Old game character archetypes

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American_Gentleman
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Old game character archetypes

Postby American_Gentleman » Fri Sep 29, 2017 2:01 am

Hello, greetings fellow old timers :) , I have recently regained interest in old games and have a question for you kind folks. The subject is RPG themes from '87 to '97. There's some kind of archetypal thing?

Final Fantasy 6, 7; Phantasy Star 4; Lunar 1+2: main enemy is male and has some kind of androgynous thing going on and is aligned with forces of chaos or uncreation. FF5 I think is in this category too, I can't quite recall. The enemy was the Mu/Nothingness. Kefka turns into an androgynous angel of uncreation...Sephiroth is effectively the same, and given a character name more or less clear about "magical creation/uncreation"...Dark Force in PS4 goes through male and then finally female forms only to be revealed as a devouring inhuman force of chaos in its final battle form...Ghaleon is a cute witchcraft elf then turns into an cute evil witchcraft elf. ...Zophar more or less is presented as androgynous and Zophar's Domain is visually presented as a kind of demonic womb. ...Same with Garuberk Tower, PS4.

Lunar 1+2, FF 6+7, and Grandia have female characters who are metahuman demigods with restorative powers; these powers are also subject to being tapped/controlled by the enemy or theoretically by good. Luna's powers are tapped by Ghaleon, Lucia's powers are tapped by the Blue Star fortress and Blue Spire or she somehow interacts with them...and Lucia is then crystallized as an energy source by the squid dragon thing after she claims the power of creation in the Goddess Tower... Terra is under evil control, is freed, then eventually morphs into a pink esper... Aeris is more or less presented as Persephone [Greek] ... and drops the Holy Materia when she's killed by an androgynous agent of chaos. ...Leen is an Icarian who's under evil control [Leen is Terra transplanted into a different videogame with plot points rearranged]

Both male bad guys and female heroines have a shapeshifting ability to some extent, or are something then revealed as another.

Is there a religious cultural tradition in Japan that this comes from that a person could clearly point to and say "it's that"? Is there a certain old religious or myth source? The male-androgyny-chaos-unmaking of creation thing and the female-divine-goddess-restorer thing.

So okay, Phantasy Star doesn't do this female divine magic thing. Alis/Nei/Alys/Rika aren't really magical. Nei/Rika bioengineered and very empathetic but...not magic.

Is there a specific figure of Japanese myth that's some kind of androgynous identity/shapeshifting male satan figure? And is there like a ... female identity/shapeshifting christ figure?
Closest I can come up with is some kind of karmic rebirth thing ... the re-incarnations of Luna/Althena in Lunar? So the whole arrangement of archetypes is partially Buddhist?

Hope you are all having nice days :)

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Shinto-Cetra
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Re: Old game character archetypes

Postby Shinto-Cetra » Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:51 pm

The two main religions of Japan are Shinto and Buddhism, and they were basically the same religion from the Heian era till the Meiji Restoration. In Shinto belief, there is no good and evil on the same level as in the Christian-influenced west. "Impurity" is similar to evil but of varying degrees. Somer Tsumi are similar to evil, many of which are described in the Kojiki/Nihongi in the chapters where Susanowo no Mikoto (Storm god) rampages through heaven, scaring Amaterasu no Omikami (Sun goddess), eg flaying animals alive, pooping in a sacred space, murder, destroying rice fields, etc. However, there are a whole other category of impurity that are lesser and involuntary, such as shedding blood, illnesses, etc. One of the main points of Shinto is to purified from impurities as a whole.

Buddhism has more of a concept of good and evil, though it should be stressed that many different kinds of Buddhism have different definitions of what it means. But as a whole, Buddhism emphasizes reincarnation as a consequence for not achieving enlightenment, however, if one does enough good deeds one can be reincarnated in a better realm than their previous life. In a nutshell, don't kill humans or animals, lower your ego, meditate, etc.

In the ancient Japanese religion that organized Shinto evolved from, and modern day folk rituals, there is still a shamanistic tradition of possession by spirits but these aren't done for evil, usually to channel spirits of the dead. They return to their normal state when the ritual is complete.

Now back to the RPG question...most RPGs have more of a Western (medieval, futuristic or both) influence. Althena does get reincarnated as a human, but not as punishment, in TSS it just happens every 500 years, in the remakes it's because she thinks humanity is ready to move on without her. Brainwashed Althena/ Slave-crown Terra were mind controlled but it's not the same as spirit channeling. There is a whole tradition of female animals shapeshifting into human form and marrying a human male, then when the man discovers her true form the woman/animal vanishes. However, Terra morphs to increase her fighting prowess, not to find a mate.

As for androgynous archetypes, I don't know of any in Japanese legends (depending on the artist, some characters may appear to be so.) In the middle ages, Samurai were supposed to grow out a full beard, however with the coming of the peace of the Edo period, cleanly-shaven has been the norm, then with the westernization of the Meiji restoration till the end of WWII facial hair was again in vogue. After the US occupation, most men shaved after more recent US military fashion, and today many jobs mandate a man be cleanly shaven. So that should explain why most JRPG villains don't engage in mustache twirling, as for the long hair, maybe just a fashion choice? Magus from Chrono Trigger, while not androgynous is called Maoh in Japan, which is the Buddhist equivalent of Satan, who tries to prevent enlightenment.

There are some RPGs that deal more with Eastern culture, eg Saiyuki on PS1 (a quest to get Buddhist relics), God Wars: Future Past (a "reboot" of the Shinto Age of the gods), Shadow Hearts: Covenant (set in WWI era and Susanowo becomes a major plot point), the Tengai Makyou series (set in an alternate old Japan called "Jipang"), and Shining: The Holy Ark/Shining Force III (the mythos there starts off mostly Christian-inspired but you later get Shinto scared relics, plus there are Shinto Priests who handle promotions.)

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ShugoHanasaki
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Re: Old game character archetypes

Postby ShugoHanasaki » Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:58 am

That was a really great response, Shinto! ^_^
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