While there are some exception to the rule, most stories are told in a linear fashion. Books, movies, and pretty much every other form of narrative has the receiver going from point A to B. And for many video games, this is true as well. But being an interactive form of entertainment, naturally developers started playing with the ability to alter the narrative itself. We’ve have been seeing attempts at this style of storytelling all throughout the lifespan of the industry. Done well, this can make a title a unique experience for multiple players, as well as offering multiple play-throughs. But when the title is a part of a franchise, or is a starting point for a new franchise, multiple story paths can become cumbersome and confusing.
In standalone titles, having multiple paths isn’t much of an issue . If anything, it is usually praised for its non-linearity. But when developers start building a direct sequel, they often have to choose which branch of the story they will continue from. More often than not, they choose the 100% completion ending which gave the best ending to the previous game. While this is fantastic to those who went as far to 100% the game, this can alienate many of the other players who simply just don’t have the time or patience. I’m sure most of you are probably familiar with beating a title and getting BAD END, then just looking up the ending on Youtube.
Some Endings in Command I’d Rather Forget
Titles that have slightly altered endings or bonus cut-scenes added onto the traditional endings don’t fall onto this issue nearly as much. But when a developer goes out of its way to create completely different endings, it can become a mess. One of the worst offenders is 2006’s Star Fox Command on Nintendo DS. Great game, but the title featured nine completely different endings. Which is cannon? Well, there have been multiple reports pointing towards different endings as well as the idea that Star Fox Command is the very last title in the time line, so the ending doesn’t even matter. Some even speculate the entire game is non-canon. The latest report from a December 2010 Nintendo Power says that *SPOILERS* the ending where Fox joins Star Wolf is the cannon ending. Which is an odd, but interesting, choice.*UNSPOILERS* Either way, there’s absolutely no indication of which is the real ending. So if a title does take place after Star Fox Command, many player’s experiences won’t line up.
Some titles have been able to overcome this issue without sacrificing the freedom of choice. The Mass Effect series already has leaped over the issues that face other titles by carrying your choices and progression from one title to another. But still today we see titles like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed where you can make one simple mistake and then BAD END, throwing off the plot for the entire sequel. Sure, it isn’t hard to find the ending for most games on Youtube or through word of mouth, but it can definitely be frustrating when you’re out of the know. All of a sudden, three years later, you find out ‘oh, you’re ending wasn’t the real ending. You had to do this, this and this, and then so-and-so dies and Miss Pretty Bottoms actually lives,’ altering the entire ending scenario.
Wait… Am I Supposed to Kill Him?
I’m definitely not against multiple endings or even BAD ENDs. The Castlevania series has some of the best bad endings ever. One BAD END even has you marrying Dracula. It just depends on the developer, the direction of the franchise, and how the story relates from one title to another. Depending the title, developers need to be more careful of how they implement the freedom of choice and alternative paths. Having drastically different endings with no way to tie them all together in a sequel can become a train wreck.
Do you have to look up endings on Youtube often? Or do you yourself obtain the best endings in-game?