Where have all the good villains gone? I say that with the full understanding that a good villain is one of the hardest roles to write, a villain has to have purpose and conviction. But so often in video games what we get is little more than the mustache twirling man with an evil laugh. And even those villains are nothing more than shadows compared to Kefka of Final Fantasy VI. Kefka was a mad man who cut swathes through wannabe heroes and villains alike; even going so far as killing his own Emperor. The best heroes have great villains to battle. Where is Shepard without the Reapers, Master Chief without the Covenant or even the Dark Knight without Heath Ledger’s Joker?
I played Asuras’ Wrath, the other day. Combat was forgettable but the story was impressive. These demigods had protected mankind for thousands of years. A few of them get the idea that they can rule better than their Emperor and so murdered him and framed one of their own. It’s not exactly a new story but the villains themselves were so nicely nuanced. Some of them merely lusted for power, while others wanted Evil vanquished no matter the cost. One followed out of loyalty, while another just loved the fight. Asuras’ struggle is reflected in the mirror of each villain’s desires. The best fight is against his best friend. Wearing a mask in shame, the friend makes the argument that Asura has already lost, and that a further struggle is pointless and will cost more human lives. While he acknowledges that the things done to Asura and his family are unforgivable, he tells Asura “next time stay dead”. His fight becomes more than just another revenge story, and become a fairly intelligent thesis on what drives us.
It’s perhaps not entirely surprising that villains are so forgotten when stories are written, but it’s always to the detriment of the story and the heroes struggle when it’s done. Heroes and Villains are always defined by each other; for without struggle victory is meaningless.