Cats are awesome. Of course, if you're a dog person, you probably don't like cats so much - which is actually a great reason to read this article. It will change your mind. That said, being someone who's actually allergic to real cats, virtual ones probably hold a much greater appeal. I'm hoping some of my enthusiasm will rub virtual cat hairs off on you.
Having now disturbed you more than any other intro in recent times, allow me to open the bag and let out the most important cats in gaming.
Shenmue does a great job of making you think you're the only person in the world who is Ryo Hazuki. There was even a letter in an old Dreamcast magazine from a gamer who said 'already I've helped an injured kitten...' as if he thought only he had found it. But, of course, everyone finds it. Those plaintive mews are impossible to ignore.
But it's the depth of the character that makes this kitty so important. Like the other 200+ characters in the game, this kitty has its own back-story. Its mother was killed by Lan Di's car as it sped away from the Hazuki Dojo. That makes this kitty's tale as harrowing as Ryo's. In fact, in many ways this kitty is the same as Ryo. It should have its own multi-disc games. And unfinished story arc. Humph.
This kitten shows how much care and attention should be lavished on every aspect of a videogame world to create this unparalleled sense of immersion. Indeed, many players (myself included) missed out on the kitty getting better because the world carried on while we weren't there. But you can see that rare scene right here:
Darkstalkers' cat girl is important because she's so brazenly sexualised. The whole 'furry' fetish would still have been rather taboo when Felicia appeared in 1994. And to our teenage minds, it was quite a shock. Her outfit is still skimpy even by today's DOA standards, and the animation of her pendulous teats (where are the other six, eh? EH?) caused quite a stir in mid-nineties arcades.
You could also argue that Felicia is more of a reason we have characters like BlazBlue's Taokaka today than Catwoman. Not to mention everything she's done for cosplay. Sweet mother of Jeebus' pet cat, won't somebody think of the children?
Strudel (Timesplitters: Future Perfect)
Stuffed cats on wheels that meow when they overturn would be stupid in any game. Give them tracks to race around, however, and they make far more sense. The lack of animation makes them all the funnier, especially when you use the level editor to design a map with ramps so you can send Strudel flying skyward.
That inanimate Cat trolley may not look like much, but Strudel is actually a shining beacon of programming dexterity and engine versatily. Oh yes. Turning an FPS game engine into a racing game with drift physics, jumps and even a centre of gravity is something that simply wasn't seen in last-gen shooters. And secondly, the game is almost 100 per cent more memorable for its inclusion. This cat saved the last ever TimeSplitters game from the void of obscurity, and should be saluted for that.
Above: Erm... your robot cat trolley seems to have fallen over. I said, your robotic cat trolle... oh, forget it
Silencer Cat (Postal 2)
You've got to feel sorry for the cats in Postal 2. Not only do they get chased and killed by The Postal Dude and his dogs, but they also get picked up and carried around in his inventory. Why? To be used as makeshift silencers, of course.
The irony is, every shot you fire is now accompanied by a raucous 'MEOW' sound which is about as silent as an acutely agonised cat. Still, no-one seems to notice... at least not until they get hit the face by an exploding cat as it finally gets launched off the end of your weapon. Poor kitty.
Needless to say, Postal Cat pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in an entertainment medium. Especially when it causes YouTube users to create montages like this: (warning, this video is massively violent and shouldn't be viewed by anyone under the age of 18 or who has any sense of good taste):
GamesRadar is the premiere source for everything that matters in the world of video games. Casual or core, console or handheld - whatever systems you own or whatever genres you love, GamesRadar is there to filter out what's worth your time and to help you get even more from your games. We deliver the best advice, the most in-depth features, expert reviews, and the essential guides for all the top games.