"As a long time gamer," Sakurai writes in his Weekly Famitsu column, "I often find the stories told by games to be bothersome." Indeed, many games seem to take their time laying out the beginning of their stories, showing long (and sometimes unskippable) cutscenes, or limiting what actions the protagonist can take before finally relinquishing control to the player's hands.
This sort of intro can ruin the tempo of a game and, in the worst cases, break any immersion the player was hoping to achieve. Sakurai, who created Nintendo's pink spherical iconic character, Kirby, and also worked as a designer on fighting game series Smash Bros, goes on to say, "Perhaps my desire to play the game makes me too impatient towards any elements that seem to interfere with that."
Scenarios are a necessary element of games, Sakurai admits. The game world needs some sort of background in order for the characters to exist, and providing players with a story-based objective adds to the emotional investment and enjoyment of a game. But video game scenarios are fundamentally different from the scenarios in other forms of media. Sakurai brings up the death of characters in games as an example. "Take when a character you have spent time building up dies or leaves your party: for someone playing the game, it feels unfair." Sakurai explains. "The departure of a companion. In a standard story, this is a very basic plot point. But in games, it leads to a disruption."
We've all encountered that point in a game where we fight a boss character only to be defeated because the story requires it. The game essentially penalises us when we have done nothing wrong. On the contrary, we have been playing by the game's rules, and then the game cheats. "And yet," Sakurai goes on to say, "there are emotions that cannot be stimulated without such penalties; in fact some games end up sticking with us because of them."
It all comes down to a question of balance. Sakurai himself directed and wrote the scenario for Kid Icarus: Uprising. By holding the reins, Sakurai was able to write a scenario that played on the benefits of being a game. For Sakurai, by being both director and scenario writer, he was able to give Kid Icarus a more unified balance and eliminated as much scenario-based penalties as possible.
In closing, Sakurai writes, "Certain tropes, like ‘the departure of companions' and other scenarios that are standard, or even treasured, in other media, are not favourable in video games . However, the opposite is also true. I hope that more video game-specific scenarios will be created and utilized. They work because they fit a game's content and gameplay. The best thing is to utilise this and build stories that cannot be told in other media."
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