Last days. Leaving places. I know all things end. But last Friday, after almost ten years, it was a goodbye lunch, farewells, an exit interview and then a final departure out of the parking lot. I never realized how much I would miss my company and the people in it until I was leaving, even though it was on the best of terms. It got me thinking, oddly enough, about JRPGs and the parallels with everyday life, especially when the game is immersive and sucks you into a hundred hours or so of gameplay. Alternate endings are a way of drawing gamers in even more, making them feel as though their decisions have an impact, actually changing the outcome. Sometimes, it's the presence of a special item that changes everything. Other times, a choice that impacts the events. Here are a few of the stranger ones that still resonate with me. [Spoilers abound]
Suikoden 2: A Cottage Out in The Woods
Suikoden 2 is an unbelievable game, a JRPG that successfully melds strategy elements and an amazing story. After you accept your role as leader of the Allied Army, your sister, Nanami, talks with you in the middle of the night, recollecting all that you've been through. She's conflicted by the fact that you're fighting your childhood best friend, Jowy. She then says, "Let's stop this fighting," and urges you to leave everything behind to the soldiers and run away. If you agree, this will set off this unusual ending. Many of your compatriots will try to dissuade you. But insist on going your way and the game ends with the two of you living out the rest of your life in a cabin in the woods, indifferent to the troubles of the world. That to me was completely unexpected (the developers actually let me quit mid-way?). What's worse was, after reloading a previous save state, I decided to continue on, and later, one of the main characters would die. My choice to continue the fight led to the death of someone I cared about (even if only in the digital sense) and it's the kind of decision that makes this my favorite Suikoden as well as being one of my favorite JRPGs.