Gamer’s Birdwatching Guide Issue 1

I’m Watch Da Birdie and this is Gamer’s Birdwatching Guide, a reoccurring segment on my blog where I talk about birds in gaming! I hope to eventually make this the most comprehensive guide to videogame birds available—then again, I doubt anyone has ever done this.

Each post will introduce three gaming birds from various series—no bird Pokemon though since I already covered them in-depth—and I’ll give my thoughts on them as well as bits of trivia and such. I’ll also tell you their status, as some gaming birds are doing quite well, others appear only now and then, and some of them are deader than the dodo. I won’t be covering every instance of a bird in gaming, obviously, just birds that are notable and aren’t just a random background bird that are common in modern, realistic games.

Finally each post will end with a “migratory gaming bird”—a bird that has appeared in a game but originates from another media such as a cartoon or anime.

coo

Coo
Species: Owl
First sighted: Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (1995; Game Boy)
Status: Critically endangered

Released in 1995 Kirby’s Dream Land 2 gave Kirby three new Animal Friends, since that was all the rage at the time, in the form of Rick the Hamster, Kine the Fish, and Coo the Owl.

Though Kirby is capable of unlimited flight already in Dream Land 2, Coo proved to be far faster than the pink puffball and made mid-air navigation easier since Kirby was rather floaty and quite vulnerable when in the air as he couldn’t inhale. With Coo, though, Kirby can inhale enemies in the air. Furthermore Kirby would gain new variations of his Copy Ability when paired with an Animal Friend, such as Coo + Burning turning the pair into a flaming meteor and Coo + Spark causing a giant bolt of lightning to strike unsuspecting foes. Coo reappeared in Kirby’s Dream Land 3 working much the same way, with a new Copy Ability combination in Clean that turned him into a feather duster.

Unfortunately following Kirby’s Dream Land 3 Coo, and the Animal Friends in general, were basically written out of the series—the original three make quick cameos here and there, the most prominent recently being in Triple Deluxe’s Kirby Fighters Z mini-game, but the others have disappeared. The Super Star formula that the modern games use give Kirby a ton of versatility as it is, thus rendering the Animal Friends redundant.

Birdie’s Notes: I got into the Dream Land series with 3 so I always found Pitch to be the cooler bird-based Animal Friend, but Coo was equally sweet since quickly flying around is always pretty fun in games. The Burning, Lightning, and Parasol Ability combination attacks are his coolest, the rest, especially Needle and Stone, aren’t anything special though.

toki

Toki Tori
Species: Chicken
First sighted: Toki Tori (2001; Game Boy Color)
Status: Making a comeback

Toki Tori is the star of the 2001 Game Boy Color game of the same name published by Capcom and developed by Two Tribes. A lot of gamers overlooked this puzzle-platformer due to being by an unknown developer and coming out when the Game Boy Advance had hit the scene, but it may be the best case of “don’t judge a book by its cover” among gaming—it’s apparently a very good game. It’s been ported to a variety of systems now with updated graphics, but the original is available on the 3DS Virtual Console.

Toki Tori (phonetically similar to how you’d say “Time Bird” in Japanese, but coincidental according to the developers) is a young chicken who sets out to rescue his unhatched siblings after they’re swept away. Despite being just a chicken, he gains all sorts of unique items to use as he journeys to rescue the eggs such as a freeze ray and a bridge-building machine. He can also teleport too. The gimmick of the game is each level limits how many times you can use the items you’re given for that level, so careful thinking is necessary or you can render a level unwinnable.

Toki Tori is a spiritual sequel to Eggbert, also a puzzle game starring a chicken, for the MSX 2 released by developer Fony—staff from that company later went on form Two Tribes. A sequel, Toki Tori 2, was recently released for the Wii-U, PC, and PS4 and received positive reviews for being just as charming and challenging as the original. Check out this video of Game Maker’s Toolkit by Mark Brown showing how the game may be one of the best designed Metroidvania titles:

Birdie’s Notes: I saw Toki Tori all the time at game stores when it first came out and had no interest in it—and when all those remakes were being released a couple of years ago I thought it was some cheap mobile title. I was very surprised to discover it was actually a good game, and I really need to get around to playing the original on the 3DS and the sequel on the Wii U. I’m not too skilled at puzzle games, though, but I should give them a shot.

epsiloneagle

Epsilon Eagle
Species: Artificial Parasitic Eagle
First sighted: Alien Soldier (1995; Mega Drive)
Status: Deader than the dodo

At the end of the Mega Drive’s life cycle, and the 16-bit generation in general, Treasure producer Hideyuki Suganami went crazy and decided to create the ultimate Mega Drive game that would surpass Gunstar Heroes. The result was Alien Soldier, a fast-paced action shooter that’s like nothing else. Suganami wasn’t able to meet his vision completely, and ended up requiring help as the deadline approached, but the game still turned out pretty great all things considered.

Epsilon Eagle is the protagonist of the game, the titular alien soldier. So, Suganami apparently had a lot of ideas when it came to the plot of this game but ultimately the plot ended up being restricted to a bizarre summary given at the beginning of the game which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Epsilon Eagle is a genetically altered parasitic being who is the leader of a terrorist organization known as Scarlet who is oppressing “A-Humans” on “A-Earth”. During a battle with rebels Epsilon Eagle is thrown into the time-space continuum allowing Xi-Tiger to rise as the new leader of Scarlet.

Anyway turns out Xi-Tiger is way worse than Epsilon Eagle so everyone wants him back. Epsilon was living within the body of a boy with psychic powers and the two end up merging (“A Bird-Man with steel wings took over the boy’s will”) creating a “good Epsilon”, though a “bad Epsilon” is also split off at the same time or something. Both want to kill Xi-Tiger. Yeah, the plot is pretty bizarre and I don’t know if it would’ve been any better had Suganami finished it, but nobody really cares though as the game is pretty sweet.

Epsilon has a ton of abilities such as being able to double jump, hover in air, switch gravity, utilize six different weapons in both fixed-fire and free-moving styles, counter bullets and turn them into health, and use “Phoenix Force” to blaze across the screen. You’re gonna need to master these as the game is all about taking down tons of tough bosses! Japan and PAL got this game back in the day, but us Americans could only get it through the limited “Sega Channel” online distribution service which I never heard of when I was a kid. Thankfully it’s available everywhere for the Wii’s Virtual Console and is also on Steam.

Birdie’s Notes: This guy is such a crazy looking character who has equally crazy abilities. I’ve never played Alien Soldier myself but discovered him a few years ago when looking through Sega characters while thinking of ideas for what a Sega-based Smash Brothers would be like. Needless to say, though he isn’t first-party, this guy would have to be included. Everyone in this game sounds like a rejected Mega Man X villain though.

petshop

Migratory Bird – Pet Shop
Species: Falcon
Originated in: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders (Manga – 1989)
First sighted: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future (1999 ;Arcade)
Status: Making a comeback

A few years ago JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was a somewhat obscure manga series that had a strong cult following in certain circles, but to the mainstream audience outside of Japan it was virtually unknown. Viz’s attempts to localize the series, starting with Part 3: Stardust Crusaders, never quite took off and it wasn’t till the anime series began to air in 2012 that the franchise took off globally and now you can’t go a day without seeing it referenced on social media. I’ve been a fan of JoJo since reading the entire series (at the time Parts 1 through 6) back around 2008 so seeing it so popular now is kind of weird, much like how I feel being a long time Pokemon fan and seeing the Pokemon Go craze bring it back to the spotlight.

But before the anime began to air outside of Japan, and before even the manga was localized, Capcom created a cult classic arcade fighter based on Part 3: Stardust Crusaders known as simply JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, though originally the English version of the arcade game went by the name JoJo’s Venture. An updated version with additional characters known as Heritage for the Future was later created in 1999 and ported to the PlayStation and Dreamcast, where many North American players first played the game and experienced the JoJo franchise—if they even knew it was based on a comic book. I had no clue about JoJo back in 2000 when the game was released and remember seeing it in a magazine, my first thought when hearing “JoJo” at the time was that old Disney show JoJo’s Circus. I never saw that game anywhere outside of the magazine so never played it for myself until it was re-released in 2012 for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

Pet Shop (or Animal Shop, as he’s now called in the localized anime) was added to Heritage of the Future and is one of the oddest fighting game characters ever since he’s basically a normal bird in appearance and form allowing him to fly around the stage without an issue, but thanks to the power of his Stand (basically his super-powered summon spirit) Horus he can bombard the opponent with powerful ice crystals. He’s considered the most broken character in the game—possibly in any Capcom fighter ever—due to how easy it is to win with him without needing to even understand the complexities of the game. He’s hard to hit and can hit hard with ease, his ice crystals trapping the opponent in infinite combos. Any official tournament will ban him, and using him will earn you some nasty looks from your friends.

2012 saw the release of the first major JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure game (there were two forgettable titles released earlier based on Part 5 and Part 1, but nobody talks about them) known as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle for the PS3 by CyberConnect 2. The game contains a ton of fanservice to the JoJo franchise, featuring characters from every single part of the manga, but Pet Shop was absent from the roster. Though a fighting game in theory, compared to the classic Capcom fighter All Star Battle was more style over substance so Pet Shop’s crazy brokeness would’ve fit right in. 2015 saw a pseudo-sequel of sorts in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven which changed gears to a rather funky arena fighter while bringing back almost everyone from the original plus a few new characters, a lot of them from Part 3, the most popular part globally. This included Pet Shop (now known as Animal Shop outside of Japan due to copyright) who basically plays like he does in his classic appearance, flying all around the stage and shooting icicles, but the game lacks any particular depth and isn’t tournament-ready by any means so it’s not as noticeable.

So if you haven’t read the manga or watched the anime adaptation, Pet Shop is the loyal pet of Dio, an immortal vampire who serves as the main antagonist of Part 1 and Part 3 and influences every Part in some fashion. Part 3 introduces the concept of Stands, basically summons that grant the user special powers, and while these get extremely bizarre and abstract as the series continues Part 3’s Stands were mainly simple powers such as “punch really fast”, or control over an element. Pet Shop controlled ice and proved to be extremely lethal, animals with Stands being implied to have increased intelligence in addition to their heightened animal senses, and may have defeated the entire main cast like his “what-if” ending in Heritage of the Future shows. Thankfully the unlikeliest member of the Stardust Crusaders, Iggy the dog, managed to defeat him before that happened with his sand-based Stand The Fool. But Pet Shop put up one hell of the fight and may be the fiercest Stand user in the franchise.

Birdie’s Notes: Stardust Crusaders is actually rather humorous, with most of the enemies the heroes face ending up being embarrassed and suffering darkly-funny injuries. Pet Shop is unique in that there’s nothing comical about him and even when Iggy wins the sense of “yeah, the heroes won!” is basically nowhere to be found as Iggy is pretty beaten up. It’s definitely the highest point of Stardust Crusaders possibly outside of the climax with Dio. Anyway, I’m not a good fighting game player but I can tell when a character is overpowered and just watching videos of Pet Shop in Heritage of the Future get that point across. I was a bit upset to see him in Eyes of Heaven as that game had far too many minor Part 3 characters included at the cost of more deserving characters from other parts such as Abbacchio from Part 5 and Foo Fighters from Part 6, who were major allies instead of a one-shot foe.

Happy birdwatching, gamers!

-Birdie <<(*>*)

 

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