Hey VGJunk, haven't you written about Final Fantasy enemies before? Why, yes I have. So isn't this sort of a lazy cop-out article? Perhaps, but sometimes a lazy cop-out is all the heart desires and the mind can cope with. Why are you talking to yourself? I don't know, maybe I'm losing my mind. Anyway, here are some of the many enemies faced by Cloud and Co. (a better name than AVALANCHE, if you ask me) during the vast adventure that is Final Fantasy VII, enemies weird enough, interesting enough or treated poorly enough by bad translation to catch my attention. One thing they all have in common is that looking at them makes me think of the phrase "Gourad shading" because the games magazines of the time used it incessantly, and after looking it up just now I finally understand what it is. Well, it's important to keep up with the latest technological developments, isn't it?
Razorweed, bane of all green-fingered inhabitants of Final Fantasy VII's world: spreads like crazy, naturally resistant to weedkillers, produces a constant stream of self-pitying whining when pulled from the ground. Look at it's dumb little face, there's no way that face isn't always saying things like "oh right, I guess I'm just not pretty enough for your ornamental rock garden." Evil grass might not seem like an especially terrifying foe, but I suffer from fairly bad hayfever (I know, what a shocker) so hacking away at grass with a sword would inflict the debilitating status effect of itchy eyes and a runny nose. Did you know some characters in Valkyria Chronicles actually do suffer from hayfever when in woodland areas? Valkyria Chronicles is pretty great, you should play it.
Unthreatening as it was, at least Razorweed looks like it could run away or something. Not so in Rilfsak's case, an enemy so pathetic that the only possible response to it is sympathy. Random battles represent lurking monsters attacking the party, right? So what in the hell was Rilfsak hoping to accomplish by leaping out at the heroes of FFVII? The removal of its other eye? Rilfsak's only notable combat skill is that its evasion stat is quite high, making it difficult to hit. I suspect this actually represents the characters feeling so sorry for it that they can't bring themselves to deal the fatal blow. "Oh, no," says Tifa as she swings her fist well away from Rilfsak, "this foe is so nimble even my mighty martial arts cannot penetrate its defences." Sadly the Rilfsak is too dense to take the hint and is eventually killed when someone casts Fire on it.
Okay, that's not a Harpy. Harpies are part-bird, part-women. This is a chimera. You can tell because it's part lion, part goat and part snake. This one has sprouted wings and a face on the right that might be from a Godzilla of some kind, but if anything that just makes it more of a chimera. Most conclusive of all is the fact that in the Japanese version of the game it's called Chimera. I know translation can be a tricky business but this shows a lack of care and attention - as well as a lack of knowledge about Greek mythology - that is very difficult to explain, especially when there's a palette-swapped version of it later in the game called Maximum Kimaira.
Well, they were getting closer. Maybe if there'd been another three or four chimeras in FFVII they'd have gotten there in the end.
As for the Harpy itself, I get the feeling that the lion is the one who does all the work in this team. The goat has horns where its eyes should be, which must limit its combat effectiveness, and the lizard head looks like too much of a good-time party animal to really focus on the task at hand. No, it's up to the lion, the sensible, dependable lion, to hold this rag-tag group together even though he can;' close his mouth because of his improbably large tusks. I also like to imagine that when it's the goat's turn to choose where they go for dinner and it picks somewhere vegitarian all the other heads boo it.
"Freeze! This is the Vargid Police, you are under arrest! Put all your hands in the air and come out slowly!" Then Vargid Police slides over the hood of his police car, an action aided by the layer of slime I assume he's coated in, while his straight-laced, by-the-book partner shouts "Dammit, Vargid Police! We're supposed to wait for backup!" Then Vargid Police is killed by a passing group of adventurers. He was one day away from retirement.
I was looking at Vargid Police for a while before I realised what it reminds me of - sushi ginger. I don't know what that says about the sushi restaurants I've been to.
Now, a horse wearing a waistcoat with a guitar sticking out of it's arse. A natural creature that roams the lands or a twisted Shinra experiment to find out what happens if you ram a Stratocaster up a horse? I have no idea, but if it's the latter then the answer is "it develops a rather flamboyant sense of personal style."
Not content with being a magic pink horse, Gighee is also a four-legged David Bowie reference, it seems: it's Japanese name, Jigii, is also the Japanese spelling of Ziggy, as in Ziggy Stardust. Add that to the blonde hair and the guitar and I think you've got a pretty good case for saying that yep, this is a David Bowie reference, even if that isn't how the Thin White Duke usually transports his guitars. So, if you're the kind of person who has ideas about what David Bowie would look like as a pony - and a quick Google search tells me there are plenty of you out there - then I'm sorry but FFVII beat you to it by fifteen years or so.
In battle, Gighee is always accompanied by Christopher. I just like that there's an enemy called "Christopher," is all. Gives him that common touch, you know? Most of you probably know a Christopher, and even if they aren't a prancing elf-child with a Beavis haircut and purple chaps there's still that pleasing connection to normality.
Bad Rap Sample
Still on the theme of names, I mention this one to restate an observation I made a while ago, and that was that "Bad Rap Sample" is the perfect name for an insufferable indie band. Of course, these enemies are only called Bad Rap Sample when they're summoned as helpers by Dr. Hojo, Shinra's evil head scientist who's doctorate is apparently in Impregnating Things With Other, Genetically Unrelated Things. Most of the times you fight them, they're just called "Bad Rap," the name changed from "Vanilla Ice" at the behest of Sony's legal team.
What did this bug do to deserve the epithet "bizarre"? Okay, so it's about six feet long but in the world of Final Fantasy VII that's hardly a reason for it to be considered notably unusual. Nobody calls the Buster Sword "bizarre." Or maybe the Bizarre Bug's simple insectoid body plan is the reason it's bizarre, and people consider it shocking in its mundanity.
"Cloud, we're under attack!"
"What is it? Shinra troops? An ancient living Weapon? Sephiroth himself?"
"No, it's just a cockroach or something. I mean, it's pretty big, but still."
"Weird. Oh well, more EXP for us."
There's a crab enemy called Castanets, and that is adorable. The crab isn't adorable - not even a mother crab could love that face, assuming this species is capable of any emotion beyond relentless, seething hate - but the name is wonderfully evocative of the sound its giant bladed claws make as they clack together. There must be an in-universe story behind the naming of these crabs, perhaps some ancient warrior musing "hark, I hear the ryhthmic sound of Spanish castanets coming from this oh god it's snipped off my legggs!"
As for the puzzle of how the inhabitants of FFVII's planet know about Spanish folk instruments, well, it might be more likely than you think, as we shall see shortly.
On the list of Very American Things, an eagle made out of guns falls somwhere between Mount Rushmore and ill-informed opinions about football. But how can it be "American" when it's from a distant fantasy world? Well, this distant fantasy world also knows about Texas, if this sign above Tifa's bar is anything to go by.
It makes sense to me - the Eagle Gun is the state bird of Texas, isn't it? Wait, what do you mean it's actually Mimus polyglottos, the Northern Mockingbird? In learning that fact, I discovered that Texas also has a state soil. Local pride is great and all but singling out a particular kind of mud for praise seems a bit much. On the other hand they also have a state dinosaur, and that I can fully endorse.
"My arms are so tired. So tired..."
That's a very gremlin-y Gremlin, with an expression of cheerful malevolence that lies at the heart of all gremlins. That said, I would have called it a Hobgoblin...
...because it looks like the titular creature from the infamous 1988 B-movie Hobgoblins. If you're familiar with Hobgoblins (the movie, not the folkloric creature) then it's probably through the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode in which it featured, and if you haven't seen that episode of MST3K then I suggest you check it out. If nothing else, you can have fun imagining what would have happened had the hobgoblins used their power to make real the deepest fantasies of each member of AVALANCHE. Given that Cloud is made of fake memories, liquid souls and alien DNA I'd hazard a guess that his fantasies would be utterly insane.
Touch Me? I will not, you weird little creep frog.
Someone at Squaresoft really went off-piste with these mythological creatures, huh? Cokatolis is clearly supposed to be a cocatrice, but the cocatrice of legend is mostly dragon with a rooster's head, which presumably makes it the king of the roosters but a laughing stock amongst dragons. FFVII's Cokatolis is a chicken with the head of a chicken. It's just, you know, a chicken. There are already Chocobos in this world, Cokatolis. We don't need any more giant chickens, especially not ones that can turn people to stone by breathing on them.
There is absolutely nothing not to love about an extremely angry yellow penguin with cacti for flippers and a punk hairdo. How do I know Headbomber is angry? Because the writing on his chest is the Japanese kanji for "anger." You don't paint "anger" on your belly unless you're fairly cranky. What is Headbomber angry about? Judging by its haircut, I'd guess "its parents."
Brain Pod is a little teapot, short and stout. There's its handle, and there's its spout.
And there's the human head it keeps inside. Final Fantasy VII is a game that lets you fight a mechanical teapot with Bob Hoskins' head inside, so it's little wonder that it's regarded as one of the all-time classics.
All I can think of when I look at Sculpture is the shrieking headlines of a Daily Mail-esque tabloid complaining about the state of modern art. SCULPTURE? MORE LIKE NO SKILL-PTURE, that sort of thing, the letters page flooded with people writing in and saying "as someone who once looked at a painting of flowers once, why aren't there more paintings of flowers? Instead the liberal elite force the garbage that passes for art these days on us. First an unmade bed and now a paving slab, it's Broken Britain, I blame the immigrants, bring back National Service." Well, I say good on you, Sculpture. You've overcome the handicap of being nothing but a lump of rock, escaped a dismal life as part of a patio or outdoor staircase and made something of yourself. You're an inspiration to us all.
It's a good job this enemy is called Manhole, otherwise I might have thought Satan had taken a job as a waiter. Satan Waiter wouldn't spit in your food, he'd subtly convince someone else to do it. Also, what do you think: is that his nose, his chin or some kind of beak? I think it's a beak. A beaky Beelzebub who lives in the sewers, moving between three manhole covers in a kind of living three-card Monte routine. It's little wonder that I spent most of my childhood wishing that when I grew up it would be my job to design monsters for videogames.
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