Cut Scenes

Cosmic Fantasy 2

Image via Wikipedia

When I think of cut scenes in a game, I imagine the CGI rendered scenes from Final Fantasy VII, or the animated sequences from Cosmic Fantasy 2 (Has anyone else actually played this game? You totally should). I think these types of scenes are pretty clearly cut scenes.

But what about the vast majority of 2D RPG’s – and even some modern games – that used long sequences of character dialogue? I wonder if those count as cut scenes.

Wikipedia indicates that such scenes do, in fact, count. And let’s face it, Wikipedia has never led anyone astray. But I think that article does leave room for interpretation: at what point do limited control and extensive dialogue translate into a cut scene?

I’ll take a moment to freely admit that this distinction doesn’t really matter all that much. So let me explain what caused me to ponder the question.

I was playing yet another RPG Maker created game, and the intro sequence stretched on… and on… and on. Without any actual control granted to the player. It felt like I had to wait in line for an hour to play the game.

The wait wasn’t worth it. Frankly, I’m not sure any game would have been worth that wait.

Yet, I think cut scenes are a legitimate, perhaps even necessary, plot device in any game with pretensions of a story. I also think that several games have used cut scenes to the point of borderline ruin. Episode I of XenoSaga comes to mind. Several Square games come close.

I like the idea of a game completely stripped of cut scenes, but I think that we may just be arguing semantics when it comes down to whether full control during voice overs or written dialogue (dialogue overs?) are cut scenes. Sure, maybe I get to move around and talk to people, but if I’m still restricted, and still getting plot forced on me, then… Well, it’s not gameplay, so what is it?

But given the option, I know that I, at least, definitely prefer limited control during these sequences, as opposed to a completely passive experience.

I’m left pondering more questions. How do you balance cut scenes with the action? Can you allow the player to retain control throughout the entire game? Can you tell a real story without anything resembling a cut scene? Might as well ask if you can tell a story without dialogue…

PS: My first use of a “non-free, could qualify as fair-use” picture in a post. Hopefully, Working Designs and Nippon Telenet (wait, they’re both defunct) realize that I’m just trying to inspire a Cosmic Fantasy 2 craze. I have fond memories of that game.


2 thoughts on “Cut Scenes

  1. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the Half Life style of cut scene where you still have 90%-100% control while the events play out around you. Bonus points for when NPCs track you with their heads when addressing you directly.

    While I’m certain this has already happened in many RPGs, I can’t for the life of me name one.

    And while we’re at it, what do you think of the Mass Effect style of cut scene where you retain control by pointing the dialog in your preferred direction?

    • I definitely thought about Half Life while I wrote the post – but I didn’t want to reference it because the wikipedia article mentioned Half Life. I have to admit, I didn’t notice the cut scenes in Half Life as being all that special, but then again, I didn’t play the game until years after its release.

      The Mass Effect cut scenes are pretty similar to me. Sure, you get to direct the conversation to an extent, but it’s not like you’re moving your character around.

      As far as I can tell, in both Mass Effect and Half Life, there are significant breaks from the action in order to distribute plot amongst the masses. Which is fine, and those games definitely deserve credit for inviting the player into the process.

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