StoryScan

Strengths and Weaknesses of Individual Game Stories

Intro

This feature seeks to highlight specific aspects of a game’s story, such as adherence to a unique structure, its character development, or its usage of theme. Stories that handled these aspects well are discussed in the Critical Hits section; stories that struggled are discussed in Weak Points. Full Game Studies break down the strengths and weaknesses of entire games, including their structures, characters, and themes. 

Critical Hits

12 Minutes:
Theme

12 Minutes develops the theme of mindfulness, by connecting it to plot, character, and setting.

Harry finds his police vehicle in the ice

Disco Elysium:
Theme

Disco Elysium uses broken things as symbols to emphasize the theme of redemption.

Final Fantasy VII:
Opening

Final Fantasy VII’s memorable opening succeeds by weaving in  character, setting, theme, and conflict. 

Final Fantasy XIV: Character

Final Fantasy XIV establishes its villain’s character through an arc that forces him to make difficult choices. 

Final Fantasy Tactics: Character

Final Fantasy Tactics uses a Corruption Arc to show what happens when a character compromises his integrity in pursuit of his goals. 

Guilty Gear Strive:
Tone

Guilty Gear Strive uses its gleefully absurd tone to illustrate its themes while staying true to both genre and franchise conventions. 

Hades:
Structure

Hades integrates the protagonist’s goals into its structure, marking the end of each act with a change in direction.

Kingdom Hearts:
Opening

Kingdom Hearts satisfies three separate audiences with an opening that emphasizes conflict and character development. 

Prey: Soundstage

Prey:
Setting

Prey (2017) maximizes its setting, a labyrinthine space station, by using it to illuminate the plot, the characters, and the theme. 

Resident Evil: Village:
Setup and Payoff

Resident Evil: Village uses setup and payoff to create tension surrounding the mystery of the protagonist’s unique abilities. 

Yakuza: LaD: Kasuga and the Tape

Yakuza: Like a Dragon:
Character

Yakuza: Like a Dragon uses both kindness and cruelty to make the audience sympathize with its protagonists.

Weak Points

Chrono Cross:
Plot

Chrono Cross’s story struggles to get off the ground due to a lack of goals, stakes, and urgency.

DEATHLOOP:
Endings

An incurious protagonist punts DEATHLOOP’s key questions to its endings. 

Final Fantasy VIII:
Setup and Payoff

Final Fantasy VIII’s most infamous plot twist is a failure of both setup and payoff. 

Mother 3:
Pacing

Although Mother 3 is a much-loved cult classic, its irregular structure, perspective switches, and time skips result in an inconsistent pace. 

Octopath Traveler:
Setup and Payoff

The disconnect between setup and payoff in Primrose’s portion of Octopath Traveler leads to a stale, repetitive story with nothing new to say.

Persona 5:
Structure

Persona 5 has all the elements of a strong story, but a bloated third act keeps it from reaching its full potential. 

Full game Studies

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time’s flawless integration of plot, character, and theme made it an instant classic that has endured for decades. 

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

Majora’s Mask puts its main narrative on the backburner to make room for its compelling cast and complex themes. 

The Legend of Zelda:
The Wind Waker

The Wind Waker is a simple yet effective story that weaves the theme of generational change into every aspect of its narrative. 

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess gets off to an uneven start, but finds its focus once it narrows its cast to reach a strong conclusion. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword’s standout secondary character almost redeems the bloated third act and poorly-explored themes.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild uses an unconventional story structure to give Princess Zelda a long overdue Hero’s Journey of her own.