Parallel Narratives

by Darius Kazemi on August 22, 2005

in Uncategorized

I have a question for my intrepid readers.

I was a passenger on a long car trip this weekend, and so, at Darren‘s suggestion, I purchased Shining Force for my GBA to soften the impact of the trip. Needless to say, as a huge fan of strategy RPGs (SRPGs) like Final Fantasy: Tactics and Jagged Alliance 2, I am enormously pleased with this game.

One thing that struck me as peculiar about the game is its narrative structure. Like any SRPG, you have your hero, and you go around amassing a party of warriors whose unique skills you then utilize in battle. The narrative is divided into “chapters”; each chapter is roughly 5 battles or so. Every time you win a battle, you get more story. Pretty straightforward.

But at the end of each chapter is an “epilogue”. This epilogue involves the story of a princess trying to meet up with your hero. You actually play as the princess through some short battles, and at this point I’m assuming she eventually meets you and joins your party. I suspected that these epilogues were not present in the original Sega Genesis version of the game, and were added on for the GBA version. After asking Darren, it turns out that I was right.

I feel like this kind of parallel narrative would have been way ahead of its time in 1992, when the game was originally released. Does anyone have any memories of this kind of narrative (where you play two separate parallel stories) present in a game from that era or earlier?


Craig Perko August 22, 2005 at 9:21 pm

Final Fantasy III (VIJ) had several parallel narratives in the early game. Chronotrigger departs from the primary story near the endgame, although since it has many of the same characters, I don’t know if it counts as “parallel”.

I have vague memories of other games, but they’re very vague. I’d have to review my game list…

I don’t think the limit was one of creativity, but of hardware: there simply wasn’t very much slack. That doesn’t prevent this kind of parallel storywork, but it does make it less likely that someone will think to try it.

Paul August 23, 2005 at 6:31 am

Sadly, the parallel narratives are a new feature of Shining Force for GBA. In the orginal Shining Force for Sega Genesis, Princess Narsha didn’t exist. She was added to flesh the story out a bit more.

However, Shining Force CD did indeed have a parallel narrative. You played as both the heroes from Guardania and Runefaust. This made for an interesting story line, because you switched between sides. I never finished the game, so I can’t tell you how it was resolved but not too shabby for a 1995 game.

Darius Kazemi August 23, 2005 at 12:05 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, folks.

Darren Torpey August 23, 2005 at 12:11 pm

Heh, yeah. I sort of assumed that Final Fantasy III (FF VI in Japan and on PSOne) was assumed for consideration when you asked me. ;)

You know what a big fan I am of that game, and that a big part of the game, and probably the reason it most sits in gamers’ hearts, is the quality of the game’s storylines and how well they are told/experienced.

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