Welcome back for the third installment of my Top Tens of 2014. If you missed last week’s list of the Top Ten Gaming Moments of 2014, you can check it out here. Similar to the way that last week’s list works, these characters don’t necessarily have to be from a game released this year. If the first time I’ve experienced the game was this year, it’s fair game. Each entry will also only include one character per game/series so that too many characters from one place don’t appear and dominate the list. As always, elaborating on these characters enters spoiler territory, so consider yourself warned.
10) Octodad – Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Probably the most family-loving character on this list, Octodad does his best to take care of his family while simultaneously keeping his identity hidden. Even though he can’t talk, his burbles come from the heart.
The gameplay of Octodad: Dadliest Catch is as much the character as the dandy octopus, and it helps the player empathize with the awkwardness of hiding his identity. With that said, Octodad is the best cephalopod character of 2014.
9) Rubella – Child of Light
Rubella is a simple character with a simple gimmick, but this makes her one of the most memorable characters in Child of Light. She is an Aerostati, a race of humanoid creatures that live in balloon platforms above Mathildis Forest. As a jester, her dream is to be Lemuria’s wittiest vocalist, but she isn’t very good at it, mainly because of her inability to finish a rhyming scheme.
This juxtaposes the tone of the entirely game when every other character, even minor ones, speak in rhymes. Frankly, most of the support characters in Child of Light are uninteresting to me, but Rubella stands out as one of the exceptions.
8) Royce Bracket – Transistor
My favorite kind of villains are the sympathetic ones. The kind that you can see how they came to their conclusion of world destruction and maybe even have done the same in their shoes. Royce Bracket is one such villain. Since he designed and was able to control The Process, Royce joined the Camarata in order to unleash it and turn Cloudbank into a clean slate with help of The Transistor.
By the end of the game, Red brings The Transistor to Royce to stop the spread. Red and Royce end up trapped inside a device called The Cradle and must duel for who will be able to leave. This boss fight is also in my favorite style of “your opponent is your equal” since Royce has both the Turn() and Function() systems. All together, Royce is a great villain and one of the most memorable antagonists this year.
7) Little Mac – Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
I loved the character reveal trailers for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS. Each one had a different style and presentation based off of the particular character being revealed. While some of my favorite trailers stared characters like Greninja and Palutena, nothing beats Little Mac’s. Trailer aside, what Little Mac brings to the table in Super Smash Bros. makes the game so much fun. His play style feels very different compared to other characters, past and present.
How so? Little Mac’s strengths are tied to being planted on the ground. He has an arsenal of power Smash Attacks, rapid fire jabs, a stage-sweeping Jolt Haymaker, and most importantly a K.O. Uppercut that deals massive damage when the meter is charged. Before you think that Little Mac is obviously the best, his weaknesses are some of the most severe. His aerial moves are practically nonexistent and his recovery ability is considerably weak. Little Mac may seem overpowered, especially in For Glory’s Final Destination setting, but he has just enough counters to be somewhat balanced. All this makes Little Mac my favorite Smash character and I can’t wait to play him even more in the Wii U version this Friday.
6) Ganondorf – Hyrule Warriors
Hyrule Warriors is a cathartic and satisfying game on its own. Out of all of the playable characters in this game, there is one where such a description not only perfectly matches, but also excels. That character is Ganondorf. Massive, devastating attacks that take out equally massive hordes of enemies is his attack style. Even while stat-wise he is basically as powerful as any of the other characters, especially when you first unlock him, Ganondorf still feels powerful.
Hyrule Warriors also does an excellent job of portraying Ganondorf as the manifestation of evil that he is. In particular, the final scenario of Legend Mode has our heroes taking on Ganondorf at the captured Hyrule Castle renamed Ganon’s Tower. Even after you dominate the battlefield and defeat him, Ganondorf’s darkness assumes the form of Ganon. This final boss fight is awesome, even considering that his attacks essentially mirror those of the game’s other giant bosses and makes use of the same tricks. Still, I absolutely love being able to continue playing as Ganondorf whenever I want.
5) Elise “The Eternal Envy” – Azure Striker Gunvolt
After the way that I talked about Asimov last week, you may have expected him to represent the roster of Azure Striker Gunvolt in this list. In reality, Elise stands out as my favorite and most memorable of the villains. I love characters that have a facet of their personality drawn out as the main inspiration for their combat style, and Elise’s is one I haven’t seen since Gemini Spark from Megaman Star Force.
It literally the same fashion, Elise has multiple personalities, so her weaponized form is two bodies, one harsh and vile, the other timid and frightened. Her Resurrection skill allows one body to revive the other, forcing you to make use of Gunvolt’s abilities to take out both simultaneously, which reflects good design. Even better than that, when you fight her again, the process of breaking her element from the first battle causes a third animalistic personality to emerge. It was this moment that solidified her in this list and as an awesome moment from Azure Striker Gunvolt.
4) Ringabel – Bravely Default
For most JRPGs I’ve played, there’s always that one character that stands out as my favorite in the party. When I started, RIngabel was definitely not one of them. His womanizing demeanor was the biggest factor made me disinterested in him. For the duration of visiting the four crystal temples, I favored Agnes with Edea holding a close second. It wasn’t until the Pillar of Light that I started to really like RIngabel.
After seeing Alternis Din looked just like himself, Ringabel slowly becomes the rational member of the party. He starts to point out to the party that not everything may be as it seems and doubt starts to loom as to whether or not their actions are the right thing to do. Ringabel ends up serving as the crutch for the overarching story in a way I don’t remember seeing before, and I love him for it.
3) Yeto and Yeta – Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
In my experience with the Zelda series, there are quite a few characters that stand out. As of now, out of all the characters in Twilight Princess, Yeto and Yeta are my favorites. You first meet Yeto as you reach the top of Snowpeak and sled down after him after he invites you to his home. The abandoned mansion is surprisingly homey, where one of the first things you encounter is a lady yeti named Yeta sitting by a toasty fireplace. Yeta is sick, and her husband Yeto is making some soup for her to feel better.
As you follow Yeta’s guidance, you accidentally find ingredients for soup instead. In turn, you give these to Yeto and he makes Yeta’s soup better.This dungeon culminates in a recovering Yeta showing you their bedroom where the shard is. Here’s where she goes crazy and becomes the dungeon boss Blizzeta, and you must defeat her using the Ball and Chain to slowly break through her ice body. The ending sequence is very touching, where Yeto is embracing a weakened Yeta, with a shower of hearts accompanying the Heart Container. All this makes Yeto and Yeta some of the most memorable characters in both the game and this list.
2) Shantae – Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Shantae is definitely unique for this list as one of the best examples of a mascot character. Her (technically) half-genie appearance is striking and easily identifiable, and the new pirate gear introduced in this game suits her well. She remains upbeat, despite losing her magic powers and basically becoming human.
The variety of ways that Shantae’s personality shines through the game is also cool. She’s the only character in the game that has voiced dialogue, and as such she stands out compared to pretty much everyone else. Her character art in conversation is very expressive, well portraying emotions like joy, concern, surprise, and fear. Even her in-game movement and idle animations match her belly-dancing genie inspiration. Shantae is well characterized through the story as well as the gameplay, and that’s why she’s one of my favorite characters of 2014.
1) Shield Knight – Shovel Knight
Shield Knight’s role in Shovel Knight appears minor at first. Judging by the intro, Shield Knight almost appears like another Damsel In Distress trope. As mentioned before, this is far from the case in the final battle. After the two Knights team up to take on The Enchantress, however, Shield Knight sacrifices her life to save Shovel Knight’s. The Tower of Fate falls and the land is saved.
As Black Knight brings Shovel Knight’s unconscious body back to the bonfire, the credits roll and I’m left saddened by his loss. At that moment Shield Knight was a great character to me. What took her over the top was seeing her after the credits limp up to Shovel Knight and layed down beside the man she loved. Such a simple, almost unnecessary touch makes a huge differences and results in my favorite character and one of my favorite endings of 2014.
So, what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Either way, lists like these are great for discussion. Taking these characters out and analyzing them really makes me appreciate how important they are for their games, and I hope it does the same for you. Of course, feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.