(I’ve been sitting on this idea for a long time now. Seeing as how it seems to be a bit of a lean period with respect to new titles coming out, I may as well get on it. Starting this month I will be adding a new feature to the blog, called Character Corner. As the name suggests, it is going to be centered on some of the more memorable characters that I interacted with in the many, many games I played over the years. The only rule? This will never feature the protagonist. Instead, it will focus on the vast milieu of supporting characters that the hero/heroine interacts with. Villains are fair game too.)
To start things off, I’d like to introduce a personality that a lot of old school RPG fans will recognize. It also ties in nicely with the recent announcement that one of my favorite games of all time is getting a makeover. I am talking of course, about the old classic Baldur’s Gate. And who better to act as the face of the series than the lovable ranger Minsc. And his space hamster Boo.
Most people do not realize just how much of an influence Minsc and Boo had in almost all of Bioware’s games. There are references to the duo in games such as Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age. Ray Muzyka(Co-founder of Bioware) once said the Minsc was his favorite character in the entire BG series. The next time you hear Tali from Mass Effect say “Go for the optics!” you can thank Minsc.
My introduction to him could not have been more generic. My character leaves a building and is “forced” by the game into an inescapable dialogue tree. This would be the 90s version of an unskippable cut scene. But the very first words Minsc utters, held my attention. “Stand and deliver, that my hamster may have a better look at you.” Wait… did he just say “hamster”?!
Apparently so. But this no mere rodent. Oh no sire. If the imposing ranger is to be believed, the furry creature named “Boo” is actually a giant miniature space hamster. Oooookay. It does not take long to figure out that Minsc is a little deranged. But the quest he offers is simple enough and I need the xp. Heck if nothing else, this should provide some comic relief.
Let me just stop here for a second at point out something about the Baldur’s Gate series. These were, thematically at least, dark games. Maybe not as dark as Planescape Torment or Fallout, but pretty dark nonetheless. When one of the first things the game tells you is that you are a “Bhallspawn”, i.e. the child of Bhall the god of murder, it leaves little scope for lightheartedness. It would be safe to assume that Minsc was brought in purely for the occasional laugh. Maybe that’s all he was supposed to be. I wonder if the writers knew he would turn out to be as popular as he became.
There are a number of reasons why this lummox was so memorable. First off, he was voiced to perfection. Voice actor Jim Cummings did an excellent job of injecting this diminutive collection of pixels with oodles of character. Everything about him, from the exotic accent, the exuberant battle cries and downright funny dialogues are pulled off with aplomb.
Secondly, he is really well written. The player does not notice at first, but as the story of the Bhallspawn progresses, the protagonist is forced down a darker path. Every companion he picks up on the way responds in some way to the changes in him/her. This brain damaged mountain of a man is the only thing constant in that journey. As long as you keep on fighting the good fight, Minsc has your back. Until he goes berserk of course. Then you realize that equipping him with a helm that makes him immune to mind control is the closest thing to insurance you have.
Thirdly, as a party member, he made an excellent tank. But to be honest, I usually kept him around for his battle cries. You gotta love a guy that has a simple way of approaching most problems, ie, “You point, I punch”. It may not seem like much, but when you hear this stuff in game, it’s pretty hilarious.
In my opinion, the Baldurs Gate saga is the most epic fantasy RPG to show up on any platform. Taken together, the three titles that comprise it had roughly 750 hours of gaming in them. Think on that number for a minute. A journey that long would have been unbearable were it not been for the company. And this deranged ranger stands up as a shining example of what good company is.
Here’s to you Minsc and Boo.