Discover the original stories of eerie and creepy characters that I created in Soul Calibur 6 [Characters, Diaries and Stories]

The power to create monsters and creatures born from your imagination is a powerful tool, especially if you are able to draw. There are also other ways to create monsters that convey a story, for example creating creepy and bizarre creatures with a complex background using character creation tools from different games. It is easier to achieve such a task in RPGs, as I previously made for Fallout 4 or Code Vein (The Bloody Captain of Diamond City: the story of a baseball superhero searching for the absolute fame – Fallout 4 [Characters, Diaries and Stories] and The dreamlike tale of Elaiza, an imprisoned soul able to travel between dreams and nightmares – Code Vein [Characters, Diaries and Stories]), where the complete freedom of the gameplay helps to shape dozens of possible stories. But other powerful tools can be also used to create interesting characters and monsters.

In the following article I created 10 creatures using the amazing character creator of Soul Calibur 6. Even if in this case the characters can only be created to fight each others, I used the tool trying to design characters that convey a story. Of course the character creator has its limits, so in some moments you should use a bit of imagination. For me this is a formative experiment, a meeting point between my passion for games and writing. Each character and story that I created here is completely original, built trying to create a connection between a creepy design and an interesting background.

The Herald of the Blind Horde


Do you know why crows start to eat dead bodies from their eyes? It is because those birds are messengers of the Blind Horde, in charge of sending souls to strengthen their ranks. A phenomenon that was especially true on the battlefield, the main feast for the crows and the Horde. Following the destruction brought by the Blind Horde in feudal Japan, after each main battle, it was common to burn the head of the corpses to avoid the spreading of the Horde. The Blind Horde is a savage and barbaric army composed of pale humanoid creatures, usually half-naked and wielding tribal weapons made of bones, appearing from the mist and slaughtering everything in its path. Each soldier is almost identical to the others, like clones, each of them missing proper eyes, but having instead a huge and grotesque eye opening where the mouth should be. After they have wiped-out another army, the Horde will also remove the eyes from all the dead bodies, so their spirits will join the Horde. According to other legends, this is not the only way to be a gear of the Horde. Some stories claim that a human being that spent 100 years in complete blindness will also join the Horde, but as a sort of high-class elite, keeping the intellect. In Japan, the common belief is that the Blind Horde is a unique hive-minded Yokai, where each monster is just a small part of something bigger.

Yanichi, Protector of Written Secrets


The guards were too busy talking about the new girl at the brothel to notice how the thief was using the roof to sneak inside the Holy Room. Sacred instruments and ancient forbidden knowledge were scattered around the room, centuries of treasure collected by the religious elite of the clan. But the thief had only one specific object in mind, a single tome containing the secret he was looking. He found the book easily and immediately opened it to search the correct spell. A freezing wind entered the room, accompanied by an acute female laugh. The thief was terrified because he understood while the guards were so lazy. The books were protected by Yanichi, and he was already a dead man. Yanichi is an ancient spirit protector of words, symbols, and knowledge. With the right ritual, Yanichi can be summoned and bound to scrolls or books, as a fierce and bloodthirsty guardian. If unwelcome eyes should read a protected text, Yanichi will appear in the physical world to punish the curious. Her favorite punishment is to pierce golden nails through the eyes of the unwelcome readers. So they will not search anymore for secrets.

The Gray Jester


A long time ago, in a mysterious and far land, a king was obsessed with his own laughing. The monarch was an extravagant one, full of bizarre beliefs and superstitious rituals. His late-life obsession became his own laughing. According to his views, each laugh was in reality part of his spirit flying away to feed an invisible demon. No matter how weird and insane his beliefs were, the castle was forced to agree with his rules. But the king didn’t want to spend all his life without laughing, for this reason, he contacted a famous alchemist to find a solution. The royal laugh will not be feeding anymore the mysterious demon. The alchemist had an easy and bizarre solution: building the marionette of the Gray Jester to be the recipient of the king’s volatile laughs. The Gray Jester was born as a sad and futile being, a puppet existing only to ease the obsessions of the king. But its purpose and functionality were not a mere placebo and, through a zipped opening in the abdomen, the Jester was collecting the laughs of the entire castle. But the more the laughs collected, the more the sadness that reclaimed that empty shell. Nobody would expect the blind fury waving inside the castle when the Jester got alive. It smashed everybody with a giant hammer, painting a giant smile on its face with the King’s blood. The alchemist truly created the demon that was before only an obsession in the king’s mind.

The Void Astronaut


There are not many astronauts of this kind. Far planets and remote galaxies were not their dream, nor a crucial part of their job. Void astronauts were trained and equipped to travel and explore a vast space of infinite nothingness. This empty and aseptic space could open everywhere. Sometimes it is the door or a wardrobe, other times inside an old and abandoned vehicle. Each time a new access is discovered, a void astronaut is sent to explore it. But one Void Astronaut discovered that the void space was not empty as expected, and he took contact with “something”. Whatever was the energy or the entity that caused the anomaly, he was never more the same. And never got home. Fused in his suit, the astronaut is wandering in the void, as both a flesh prison and a string-less puppet. Something is constantly trying to crawl out of his body. A white and empty face is slowly emerging from his flesh and suite, while hands and eyes are pressuring his body from the inside. Whatever thing he will become, and whatever power he will again, it is a terrifying mystery.

Summer Siren


Summer, sun, seaside, and eyes to look around in complete relaxation. Nothing better to ask for. But the unexpected can ruin everything in a second. It could start with a gorgeous girl in bikini standing on the edge of a rock. Then, the tragic fall inside the battling waters. In a matter of seconds, you could be jumping in the sea, swimming to the rescue of the mysterious stranger in distress. The waves are strong, and the girl is barely a shape submerged by water, but you try anyway your best to reach her, motivated both by the aim of saving a life and the mystique beauty of the mysterious stranger. When you finally reach her, swimming against the sea itself, you realise how many details are wrong. If her body is well-shaped and defined, her face is somehow off, like if it was blurred by some camera filter. The truth is hard to digest, her face is in fact only a shapeless and blurred mass of water. Strong arms block your escape, thick instruments covered in blue scales. When you try to fight your way out of the water, away from the deadly hug of that shapeless face, something starts to burn your skin. The yellow palms of the creature are not different from the biology of the deadliest jellyfish. The paralysing poison is already circulating in your body, when every biological machinery in your body starts to shut-down.

Auto Neko Slasher


Super Neko World was once considered one of the happiest places in the world. An amusement park built around the concept of the figure of the cat, expanded with the use of the best technological and robotic advancements that Japan had to offer. Not only crazy roller-coasters and huge-wheels but also parades everywhere, where silly and cute cat robots were performing. The protagonist of this story was a humanoid cat robot in charge of cutting grass and hedges inside the park, of course creating complex architectures based on cats. It was a true marvel that filled the eyes of children with pure joy. The technicians at the park were controlling its behavior using a camera in its chest, observing and judging the structures it created. As many dystopic stories about robots told us, at some point even the cutest robot could go rogue. There was not a proper explanation for that, just a random but critical malfunction. The scissors became its weapon, while the camera on its chest an instrument to show to the world all the nefarious murders it committed. Would you believe that the revolution started with a gardener cat-robot?

The Never-to-be Bride


Dying on your wedding day is not a destiny to wish even to your worse enemy. Sadly, such a nefarious fate can still happen. Dying on the wedding day also marks a huge scar on the soul, a burden of grudge and anger. The bride lost everything, not only her love, but also her beauty and humanity. The body and the skin, shaped by care and vanity, were now only white bones. Destroyed in every inch of her existence, the bride planned to recover what she lost. If a bride is staring too much on a mirror during the wedding day, it could summon the Never-to-be Bride. Not only she will strangle the living bride-to-be with a whip made with the twisted flower of the ghostly bouquet, but the spirit will take the place of the bride, including her dress. Of course, the future groom will realise of the skull under the veil at the moment of the kiss, breaking the summoning. But the ghostly bride will persist in her search for the lost love and beauty. She forged a golden mask using wedding rings of the murdered brides, a mask of a beautiful female face, a simulacrum of her lost humanity. Will somebody be so crazy to marry her now?



A creature born from the Gurgling Abyss, an amorphous place made of raw flesh. The female shape is only composed of dense layers of skin, a humanoid but terrifying being. Her body works as a grotesque magnet for skin material, sucking away layers of cells from screaming humans. Her mere presence at some meters away and the skin of living organisms will flow to join her body in a sort of grotesque river of dense tissue. Of course, few people could survive this horrible and painful effect. The motives and the behavior of this creature are a mystery, but the Gurgling Abyss generated also two other sisters, this time made only of blood and bones. Their effects on the human body are comparable to the one of their sister.

Bringer of the Purple Moon


When he saw for the first time the Purple Moon, he was astonished by its magnificent presence. It was an ecstatic moment that changed his life forever. He still can remember the radiating purple light coming from the sky, the scythe form, and the thin tentacles dancing from the gigantic figure. Under the purple light, he was blessed and reborn, washed away from his physical form. The words of the Purple Moon forever carved not only in his mind but also in his flesh. Wearing a scythe and the Purple Moon’s helm, he became the inquisitor of this alien and mysterious entity. No matter how many people he should burn in nights without moon, or how thick must be the purple smoke coming out from the screaming victims, the Bringer of the Purple Moon will find a way to summon again his forgotten god. When the sky will be engulfed by the purple smoke of thousands of sacrifices, the Purple Moon will be physically summoned again. Or at least this is what he wanted to believe.



Sculptures so lively to be mistaken for human beings, and selected to decorate the most majestic churches. That was a time of artistic wonders and marvelous minds. But there was something keeping even Michelangelo or Bernini awake at night, a too much real nightmare associated with creativity crisis. No matter how genius you can be, at some point, whichever sculptor will be staring at an amorphous mass of marble without any idea on how to free the statue from the stone. For how much it is difficult to believe, every sculptor knew that the more this creativity crisis continued, the higher the possibility of calling the attention of Abstract. The uncanny and cryptic entity can morph from any unfinished statue, shaping the stone into creating its body. The female body made of stone is covered in chains, while empty geometric figures are floating around its body and covering its face. Abstract is the material representation of creativity and sculpting, an ancient god of ideas made physical. But it is also an executioner, a sort of ancient boogeyman that terrorises sculptors that are unable to finish their creations. When Abstract finds its way into a statue, manifesting itself in the tangible realm, the fate of the involved sculptor is far from becoming a happy ending. Abstract will chain the body of the sculptor in an impossible and uncomfortable position, like a puppet made of flesh. The sculptor must finish the statue from this position, or his fate will be much worse than physical pain. His body will slowly turn into a statue, and the only way to prevent the process is by finishing a masterpiece. But this rarely happens. How many famous statues in the world are in reality the artist petrified by Abstract?

Why fighting when you can ally with Cosmic Evil Gods in Hellpoint? [Evil Quests]

Hellpoint is an interesting meeting point between the mechanics of Dark Souls and the oppressive horror sci-fi atmosphere of games like Dead Space or Doom. The game is set on a gigantic space station orbiting around a black hole. Everyone is dead, or worst, and the station is invaded by hordes of monsters. A cosmic occult ritual went wrong, and 3 abyssal gods invaded the station with their hordes and followers.

Interestingly, each god has its philosophy, and it is somehow associated with a specific level of torment: Uthos is the tormentor of the mind, Ozy of the flesh and the body, while Nemundis is associated with a more spiritual and subtle pain. The station is now a battlefield between cosmic powers, a chessboard where each god is moving its twisted pawns. Each god is trying to control the station and this is also reflected in the gameplay. When a god is killed, the equilibrium of power will be shifted and the followers of the other gods will replace the dead’s ones in the station, even altering the previously visited areas and possibly increasing the difficulty. Plan well which god to kill last because then its followers will be everywhere.

Interestingly, killing the gods is not the only option and it is possible to befriend each god, becoming its herald or champion. Well, sooner or later there is no way to avoid becoming a god-slayer, but the possibility to do quests for these colossal and evil entities is really rewarding. Before the inner chamber of each boss, sometimes hidden in a very secluded area, there is always a monolith, which allows access to the mysterious Underworld. This parallel universe stores different items and creatures than the original world, a land full of bright colors and mystic winds. Entering the boss room while in the Underworld will not trigger the usual fight, but it will instead allow the player to talk directly with the Cosmic Gods. Each god will have a similar quest, based on collecting trophies from the bodies of the champions of the rival god. Of course, the gods will offer a very satisfying reward after the quest is completed, specifically unique weapons for magicians, each associated with a different element. But let’s check the quest-line and the dialogue with each evil god.

Uthos, the Ashen Born


This giant demon, where classic hellish design joins with cybernetic elements (quite in Doom style), is more friendly than it looks like. Seated on a throne in a sort of meditative pose, the God of Agony looks quite peaceful. It defines itself as the eternal renewal of agony, a creature pursuing sufferance as purification for every creature. In its cosmic vision, suffering is the pressure to live, a sort of positive energy giving life a meaning. Somehow, this demonic abomination is respectful of the gift of life, at least in its own way. Uthos and its followers see agony as an evolutionary mechanism, an instrument to transcend and to grow (from the description of the Daemon Fragment). The god searches weakness in every living being, using sufferance to discover them. Fire is the mark of Uthos, integrated into its body and connected to all its followers. Fire is purifying agony, an instrument to pursue its cosmic plan. Its followers are all associated with fire, especially the Lava Daemons, tall humanoid demons wielding a scythe used to create walls of flames. Uthos sees in the twisted and distorted followers of Ozyormy a waste of the gift of life, dumb and parasitic creatures that don’t deserve to be alive. For this reason, Uthos will ask, in exchange for becoming its Executor, the fragments from the bodies of 10 Consumers, obese creatures with mouths in their bellies, and champions of Ozyormy.

Ozyormy Goija, the Master of Puppets


The god of raw flesh, twisted meat, and grotesque transformations has one of the most absurd but metal names ever [Ozy(Ozzy)+Ormy(Orm)+Goija(Gojira)+one of the best Metallica albums]. The creature looks like a twisted Hindu deity, not only in the appearance but also in its movements, like in a perpetual dancing. Ozy lives in a bloody room at the bottom of a hole, which can be peacefully accessed from the Underworld. Ozy sees its followers as a Happy Family and will offer the player to join it. Everything about this deity is related to twisting flesh and body, to discover physical ways to wrench bodies. It will offer the player to teach torsion to break a man, something that is probably called the Weak Dance. Both during dialogue and fight, Ozy is always like performing a twisted and unpredictable dance, which can be a direct application of the Weak Dance, a perpetual and unnatural dance that works also as a fighting technique to break bodies. Sadly, the player will not truly learn this technique even if joining Ozy’s family. Ozy holds strings, pulls lie, and twists truth, probably using torture and modeling flesh as tools to shape the world to its image. The god is a chaotic energy, an insane and disturbed cosmic entity with bizarre and unclear aims. The Master of Puppets has many different followers, generally called Thespians, wrenched and grotesque creatures serving their master. Melee Thespians are thin and fleshy swordmen, fast and agile. Consumers are giant obese creatures with long and flexible arms, with a mouth in their bellies. Hostesses are incredibly tall female-humanoid figures wearing a mask, with well-shaped bodies and a long blade. To conclude, the Vicious Hands are exactly what you expect: giant walking hands that attack like a swarm. Ozy hates Nemundis and its followers, calling them dull minded beings. To join the family and receive the reward, the player must kill 10 Archons, powerful magical beings living in the Underworld. After completing the quest, Ozy will promote the player to puppet-master, who should teach the puppets who runs the show.

Undisturbed Defas Nemundis


Apparently a peaceful and meditative being, Nemundis shares with the other gods connections to Asian religions, in this case the pose connected to Buddhism. Regardless of its appearance, Nemundis is not all sugar and friendship, since it is even addressed as the abyss that stares back. Nemundis is the god of the cold and infinite terror, of the empty and aseptic void, the ruler of the silent darkness. The god also defines itself and its followers as both medium of creation and its ultimate destroyer, a sort of Alpha and Omega in the sci-fi occult world. Even while fighting, Nemundis will keep the meditative posture, but a sort of angry soul made of radioactive energy will emerge from its body to smash and grapple the enemies. Nemundis is also officially the god of the Underworld, the parallel dimension that can be accessed through monoliths. This lonely and empty wasteland is the birthplace of energetic creatures called Archons, being made of entropic energies that sometimes can also roam in the material world. Common Archons are like humanoid figures full of tentacles, which float around in a state of mindless agony. The Archon Knights are instead more powerful and sentient beings that can use multiple powers. Nemundis hates Uthos and its followers, beings that feast on agony, creatures that value more the physical torments more than the existence of mind. To become the Prophet of Nemundis, the player needs to kill 10 Lava Daemons associated with Uthos.


The Nightmares of Mary Skelter: fairytale characters reborn as twisted immortal stalkers

Mary Skelter Nightmares is an innovative dungeon-crawler in which female characters from fairytales fight to escape from a huge living prison, using the blood of the enemies as a weapon (for more info check my full review: Mary Skelter Nightmares Review: an innovative dungeon-crawler where fairytales are drenched in blood).

If common enemies are sometimes lacking innovation and personality in their design, the Nightmares are a completely different story. Creepy and disturbing enemies, Nightmares are almost immortal foes limited to one for each dungeon. In the beginning, there is no way to permanently defeat a Nightmare, and their appearing transforms the game in a survival-horror. The best way to survive a Nightmare is by running away, escaping the immortal stalker before being captured. The chase will not end up in an immediate Game Over and there will be still the chance to stun the monster and escape, even if the chances of dying are quite high. The Nightmares are the equivalent of immortal Stalker in survival-horror games, such as Nemesis or Mr X for Resident Evil, but this time inside a JRPG.

However, at the very end of each dungeon, it is finally possible to defeat a Nightmare. The battle is always divided into two steps. First, the external armor of each Nightmare, comprised of different parts, needs to be destroyed. The items themselves are very interesting, revealing information on the Nightmare’s background. After that, the monster will lightly change shape, starting the real fight.

As previously explained, Mary Skelter is connected to fairytales, since the main characters are all based on fables, from Cinderella to Rapunzel. Each dungeon/chapter of the game is focused on the background or the struggle of one specific character, morphing the world around according to that fairytale. The Nightmares are also gears of this mechanism, showing complex symbolism and a multitude of details related to a specific fairytale.

In the following article, I will analyse the Nightmares of Mary Skelter. Except for the first Nightmare, for which a nice concept art is available, the other images are compacted into slideshow sand, by clicking on the arrows, it will be possible to see both the forms, with and without the armor.

City Streets Nightmare – Alice in Wonderland


The first Nightmare to face during the game has a really creepy and grotesque design. A nice piece of concept art is available for this monster, showing both forms of the creature. The Nightmare is clearly female, judging by the breast, and it is regally dressed, with jewels and even a cape. The most distinguishable element is the neckpiece covering the head and almost half of the body. The humanoid creature has goose- or duck-like morphological elements integrated into the design, especially arms and legs. The bird motifs go even further, with the white and spherical head resembling an egg. The most evident armor is the one around the neck that, after being destroyed, will reveal a sort of organic tissue covered with eyes. The expression on the face will also become more feral and aggressive, probably since the creature is wounded. Since the first chapter is based on Alice, this monster is a clear symbol of the Queen of Hearts of Alice in Wonderland. The elaborated clothes and the female body are already a sign, and the make-up on the face, clearly resembling the one on cards, confirms this connection. The bird-like morphological elements are probably associated with flamingo, the bird used by Alice to play against the Queen.


Graveyard Nightmare – Sleeping Beauty

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At first glance, the Nightmare guarding the Graveyard is almost silly or parodic, instead of being creepy. However, the creature still shows some interesting details, especially after breaking the armor. The humanoid creature has insect-like elements integrated into the design, with 5 pairs of limbs. While the armor is intact, the creature is wearing regal white clothes, including an apron, leggings, gloves, and boots. A huge hammer is fused in its right arm, integrating a lethal weapon in the body of the creature. The face is quite bizarre, with a long nose and gigantic purple lips. After the clothes and the hammer are destroyed, the creature will reveal its true form. The body is wounded and decayed, partially due to the tough battle, with even bones exposed. However, the skeletal feet were probably always there, hidden by the boots, defining its connection with the Graveyard and the land of the dead. In place of the hammer, now destroyed, there is a sharp needle. This spindle is a reference to Sleeping Beauty, one of the party characters and the main victim of a spindle in her story. A huge vertical mouth crosses all its body, previously covered by the apron. The mouth, now wide open, reveals a yellow eye deep inside it. Together, the mouth and the eye could reveal a far more grotesque truth, in which another entity, or the real body of the creature, is hiding inside the flesh of the Nightmare.


Downtown Nightmare – Cinderella

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One of my favorite designs for a complex and innovative monster. I already deeply analysed its design and possible meaning in another article, available here: Monster of the Week: Downtown Nightmare (Mary Skelter) — Surreal and Creepy. However, in that article, I didn’t mention its symbolism with fairytales. The creature is wearing a giant shoe, so then connection with Cinderella is quite clear. But this is only the beginning since the creature is a complex archive of references. While its armor is still functional, the monster has a giant round head, similar to a pumpkin, probably the one used to build Cinderella’s chariot. The face is also part of the armor, since the real form of the creature is a sort of fleshy leg full of eyes. Interestingly, the face is called “Masquerade Makeup” as a reference to Cinderella’s preparation before going to the party at the castle. The crown of rats is also a reference to Cinderella, in this case to the mice that helped her with the clothes. The creature has a really disturbing design, both with and without the armor, with the long purple tongue as the main weapon shared by both forms.


Temple Nightmare – Tale of the Bamboo Cutter

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This Nightmare defies the rules imposed for all the others. It will not appear often to chase the party and, when will be the time to battle it, the monster will grow to titanic proportions. The fight revolves around gimmicks and tricks, plus avoiding in real-time the area attacks. The main body of the creature is a gigantic spherical mass, fleshy and venous. On the monster’s face, there is only a huge mouth with big pink lips. The eyes are on top of long and flexible tentacles, appendices similar to snail’s eyes. The external skin on the face can be destroyed, revealing a smaller inner mass made of muscles. In its second form, the Nightmare is far more disturbing, with now a grin on the face made only of teeth and missing the lips. The creature is a representation of the moon, the homeland of Princess Kaguya in the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. At a closer look, the eyes also resemble bamboo sticks, another connection to this old Japanese tale.


Dormitory Nightmare – Hansel and Gretel

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This Nightmare is strongly associated with gluttony and food excesses. The obese monster lives in a place completely drenched in sweet things and candies, a sticky ecosystem where the sugar looks like an organic substance. The fairytale reference this time is directly explained by the game since this Nightmare, smarter than the average, is none other than Hansel. In the beginning, the creature is covered in an armor made of sweets, layers and layers of glucose, strawberries, and cookies. Even its helm is called Delicious Burka since is composed of a giant cookie. Abducted children, such as Gretel, feed on the sweets coming out of its external layer. Yes, we agree this sounds really disturbing. Hansel is not only aggressive, but also smarter than any other Nightmare, making it a dangerous opponent. After its sweet armor is destroyed, a pale and obese body is revealed. A horrible mass of chubby flesh and muscles, terribly wrong and grotesque in every detail. The anatomy of the face is completely twisted but even more disturbing is the circular mouth opening in its belly.


Waterside Nightmare – Rapunzel

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This Nightmare has already a really interesting design with the armor still on, but after the secret beneath is shell will be revealed, its concept will become even more peculiar. The creature has a black metal body, an impenetrable and strong shell able to protect its inner body. Movement and attacks are both executed by a pair of highly-movable claw-like legs, still encrusted by the blood of the victims. In the middle of the armor, a gray humanoid figure lies protected by a bell-like shield. Judging by its color and the lifeless appearance, the humanoid creature could be a statue or an automaton. If you think that the humanoid figure is the one controlling the armor, you will have a surprise after breaking the legs and the main shield. Smaller versions of the humanoid figure, a sort of gray homunculi, are hiding in the armor, both under the shield and in each leg. The figures look like angelic cherubs, highlighting the possible connection between this figure and religious art. The homunculi are probably the ones responsible for moving the metallic claws since they are hiding exactly at the juncture-points. What it looked like a single entity is instead a sort of colony, or a hive, composed by small and mysterious lifeless creatures. The Nightmare is the living representation of Rapunzel’s tower, a huge and impenetrable object. This is even more supported by the long locks of blonde hair falling on the legs.


Station Grounds Nightmare – Little Red Riding Hood

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This is truly a Nightmare in every shade of the word. A wolf with a red hood is, of course, a direct connection with Red Riding Hood, without many twists. However, this design is probably one of the sickest and disturbing versions of the Big Bad Wolf ever created in a videogame. The creature is an alien puzzle of flesh, with scars and sewing along all its body, especially in the paws. The eyes are also sewed together, forming like small mouths. The Nightmare is missing a proper external armor, and the scars along the body have the function of a protective shell. The name of one piece of the armor is completely nightmare-inducing: “Grammy’s Stomach.” A twisted and grinning face is fused with the flesh, a parasitic structure existing under the layers of skin of the wolf. But if the name already spoils the nature of that face, after removing the armor all the gory and disturbing details will be released. Tissue, scars, and seams will break, revealing raw flesh and what it is hidden beneath. Grammy’s face will now be visible, the distorted and grotesque face of the old woman that once was Riding Hood’s grandmother, now living as a sort of symbiotic parasite in the body of the wold. The eyes are now open, but the most disturbing secret is hidden in the mouth. A green and psychotic head is buried inside the mouth of the creature, a disturbing horror detail that will surprise and terrify the players. If the grandmother is the face on the back, for exclusion this is the hunter, maybe trying to escape from the stomach now that the mouth is open, or existing as a parasite inside the throat of the monster. What a disturbing and brilliant twist on fairytales.


Tower Nightmare – Jack and the Beanstalk

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The Tower Nightmare is not alone, but it is instead a couple of almost-identical creatures defending the last dungeon of the game. This is one of the most aggressive Nightmares, a fast and restless predator, which will appear with far more insistence than all the others. The monster is a proper knight, wearing metal armor and wielding a sword. The armor is covered in vines and small flowers or seeds, connecting the creature with naturalistic symbolism. The sword is the most creepy detail of an otherwise not so complex concept. A sort of saw-blade, the weapon is entirely composed of bones and skulls, somehow sewed together. The breakable armor is composed only of two elements, but the curtain of strong vines hiding its face is surely the most central. After breaking the armor elements, the Nightmare will reveal a huge and disgusting mouth, covering almost all its body. The Nightmare is probably connected to the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, since not only it is defending a Tower, but the strong vines integrating into the design are a powerful visual reference to the giant beanstalk.


Underground Nightmare – Rats of Hamelin

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Secret boss post-ending, this is the toughest Nightmare in the game. Living in a gigantic underground maze, the creature is as mysterious as dangerous. Even if for behavior and the appearance this is head to toe a Nightmare, it is officially called “Nightmare?” to particularize its ambiguous nature. The Nightmare is a titanic adversary completely enveloped in a sort of white exoskeleton. The main torso is also the head of the creature, or better the helm of the armor. Breaking the protection will reveal a similar secret to the Waterside Nightmare. Inside the armor, three mysterious humanoid creatures with dark skin are piloting the armor, like if the interior was the cabin of a Mech. The main hidden figure is playing the flute, one of the most dangerous weapons, able to make the entire party fall asleep. The flute and the appearances of the hidden creatures could be a connection to rats, and specifically to the tale of the Rats of Hamelin.

Zanki Zero and the cloning machine: from childhood to dying of old age in 13 days [Mechanic]

Zanki Zero is a dungeon-crawler with survival elements developed by the people behind Danganronpa. In a mysterious post-apocalyptic world, 8 strangers wake up on an island without memory. This is the beginning of a journey made of monsters, surreal events, and tough surviving. Because being alone on an island will not be easy, and crafting, building, and foraging food will be vital.

But there is another more innovative mechanic hidden in Zanki Zero. The survivors will soon discover, in the most gruesome way, to be mere clones, with the old memories transplanted into new bodies thanks to an “X” button on their bellies, which can be retrieved upon their deaths and used inside a cloning machine resembling a retro arcade cabinet. If this is already a tragic discovery for the entire party, there is something even worst. The lifespan of a clone is only 13 days, not even one day more. Story-wise, in less than 2 weeks each character will die of old age, without a way to escape this terrible fate. Luckily, after every death, the characters can reborn as school kids, starting again the 13 days clock. The imperfect clones will experience this terrible and bizarre fate several times during the game, an entire life in less than 2 weeks, from childhood through adulthood till becoming elders.

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning_20200723132602

Days in Zanki Zero pass quite easily, each rest or change of floor in a dungeon will move the clock forward of one day, and every few days the characters will enter in a different stage of life. The cycle is quite simple: starting as children around 7 years old, the characters will then become adults in their 20s, then middle-aged, and in the end seniors. The changes are of course aesthetic, with the characters visually ageing at each new phase. This is a really unique feature for a JRPG, not only watching your favorite character ageing in front of your eyes, but also a way to somehow punish fan-service. Because the sexy anime girl that you dressed in a bikini will grow old with the same clothes: reality hits hard.

Of course, the different steps come with huge changes in terms of gameplay. Kids and seniors will have less attack strength, and especially kids can bring less weight than adults. So of course fighting with a group of adults is recommended but it is also interesting how several skills and abilities are related only to a specific age-group. For example, kids can heal over time, while adults can increase attack and defence. Seniors instead can reduce stress over time, probably due to the old age wisdom. This is also reflected in the exploration, for example with small holes and openings that can be explored only by having a kid in the party.

Ageing is not the only way of dying in a cruel and dangerous post-apocalyptic world. Death is always behind the corner, it could be an illness, starvation, or of course a deadly monster. However, the clones can reborn after every possible kind of death. If we could debate quite a lot about how “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” especially under a clinical point of view, in the case of Zanki Zero there is no doubt that instead “what DOES kill you makes you stronger.” Depending on the way that characters died, after reviving as kids, they will permanently inherit a perk that will make them stronger. Killed by an angry mutant? Next cycle that character will be stronger against that enemy. Dead for starvation? Next time the stamina will reduce slower. A deadly poison killed one of the characters? The next clone will have increased resistance against poison. There are 150 perks associated with each character, for a crazy amount of ways to die, including dying for shame or food allergy. The perks are also associated with cards, portraying comic and macabre images, a mix between retro Japanese games and Fallout’s Vault Boy propaganda.

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Zanki Zero is a constant betting and planning with death. The player should estimate the time to reach the end of a dungeon, or old characters could die along the way, losing all their items and the possibility to open specific doors that need all the characters alive. Often it is better to intentionally kill your characters to make them young again, but this will start the problem of weakening the party with more kids. Also, sometimes it is worthy to sacrifice a character in another horrible way, especially if he or she already collected the perk of dying for old age. There will be disturbing moments when the player will think “should I make starve this character to death or better to sacrifice him to a mutant?” But of course, reviving the characters is not free and the machine will use specific points, and the more the perks a character gained, the more expensive will be to revive him. Moral dilemmas and strategy are constant weights in Zanki Zero, where the player should learn how to comfortably play with death.

The cloning machine has a lot of other functions, including the transplant of mutant organs to gain powers. The survival elements of Zanki Zero are also not secondary to any pure survival game, building an incredibly complex game. But for sure the cloning mechanic, including ageing and the perks associated with death, is a unique gameplay element well integrated into a complex and satisfying dungeon-crawler.