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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Editorial: Top 10 Most Useless RPG Party Members, Part 2: 5-1.

I've voted.

If you haven't voted yet, you should go and vote. Doing so will make you more like me, which let's face it is most people's end goal in life.

Editorial: Top 10 Most Useless RPG Party Members
Part 2: 5-1.

Last week, we looked at those RPG characters who are useless, but not useless enough to warrant being in the much coveted top five. 

Well, a week (and two days) have passed, and it's time to finish off the countdown.

5. Henpecked Hou, Jade Empire.

Henpecked Hou, we are told, is a fabled master of drunken boxing. Sounds pretty cool, right? Wrong, because in a game where pretty much the only use for your party members is as distractions for enemies, Henpecked Hou doesn't fight. He is an entirely noncombative party member, instead throwing glowing bottles of alcohol which you can run into to temporarily enter drunken boxing mode.

Which would be great - despite its impracticality in real life, drunken boxing is an absurdly cool martial art - except your drunken boxing doesn't level up, meaning that while it is essentially a super mode early on in the game, by the time you're halfway through the story you'll essentially be giving up a party member for the privilege of doing less damage to your enemies.

If Hou was a particularly interesting character, that might be forgivable, but he's actually one of the most boring characters in the game, and that's saying a lot. 

4. Amada Ken, Persona 3.

Ken is your Standard Issue Child Party Member in Persona 3, being a ten year old boy who is tagging along with your group on their dangerous missions into an evil tower, because apparently nobody thought to tell him that he should really just not do that. Responsibilities, what are they?

Not that Ken will ever really be in danger, as you're unlikely to bring him along in your battle party, given how aggressively average he is. Official materials call him 'balanced', but that's just them being nice because he's young and because nobody wants to admit that they put a party member in who's good at pretty much nothing.

I've seen it suggested that Ken's lack of any particular speciality is because he's meant to be striving to be many different things, and failing to achieve any of them, as children who are trying to be adults will often do. That's a nice idea, but from a player's standpoint, the character who is useless for story reasons and the character who is useless because the devs were having an off day are pretty much the same.

3. Bow, Breath of Fire II.

Bow, not to be confused with Bo from the first game, is main character Ryu's best friend and the first party member you get in Breath of Fire II. He's a versatile party member who can equip a range of armours, learn powerful support and healing magics, makes up for his average stats with some critical hit boosting abilities, and if you know how to, can be upgraded into a powerful armoured knight form with increased speed and several unique abilities.

Not bad for a short, pudgy beagle, all told.

There is a catch, though, and that's that Bow will, shortly after joining your party, become unavailable for most of the game, during which time he doesn't level up. By the time you get him back approximately sixteen-hundred hours of gameplay later, your party will be unstoppable juggernauts, and Bow will be a level five scrub who dies if monsters so much as breathe aggressively in his general direction.

Getting Bow up to snuff with the rest of your party is time-consuming, boring, and will likely involve Bow dying more often than Kenny from South Park, so you may as well just abandon him and never use him again.

2. Kimahri, Final Fantasy X.

Like more than a few of the characters on this list, Kimahri has average to poor stats with very little growth over time. While ostensibly this is made up for by the ease with which he can learn other characters' abilities, anyone who has tried to branch out into other sphere grids in FFX will be able to tell you that without the stats to back them up, other characters' abilities are all but useless. You can't, as they say, teach Rikku Holy and expect her to do much damage.

Kimahri doesn't even have Rikku's useful Overdrive, as his own merely allows him to blow his proverbial load on using an ability learned from a monster - and coincidentally, most of the more useful monster abilities, like Doom, are ineffective on bosses. 

1. Fran, Final Fantasy XII. 

If there were a prize for being the most useless party member in an RPG - other than appearing on this list, I mean - then Fran would surely be holding it aloft while confetti rains down upon her. 

It's odd, because in story terms, Fran is often noted as being well above average - references are made to her wielding powerful magicks, to her having great physical strength, and to her being good with a bow, despite the fact that in gameplay terms, her magick stat is the second lowest in the party, her strength is low to middling, and her custom animation means she takes longer to fire a bow than her comrades.

Unlike many on this list, what scores Fran a place here isn't that an attempt to make the character unique has fallen horrifyingly flat, but rather that it seems that she was the last character statted, and that by the time the developers got to her, all the many and sundry gifts and specialisation had already been used up. 

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