So I got to thinking a while back about video game endings. You know, those cutscenes that are rumored to appear if you “beat” an open world game instead of run around and messing everything up for the world’s inhabitants for roughly a thousand hours. Anyway, many games nowadays like to tinker with the idea of multiple endings, more specifically a “good” and a “bad” ending, of which I noticed that there’s a suspiciously large number of bad endings to choose from in each multiple-choice video game, yet only ever one ending that can be considered “good” in any sense of the word. It makes sense that there are dozens upon dozens of ways for everything to go wrong, but why do so few games ever explore options for multiple good endings?
It really kind of renders the whole concept of multiple playthroughs moot for me. I find myself only ever wanting to get the true, good ending. The reason being is that after investing so much time in a game, I usually don’t want to replay the exact same game all over again just to experience the other ending. I’m even less motivated to do so when, after all my hard work, all my in-game decisions result in everybody around me dying or something. Now, not only do I not feel the urge to start all over from scratch, but I’m also in a bad mood! So I find myself going outside, walking to the nearest puppy, and punting it aside just to let my pent up frustration out.
Anyway, recently, I beat Fire Emblem: Awakening.
“Goddammit, NGFY, it’s been out for literally years!”
“Is that even still relevant now that Fates is coming out?”
“Gosh, you must suck at the game.”
“You only just bought it now?”
Shut up! I was poor and broke!
Anyway, much like a lot of people, I devoted quite a bit of time in the game, pretty much stalling until I got to the end. Whether it was mixing and matching waifus and husbandos, fighting hilariously underpowered Risen that pop up on the overworld, or having my avatar experience homoerotic nightmares about Gregor, I was torn on getting to the ending of the game. Especially since all the decisions you make throughout the story didn’t change what I had for breakfast next morning, let alone some fundamental aspect of the tale that I wouldn’t have had happen otherwise.
But the ending of Fire Emblem was done in a rather interesting way.
To sum it up as spoiler-free as possible, Fire Emblem has two different endings depending on a single decision you make in the game, but much to my surprise, neither of the two are the “evil” or “bad” option. In fact, in their own way, they were both the “good” ending. The player is given a choice that will impact both the characters and the world, and though neither option is necessarily ideal, they both have genuine benefits towards the heroes that doesn’t screw everybody over. It was actually a pretty hard decision to make! I was legitimately torn as to which of the two endings would befall my characters, and yet, by the end of it, I never felt cheated. Whichever ending you picked made the heroes’ journeys matter, and more or less everybody lived happily ever after, though with one major loss tagging behind.
Until they cocked it up in the post-ending-credits scene and revealed which one is “more good.” So damn close, Fire Emblem. So damn close.
It did get me thinking, though, of other games that did something similar. I could only ever think of one, but it’s actually a very good example. Which is highly ironic, because the story was pretty much fanfiction crap.
That game is Silent Hill: Book of Memories, the alleged bastardization of the series which turned out to be an extremely original and novel dungeon crawler that was functionally sound, if busted in the story department. One thing that it did manage there, though, is that there are actually multiple good endings, in addition to multiple bad endings, all of which are entirely valid conclusions that pretty much encompass any decision the player, themselves, would make in a similar situation. In fact, one of the “bad” endings is even technically a positive outcome, and one of the “good” endings actually screws the player over. Apart from the true bad ending (which is entirely the “wrong” ending), each decision comes with positives and negatives, depending on your point of view.
It’s not exactly ideal for a lot of reasons, but it was certainly a refreshing experience that made me want to play through Book of Memories all over again. For two seconds, anyway; I soon realized I have no idea how to unlock any of the endings because the way to get them are so obtuse.
What do you guys think? Do you think that multiple good endings are something worth pursuing? Can you recall games which do this? Does getting a bad ending make you want to punt puppies?
DISCLAIMER: The part about me kicking puppies is a joke. I’d never do that, and anyone who would think I would should be ashamed for making such assumptions! Kittens, on the other hand...