Aleatory Apophenia: Endless Frontier Towns

Recently I’ve been playing Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier on the DS.  (Yes, it’s one of the Super Robot Wars games I talked about in a previous post.)  It’s a pretty fun game.  There’s one feature—a very minor feature—that nonetheless sticks out in my mind as worthy of comment.

Endless Frontier features a number of characters in your party.  Each of these characters is carefully designed and characterized.  Each of them is represented in conversations by several portraits that show various emotions; “default”, “happy”, “grim” and so on.  Some characters have portraits that are quite individual to them; Kaguya has a “flirty” portrait, for example, and Xiaomu has a “just been spanked” portrait.  (Don’t ask, just take my word for it.)

When you visit a town in the game, you’re presented with a screen that has several menu options; “Inn”, “Save”, “Shop” and so forth.  The background of this screen is a street in the town, with several of the character portraits visible as well.  The impression is one of your characters chatting on a street corner while they decide where to go next in town.

The really interesting thing, though, is that the character portraits are chosen randomly.  (“Aleatory” means “having to do with chance or randomness”.)  When confronted with a tableau of random character portraits, the player can’t help but think—”What the heck are they talking about?”.  The character tableaux give the impression of being a snapshot of a conversation.  It really makes the player wonder what the characters are doing.  Why is Kaguya embarrassed and Suzuka exasperated?  The urge to think up a rationale for the situation is strong.  (“Apophenia” is the tendency for humans to discern patterns in meaningless data.)

The ultimate impression conveyed by this little feature is that your characters hang out together, converse, banter among themselves.  It really makes them feel like real people.

Responses are currently closed.