Ni No Kuni

Your head, your head, your head is on fire: 12 inconvenient body modifications in games

Piercings, prosthetics, and other corporeal experiments that go too far.

By Anthony John Agnello, Matt Gerardi, Steve Heisler, Joe Keiser, Samantha Nelson, Derrick Sanskrit, Ryan Smith, John Teti, and Adam Volk • January 31, 2013

1. Lantern nose piercing, Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch (2013)

When Morrissey sang, “There is a light that will never go out,” he was clearly talking about Drippy—a fairy from the recent anime role-playing game Ni No Kuni who has a lantern pierced through his nose. One that doesn’t go out. Sure, it sounds functional, in that there are large swaths of the game drenched in darkness, and it’s nice to have a little illuminated guy following you around. Drippy began life as a stuffed animal, and this glow theoretically brings the same type of security-blanket support. But Oliver, Drippy’s master, has plenty of spells at his disposal to bring light to the world, such as “Ray Of Light.” And others! Thus Drippy is doomed to walk the world of Ni No Kuni with an albatross hanging from his nose (one that jangles when he runs), a constant reminder that his worth as a magical flashlight has outlived its welcome.

2. Gun-arm, Final Fantasy VII (1997)

When assessing the practicality of a character’s body mod, you have to consider the convenience—they all have their benefits, after all—against the countervailing inconvenience. Take Barret Wallace, Final Fantasy VII’s environmental terrorist with a machine gun for an arm. Convenience: No longer have to contend with the tiresome nuisance of holding a gun; difficult to lose track of gun. On the inconvenience side: An accidental massacre is always just one sneeze away. The attachment on Barret’s forearm—a surgical graft added after Barret lost the limb in battle—is interchangeable, so he can switch the standard machine gun out with other parts. Cruelly, however, the manufacturer of the arm attachments has only seen fit to expand the line with other, even more violent guns like a laser and a bazooka. Would it kill the good people at Acme Gun-Arm Inc. to lend Barret a hand, literally? Or at least something useful and non-destructive, like a spork or a Philips-head screwdriver.

3. Blades fused to arms, God Of War series (2005-2012)

Another way to weigh the practicality of a video game body mod is the simple question, “Could you go to the bathroom without suffering gruesome injury?” We never see Kratos step away to relieve himself in the God Of War games, probably because there are horrors that even this over-the-top carnage-fest declines to explore. Musclebound demigod Kratos has chains grafted to his arms, with a fearsome blade at the end of each one. There is much whirling—he might as well set them ablaze and become a fire-dancer—and it rarely stops. Somehow, Kratos manages to use this to his advantage, fighting some Greek gods and bedding others. But imagine every conversation with a potential date: “Nope, they don’t come off. Ever. Say, you mind helping me with something in the W.C.?”

4. Head permanently on fire, Twisted Metal series (1995-2012)

Sweet Tooth, Twisted Metal’s ice cream truck-driving clown on a murderous rampage, lit his head on fire and never put it out (at least according to the backstory of the 2012 “reboot”). So it burns and burns. His truck might explode on impact—this is a game where vehicular collisions are encouraged—but when your skull is already a perpetual inferno, it’s hard to care about a little more heat. The flaming head is great when it comes to bolstering his image as a merciless killing machine, not so much when doing anything else. A long time ago, one of Sweet Tooth’s first victims got away, and he’s been haunted by the memory of her escape ever since. That fiery head is a beacon for mental instability, visible from afar and a constant reminder, every time he looks in the mirror, that his work is never finished. It’s his equivalent of a Blackberry addiction.

5. Arm made out of wife, Bionic Commando (2009)
Nathan RAD Spencer

The mechanical arm that belongs to super-marine Nathan RAD Spencer looks like it was made out of kielbasa and a barbecue grill, but it actually works pretty well. It seems to be capable of all regular-arm activities, and it’s also pretty good for swinging from building to building—it sounds like a net win for body modification technology, right? Except (surreal spoiler alert) the arm is, somehow, made of RAD’s missing wife Emily. Don’t try to think too hard about the narrative justification here, because there’s not much to be found. Instead, let’s consider more important questions. For instance, does this mean that he’s he married to his arm now? And after his next session of “RAD’s private robot arm special time,” does he have some explaining to do—or does he just have to silently contend with the cosmic mindfuck of weird guilt? There are a lot of implications here. Maybe it’s better just to go one-armed and fly free.

6. Sword arms, Blood Will Tell (2004)

Before he was born, Hyakkimaru, the star of Blood Will Tell, had 48 of his body parts (including organs) traded to demons by his power-hungry father. He was then abandoned, Moses-style, and the scientist who took him in developed all kinds of prostheses to replace the missing parts. One has to assume (or hope) baby Hyakkimaru wasn’t provided with katanas in place of his arms, but once the boy was all grown-up, he never takes those sword-arms off. They’re great, of course, for slicing up demons (and vegetables, probably). They also might make shaving more convenient—if not terrifying. But try scratching a back itch with those things. Or, you know, touching any living being that you don’t want to see mutilated.

7. Skin and organs grafted into diving suit, BioShock (2007)
Big Daddy

Known primarily as the scourge of the underwater metropolis of Rapture, Big Daddies are lumbering, genetically-altered mutants whose bodies have literally been grafted into heavily-armored diving suits. The pièce de résistance, however, is the giant drill welded in place of the Big Daddy’s arm—a deadly weapon at close range, but terribly inconvenient when it comes to commonplace activities such as eating a taco, unhooking a bra, or playing miniature golf. The only plus side to the Big Daddy’s cumbersome existence? Giant drill arms may be awkward, but they also make handy paper towel dispensers.

8. Pyramid head, Silent Hill 2 (2001)

Short of being surpassed by, say, Wheelbarrow Head or Kayak Head in a future sequel, it’s difficult to imagine a character with a more awkward handicap than the scalene pyramid mounted atop the main antagonist of Silent Hill 2. The unwieldy helmet, which looks like the result of a freak construction-site accident, would likely prevent most people from seeing, talking, eating, or engaging in almost any basic human function. But in the surreal netherworld of Silent Hill, Pyramid Head gets around quite nicely—even while wielding a comically huge Final Fantasy-sized sword. Alternate dimension or not, you’ve got to think that all of that front-loaded weight will eventually lead to some major neck and back problems. Those chiropractor bills are going to add up.

9. Chainsaw attached to arm, MadWorld (2009)

Having a retractable chainsaw built into his arm is a pretty good thing for MadWorld’s protagonist Jack Cayman when he’s competing in DeathWatch, a game show where you win by dismembering other contestants. But it has to put a serious cramp on his life outside the murder-show circuit. Who would want to share a bed with a guy that could wind up impaling you if he flailed in his sleep, perhaps dreaming of all the impaling he does during the day? Shirt shopping would be a pain—you rip the right sleeve to shreds while you’re trying it, you buy it—and you can forget about going for a swim. Still, it’s not all bad. There are still a wide variety of occupations available to a guy with a chainsaw arm. Ice sculptor, hedge trimmer…okay, that’s about it.

10. Abrasive sidekick attached to chest, Comic Jumper (2010)

It’s nice to have a sidekick who can watch your back or bail you out when you’re inevitably captured by your nemesis. Unfortunately for the hero of Comic Jumper, Captain Smiley, his sidekick Star can’t do either of those things. Attached to Smiley’s chest, Star periodically provides some useful advice, but he spends most of his time being a jerk. Not only is Star bad at his job, the relationship has to be massively impractical fir Smiley, who can’t get any privacy and presumably has to cut up all of his clothes so that his sidekick can see and breathe. Since Star has no hands of his own, Smiley probably has to brush the five-pointed bastard’s teeth for him, too. It’s the definition of a one-sided relationship.

11. Missile-launching leg, No More Heroes (2008)

Cleaning a gun takes a long time. Fully stripping down a rifle for complete maintenance takes around two hours total, and that’s a relatively simple machine compared to other fire arms. How long do you think it takes to pull apart an anti-aircraft missile launcher and get that thing back in working order? The burden of missile-launcher ownership is even more severe for Holly Summers, an assassin in No More Heroes, since her launcher also serves as one of her legs. Given her affiliation with the U.S. military and her backup job as a model, she probably has a support staff to help her take care of that missile leg, but it’s still got to eat up hours of her day—not to mention the inevitable burns and chafing when she actually uses the thing. Seriously, do the math here. Holly’s preferred attire is a camo bikini and thigh high boots. Surface-to-air missiles are propelled by huge explosions. Huge explosions are not, generally speaking, something you want happening near your crotch with any regularity. Why not just carry a regular missile launcher, and make the one down below “just for show”?

12. Cybernetic body with sword legs, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty (2009) et al.

Some people have trouble coping with loss. After splitting from his fiancée after the apparent miscarriage of their child, the special-forces operative known as Raiden devotes himself to a sleek cyberpunk soldier lifestyle, allowing the mysterious Patriots cabal to go ahead and cut his entire body off (even his jaw, for some reason). The procedure transforms him into an androgynous cyborg death machine. Yeah, it makes for more efficient killing and whatnot, but one wrinkle stands out: Dude’s got swords in his legs. He is never going through airport security again. Can’t enter a courtroom or a public school, maybe not even a movie theater. Oh, and that miscarried baby? Turns out that was a hoax to protect the kid from the overbearing secret society that ultimately did all this to his daddy. Good thing Raiden got a son out of that after all, because his new asexual cybernetic exterior makes reproduction a dubious proposition. Assuming he even got that far after the first date—because, you know, kissing that metal jaw would leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.

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96 Responses to “Your head, your head, your head is on fire: 12 inconvenient body modifications in games”

  1. caspiancomic says:

    You know, before this article, I was really seriously considering a life of Big Daddyhood. School’s almost out and job opportunities are thin on the ground these days, I figure a deranged aquatic billionaire and his cabal of barely human monstrosities might give me a decent wage and a place to hang my hat. But considering that eating a taco, unhooking a bra, and playing a round of miniature golf is pretty much my ideal afternoon, I think I’ll look for something else.

    (Sidenote: My Wizard’s Edition of Ni No Kuni arrived the other day, and all I’ve done since then is read my cool little book thing and cuddle with my little plush Drippy. The game itself will have to wait, but the goodies that came in the special edition are extremely rad.)

  2. Citric says:

    The one guy in Yakuza: Dead Souls has a gun arm too, but his can turn back into a hand. Considering his job in game, pre-zombies, is preparing octopus, the gun arm seems a little excessive. But you never know when a zombie outbreak could, er, break out.

  3. Fluka says:

    I was all ready to make my usual “Where’s Firefly Deus Ex Human Revolution?!” post, until I realized that Adam Jensen doesn’t belong here at all.  Sure, he’s got Sword Arms (apparently a fairly common medical condition?), but they’re discreetly retractable, and you wouldn’t know about the Typhoon system unless you impolitely asked.  The remaining mods are positively convenient, what with the cloaking and the silent running and the landing system and even the stylish eyewear.

    You certainly have no cause to be so brooding about it all the time, Adam.  Just think of those poor characters whose heads are permanently on fire!

    • Merve says:

      On the other hand, Gunther Hermann and his rusty old mechanical mods from the original Deus Ex certainly do belong. Compared to JC Denton, that guy’s a walking hunk of metal.

    •  yeah, I’m all about transhumanism and posthumanism, and Adam would be great.
      in Fallout: New Vegas my character has heaps of implants too and they don’t hurt

    • fieldafar says:

      It probably does count if (SPOILERS) you get the chip ‘upgrade’, only to have all your augments disabled before fighting the third boss.

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:


         If you went for that, you’re a fool.  When you’re exposing a massive corporate conspiracy, and their marketing seems directly targeted at getting *you* to do something, then it’s generally in your best interests not to.

        It’s also pretty keen when that crazy bitch tries to shut you down and her remote doesn’t do anything.  I was like, “Haha! Ain’t that a bitch? I didn’t get your ‘upgrade’… Typhoon your dumb ass!”

        What’s a few headaches when you can shoot bullets out of your body in dramatic effect?

    • Reuben says:

      Oh man, I think about cybernetic mods all the time. Like if a thing could pop out of my forearm to squirt hand sanitizer in my hands.

      or… and this is probably going to sound really god damn weird, having a teleporter inside your colon so you never had to use a public toilet for #2 again.

      maybe this is just stuff that germaphobes think of…


      • Fluka says:

        …You mean I’m not the only one who’s thought about teleportation for body waste disposal?

        Mind you, I’m gonna go wash my hands again now.

  4. Zach Adams says:

    Mildly surprised not to see the Freakshow Champions from City of Heroes here.  The Freaks as a whole were way too into the whole body-modification culture, but the Champions took the cake.  These were guys who replaced one arm with a hook or hammer, then decided to do the OTHER one.  Even the right-click flavor text made it clear that this was a really stupid idea, and that they had to rely on others to feed them.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

      Not only this, but weren’t they reliant on a drug to not feel the pain? It’s been a while since I played the game. (And considering it’s gone, it’ll be even longer. So long, old friend.)

      To be fair, many Freakshow also had an ability that made them one of the more difficult mobs to fight and a power many mooks would kill for: Self-revival. Nothing like taking down a Freakshow boss only for him to immediately get back up again.

    • Girard says:

      That reminds me of an idea from the Adam Warren Dirty Pair comics in the 90s, where there was a population of space cannibals who all had cybernetic limbs because their culture mandated that the “concentrate their spirit” by eating their own limbs.

      Those comics were kind of weird.

    • Halloween_Jack says:

      Consider also the Devoured, of the Devouring Earth; I know that the effect was supposed to be a face made of tentacles, but I always imagined that they were really quite fond of worms, a la the Klingons with gagh, and that you’d always interrupted them just as they were chowing down on a mouthful. 

  5. rvb1023 says:

    5. Arm made out of wife…

    Don’t get me interested in games that aren’t that good. Doesn’t help that I like playing as him in UMvC3.

    That MC of Dante’s Inferno should probably be here too, stitching a cross to his chest for seemingly no reason (I didn’t play the game, only the demo). Also kind of expected William Birkin. Really the only one here that kind of doesn’t make sense is Drippy unless something happens later in the game that makes it a lot worse. And if there is don’t spoil it for me, I just started that game tonight.

  6. Oh no you missed the egg parasite infection from Dark Souls. Certain enemies, while usually docile, will attack and infect you if you attack them first. Then, a ugly ol parasite hatches out of your head! Strangely, you’re pretty much OK, except you can no longer wear a helmet.

  7. Dikachu says:

    Not really touched on in this article, but why the hell do so many PS3 platformers include “cheat” codes that include “big head” mode?  Who the fuck actually wants that?

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Underrepresented hydrocephalics. 

    • Ron Andrews says:

      I think NBA Jam started the craze. It made sense back when resolutions were low and you couldn’t see the faces very well.

      • Girard says:

        Yeah, and it was definitely popularized by Goldeneye’s “DK Mode” (even though it made headshots so easy that it was kind of dumb in multiplayer…).

        • GaryX says:

          Yeah, but that was the point. You turned big head mode on if you basically wanted to play the Mario Kart version of Goldeneye (ie, pretty much anyone can win at any random time).

        • SpurtVonnegut says:

           Excuse me GaryX, Mario Kart requires talent.

          I might be mixing up talent with sadism again, though.

        • ApesMa says:

          They level the playing field a lot because a party game where the guy who owns it always wins and the rookie guests always lose would suck, but if you think this makes skill irrelevant you haven’t played much Mario Kart.

    • saabmanlutz says:

      Big Head mode should be mandatory in all games.

  8. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    It’s a common misunderstanding that the somewhat singular usage of weapon arms seems silly in light of the myriad mundane activities one relinquishes in trade.
       Last year, after I had my arms blown off at the culmination of an ironic R.C. Cola binge, I awoke to a Dr. Kummelweck informing me I was to be restored by the graces of a mysterious benefactor, the Z3R0 Corporation.
       He told me my lost limbs were going to be replaced with twin psi-carbon synch blades and an aberant fusion necro-cannon.  He said I would receive just the basic models, but they could be upgraded via Nexus slates Z3R0 had secreted around the city.  As to why they just didn’t upgrade everything on the spot was never clarified.
       But I was all like, “Hold on, Fritz.  I don’t want sword arms.  I sit at a desk all day behind a computer, I’m fifteen pounds overweight and will certainly not be performing any back flip decapitations.  I threw out my back picking a puzzle piece off the floor, for gods sake.”
       So instead I got a Wacom stylus installed, a condiment stabilizer so the relish doesn’t always fall out of my hot dog, and one of those moistening pads on my fingertip so turning book pages is a breeze.
       But the funny thing about becoming trans-human is it’s a lot similar to buying a certain model car.  All of the sudden, where you never did before, you’re seeing Honda Fit’s everywhere you go.
       Now I have this General Marut and his G.I.L.G.A.M.E.S.H. Legion tracking me everywhere.  It’s once or twice a week I wish I had that damn NECCO cannon, or whatever the hell it was.
       I found one Nexus Slate, so I can balance up to three condiments, but it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference since Marut has his troops stationed outside every Chicago Beef place anywhere close to my house.  And they all have these giant impervious blast shields and I think you have to get behind them somehow to… Well, it doesn’t matter.
       What does matter, apparently, is knowing that if demons bought your organs, Objectivists tinkered with your DNA or you’re in a chummy terrorist cell alongside a talking lion who can summon world-spanning monsters from a marble, sword hands are more useful than not.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I’ve always actually kind of wanted some kind of cyber arm, not for decapitating hordes of faceless punchclock goons or anything, just for convenience. Imagine if your index finger could eject the front door key to your house, or if your thumb had like a USB stick in it, or you had a watch permanently installed onto your wrist? I mean yeah, you’d never get through another metal detector so long as you lived, but you’d have a rocket propulsion system in your legs, so it wouldn’t even matter.

  9. Kilzor says:

    Oooh, can we count the cutting off of the middle finger in “Assassin’s Creed” to accommodate the hidden blade as an inconvenient body modification?  Imagine all those times some jerk could be riding the bumper of your horse and cart and you would want to express your outrage with a hand gesture but couldn’t?  Totally inconvenient.

    • Cheese says:

       They cut off the ring finger. Altair is still flipping the bird all over the holy land, he just can’t make an honest woman out of Maria.

      I know too much about Assassin’s Creed lore.

      • Kilzor says:

        Don’t worry, according to the fan fiction I’ve read, Altair has plenty of other places he can put rings on for Maria.  And…I’ll see myself out.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Does anyone else think it would be pretty stupid to make any body modification to yourself that would clearly identify you as part of the secret society that relies on stealth and catching people off guard? I mean, the bad guys are always yelling, “Look! Assassin!” anyhow, but it seems like they’d just go: “Oh, hey, look, that guy’s missing his ring finger. Let’s kill him.”

  10. PaganPoet says:

    What about Gizmo Duck from Duck Tales? I can’t imagine how having to balance on a single, motorized wheel would be preferable to legs.

  11. The Guilty Party says:

    Wait, what? His wife? His wife is this sort of weird metal prehensile cable thing? What?

    Anyone want to hop in here and explain this one?

    • Pgoodso says:

      Basically, the game’s antagonist reveals in the final minutes of the game that the protagonist’s wife, who has been missing, was actually killed, had her brain harvested, then inserted into his bionic arm during its initial construction, because bionic arms have to love the the people they’re attached to to work.

      No, this is not a joke by me, or by the game designers.Not meant to be one, anyways.

      • Girard says:

        Wow. That is some Evangelion-level anime-style bullshit!

        • Asinus says:

          It makes way more sense in NGE, though. Big, complex bio-mechanical robots with whom the pilots have to connect on a neurological level? Okay. Yeah, they might have to like one another. But a fancy grappling hook has to love you? In this future, do all of your tools an appliances have to have some level of affection for you? Say, if the TV is disappointed in your performance at school it won’t let your XBox1440 display its output? God, and then the XBox would get mad at the TV, so I guess all of your electronics that have to work together have to have affinity. 

          “Excuse me, is this video card compatible with my computer?”

          “Mechanically and electronically, yes… however, there has just been racial animosity between the brands for decades– don’t expect much if you try.”

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Nah, way worse.  There have been hundreds of video games that have riffed on Neo Genesis Evangelion, to their success.  The wife-arm thing was the final nail in the coffin of that series.  (The last game started development before it was released, and was passed off when GRIN died.)  It’d be like if Professor Layton And The Legacy Of Super Civilization A ended with the revelation that Luke is actually a member of this alien race AND Layton’s son AND that they were exiled because Layton, a non-Earthling (which explains his head ), fell in love with an Earthling, violating their sacred order.

        • Girard says:

          @GhaleonQ:disqus : The funniest thing is that your ludicrous ending scenario for Professor Layton is not really any different from the fundamental underlying premise of the entirety of Dragon Ball Z…

  12. Girard says:

    Okay. Reading the phrase “Arm made out of wife” broke my brain.

    sdafm bvcbireoitrm osmbsopd,x;, fglk

    • doyourealize says:

      Yeah, not sure how they named the entry that, and then included a spoiler alert in the text below about how his arm was made out of his wife. 

    • Raging Bear says:

      It made my brain giggle like a foolish child. A dozen likes to the author of that line.

    • GaryX says:

      Well, God made the first wife out of a rib.


      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

         Second wife.  Lillith was a dirt-girl, if I remember right.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          I had a children’s book about Genesis that portrayed God as annoyed with things not going well, that also referenced Lilith.  I had no idea that was a real thing until much later.

        • Girard says:

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus : You had a children’s book about Genesis that had weird apocryphal heterodox elements in it? That sounds really weird and kind of cool – do you remember what it was called?

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus  – CRAP, I don’t remember, no.  I’m trying to look it up now.

          IIRC, it had God working in tandem with one or two naked cherub angels to create the Earth, and they created unicorns and dragons and other “fantasy” creatures, that God got annoyed about and destroyed.  I also seem to recall Lilith being an ape being in love with Adam, and him freaking out and running away from her.

    • I was certain it was a typo. “Surely they meant to say ‘arm made out of wire,’ I thought to myself.” Then I read the description, and shook my head.

  13. So I could’ve taken Barret on a date instead of Tifa?  Interesting…

  14. missmoxie says:

    I thought having a tattoo on the back of my tooth was pretty edgy….

  15. Everlasting_Godstabber says:

    The Binding of Isaac — isn’t there an item that turns you into a floating head while your body goes full-on berserk? Plus a whole bunch of other things?

  16. Vervack says:

    Just wanted to toss two more up here:

    For the double whammy of biological AND technological modification, we have the supersoldiers (or “D-codes”) from Prototype. They’re the brainchild of Blackwatch, the organization that has spent the past fifty years both protecting America from deadly viruses and figuring out ways to make those viruses a billion times deadlier. To become a supersoldier, they inject you with one of the few variants of the virus that doesn’t turn people into zombies/masses of throbbing tumors, but which just makes their bones and muscles really really big. During the three weeks this process takes, you are subjected to repeated surgical procedures to install skeletal supports and armor plating around your muscle tissue. When it’s finished you end up as a gorilla-sized man who requires a live-in tailor, can only travel by clinging onto the side of a helicopter, and has to wear a toaster on his face all the live-long day. On the plus side, you can caber-toss tactical ballistic missiles and win fistfights against Humvees, so it’s not all bad.

    Of course, if body modification is more your speed, then there’s the Oro, the evil cult from the Condemned games, who gain the ability to use sonic waves to create madness in others through the use of a number of implants (made from a metal unknown to modern science, naturally) that are installed everywhere in the body, with partial replacement of the spine, larynx and trachea, and lower jaw. It actually works out great when you’re hiding in the rafters and urging the crackheads to go at one another, but if you ever get cornered by an irate FBI agent with the physical strength and foul temper of a Kodiak bear, the results are…tragic.

  17. Rio max says:

    Hey , the workers from Pancheae installation from DeusEx :Human Revolution surely should be here. Either welder or pliers or screwdriver or hammer instead of hand . “Augmented” , yes.