Not only Nemesis and Mr X: immortal stalkers and chasing enemies in turn-based JRPGs

Being chased by an enemy almost impossible to defeat, relying on hiding or running away as the only chance of surviving, is one of the most extreme feelings in survival-horror games. And if famous pursuers such as Nemesis or Mr. X from early Resident Evil games, or Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2, are the most iconic examples, other games such as Clock Tower made escaping an immortal stalker the core element of their gameplay (and you can read more here: https://surrealandcreepy.wordpress.com/2021/04/10/best-indie-games-similar-to-clock-tower/). However, pure horror games are not the only example where immortal stalkers are present. And sometimes, you can even experience this anxiety in very unexpected genres.

It is the case of turn-based JRPG, a genre usually associated with slow and static games, which instead surprisingly show several examples of immortal pursuers. As expected, several of these creatures come from Atlus games, the developer of the most known horror-themed JRPGs such as Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. On the other side, it is also true that some similar enemies can also be found in less horror-themed JRPGs such as Final Fantasy. Because I think everybody remembers the robot spider from the beginning of FF8. Moreover, this is especially true for more recent horror JRPGs, especially Idea Factory games, and even more fitting for dungeon-crawlers. Probably because of the mazes to explore, or the first-person view, dungeon-crawlers have a huge selection of immortal stalkers, chasing you till an unexpected dead end. And if instant death once trapped is not that different from any survival-horror games, being stuck in an almost impossible-to-win turn-based battle has a completely different taste. And if you find difficult to imagine that, try to think about the pressure of selecting the best move hoping to survive, while the creature annihilates at each turn a different character, or about attempting to escape the battle but failing each time. Moreover, random battles and turns create a denser atmosphere, because you don’t know how many different attacks the creature could do, or when it could appear. Another very interesting concept is that, while in pure horror games there is always a scheduled encounter to kill the immortal stalkers, in JRPGs this could be instead level-based. So maybe 50 levels later, when you are strong enough, you can come back to the stalker that was terrifying you early on to finally kill it.

So what will be on this list? I selected examples of immortal stalkers from different JRPGs, especially if horror-themed, and all with turn-based battles. If not, there would not be much different from pure horror games. The selected creatures should be also almost impossible to defeat, especially when met for the first time, and able to quickly annihilate the party. They should also be active stalkers, or appearing only when connected to rare or unwanted events or mechanics, in fact acting as a negative reward.

Mary Skelter – The Nightmares

Mary Skekter is a trilogy of dark dungeon-crawlers where everything is horror-themed. Not only the games are set inside a colossal living being but also blood is a central element in the gameplay (more info here: Mary Skelter Nightmares: When the dungeon is a colossal living creature with its own needs). But what truly shines as pure horror gameplay are the Nightmares, the immortal stalkers at the core of the experience. Every dungeon has its Nightmare patrolling around, disturbing creatures that are, at the beginning, impossible to kill. They will randomly appear when the player explores the dungeon, accompanied by creepy sounds and a white aura. If they spot the party, the only chance of surviving is to run away as far as possible till the chase is over. The worst thing? The map will be disabled during the chase, so you can easily finish trapped in a dead end. In battle, each Nightmare has an external shell that can be destroyed to briefly stun them, facilitating the escape. However, if random battles happen during the chase, the nightmare will join the fight, creating a very challenging situation. A Nightmare can only be truly defeated after losing the immortality, which will happen by destroying a core at the end of its dungeon. Moreover, the Nightmares are also seriously creepy and disturbing in appearance, linked to the theme of each dungeon and the background of the main heroine there, thus incorporating twisted fairytale elements in their grotesque design. If you are curious about more details, I also wrote a long analysis about the Nightmares, which you can check here: The Nightmares of Mary Skelter: fairytale characters reborn as twisted immortal stalkers.

Undernauts Labyrinth of Yomi – Luci

Undernauts is another dungeon-crawler JRPG, set in 1979 Tokyo where a mysterious structure appeared in the middle of the city. Full of dangers but also resources, soon mining companies start to explore this huge dungeon to unveil its secrets. Developed by Experience Inc, Undernauts is somehow connected to their main series Stranger of the Sword City. However, Undernauts is much more horror, violent, and disturbing than their other RPGs. Let’s just say that the first scene inside the game sees you as the only survivor of your mining expedition, which was was devoured by a kid with a giant leech-like arm. And you survived, only because the child was too full to eat you. While wandering around the dungeons, you will soon meet again that “sweet” cannibal child that spared you. Her name is Luci, an immortal child with a giant leech-like arm, which follows the orders of a mysterious man from a radio around her neck. While exploring the dungeons, you could randomly hear a radio massage of the mysterious man sending the girl to devour the party. After the message, whichever random or stationary battle in the dungeon, will be instead against Luci. So the only way to surely avoid this fight is to quickly run back to the main camp before a battle starts… and this is pretty stressful while exploring. During the fight, the little girls seems so weak and yet so disturbing. But she has the bad habit of attacking the rear row, usually quickly killing your magician or healer, thus making your life pretty miserable even if you succeed in repelling her. Yes, I didn’t use the word “killing” because Luci is immortal and, after behind defeated, she will just stand up and run away, after saying some very sad lines about failure and loneliness. But she will surely come back another time, trying to devour you. Moreover, Luci will also appear in some mandatory boss battles, together with other minions and the ability of massively healing, making such fights even more difficult. Without doubts, Luci is one of the most scary and disturbing stalkers on this list.

Persona – The Reapers

Persona started as a spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei, and now is more famous than the original series. Mixing real life and dark supernatural events, since Persona 3, the saga allows the exploration of huge dungeons while investing in your daily life. And also starting with Persona 3, the Reaper appeared to torment the main party. Especially in Persona 3, the Reaper is a pure horror stalker, integrated since the beginning of the game into the mechanics. If you explore for too long in a dungeon, depending on its size, the Reaper could appear on the floor to hunt you down. Since characters with levels below 70 have practically zero chances of defeating it, finding the exit as fast as possible is the only way to avoid death. Meeting the Reaper means starting an impossible battle, where the party will be annihilated in a couple of turns. The good side is that an end-game party can instead defeat the Reaper, unlocking very rare rewards. The Reaper is also present in Persona 4, but this time it acts only as a secret super boss, which can be faced only during a second playthrough after opening a mysterious chest. In Persona 5 the Reaper is back to stalk the party inside the dungeons, very similarly to Persona 3. When the Reaper appears, accompanied by the sound of rattling chains, the other party members will try to warn you about its danger, and how running away is the only option. Again, the battle is almost impossible to win due to the Reaper’s high defence and instant killing spells.

Etrian Odyssey – FOEs

A JRPG saga that truly integrated challenging battles against almost impossible foes is the dungeon-crawler Etrian Odyssey, published by Atlus. In almost every game of the saga, strong enemies called by the acronym FOE wander around the dungeons. They are always challenging enemies, usually very difficult to beat during the first visit, so it is always a recommended strategy to avoid these fights. However, Etrian Odyssey also integrated very interesting and variegated behaviours for the FOEs. In general, red FOEs work as relentless stalkers, charging at the player if in their sight. For example, the Freed Savage (Etrian Odyssey III) is a grotesque being caged behind gates but, once freed, the creature will quickly run toward the player to attack it. Other similar examples involved FOEs acting in pairs. For example, the Cruel Slayer (Etrian Odyssey IV) is a relentless robot hound almost impossible to outrun, but it will only start to track the players if they are spotted before by a wandering sentinel called the Cold Watchman. However, FOEs also exhibit more complex, hunting, and disturbing behaviours, creating challenging predators to avoid. A deadly example is the Vampire Tree (Etrian Odyssey III), an invisible FOE with a very horror-predatory behaviour. The tough monster will get visible only if close to you while you are in battle, slowly advancing at each turn of the fight. If you are too slow in the random fight, the FOE will join the battle. And having a tough boss with high defence, and a lethal poison that will both damage the characters and cure the monster, is not an easy challenge. Talking about erratic patterns, the disturbing Taurus Demon (Etrian Odyssey V) doesn’t directly charge the player, but once they line up with the monster, the FOE will start to mirror their movements, even if they are very far away. And since the creature is a deadly physical attacker, avoiding it is a necessity. Another deadly and peculiar FOE from Etrian Odyssey V is the Mounting Horror. The monster doesn’t move from its position, but will instead generate clones as strong as it to hunt the player, and the only way to survive is to find and kill the real monster. But the top spot for the scariest and most peculiar FOE from Etrian Odyssey goes to the Death Wall (Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold). Imagine being trapped in a twisted labyrinth typical of dungeon-crawler games, trying to find your way out. At some point, maybe you start to see that a wall was never there. What is happening? This is simply Death Wall, a FOE that mimics a normal dungeon wall… which will move only if you are not watching it. And once you are trapped in a dead-end hallway, you are forced to face it. And this is a battle where you cannot escape, and the Death Wall will literally try to crush all the party with strong physical AOE attacks.

The Lost Child Nyarlathotep

Another dungeon-crawler to add to the many on the list, Lost Child is a spin-off of El Shaddai, an action game involving Catholic mythology and angelic wars. Sharing many similarities with Shin Megami Tensei, in The Lost Child, the main character can trap demons and fallen angels to fight in the party. And the design of the enemies is very original and interesting, as you can see here for some demons: The most unusual Demons from the Japanese dungeon-crawler The Lost Child. However, angels and demons are not the only enemies, since the main bosses are Lovecraftian creatures, including Cthulhu. And Nyarlathotep from the bonus dungeon R’lyeh Road is an immortal stalker that deserves to be in this article. R’lyeh Road is a gigantic bonus dungeon of 100 floors, which can be faced at any point during the game. Each floor has only one exit, and a switch to open it. And the big twist is the presence of Nyarlathotep, which will manifest on every floor once the door is open. Nyarlathotep does not physically face the party but, as a sort of alien parasite, will take control of normal enemies, appearing behind them like a sort of puppeteer, enhancing them to a boss-level threat. The other unique feature is that Nyarlathotep will physically appear on the map, charging toward the player, one step at a time. By planning your moves and using big rooms to your advantage, it is fact possible to avoid Nyarlathotep and escape to the next floor. So how it is possible to truly defeat Nyarlathotep? You can discover the answer only on the 100th floor of R’lyeh Road, making Nyarlathotep one of the most relentless stalkers on the list.

Mother 3 – Ultimate Chimera

Earthbound saga is a cult game not only in Japan, but also worldwide, one of the weirdest RPG ever developed that influenced recent RPGs such as Undertale or Omori. Between funny and disturbing moments, the party will face different creatures, each requiring very peculiar strategies to be defeated. And in Mother 3, there is also an immortal stalker: the Ultimate Chimera. This creature, created inside a lab, looks like a fluffy pink monster with a pair of small wings. But behind this innocent-looking monster lies a deadly enemy. Once it sets free, the monster will roam the lab attacking NPCs and chasing the player. The terrible surprise is that, instead of starting a normal battle, meeting the Chimera means an instant Game Over. There is no hope in fighting the creature, so running away is the only alternative. Luckily, the ultimate Chimera can be deactivated by a button on its back… but only temporary since the party will meet the monster again during the game.

Death end re;Quest 2 – Dark Shadow

The sequel of one of the most horror and disturbing JRPG from recent years is even more insane and terrifying. Hopping between a cursed virtual reality and a town hiding a cult, Death end re;Quest 2 shows a set of really grotesque enemies (that you can check here: The most creepy and disturbing enemies and bosses of Death end re;Quest 2). But random enemies are not the only threat, since another entity could appear anywhere to hunt the party: the Dark Shadow. This cryptic creature appears together with some distortions in any point inside a dungeon. The towering shadow creature advances slowly toward the player, but a mere wrong turn inside a dead-end hallway… and it is Game Over. Because as with the Ultimate Chimera in Mother 3, simply touching the Dark Shadow means a sudden death. Moreover, sometimes the game will position the Dark Shadow in impossible points, where gimmicks like finding hidden suspended paths are the the only way to avoid the creature.

Shadow Hearts – Fox Face

Shadow Hearts is the first (or the second, if we consider Koudelka) entry of a dark saga of JRPGs released for PS2. Mixing European history with demons and eldritch abomination, the game knew how to assemble RPG mechanics with horror elements. And an immortal stalker could not miss this setting. Shadow Hearts involved a very peculiar mechanic around the Malice, a dark and malevolent energy released from death. The more the main character kills enemies in battle, the more Malice is accumulated. Till the breaking point, where the UI becomes red and the Graveyard opens its door. At this point, the Fox Face can appear instead of any random encountered. At first, the creature is not very intimidating, merely a human with a fox mask. However, this adversary represents the protagonist’s fears, and can be challenged only in a 1-on-1 combat, where death is the most possible outcome since the enemy has many dirty moves. The player can lower Malice and avoid Fox Face by going to the Graveyard, to then speak to mysterious floating masks demons and participate in their fighting arena. This is a perfect example of a terrifying stalker very well integrated into the game, so deadly and scary because the main character must face it alone.

Fear & Hunger – Crow Mauler and Greater Blight

Fear & Hunger is probably the darkest RPG ever made, set in a world so grim and sick that will make you often chill. Featuring a combat based on mutilations, where several negative effects are permanent, including death, and lacking any experience coming from combat, avoiding enemies is the standard in this game (and for more you can check the different articles I wrote here: https://darkrpgs.home.blog/category/videogames/fear-hunger/). But some enemies are even more specifically design to act as terrifying Stalkers. The most fitting example is the Greater Blight, a gigantic creature roaming the empty wasteland of the Void, a secret end-game area. While wandering around, sometime a message saying that something is following you will appear. Ignore the message, and soon enough more intimidating ones will appear. If you find a hole in the ground on time, you can hide there till the creature loses your scent. Otherwise, be ready for a tough battle. The Greater Blight looks like a gigantic T-rex missing the eyes, a deadly foe that can slaughter the entire party in a couple of turns. However, a strong and lucky party can still defeat the creature, which will only escape to prepare for another chase. And the player will gain nothing from this deadly battles, except probably for dead characters and mortal wounds. Another infamous enemy is the Crow Mauler, probably the most hated boss in the entire game. In the beginning, Fear & Hunger has only one save point, an old and forgotten bed inside a jail. However, saving in the game is also dangerous, since you have a 50% chances of facing the Crow Mauler. And an underprepared party will also surely die there, because the tough creature has even one-shot attacks. But if you want to freely save the game, soon or later you must defeat this creature. And if this was not enough, the end-game dungeon has trapdoors scattered around. If you fall inside them, you will finish in a basement… chased by a two-headed Crow Mauler, an enemy almost impossible to defeat. Anyway, if you are curious to know more about the Crow Mauler, I wrote an analysis here: When it is impossible to Save: surviving all the mutilations of the Crow Mauler in Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle].

Shin Megami Tensei – Jailer and Dante

Shin Megami Tensei saga doesn’t need introduction, since it is probably the most famous and longevous dark JRPG around. Moreover, the monsters based on mythologies around the world, created by Kazuma Kaneko, are still now an example in monster designing. And surprisingly, some of them also worked as immortal stalkers. An example is the Jailer from Digital Devil Saga (also known as the Buddhist demon Kumbhanda), a deviant creature in charge of a prison. The jail is also a factory where humans are converted into canned food, the Jailer’s favourite. And yes, if you didn’t know, cannibalism is a central theme in Digital Devil Saga (and you can read more about it here: Digital Devil saga: A cannibal JRPG — Surreal and Creepy). During the first battle against the Jailer, you will realise of a drastic anomaly: the boss has an attack able to paralyse everybody with a 100% success rate, quickly ending the battle. Later on, the prison becomes its hunting ground, where the main character should physically escape from the Jailer and its traps, while finding a way to trick it into losing its powers. If the Jailer is a pure horror stalker, another enemy is an even more emblematic hunter in Shin Megami Tensei. Just this time, it is an enemy that you would never expect. “Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry Series” became quite a meme for SMT 3 Nocturne, and the legendary demon hunter from Capcom’s games truly appears in one of the bonus dungeons. Dante will literally stalk the player while exploring a complex maze, shooting them if they are far but still in his range, or starting a deadly battle when reaching them. In the last case, Dante will immediately kill the weaker demon in the party with his sword. And if the main character is the lowest-level one… well, time for an instant Game Over.

Persona Q – FOEs

Persona Q is a spin of the main series released for 3DS, with a gameplay more similar to Etrian Odyssey than the regular Persona. The similarities are so many that, even in this case, while exploring the dungeons, you can meet deadly FOEs. As well as for Etrian Odyssey, FOEs have different behaviours, and, in general, it is often recommended to avoid them. Moreover, due to the darkest nature of Persona setting, the FOEs are even more disturbing. For example, the Beast of Lust is a sort of small Cherub seated on top of a bondage horse, creating a very disturbing enemy that follows the player if they are directly watching the creature. So no eye contact, no pain. In the next dungeon, the Evil Spirit Club, the party must face creepy clusters of dolls, the Lovely Dolls, which share some similarity with Junji Ito’s Tomie. They are stationary, but tends to surprisingly teleport toward the player causing a jump-scare. Luckily, the light can repel those dolls granting safe passages. And if the Loving Dolls are not enough, the ancient version, the Old Doll, will actively chase the party and can even block some doors to create smaller hunting grounds. Other FOEs, such as the Festival Dudes, act as super tough side battles. They are a group of 4 monstrous and coloured muscled guys bringing around a shrine, which move in a fixed pattern around the dungeon. However, even if they are extremely strong, they can be defeated by selecting specific characters for a very unusual party. To conclude, the Reaper from previous Persona games is also there to hunt and terrify the party in the last dungeons.

The most unusual Demons from the Japanese dungeon-crawler The Lost Child

The Lost Child is a quite obscure Japanese dungeon-crawler released for PS4, Vita, and Switch, and published in the West by NIS America. The game is a spin-off and a sequel of El Shaddai, an action game with a peculiar and unique aesthetic set in the Biblical Heaven. Even if the story is now set in modern Tokyo, Lost Child is also based on biblical figures and references, featuring a cosmic war between angels, demons, and fallen angels. And of course, the humans are in the middle of this.

The gameplay alternates a first-person dungeon-crawler exploration with turn-based battles, which share an interesting similarities with Shin Megami Tensei franchise. Because if a cosmic battle against heaven and demon sharing the names of gods around the world and the different cultures was not a sufficient reference to Shin Megami Tensei, the protagonist has also the ability to capture and purifies demons to join the party. Specifically, the protagonist can in fact capture demons by using specific bullets of a heavenly gun.

The bestiary of Lost Child is very interesting, with mythological creatures and gods portrayed with a very uncommon design. The enemies are divided into three categories: Angels, which are mainly gorgeous anime-like characters, Fallen Angels, peculiar robot-like figures with complex architecture and shapes, and Demons, the most variegated and twisted designs in the pack. The captured demon can also use Karma to level up and evolve, changing into three different forms.

In the following article, I selected the most interesting and unusual Demons from the Lost Child. In general, I will only share the base design, but if some demons will have a very different and unique evolution, I will also include that one. If you like the article stay tuned, because next time could be the turn of Fallen Angels.

  • Hades

The ruler of the Greek underworld and god of death was never such alien or bizarre before. The demon can only be defined as a green organic mass that looks like an eldritch rotten pumpkin, including wings and two red spheres that could be the eyes. However, the most disturbing and interesting details are the “legs” made of a sort of dead bodies composed of a green substance, missing the head and using their hands to support the creature. If they are not tormented souls serving the god of hell, I have no idea of what else they could be. In the final evolution, the demon’s body will break like a seed, freeing a big flower on the top, and revealing a creepy skull previously hidden under the green structure. Strangely enough, the demon is associated with the wood element, and it is vulnerable to fire. However, the creature is a deadly opponent and great addition to the mid-game party, with high defense and strong physical attacks, including a skill known as Assassinate, very fitting for Hades.

  • Old Ones

A creature inspired by Lovecraft’s mythos, the Old Ones are a race of alien being serving old gods such as Cthulhu. In the game, the Old Ones are powerful demons infesting especially the 100 floors dungeon of R’lyeh. The appearance is quite interesting, with the alien creature portrayed like half-born from a cosmic egg, a grotesque mass of green flesh and tentacles still in part fused with the shell. In the following evolutions, the creature will gain more colours, also twisting quite drastically its shape in the last form. The Old Ones are wood demons, with strong defence and quite dangerous, able not only to boost their attack but also to inflict multiple wounds by summoning wood branches and tentacles.

  • Echidna

The mother of all the monsters in Greek mythology is an interesting demon, and one of the most powerful. Echidna has the upper body of a sort of female elf, with white hair and purple skin, wielding two different swords. However, at the waist, her body will twist in a mass of raw flesh, and will then transform into a gigantic and obese worm with wings. The contrast of the female humanoid with the grotesque worm creates a dynamic and original design, symbolising fecundity and the ability to procreate dozens of monsters. Interestingly, in the final evolution the demon will gain butterfly-like wings and a more epic design. The demon can be recruited and faced early on, and she is one of the most versatile allies in the entire game. Because even if Echidna is a wind demon, she will learn practically every elemental magic, making her a great magical attacker for every battle.

  • Kerberos

The three-headed dog guarding the Greek underworld is instead portrayed as a sort of aggressive baboon. The body is covered in orange fur, with yellow skull patterns. The head is big and long, with three dumb-looking faces with different expressions, the only connection with the original three-headed Cerberus. The demon will change quite drastically in the last evolution. In this case, the faces will dispose circularly on a bigger body, now looking more demonic and less dumb, while the tail will also morph in a sort of branched tentacle. Three long spikes will now come out from each face. The demon is one of the first encountered, a weak but useful foe associated with the fire element. Kerberos is a physical attacker, showing useful skills to damage the same target multiple times, making it an aggressive party member that will also learn powerful fire spells.

  • Baphomet

A classic demon as a reference, Baphomet is an evil entity usually associated with goats and the Black Mass. However, the design in Lost Child goes in a disturbing and creepy direction. The creature is a giant goat head, a sort of spider supported by four short legs, with a long white beard. Everything in the face of the creature is completely nightmare-inducing, from the yellow eyes to the long ears, but the giant human-like mouth gains the first prize as the most disturbing element. The following evolutions slightly change the face and the colours, with the final one being completely black instead of white. Strangely, Baphomet is a water demon, but it uses mainly physical attacks and spells to boost its strength.

  • Kraken

The legendary beast scourging the seas is here represented in a twisted and unique way. The face is an alien shape full of octopus-like eyes, while the body is a swollen and amorphous mass of tentacles. The Kraken also exhibits humanoid features, specifically the three clawed arms. The final evolution is not that incredible, the main change will be the face, now bigger and longer, very similar to the head of a squid. The Kraken is a common enemy in the water related dungeon of Umeda, and it is of course a water demon, which possess strong elemental magics very useful against fire enemies.

  • Shiva

A humanoid creature with purple skin and four arms, dressed in light clothes and with the face completely hidden: except for the ascetic position it will be quite difficult to recognise the Hindu god Shiva in this design. Multiple floating eyes surround the mysterious creature, an extension of its body and a very creepy detail. The evolved form is an upgrade of the original one, with a more divine look, golden accessories, a bigger throne with cobra heads behind, the floating eyes are complete of eyelids, and it is now wielding a big hammer. Shiva is an incredibly powerful demon, a secret boss, and an endgame party member with devastating physical attacks. Shiva can attack all the enemies with Acid Rain, a powerful skill able to inflict not only heavy damages but also all the negative effects. The demon is also strong on the defense side, generating mirages that could prevent all the damage for 3 turns.

  • Orthrus

The brother of Cerberus, Orthrus is a two-headed dog defeated by Hercules, also represented in Lost Child as a grotesque baboon as well as Kerberos. In contrast with its brother, the demon has a more brownish fur, misses the arms, and has a snake as a tale. The face is definitively the most unique element in the design, a huge mouth with few but long teeth and two heads, one for lip, with a more demonic and less dumb expression compared to Kerberos. The final design is a completely new look, even more bizarre than this one. The body structure will change in a sort of “Y,” with two female and almost angelic faces at the end of each branch. The body will instead remain quite similar, with an even longer snake as a tail. Orthrus is found in the very last dungeon, a demon connected to electricity, with strong lighting attacks able to hit multiple times, and even a spell that can debilitate and weak its enemies.

  • Owatatsumi

Owatatsumi is the Japanese god of the sea, and in The Lost Child it is a sort of old humanoid figure heavily connected with water. The old humanoid shows its age with the long white beard, while the grotesque blue and swollen head conveys its demonic nature. The hands are just tentacles, coming out of the robe to wield a staff surmounted by a seashell. The old god is traveling on a giant turtle, which is also the creepiest detail of the design, with a very evil face and a grinning mouth too human to be on a turtle’s face. The final evolution can be clearly called a majestic and primordial sea god: the head will become bigger and longer, like a sort of fish-like structure, while the tentacles will grow and become bigger. Everything will improve, including the staff that it is wielding, now a lot bigger and more elaborate, and also the turtle will get huge, while losing its creepy face for a more flat structure. The demon can be found in the final dungeon and it is a strong creature unexpectedly focused on physical attacks and boosting.

  • Okada Izo

A Japanese samurai is reborn as a grotesque demon with a really complex appearance. The head is a giant multicolored eye, with greasy white hair, while the body is a twisted mass of flesh. Instead of normal arms, the creature has multiple tentacles, while the red body is composed of pieces of raw flesh forming ghostly faces. Everything in the design is symbolic, probably highlighting the regret of the samurai for taking many lives. The giant eye is in fact crying a white goo, while the body is covered in the screaming faces of the people that it killed in its previous life. Elements of its past life are still part of the design, such as the armour on the shoulders, or the big and rusty sword that it now wields using the tentacles. The last form is just a sort of heroic upgrade of this one, with a more fierce pose, long orange hair, and the sword now is more magnificent and surrounded by burning souls, without a huge overall change into the design. The demon is middle- to high-level, encountered in the second half of the game. As expected from a samurai, the demon is focused on inflicting physical damages, with skills allowing it to attack a single target multiple times.

Wacky characters, insane machines and hypnotic mushrooms in “Let It Die”: how to build a lobby in an explosion of style [Mechanic]

Let It Die is a free-to-play game developed by Suda51’s team, so of course is 100% pure insanity. The main aim of the player is to climb a dystopian tower, fighting monsters, invaders, collecting new items and experience, while advancing each floor toward the top. The combat is souls-like inspired, with a stamina bar dictating the possible moves, light and heavy attacks combined with dodging, and easy ways to die if the enemies are underestimated. If this looks quite standard, everything else is totally over-the-top.

The tower was mysteriously built after a cataclysm on a small island close to Tokyo. Since that time, the tower has continued to grow, attracting different kinds of people. Powerful lords started to live and take control of the tower, building a sick new system where even the dead bodies are brought back to life to fight for them. Meanwhile, adventurers started to climb the tower, hoping to claim the mysterious treasure hidden on the top. The ground floor of the tower is a small shopping mall connected to the metro station, with a fountain in the middle, bathrooms, and elevators. But it is exactly this place that became the base camp of all these crazy operations, attracting the most insane and illegal merchants to open a shop there. And it is exactly the ground floor that works as the hub or lobby of Let It Die.

The lobby of the tower is the equivalent of a small town, with a lot of services and bizarre characters to interact with. Even if many places have standard services, like to buy items or to level up the player, the shopkeepers and the setting are anyway insanely original and plainly weird. Because nothing is as it should be on this floor. The bathrooms are brainwashing prisons, freezers are where clones are stored, and the metro station works as vehicles to invade other players. And these are only the standard things.

Let’s have a look at the most whacky places and services available in the lobby.

Fighter Freezer

Each death in Let it Die is permanent, there is no other way to say it. However, with enough gold, dead bodies can be collected and reanimated. On the other hand, new clones can be produced to rescue the dead body of the previous character, who will be wandering like a bloodthirsty revenant on the floor where it died. Because the lords of the tower are controlling death, and facing your previously dead characters is not a surprise The freezer is where the available characters are stocked, hanging like dead meat on chains. New characters can also be recruited here, or they can be organised for different tasks, for example, to defend the base from other players’ raids. Alternatively, unused characters can also be sent to scavenge and hunt on other player’s floors. They will become invaders, challenging enemies for the other players to face, and they will come back with scavenged materials as a reward after enough time passed.

Metro Front

Let It Die also involves a multiplayer attack-defend the base mode, freely playable by everybody. But of course, also this mode is totally insane. To access the Raid mode, the player needs to talk to a weird-looking robot, similar to a train operator mascot, with a creepy smile on the face and electric blue eyes. The small robot is totally insane, and will direct the player, with the voice full of crazy enthusiasm, to the different raid modes and the power-up for the base: “Thank you for riding with us today.” Then, the attack mode is very straightforward: jump inside the metro and it will bring you directly to the enemy base. The other players will leave their characters heavily armored to defend the base or, if you are lucky enough, it will be defenseless. With enough time available and with the defensors killed, the other players’ resources can be looted from their base.

Prison Bathroom

There is a random and bizarre consequence of the train raids. Sometimes, when another player’s character is defeated, its body will stay on the ground. These characters can be kidnapped and brought back to the base. They will end up imprisoned in the bathrooms, now reconverted in jails. The kidnapped character will be trapped there, wrapped in plastic, and with a visor on their face, totally isolated from reality and in constant sufferance. The characters are indeed undergoing a brainwashing procedure, which has a fixed time to be executed. After the time has passed, the kidnapped fighter will be totally brainwashed and ready to join the player’s team. However, the other player will not stay quiet when one of his characters is kidnapped, and will have the chance to attack the base where is imprisoned in order to free him.

Shop “Choku-Funsha”

The regular shop of Let It Die is probably the less inspired section of the lobby. Here, the player can buy weapons and armors, but also access the R&D section to develop and unlock new equipment using the correct materials. The owner of the shop is a legendary merchant, with the head protected inside a glass, and surrounded in the background by weapons drenched in blood, including chainsaws. The fact that the shopkeeper is definitively too similar to an infamous German dictator doesn’t anyway help in giving more identity to this shop.

Vending Machine “Hernia”

A regular vending machine but with a creepy twist and design. The machine will sell different items that will change periodically, which can be acquired by using different kinds of currency. One of the main forms of payment is called Bloodnium, and it is linked to blood. But the interesting detail is the execution of this payment. Small spiked cylinders will appear like a medieval trap, and the character’s hand will be voluntarily wounded by this instrument of torment in order to extract the payment: blood. The fact that the shop is called “Hernia” is also causing additional uneasy feelings.

Mushroom Club

The Mushroom Club is probably one of the most bizarre shops ever seen in a game, owned by an insane woman. She is dressed only in a bikini, covered with tattoos, with mushroom-like hair and tribal fangs covering half of her face. The legends say that she was a backpack traveler that went insane after trying weird fungi, and now is managing her tribal shop inside the tower. When not working, she will perform a lap dance on a giant umbrella, but her role is far more bizarre. Like a post-apocalyptic shaman, the woman will provide a psychedelic mushroom soup to her customers, which will give very unexpected results. In fact, after trying the different soups, the player will receive adhesives to wear like tattoos on the different characters. Some adhesives, or decals, are only temporary and will disappear with the death of the character, while the premium ones can be recovered even from dead bodies. The scene when the character drinks the psychedelic soup is particularly weird, and the decals will appear from a rainbow of colors sparkling from the empty dish.

Quests: the Voyeur Visor

Secondary quests were generally selected by talking to a cute girl in the arcade room, another section of the lobby that can be accessed from the fountain (check the associated section). However, after an update, quests can now be selected in a more bizarre and peculiar way from the main hub. A visor supported by the statues of two kids now works as shortcut to access the quest menu. The kids look like characters from an old Japanese manga, or from some school propaganda, jumping very happily while working as support for the visor. By accessing the visor, the player can select different quests to complete, from “collect x items” to “kill x enemies,” or sometimes more variegated challenges like complete specific floors without wearing any armor. Interestingly, the visor also works as a sort of voyeur machine. In fact, after finishing to select quests, the player can see the face of the girl in the arcade room. The girl seems unaware of the player’s presence, and she looks like busy watching something and will often comment “No, no , not there” or “He hide what and where!?”

Mingo Head

Experience hardly collected during the explorations inside the tower needs to be used inside the lobby to level up the characters, deciding which attribute to power up, from strength to agility. And of course, to use the experience, the player has to interact with a creepy creature that looks like a living brain combined with a motorbike in a sort of cyberpunk jellyfish. The grotesque creature will directly inject tubes with jacks inside the character’s back, and, in a painfully-looking scene, highlighted by disgusting sounds, the experience can be used to power up the characters.

The Arcade Room

A lobby inside the lobby, the arcade room is a meta-game festival, and another stylish insanity added to the game. As if Let It Die was just an arcade game that the player is actually trying to beat, the Arcade Room works as a place for hints, advice, and to better understand the lore. The different characters will tell you how to get better in the game, like if the player was really asking help from other players. Moreover, a radio can be selected to change the music, while a mysterious machine provides information for the lore of the game in the form of old and distorted VHS movies.

Towns with a Dark Secret: the most hermetic, cryptic, and bizarre communities at the core of open-world games — Surreal and Creepy

The sun shines high in the sky, the grass is green, the new neighbours look really friendly, and the town smells of cake. What could go wrong? Sometimes a lot of things, especially if you are unlucky enough to finish in a Town with a Dark Secret. This trope is quite well explored in horror […]

Towns with a Dark Secret: the most hermetic, cryptic, and bizarre communities at the core of open-world games — Surreal and Creepy

The uncanny descent into the creepy androids of Despiria, an obscure JRPG developed by Atlus [Bestiary]

If you never listened before about Despiria, it is not a surprise. Despiria is a game released by Atlus for Dreamcast, but only in Japan. The game is an interesting RPG combining turn-based combats and a first-person exploration using stating high-resolution 3D backgrounds, common to adventure games such as Myst.

The setting is a dystopian sci-fi universe, where a religious association is in control, and several people use brain parasites to enhance their intellectual skills. The mature setting is typical of early Atlus games, such as Shin Megami Tensei saga, with disturbing enemies, violence, and delicate topics. If the Church ruling the world was not dystopian enough, people also have special mental power thanks to those disgusting brain parasites. Of course, the language barrier is a huge obstacle to understand the lore and the stories of this dark cyberpunk world.

The battles have a peculiar aesthetic, partially shaped by the uncommon 3D engine. The main enemy is visible as a giant figure in the background, while the enemy’s parasites and the ones of the player are in the front rows. Only by damaging the main enemy, the battle will end, same if the player receives enough damage. On the contrary, the parasites, when present, work as support and are often re-summoned once killed.

The game will start with the player’s character and many others trapped in old subway tunnels. They should find a way out without going insane or being killed by the broken androids inhabiting the tunnels. Very few humans live hiding there, while many androids with different degrees of damages and insanity are roaming around. The androids have similar appearances, usually bold and pale figures, with void expression and the bodies shaped by injuries and damages. Interestingly, the majority of them have female bodies, with usually revealing clothes or directly half-naked, creating a contrast between the female forms and the extreme damages of the synthetic components. Moreover, some of the androids are so beyond the aestehtic damages, assuming bodies which are so further away from human empathy, jumping in an uncanny and disturbing territory.

In the following article, I will describe the most creepy androids from the first chapter of the game. The list is ordered in an increasing uncanniness of the artificial figures, from quite generic androids, through really damaged and disfigured bodies, till the bottom of disturbing experiments and prototypes. Luckily the first chapter of the game is quite linear and, with the help of a translator, it was possible for me to extract information and the original names for each android. However, you should take every information not as 100% accurate since anyway I am not able to speak or translate Japanese.

Generic Android

The first android in the list is one of the most human-looking. The skin is pale, almost of a shining silver colour, but with metallic arms. The creature is dressed like a soldier, or a repairman, since it is using a giant wrench as the main weapon. The military-looking android is a common random battle in the abandoned subway, an easy enemy to defeat, without the support of brain parasites and relying only on weak physical attacks.

Remodelling Woman

The creature has a very human appearance, a bold and delicate woman, with the body almost completely normal. However, the head is strangely connected with a complex device, a half-helmet that could be a scanner or a probe, part of some kind of industrial process or medical surgery. Her eyes are sealed, showing how the device is somehow still having an effect on her mind. The truth is easy to translate from the files, this is not a proper android but a human captured by the rogue androids, and now brainwashed and “remodelled” to be a sort of living android. Even without the support of parasites, this battle can be tricky.

Shaft Kid

A group of teenage androids lives in an abandoned factory. Even in their half-functional state, regardless of their apparent age, the androids are all openly aggressive. The body is already showing the cybernetic parts, especially half of the face and a complete arm. However, the punk clothes are somehow giving humanity to this figure, a memento of another or a wanted-to-be life. The android will attack with a broken golf club spotted in blood, highlighting how this android was very aggressive also in the past. Even if this is a unique fight, the creature is easy to defeat.

Arietta

Here things start to go down into the uncanny valley. The female android has blonde pigtails, a skirt, and the upper body is completely naked. However, this is not a pleasant view since its skin is practically ripping off, revealing the metal structure underneath. The contrast between the revealing female figure, with still a trace of fashion clothes and style, against the melting skin, creates a really disturbing character. The creature is not a random wasted android, but a more evolved model, even equipped with brain parasites and able to offer a challenging fight. She is smarter and more functional than any other android, a more subtle and unpredictable model.

Gene

Combed hair, nice clothes, and an overall businesswoman appearance are not very scary-inducing on their own. However, the android has the mouth completely ripped-out, revealing the muscles and the teeth below in a disturbing and grotesque grin. The abnormal abomination is really showing how a small and out of tone detail can really twist a design. This is also one of the few androids where raw flesh is exposed underneath instead of metal or plastic, highlighting how this discarded model was probably a prototype. The creature is aggressive and brutal, even without having parasites, it is able to inflict heavy damages and negative effects.

Wasted Android

This abandoned model is completely devoured by the ages of abandonment. The skin is again melted, exposing the robotic layers, but the damages, in this case, are even more severe, especially on the face and the abdomen. An arm is completely missing, and the body is barely functional, the last sparkle of artificial life. The fight against this android is an easy and mindless battle.

Mutant

This android exists at the edge between a broken junk and a dead body. The body is more dysfunctional and worn out than the previous examples, running to the bottom of the uncanny valley. The skin is completely rotten, with colorful spots around, while the ribs are exposed, making look the figure more like a zombie than an android. Moreover, since the translated name says “Mutant,” maybe this creature is not an android at all. However, since the language barrier is too steep to understand the details of the world’s lore, I still would like to believe that this is an abandoned model of a more organic artificial life. This enemy is an optional but tough fight, but the dead body will attack only if carefully examined.

Roulade

This is one of the most interesting and creepy designs, with a peaceful but disturbing aesthetic. A broken robotic model here becomes a twisted and unique creature, where a naked body collides with a nightmare made of cables. The figure is almost peacefully smiling, even if she is missing half of her upper face. Long and viscid cables come out of her head, like hairs made of tentacles. One arm is severed, but it is still partially connected with cables and used as a sort of rudimental mace. The creature craves to have a human body and will do everything to achieve her distorted dream. Even in this pitiful condition, this boss is a challenging fight, also assisted by two brain parasites.

Specimen A

This creature is a disturbing being that could be considered a sort of embryonic stage, an incomplete template, for an android. The female red body looks in constant sufferance, with the mouth wide open, like gasping for air under the thick plastic cover. The creature is an experimental being, not only for the color of the skin, but also for the third arm in its abdomen, an abandoned experiment of something more than human in a factory long forgotten, forced to live a painful experience trapped in layers of plastic. Regardless of the creepy appearance, the android is an easy and common random battle at the end of the first Chapter.

Specimen B

Same as for Specimen A, this is a long-forgotten experiment or an intermediate state in the production of an android, still able to exist with a sparkle of artificial life. But in this case, the creature is even more twisted and grotesque than the previous one, rightfully gaining its position at the bottom of the uncanny valley. Trapped under tight plastic layers there are multiple bodies horrible fused together, at least two of them, judging by the number of heads. The skin looks like melting together, while the figures try to fight this process by separating their heads. As for Specimen A, this is another common random battle, just a little bit tougher than the previous one.

The final boss of the obscure Dreamcast game D2: a battle against psychedelic effects and sensory deprivation [Boss Battle]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.