Nash Latkje


The name is Latkje. Nash Latkje.

If you've played a lot of Japanese RPGs, you'll start to notice characters seem a bit familiar over time. It's a genre that relies on archetypes, like the English theatre of the early sixteenth century. I don't mean this as a criticsm, just as a statement-- archetypes in RPGs are used to establish characters and their key traits before they have a chance to develop naturally through gameplay and dialogue. Normally, the goal is to develop the characters beyond their archetypes over the course of the game. So, we learn how the hopeless womanizer is just covering a deep-seated insecurity, how the silent swordsman is really a deeply passionate human being, or how the cold warrior-woman is only putting up a front.

Nash is a strange case, because "super-spy" is a Western archetype, and not one that really appears in Japanese RPGs. Sure, there are plenty of people with hidden motivations, and you've got no dearth of traitors and assassins. Cait Sith is a fortune-telling cat robot, and Citan is just damn good at everything. But neither is James Bond the way Nash Latkje is James Bond.


Case in point: the ladies.

Nash is a nebulous master-of-all-weapons, but the one he uses throughout Suikoden III is a dart-gun concealed in his jacket. While Chris charges enemies with her sword, Nash just kinda stands there and points. But Nash has plenty of other tricks up his sleeve, like the gunpowder he's familiar with from his internship stint with the Howling Voice Guild. He's also got mysterious sparkles to counter other people's gunpowder, knowledge of the hidden passages inside Castle Zexen, and contacts that run the gamut from Salome to Silverburg. He's got an upper-crust high aristocratic background, but he's been involved with the military from a very young age. Along with the Howling Voice Guild, he's been with the elite Temple Guard, and the Southern Frontier Defense Force, like Geddoe and his crew. But by the time Suikoden III rolls around, he's a solo operative under the direct command of Sasarai, charged with gathering intelligence about the Flame Champion and Masked Bishop alike.

He's a spy, like the game flat-out tells you.

But before he reveals his allegiance to Holy Harmonia, he plays the innocent skirt-chaser. In an interesting twist on the typical RPG womanizer, Nash plays his game down rather than up. He also steps into the mentor role, as the oldest and wisest (heh) member of Chris's supporting cast. He's just as important as Salome in the advice-giving regard, at least in terms of gametime.

Nick Fury

The point I'm trying to make here is that Nash's suave super-spy dealings are at the core of his character concept. The ability to write "international man of mystery" as his job description is clearly the selling point of his character, at least in Suikoden III. But they're largely foreign to the concept of Japanese RPGs. For one thing, the super spy job requires a level of technical pizazz not normaly present in sword and sorcery epics. Nick Fury wouldn't be Nick Fury without his psychadelic sixties Sterenko-tech, and Sydney Bristow would have a tough time of it without Marshall's gadgets or her seemingly endless suply of wigs. Nash is every inch his age, but "thirty-seven" is not in the genre's vocabulary. Generally speaking, characters in JRPGs are barely out of puberty-- your typical "hardened military veteran" will be maybe eighteen. Oh, there's always the random old guy maybe just into his thirties, and there's always room for a random immortal, but Nash is a melee fighter who is actively on the wrong side of thirty-five. In Suikoden, he's not alone, but someone like Nash could only call the strange mix of history, politics, and straight-up crack that is the Suikoverse home. Nash gets by with a fake surname and talking bird sidekick, which maybe says all you need to know about Japan.

And thus is Nash Latkje, James Bond by way of Cloud Strife, an archetype all to himself.