The pre-rendered or animated cutscene in video game RPGs have been used for years to highlight the most action oriented or emotional scenes in the game’s story. With the enhanced graphics of modern day video games, in game engine graphics are getting closer and closer to matching the quality of these pre-rendered or animated scenes. Some feel their use may be coming to an end. For example, the hit RPG series Mass Effect uses only in game engine cutscenes. The in game engines in Final Fantasy XIII and Valkyria Chronicles are so good, it began getting difficult to tell when a scene was pre-rendered or not. The following are my top ten list for RPG cutscenes. I rank them on a combination of technical excellence, excitement for the action sequence, tie in to the story, emotion surrounding the scene, and overall memorableness. WARNING: Some of the descriptions below could contain spoilers to the game if you haven’t played them.
10) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 – Aigis confronts Ryoji
The action in this anime sequence is solid but not in an elite category. What makes it stand out was how it was placed at the climax of the story. Aigis and Ryoji recall what happened in the past, tying up many of the loose ends in the story.
9) Jeanne D’Arc – Destiny / Battle at Chalon
Jeane D’Arc told the story of an alternate history of Joan of Arc’s life, where magical armlets, beasts, and demons were also involved in the Hundred Years War. While the story loosely follows historical events, you knew there had to be a twist or change at some point. This was the cutscene that twisted the story completely around from what you expected.
8) Suikoden III – Opening Intro
The Suikoden series has typically used animated cutscenes at the beginning of their games. Suikoden III’s animated intro was the best of the bunch. It gave you hints to the story in the game, showing you a wide range of characters that you’ll encounter, and showcasing a “can’t get it out of my head” hymn. It’s the best animated cutscene in a video game I’ve recalled ever seeing.
7) Final Fantasy IX – Ending
You knew Zidane was alive and you knew he would come back. Square-Enix could have made a really cheesy cutscene in the end that concentrated on Zidane and perhaps a smooch at the end with Garnet. However they made a far more memorable scene by having Garnet struggle to get through the crowd to see Zidane and somewhat angrily hit him for messing with her emotions like that.
6) Rogue Galaxy – Labyrinth Failure/Success
YouTube Link (Part 1 – 1:00)
YouTube Link (Part 2 – 4:30)
In this series of cutscenes, you see Seed and Jaster attempt to solve the labyrinth puzzle that will help lead them to Eden. The scene is cool, as you see both characters attempt to solve the puzzle and see Jaster’s completed solution. Like several of the cutscenes above, it came at a major climax of the game. There were many clues, hints, and suggestions throughout the game about what was about to happen, but you didn’t really know exactly what was going to happen until this series of cutscenes filled in the gaps in the story.
5) Final Fantasy VII – “Aeris/Aerith Death”
It’s one of the most memorable moments in video game history, showing the unexpected death of Aerith in an emotional scene. Many fans rank this cutscene as the best ever, however I move it down the list as modern day graphics and voice acting have made many newer scenes more powerful.
4) Final Fantasy XIII – Welcome to Gran Pulse
Final Fantasy XIII features some of the best graphics and HD cutscenes ever seen in a video game. The exciting scene where the group first discovers Gran Pulse is the highlight cutscene of the game, it’s absolutely gorgeous.
3) Lost Odyssey – Opening Movie
This cutscene features an amazing battle that showcases the machines and magic that inhabit the world of Lost Odyssey. It also showcases how badass the lead character Kaim is. Another very cool part of this cutscene is how it transitions you directly into the very first battle and start of the game.
2) Valkyria Chronicles – Alicia vs. Selvaria
Valkyria Chronicles has some of the best graphics ever scene on the PS3 and it has a number of great cutscenes. However, the one that stands out to me is the initial battle of Alicia vs Selvaria. What I love about the scene is the initial feeling of doom on the Gallian side, their shock to see that their is a Valkyria on their side, and how Alicia is so out of it, unsure of what to make of her newfound powers.
1) Final Fantasy XI – Opening Movie
Even if you’ve never played Final Fantasy XI, this cutscene/movie is simply amazing. It shows you the background story surrounding the game, introduces all the races in the game, and an amazing battle scene. However, what separates this cutscene from the rest is the story of the two small children in their effort to survive and how they tie the very beginning of the cutscene to the end. As a comparison, compare this the opening movie for Final Fantasy XIV, which didn’t really give you any background story or tie any emotion to the characters.
Final Fantasy X – Yuna’s Wedding / Assault on Bevelle
Final Fantasy X introduced many fans to what pre-rendered graphics were capable of the PS2. The Assault on Bevelle cutscene was probably the most exciting of the bunch, although some might favor the more touching lake scene. The lake scene just didn’t feel that emotional to me, not sure why.
Final Fantasy XII – Opening Movie
It’s a glorious opening sequence, however I felt it was too “choppy” as a whole, jumping through various historical elements in the story rather than be one cohesive serious of events.