Some video game characters are usually ones you care about. Perhaps there is some character development, motivation and big cute eyes that make us care what happens to them.
On the other hand, sometimes they just run into enemy fire or send us mad with incessant noise.
Magikarp from Pokemon (Any version)
Anyone who has played Pokemon has come across a Magikarp. Each time we are given our first fishing rod, the Old Rod could only catch this flailing mess. Its one move ‘Splash’ has no effect.
You can’t catch em all without him, but this little fella is more of a headache than anything else. Even the Pokedex doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to this useless Pokemon.
Red: In the distant past, it was somewhat stronger than the horribly weak descendants that exist today.
Gold: An underpowered, pathetic Pokémon. It may jump high on rare occasions, but never more than seven feet.
Fire Red: It is virtually worthless in terms of both power and speed. It is the most weak and pathetic Pokémon in the world.
Platinum: A Magikarp living for many years can leap a mountain using Splash. The move remains useless, though.
This wouldn’t be such an issue to most Pokemon trainers because you could catch one and store it away to forget. Unfortunately to get the Gyarados we need to level this bitch up. In comes the tedium of putting a useless Pokemon at the start of our line-up just so we can waste time swapping it out before it takes damage. This was the main way to get Magikarp levelled up to 20.
I wasn’t about to waste Rare Candies on this creature and the ‘exp share’ didn’t share fast enough. I wanted this bad boy evolved to be useful. Failing that, I just wanted the credit so I could catch em all.
Slippy Toad from Star Fox/Lylat Wars
Slippy is the inventor and mechanic of the Star Fox team. This doesn’t stop him from getting into a ship and doing his part to bring peace to the Lylat system. His intentions are noble but his lack of flying skill means the player has to help him out of trouble on almost every mission. I can remember feeling dread every time I would hear Peppy call out, “Slippy, get back here!” or “Slippy, watch out! Bogey on your tail!”
Unfortunately the game encourages you to keep Slippy safe, if the toad was alive he would let you know how much health the boss had left. I really must question the logic of Fox McCloud letting his young mechanic friend take part in dangerous battles. No matter how short on pilots they were, Galactica never let Chief Tyrol fly a fighter in battle.
Not only did Slippy get in to all sorts of trouble, his voice grated on the nerves. High-pitched and repetitive struck that perfect chord of rage.
That creepy balance between female and young boy, high-pitched cries for help tore the player between wanting to do the right thing and see Slippy go down to ones own lasers.
Navi from The Legend of Zelda
In the Ocarina of Time, Navi is Link’s little helper. Helping target enemies, giving hints on monster killing and hovering over points of interest. What all players remember the most is the,
“Hey!”, “Listen!”, “Hey!”, “Watch out!”, “Hey!”
In a game where no other characters have sound bites that are actual words, Navi at first glance looks special. Ocarina of Time is a long game, even the strongest willed players get eye twitches after the 1,000th time you hear, “Hey!”
Natalya from Goldeneye (Also any npc that needs escorting, see Dead Rising, Half Life, Fable)
Everyone I know hates escort quests. I have yet to come across an escort mission that isn’t a pain in the ass. These missions always feel like a chore, babysitting an npc with no sense of self preservation. These instances are when you as the protagonist demonstrate an ability to do more than just kill everything. Sometimes you need to defend others that like walking in front of everyone’s line of fire. Usually scientists, children or just anyone who can’t handle the hell storm of zombies or
Natalya sums this up perfectly in Goldeneye 64. Failing to keep her alive results in an instant failure. When entering a room with computers, she throws caution to the wind and runs in through a storm of bullets to type with close handed fists. When a hero in a movie puts his/her life on the line to save someone else it becomes a noble gesture.
This never translates well into video games, we just simply don’t care for many characters that aren’t played by us. Especially when on our own, it would be easier to leave Natalya at the door and clear the entire complex. Now my dear you can run around all you like, just don’t trip over the piles of henchman bodies.
You know what? Escort quests can just get lost all together. Can game developers stop giving us these bumbling sidekicks and babysitting jobs? Surely there is another way to develop feelings for a character. Perhaps have them give you a jet pack, or a giant robot mecha suit, I would have great feelings for an npc that did that for me. Then they need to go back and sit somewhere out of harms way. Dan’s got some obliterating to do.