Before I get to the subject here, I should probably explain what a Metro is. Metro in this context is short for metrosexual, a term that describes a straight guy who is more keen fashion, makeup, y’know… very girly, “unmanly” stuff. Er, think Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 (minus the “might be gay” part, more “might not be manly” part). Now that that’s out of the way, what is in these games that yells at my inner metro to come out in fabulous style? It’s the armor, and the fact that the characters actually wear the armor you equip to them. You probably encountered this yourself.
Normally when I encountered this in games, I didn’t think much about what they were wearing; I only cared about the stats on them. One of the earliest games I owned with this “visible armor” feature was Legend of Legaia on the PS1. But I was a kid back then and didn’t care much about the armor on Vahn being too drab, or the color of those pants not complimenting Noa’s hair. Radiata Stories managed to escape my condescending fashionista eyes when I almost got it. But last year I played Xenoblade. It was smooth sailing for the most part. I wasn’t too concerned about how the armor looked on the characters (I still cared about their stats after all), but I was liking how the armor matched the locations they were in, like the jungle clothing for everyone at Makna Forest, or more advanced looking armor in Eryth Sea/Alcamoth..
Then came… Valak Mountain. I was doing my usual equipping routine whenever I entered a new area, and noticed that I was equipping (I think it was called) Snow Cream armor. It’s not armor per se, but a cream that the characters wear that is “made from fire-snow. Releases heat on contact with snow“. To you and me though, it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes. Put on the whole set, and the characters will be in their skivvies. Here’s the thing though, Valak Mountain is a snowy mountain with freezing temperatures and snow as far as the eye could see. Doesn’t matter that the cream supposedly releases heat on contact with snow, it just looks weird.
Compounding the matter was that this was not joke armor as some would think it too be. They had excellent stats for the area. High-Agility, High-Defense, Great Evasion; I’d be a dumbass to not equip the Snow Cream and Swim Trunks set for everyone. After much consideration, I came to a resolution. “They’ll look weird running in their underwear here,” I said to myself. So I stayed with the armor I found in Eryth Sea and Alcamoth and proceeded to make that part harder for myself, all in the name of common sense and fashion. I thought that’d be the only time that would happen. Nope, it happened again at the Fallen Arm where they would bring back the jungle armor (with excellent stats no less), and I refused to wear it because where I was wasn’t a jungle.
So from then on until the end of the game, I was concerned about where I was, what color the armor was, what little doohickeys the armor had, etc. Everything went in two phases: 1) How are the stats? If good, then 2) what does it look like. If the armor met the stipulations I had in place for how it looked, I wore it. If not, I went back to the old armor. It was like this until the very end. I was very concerned about how my party looked and didn’t want them to become a fashion nightmare in every cutscene and battle. And given that flashback cutscenes remember the armor you wore at the time, it would be like looking at an old photo album and berating how awful the glasses were, or who in their right mind thought leg warmers in summer were a good idea.
So in came The Last Story a few months later. It too had visible armor, though it’s really just everyone wearing each other’s clothing. But it wasn’t the armor shape, size, or doohickey that caught most of my faux-pas conscious attention. It was the color. Yes, this game gives you the option to change the color of your characters’ armor. Let me tell you, I’ve spent over 15 minutes trying to make sure that Zael’s jacket matched his pants and that his belt matched the color of his shoes, and that the color matched his personality and situation, and that it looked good in cutcenes with Calista, and that…. well you get the idea.
The game even gives you the option to remove bits and pieces of armor, which thankfully have no adverse effects on the stats and is purely aesthetic. So when I upgraded Mirania’s armor and saw all that metal on her, I took a huge chunk of that crap off. I even got mad that I couldn’t change the color or add and remove parts of Calista’s ballgown (which is one complete set and takes up both armor spaces). I almost opted to give her crappier armor if it meant changing the color of it. But it had good stats so I made the exception. But rest assured my characters looked fuckin’ fierce in those cutscenes and worked that camera like a stripper in a lap dance.
Part of me wonders if this comes from my need to keep every damn item arranged in a neat order, like in Resident Evil 4. Or maybe it was those Create-a-Character modes in those fighting games (especially Soul Calibur III). Or maybe it was my very brief dabbling in The Sims. But again, this probably has to with my background in doing art and being conscious of what characters were wearing if I was giving them original clothing. I haven’t done that kind of art for over a year now. Any I did either wasn’t uploaded to dA or was done for The Wired Fish. Regardless, if you feel self conscious about how you equip your party, remember that you are not alone. If that blue armbrace ain’t matching your knight, then it ain’t matching. Do the stats matter? Maybe. But if you look like shit in a cutscene, well then maybe you should reconsider that armor. You’ll find something good.
Before I leave, here’s a small tip from yours truly in how you should dress your party in The Last Story: Syrenne and Dagran look ravishing in red. And Mirania is to die for in Magenta. Yurick looks okay in washed-out blue. Calista looks nice in a skirt (I think it’s called Cloth Armor), but you’re better off giving her the ballgown and leave the fashionably hopeless wench be (but do upgrade that ballgown from the maid in the courtyard). Zael is for you to decide (though I’m partial to making him look like a knight from the very beginning). And Lowell is a travesty no matter how you slice it. Now then, I must be on my way to get the ingredient for the last Dye color.