Obscure Observations: Parasitic Twins
Metroid: Zero Mission, released by Nintendo for the GameBoy Advance in 2004, is a title that rarely needs a formal introduction. It retold and revamped the original 1986 NES game by introducing graphics, controls, powers, and storytelling in a manner highly reminiscent of Super Metroid. It payed homage to several games in the series while still managing to stamp its own unique fingerprint on the Metroid canon. Needless to say, the game was a huge hit.
But I’m not here to talk about popularity today. I’m here to talk about bugs.
Yeah, these little shits.
The insects crawling all over Samus in the above image are what Wikitroid refers to as Unidentified Life Form (ULF) 68, also known as bomb parasites. These petite creatures generally appear in groups of 4-10 and are immune to fire and acid, making them essentially Zebesian cockroaches. Not much information is given about them, but as one plays through the game, we quickly discover that they’re an essential (yet somewhat annoying) component of Zero Mission.
You see, bomb parasites are only thing that can successfully destroy a geron. Yes, Samus can shinespark through walls and destroy rocks with a single laser blast, but she can’t seem to get around… …. …whatever the hell geron are. Wikitroid describes them as “some sort of X biomass,” so we’ll go with that. Regardless, they notoriously block important paths and cannot be destroyed by any of Samus’ weapons, so we must rely instead on the parasites to murder them for us.
So if the bomb parasites are helpful, then what makes them annoying? Well, if Samus is wearing anything less than a Varia power suit, bomb parasites aren’t always so helpful; as a matter of fact, they’re hurtful in groups of 4 or more, and the only way to dislodge them is to kill them with bombs or leave the current room. They may not be a major obstacle, but they can still be irritating — especially if you happen to be low on health and get covered in insects unexpectedly.
If you’re wondering why I’m putting this much emphasis on such a small element in the game, it’s because I recently discovered that someone actually did fanart of them. Just the other day I was browsing DeviantART and found some really interesting artwork of the bomb parasites attacking a geron!
And now that you’ve seen that image and feel sufficiently impressed with it, I’m going to tell you that I lied. That’s not fanart at all; it’s actually a still from the game Illbleed. (Come on, the fact that I didn’t mention an artist name or provide a link should’ve been a dead giveaway.)
It turns out that Illbleed, a comedy-horror game published by Sega in 2001, contained a very similar breed of insect. These wood-eating bugs are known as wudolla, and are described in-game as having a “voracious appetite for withered trees.” This strikes me as especially interesting because, at the time that the wudolla appear, the player character has been transformed into a wood puppet. It would seem counter-intuitive for a person made of wood to pick up wood-eating insects, but oddly enough the wudolla are not an enemy at all and never harm the player. (This stands in awkward contrast to the bomb parasites, which apparently eat bio-mass but still attack Samus through her, er, metal power suit. Somehow.)
The wudolla’s function in Illbleed isn’t far off from that of the bomb parasites in Zero Mission; that is, they eat away at a gnarled, organic structure stretching from floor to ceiling, with the result of opening a blocked path. Even though the wudolla only appear for one small moment of Illbleed, the parallels are still pretty striking.
Given that Sega has a history of being a step or two behind the gaming industry from time to time, I had initially wondered if they’d drawn inspiration from one of their competition’s popular titles, but Illbleed predates Zero Mission by a good three years. Might it actually be the other way around, and Nintendo could have used Sega’s concept as a springboard to expand upon the Metroid universe? I suppose no one can really say for sure (since I can’t imagine anyone at Nintendo admitting to that even if it were true), but it’d definitely be a fun fact to present to fanboys that insist Sega has no originality.
Obligatory Legal Crap
Illbleed and the wudolla are the property of Sega. Metroid: Zero Mission, geron, Samus, and all other Metroid-related elements are the property of Nintendo. I suppose it’s arguable based on the similarities that Sega could possibly claim copyright infringement over the bomb parasites/ULF68, but if they’re not even bothering with Ken Penders, I highly doubt they’d bother with this.
Posted on May 30, 2014, in Analysis, Game Characters, Journalism, Obscure Observations, Retro Games, Video Games and tagged bomb parasites, geron, Illbleed, Metroid, Metroid: Zero Mission, Nintendo, Sega, ULF68, wudolla. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.