Eliciting sympathy and remorse in an audience is one of the most challenging tasks of any writer, filmmaker or game designer. Excitement, laughter and fear can all be manufactured in a moment with the right combination of factors – but tragedy requires in-depth characters, motivations and a world indifferent to the desires of the hero.
As the video game industry continues to grow, so to does the quality of the writing behind our favourite games.
Whether they are big hit blockbusters or heavily budgeted indie titles, believable characters and emotionally driven motivations are often enough to help us suspend disbelief for the most unlikely of world events or outdated graphics.
As we invest hours of time into bonding with our on-screen companions, it is natural that their motivations become our own, and whether we sometimes have the omniscience to know more than they do, or we're faced with an impossible choice, often a tragic ending will resonate most heavily.
The game sees its titular hero and his companions, Kainé and Emil, battle monsters known as Shades as he seeks to be reunited with his daughter, curing her of her mysterious illness. While Emil is sacrifices himself to aid Nier on his quest, the ending is ultimately cheerful as father and daughter reunite.
Play the game a second time, and Emil will even survive this sacrifice.
Even better, right?
Well, play the game a third time and the player will find Kainé dying in agony. The hero is presented with a choice to either kill Kainé, or sacrifice himself.
The catch? Sacrificing your hero truly means sacrificing the character you have grown attached to over three iterations of the game. All memory of them is wiped from the game characters, and to make this more real, Square Enix throw in a fourth wall break by erasing all save data from the console, and starting a new game prevents the player from naming the character the same name as used previously.