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Dislikes: Mad ‘skillz’
Onboard computer says “WARNING! No refuge!”
Defining moment: Ikaruga’s core mechanic of dodging or absorbing black and white bullets by switching your ship between the two colours turned the humble vertical shmup into a brain-polarising, high-speed action puzzler. Level 3’s boss saw you trapped inside a spinning wheel, black and white gunfire raining down on you, forcing you to switch, switch, switch from black to white while attempting to take it down.
WTF?! In a cruel twist of fate, if you managed to defeat it you were faced with the harsh realisation that Zura was just a taster (a tutorial, if you will) for Level 4. Affectionately known round these parts as the ‘Soul Crusher’, Level 4 was an entire level of swirling, twisty-skippy gunfire. Only harder. And longer. It’s here that most people give up, and the savants soldier on, proving their dominion over mortal man.
Zack & Wiki
Dislikes: Bell-shaped monkeys
Barbaros says “I’m going in with both fists this time.”
Defining moment: While many developers were floundering with motion control, Capcom’s Zack & Wiki showed the world how it should be done – with gestures and controls that really brought something to the experience. In the final encounter with Barbaros, players are required to wave, point, crank and lasso their way to victory in an epic action-puzzler that takes the form of an intergalactic pirate ship stand-off.
WTF?! We can picture the meeting at Capcom now: “What this game really needs is an Egyptian Space Crocodile. And… and… at the end, we should have Zack do a flying headbutt into Barbaros’ face! Yeah!” “We need a really special finisher though. Tell you what, how about getting that golden monkey to turn into a bell and then, right at the last moment, the player will wave it in the pirate’s face until all his flesh falls off? Perfect!”
Little King’s Story
Likes: Cake, French
Dislikes: The Weight Watchers Plan
Shishkebaboo says “Welcome to my forest tea party!”
Defining moment: The terrifying intro when Shishkebaboo, in make-up, invites you to his forest tea party. In French. Before engaging you in a hyper-colourful game of pinball. Your goal, as the ‘flippers’, is to shoot away at Shishkebaboo in an attempt to keep him away from a cake at the bottom of the screen. The longer you keep him away from the calories, the more his weight, represented by the ‘score’, decreases.
WTF?! Your flippers are actually your little army that you use to shoot up the screen at Shish. Trouble is, they take a little while to come back to you, so in the ricocheting madness it’s all too easy for Shish to slip past your defences to the cake below – at which point his weight increases again. The problem with this is that, combined with the somewhat random nature of pinball, you could either manage to beat him fairly quickly or (if you’re unfortunate like us) end up fighting him for an hour and a quarter.
Likes: Being attacked
Dislikes: Technicolor swastikas, the power of prayer
Pokey says “Mommy! Daddy! I think I’m going to wet my pants!”
Defining moment: It has to be the second phase of the attack where, after ‘defeating’ Pokey, he turns off the devil’s machine showing Giygas’ true form – a swirling, undulating background that, er, really doesn’t make for particularly great viewing and, for the most part, can’t even be attacked. But then Earthbound never really did anything by the book. The most memorable thing about this final boss, however, is the way you eventually beat it…
WTF?! The trick to defeating Giygas is to pray. Yes, pray. Using Paula’s ability you can call on the people of Earth to unite against the swirly-whirly wall of weirdness. With each prayer from the party’s friends and family, the damage to Giygas increases, corrupting the background until, finally, you the player finish him off with a final prayer. It’s a poignant ending to an RPG that, up until the closing moments, refuses to do anything ‘properly’. Once Giygas has fallen, you’re invited to walk Paula back home through the game world, for a touching and somewhat melancholy ending.