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Once again, O’Malley patterns one of his splash pages after a classic title screen, this time with a big, beautiful color homage to Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
The biggest difference here is that, unlike Scott and Ramona, Sonic and Tails aren’t about to kiss. But hey, that’s remedied by like every Sonic fanfiction ever, so it’s all good.
Scott’s thirst meter is nearly full, but his cash meter is completely empty. It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. Sometimes all the time, and not usually in videogames, either.
As for whether those meters are from anything specifically, it’s hard to say for sure. But they look an awful lot like they came from a Dreamcast VMU game, or maybe one of the old Digimon/Tamagotchi virtual-pet keychains. Anyone know? Let us know in the comments.
Is it…? It is! An 8-bit question mark that’s an exact copy of the ones on Mario’s question blocks!
Well… near-exact, anyway. The bottom part is a little too short.
Scott’s dream sequence – in which he wanders aimlessly around a mysterious forest while being hounded by a chirpy elf who asks him if he knows the cheat code – is a direct nod to Zelda, and more specifically to the mazelike forest areas in some of the games.
Above: You don't necessarily need a code to get through these, but directions wouldn't hurt
That “random encounter” business is all down to RPGs, though. Especially JRPGs that surprise you with random battles when you least expect/want them to happen.
We mentioned already how Scott is kind of a moron, right? Here’s further proof: when Stephen Stills offers to train him as a cook if he takes a job as a dishwasher, Scott struggles to understand the situation by relating it to the “job systems” found most prominently in certain Final Fantasy games. Predictably, this nearly scuttles the job interview. Just like it probably would in real life.
Above: Scott is dumb. Do not be like Scott
Scott gets the job anyway, and immediately gains a 500-point experience bonus. Not a specific reference, really, but where else but videogames have you ever seen pop-up numbers like that?
This happens a few more times in the series, but since those bits don’t really present anything new, we’re going to ignore the subsequent ones unless there’s a reason not to.
Scott’s minimalist status meter makes a return, and this time it’s pee-related. We’d say this is a sideways reference to The Sims, a game in which roughly 130 percent of any given day is spent peeing, except for the fact that the Sims’ bladder meters don’t empty when they pee – they fill.
It’s easy to dismiss this as another generic-y RPG reference, but the visible stat boost and earned power echo one RPG in particular: Pokemon, with its constant leveling and evolving and learning new powers and goofy messages stating all those things.
One of the coolest visual references in the book (again, for old-fart NES fans) is the climactic duel between Scott and half-ninja Evil Ex Roxie Richter, which follows the opening of the NES Ninja Gaiden almost shot for shot. First, the two combatants stare each other down and rush across the field at each other…
… just like Ken Hayabusa (in orange) and Bloody Malth (in gray) did in one of gaming’s first-ever cinematic cutscenes:
Above: Each of these was a separate screen; we stitched ‘em together to make the similarities clearer
Also replicated are the panels in which Roxie and Scott leap at each other to deliver a midair strike before dropping back to earth.
The main difference is that Scott’s in front in both panels, while Ken’s in back. Maybe because Scott wins and Ken loses? Either way, the awkward midair poses we remember from our misspent childhoods are damn near identical. And that’s kind of awesome.
Tense as all that was, though, Roxie breaks the stark mood – and the “enemies turn into coins” pattern – by suddenly exploding in a cloud of adorable bunnies and birds. Strange, you say? Not if you’ve ever played through a boss fight in Sonic the Hedgehog.
Above: OK, yeah, that’s still kinda strange
This one’s kind of easy to miss, but near the end of the book – after Wallace tells Scott he’s found a new apartment with his boyfriend Mobile – Scott’s wearing a Mother 2 tee.
In case that doesn’t ring any bells, it might help to know that Mother 2 is the original Japanese title for the game known in the States as Earthbound.
Above: Does it look familiar now?
The Steve Manale-penned guest strip at the back of Vol. 4 is built around one single videogame reference: those invincibility stars from Super Mario Bros., which play MP3s and enable an abnormally brutal fight between Scott and guy-who-knows-everybody Michael Comeau.
Next page: Volume 5!