With quirky personalities all their own, it's difficult to not fall in love with pets. We're intrigued by their thought-processes and smitten by their charm, even if they cannot use magic spells to destroy our enemies as our video game companions often can. Inspired in part by Fiery Corgis in WOW, here are some of the strangest pets in gaming.
Jellybeans have special powers which was why Boston confectioner William Schrafft urged Americans to send them to soldiers during the Civil War. It's also why David Crane, designer of the original Pitfall, felt they were the best way to advance the adventure game genre as a whole. I love all jellybeans except licorice, even though it changes my blob into a ladder which is super useful. Apples turn him into a jack, tangerine into a trampoline, and root beer into a rocket. I just ate a thousand jellybeans and my belly is now rounder than the blob. Actually, I think I'm turning into a blob. I can't stop eating them. This strawberry flavored one just turned me into a bridge and this banana turned me into an anvil. Is there a jellybean that'll turn me back into a kid again?
There's an incredible Cajun restaurant called Boiling Crab in SoCal that has crazy long lines with a minimum wait of 1-3 hours depending on what time you get there. They serve Alaskan King Crabs and shrimp doused in their special Garlic sauce, lemon pepper, and Rajun Cajun, all of which is quite addicting. The Vortigaunts prefer the alien and parasitic headcrabs in their special orders from the secret seafood menus they get. Fortunately, Isaac Kleiner doesn't eat headcrab cakes, instead debeaking and domesticating his pet headcrab, Lamarr, to be less aggressive. We don't know how we feel about keeping a parasite as a pet though. We're still doing our best to keep worms out of our dogs' poo.
Have you ever had a conversation with your pet and he asked questions like: "Is there such a thing as life after death?" or "Have you seen a shrink?" and "Do you plan on getting married?" Part game, part social experiment, total strangeness, Seaman is an inquisitive creature that you foster into adulthood and with whom you form a strange friendship. He eats, takes dumps, kills other Tadmen, and asks you about the meaning of life, giggles when you tickle him, and gets annoyed if you flick his head. It was one of the first games to make us wonder who was playing who.
The junction system, weapon upgrades, and Guardian Forces find their culmination in a magic lamp that unleashes the devil, his power calculated by an equation: Damage = TargetMaxHO * Level/100, a statistical anomaly that breaks down evil into an esoteric equation. An omen, or a sign, of math's more insidious underbelly as numbers can mask everything.
Chrono Cross is the greatest Square-Enix game no one played. With alternate dimensions providing juxtapositions for many of the characters, it was as bold as it was different with a cast of 45 characters. One of them was a cute Pokémon looking creature called Poshul. It talked and loved Heckran bones (which players of the original Chrono Trigger will recognize as a boss impervious to physical damage). His Yellow Tech power is called a DoggyDunnit in which he fires a big powerful cyclone of energy fueled by crap (or as a company gag gift puts more delicately, 'canine feces')? Scary to think that those fart balls are literally deadly undigested fumes of Heckrans ready to perforate enemies into flatulence.
We love big mutational frogs as pets, but not when they take us into the hardest Nintendo game of our childhood. Blaster Master eviscerated hopes, dreams, and desires for a pet frog. We can't believe this massively difficult game was developed by only five people at Sunsoft, partly inspired by another parasitic pet, Metroid. Countless hours were spent trying to get to the final boss, only to run out of continues and be forced to start over. Fred mutated our brains with gaming scars and thumb blisters that made us grow extra arms. Those extra arms are still secretly trying to beat the game behind our backs.
Spanning multiple years and gaming systems, the Kingdom Hearts series is one that many consider to have a convoluted narrative. Add funky alliterations and strangely worded game titles to the mix, and you can't blame anyone for scratching their heads. In Dream Drop Distance, protagonists Sora and Riku not only fight off scary Dream Eaters known as "Nightmares" in colorful Disney inspired worlds, but also get help from colorful companion Dream Eaters known as "Spirits". While these "good" Dream Eaters may delight the eyes by their color palettes and bring smiles by their friendly dispositions, the creatures created and recruited often take real world animal forms such as dogs, cats, penguins, pandas and the like with colors that can be customized by players. Sure, it may be strange to call them "pets" but when these fighting companions can be coaxed by treats and play time via mini-games to strengthen bonds, it's not far-fetched to consider them as such. How cool is it to have a nightmare eating Dream Eater spirit as a pet? Chasing away bad dreams and playing a super hero with a multi-colored triceratops is the stuff dreams are made of.
Admit it. You want a chocobo for a pet. Okay, so maybe you're partial to moogles. But a Chocobo would be pretty cool too, right? Well curse Sazh for living out our cute, fluffy, kweh-filled dreams! Owning a pet as noble as a Chocobo must be seriously fun. Letting it nest in your head and ride around all day until such time you may be able to ride it as a steed of your own just seems like a symbiotic relationship at its finest. Plus, in a day and age where carrying pets like accessories makes for a fashion statement, having a baby chocobo as a hair accessory probably gives you a plus with the Fashion Police.
Before the controversy surrounding our inabilities to throw pool parties and have toddlers in The Sims, there were pets. Lots of pets! So many that running a puppy mill to make those sweet, sweet simoleons seemed like a good idea. Feeling like a truly terrible person for doing that when you could have set the pets on a career path to live out their dreams instead is a natural occurrence. They could have been movie stars, or in an elite guard squad instead! And while the animals were not necessarily strange, their roles and how they affected gameplay or defined personalities of The Sims was pretty interesting. Also, contracting guinea pig diseases resulting in death was probably the payback the Sims deserved for running that puppy mill, or for buying a monkey to be a personal butler.
It's always been sort of strange to share a town with dogs, cats, elephants and horses (to name a few). Giving each of these animals personalities — wild or not — really changes the dynamic between human and 'pets'. There's an equality here but bugs and fish? They're still the lower life forms! So why not capture them all and keep them in tanks or put on display at the museum or in your house? Is that strange? Not really but when you consider that you could have just about any rare bug or fish, from dynastid beetles to the ancient coelacanth to gaze upon in the comfort of your home… or you can give them away to your animal neighbors, it certainly becomes a weird, meta experience.
Before Pokémon, there was Dragon Quest — the game series in which recruiting monsters to join your team was the norm. Saber in Dragon Quest V was a little bit different though. He was a monster you had to recruit as part of the story, saving his life from abuse at the hands of the cruel children of Roundbeck town. It only took a journey into a haunted castle to fight off ghosts to ensure his safety, but doing so gained the Hero a life long pet friend. The sort of friend that was separated from you as a child, and when met again as an adult, almost did you in by a mauling. But! The bonds of friendship and memories via scent are strong — and thank goodness! Because having a huge, bad-assed sabercat for a pet and fighting partner on your side is much better than being a meal.
Cryptozoology is the study of weird animals people believe in. The Loch Ness Monster is probably at the top of many crypto lists. We want to visit Scotland just so we can visit the Loch Ness. Visiting Tessie is the next best thing. Tessie is the digital brother of Nessie, summoned by Bubble Monkey to help you cross Lake Tess. We like riding mythical pets that only exist in the imagination of gamers, just like we like eating strange food in strange bathrooms. Games are the sandbox where our creativity splinters into the strange colored dreams of cryptozoology. We never realized we needed a bubble gum chewing monkey to discover the Loch Ness Monster. See you on the other side.
The strange pets of video games fill our imaginations with virtual noise. We keep questioning both our real life friends and their video game counterparts' motivations, and sometimes their designs, but never their purpose—we're always thankful for their kick-ass companionship.
Peter Tieryas ponders corgis at tieryas.wordpress.com