Part 21: Intermission
I'm not sure why you're bringing "pleading for help" though?
I'm sorry, but this has been bugging me for a while, even distracting me from the LP. Blitz, what happened to your avatar and title?
Anyways instead of an update, this week I'm going to rant about how this game could have been better. Feel free to skip all of this, I'm just writing this so the thread can have something to ponder.
Back in the third update, I went on a long tangent about this game's plot. It probably meant little to most of you since it was the third update and none of you had the perspective to agree/disagree. Since it relates to what I'll be ing about, I'll repost it.
One of SF2's big problems in my opinion is that there's no encompassing theme to it.
SF1 could succinctly be summarized as "it's safe to trust other people". Each succeeding scenario built on each other, so the player could trace Geo's development from a recluse to a hero. Furthermore, other characters develop alongside him and every antagonist was essentially one of Geo's fears or misgivings magnified.
SF2 has none of that. There's no central message (closest I can come up with is "learn to put up with your friends' bullshit", and I doubt that was intentional), if anything characters regress back to where they were in SF1 just so they can learn the same lesson again (like just now), and all of the villains are generic as hell.
Or as the game puts it, losing your Link Power is the Precursor to Ruin. Saurian, Mu, Ninja, and Zerker all destroyed themselves because of this, and the world danger spurring Geo on in the final scenario is that 22XX's society will do the same thing.
Now that we've established that this is the game's message, let's look at how the various scenarios incorporate it.
Scenario I: Not there at all, beyond the very cynical argument that Geo only puts up with his friends' bullshit out of fear of them leaving him.
Scenario II: Also not here.
Scenario III: Precursor to Ruin is established, and Geo has a nervous breakdown upon losing his friends.
Scenario IV: A no show, though I suppose you could argue that Zack learns that it's best to shut up and follow what your friends do rather than try and do things by yourself.
Scenario V: Geo (re)asserts dominance over the OOPArt to prevent Bud's death.
Scenario VI: Geo has another breakdown over Sonia breaking their BB, and the main reason he cites for fighting Solo is that he doesn't want to lose those dear to him again.
Final Scenario: Geo is fighting to preserve the world's LP, and Vega has her own issues as the next update will show.
That's four out of seven. Only about half of the plot even mentions the central theme. And not coincidentally, said four scenarios are the ones that focus on the game's "main plot", the ancient civilizations.
This game's biggest problem is that it is stuffed to the gills with filler. It's the series' obsession with breaking up the plot into episodes to its logical extreme: there are the important, "plot" episodes, and then just a ton of useless filler that you have to watch anyways because minor details happen. You could very easily remove Grizzly Peaks, Messie Village, and most of Whazzap from the game and still understand what's going on. Compare (and I hate to keep bringing up this point) SF1. You can't remove any of that game's scenarios, because even the most pointless of them still have major things happen. Libra Scales? Geo goes back to school. Queen Ophiuca? Geo learns that even complete families have their issues.
So with that all said, I'm going to make two suggestions as to how this game could be improved.
1. Focus on the Tribes.
For something important enough to show up in the title, the Ancient Civilizations don't do shit. The corrupting aspect of the OOPArt (as well as the super interesting ghosts within it) are all dropped as soon as Geo learns Tribe On, and it becomes nothing more than a plot device that does whatever the writer wants it to. Except it doesn't even do that well, since it shows up all of three more times: when it powers up Geo in Whazzap, when Hyde steals it, and when Vega uses it. If instead the writers had expanded what actually happens in-game (Geo uses Link Power to control the OOPArt) to encompass the actual plot, we'd have a very basic "overcoming the corruption" story. And that sounds bad, but I would put SF1's plot as the best in the trilogy even though it was just as basic because concepts are cheap. What matters is the execution, and I think SF2 could have done just as well as SF1.
What I'd have liked to see is a much greater emphasis on the spirits within the OOPArt. These guys are never explained, but they're clearly supposed to be ghosts from the long-dead Tribe haunting the last relic of their civilization. That's pretty awesome, and you could do a lot more things with that kind of plot device than "use it as a battery". For instance, you could have Geo redeem them.
The big thing about the Ancient Tribes is the Precursor to Ruin. Lack of Link Power led to mutual destruction, and to this day the remaining ghosts still hate everything. That'd be where Geo steps in; when MegaMan somehow absorbs the OOPArt, the ghosts lash out and try to consume his soul. You could explain any amount of odd behavior with this (like why Geo is so useless in his first encounter with Rogue), hell you could even use it to give an in-plot reason for why Geo lost the Star Force power from the last game. Whatever you do, it should eventually lead to Geo's actions (and maybe even words) slowly convincing the ghosts that Link Power is something worth having. Like a repeat of Omega-Xis' gradually changing attitude regarding Earth in SF1, only on a much grander scale.
And from this viewpoint, all of the filler scenarios gain meaning! Geo's interactions with his friends (and the valiance he displays protecting them) could touch the ghosts' hearts, maybe remind them of the golden ages of their civilizations. One by one they'd regain faith in Link Power, and bit by bit Geo would gain more control over the OOPArt. This could show up mechanically by having the Tribe form grow stronger (maybe unlocking abilities) or just boosting Geo's base LP (which would help a lot more since the base maximum of 400 is worthless).
Then we hit endgame, where a number of awesome things could happen. First off, when Hyde steals the OOPArt? Have his big "victory" blow up in his face when the OOPArt rejects him. This wouldn't hurt the story any; the in-game reason why Vega wanted the OOPArt was stupid, and had no connection whatsoever to the Tribe. Just have her want it because it's powerful, and make Mu restorable just by reaching the center of Bermuda and saying the magic phrase or whatever.
Second, remember the story of Mu? It's explicitly stated that all the people who went up in the sky were vengeance-seeking assholes who ultimately destroyed themselves. Yet all we see of them is that one regretful Mu ghost who has done a complete 180. And while that's hilarious with regards to Solo, it's also really lame. Have all of those Murians still around as vengeful ghosts, and maybe throw in some ridiculous scene where the Tribe ghosts fight the Mu ghosts to give MegaMan time to stop Le Mu. It'd be a grand victory for the concept of Link Power, and more importantly the perfect time for Solo to redeem himself. And speaking of that failure of a character
2. Have Solo admit he's wrong.
In the MegaMan megathread in Games, I said Solo was the worst character in any jRPG ever. I justify this by the fact that absolutely no thought was put into him. He's a series of cliches stapled together with constantly changing motivations, a central ethos that has nothing to do with the main messages of the games, and a ridiculous, hypocritical divide between his actions and his words. He completely poisons every scene he's in as all of the other characters either have to be reduced to idiots so he can look good babbling his meaningless pseudo-philosophy or turn into complete chumps so he can look like a threat. He's so bad that in SF3 the writers had no idea what the hell to do with him and had to obviously shoehorn him in every time he appears.
And the reason for all of this is because he never says he's wrong.
Geo soundly defeats Solo three times across the game, each time proving that having friends to protect is what makes a person strong. He even goes as far as to literally shatter the barrier Solo puts between himself and others. And yet not once does Solo ever even consider that he might be wrong. That's right, in a game about how awesome friends are, the character who thinks friends suck is never corrected. There is absolutely no reason why Solo has to stick to his dumb mindset, and in fact he actively worsens the game the more he does. So I'd have liked to see Solo steadily grow unsure of his philosophy, going to greater and greater depths to try and reconcile his losses. Kind of like Hyde, actually.
And then all of this would finally blow up in his face when he reaches Mu. He'd go in, expecting an awesome society and a warm welcome from the only people he'd consider peers only to find a battle-ravaged hellscape and numerous angry ghosts who take his connection to him as a reason to kill him. Because that is exactly what a society of Solos would lead to. This would lead to some soul-searching, maybe a flashback to Geo offering to be Solo's first friend (a la the FM King in SF1),
and in the end drive him to save Geo. Not only would this make him an actual character instead of a shallow caricature, but it'd also mean he'd have been usable in SF3 without ridiculous amounts of justification!
Obviously the game would need much more than just those two changes, but I think they'd be a huge step towards digging this game out of the landfill of wasted potential it's buried in. These two differences turn the game into a clear victory for Link Power instead of a meandering mess of filler with some meaning lost somewhere in it. Or maybe it would make the game suck even more, I dunno. What do you guys think?