Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Alphabet of Cronies: I-J

I is for Insects

Let me get one thing out of the way: I love insects. I've taken a fair share of courses about insects, and currently work in an insect systematics lab. They've gotta be the coolest little organisms out there, as far as I'm concerned. Fact of the matter is though, that they creep people out a lot.

This alone makes them an excellent enemy to have around. Insects are freaky little things to most people, and when they see an insect on them it often results in a scream or a sudden brush of the clothing in order to get the damn thing off of you. If people don't like them all that much in Real Life (tm), then why the heck should they be fans of them in video games?

Insects are used in tons and tons of games as creepy enemies, or as swarming enemies that just irritate the crap out of you. Gigantic insects are also a frequent favourite of video game designers, such as the giant ants in the Fallout series. They're just so damn different from humans that they freak people out a lot...the way they skitter around on their multitude of legs, or screech through their piercing mandibles.

Contrary to popular belief, insects cannot survive in a vacuum.

Super C and Bionic Commando (in one particular stage) both have some irritating insectoid enemies that tend to swarm you and get in your way. Pretty much any underground stage in any game has some form of insect, including those damn irritating beetle things in Blaster Master that're too damn short for you to blast easily with SOPHIA's cannon. A plethora of insect enemies can be seen in Super Metroid, such as Geemers, Reos, Sidehoppers, and even the mantis-like Space Pirates themselves.

For some reason, insects appear to be a good spacefaring enemy as well...although I guess technically they would then be counted as aliens, but I'm gonna go ahead and mention Galaga's cast of foes. Insects that fly in patterns and swoop down to destroy or steal your ships are the main antagonists of Galaga, a game that I play in arcades whenever I get a chance. And don't forget the gigantic Mothula in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past...a giant moth that you fight in a small room lined with moving Spike Sliders. Sounds a lot harder than it is, though.

Anyway, insects are different enough from humans that they can be creepy and also frequently small enough that they can be used as aggravating adversaries that you just can't ever seem to reach unless you have a plan. Their appearance and agility makes them a good enemy to have around in any game, and don't even forget about the fact that they can often cause some shitty status ailment in RPGs, such as the infamous Poison. If you're creating a game and need some form of enemy, you always have insects as a reliable fallback!

(P.S. Centipedes and millipedes are not insects, and neither are spiders. If you thought they were...then...well, just run away from me quickly. RUN YOU FOOL!)

J is for Jelly enemies

Ahh, jellies.

You know what these are. You're playing a video game, such as a fantasy or sci-fi action adventure game, and suddenly you come across an enemy that is, at most, an amorphous blob with a face or something like that. You have encountered a jelly enemy.

These cronies are just good for bashing around, in most cases. Nothing is quite as satisfying as sending a Zol flying across the room with a sword slash in the original Legend of Zelda, only to watch it split into two smaller versions of itself (Gels). Jellies are oftentimes one of the first types of enemies you run into, and perhaps the best game to use as an example is Dragon Warrior.

In nearly every DW game, you leave the first town and prepare to level up. After wandering around for a short amount of time, you get into a battle. It's a blue Hershey's Kiss with a clown face on it. That's a Slime, and you're gonna be seeing a lot of them. They're pretty much the Goomba of the Dragon Warrior/Quest franchise, and people love the hell out of them.

Reminds me of my ex-wife!!

What about good old Earthbound? In this weird friggin' game, there's a point where you fight piles of puke with faces. I guess puke isn't really a jelly substance, but when the hell else am I gonna get to mention Master Belch? Difference is that these guys are actually quite tough and can use some brutal abilities to bring your party to its knees, including offensive magic and horrible gas that makes your characters start to cry, making them miss way too often to be useful. Harsh!

Most adventure games have some form of jelly enemy...Battle of Olympus, the Zelda series, the Metroid series, StarTropics I and II, the Final Fantasy series, Star Fox, Shadowgate...those're the ones off the top of my head. Give me more time and I can probably think of tons more...but right now it's late and I'm tired so how about you FUCK OFF instead!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Alphabet of Cronies: G-H

G is for Goombas

Rather than have a more general type of enemy class for this entry, I figured it would make sense to go for one of the most recognizable and popular video game cronies. A walking mushroom with a face and giant shoes...the Goomba from the Mario series.

Above: Not a goomba, no matter what the fuck anyone says otherwise.

You can't deny that when you think about enemies in video games, this is probably one of the first ones that come to mind. In the original Super Mario Bros. game, this was the very first enemy you encountered and promptly flattened like a disgusting mushroomy pancake for sweet, SWEET points. Goombas have been a staple of the series ever since, with very few games excepting them from their enemy lineup, such as Super Mario Bros. 2 (which we all know was just a slightly reskinned Doki Doki Panic anyway so it doesn't count.)

They're always the same...mushroom shaped enemies with big eyes and eyebrows and giant shoes that either wander back and forth until they hit something or fall off of a cliff in the 2D games, or patrol areas and chase mario down in 3D installations. Everyone loves them though...they're the enemy that you just love to beat around and stomp because flattening a mushroom is just damn satisfying.

Particularly one that's bent on killing you but is so, so terrible at it.

H is for Humans

Let's face it. We're assholes, and video games help to drive that point home by frequently having Homo sapiens as a menace in tons of video games. There are numerous examples I can think of, but obviously I'll only limit it to a few.

The Enclave in the Fallout series is a good example...government-minded soldiers patrolling the wasteland and hogging technology all to themselves. Clad in power armor and usually sporting Gauss and Plasma Rifles, these jerks are completely detestable both in terms of their stubborn, unwavering affinity toward Uncle Sam as well as the fact that they're damn hard to kill. They also have tons of vehicles and turrets at their disposal...a force to be reckoned with. At least you can usually find some sweet loot on them though, often resulting in you absolutely ravaging them with their own power armor.

Other examples I can think of are the oftentimes human adversaries of the Final Fantasy series. Pirates, soldiers, ninjas, strippers, weird cat women, giants, hunchbacked idiots, name it and Final Fantasy probably has it in some way, shape or form. In fact, pretty much any RPG has human enemies that get in your way, often commanded by some higher-ranking human person...they're all fuckin' assholes though!

Metal Gear is another good option for human enemies. Sure, there are the standard grunts and soldiers that you encounter and subsequently stab to death or blow holes through, but we all know that the human bosses are the real stars of the show. Grey Fox, whom you fistfight in a minefield in MG2, and Psycho Mantis who "reads your mind" in Metal Gear Solid are very memorable. Actually pretty much every boss is memorable in these games so what the hell am I even talking about!

Now I'll read more deeply into your memory ca...SOUL! I totally said soul!

Humans as enemies are almost always portrayed as:

a) power-hungry factions that are searching for some way to either get rich or to own the world in the palm of their hand

b) nearly feral groups of thieves that will beat your ass down when they get a chance

c) deceptive pricks who want something but eventually stab you in the back

d) all of the above

Makes them a pretty good enemy to have around, don't you think?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Alphabet of Cronies: E-F

E is for Elementals

So, you're playing through an RPG and things seem to be going along pretty well. Physical attacks are enough so least until you encounter a devious adversary known as an elemental.

Unfortunately, sometimes you have a weapon equipped that might have qualties that are of the same element as your find this out the hard way when you take a swipe at it and the damn thing heals. How fuckin' annoying is that? Elementals are tricky because not only do they force you to use your magic in most cases, but they also can deliver terribly destructive attacks of their own element upon your characters, wiping them out a lot faster than one would appreciate.

The Fire Emblem series is no exception from these types of enemy, with most magical characters attuned to a single element. Send in the wrong type of character and they're toast...or frozen...or blown away by wind, whatever the elemental happens to be.

What about Final Fantasy? The first asshole that comes to mind is FlameEater from Final Fantasy 3/6 in that burning building. What a dick...not only did he need ice to kill, but he was also able to cast Reflect so you couldn't attack him directly with your own magic.

Hai thar, I'm a total prick!

Eternal Darkness is based almost completely on properly attuned magical elements. Almost every single RPG has elemental enemies that require proper thinking to eliminate, and some action games even do as well.

Fact of the matter is that Elementals force you to think about your strategy and come up with something new, whether it be how you attack them or how you defend yourself from their attacks. This alone makes them a damn good enemy type to have on this list.

F is for Flyers

Yes, I already went over birds, but they piss me off enough to get their own goddamned entry.

Flyers can be anything, however...not just birdies. We're talking bats, mechanical enemies, aircraft...anything like that. Ever since video games've been around, flying enemies have been pretty much a mainstay. UFOs in Space Invaders, Koopa Paratroopas in the Mario series...pretty much name an action video game and there's likely going to be some form of flying enemy that pisses you off.

Bats are a frequent one, swooping down from high areas to knock you down pits or relentlessly attack you. I won't talk about birds again because you know how I feel about them. Flying drones will pester you constantly when you encounter them in games such as Bionic Commando or the Contra series. What about assholes that have jetpacks from the game Wild Guns? Neckies and Zingers from the Donkey Kong Country series? Metroid has its fair share as well, such as Wavers, Rippers, and Metroids themselves (friggin' jerks). Blaster Master is also loaded with them. And don't forget fucking Medusa Heads in Castlevania! If you can name a side scroller then there're probably flying enemies in it in some way, shape or form.

I'll whip you good, you flying asshole!

The ones that are the worst are ones that're also terribly quick and dodgy, such as the aforementioned Red Arremer in Ghouls N' Ghosts, or even Lost Souls in Doom. Pretty much any flying shoot 'em up obviously has tons of irritating airborne foes as well, with multiple and tricky patterns to make your life a living hell.

In fact, that's what flyers are all about...making your life a living hell. They're oftentimes more mobile than you and have a better range of movement making them difficult to hit, and a lot of them are also terribly quick so blowing them outta the sky isn't the easiest thing to do. A lot of them can even fire at you from above, meaning you've got bullets from the sky to worry about. For god's sakes, make sure they're your first target when you encounter them!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Alphabet of Cronies: C-D

C is for Chimeras

Chimeras are critters that are made up of the parts of other critters. The classical Chimera is obviously the terrifying creature you can read about in Greek mythology, which is a mishmash of 3 different animals: a lion, a goat, and a snake. The Chimera was able to breathe fire, and just being unfortunate enough to see the damn thing was a bad omen that apparently suggested you were gonna get fucked up by nature. What an asshole.

Well, that hasn't changed one bit. Chimeras in games are damn sweet enemies...and I'm not just talking about the rehashes of the creature from myth. There are also numerous games with cronies and enemies that are chimeras of other different animals or organisms. For example, Mother 3's Pigmask Army has the creation of chimeras from various animals in the wilderness as one of their main objectives. Super C's final boss is some weird mashup of...a human face, some fucked up alien, a spider, and a toad or something. A lot of Final Fantasy enemies resemble combinations of animals or monsters, as well as tons of disturbing bosses from various other video games.

Original Chimera art from Final Fantasy 1

Oftentimes, chimeras in games are disturbing to even look at or think of, which makse them a damn good cronie to begin with. Chalk up the fact that these things are usually pretty damn tough and will often have abilities attributed to each animal you can see in the organism, and you've got a fearsome, creepy, and irritating enemy that you really have to think about before you tackle.

D is for Demons

These guys are jerks, but the best thing about demons is that you never, ever feel bad about kicking their asses.

Perhaps the most iconic instance of demons in video games is in the Doom series. Demons start to invade UAC bases on Phobos and Deimos (the moons of Mars) via the use of portals that apparently link directly to hell. These guys come in all shapes and sizes, from the humanoid fire-hurling Imp, to the floating, one-eyed, basketball-shaped Cacodemon, to the towering Cyberdemon, which is a cybernetic goat...thing...that's about 20 feet tall and sports a rocket launcher for an arm. Do I need to say anything else?

You know you want to kill this.

Well I will.

Throw in terrible enemies like the Red Arremer from the Ghouls N' Ghosts games if you really want to cry. These assholes are some of the dodgiest, most persistent enemies you'll ever encounter and they frustrate me just thinking about them. The Devil May Cry series is loaded with demonic assholes to punish, as well as Ninja Gaiden for the NES which involves a demon king named Jaquio trying to create a DEMON ARMY. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I SAID THE WORD DEMON SO FAR?

Hellish brutes from Blood that you set alight with a flare gun...pretty much any major enemy from the Diablo series...

Yeah, demons are abundant in games. They can take many forms, have many different attacks, and are generally just one of those enemy types that no one has a beef about when it comes to putting them down in a bleeding mess on the floor. Load up your Plasma Rifle and get to it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Alphabet of Cronies: A-B

I'm gonna try something a bit different, and I'm gonna list of and write small blurbs about some of my most memorable types of cronies, underlings, and general enemies in my classic video gaming experiences. It's not necessarily a top 26 type of enemy list, but rather just enemies that come to mind...and I'm gonna have an example for each letter of the alphabet.

It won't necessarily be day I might hammer off 4 letters, while another day I might just write up 1...just a heads up. Hope you enjoy!

A is for Aquatic flora and fauna

When it comes to classic games, swimming levels occur very frequently during which you are often unable to attack (or at least not in your usual fashion). For example, Super Mario Bros. will plunge you into an underwater level every so often and pit you against numerous foes. Cheep cheeps and Bloopers are a prime example, and later on in the series even more deadly critters are added like Lava Lotuses and Jelectros. The problem with this is that you cannot jump and land on enemies in the water and therefore are unable to kill them unless you locate a fire flower or some other such item. Real fuckin' pain in the ass, learn to cope, I suppose.

However, when it comes to underwater flora...the hat must certainly be tipped toward the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the NES. The second level in the game starts off like the rest, but quickly becomes a race against time underwater to diffuse 7 bombs before they bust open a dam and flood the city. You have a time limit to do this, but that shouldn't be a problem because your characters are Turtles and obviously swimming is a pretty normal thing in that case.

Oh but wait. EVERYTHING IS OUT TO KILL YOU IN THIS GAME...and that unfortunately includes a gauntlet of electric plants that line the walls of the area and will zap the shit out of your ass if you touch them. Take these things into account:

1) You're in a fucking hurry, so taking your time to get by the plants is not really that much of an option

2) These plants line the NARROWEST OF POSSIBLE PASSAGEWAYS and getting through such locations is terribly, terribly difficult and will probably make you cry.

3) Why the fuck are there electric plants underwater anyway? Do those things actually exist? WHAT ABOUT EELS FOR GOD'S SAKES that like, SWIM AROUND or something! Then at least you could have an actual electric enemy that makes sense and also have it be an interesting enemy that you need to correctly dodge around, rather than just pray to god that you're not a single PIXEL off course between walls of electric plants!

And dare I mention the fucking Dopefish? That's right, I'm gonna call back to Commander Keen for this entry! The Dopefish was...well...pretty much a giant green swimming idiot that relentlessly chased you around underwater levels in the Commander Keen games. This fat bastard would swallow you up, ending your life in one fell swoop. What a stressful asshole.

Behold...the true face of evil

Torpedo Teds? Mermen? How about the Croctopi in Donkey Kong Country? Evirs in Super Metroid?? ANYTHING to do with underwater areas in the Sonic series? ALL ENEMIES IN ECCO THE DOLPHIN?!

The list goes on, and I could think of tons more, but you get the idea.

B is for Birds

If you happen to be anyone who somewhat knows me, then I'm pretty sure you know that I hate birds. A lot. I firmly maintain that the only thing they're good for is consumption (chicken, turkey, etc.), and shitting on my car. When it comes to video games...birds are even more irritating.

Ninja Gaiden, you cruel and horrible game. I may have conquered you, but if you didn't have birds that hunt you down mercilessly and knock you down cliffs more often and more frequently than a person can TAKE BREATHS, I could have had you beaten without yanking out all of my hair. And I do mean ALL of it, if you catch my drift.

Crows in Earthworm Jim are another good example...damn things are relentless and can grab you and wrench you around, draining your health from you. Also there's the fact that one of the main enemies, Psycrow, is just a giant crow in a space suit and constantly tries to shut you down in warp hole races that are stressful to begin with.

Castlevania series? Same damned thing as Ninja Gaiden. Tiny little bastards that are tough to hit and will knock poor Simon (or Chris, or Trevor, etc) off of their feet and into a bottomless pit are frequent and relentless.

The only good kind of bird is an extinct one

Robotic birds in Megaman that can spawn smaller ones that hunt you down? Lame. Guays in the Legend of Zelda series? Also lame. It's the fact that these damn creatures often have a completely free range of movement around the entire screen, and will very often blow you down a cliff to end your life that really makes them irritating. There's also the fact that they're damn hard to hit due to their small size and intense mobility, so killing them isn't always an option! Game developers know this, and therefore know exactly where to place birds in order to make the gamer's life a living hell.

Not to mention there are also birds that steal your shit in some games! What's that crap?!

Again, there are tons of examples of this, but I'm pretty sure that you likely know what I'm talking about. Fuckin' birds...unfortunately they're the type of enemy you love to hate. Their often unpredictable behaviour makes them one of those enemies that always has you on your toes, and so I guess it's somewhat good to have them around.

In pixelated form, anyway.