To The Bitter End

120419_bitterend_abadox_featured

The Joy Of Planetary Regurgitation

Abadox: The Deadly Inner War chews players up until Stage 7 spits them back out again

By Anthony John Agnello • April 19, 2012

Games are often left unfinished. Sometimes they’re too difficult, too vast, or too repetitive to see all the way through to the closing credits. To The Bitter End is The Gameological Society’s look at those endings that are worth fighting for—or at least worth reading about. In the debut column, Anthony John Agnello examines the final-act entrails of a gutsy space shooter from 1989.

Abadox: The Deadly Inner War is disgusting. A left-to-right shooting game from a time when arcades were full of them, it causes body dysmorphia jitters as soon as it starts. Your enemies include flying, disembodied mouths full of jagged teeth. There are eyeballs everywhere, both on the walls and in the air, trying to kill you. And the first of its seven levels looks like it’s made out of inflamed intestines. Those that follow aren’t any more savory.

The look is influenced most obviously by sci-fi games of the era like Metroid and Life Force. But Abadox is also caught up in the psychosexual aesthetic of H.R. Giger, the surrealist whose merging of the technological and the organic won Alien an Oscar for visual effects. These inspirations all had a hand in making Natsume’s 1989 shooting game impressively stomach-churning for a game made on such limited technology.

It is grotesque though, even now, and captivating as a result. The tangible ickiness of its world is so thorough that the catharsis offered by its final level, Stage 7, still makes an impact after 23 years. Yes, Abadox is viciously difficult, but Stage 7 isn’t notable for giving you a sense of achievement. It’s notable for how it transforms a game about slow, grotesque violence into one about rebirth through speed.

Abadox magazine ad

Photo: Games Database

You play as a human in a fragile space suit flying through the innards of a planet transformed by a parasite into a single slavering monster. Locked away in the center is the sole survivor, Princess Maria. Like most games in this space-shooter vein, just touching something in the environment will kill you, so you’re tense from the start, a problem exacerbated by how slowly you move in comparison to the writhing viscera surrounding you.

The fact that you’re a person in a pressure suit—rather than the standard spaceship—adds a discomfiting layer, as does the game’s perspective. Odd-numbered levels see you going from left to right, but even levels shift to an overhead perspective. Unlike other shooters that give you a bird’s-eye view, though, Abadox has you moving from top to bottom on the screen, deepening the feeling of biological entrapment. You move always forward and down, creating an odd sort of success: The farther you persevere, the more deeply you are digested by the living planet.

The first stage is the surface and mouth, complete with tongue and teeth. This gives way to arterial passageways and a boss fight with a pulsing blue and red heart. From the fourth level onward, machinery and electronics gain a more prominent place in the landscape, showing signs of the technologically advanced inhabited place this used to be. It’s hard to tell who is committing the more gruesome violence here. You’re invading an organism that is predatory, but still a living thing, and that makes your brutish assault—firing lasers and missiles at this beast’s most sensitive bits—predatory in its own right. It’s an insidious mode of attack. 

Your progress is slow. All of Abadox’s stages automatically inch forward, leaving you to dodge the dexterous monsters and whatever they shoot at you. The intense concentration on survival leads you to focus more intently than you might like on every unpleasantness that’s happening around you. By the time you reach the planet’s core at the end of the sixth level, for a confrontation with what looks like a melting, mutated combination of reproductive organs (complete with fire-spewing ovaries), the Freudian impact is lost to exhaustion. 

Then the game changes into something completely different. There is a literal rebirth, as a crystal containing Maria emerges from the final boss. After that comes a second, more fulfilling rebirth.

Stage 7 lasts for one minute. It’s a sprint that accelerates through obstacle-laden rooms, with each compartment featuring the characteristics of the preceding levels: gore-covered electronics, digestive tract, heart, circulatory system, mouth, and surface. Your character’s weapons are no longer a factor, as your character’s hands are occupied with carrying neonatal Maria.

Here, the crush and labor that define the first six levels of Abadox give way to an exhilarating gauntlet of split decisions—don’t want to slam into a wall at the final hurdle—before you are expelled into space. The game is suddenly quiet. There’s no music in Stage 7, just a pulsing sound as you leave, a personal noise rather than sounds of explosions and energetic music. To finally emerge from the planet is a relief from fear, yes, but also a relief from the need for destruction. It’s beautiful, and doubly so after so much ugliness.

Abadox wasn’t the first shooter to have an escape rush as its climax. The aforementioned Life Force ends the same way. The two games have a lot in common. Life Force also places the player inside a massive body, with fights against skulls and brains. That game never has the same impact as Abadox, though, because it’s inconsistent. Life Force will throw you into a level that’s a lake of fire right after you’ve flown through a series of veined rooms, so the impression of being inside a real organism is broken. Abadox’s world has an internal logic, a claustrophobia-inducing progression. Put another way, it forms a coherent whole, one that is crystallized on the journey outward. The descent into that world endures, as does that final, brief escape.

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170 Responses to “The Joy Of Planetary Regurgitation”

  1. GeneralAnasthesia says:

    Is it worth playing through now, or is it just a relic?

  2. Stummies says:

    Great premise for a feature. This site is killing it.

  3. caspiancomic says:

    Really great idea for a feature, and a fantastic first entry. This game looks really, really cool (although I personally am awful at shmups).

    Like a lot of mediums, games tend to have a difficult time with their endings. It’s hard enough to have a game that tells a story through its mechanics (or at least where the mechanics reinforce the themes of the story), and leading both your narrative and your gameplay to a satisfying climax at the same time is obviously twice as difficult as just trying to end a story, like movies and books get to do. A lot of games seem to go the route of having a final dungeon that is twice as long or has twice as many bosses, or have a last boss who except for having towering amounts of HP is basically identical mechanically to everything that’s come before him/her/more often it. The Final Fantasy series tends to have really satisfying narrative climaxes, but the last boss almost always involves just wailing on a deformed monstrosity with your strongest magic. (although I still get chills during the Dancing Mad sequence from VI, even though it falls into this exact trap).

    I think the double climax of gameplay and narrative offered by games it what gives them the potential to be more satisfying than other mediums. It’s difficult to pull off, but leaves a very lasting impression. The best example I can think of off the top is from my all time favourite game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2. All throughout the game you’ve learned to rely on a certain mechanic- collect rings to protect yourself from dying if you get hit- and in the final Zone of the game they take this away from you. So already the tension in the Death Egg Zone is through the roof, because all of a sudden you have no leniency whatsoever- mess this up once and you’re dead. The tension you experience through the gameplay reinforces the tension from the story- you failed to stop the Death Egg from launching, and if you don’t stop him now, Robotnik will do… uh, whatever it is he’s trying to do (turn everyone into robots? That seems to be his thing). If we were just watching this story unfold on a screen this moment wouldn’t be nearly as edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckle exciting: it’s the inclusion of the climax of the mechanics of the game that make the moment so much more visceral, memorable, and ultimately, rewarding.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Nice post. There’s also the “throw out all of the mechanics to have a simplistic, totally different end” botch. I hate that kind.

      I used to think your way, but my favorite/the best game,
      Moon: Remix R.P.G. Adventure only requires 1 button press and is sublime.  It merits discussion as a great ending, not just 1 “for the medium.”  None of my 10 favorite games do that, oddly.

      Of that kind, though, I adore Irem’s Grand Seafloor War/In The Hunt.  It’s the best underwater shoot-‘em-up and does a lot of what Abadox does.  There’s an aerial assault stage, a chase stage, a claustrophobic underwater phalanx, and others.  At the end, you take down a monstrous metal apparatus that chases you full-tilt toward the ends of the Earth.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk95UuZzEBU  http://hardcoregaming101.net/irem/irem.htm

      The best, objectively, has to be Metal Slug 3’s.  It’s so good that it should be the next entry.  You finally get sucked up into the Martians’ spaceship where you visit havoc on everything inside.  It’s not enough to bring down the mothership.   Rootmars, the leader, tries to bail out and survive the fall.  You
      hop on, and, well…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A2lcF5ESD4  S.N.K. tells a wonderful story.  http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/metalslug/metalsluga.htm

      • Girard says:

         Are you still involved on the translation project for Moon, GQ? I haven’t seen any developments in it since February and am getting nervous…

        • GhaleonQ says:

          It’s still going.  (If you search by date, they’ve put out the tool for inserting text.)  It’s 95-percent done.  I had to drop out because I’m a horrible perfectionist.  Doing education reform research for important people and editing text was killing the rest of my life.  It was a HUGELY douchey move, so I made sure to apologize and tell them not to credit me with anything.

          Still, it will be out in 2012.  Summer 2012, probably.

    • Kelly Casaday says:

      I’ll second sonic 2 (mostly for nostalgic purposes as the no health thing IS sort of a gimmick)…but my favorite game ending is the original Katamari – it simply took it’s concept the the most logic, extreme conclusion – the challenge was higher for the last level, sure, but not mandatory.  The real JOY of the challenge (something most game designers forget and treat as separate things) was that now I had the ability to literally roll my ball to continent absorbing capacity, but there was still limited time. If you didn’t get it that big, not a huge deal, but that fact that you could meant i played the hell out of that last level more than any other last game level i can think of.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Ooh, nice choice. Yeah, the last level of Katamari Damacy was a huge treat, and probably my most replayed level. It was fun how you could meet the goal for the level with a decent amount of time left on the clock, and then roll up a ball that was just unimaginably huge with the time left over. Great level.

    • George_Liquor says:

       Personally, I found the lack of rings at the end of Sonic 2 to be a big cop-out on the designers’ part. Robo-Sonic’s and Robotnikk’s attack patterns are too repetitive and easy to avoid to be much of a challenge, so they artificially inflated the difficulty by removing the rings.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Really? I always found their attack patterns to be varied and dangerous enough- without being insurmountable- that it provided the perfect amount of tension. Robo Sonic has like, four moves, and some of those get mixed up with versions that fire spikes across the screen to keep you on your toes. The Robotnik Mecha’s pattern is fairly repetitive, admittedly, but crazy dangerous. You can only damage him at one or two points in his pattern, and it always involves a really high level of risk. Plus, he’s the first boss in the game to take more than 8 hits. Once you get that 8th hit in and he’s still standing, the tension starts running even higher, because you don’t know how much longer you CAN keep this up, never mind how much longer you’re going to have to in order to win.

        Sonic 2’s ending especially shines when compared to the other Sonic games (all of which I love with all my heart, but I think 2 is the best one). In Sonic 1, you also have no rings in the Final Zone, but the final boss is way easy and there’s almost no threat. In Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles (and Sonic 3 & Knuckles!) you’re allowed rings for the final boss (although in S&K the last boss is staggered, and if you lose a life to the giant Robotnik mecha you have to start over with no rings).

        (Apologies if I sound confrontational at all, I just really, really love Sonic.)

        • George_Liquor says:

          Hey don’t get me wrong, I love Sonic 2. That game is still one of the best platformers ever made, but in my opinion the end boss battle falls flat. Watch Robo-Sonic’s first 3 or 4 moves: he performs them in the same sequence each time you fight him, and if you’re quick enough, you can beat him before he starts mixing them up. As for Robotnik himself, you just hang out in the right side of the screen until he targets you with his crosshairs, then dash to the left. Stay out of range as he walks forward & shoots his arms out, then quickly close in & hit him in his robo-junk as he’s crouching for his jump. Repeat until dead. The hardest part of that battle comes right at the beginning, before you get a chance to settle into a routine.

          That said, I definitely agree with you that it’s a better final battle than Sonic 1, and the last couple of levels leading up to the final battle are fantastic fun.Speaking of Sonic 1, ever play it in debug mode? That’s a kick in the pants!

    • alguien_comenta says:

      I always liked the ending of Bionic Commando, not for Hitler’s exploding head but because of the “you have one shot” sequence and also the escape.

  4. TelephoneToughGuy says:

    Should be an interesting ongoing feature.  The first Red Faction game popped into my head for some reason, although that one has just a big, wet fart of a conclusion it’s one of the first games that I played all the way through to the end by myself and it was a lot of fun up until then.  The multiplayer too, good stuff…anyway, yeah and Resident Evil 4.  That was another awesome journey with a disappointing ending.  Really cheesy.  Now whenever I think of Resident Evil 4 I think of Leon uh, –Spoilers– riding off into the sun rise or set or whatever with the girl on his back and it makes me want to punch someone.  But yeah, there’s a lot of great stuff out there I still haven’t played and there’s always more Red Faction to look forward to, right?  Hah…hah…(Rimshot)

    • The first RF may have a flat cut-screen ending, but holy shit, that game is a level design marvel and pretty much my favorite FPS of all time (OF ALL TIME!). I love how you’re forced to figure out quite a bit of stuff on your own and the multiple paths are a nice touch. I know HL2 tends to get all the love when it comes to FPS’s, but I truly believe RF was the brilliant precursor to that series.

      Speaking of brilliance, one of greatest revealing moments towards the end is when you finally reach the outer surface of Mars, and you suddenly realize that you’re dying when you run out of armor, only to realize that it’s because of the lack of air on the surface, increasing the difficulty.

      I could gush on and on about the game, and I’d kill for a HD remake with improved voice overs. (“You’re gonna get it, miner!” is not exactly the game’s best moment.)

      • Fixda Fernback says:

        Fuck you, the voice acting in RF and RF 2 is what kept me laughing for hours on end. My buddy and I still play RF 2 multiplayer w/bots on occasion, and the noises they make alone is worth the time. And, I love you two for loving Red Faction so much. That first game was not like anything else I’d really played at that point.

  5. Shain Eighmey says:

    This is a great idea for a feature! It’s always good to see which games pay off in the end, and how different developers choose to end games.

    It strikes me, after having completed more games than I can list, that a game is a very hard thing for a developer to end. Especially if you’re not depending on it being a series. There are some great games with terrible endings because the developers just didn’t know how to bring it to an end. 

    It’s not really an phenomenon unique to games I suppose, many films and books have the same issue. 

  6. PugsMalone says:

    Can’t wait for the feature on Final Fantasy VI.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Why not pull a fast one and go with Vagrant Story, instead? (Not disagreeing with you, mind you, FFVI was ballsy and terrific. I only wish the map that came with the original cartridge hadn’t spoiled the fact that the world was going to be destroyed at some point.)

      • PugsMalone says:

        You know what game’s ending really sucked? Final Fantasy Tactics. It felt like they were trying to rip off the ending of Star Trek V, right down to not explaining the godlike entity at the end at all.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Did you play the properly translated The War Of The Lions?  It was actually comprehensible there.

        • PugsMalone says:

          @GhaleonQ:disqus Yes I did, and it still felt like it was rushed as hell.

        • caspiancomic says:

          Pound for pound Tactics is one of my all time favourite games, but I agree with you that pretty much the entire last chapter is a bit of a wash from a story perspective. The first three quarters of the game are almost impenetrably dense medieval-style politics, royal lineage disputes, and class warfare, and then in the final act the whole thing turns into the standard Final Fantasy punch-God-in-the-stomach, save-the-world sort of thing. Although the very end of the story was appropriately bleak for the setting, I think, what with nearly the entire cast being killed, and the very last scene after the credits between Delita and the Princess still kinda gets me.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @PugsMalone:disqus   Basically, combine the history-critical method with anti-Catholicism with the Shinto conception of supernatural power.  The god was not a God, but was granted power in the afterlife through the spirits that live in nature.  Think of Ajora as a powerful ghost.

          I don’t think Matsuno’s conception of history or religious institutions requires much more explanation.  Like, Final Fantasy XII’s world, where you’re harnessing what are basically Titans against 13 Evil Titans, requires much more explanation.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Dancing Mad = best last boss music ever?

  7. Jason Sigler says:

    While watching the video, I was finding all the elements to be very familiar… the music, the sound effects, the visceral visuals. Then I realized why it all seemed like something I’d played before; I absolutely played this when I was younger! And got nowhere NEAR the final stage. Thanks for taking me back, Anthony!

  8. Spacemonkey_Mafia says:

    I’m not being sarcastic or ironic when I say I truly love video games generational dearth of visual influences.  The pervasive influence of Alien and Rambo and/or Commando saturated game design to the point where it’s possible to sum up NES-era action games with a xenomorph and a buzz-cut.  It is soothing nostalgia for me.

       Yoshio Sakamoto claims Alien to be a huge influence when he created Metroid, but it’s interesting how he is one of the few, perhaps only, game designer from the era to completely eschew the obvious mouth-within-a-mouth phallus monster and instead focus on Ridley Scott’s (Huh… Ridley… I just now got that.) mood of solitude and oppression.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Nicely put.  It’s interesting that Natsume is traditionally not a graphics powerhouse studio and tends toward traditional Japanese children art styles.  I bet it’s not just those influences in Abadox, but the creepy work seen in Japanese horror and science fiction comics.

  9. Aaron Riccio says:

    Are we talking about just pure gameplay worth fighting to the end for, or are we talking about story? And are we only doing it for games that most people either haven’t heard of, or for games that are so frustratingly difficult that most people probably quit? Because even though everybody here probably finished Red Dead Redemption, I loved the ending o’ that.

    By the way, side note here: does anybody else love that Abadox was presented by Milton Bradley? Maybe they’ll try and turn *this* property into a movie!

    • John Teti says:

      Yeah, the brief is simply that we talk about interesting endings of games. We’ll see where that takes us. There are no requirements for obscurity, difficulty, or the like. I try not to preconceive too many restrictions on a feature once we’ve got a core concept we can glom onto. Otherwise we might let a good idea pass by for the sake of foolish consistency.

      Credit where credit is due, by the way: The “To The Bitter End” feature was Anthony’s brainchild.

    • AuroraBoreanaz says:

      RDR’s ending was pretty great.

    • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC says:

      Yeah RDR. *SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY*

      Normally I can’t stand a game with a bad ending. It seems like a big fuck you for all your hard work and in a medium where the player has control taking away your ability to positively influence events is frustrating. RDR however built up it’s themes of the inevitable death of the wild west and that John was a relic of another time. It actually used that frustration to make a point quite beautifully.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Yeah. By comparison, L.A. Noire’s ending felt like a huge cop-out; an attempt to replicate what they’d achieved in RDR, but for another era. Here’s hoping that Max Payne 3 and Grand Theft Auto 5 deliver more satisfying ends to their most recent iterations.

  10. AuroraBoreanaz says:

    Great feature.  I seem to recall a couple of games with endings like this – didn’t the original Metroid have you rush back to your ship before the planet explodes?  The original Wasteland had an “escape the base before the timer reaches zero” sequence.

    There have been so many great game endings over the years, but I’m trying to think of ones where the final level itself was memorable.  Bastion is a neat one.  BioShock is pretty great, but that’s more the entire last third of it.

    • itisdancing says:

      Post-boss “rush to the exit” sequences are actually fairly common. Let’s see: Metroid (and Super Metroid). Metal Gear. Bionic Commando. Wasteland, as you mention. Fallout 1 and 2 in certain endings, although that’s not exactly “post-boss”.

      I’m sure there’s more.

  11. JokersNuts says:

    Loved this game back in the day!  The best way to play it is with the Invincibility cheat on (its a really fun game but way too hard)

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      This seems like a contradiction: if the only way to enjoy this game is to be “invincible,” then how is it still fun? Once you remove the challenge (as all too many games these days do), you’re hardly “playing” — you’re just “interacting.” At least a game like Skyrim can justify it by allowing the player to still explore at their own leisure; but in a shooter that automatically scrolls forward for you? 

      • The Guilty Party says:

        It’s like playing pretend. I’m not trying to be insulting either. You turn on the god cheat, but then you play as if you hadn’t. I think whether or not you find that totally pointless depends on why you play games in the first place.

        • The_Asinus says:

          I played Top Secret Episode like that. When I originally had the cartridge my friend and I got to the last boss ONCE. That was the only time I ever saw it. We took turns playing because it’s a fairly long game for not letting you save and continue. That last boss kicked killed us quickly, and at a certain point, that game sends you back a level when you die. It’s cruel and unusual. Needless to say, we gave up. But then, years later, I played it with some game genie cheats on an emulator (so I could save state)– and that end fight is so hard that I died anyway. I did beat it the second time through once i understood what the trick was, but, damn. I still had a good time playing it.

      • JokersNuts says:

        “the guilty party” has it right.  Sometimes I am not playing video games for the challange.  sometimes, in the case of Abbadox, the challange is way too great for a 7 year old who just wants to shoot stuff and enjoy the cool enviroment of flying through a living planet.  its about imaginiation.  its about having fun and seeing all the cool stuff in the game.
        some people play for different reasons.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          Jokers, I understood your point — that’s what I was getting at with the whole “interacting” comment and the idea of “exploring” in a game like Skyrim (without the threat of challenge). But if all you want to do is see the cool environment (one that, again, AUTOMATICALLY moves you forward through the level), then why not just watch someone else play the game? Or watch YouTube clips? At some point, you have to admit that you’re not actually “playing” the game, which means your reason for playing is one that doesn’t even involve playing at all. 

          If you were still seven, if YouTube didn’t exist, if you just wanted to *see* the game, then sure, I’m all for busting out the Game Genie. Or maybe I’m just more of a purist: for me, seeing all the game has to offer is something that you earn, not something that you just skip to, ala a scene-select on a DVD.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus I always play games through again with cheat codes (as in, I would not have hacked my systems if the hardware companies had not ruined them with firmware updates).

          I think watching video approximates the experience enough to substitute for playing with invincibility, but it’s very common for people to “quarter-feed” to learn patterns, try out scoring combinations, or simply experience the “pace” of the game as the developer intended it.  Players can’t always reach the highest level of play, but all game developers want them to reach that ceiling.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          GhaleonQ (I don’t how to make your name pop up): I’m a little confused as to what you mean by “playing through again.” I’m not above changing the difficulty when there’s something I can’t beat and I want to get to the end, nor am I against, say, a level select cheat (like the original Sonic debug: up, C, down, C, left, C, right C) that lets me practice specific stages without having to play through all the previous ones. My point is merely — and I think you were agreeing — that for certain games, this being one of them, invincibility makes it no longer a “game” but simply a “movie.” If you’ve removed the interactive parts — in this case, the need to shoot and maneuver around things, lest you take damage — then you can no longer really say that you’re “playing” the game. And if you continue to move around whilst invincible, you’re playing *something*, but not this game. As The Guilty Party put it, you’re playing *pretend*, and I don’t need a game to facilitate with that.

          I do think we’re all more or less on the same page here, though. Developers *want* you to complete the game, they *want* you to experience mostly everything (excepting some Easter eggs — like that bullshit in Final Fantasy XII in which you had to *not* open certain chests along the way), and if anything, they’ve dumbed games down way too much in the modern era so as to ensure that everybody sees it all. For people like me, it’s diminished the reward of playing in the first place — i.e., feeling as if I’d earned “the ending.”

        • JokersNuts says:

          Man I really shouldn’t have said anything. I had no.idea a seven year old in 1990 playing this game with the cheats on in order to see the whole thing, have fun shooting stuff and playing out the story in his head would draw so much critisicm from the hardcore gamers. Yeesh

        • John Teti says:

          This thread spiraled off in a weird direction for me. @JokersNuts:disqus  called it a “cheat” in his perfectly benign original post, so I imagine he knows that his seven-year-old self tossed out the normal rules of the game. And he knew it when he was seven, too. Do we really need to tell him he’s not “playing” the game? That’s either over the top or it’s semantic parsimony; either way, it’s silly. I hate this kind of “that doesn’t actually count as playing the game” stuff. It’s arbitrary and it shuts down the conversation, because how can you argue with it?

          It strikes me as akin to lecturing a kid in a bowling alley who’s got the bumpers out over the gutters. We can all be pretty sure that the kid knows he’s not playing the full-blown game of bowling; that point does not need to be emphasized. But hey, you’re both having fun knocking down pins. There’s a way to say “I prefer the experience and satisfaction of playing it without added safeguards” while also being respectful of the way someone else does it.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          Yeep! Sorry if it seems that I’ve been lecturing or if the tenor of my voice has been disrespectful in any way to JokersNuts or seven-year-old children (or memories of seven-year-old children)! It seems perhaps that every time I’ve attempted to clarify, I’ve only managed to add more fuel to the fire in what was simply an attempt to figure out the difference between “playing” and “watching” a game — which, as someone who spent many hours having to watch my brother play games when it was his turn on the television, I tend to chalk up to interaction; i.e., the feedback from the game. To me, invincibility removes that feedback, particularly in a game of this nature, where getting hit is often distinguished by a mere pixel — i.e., you won’t even know if you’re doing well, whereas if you gave yourself 99 lives, you’d still know when you were doing something unscripted. (That’s why I was confused about GhaleonQ’s reference to “quarter-feeding,” something I’d often do.)

          If there’s any frustration in my posts, it’s merely in my concerns that many — but not all –developers (like teachers, like writers, like filmmakers) don’t seem as comfortable pushing us as much as they once did. I’m just glad to be able to have a conversation about this stuff; apparently it saves me the money I’d otherwise have to spend on therapy.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus I think the “pretend” part is what some people enjoy.  “Can I beat 150cc in Mario Kart whatever if I only let the computer give me green shells?  Does being invincible once through R-Type Final help me plan my strategy better when I play for real?  What’s it like to play NHL 13 with all 99-rated players?”  These can be fun things.

      • JokersNuts says:

        Then we have two completely different outlooks on gaming. And I am fine with that. I have fun playing abadox with the cheat, pretending I am a bad ass spaceman blowing away gross aliens and collecting power ups. I don’t care about the challange element (some games i do, not this one) especially when I was a kid and the game was just too dang hard for me, but I liked the art design.

        I totally respect your wanting to play it legit, the way it was intended. That’s fine. I think we can both agree that Abbadox is a really cool game that anyone who likes shooters should play.

        • JoshJ says:

          I get enough challenge in my daily life that I am well-paid for that it seems silly (to me) to seek it out in my non-productive downtime.  I play videogames AS OPPOSED to doing something constructive (guitar, work out, any number of productive hobbies). Videogames are my channel-surfing: vaguely interactive, soothing activity.

  12. Nathaniel Rodgers says:

    One of my favorite endings is in Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube.  The final boss isn’t particularly difficult, but what I like is that he seems to be operating by the same rules that you do–which works especially well since he was one of the characters you played as in the course of the game.  If he casts a spell, he has to stop and wait for the circle of power to be completed just like you do.  I like that the narrative dictated that the boss be fairly subdued in power and they resisted including one of those insanely overpowered and unfair bosses just because that’s what’s generally expected.

    And the fight gets broken up occasionally by some sweet cutscenes of cosmic gods battling each other.  Epic stuff.

  13. 1derer says:

    Look at this.  A new column on game endings and nobody has mentioned Mass Effect 3 yet.  You’re all fantastic.

    • Agreed! 

      Actually, John and I discussed Mass Effect 3 when we were first developing the column. I was in the middle of the game, but the hubbub about its ending had just kicked into high gear so I thought it might make for a good inaugural Bitter End examination. When I finally did finish it off though, I realized it didn’t really merit discussion beyond what was already going on out there.

      Any other suggestions for good ‘uns are more than welcome. 

  14. Swadian Knight says:

    Very interesting feature. 

    I know it’s an unoriginal suggestion by now, but Hitman: Blood Money has one of the best, most satisfying playable ending levels ever.

  15. James Slone says:

    I remember renting this cart at the local video store when I was a lad and really enjoying the hell out of it. About ten years ago I rediscovered it through the miracle of emulation. Great game!

  16. Citric says:

    For ending suggestions, I’ve got to go with the first Klonoa – which is also a pretty great game all around. A fair bit of the light story is devoted to having the main characters become friends, so when they decide to rip them apart in a twist it actually has way more emotional impact than you expect from a lighthearted platformer.

  17. As pointed out, the final boss is basically a giant womb… and the “princess” that’s rescued is basically a fetus.

    I’ve said for years that this game is secretly a game about performing a space abortion, and this article at least kind of makes me feel less crazy for thinking so. Thanks.

    • PugsMalone says:

      I always felt that the Sealed Cave in Final Fantasy VI had a lot of womb imagery, too, from the depiction of Terra’s conception to the shot of Gestahl, Terra, and her mother from inside the door/vagina, to the fact that Terra’s returning to the place of her birth.

  18. cokebabies says:

    Man, this game was on the back cover of every Archie comic for a while.

  19. If we’re offering suggestions for entries, I think one of my favorites is Okami, which had a final boss fight and ending that is possibly the most emotional experience I’ve had playing a game. Plus, it’s an amazingly pretty game to play.

  20. TheGameroomBlitz says:

    Wow, of all the games you could have written a feature on, why Abadox?  Saying that it’s “similar” to Life Force is the understatement of the century… it’s more accurate to call it a Life Force knock-off by disgruntled former employees of Konami.  All the basic components from Life Force are there, except everything that made the game a classic.  You can’t play with a friend, the power-ups are cheesy, and the level and enemy designs oscillate between strained and derivative.  Your power-ups are delivered by blue ponies with jetpacks stuck up their butts.  ‘Nuff said.