Powerful scenes command attention, paint vivid scenarios, and set our hearts pounding as we watch these those moments unfold. Yet they can be incredibly rare; the diamond in the ruff that is buried in the sand of mediocrity and abhorrence. That begs a question, what makes a powerful scene? For me, that answer came from a playthrough of Fire Emblem Fates and a single choice that unleashed horrible consequences.
To explain the scene that prompted this post and the events leading up to
it, I’m going to refer to the main character/ avatar as the one I created–a female protagonist named Irra. In Fire Emblem Fates, the Kingdom of Hoshido is at war with the Kingdom of Nohr. Irra has been raised in isolation, growing up believing that she is a member of the Nohririan royal family. She soon learns that she is a princess of Hoshido who was kidnapped at a young age and is reunited with her birth family. But when her mother is assassinated before Irra’s eyes, she’s forced to make a choice; side with the family of her birth, or side with the one that raised her. I chose Hoshido.
As the war between Hoshido and Nohr gears up, Irra leads her siblings and a band of allies into the heart of Nohr, hoping to depose King Garon who’s the true cause of the conflict. Unfortunately, this course of action leads to a series of clashes with Irra’s adopted siblings, culminating in one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever witnessed–the deaths of Elise and Xander.
Elise is one of the most lovable characters in the game–kind, sweet, and innocent. However, Irra’s defection has impacted everyone, including her. Grieving the loss of a sister, worried about her other siblings, and terrified of her father’s growing violence, she fles the castle and makes an impromptu home in an underground market where she runs into Irra.
As they prepare to invade the castle, Irra braces herself for the confrontation with Garon as well as Xander, the loving older brother she hasn’t seen since she made her choice. Elise sees these confrontations brewing and decides to go with Irra, believing that she can convince her father and brother to stand down, thus saving all she’s lost.
That hope quickly dies. Xander–as crown prince of Nohr–feels obligated to oppose Irra and refuses to step down. In a desire to prevent unnecessary death, he challenges Irra to a duel. Irra loves Xander, the brother who spent years training her, but with his insistence on a fight and sharing his desire to avoid unnecessary blood shed, she agrees. With Elise’s pleas having fallen on deaf ears, Irra fights her brother only to have the battle turn against her. Xander overpowers Irra and is about to deliver the finishing blow when Elise throws herself in the way, taking the blow meant for Irra.
The fight stops. As Xander holds his dying sister, Elise pleads with him to put down his sword for the sake of their family, for her, and then dies. But instead of honoring his sister’s wishes, Xander forces Irra to resume the fight. At the same time, Nohririan forces barge in and–seeing Elise dead on the floor–promptly attack the Hoshidians. A bloodbath is unleashed.
As the battle rages around them, Irra and Xander continue their fight with it going just as badly for Irra as it did the first time around. Only something different happens. When Irra delivers a fatal strike, Xander hesitates to cut her down, allowing Irra’s blow to connect.
Xander dies, leaving Irra victorious but having lost two people whom she loves dearly and that is where the true power of the events lie. The tragedy is that this fight didn’t need to happen. Had Xander listened, had he stepped aside, than both he and Elise would be alive. What makes this scene so powerful is that killing Xander renders Elise’s sacrifice meaningless. A sweet, innocent young girl–who only wanted her family back–died for nothing.
While part of a game, powerful scenes exist across all mediums, and not just in books. The reason that they are so powerful and so well remembered is because they revolve around difficult decisions and the consequences–sometimes unforeseen–that follow. Irra may have done the right thing by siding with Hoshido, but that decision unleashed horrible consequences that cannot be undone. And that is the most powerful thing of all.
Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic claim to it.