Villains have it hard really. All they want is to be noticed, to be admired for their extreme ideologies that benefits their own selfish needs. Infamy is a far more persuasive way of gaining notoriety in the eyes of your peers. Is it so bad that a few innocent citizens are sacrificed to achieve these auspicious goals? If it were a war the deaths of countless innocents would be considered collateral damage. An unfortunate series of circumstances necessary to introduce a new diplomatic order. Is the Joker really any different from Tony Blair? Of course he is. The Joker is fictitious, whereas warmongering Tony is a far more deadly adversary than his literary equivalent. To me villainy can only be measured by the intent of the individual and what motivates them to commit such atrocities. Tyranny for instance can be attributed to a number of villainous actions, but is most commonly interpreted as a dictatorial ruler or someone in a position of authority. Someone who abuses their power to forward their own wills and desires at the cost of everyone else, principally influenced by their own maniacal hubris. “So behold mere mortals. The architect of your destruction is the overseer of all that you see before: a god! Thy name is Yggdrasil!” An androgynous deity of unquestionable power. Now judging by the images of this so called “God”, I’m sure Kratos could’ve dispatched Yggdrasil with selfish relish quicker than Joe Hart can concede two very preventable goals in 10 minutes at a major tournament, and still deem it necessary to disparage the oppositions credentials as a legitimate footballing nation. But there has always been something compelling about this deceptive facade.
Every protagonist needs an equally polarising opposite to offset the valiant altruism of a hero. They can cackle and glower, they can conceal their grotesque facial disfigurements in shadowy, dimly lit rooms or intertwine their ghoulish fingers while narrating their evil schemes in elaborately constructed castles, punctuated by routinely thumping lightning. A great villain however can establish intent without some dramatically embellished theatrics. Sometimes the best villains are the ones you don’t know exist. Perhaps even ones you pray to? And that’s Yggdrasil; an angelic deity and despotic ruler derived from humble beginnings, who rules from the heavens above manipulating the humans below for his own selfish ends, in one of my favourite Rpg’s Tales of Symphonia. He may not sound like evil incarnate and in fact his villainy can be summed up by personal tragedy and his own selfish convictions. It’s also worth noting that Yggdrasil is one big rouse, a form created as a more viable look for a god (it’s all about aesthetics) and disguise his flamboyant, petulant identity; Mithos. So where’s the harm in that deceit? All he has done is embellished his own identity and told a few porky pies. Well things get a little more complicated.
“This is Mithos “grand” depiction of what a God should look like.”
The world of Sylverant is dying, requiring immediate restoration. Famine, pestilence and general upheaval are all contributing factors placated by a ritual known as “Regeneration”. As such Yggdrasil summons his subordinates to begin the process of “Regeneration” whereby a girl/boy (Virgin?) elected from birth-from a staggeringly white community-is requested to undertake the immense responsibility of being ordained as the chosen one. Tasked with reconciling the world’s depleted environmental resources and replenish a mythological tree that sustains everything on the planet (still with me here?!) by filtering mana to nourish the world (a life force more valuable than water) thus returning it back to its verdant state. There’s a lot of Norse mythology running through this game, as well as confusion. In essence the entire premise for regenerating the world is complicated balancing act between two world’s vying for sustainability. Did I mention there’s an alternate world that competes for the same mana? No. Well there is. These polarising world’s-destabilised by Yggdrasil selfish interventions, compete for environmental stability through the dependency of reversing the flow of mana (life force that allows sustainable life and development to flourish) from the opposing world, like sand in an hour glass. You have to keep tipping it to allow the flow of sand to continue. As a result of the two world’s extrapolation of mana one world is always flourishing, while the other is declining. Every increment of mana has detrimental repercussions for the other that results in continued deprivation to one of these world’s all because Yggdrasil couldn’t accept the death of his sister. Again, it gets complicated.
For the most part the games formative journey is a by the numbers routine; Chosen ones, exploration, levelling up, saving the world from total annihilation. So far so *yawn*. But when you and the respective comrades you’ve been vicariously playing as discover that the whole regeneration of the world is merely a rouse designed to find a vessel (the chosen one) for Yggdrasil’s deceased sisters spirit to inhabit, things get really convoluted (as if they weren’t already!). You see what makes him such a compelling foil is that he was once good. Mithos, his sister Martel-both of whom are elves set off with their two companions on there own journey thousands of years before the events of Symphonia. A group comprised of individuals that endeavoured to preserve the world from the hostilities of racial segregation, until the death of Yggdrasil sister martel by mankind compelled him to the conclusion that humanity possessed little remorse or indeed humanity. It’s easy to identify with such a loss and understand why he would feel discouraged by prejudice from the masses at the expense of the marginalised. It’s a horrible reminder that independence and freedom aren’t mutually convenient exclusives.
Mithos life is diminished by the vitriolic discrimination of a wider more aggressive community. It’s surprisingly current considering the recent abdication of Britain during EU referendum and the subverted influence of racial discrimination. Despite the grandeur and earnest convictions Yggdrasil was fundamentally floored. The entire continent was founded on deception, falsified to preserve his sisters soul which really speaks volumes about his abstract way of dealing with loss. He’s not conscientious of his banal neglect, just ignorant. His ambitious convictions for eradicating or at least abusing humanity belies the purity of his motivations; that he wants to enhance the human perception of elves. All of his misguided convictions were fuelled by frustration, a sense of duty and of course loss. He had the potential to be good, to resolve the racially stigmatised perception of his species. To unite the world against the obscenities of race. But because he lost his sister Martel, he also lost hope. Through grief Mithos dedicated not just his life, but his soul to the preservation of his convictions. This is someone who has nurtured hate through his own experiences, and his schemes for global annihilation, though contrived and maniacal is understandable when you consider just how much someone has lost just because of the way they were born. It’s a good thing that outside the realms of fantasy people are much more accepting of others regardless of the colour of someones skin, culture, accent, geographical status, sexual orientation, gender, religious predilections or any number of discernible characteristics that make people who they are!
Who is your favourite gaming villain? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.