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What's better: ridiculous spell animations or the mangled hands of Ethan Winters?

Vote now as we continue deciding the single best thing in games

Last time, you decided that ding! is better than the Howie scream. I have only word for that: yeeeuuuuaaaaauuuuughh! This week, I suppose it's a question of spectacle. Do you want to do ridiculous cool things, or have ridiculous horrible things done unto you? Tell me, what's better: ridiculous spell animations or the mangled hands of Ethan Winters?

Ridiculous spell animations

One of my favourite moments in RPGs is getting into a back-alley brawl with misguided muggers who don't realise I have endgame magic. While they brandish bronze daggers, my mage blasts a laser into outer space, shattering an asteroid and drawing the fragments down to rain meteors upon the poor bandits. Overkill, sure, but I cannot resist ridiculous spell animations.

Not having consoles, I came to JRPGs (the true home of daft animations) late. I think my introduction to ridiculous spell animations was in Planescape: Torment. Maybe my first was Mechanus Cannon, a spell which reaches into another dimension where a giant cannon unfolds, pumps rainbows to charge up, then opens a portal to spew fire into your target. Absurd. Planescape also has spells which summon angels from outer space, pull enemies down into hell, and other ridiculousness. I've since seen all that's nothing compared to some JRPG spells, which cause genuine potential end-of-the-world scenarios to beat up a bandit.

I appreciate not only the ridiculous displays of special effects (which artists must delight in creating!), but the theological and moral implications of summoning a literal god to deal cataclysmic damage to beat up just some guy. And it's hilarious when sometimes that guy isn't even killed by a spell which should vaporise all life within hundreds of miles.

Cover image for YouTube videoPlanescape Torment Mechanus Cannon spell

The mangled hands of Ethan Winters

Resident Evils 7 and 8age hate the hands of their protagonist, Ethan Winters. His left hand is cut off then stapled back on. A werewolf bites off several fingers. Vampire teenagers cut his palm with a knife so their big sexy mum can drink from the wound. She later entirely severs his hand, which he then collects as an inventory item, the coat cuff mysteriously still attached. A haunted doll bites his hand. Stomach acid makes its flesh bubble. Vampires suspend him on hooks through his palms, which he yanks down and through to escape. I can't even remember all the other maimings he suffers across the two games. Fittingly, his healing animations focus on pouring disinfectation over his hands. The games hate his hands to an absurd degree, and I love it.

The poor mutilated hands of Ethan Winters in a Resident Evil 7 screenshot.
Sure, that'll fix everything.

It can be difficult for first-person games to show progress or lasting consequences to our character. We don't see facial expressions, we don't see much of new outfits even if we do get changed, we often have a limited perspective on other characters' reactions, we don't have limping animations or see bloodsplats on our body... it's mostly just us and our gun-holding hands (and, if we are very lucky, our visible legs). RE 7 and 8age focus their trauma, waving it in our face. He wears his heart and his struggles on his tattered sleeve. It's all absurd, sure, but you feel Ethan going through hell (and the absurdity does tie into the plot, eventually).

I'm still a little irked that Alone In The Dark's jacket inventory didn't win its face-off but I'll still show up and say this thing seen only in these two games is one of my very favourite things in all games.

But which is better?

Too close to call. I'm willing to turn this over entirely for you. Tell me, reader dear, which thing is better?

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We'll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

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About the Author
Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.