How the story begins: When people die, they don’t go to Heaven or Hell… they enter the Mexican-inspired Land of the Dead and begin an entirely new journey to the Ninth Underworld. The length and difficulty of that epic trip is determined by two factors: first, how well the souls conducted their previous lives, and second, what kind of transportation their Grim Reaper, or travel agent, can wrangle for them.
What the prequel would cover: Grim Fandango displays more brilliance and creativity in its first ten minutes than the majority of games manage over 20-60 hours. Before you can fully grasp the genius of the premise, however, the point-and-click adventure is speeding forward into even wilder scenarios (like cat racing) and even smarter references (like Casablanca). By the end, your character – Manny Calavera – has visited dozens of locations, worked several different jobs and grown four years older.
That first part was more than enough for us, though. We’d happily play a game featuring only Manny’s first career as a Grim Reaper agent, helping various souls to their final resting places. How would he deal with a former murderer, as opposed to a former nun? What happens when a person tries to lie about their sins, or when they don’t accept the type of transportation that is offered to them?
In the original game, verdicts came through a simple office message tube, but that system is eventually revealed as corrupt. In the prequel, each judgment could be more complicated, and more unique. Plus, the cases wouldn’t have to relate to each other. We got episodic Sam & Max stories, and the recent Tales of Monkey Island, so why not The Files of Grim Fandango?
FINAL FANTASY IV
How the story begins: He may wear nightmarish armor, steal religious artifacts, answer to a monster king and make orphaned little girls cry, but Cecil Harvey is really a nice guy once you get to know him. In fact, when he realizes how much evil stuff he’s been doing as a Dark Knight and leader of the Red Wing army, he puts in his two-weeks notice, ditches his badass helmet and goes on the noble pilgrimage necessary to become a pretty, pretty Paladin with tousled hair and soft skin.
What the prequel would cover: Final Fantasy IV is a masterpiece and one of our favorite RPGs of all time. The story, though, follows a very familiar path: conflicted anti-hero is “anti” for all of ten minutes before realizing the error of his ways, discovering his true destiny / identity and spending the rest of the story as a pure-hearted goody-two-shoes with no moral ambiguity whatsoever.
How about the opposite trajectory? What if we played Cecil during his descent instead of his ascent? Imagine an RPG that starts off in a typical kingdom with a typical young boy as its protagonist; he’s even got the expected best friend rival and the best friend love interest. Only from the beginning, we’ll know that the young boy is a future Dark Knight, that his rival is a future Dragoon (Kain) and that his love interest is a future White Mage (Rosa).
More importantly, we’ll know the end – that this parentless, impressionable kid will slowly but surely be led into darkness. His rise from the shadows can be left to the game we already know and love, but this prequel would be all about the fall. Think of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. Okay, bad example… think of Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Or Arthas in Warcraft III. The path from good to bad is just as compelling, if not more so, than that from bad to good.
Aug 17, 2009
The Top 7... precursor games
Halo 3's ending revealed? Big Daddy's father unmasked? Witness the evolutions that led to today's favorites
The surprising origins of your favorite games
Failed Resident Evils, Master Chief in 3rd person and the Mario game you’ll never play
The Top 7... best beginnings
Games that blow you away right from the start