#10: Steel Massimo
I love Mega Man X. I love RPGs. So, one would think that Mega Man X: Command Mission would be a perfect pairing tantamount to something like cinnamon and sugar or milk and cereal. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I admired Command Mission for trying to take X and his friends to a new genre, but it became pretty clear that they're better off in 2D, action titles. Command Mission just couldn't keep up with the tsunami of fantastic RPGs available around its release, nor has it aged well enough to warrant a first playthrough. One of the most common complaints was that the random encounter rate was too high. And, in a game with a high encounter rate, you want to have characters in your party that can take care of enemies quickly. Our first character on the list doesn't deliver on this front.
One of the first characters that joins X is a hulking, metallic structure of a Reploid named Steel Massimo. Armed with heavy armor and a heavier pole arm, Massimo's appearance contradicts his cowardly personality. It's an interesting dichotomy, but it's not enough for a place on the battlefield. Anyone with a set of working eyes can guess that Massimo is a mighty but slow character. He is, but even if that wasn't the case, Massimo's massiveness works best when he's warming the bench. His terrible speed aside, Massimo requires more work than anyone else just to keep up with the rest of the team. Putting in the time and effort to turn him into a worthy member of a three-Reploid battle party isn't worth it when you look at what the rest of the characters can do. X, Zero and Axl have insanely powerful Hyper Modes. Marino is a master thief. Cinnamon has healing covered, and has a weapon that will obliterate anything that looks at her sideways.
When it comes to Massimo, I feel like Capcom was trying to fill the "mighty but slow" quota when they created him. That's fine, because these characters can be useful. But, when you look at what X and the rest of his friends can do, Massimo should sit his steel butt on the bench.
The Legend of Dragoon is one of those games that showcases the power of hype. The amount of money in marketing and advertisements chucked at this game was enough to make even the most casual RPG fan believe that this was the next big thing. The countdowns to release began! Then, the day of release arrived! And, the game was...okay. Its lukewarm reception didn't turn it into the next big thing Sony hoped for. Part of the problem was the combat. The Legend of Dragoon's combat featured Additions: combination attacks that required precise timing to rack up damage. Nearly every character that joined Dart on his quest had the ability to use Additions. This includes the last person to join the group, and the next person on the list.
Unfortunately, the imposing Kongol may as well have stayed behind. Gigantos Kongol has a large pool of hit points, high defense, and some impressive strength, but that's where the fun stops. His terrible agility is just the start. Not only does he only get three Additions, but their damage output is on par with Dart's and the other physically geared fighters. When Kongol channels his Dragoon's power, the uselessness becomes even more apparent. Kongol's element is earth; most enemies are resistant to earth. His magics are worth using once just so you can "ooh" and "aah" at their flashiness. His Dragoon form has only three spells instead of four. Finally, his Dragoon's attack sequence only offers a maximum of four hits instead of five. It's almost as if the developers wanted you to bench Kongol.
For those unaware, The Legend of Dragoon is a simple game. With the right set-up, you can use anyone you want and emerge victorious. But, why would you want to waste your good stuff on Kongol when it could be better used on someone else? I made the mistake of using him and Rose during my first playthrough. In later playthroughs, Kongol became a permanent bench warmer.
I need to start this entry by saying that Legaia 2: Duel Saga is one of my favorite games of all time. There's a lot of good stuff here. Not only does it improve on the Tactical Arts System from its predecessor, but it moves the series in the right direction in terms of presentation and music. It's not a perfect game, but I'm able to overlook it's flaws and replay it over and over. So, it pains me to have to include one of leading hero Lang's party members on the list. But, here we are with our next bench warmer.
Just like Dart's and Kongol's situation, the last character to join Lang is a literal giant. This soon-to-be father resides in the hills of Jinga. While his fellow giants call him Silent Eagle, Lang and his friends settle on calling him Ayne. Like the rest of the party, Ayne has a unique field action that is required to progress through the game's dungeons. Like the rest of the party, Ayne has a variety of Arts at his disposal. Unlike the rest of the party, Ayne doesn't bring anything worthy to the table. A glance at Ayne's structure would lead one to believe that he could inflict serious pain on enemies with his axes and hammers. But, Lang and Kazan can deliver just as, if not more, powerful hits before Ayne gets his turn. So, what about magic? Again, Ayne falls short. Since Ayne isn't a Mystic, he doesn't have access to an Origin. Instead, he calls upon Spirits to provide stat bonuses. This is something other characters can already do with their Origins. Finally, lacking an Origin means Ayne can't perform the most powerful Art of all: the Mystic Art.
In one of my many playthroughs, I made a solid commitment to have Ayne on my team. It wasn't a total bust, but Lang and Sharon felt crippled by Ayne's slowness. I can at least say I tried. For those that have yet to enjoy Legaia 2, be sure to stick Ayne on the bench as soon as you get him. Don't let those killer biceps and eight pack abs fool you.
Xenogears is one of the most interesting, compelling, captivating and unique games I have ever played. It has a classic look, and a soundtrack that gives me life, but it's the story it tells that constantly keeps me wanting to move forward. Continuing to learn bits and pieces about Fei Fong Wong and his allies makes this text-heavy RPG worth the time. In an early point in the game, Fei ends up in the prison city of Noturne's D Block. There, he meets an imposing demi-human that looks like a certain someone from Street Fighter. He's our number seven slot on our list.
With his muscular frame, orange hair, and green skin, Ricardo "Rico" Banderas looks like a real brute. His fighting style combines grappling, wrestling, and fisticuffs for some explosive results. Surprisingly, he's able to cast a few Ethers (dubbed Spirits) to buff himself. Rico's Gear (Gears are the massive, butt-kicking robots that most of the characters ride in Xenogears) compliments his massiveness. Stier fancies tackling, headbutting and fist smashing. It sounds like Rico would be the perfect "meat shield" for the party. The catch? Rico is the slowest character in the game. Whether he's on the ground or in Stier, Rico's slow turnaround is so poor that he rarely gets a chance to act. A good party doesn't need a meat shield, so Rico serves zero purpose. Players are required to bring him along as they venture through a sewer, but that's all the air time he should get. Xenogears can be a challenging game, and the game's dungeons have a high encounter rate. Speed is crucial to surviving some of the more demanding boss fights, and it's just as important for mopping up scrubs caused by frequent random encounters.
I think Rico is an awesome character with an interesting backstory. His Death Blows have a visceral look to them that no other character has. It's a shame he's better off warming the bench so battles don't take longer than they need to. Some will argue that Maria Balthasar should have gotten a spot on this list. Not only is Maria's Gear, Seibzhen, a fantastic Gear, but on the ground Maria can summon it to deal some impressive damage before Rico would get a turn.
#6: Gutten Kisling
Up to this point, our bench warmers have been gigantic ruffians that do little in battle but sit there and try to look pretty. That's going to change starting now. Our next bench warmer comes from the quirky and humorous Okage: Shadow King. It tells the story of boy named Ari. Ari has been overshadowed his entire life, and as a result, his shadow is perfect for possession from the Shadow King. Stanley Hihat Trinidad XIV enslaves Ari and demands that he embarks on a journey to defeat the false Evil Kings of the world. Luckily, Ari isn't alone in this endeavor. The first character that joins him is a parasol wielding glamazon named Rosalyn. The second character that joins him is an eclectic scholar of the supernatural that fancies stalking pretty girls. He's also the next character on our list.
When he first joins, Gutten Kisling leaves a lot to be desired. His has stats are pathetic next to Ari's and Rosalyn's. His textbook weaponry doesn't pack any punch. His abilities don't do much in ensuring Ari stays healthy or enemies fall sooner. The worst part is that you're stuck with this weirdo for a fair amount of game time. He has only one use: use items to make sure Ari doesn't get KO'd. In Okage, if Ari gets KO'd, then the game is over. But, there is a small silver lining: if you can survive the boss fight against the Big Bull Evil King and his cronies, then you can permanently sit Kisling on the bench. After this hurdle, the game's challenge becomes much more manageable. Ari is later joined by other characters that, as expected, have more to offer than the skirt chasing scholar.
No matter which party you go with, it's best to bench Kisling at the earliest opportunity. Even at higher levels, Kisling can't compare with the rest of the team. Ari's life is already hard; don't make it harder by including Kisling. Leave Stan's conquest to the professionals.
#5: Cyan Garamonde
One of the most cherished entries in Square's juggernaut RPG franchise, Final Fantasy VI is everywhere. You can play it on the Super Nintendo (as Final Fantasy III), the PlayStation, the PlayStation Network, the Game Boy Advance, and even on your favored smart phone's operating system. I'm not mad about this; Final Fantasy VI's reputation is well-deserved. It has not one, but two leading female protagonists. It has an addictive system for learning magic via equipping Espers. It has a large cast of characters that are more than just talking heads that create a wonderful narrative. Also, Kefka. What's not to love about Final Fantasy VI?
Well, obviously, one answer to that question is our fifth character on the list: Cyan Garamonde. Cyan is first introduced when the scenario shifts to Sabin. Cyan is seen dealing with the deaths of his family and his comrades in the Kingdom of Doma. Swearing revenge, Cyan joins Sabin. A noble warrior with the discipline of a samurai, Cyan's special ability is Bushido. Activating Bushido will have various effects depending on how long it gets charged. Longer charge means a more powerful attack. But, when you compare Bushido's long activation time to the abilities of others that activate immediately, Cyan's becomes obsolete. Sabin's Blitzes are activated immediately. Edgar's Tools are activated immediately. Strago's Lores are activated immediately. To dish out some heavy damage, Cyan needs to charge...and charge...and charge his Bushido. When other characters can do what Cyan does instantly, the noble samurai is better off sitting on the bench.
Honestly, Final Fantasy VI is an easy game. If you like the idea of using Cyan, then you can simply have him equip some Genji Gear and watch the chaos unfold. Or, you can have him learn Ultima to make groups of enemies go boom. His claim to fame (i.e. Bushido) is the aspect that makes him so unneeded to stop Kefka's plans.
#4: Wind Armatus
Of all the games on this list, Tales of Zestiria is my least favorite. Actually, of all of the Tales of games released, Tales of Zestiria is my least favorite. To this day, I still can't understand what the folks at the Bandai Namco Studios were thinking when they designed Tales of Zestiria. It follows a boy named Sorey as he tries to bring light to a world slowly getting consumed by creatures of darkness called Hellions. As he shepherds forward and trundles along a poorly paced story, Sorey gains the ability to fuse with the Seraphim: beings linked to one of the four elements in the world. This fusion of human and Seraph has been dubbed Armatization. In battle, Armatized forms massively outclass any party member. Well, scratch that. Three of the four forms massively outclass any party member.
When Sorey (and later, Rose) fuse with Dezel or Zaveid, they don a long, green ponytail and get equipped with a circular array of floating swords. It sounds cool. It looks cool. But, it's not cool. The Wind Armatus is, and I'm not even trying to speak in hyperbole, downright useless. Its attacks tend to miss, it has a poor pool of spells, the Artes combo poorly with one another, and it has a terrible range. The range issue is one of the more curious problems because it looks like a wheel of blades controlled by wind could cover excellent distance. If you decide to take a chance with Tales of Zestiria, stick with Earth, Fire, and/or Water Armatization as soon as you get the options. Not only are they more useful, they're more fun to use when you have to deal with the game's muddled combat. Wind Armatization and the Seraphs that create it are better off benched.
Amusingly, Tales of Zestiria itself is better off benched since there's an anime adaptation available. But, that's another story.
I feel old saying this: Breath of Fire was the first RPG I ever played. For an introduction to the genre, this was a good one. At the time, everything about the game was new and fresh. Now? Without the rose-colored glasses, Breath of Fire is mediocrity personified that plays it safe with its story, style and substance. But, I'll always stick up for the series. I mean, who doesn't love taking control of a blue-haired hero (aptly named Ryu) that can transform into a gigantic dragon while being supported by unique teammates inspired by animals? In Breath of Fire, seven colorful characters join Ryu as they try to stop Emperor Zog from reviving an ancient evil. The last to join the party is inspired by moles and happens to dig his way into the number three slot.
In order to reach an enemy stronghold, Ryu and his friends need to find a way to dig through thick terrain. The mole people (known as the Earth-Eating Tribe) are known to be "excellent diggers", so the party heads to the underground city of Gramor. After some trips to and from the dream world, they recruit the best digger of all: Mogu. Mogu's field ability lets the team dig their way forward with the adventure, but it's also needed for finding some of Breath of Fire's many secrets. But, that's where the fun stops. Mogu has terrible stats, starts at a very low level, and has only one "magic spell" that can only be used on certain types of ground. As soon as you get Mogu, you might as well bench him unless you need to utilize his digging outside of the battlefield. It's a shame, too. Look at that face.
Interestingly, there's a character with even more bench warming ability than Mogu: Gobi. So, why isn't the fishy friend featured on this list? Gobi's use comes with his ability to fuse with the game's thief: Karn. Without Gobi, Karn can't activate Debo or Shin. Most importantly, Karn's delightfully overpowered Puka requires the use of Gobi. A party of Ryu, Puka-fied Karn, winged-goddess Nina and sorceress-snake Bleu (Deis) are all you need to make it through the rest of the game. Mogu can't keep up.
Once again, as a list creator, I'm experiencing deep sadness for showcasing one of my favorite (top three, even) games of all time. Valkyrie Profile is as divine as the gods and goddesses of Asgard. Players take control of Lenneth Valkyrie as she descends to Midgard to find souls of perished warriors. The warriors she finds are recruited to become Einherjar and get sent to Valhalla to prevent the destruction of the world: Ragnarok. Her journey through Midgard lets her meet all kinds of unique warriors that offer something special to the beings on high.
All, except for one. Putting the "bad" in Badrach, Lenneth almost (and deservedly) sent our second-to-last bench warmer to Hel to serve in the underworld. The irritating thing about Badrach is that he looks like he'd be worth using. He's an expert thief that uses a gun and has a reputation as a skilled mercenary. In action, Badrach is a mess. He's lacking in physical power, all of his attacks add little to the Hit Gauge, two of his three attacks are only effective against large enemies, and they deal pitiful damage. Sphere Strike, his Purify Weird Soul, adds a measly 30 points back to the gauge. Fittingly, he has the lowest Hero Value out of all the possible Einherjar. Even if you wanted to send him to Freya and Odin, you'd have to put in way too much extra effort. Seriously, Badrach would have had more use in the underworld. As an Einherjar, he's sitting on the bench for the rest of eternity.
Valkyrie Profile has a feature called the Experience Orb that lets you distribute extra experience to your party members. For funsies, I had Badrach devour as much experience as possible to see if he just needed some levels to be worth using. He wasn't. Just bench him.
Hearing the title Beyond the Beyond is enough to make any RPG fan cringe, flee in terror, or begin spewing profanities. Beyond the Beyond has a reputation. Having (finally) finished it for the first time only a month prior to this list's creation, I can confirm that many of its criticisms are legitimate. Now, other RPGs suffer from some of Beyond the Beyond's problems. It's just that Beyond the Beyond got branded with the "it's cool to hate this game" stigma, and others hopped on the bandwagon. I'm not here to defend the game, nor am I here to cheer for it. I am, however, here to showcase the number one RPG character of all time that is better off benched. This character adds to Beyond the Beyond's problems.
While in the early stages of the game, our hero Finn and his crew wind up in the town of Marion. There, they meet a warrior named Samson. Samson has been dubbed by the people of Marion as one of the strongest warriors in the world. For one encounter, this is true. Samson joins Finn with incredible stats and power. Unfortunately, he gets a permanent curse placed on him by one of the game's villains. In Beyond the Beyond, a cursed individual will be negatively impacted during battle. They might sit there doing nothing on their turn, they might take damage after executing their turn, or they might perform their action without an issue. Normally, a curse can be removed by a pastor in a church. Unfortunately for both the player and Samson, this curse is there to stay until a certain point in the game. Samson becomes a liability that no amount of equipment or level grinding can solve.
But, for those that persevere, Samson is eventually freed from the curse. Yay! Joy! Rapture! Exuberance! Now, he can finally contribute to the party and showcase that legendary strength that was talked up so much back in Marion, right? Wrong! Even after you go through the trouble of getting Samson's curse removed, he has absolutely nothing redeemable. Nearly everyone will hit harder than Samson. Nearly everyone will take their turn before Samson. Those that may hit weaker than Samson, or act later than Samson can still contribute more because of their magic. Samson can't cast magic. His magic point count remains at zero the entire game. Finn and his friends went through all of that trouble to not only recruit this "legendary warrior," but to remove the curse placed on him. Afterwards, he's still just as pathetic. If there was ever a poster child for a bench warming party member, it would be Samson.
Before concluding, here are some honorable mentions:
Sir Kelvin of Jade - The first party member to join Gustave in SaGa Frontier 2 has poor stats that can lead to an untimely game over within the first hour of the game.
Rinna - Ephemeral Fantasia's darling working girl should stay at the inn and clean the guest rooms. Luckily, she can transform into the more useful Rindo Rinna.
Stars of Destiny - The Suikoden series has its share of bench warmers. Trying to think of all of them would be well beyond the scope of this list. But, this is what happens when a game series offers a cornucopia of characters in each entry.
This was a fun list to write. Hopefully, you learned something new about characters in games you have yet to try. Don't make the same mistakes I did and try to fix something that's already broken. The characters in this list are at their best when they're sitting on the bench.
Disagree with an entry? Did I miss an entry? Remember, you can leave me an anonymous message filled with your raging fanboyism below. But, as always and most importantly, thanks for reading! ^.~
List by Kashell Triumph (11/14/2018)
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