I'll admit that i didn't care about Final Fantasy X's story all that much until i got the cutscene of Tidus and Yuna in the lake of Macalania. When Yuna began to cry and for the first time in the story let herself be vulnerable i was touched. Her tears were an admission that even though her duty was clear as a Summoner, she didn't want to die after performing the Final Summoning. After that i sincerely wanted to save her. One of the few times a game ever got through to me on that level.
Note: The following contains a spoiler 3-4 hours into Bastion.
Perched on my tower of critical analysis, I knew that Bastion was a great game. There's an enticing relationship between your actions and the story that I've rarely seen before, and the delicate artistic style presented a serene landscape that was easy to get lost in. Fast combat kept diverse by new weapons and varied enemies demanded focus. But if you've played any of Bastion, you already know the intricacies that make it tick.
Even though I was fully aware of all the things Bastion was doing really well, I didn't ultimately care. I can point to the extremely linear level design or iffy long-range aiming as slight problems distracting me from the tasty goodness everyone seems to have been devouring, but I know that would be disingenuous. There aren't any tangible problems in Bastion that could leave me with a feeling of indifference; I just didn't have any emotional connection. It happens in every art form. No matter how impressive the craftsmanship is, it won't resonate with everyone. I resolved to keep playing, because it was still fun and I wanted to see what lay ahead, but it felt more like a duty than a passion.
And then I reached The Singer.
When the level began, the narrator started talking about something I couldn't quite understand. "There the kid hears something he ain't heard in a long while. How's it go again?" Up to this point, the narrator talked about your story and actions, things The Kid had experienced or was doing first hand. I could hear, faintly in the background, an acoustic guitar start up. Quietly at first, and then louder, with vocals slowly coming in. A woman's voice, beautiful, sad. The narrator continued, after a short pause, "That's the one.... timeless."
And I was finally invested in the world. The structure of this level is the same as the previous ones – switches, enemies, rising pieces of land forming a path – but it was much easier. Enemies were less prevalent than before. The narrator quieter. It was about the music, and it was mesmerizing. "Some day your bird is gonna fly."
It's not often that I play a game that fully realizes the emotionally potential of a masterful piece of music presented in just the right way. Whereas the visuals and combat moved me on an intellectual level, it wasn't until I was struck by the melancholy beauty of this song that my emotional side was piqued. I stood still for long stretches, just soaking it in, hoping it wouldn't stop. And when I reached the end, a singer was sitting in the grass. I had initially assumed the narrator had broken the fourth wall by recognizing the soundtrack, but that wasn't the case at all. The Singer was as real as The Kid. And I stood next to her, listening to the words and the music repeat over and over.