1. Bewarewolf, Dragon Quest IX (2010)
Portmanteaus—words formed by combining two words into one—proliferate in video games in part because they proliferate in Japanese. A common Japanese term for a digital camera is dejikame, just like a personal computer is a pasokon. This penchant for borrowing and recombining words form other languages (mostly English) has given rise to plenty of groan-inducing wordplay in video games. Since we’re no strangers to groan-inducing wordplay here at Gameological, we’ve taken notice. The Bewarewolf in the role-playing game Dragon Quest IX is a typical example. The strained pun recasts a reasonably frightening werewolf as a neutered shadow of itself. The fearsomeness of a creature named Bewarewolf clocks in somewhere around the level of “yapping neighborhood dog.” The game also features a stronger variety of Bewarewolf known as the Scarewolf, which is a reasonably good rhyme, if a bit obvious. But then the strongest wolf of all in Dragon Quest IX is the Tearwolf. Sorry, no. Step away from the dictionary, Dragon Quest.
2. Drivatar, Forza Motorsport 5 (upcoming)
Not every regrettable portmanteau is the product of Japanese studios. Video game marketing departments in this hemisphere regularly wage war on their hated enemy, the English language. At Microsoft’s E3 press event this year, a producer of Forza Motorsport 5 took the stage to demonstrate a new feature for the game’s multiplayer mode. Forza 5 uses Microsoft’s network of not-NSA-like-at-all servers to observe your behavior when you play, and it uses this data to create an artificial-intelligence clone that emulates your driving tendencies. When you’re not around, friends can race against your clone avatar, and it’s just like you’re there instead of doing something else with your life like some sort of selfish non-Forza-playing asshole. The true-to-life avatar technology has the potential to be a monumental breakthrough in artificial intelligence, so what name did Microsoft slap on it? That’s right, Drivatar™®©, the brand name that practically begs message-board trolls to add a letter at the end as they declare that the XBONE SUCKS! The Forza team must be so proud.
3. Angewomon, Digimon series
Games’ most prolific dungeon of tortured portmanteaus is most assuredly the long-running pet-raising series Digimon. Every creature in the menagerie of hundreds has its name painfully welded to the suffix “mon,” just in case you forget they’re all digital monsters. The result is often a twisted wreckage of language. Take Angewomon, which is an angel-woman-monster. Figure out how to pronounce it, and you’ve got perfect shorthand for capturing every source of straight teen male existential angst at once. But in the game, Angewomon is depicted as a kind of faceless bondage fairy, which…is pretty much the same thing. So it’s still a horrible word, but at least it’s consistently applied.
4. Cabbage-pult, Plants Vs. Zombies (2009)
Plants vs. Zombies is stuffed with more puns than a chile relleno stuffed with puns. They’re the lowest common denominator of comedy, and PopCap knows how to cast a wide net. For the most part, these are benign plays on the botany-meets-tower-defense theme—pea shooters, wall nuts, cherry bombs. It’s only toward the end of the fourth stage where audible sighs transition into eye rolls at the introduction of the Cabbage-pult. It’s a cabbage. It’s a catapult. What more could you need to know? The truly terrifying part, though, is that this anthropomorphic cabbage seems to be continuously lobbing slightly smaller cabbages at the enemy. That’s like Mario throwing tiny Marios instead of fireballs.
5. Victreebel, Pokémon series (1998-present)
Considering how fearsome Victreebel is, this plant pokémon is the doofiest looking of the original 150 monsters. The team in charge of localizing Pokémon was apparently so in awe of Victreebel’s power that they felt compelled to name it in honor of victory, the most important concept in Pokémon—after obsessive monster hoarding and trafficking. Given its rotund, bell-like figure, “Victorybell” would have been perfectly fine. (Read: acceptably bad.) But no, the crack team decided to take its name a step forward and stick “tree,” in there, because Victreebel is a grass-type pokémon, and trees are like grass. This tortured double portmanteau then forced the team into a tighter spot, as the 10-character limit on pokémon names meant they had to misspell “bell” to squeeze everything in there. Victreebel’s two younger forms, Bellsprout and Weepinbell, maintain the proper spelling, as they are not saddled with the wounds of a thousand misbegotten puns. In the video above, you see that even Victreebel can’t utter its own name—pretty much a baseline skill for pokémon—presumably out of shame.
6. Escargoon, Kirby: Right Back At Ya! (TV series, 2002-2005)
It’s tough to find good help these days, but the greedy and narcissistic King Dedede managed to find himself a right-hand snail who is as snide and conniving as the king himself—and is also one of the most intriguing characters in the Kirby games’ animated TV spinoff, Right Back At Ya! Escargoon’s name tells us that he is a snail (escargot) who is also a lackey (goon), but Escargoon shows more heart and gumption throughout the series than most of the good guys. His speech and mannerisms seem to be descended from Paul Lynde, which helps maintain his charm. He’s often dancing and singing when he thinks no one is watching, dreaming of the day that he gets to be king and wear a fancy crown.
7. Gloomerang, Kid Icarus: Uprising (2012)
Kid Icarus: Uprising is a game of grandiose mythology and false perceptions. A hovering beast from the Underworld, the Gloomerang wears a large metal mask to shield its true visage. Like a hockey goalie shuffling in place and singing “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” the “gloomy” creature is both terrifying and somewhat sad. Poor Gloomerang. It probably just needs someone to talk to on the swing-set. Like most emo kids, though, the Gloomerang lashes out when players get too close, throwing its bladed mask like a boomerang (duh). The poor thing doesn’t realize that—without its mask to hide behind—it’s now completely vulnerable, both emotionally and physically. It could be worse, though. Gloomerang’s names in other regions, according to the character’s official info card (sold separately), include “Bummrangler” and “Lamerango.” Those sound like taunts you’d hear on the junior-high school bus. At least Gloomerang has a certain glum dignity.
8. Remembrane, Remember Me (2013)
In the future, everything we see and feel is uploaded to the internet, and everything is a portmanteau. At least, that’s the vision of Remember Me, a cyberpunk adventure from Capcom and the French game studio Dontnod. In the game’s world, most of the population has adopted a brain implant called a Sensen (Sensation Engine), which can capture all of a person’s memories and share them on the web. The Sensen can also create “remembranes,” holographic projections of other people’s memories—that you’ve downloaded into your implant—into your reality. The “membrane” half of remembrane is a stretch. Perhaps it refers to the layer of staticky augmented reality the Sensen projects atop the world around you when a remembrane is activated. Either way, it’s a dumb name, and no company would ever—what’s that? There’s a real biotech company named Remembrane? The future is here.