Pop! You're Dead

Tim Latshaw | 19 Oct 2010 08:07
BFG - RSS 2.0

Running through the opening of Dragon Quest IX, I finally found a shop where I could outfit my main character. As an adherent to the time-honored philosophy of "weapons first; cover up nudity with whatever's left," I dove straight into the armaments and discovered I could equip a fan.


"Hey, you don't get to use one of these very often!" I thought, and was about to make my purchase when a pang of self-consciousness made me hesitate. Would I be respected as a fan wielder? Maybe it would just be best to go with a sword. They're classic. Dependable. Pointy.

Then it hit me: Why was I worrying about my weapon of choice when videogame history is already filled with all sorts of pacifistic-yet-deadly weaponry?

While armed warfare has predominantly leaned toward various ways to lodge pieces of metal in your opponent's body, there is still a whole room in the gaming armory dedicated to objects such as bubbles. The bubble giveth life to the underwater plumber or hedgehog, but taketh it away from so many more. In the real world, the best a bubble can hope to do is get soap residue in your eye as it drifts kamikaze-like against your face; but in games, the humble bubble can become a wobbly sphere of concentrated pain, a swarm capable of taking down a player or enemy like a death squad of Scrubbing Bubbles brandishing adorable little switchblades.

The reach of bubbles as weaponry is pretty widespread. Bubble Bobble's iconic dragons, Bub and Bob, are fearsome bubble-breathers, while "Bubble" is a water attack in Pokémon that sends a deadly crawl of effervescent spit toward your foe.

The most famous of the bubble attacks, however, has to be the Bubble Lead from Mega Man 2. It is a name that has confounded players for more than two decades. Is it "lead" because the bubbles are heavy and travel along the ground or is it simply "lead" as in the slang term for ammunition? Either way, it sounds like Capcom was trying to compensate for something.

Bubble Lead is among the line of quirkier weapons that fail to have much effect on many enemies but to which Dr. Wily loves making himself vulnerable. Does he do it on purpose? If he feels like he has to go down, he'd rather make his enemy have to lob bubbles or spin like a top to do so?

Sticking to the weaker end of the elemental spectrum, puffs of air are granted a license to kill as well. We could go back to Mega Man and his propensity for firing what look like those little whirlwinds you sometimes see whip up in parking lots, but Kirby has always had a built-in air cannon all his own.

Comments on