Being a relatively active gamer, I’ve played quite a number of titles throughout the last few years. I personally prefer games that are heavy on story and depth. Having this preference, my games of choice have included those that are stereotypically associated with such traits: Action/Adventure and RPG-types.
I’m bored, so I’m writing about the top 5 games on the PS2 that contain the most memorable stories and colorful characters from my experiences. Please take note that I emphasize “on the PS2. I know there are plenty of other greats littered throughout the other consoles (XBox, PS1, SNES, Genesis, etc) but since I primarily (basically only) play the PS2, I figured I’d be lazy and keep it in that category… so hah. XD
Anyways, the games listed may or may not have awesome gameplay, graphics, or be perfect in all dimensions; however, their stories were enough to make me not only play to the ending screen, but also remember them. Oh, and these games are not listed in any particular order.
For this entry, I will list one of the 5 games:
|Drag-on Dragoon 1 & 2
(Drakengard 1 & 2)
A game that chronicles the story of Caim and his dragon Angelus, and their struggles against the Empire.
When first faced with this title, most people I know have remembered seeing the box at some video game store, but never actually knowing what it is. It’s sort of an understandable issue. Drag-on Dragoon (known in the US and some other countries as Drakengard) is a relatively unknown title that was released by Square-Enix during 2003-2005. It is an action/adventure type game with minor hints of RPG-ish elements.
I would normally only consider one game per space on this list, but felt that it was necessary to place these two particular games together as an installment since game two essentially finishes the story from where the first left off.
I’ll admit right away that the actual gameplay of Drag-on Dragoon isn’t perfect. The various levels are often quite long and repetitive. The intial thought of a combo third-person hack/slash adventure with tastes of Panzer Dragoon’s aerial dragon combat seemed intriguing; however the execution was sub-par. The enemies generally have very low AI and levels are often filled with endless button mashing. In addition, the depth of vision is horrendous. Oftentimes, you’ll find yourself charging into some area only to have enemies unexpectingly pop up right in front of you.
In terms of story, I personally felt that Drag-on Dragoon shined quite well. The entire game is essentially a tragic tale about the struggles of a former prince by the name of Caim and the entire conflict generated by the Empire. It must be noted that an element called “pact-pricing” plays a heavy role in the story. Pact pricing is essentially forming a pact with some mythical creature (dragons, mystical beasts, etc) to gain power; however, a pact price must also be given up (this may be a biological ability or something dear to the pact-ee). As a result, the two pact partners gain power but also weaknesses as if one partner dies, the other follows suit.
The general premise of the story shows that in Caim’s world, humans live alongside various other entities including the Dragons and the “Gods.” The Gods, also referred to as The Nameless (Grotesqueries) essentially created the god class of Arch-Dragons/Holy Dragons, whom then created the human race. The Gods initially set the Holy Dragons in control of the created world. Over time, the Gods ousted the Dragons and thus, began the ongoing conflict between the Gods and the Holy Dragons over who rightfully owns the “throne.” The Gods, seeing humans as nothing but small playthings, desired to destroy humanity and other life. In order to do so, the four seals must be destroyed in order to release this “Seed of Resurrection” or destruction. The catch is that one of the seals (the 4th) is embodied in the life of a female or “goddess.”
The story starts with the battle between two great forces/nations: the Union and the Empire. The Empire seeks to acquire this fourth seal in order to essentially control the world. As a result, the world is in a continual stage of conflict and strife. The Gods, having tainted the broken mind of a young 6-year old girl by the name of Manah, use her as a puppet along with the Cult of Watchers in controlling this powerful human “nation” of sorts (Empire) in order to destroy the seals and release chaos onto the world.
Of course for Caim, his country is attacked by the Empire’s dragons leaving him on the brink of death. By chance, Caim meets an dying Red Dragon named Angelus. Despite his hatred for dragons due to previous experience during the attack, Caim and Angelus both understood that they needed one another to survive. The two form a pact with Caim giving up his ability to speak, thus turning him into a mute.
Despite their efforts, the Empire succeeds in capturing both the goddess (Furiae, Caim’s sister) along with his best friend, Inuart. The story continues with Caim’s struggle against the Empire alongside various gathered allies (all of whom possess pact-partners and some grudge against the Empire) in order to save his sister and prevent the oncoming chaos. Along the way, he loses friends and loved ones. Inuart, who is in love with Furiae, is made delusional by the Cult of Watchers and begins unknowingly helping against Caim’s goals. In the end, Manah succeeds in killing Furiae and thus releases the 4th and final seal. The Seeds of Resurrection have been sowed. Inuart loses his mind upon realizing Furiae’s death and the extent of his actions. Caim, overcome with grief, has lost both his sister and friend. He continues on to the Imperial capital to confront Manah and prevent further catastrophe.
Caim finally reaches the capital and fights his way to the temple housing Manah. There, he and a comrade (Verdeleet) confront Manah. Verdeleet attempts to seal the evil that has taken over Manah’s mind. Manah overpowers him and grows in size and fights Caim. Caim is finally able to overcome the Empire and Gods’ plot and succeeds in his goals at the price of many lives. Manah, now somewhat sane that the evil of the Gods has been temporarily beaten back, asks for Caim to kill her. Caim does not allow such an escape and takes along Manah, making her face the truth of her horrendous actions. Despite success, the tragic truth is that in the absence of a Sealed vessel, another must take its place. As a result, Caim’s Dragon, Angelus, offers to be the sacrifice and takes the position as the Seal.
Angelus tells a tearful Caim for the first time what her name is, and succumbs to her chosen fate.
End Game 1.
Continuing on, Caim is celebrated as a hero and savior to many. In his grief, however, he essentially disappears for a long 18 years alongside Manah, who finally regains some of her senses. The story eventually continues with the character of Nowe, a young man (hybrid dragon-human of sorts) who enlists in the Knights of the Seal (a knight group that keeps order and watch over the many keys that contain the goddess seal). Nowe’s special quality is that he was raised by Legna (a dragon) and thus can speak dragon and has Legna as an ally. Through backstabbing and betrayal by heads of the Knights whom feared Nowe’s power, Nowe leaves the Knights of the Seal and opts to join an older Manah (yes, she’s back) in her efforts to once again destroy the seals. The irony of this situation is that the current Manah is not evil or under the direct influence of the Gods. In fact, she finally has control over her own being and strives to destroy the keys in order to free those oppressed by them. The keys, despite being an important necessity, require the lifeforce of living beings in order to sustain its powers. As a result, many of the villagers of the Empire are being used as “sacrifices.”
Along their adventures, the legendary Caim resurfaces. Caim is now acting in accord of his personal interests and seeks to also destroy the various keys as well. Due to his past impressions on Manah, Manah is deathly afraid of him, which causes Nowe and co to assume that he is an enemy. The struggles continue for both Nowe and Caim as the two separately destroy seals and confront one another. The truth is finally revealed however, once we all realize that Caim’s true intentions are to free Angelus and put her out of her misery.
Angelus, driven somewhat insane by her enslavement, goes berserk with a desire to destroy the world and engulf it in flames. Nowe and Legna are able to kill Angelus. Legna is eventually killed as well.
The story ends with a tearing Caim walking up to the lingering body of Angelus and petting her snout. In her dying breath, Angelus asks Caim if everything is finally over. Caim responds that it is indeed over, and that they are finally together again. The game ends with the two burning into ashes that drift off in the wind.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s the bittersweet ending that makes the game stand out so much to me, but I can’t help but love the entire story of these two games. Throughout the game 1, we get a real sense of Caim’s personality and struggles despite the fact that he has no real spoken dialogue. The interactions between hin and his comrades are intriguing, as each has their own tainted past and self conflicts. There really is nothing good that will happen to him in his life. Throughout the story, he simply loses more and more. He obviously cares for those close to him (Furiae, Angelus, Inuart). Through imagining the emotions one would experience had your best friend/brother-in-law went insane and the your sister died, only causes you to further sympathize with his character.
Even further, the ironic meeting of Caim and Angelus and the gradual growth in his and her relationship with each other throughout the story adds on another heartmoving tale. Despite their initial mutual hatred of one another, the bond between the two eventually grows to such a magnitude that 1: Angelus offers to be a sacrifice and 2: Caim returns the favor and sets out to free her of her misery (at the cost of his own life as well).
Despite the ending resulting in the death of Caim and Angelus, there’s also a bittersweet sense of peace and conclusion. Having experienced the horrors that he has been through, death seems like a wonderful freedom.
Of course, this is not to say that everyone will like the story. I know of plenty who thought the story was boring, too depressing, etc etc. but I personally thought the tragic plight of Caim and Angelus was very moving. If only the makers were able to structure the gameplay differently and improve other elements, it would’ve been a lot better.