Video games with complicated storylines aren't inherently bad. On the contrary, some of the best games of all time feature totally convoluted plots, and gamer hipsters will tell you that an absolutely batsh*t narrative is the pinnacle of storytelling in the medium. However, nothing is immune to criticism, and all too often, enthused fans will confuse a complicated story with a good one. Just because a game features a huge plot twist that you never saw coming doesn't mean its story is finely crafted.
It's important to recognize when a beloved series has gone totally off the rails. While a studious player will probably be able to piece together what's happening in Silent Hill, the most die-hard fans are confused by parts of Kingdom Hearts, and sometimes, even a game's director will acknowledge that their story is just a bit too much.
What exactly is Silent Hill? It might be Hell, it might be purgatory, it might all be a figment of the protagonist's imagination, and it might be an actual, physical place. This is certainly an intriguing question, and the answer is largely up to the player's interpretation.
In an interview given just after the first game launched in 1999, creator Keiichiro Toyama said, "I think that after clearing the game once, you're still left with many things unsolved. But when you play over and over again, the pieces of the puzzle come together, and you'll feel it makes the whole Silent Hill world come together. Also, there are things that change when you play the second time around, so I hope that players can discover that stuff, too."
While it's cool that the games have a bunch of hidden secrets for players to uncover, adding additional details only serves to raise more questions. In pretty much every game in the series, there's a secret ending that blames the whole story on aliens, and Silent Hill 2 also has an ending where the protagonist James discovers a dog who controls the whole town from a secret room. Are things becoming clear yet?
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In 2014, Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura explained the franchise's labyrinthian plot line to a crowd of fans, saying "Because we have one continuous, overarching story, the plot does get a little bit complex as we progress through the narrative." When the director and co-creator say that their game is "complex," they're basically admitting it's bonkers.
That's certainly true of KH, but Nomura also revealed that he didn't really expect the first game to ever get a sequel, so he was forced to expand the story beyond what he'd originally imagined. Nomura went on to argue that complicated stories inspires discussion, which is good. He's not wrong; without discussing the game for hours on end, no one could possibly figure out how Keyblades work, who the guardians of light are, or even who the real protagonist is.
There was a time when Sonic the Hedgehog was nothing more than a pixelated rodent running in one direction through all kinds of scenery until ultimately catching up with his egg-shaped foe, but Sega undid all of that in 2006 when they decided to introduce time travel. The 2006 reboot of the series had to be big and bold to coinside with the new console generation (Xbox 360 came out in 2005, PS3 in '06). Unfortunately, it was a little too big and too bold.
Historically, no one ever really took Sonic's story seriously because, why would you? He's a life-sized hedgehog. Suddenly, narrative became a key part of Sonic '06, as Doctor Eggman is presented as a (slightly more) humanly-proportioned villain, and Sonic lands a human love interest. Then comes the time travel, the part where Sonic is killed and his lover cradles his corpse in despair, and the heroes' subsequent attempt to resurrect the blue hedgehog via a dark ritual involving chaos emeralds. Remember when the series was about going fast?
In a 2015 interview with Game Informer, Metal Gear director Hideo Kojima described his artistic vision, saying, "Ideally what I want to do is... make a story that’s seems very simple... on the surface, and once you zoom in there's a lot of details... When you do that sometimes the veins [of stories] get lost, change, or get stuck. From there I need to create new bloodlines so the story can keep going. One thing that I try not to do is sacrifice certain things just so I can keep the original story intact. Sometimes I need to accept these inconsistencies in order to be able to achieve what I want for the story."
A big reason why the Metal Gear saga is so confusing is that Kojima did not plan the whole story from the get-go. However, even within individual games in the series, it can be hard to follow the story from moment to moment. You might be able to wrap your brain around the fact that most MGS 1 characters have 1960s alter egos in MGS 3 (obviously, some cloning was involved), but you still probably can't explain why the Patriots are also called "the la-li-lu-le-lo."
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