The Best First Encounters in Video Games
Elizabeth’s debut in BioShock Infinite is nothing short of mesmerizing. Locked away in a tower in the impossibly fantastic floating city of Columbia, something is certainly awry. Who put her there? Is the city a threat to her, or is she a threat to them? Players are left almost waiting for the other shoe to drop, which makes her debut both breathtaking and unnerving. It’s a warped and wonderful twist on the infamous “rescue the princess” tale that only begins to tear the entire script open for interpretation.
And it’s an amazing way to introduce a new character. Some games handle that assignment with less intrigue (A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES!) while others weave hours of mystery and deceit into the plot until the character’s climactic debut. I gathered a few of my friends here at IGN to reflect on the most memorable first appearances of gaming characters that truly resonated with them. What were yours?
Frog, Chrono Trigger
Marty Sliva, Associate Editor says….
It’s hard for me not to pick Frog, who’s possibly my favorite character in what’s probably my favorite RPG. But those caveats aside, his entrance a few hours into Chrono Trigger is the stuff of absolute legend. With your party of naïve kids stuck in an endless battle, it’s the amphibious knight who swoops in and makes quick work of the creatures that haunt Manolia Cathedral. At this early stage in the game, the player has yet to encounter a character that’s so damn powerful. With an emotional backstory, iconic weapon, and phenomenal theme, Frog is the epitome of a hero who knows how to make an entrance.
Legion, Mass Effect 2
Casey Lynch, Head of Brand & Community says….
The loyalty missions were an innovative way to keep the action moving forward in a character-focused manner in Mass Effect 2, but none were more compelling than Legion’s.
Meeting the hive-mind Geth while scouring the derelict Reaper for the IFF was totally confusing. Legion wore Shepard’s armor and helped defend “Shepard Commander” from the ship-full of Husks. Legion’s first encounter was made all the more intense thanks to Sam Wall and Jack Hulick’s incendiary soundtrack as Legion’s theme boasts one of the more rousing crescendos in the entire game.
Vaas, Far Cry 3
Mitch Dyer, Associate Editor says…
Lots of games open with you locked in a prison you immediately need to escape, but few of ‘em open with such a frightening (yet somehow endearing) warden. Vaas establishes an intense, bleak tone to Far Cry 3 with a lengthy speech about how f***ed you are. He killed your friends, he’s put you in a cage, and he’s going to sell you. Nice to meet you, Vaas.
Ayla, Chrono Trigger
Meghan Sullivan, Database Editor says…
When Chrono and his merry band of time travelers find themselves trapped in the Stone Age and surrounded by giant green lizards, things look pretty bleak. But just as the monsters are about to devour our heroes, a cave woman by the name of Ayla literally barrel rolls her way into the scene and starts clobbering monsters left and right with her bare hands. Thanks to her, Chrono and his friends are able to get the upper-hand, and together they trounce their enemies. Ayla’s entrance is easily one of the best character introductions ever, and it doesn’t hurt that she also has one of the best character themes, either!
Setzer, Final Fantasy VI
Colin Moriarty, Editor says…
There are so many reasons why Final Fantasy VI tells perhaps the greatest story in RPG history, and one of those reasons is how the character Setzer is introduced. Setzer is a prolific gambler swimming in enormous winnings, so much so that he owns an airship that’s the marvel of the world. Your party in Final Fantasy VI knows this, and they set up an incredible ruse to trick Setzer into kidnapping Celes – who he thinks is another woman – so that they can gain access to the elusive gambler and his famous airship.
But things don’t go according to plan once Setzer kidnaps Celes and is tricked into helping the party when he makes a bet using Edgar’s trick coin. It all sounds a little confusing, but trust me when I say that the way Setzer is weaved into Final Fantasy VI so deep into the game, once you’ve already met a vast majority of your party members, is artful, clever and emotional, especially when taken into context with Final Fantasy VI’s famous opera scene, which is just one of the many scenarios in the game just begging for an HD remake.
Tyrant 103, Resident Evil
Stephen Ng, Editor says…
The silent Tyrant – silent only until Chris and Jill escape to the Spencer Mansion’s roof – delivers a nice, fat surprise while you’re trying to escape before the whole place self-destructs. Fans of Resident Evil will remember that the only weapon that destroys it won’t even appear until near the end of the escape (depending on the damage you manage to inflict) but on some versions, Tyrant even effortlessly bats away your first shot.
D0G, Half-Life 2
Dan Stapleton, Executive Editor of Reviews says…
Seeing a giant, physically imposing robot behave like a playful but protective pet is a fantastic way to get to know D0G. It both instantly establishes his relationship with Alex Vance and gives a great tutorial for how to use the Gravity Gun by throwing heavy stuff at you. Every time he shows up to hurl vans at Combine troops, it’s hard not to picture him as a dog playing with his toys.
Iriqouis Pliskin, Metal Gear Solid 2
Sean Allen, Community Manager says…
We know exactly who he is, despite the fact that he tries to hide is identity to Raiden. It’s not so much we are being introduced to the character, but this is the first time he is introduced as a secondary character. Suddenly, because he isn’t the player, all bets on who he is and what happens to him are off.
Proto Man, Mega Man 3
Brian Altano, Senior Editor says…
This mysterious robot – complete with his signature whistled anthem – shows up seemingly at random in the middle of select stages in Mega Man 3, pretty much just to jump you and kick your ass. He’s equal parts awesome and dangerous and that’s what makes his appearances so intriguing. It isn’t revealed until later in the game that he’s on your side against Dr. Wily, but most players won’t learn that without handing over a few energy tanks first.
So what was your best first encounter in a video game? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Brian Altano is IGN’s Senior Editor. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @agentbizzle.
By Brian Altano