Turning the Tables in Tales of Symphonia

IGN has just put up a preview of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, a direct sequel to the Gamecube RPG. What caught my eye was this brief description of what's been revealed of the plot. "One day Emil hears a calling and follows it into the mountains, where he meets Marta Lualdi, a 15-year-old tomboy whose mother was also killed in the unification of the two worlds. In a surprise twist, the characters learn that it was Lloyd Irving who was indirectly responsible for the deaths of their loved ones."

Lloyd was the protagonist of the previous game, and I most often chose as my primary character. What's interesting to me is that the two main characters want to hunt down Lloyd, the hero of the first game, possibly for revenge but definitely for answers. I have yet to personally play a game that switches character roles like this, and you are forced to view the hero you once identified with as the antagonist, at least temporarily. I have a strong feeling there won't be a deadly confrontation between Lloyd, Emil, and Marta, but one can always hope.

The only game I know of that does a similar perspective shift is Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, which Stephen Totilo wrote about at the MTV Multiplayer blog. He even compares the "moral quandaries" of Radiant Dawn to the critics' darling Bioshock. In the strategy game, you basically spend several hours leveling up a certain group of characters. Later, you are in control of the heroes from the previous Fire Emblem game, but your enemies have become the characters you just finished helping and getting to know. That's quite a surprise, and I wish I didn't know about it, because I would like to play both of those games someday. Luckily, if you just wait out a couple of missions, you can combine those two forces without losing any characters.

This perspective shift could work really well to surprise gamers, and deny their expectations about what might happen, particularly in a game typical of its own genre. I hope more developers follow these two examples, and take these changes even further.

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