Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Time to Travel

I dunno, I thought the title was clever...Shut up.

Anyways, I just beat the Back to the Future game.  Between that, and some other news items I'll get to in a moment, has me thinking about time travel and how it's used in fiction.

Time travel is a funny thing.  I'm not going to get into the details here, that is (as I've said before) a topic for another day.  But as a story tool it can be pretty interesting.  Note that I say tool rather than plot device.  If the time travel is used as a framing device for the story, by which I mean it's one of the pieces of the setting it tends to work.  Back to the Future of course being an example of that, and I can't bring up this subject without mentioning Chrono Trigger.  If you've played that one you know what I mean, and if you haven't played it then you need to correct that mistake.

Sticking with Back to the Future for the moment, the game takes place after the third movie, and Great Scott did they stay true to form.  It feels exactly like the movies, from pop culture jokes to characters accidentally altering the time stream and changing Doc Brown's personal history so he doesn't become an inventor.

Oh, Spoiler Warning by the way.

So yeah, about half way through the game you change Doc Brown's life when correcting one time travel mistake, and then have to go back in time again to correct that mistake.  But here's the interesting thing, the new version of Doc Brown goes back with you to help, but then changes his mind.  There is actually a very powerful scene where he argues with Marty, first to not change him back, then to try to find a compromise.  That's what really got me thinking about the right way to use time travel in a story.

Releasing later this month is the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, unsurprisingly titled Final Fantasy XIII-2.  I know, creative isn't it.  Anyway, the game will apparently feature 'time paradox puzzles' which will apparently lead to 'multiple endings'.  To be honest, FFXIII did not impress me.  (Subject for another post)  And I'm worried that time travel in this is going to be a shoehorned in plot device.  Made only to either pad out the game or alternate endings that don't actually need to be there...so yeah more padding basically.  But then Square is the same studio that made Chrono Trigger (Right?  Correct me if I screwed that up.)  A game where you had to hunt for those alternate endings dammit!  So I'll keep my fingers crossed.

The point I'm slowly rambling towards here is that, like any other literary tool, story device or set piece, time travel can be very a interesting thing.  If done well.  That's all I have to say for now, but knowing me I'll think of more later on.

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