25/04/2012

OCTOPUSES!

So, I think octopuses are really cool and endlessly fascinating. I mean, why wouldn't you be fascinated by a highly intelligent, colour-changing, multi-limbed creature that can squeeze itself in and out of tiny holes like it was made of putty? That's right, you can't help but be a little in awe of them. VGJunk is about videogames, though, so rather than reading about my plans to breed a species of terranean octopuses to replace guide dogs and other helper animals you get a short article about some of my favourite videogame octopuses instead. I'll add a link to the "Operation Landopus" KickStarter later.

This octopus, from Sega's Laser Ghost, did not make the list as his shifty and violent nature brings other octopuses into disrepute. Not really, it's because he's not that interesting. Sorry, fella. Anyway, who's first?

Octoman, F-Zero series

As much as I love the original SNES F-Zero, (and I really do,) the series really took off with the release of F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64. It added wonderfully varied and fully 3D courses, an unparalled sense of speed and best of all a whole host of utterly mad new characters, each with their own machines and often ludicrous backstories. One of these new characters was Octoman.


Hailing from the planet Takora and racing for cold, hard cash, Octoman combines the advantages of both man and octopus into one hard-drivin' whole: his multiple limbs make controlling his craft a breeze, while his humanoid, forward-facing eyes give him the depth perception and field of vision required to participate in the elite F-Zero races. Actually, I think that's the only humanoid feature that's working to his advantage: all the other attributes of octopusosity could come in handy. I mean, you saw how small a gap an octopus can squeeze into, right? Octoman's ship wouldn't even need a cockpit, and that's bound to save some race weight. Forward-facing eyes, though - they're important. You wouldn't have a chance of winning and F-Zero Grand Prix if your eyes are looking out of the side windows the whole time.


As for Octoman's personality, his post-race interviews reveal him to be a kind, sensitive young space-creature who vows to use his winnings to feed a bunch of octo-kids as well as campaigning against those who would use his tentacled brethren as a food source. Then you complete the game on "Master" difficulty, and you unlock this video:


Octoman cements his place as a truly memorable videogame octopus by attacking the unappreciative audience of his one-man bodybuilding stage show. This kind of thing is why I lie awake at night, praying for the day that Nintendo and Sega get their acts together and make a new F-Zero game that's as eyeball-meltingly fast and as completely barking mad as F-Zero GX.

Super-8, Cyberbots / Armored Warriors.

You don't have to be an actual octopus to make it one to my list. Oh no, you just have to posess enough of the spirit of the octopus: the tentacular essence, if you will. Super-8 has that in buckets, even if he is a mecha featured Capcom's robot-based beat-em-ups and not a squishy deep-sea cephalopod.



Super-8 is most recognisable to gamers from its appearance in... well, I'm not sure, actually. Cyberbots is where it had its biggest role, but it's not exactly a famous game that loads of people played. I think if people have seen Super-8, it's mostly from Devilotte's appearance in Marvel vs Capcom as an assist character. This cameo doesn't really portray Super-8 in the best light, because all it does is appear and then explode.



Super-8 is the personal mecha of space pirate, angry young lady and proud owner of the most ridiculous name in all of Capcom's fighting games, Princess Devilotte de Deathsatatan XIII. This is great, because if you're travelling through space you might as well make your mecha look like a giant robot octopus. It's not like you need to worry about aerodynamics in space, so why not build all your intergalactic vessels in unusual shapes? Have a star-cruiser shaped like a bucket of fried chicken! A short-range interceptor modelled on the face of Dustin Hoffman! The possibilities are endless. Super-8's octopus-based design, with the traditionally sinister and slippery tentacles, is an excellent match for Devilotte's devious personality.


Yeah, that's definitely the reason that she pilots Super-8. It's certainly not because Capcom made Cyberbots by just reusing assets from their arcade beat-em-up Armored Warriors, where Super-8 is the second stage's boss.

Dark Octopus, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night


Alright, allow me to tell you a story. We're in Transylvania during the late 1700's, and Dracula has once more returned to un-life after his umpteenth beating at the hands of the Belmont clan. With weary resignation, he hauls himself out of his coffin and begins preparations for the inevitable arrival of the latest wielder of the Vampire Killer who'll be along any minute to smash all his candles and put him back into the grave. He takes out a list of all the monsters, demons and fiends at his disposal and goes through them one-by-one, hoping to find something that might stop the Belmont's impending rampage. Zombies, skeletons, Frankenstein's Monsters, even Death himself - none have them have worked. And then, at the bottom of his list, he sees a monster he's never tried out before: the Dark Octopus. Dracula sighs, frustrated at the unending cycle of his existence, and fills the caverns beneath his dark citadel with hundreds of mutated sea-creatures. You never know.

The Tako Family, Parodius series

If you're making a series that'll gently mock (parody, if you will) your most famous shoot-em-up series, what better to replace your sleek space fighter with than an octopus?


Not just one octopus but a whole dynasty of them, their interstellar battle beginning with Tako's appearance in the very first MSX Parodius game. Later games featured Tako's son and occasional lecher Takosuke and Takosuke's younger brother Takohiko. In case you haven't guessed, "tako" is Japanese for octopus.


Why do I love the Tako family? Well, for one thing they're a bunch of tough hombres - they can fly through the vacuum of space without batting an oversized anime eyelid. They still die in one hit, but then so does the Vic Viper and that's apparently a spaceship designed especially for combat. Badly designed, you could argue, but maybe the bad guys in Gradius and Parodius fire incredibly powerful super-weapons and that's why the Vic Viper is the only ship left. Still, it's impressive that the Takos can operate in deep space with no more protection than what they're wearing on their heads, be it a headband, a baseball cap or in Takosuke's case a pair of knickers. I don't want to know where he got the knickers for. I know how the Japanese are with their tentacles.


Another reason I personally like the Takos is that their weapon set is taken directly from the Salamander series of games. Okay, maybe not directly - you can't fire smaller octopuses at the enemy in Salamander - but you do get the Ripple Laser. It just makes sense to me, the octopuses using the Ripple Laser, because their O-shaped mouths are perfectly formed for it. It's this kind of logical approach to the science of space-based laser weaponry that makes me love Parodius so much, you know.

Ultros, Final Fantasy VI

Of course Ultros on this list. How can you talk about videogame octopuses without mentioning the greatest of them all? For those of you who have never experienced Ultros' unique charms, he appears in Square's classic SNES RPG Final Fantasy VI. He's a recurring boss and a comedy foil, breaking up the serious business of saving the world from camp clown with delusions of godhood by popping up for the occasional battle, trying to drop iron weights on your head during an opera and eventually getting his comeuppance in the form of massive debts and a lifetime of servitude.


As I mention whenever I talk about Hallowe'en-y games, I love things that are a mixture of the creepy and the cute. Ultros is a good example of this - check out his out-of-battle sprite:


He's adorable! Look at those cutesy eyes, he looks like the obligatory talking animal sidekick from an 80's cartoon. Compare that to his battle sprite, pictured above. He's still kind of cute, but he also looks like someone shoved a handful of rotting bananas into a pile of strawberry jam. Teeth of that size and number are generally an indicator that you should stay away and Ultros is no exception, especially when he's telling your female party members that he likes pretty girls.


Everyone loves an underdog, and that's exactly what Ultros is. He's a simple-minded, lecherous young octopus who makes the mistake of attacking a group of adventurers who turn out to be the most powerful people in a world filled with gods and robots. His stubborn nature demands that he tries to avenge his earlier defeats but he's just not tough enough, his ambitions thwarted at every turn by his own incompetence. You end up rooting for him, not because he's a good guy but because, despite being a giant purple octopus, he's relatable. Plus, towards the end of the game he ends up working as a receptionist at the Coliseum to pay off his gambling debts and the cheery way he greets the player is one of my favourite lines in all of videogaming.


Ted Woolsey gets some stick, but "Look at me! I'm a receptionist! G'fa, ha, ha!" feels so right that I never want to find out what a more literal translation of the Japanese version would be. I'm just glad the game ends and Ultros is still alive. Thanks, Ultros, for being the big purple cherry on top of FFVI's already delicious cake.


Ultros made a return this year, appearing in Final Fantasy XII-2 as a DLC battle. I played the demo for FFXIII-2 and I was thoroughly unimpressed, but seeing Ultros recreated in modern HD graphics and with appropriately goofy voice acting has redeemed the entire game. He's just fun, wherever and whenever you encounter him, and you can never have enough of that.

Octopuses in gaming, then: usually red, sometimes lecherous, but appearing in a wide variety of different genres to cheer me up with their multitudinous tentacles and ability to pilot high-performance racing vehicles. You'll notice that all the octopuses featured here appeared in Japanese-developed games - my personal theory on this is that octopus is eaten a lot more in Japan than it is in the west, and there's nowt that defines a culture so much as its food. Maybe there's a Japanese version of VGJunk where some nerd with too much time on his hands is talking about his favourite sheep in videogaming.

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Even squid? In that case, the Devil is delicious when fried.

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