Written by Jonathan Wojcik
The Meta-Beings of Baroque
I guess this year we're aiming for "quality over quantity" with these articles, and restricting them even less to "Halloween" than usual; kind of more like a Bogleech article marathon, leaning just a little towards extra-spooky subject matter. Things should get even spookinger as we get closer to October, but for now, I guess we're just doing a lot of retrospectives on eerie toys and gaming monsters.
Today's sampling? The bestiary of Baroque, a highly unusual action-RPG originally released on the Sega Saturn in 1998 and remade for the Playstation 2 and Wii ten years later. Taking place in a far-flung future, the game pits a nameless amnesiac against hordes of weirdos in an ever-changing tower, and by weirdos I mean pretty damn weird for supposedly being ex-humans. The whole thing takes place after something called "The Blaze" exterminated most life on Earth, with only a small number of humans surviving by taking on "idealized" new forms. Unfortunately, most of these new beings went mad as a hatter whose hat is an entire other hatter, and came out looking twice as absurd as that would be, to boot, corrupting over time into even more grotesque and violent monstrosities. Sweet! This is one of those games whose official website was kind enough to include a complete monster gallery, and if you know some more dark horror games with full rosters I could browse through, feel free to make suggestions!
You'll notice that each monster in Baroque matches up with a tarot card. Hungones - apparently both singular and plural - represents The Hanged Man, of course. I like this idea of a monster who crawls around upside-down from a bunch of spidery legs where just one foot was supposed to be. You'll also notice his head has been transplanted to his stomach, and the tubular fingers are where he emits his paralyzing toxic gas.
I always enjoy things with huge heads, and Jerryrom's giant head is especially unsettling with its resemblance to a sleepy, cartoon moon and the doll-body just sort of dangling from a bunch of strands. Monsters that just explode are always fun, even if they also come across like nobody on the team was entirely sure what to do with a big, round monster design.
This is one of the most "normal" looking meta-beings, and it's still a guy with a fleshless spinal column, multiple hooved legs and a warty, spider-like abdomen for an ass.
The old "creepy Joker monster that emerges from a giant playing card" routine, huh? I really have seen it a dozen times by now, but I guess it's always a fun concept. I like how it has kind of a circuitry theme to it, even though it apparently just stabs you with a knife. That's a little anticlimactic, isn't it? You're telling me this three-dimensional monster can warp in and out of a two-dimensional space and all it does is shiv you? It's almost insulting. I bet Magician has all kinds of weird powers and just thinks this is really funny.
So its body looks like a flying coffin, it has a creepy angel-halo doo-dad, its left arm has Kreuger claws and its right arm controls a gigantic, flying switchblade scythe. This is possibly one of the most melodramatic monsters to ever be named "Death," and that is saying a lot. That's not even a criticism. When you're just called "death" you are obligated to be as corny as possible, and this one goes so far into absurdity that it loops back around into completely terrifying...not that those two things were ever mutually exclusive.
Bubugel is one of the creepiest looking meta beings, just a big disgusting alien baby-face in a rusty metal frame, apparently only functioning as some sort of slowly moving death-wall. Weren't these things, like, forms people took based on the innermost desires of their soul or something? Who wanted to be a giant baby face door?
I believe this is one of the big bosses, but I could be wrong. Tabula Smaragdina is some sort of clock monster with orbiting runes, though it represents "coins." At first glance, I thought its little circular face had a goofy smile, but on closer inspection, it's both frowning and crying blood, my bad. Doesn't "Tabula Smaragdina" sound a little like something someonewould say in a mocking, dismissive tone? Like when someone's all "danger schmanger!" or "rules schmules!" Before doing something incredibly stupid and hazardous. Tabula schmaragdina!! I'm not afraid of a SAD CLOCK!!!
So this big stone and metal goof has a "top like" body and "snake like" arms but its speciality is attacking with an "ice spear?" Huh. I wouldn't have guessed.
This floating fish monster is one of the few meta-beings without a single human-like feature, and the only one that just looks like some sort of animal. Not much to say, except you can never really go wrong with an air-fish. Why this is "The Moon," I have no idea, except I guess a fish looks a little like a crescent, or something.
Another "newly discovered" one? Another boss I think? Pretty menacing, from its name to its thorny fish-skeleton tail. If anyone's actually played this game, I'd love to know more about what these unique meta-beings actually do.
That is the most adorable name out of all these things. Galgal-tank-joe! And he looks so happy riding around on his motorcycle lawnmower tank crotch, too. He kind of looks like a really fat, skinless Admiral Ackbar crossed with a termite. Interesting how he apparently fires from the cannon on the back of his head. Does Joe drive backwards, or does his whole head twist around?
We're getting into the even weirder ones here; this is just two people and a big pair of robot appendages all bound together with caution tape. Like me, they also confuse people with their "disturbing voice." Sorry, may confuse people.
Hana-nip is funnier the longer I think about him. He just toddles along on his arms and his one big wheel, clanging his symbols together. How does that "attack?" Is it like a soundwave thing? I haven't seen him in action. Maybe he's just so annoying that it literally wounds you.
You have to love this little guy. Those huge teeth and goggle-like eyes have so much personality, this is a meta-being that actually appears to feel something other than angst and misery, for once, and who wouldn't have the time of their life with a bouncy-tail instead of legs? Best of all, this is the game's token item-thieving enemy; those are pretty much obligated to be a game's most rambunctious little punks.
Those metal framework mannequins are naturally so creepy I'm surprised I don't see a whole lot more monsters modeled after them. Or-huganous adds almost nothing but some spikes and electrical powers.
Simple, but pretty cool. I always enjoy a good "bloated gas bag" character, and I've seldom seen any that were ladies, even if I've seen plenty that were humanoids with breathing apparatuses. I'm glad someone's innermost dream was to be roughly ball-shaped and blind people by farting at them. I can really root for this woman's priorities.
Come on, Manas, you're practically a ripoff of every other meta-being. Maleficia did the giant, dangling spinal column thing with way more pizazz, and we've got other guys with spinning daggers and multiple faces, too. Apparently you're "wands?" I'm not seeing it. I can even see the "coins" in Tabula more easily.
You know, I'm beginning to think the names of these don't necessarily mean anything.
"Cups?" This is all they came up with? As far as meta-beings go, these "special" ones are ironically the most mundane.
What in the world is a "Cocteau?" Did they mean "Cocktail head?" It's a pretty fun design, in any case; where its head should be is a tank of some weird slime, which its various tubes blow into the bubbles forming its limbs and body, as well as housing its actual head. Its actual, tiny, bald, floating man-head. I like how the whole setup looks like a detached, floating shower, complete with a drain. A bubble monster has seldom been this intimidating.
Another one that's actually two beings, with two names, but with one of the grodiest designs yet, almost like a big floating heart, and at a distance, those two angelic little faces come across more like bulging eyes. I'm going to guess the "large mouth" opens up between those giant, interlocking hands, but I still can't quite picture it. Maybe one of these days I'll bother watching a playthrough.
I love this concept of a multi-headed turtle like monster that rolls around like a big wheel, and attacks with its tongue. Kato would be weird and cool enough all on its own, but it also produces adorable little tiny buggy pals named "Glue!" Having this ridiculous thing spit bugs as an attack is basically the one and only thing they could have done to endear me even more, and apparently they're meta-beings themselves, so does that mean Glue used to be humans? Humans who apparently wanted to be mites inside a five-headed rolling turtle man?
Oh man, there is so much going on here, and I love all of it. I love Soconpo's giant stomach eye, his creepy little gothic scarecrow head, his bow tie, his carousel-like body plan and especially the disturbing frog-like heads on his shoulders, which "spew forth a mysterious liquid." How mysterious are we talking, exactly? Is that what makes it dangerous? Not fully understanding what kind of liquid it is? I guess that'd unsettle me quite a bit, though I'd probably be a little preoccupied by the giant metal weights ramming into my bones.
This is a really cool one, you can't go wrong with radially symmetrical monsters. Sun has a terrifying, lamprey-like maw on its underbelly, legs like human fingers and eyes for knuckles, its unsettling sun/moon face seemingly just decoration. The idea that this thing hangs out in its own snot-web and just laser-blasts intruders presents a pretty awesome visual, it's just the kind of security system I wish I could set up myself.
I'm not sure what they mean by "root like" lower body. There is definitely a lot more going on here than what could be described as "root like." Liar is like some sort of big, slithering mollusk with a false female torso on the end of a stalk, maybe used for luring the kinds of prey that appreciate boobs so much they don't even notice the giant tentacle-slug attached to them, or if they're like me, just consider it a bonus.
My favorite of the whole bunch, Sin-monis is easily one of the most alien looking meta-beings, with a head like a rotten mushroom and over half a dozen insect-like feet emerging from a body of slimy, dangling skin-sacs. The best part, however, is the trumpet-like energy-draining mouth. Of course the design I like best also happens to be parasitic. A parasitic mushroom-seahorse-bug-tumor man. As tempting as it is to be a beehive turtle, I'm pretty sure this is the meta-being for me.
We've gone through the entire "enemies" selection, but there's still many other odd beings in this game. The storyline behind them is pretty fascinating, but we'll just leave this at the enemies and bosses...and a warning not to trust these little bastards, here. The Littles. Ugh. I knew those little shits were trouble, living in the walls, squiggling "to" and "fro." I hear you can't even top the littles, cause the littles don't stop.
They just...don't stop.
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