Two years ago, when I volunteered for GDC in San Francisco, the highlight of the week was meeting Mr. Koji Kobayashi. He was the guy who created the spider robot that chased Squall in Final Fantasy VIII. I squealed like a little girl when I found out who he is and what he does. I think many monster designers are not as appreciated as the character designers. Instead of designing cool androgynous characters, monster designers have to design scary, hateful creatures. So in a way, their success depends on how much you hate those pesky critters that lurks around dungeons plotting your demise.
Monsters have come a long way in video games. From the 2D ghosts in Pacman to the elaborate bosses and minions in God of War III, monsters have definitely evolved into sophisticated, scary, and elegant opponents/pesks. Despite their major contributions in RPGs, monsters are often underappreciated. Who remember the monsters in a RPG? Most of us remember just the plot or the characters. However, a few monsters do stand out in my memory. Here is a few of my most favorite/hated enemies in all the RPGs I’ve played. Of course, I try not to include any bosses at all as they already have garnered way too much attention. Instead, my post this time will focus on the small, the cunning, and the annoying.
The first and the most annoying: the tiny little Festishes from Diablo II.
I was once a naïve, young Necromancer hunting down the Lord of Destruction. I crossed forests and deserts in pursuit of this crafty demon, surviving more or less the many trials and terrors that threatened me. Finally, in the jungles of Kehjistan, as I caught sight of my prey, I hurried out of the loving protection of the docks of Zakarum only to die right outside town. For the life of me, I looked up and I looked down, but I could not see what the heck that was draining my life faster than I can drink the darn potion. It was only after I lay dead and lifeless on the jungle ground, that I saw the triumphant Fetish dancing over my corpse. How I hate that little bugger! After that incident, I sat very, very close to my monitor...and turned on the light.
Ultimately, the award for the most annoying monster for all eternity goes to Malboro. The Malboro will inevitably be in any list that features the words “annoying” and “monsters.” Whoever designed this creature must hate gamers with such force and depth. I can already imagine the creator chortling with glee each time the words “game over” appears on screen during game testing. From FFII to FFXII, this evil thing ambushed our heroes over and over again. As if not satisfied with poisoning them, the Malboro also inflicts a host of other status ailments, the worse being Rage and Confusion. There have been too many times when I have to watch helplessly as my team butchers one and another, paralyzed and unable to cover my eyes. Oh, the horrors!!
As if not satisfied with creating Malboro, Square Enix’s designers have also created another annoying monster for Final Fantasy XIII – Vetala. This mechanical, floating, headless gee-gaw has this shield that blocks all physical damages and halves magical ones. Even though it does not inflict status ailments like a Malboro, this monster made it into my list because it took so long to kill just one Vetala. However, my husband disagrees that Vetala are the most annoying game in FFXIII. He nominated the Behemoth King, a beast that transformed into a bigger, meaner version when its life is halved. The best part is that the Behemoth King’s second form comes back with full HP. Yep, you got to hack away at his HP all over again. To me, both the Vetala and the Behemoth King are equally unpleasant to fight against, but the Vetala is far more annoying.
Even though there are many irritating little pests, the realm of super annoying are still reserved for the mini-bosses that just won’t die. Most of the time, they keep coming back because of the plot or they just want to kill you bad. Recently while playing FFXIII, I came across a fine specimen of a Super Annoying Mini Boss, the Proudclad. That piece of metal junk takes forever to beat and unfortunately, because of the plot, I had to fight that robot again. Thankfully, such incidents are rare.
Other than Square Enix, there’s another developer that puts in a lot of effort in designing monsters – Atlus. Their game, Persona 4, has the weirdest collection of odd looking critters. When I was playing through it, I often come across monsters that made me go, “what the -?!” From Hands type of monsters (literally walking hands) to Hableries (ugly balls with giant tongues sticking out), Persona 4 has the weirdest collection of monsters. The monster designer was taking things literally. For example a World Balance is a scale …with murderous intentions. I wonder how he/she came up with all these crazy ideas. I bet that must be a really interesting brainstorming session.
The other crazy monster both my husband and I remembered the most was this upside down dog from Shadow Hearts Covenant. That was some twisted stuff. Unfortunately, I no longer remembered what that monster’s name was called and couldn’t find a picture of it either. But, if you go click here, this page shows you a couple of monsters from Shadow Hearts Covenant and the designer’s creativity.
Monsters are more than blocks of pixels that we must take down to gain levels. Since fighting enemies and clearing dungeons are the meat and potatoes of RPGs, monsters are an integral part of the gaming process. From the Death Knights in Diablo that bursts into flames in their death throes to the adorable Tonberries that just keel over, monsters, when designed well, makes a game unforgettable. Unfortunately, monsters are given the short shrift. There are so many RPGs with weird, quirky enemies, but I was not able find information on these enemies or any pictures. It is sad that monsters and their designers are taken for granted. I do hope that my article has brought back some err…pleasant memories of your past skirmishes. If you have any memorable game fights with any unusual monsters, do share, do share.