Playable Dénouement

by Darius Kazemi on July 25, 2007

in narrative,stories

I recently bought a Super Nintendo off of Craigslist. I already had one, but it stopped working all of a sudden. So, armed with a “new” SNES, I loaded up one of my all-time favorite games, Earthbound, and lo and behold, my old savegames were still there.

In one of these savegames, my party is maxed-out at level 99 with 9,999,999 experience points and Poo has the Sword/Bracer/Cloak/Diadem of Kings. Took me 12 damn hours to get that sword. Anyway, this savegame took place more or less right before the final boss battle. Since I had maxed out my party, all the battles were extremely easy and I managed to beat the game in about 15 minutes.

And then I realized: Earthbound is one of the only games I’ve played that has a true dénouement: after you beat the final boss, you get to walk freely through every area of this very large game while a sort of lullaby plays in the background. Every single person you meet has something new to say to you, congratulating you for saving the world and oftentimes having some hilarious or satisfying conclusion to previous plot points. Talking to everyone in the game can take upwards of two hours.

Most game don’t have any dénouement at all. Or rather, it’s usually limited to an ending cinematic. What I like about Earthbound is that you actually play out the dénouement by walking around and talking to people. And you can make it as long or as short as you want, since whenever you get bored of talking to people you can go straight to your house to see your family and officially end the game.

Do you know of any other games that have a playable dénouement?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Corvus July 25, 2007 at 5:29 pm

DQ Heroes: Rocket Slime for the DS has something of a denouement. I’m guessing Pokemon will too.

However, these are games which allow continued access to the world so you can “train” for the multiplayer components.

I can’t think of any other games that have a denouement for the sake of denouement… well, WoW post 70 is pretty much a long and painful denouement filled with flashbacks, I guess!

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Mike Lundy July 25, 2007 at 5:41 pm

New Game+ in Chrono Trigger has a few endings with short ones (I especially like the ending when you beat it before you help the mammals defeat the reptites, and thus everyone is a reptite instead of a mammal). The longest one is probably the programmer’s ending, where you get to walk around the End of Time and talk to avatars left by the dev team.

I wish more games were like Earthbound. Need to get rid of a magic pencil blocking the path? Get a magic pencil eraser, duh!

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mik3cap July 25, 2007 at 6:01 pm

I thought one of the Suikoden games did, but I could be wrong…

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Patrick July 25, 2007 at 6:52 pm

Fallout and Fallout 2, but thats more retroactively playable, showing how different towns have turned out based on your actions.

Well put though, this should be a more common thing.

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Ian Schreiber July 25, 2007 at 7:00 pm

The original Ecco the Dolphin had a final level where you got to talk to a bunch of dolphins that you saved, before the credits rolled.

Angband let you keep playing indefinitely after beating the final boss.

I’m sure I’ve encountered a few RPGs over the years where you still had some limited control for a short period of time after defeating the last boss, although nothing quite as involved as you describe.

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Cameron Sorden July 25, 2007 at 8:18 pm

I’ve got nothing that hasn’t been said, yet (I’d have said Chrono Trigger), but I wanted to say…

…you rock. Earthbound is awesome. I want to go replay it now. :D

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Steve August 1, 2007 at 5:34 pm

The original Dragon Warrior/Quest had a playable denouement way back in 1986!

After defeating the Dragonlord you get to walk through the monster-free world and receive praise from townsfolk to your heart’s content. Eventually you’ll end up back at the game’s opening Castle and the game will wrap up.

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