders of law and righteousness. Then you also have the complete opposite with Zell and Cray, the more brash, loud and unruly types.

Being so extreme you’ll either think they’re cool or not. Some people would consider Zell very cool while others might think he’s just an ignorant kid. Same with the more knightly types, however “fake knights” are always considered cool. This means any character wearing some plate armour who doesn’t act like a knight (I can’t even be bothered to name an example here). Fake knights are often like Zell but just with some armour and big weapons.

Characters That Have It All

Raziel: Yes I don’t know if it’s just me be the story and characters from Soul Reaver games are so well developed that if I were to name the perfect “good” and “bad” characters, they would be Raziel and Kain.

Simply put Raziel has a nice set of abilities, a good twist on the overdone “vampire” theme. He has a strong sense of character and although the world he knew had much history, he is as much a stranger as you to the new world in the first Soul Reaver. This gives the game a great way to find more out about him and the history of Nosgoth for that matter. There is no denying how cool Raziel is. He also has the added bonus of looking cool, what with his ominous look. And although he is quite moralistic and typical of any good hero, he later becomes quite angered and he isn’t really a “good” character at all. But his sacrifice in LOK: Defiance is typical of a true hero, a bad guy wouldn’t do that. You know them.

Kain: Much like Raziel he has some abilities that you can’t deny are cool. He looks awesome and I find him to be a very interesting character indeed. I won’t dwell on him long because I talked about him earlier but what I really like about him is that being the man he is (a bad guy) he does things that the good guys would never do. Basically it’s his lack of morals, he makes Raziel question everything and at the end of a movie where the hero lets the enemy get away, you can trust that Kain would never do that.

That’s pretty much it really. I mean I started getting tired and drifting away from what I wanted to by the end but I hope this gives you some ideas and was an interesting read. Well, until next time…