Tokyo Twilight was a pleasant surprise, a mix between a visual novel and a JRPG set in the world of modern ghost-hunters. The game is really innovative in every aspect, from the weird answers in the visual novel section, combining emotions with actions, to the battles, based on traps and on guessing where the ghost […]
D2 is an obscure and really peculiar game released only in Japan and US. Sequel of the mysterious adventure D, developed by the eccentric Japanese developer Kenji Eno, D2 tried to combine survival horror and JRPG, creating one of the most bizarre game ever. The main combat used a first point perspective, like a modern FPS, with the freedom to move the weapon and actively target different body parts of the enemies, while the main character was standing still. The plot is really twisted, bizarre and complex, mixing together a deadly virus, mutants, clones, eldritch abominations and robots. The game was anyway really mature and disturbing, with some scenes censored in the western release. Here I will talk about the peculiar final boss battle, so there will be light SPOILERS regarding the plot of D2.
The final boss is a mysterious and ancient entity called the Shadow. The creature probably came to the Earth inside meteor, maybe the same that destroyed the dinosaurs. The Shadow wants to annihilate every form of life, acting as an opposite force to Mother Nature. To avoid more unnecessary spoilers, I will just say that the fight with the Shadow is not only the key point in D2 plot, but a very different battle.
The Shadow is an incoherent mass of purple flesh and eyes. The weird abomination is not really intimidating, but more bizarre. The eyes are constantly moving, watching in different directions. The creature has strange glyph and structures, like an angelic halo surrounding its body, highlighting its divine role of purifier of planet Earth. To add strangeness to the battle, the background during the fight is an amalgam of flashing colors, like if everyone is under LSD. This creates a more alien and uncomprehending atmosphere, since the player is now fighting a being out of the ordinary logic.
To be a battle against an ancient and twisted God, the fight with the Shadow is, at least at the beginning, really simple and anticlimactic. The boss can be damaged by shooting at any part of its body, but will receive more damage by shooting to the eyes. The creature is also motionless and will do nothing to avoid the bullets. After many fights with quick and unpredictable bosses, very difficult to track and damage, the final boss is just a motionless lump of flesh? The Shadow has only very few attacks, usually throwing a lighting bolt at the player. The animation during the attack is quiet bizarre, with the creature shaking and twisting its body, surrounded by lightnings, before shooting. The psychedelic background is also not helping to make the fight more comprehensible.
The fight is easy and predictable. Surely interesting, at least for the trippy scenario, not quiet common as battlefield. The fight will suddenly evolve when the Shadow will start to switch off the senses of the player, one by one. This will not affect the main character as a negative effect or negative buffs, very common in JRPG, but will directly affect the player. The first sense to be affected will be the sight. The screen will fade to complete black, except for bullets and health meter. This is quiet different from the common “Blind” status in many RPGs, which is usually associated with a higher chance to miss the attacks. In this case, it is the player that is completely blind and this will be reflected directly in the gameplay. The player can still use the hearing to understand if he is hitting the Shadow or not, but the fight will get more complicated. Here you can have an idea of how fighting a boss while blinded would look like.
After the sight, the Shadow will destroy your hearing. After that, not only the screen is completely black, but also without any sound to guide the bullets. You can’t see and hear nothing, something quiet disturbing since the Shadow will continue to strike you with electrical bolts. At least there is still a way to hurt it and fight back, while healing. After the hearing, the Shadow will take away your ability to move. Now things are even more challenging, because you have no way to fight it back. You are simply there, blind and deaf, without any way to harm the boss. Also the health points will drop down to 1. The only way to survive is by healing really quickly, while using the items to stay alive. Blind, deaf and paralyzed, there is no more way to fight it back.
A voice in your head will change the dark fate of the battle against the Shadow. A new item can be used from the inventory, revealing a Flower. The power of Nature will help to fight back the negative energies of the Shadow, regenerating all the senses. The player can now fight again at full power. With all the senses back, the last part of the fight is easy and straightforward, as at the beginning.
The final boss of D2 is really weird and anticlimactic. An easy battle, static and boring at the beginning, but with an unexpected twist affecting directly the senses of the player. This is more a puzzle than a proper battle, but the confusion during the fight when the screen fades to black for the first time is still really unreachable, altering the concept of “negative effect” that is usually quiet static in JRPGs. The psychedelic background, full of lights and colours contribute to create a unique setting for a really bizarre and peculiar boss.
Lisa is a dark, grotesque and unique surprise in the world of indie RPG, a game with a mature and touching story. In a post-apocalyptic scenario a dad, Brad, should fight back to rescue her kidnapped daughter, the only surviving woman in this patriarchal society. During the game, the player should face several tough and permanent decisions, but some of them are also integrated directly in the gameplay.
In a particular moment of the game, Brad will be kidnapped and forced to play a deadly tournament of Russian Roulette. Yes, post-apocalyptic wastelands are a crazy place where people get bored easily. After surviving three rounds of the deadly Roulette, once set free, Brad could come back again to join willingly other tournaments. Each surviving round will provide an increasing amount of money, useful to stack on cash early on in the game, with few efforts. Of course, there is a price to pay for joining the tournament.
The lives of your party members are used as bet.
Each round, a party member is selected by the player as contestant for the Russian Roulette. When the deadly game starts, each shot of the gun as 20% chances to kill one of the contenders. If this is the case of the enemy, the tournament will continue and the player will get money. If instead is the party member to receive the deadly bullet, he will of course die. Worst news? Death in Lisa is permanent, so say goodbye forever to the follower that was scarified for the hope of obtaining money. The last round of the tournament is against a fat man covered in scars. He can survive to two shots in the head before dying, making him an especially dangerous foe. Of course, nothing forbids the player to load an old save, on Normal difficulty. In case of Hard mode the situation is different, since save points will self destroy after being used, making saves more rare and permanent deaths more dangerous.
Lisa offers a dark and interesting way to offer money to the player, easily, but with terrible consequences. Even if is true that in Lisa there are dozens of recruitable characters, and some of them are also quiet useless in battle, is it anyway worthy to risk their life for money?
Will you permanently bet the life of your followers for money?
The adult fear of giving birth to an aberrant creature is always a big taboo. If in the movies this dogma was already faced several times, especially in 1977 with the nightmarish David Lynch’s Eraserhead (check my article talking about surreal sex and “wrong” birth: Eraserhead Intro: a surreal sex scene), in videogames this concept […]
Fear & Hunger (F&H) is a dark and mature RPG, with a strong horror and survival component. The grim world of F&H is definitely a mature experience, dealing with strong topics to create one of the most dark fantasy experiences. F&H is a wind of fresh air in the world of indie RPGs, especially in terms of morality and horror integrated in both lore and design. More information regarding the game can be found in my review.
What surprised me the most is that Fear & Hunger was practically created by just one person: Miro Haverinen. I had the possibility to talk with him regarding F&H, knowing more details about his creative process and his future ideas. Miro kindly answered to all my questions and, if you are interested in knowing more details about F&H, below you can find the complete interview.
Q1: Fear & Hunger is an original RPG with a dark, mature and disturbing setting. How the idea of Fear & Hunger was born?
A1: The original idea was born during my school studies few years ago. In our class we had this tradition of asking random (like truly random) questions from each other. During one class I started asking one of my classmates what he would do in these different morally awkward scenarios that would all happen in a morbid dungeon. The scenarios would continue for a while and more and more people got involved. In the end it started to take a shape of a pen & paper RPG and the dungeons were named ’The dungeons of fear & hunger’.
Later on I had to scrap together some academic credits and I decided to turn the dungeons into a video game format and make a school project out of it. I even ended up writing my thesis about the game. The thesis was about the aesthetics and thematics of horror in video games and the practical part of the thesis was the first demo of Fear & Hunger.
Q2: The setting and the lore of Fear & Hunger are original and interesting. What inspired you the most while creating the game? Which are the major influences for your work and for the complex lore of the game?
A2: I was originally inspired to create a sensation of relentless darkness. I wanted to experiment different ways to evoke hopelessness and horror in a sense. I think this is more apparent in the earlier builds of the game. It has since taken more of a ’video game’ form with the later updates if that makes any sense… As for the influences, there are so many that it’s difficult to pick just few… I guess the biggest influences would be Silent Hill, Hellraiser, Amnesia, Nethack, Berserk and the Souls games. I also want to name Mortal Kombat here, because the lore of MK is really underrated in my opinion. Also the early Mortal Kombat games had a really frightening and vile atmosphere.
The way the lore is presented in F&H is obviously heavily inspired by the storytelling and the world-building of Souls games. But the lore itself doesn’t try to replicate any of those titles. It felt like the game wrote itself on its own really, which is pretty weird looking back to it.
Q3: Let’s know a bit about you, Miro. What did you work before focusing on Fear & Hunger? Were there other videogames/projects before this one or you worked in a completely different field?
A3: Ah, well… I did play around with game developing when I was really young. I found game engines like the RPG Maker and Game Maker among others, but I couldn’t really concentrate on any single project for long and most of the games I made back then died within few weeks or months. I did release a couple of game demos back in the day but unfortunately I don’t have them anymore.
Eventually I drifted away from game development, thinking that there was no future in playing around with simple 2D graphics. Funny enough, right after I quit, the indie gaming exploded so it wasn’t necessarily the best move at the time. Later on I got into graphic designing and I really wanted to make art. Graphic art, music or whatever. There are some album covers around with my art and also some light graphic novels in which I took part. I didn’t really consider game development until I had to get those academic credits from somewhere. I decided to revisit RPG Maker as it was the engine I was the most familiar with. Then people seemed to like the early versions of the F&H and after the first Let’s Plays of the game I was hooked. With games I could fuse together all my interests in different art forms and it was very rewarding to see the immediate reactions Let’s Players had with all the things I had created.
Q4: Which are your favorite videogames?
A4: I have a deep love for Souls games. Demon’s Souls especially awakened something inside me. Also the first three Silent Hill games have a special place in my heart. I’ve never felt the same kind of dread as the 10-year-old me felt with the original Silent Hill. Other than those, I’d say Final Fantasy VII, Ocarina of Time and the original Resident Evil 2 are probably my favourite games of all time. It’s a pretty boring and obvious list haha. Maybe I should throw some more obscure names here too? From the top of my head – A Blurred Line, Legion Saga 2, Devil May Cry 3, Seiken Densetsu 3 and Lost Planet 2 are all cool.
Q5: Fear & Hunger is a really mature game, including sex and gore. In my opinion everything is not gratuitous and it adds darkness to the world, but I was curious: was there something that you deleted from the final release because you considered it too mature or dark?
A5: No, not really. Every time I felt bad about making some things I figured I was on the right path. If it created a repulsive feeling in me, it had to have an effect to people playing the game too. There were some things removed though, but not because they were too dark or mature, but because I felt they took the game more to the meme territory. Like for example the ’Stinger thrust’ attacks of the guards originally caused – erm – …different bleeding statuses during the combat. It was a bit too silly. The status ailment is still in the game, but it’s not too frequent now.
Q6: Personally, I love the monsters of Fear & Hunger, both in terms of design and for the unique battles. Which is your favorite monster and why?
A6: I really like the Skin granny [Figure 1]. Her design is really cool and menacing I think and on my playthroughs she is always one of the more intense fights. If you miss some of the attacks on the first turn, things can go south really fast. Also I think the very first enemy most people run into, the guard [Figure 2], is really the best enemy as far as the gameplay balance goes. In general I’m really happy with the way designs ended up too.
Q7: Developing a videogame could be complicated and many ideas often are cut from the original plan. What was an idea you wanted to implement but at the end was cut from the actual game? A creature or boss fight?
A7: Seeing as I still keep updating the game, I can’t say any of the features were really cut from the game really. They could just be waiting for the future updates! But originally I planned that in the place of the Salmonsnake boss fight [Figure 3], there would’ve been a random variation to the boss fight with a tentacle monster instead. I thought it was a pretty cool idea to go to the lengths of making randomized bosses too. But since that fight is optional to begin with, I felt that that the time it would have taken me to make that functional would be better spent elsewhere. So that’s probably something that will remain cut from the future updates too. There were also supposed to be swimming sections to the game in underground tunnels, but that might be cut out entirely too. Who knows?
Q8: What was the most challenging part of Fear & Hunger development?
A8: Things have gone relatively smoothly with the development. I’d say the most challenging part has been finding the time to make the game. It has demanded so much time for the past 2 years. I really can’t recommend game development to anyone who wants to keep on to their other hobbies and social life haha.
Q9: Fear & Hunger can be a really challenging and punitive game. During the testing, which was the monster/trap that killed you the most? I am talking about something that you really hated yourself, and maybe you also ended up fixing a bit for how much difficult it was.
A9: I didn’t really hate anything during the test runs. Otherwise I would have removed those elements entirely. If I die on my test runs, it’s usually within the opening hours and the cause is the guards. They can be pretty punishing if I go about too carelessly.
The boss fight of the Ending B was originally meant to be hard mode only, but since I could never beat the boss on my test runs, I changed it so that the boss appears in the normal mode as well. I can’t really think of other things… But I’ve changed many things according to the feedback I’ve gotten from the other players though.
Q10: Miro, what is your plan for the future? Are you planning to add contents to Fear & Hunger, or already thinking/developing a new game or a sequel? I would be curious to know some details, if for you is ok.
A10: I’ll continue updating Fear & Hunger to some extent. It has still been my priority, but I’ve also started to plan and make some early work for a follow up game. After the next update I think the priority will shift more towards the next game. So yeah there will be a ’sequel’. But it’s going to be different. I’m not sure if all the people agree with the direction the next game will take, but I feel like I want to make something a little different for a change of pace. And some details? Hmmm…. The game will use the same lore, but won’t be a direct sequel per se. Although it is going to follow one storyline F&H set up already.
I would like to thank Miro for the friendly talk and for his cooperation. I will curiously wait for more news regarding the future of F&H. I would like also to remember the Fear & Hunger is available at itch and STEAM.
The setting of Fallout is mature and dark. A post-apocalyptic wasteland where mutants, cannibals and horrible monsters freely roam. In a setting so complex and desperate, humanity is on the edge of morality. Several quests can be concluded in a really evil way, especially since the game allows complete freedom also in who to kill. Of course, in a nuclear wasteland, radiation and nuclear power are a big part of the moral equation. Few but memorable quests exploited the power of the atom, with a brutal and devastating result. Of course there will be light SPOILERS on some quests in Fallout 3 and New Vegas.
In Fallout 3, the wrong use of an unexploded atomic bomb will have a catastrophic result, which was never achieved again in videogame history. Megaton is a town build around an old atomic bomb. People almost worship the bomb, considering part of the town and of the religion. The huge bomb can easily be disarmed, putting the town in safe. But a rich and powerful man has a different idea: to trig the bomb causing the annihilation of Megaton. After triggering the bomb, the player should travel to the tower were the rich man is living. There, the player will discover the truth behind this evil quest. A simple and so disturbing truth.
The horrible shape of Megaton is ruining the view from the balcony of the man. For this simple reason, he wants the town completely obliterated.
The player can now press the apocalyptic switch, causing one of the most massive nuclear explosion in a videogame. A beautiful but tragic bomb of light that will end the history of Megaton. The town will disappear from the map, leaving behind only a highly-radioactive dump. All the people living there, the shops, the quests and the items, are now gone forever. Few key characters will survive, but horribly mutated in ghouls. Destroying Megaton is considered the most evil act in Fallout 3, causing a massive drop in the Karma moral system of the game.
This is why the quest is called “The Atomic Power”.
In the sequel, Fallout New Vegas, during the main game the player cannot play with moral and atomic power. However, the situation drastically changes during the DLC Lonesome Road. At the very end of the main quest of the DLC, the player will have access to a nuclear silo, with two warheads still operative. The good way to conclude the quest is to stop the launch by disarming the weapons. But of course, there is another evil way of ending the quest, which is called “The Apocalypse”.
New Vegas is a game focused on siding with different factions, working on increasing the reputation with them. The two biggest factions are NCR and Legion, which of course are enemies between each other. Controlling the power of nuclear weapons, the player has in the hands the instrument to decide the fate of the world. Depending of which faction the player joined, he could decide to use the missiles on the other faction. This evil act will cause a massive drop in the reputation with that faction, very understandable since the player almost annihilate them.
If this choice is evil but quiet influenced by the system of factions in the game, the next hidden choices is plainly evil and anarchic. Since there are 2 nuclear weapons, both the factions can be destroyed at the same time. A very weird choice, but still possible. The nuclear explosions also in this case will change the environment, creating radioactive wastelands full of mutants, where before there were the headquarters of the two factions.
In Fallout 4 DLC Far Harbor, the headquarter of a faction which reside inside a submarine can also be annihilated by launching one of its warhead on itself. This will cause a massive nuclear explosion that will completely destroy the submarine and the faction.
Apparently, even in the online-only Fallout 76, the players can access codes to launch nuclear weapons from specific silos to the CAMP of other players.
I don’t know if other chapters in the Fallout saga allowed the player to morally play with the nuclear power, but these ones are for sure the most massive and amoral ways to use atomic weapons. Not only this will kill dozen of characters, but will also change the environment and the world permanently.