Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Whatever the hell VOLFOSS is!
(This Bogleech article may not be work-safe)
Long ago in a distant land, called Japan, in 2001, Namco released a tactical RPG for the Sony Playstation entitled Volfoss, with outrageous character designs by the amazing Yasushi Nirasawa. Was this a fun game? Did it have a fandom? What was its storyline like? Nobody knows! Well, I mean, people who were around at the time in Japan probably know, and it at least has a short wikipedia page, but you'll be hard pressed to find more than one or two videos, or any fanwiki pages, or even any filthy, depraved fan-art. It's like this game is almost a ghost. I wouldn't even know of it if I hadn't run across some of its character art years ago, and recently rediscovered it lurking in the depths of my hard drive.
With virtually nothing to go by, this post is going to be light on the commentary. Practically more gallery than article, because there's really only so many ways I can say "holy shit, this thing looks awesome."
Bite here makes as good an introduction as any to the visual style of Nirasawa and Volfoss. Whether or not he actually "bites" with those two gigantic skulls, I can only guess. It's such an amazing visual, with the skulls at once forming a ribcage and massive shoulder pads, it's strange how seldom I've seen anything like it.
Ang calls to mind all sorts of slimy amphibians and deep-sea creatures, and I can't quite tell if that eye stalk up there is coming off its head or its tail. The most interesting part are the little googly eyes all over his tongue, almost like they're just floating on the surface of some greenish slime.
How adorable is Dicela? I love box-shaped monsters with a different feature on its side; you don't see it too often, but it's always memorable. I just wonder what's on those other two faces, and which face her legs could possibly be. Something else has to be under there to represent some other number, right? Her eyes are the "two" and her mouth is the "one," so what the hell are her legs?
Obviously "Fire" and "Ice," but represented by scraps of cloth for a very unique and creepy effect. You can also read this design as having two separate, one-eyed heads or just two lumps for its eyes.
Yes, this is a barbed wire bondage heart woman with blue flames pouring out of her....costume? Body? The giant barbed wire forming an "arm" is a cool look.
I love this thing. I don't know what kind of name "Knigh Deth" is but for a skeletal demon its anatomical layout is splendidly alien, especially those weird shoulder plates. Riding around on a giant eight-ball is one of the last things I'd expect to complete this design, but somehow, it works beautifully.
Everything about this one is masterfully disturbing. Its eyes and mouths are like those of a harlequin fetus, but they aren't arranged in necessarily human patterns. What look like "tongues" aren't even actually coming out of this thing's mouths, just pores on the tops of its many heads. It has way too many fingers, it looks inhumanly flexible, and even the fact that it's just called "IDEA" floods the mind with creepy....well, ideas. Why is it called that?
"Junicorn" is one you can actually see in action in one of the few youtube videos, launching its horn like a missile only to immediately sprout a new one. Whatever lurks under this armor clearly wouldn't look very human....if that's even armor at all, and not just Junicorn's natural body.
Hah, get it? "MM?" The head shape? You'll notice some monsters share certain aesthetic themes with one another; apparently Volfoss involves different empires or kingdoms, each with its own style of minions. I'm assuming the setting is post-apocalyptic, and I don't doubt the amount of stuff with the Disney logo on it would probably seem sacred to a bunch of nutso future monster-people.
As cool as she looks, I'm a little unclear as to how "Iron Meiden" actually fights, or for that matter, performs any everyday functions. Sure, she can probably open and close her armored casing, but she doesn't seem to even have complete arms under there, and it doesn't have any spikes directed outwards for defensive or offensive purposes. All she can really do is run around and probably bowl into people, unless she has weird psychic powers or something. They better be pretty good though, to make up for her inability to ever change her pants.
Coffin Jack here gets more preposterous the more you take in. He's a biker zombie in one side, an otherworldly mutant bug on the other, and we don't even get to see his face under the coffin he's breaking out of. I think that's my favorite part, that his head is completely obscured and shielded by his coffin. That's what makes him Coffin Jack!
There's a lot going on with Lunaponny. Metal peg legs, additional crab-like limbs, paisley tattoos, eyeballs in her tail...it's like a punk rock Lisa Frank nightmare demon.
"I'm Stuffed" is a really cute name for a giant turkey carcass, especially one that carries around a knife and fork and apparently crams itself full of human heads. Human heads and....what are those? Green beans? I guess they're probably something darker than green beans, but they really LOOK like green beans.
I'm not sure what the relationship is between this bat-winged naked woman and the spider-legged containment tank. Which one is "Hungry?" Is she a prisoner or just has the most awesome possible taste in transportation methods?
As far as half-bird women go, I really like how Flamiena borrows mostly just the legs and talons of a bird, even walking around on a second huge pair where most bird-people would have a set of wings.
Dethrod appears to be a bunch of different neon skeletons tangled around a motorcycle engine, or something. I have no idea. It's pretty damn boss, though.
I'm going to guess Zzap has electrical powers, or something, generated from his spiky orbs. He's one weird-ass looking thing in general, with its wiggly carrot head and the huge orb he's pulling out of his rubbery torso.
Like Junicorn, Wall Knight's armor indicates some very odd anatomy, especially if all of those slots in the multi-segmented helmet are there to see out of...or is that a "neck," and only the red tip has a head inside? Whatever this guy is, it looks like he can fold up like an armadillo into an impenetrable barrier.
Nirasawa really loves his fetish costume imagery, and he really loves his creepy medical imagery too. It's almost always a winning combination - if it's not taking itself too seriously - and Matronna is a pretty stylish medical-fetish nurse monster that doesn't try too hard to be scary. She just looks so fabulous, carrying her giant syringe around by a strap, almost like it's her "purse" but she doesn't keep anything in it but blood. It's all she needs. It's her money, her I.D, her snacks, her makeup, all the same. Blood can do everything.
Why are all these multicolored bubble-gum ghosts called "shouts?" That's so odd. I guess maybe they shout. I guess they're like little taffy banshees. Aww.
I love grody Sloth-inspired monsters. There really aren't enough of them out there. All anybody talks about are sloths being adorable and never about how green slime and maggot-like moth larvae grow in their fur. This "Sloth" looks suitably mossy and filthy, with just the right scuzzy quasi-human head to be terrifying.
"Society?" What? Is this really a "character" or a "monster?" What am I looking at? A bunch of red flesh-vines pouring out of a stone pillar? This is certainly the kind of thing I'd expect to be called "Society" if I saw it on display at an art show. You could actually call virtually any meaningless object or combination of objects "SOCIETY" and get it into an art show.
Is "Dizy" actually always "dizzy?" That lends a lot of creep factor to something that's just a big, faceless knot of pale tissues and hooked talons. This is not a thing that you want twirling, bumbling and staggering around blindly in your general direction.
This guy isn't all that strange, except for the fact that his arm is intentionally reminiscent of a fish skeleton and he manages to make that incredibly intimidating.
This dapper albino rat-man is straying a little too far into "2000's Tim Burton" territory, but I'm going to say that Plague is not as pretentious simply because almost nothing anymore can be as pretentious as Tim Burton and Volfoss came out in 2001 anyway. Nirasawa has been out-Burtoning Burton for years.
Hochkiss is, oddly, one of the few Volfoss monsters with an arthropod motif. Especially odd considering how many insect and arachnid creatures Nirasawa populates his other stuff with. With his needle-like proboscis, Hochkiss probably sucks the liquid from things he traps in his giant pincer-legs, and I'm feeling kind of disappointed in myself that I never came up with a similar layout for an earwig monster or something.
You know what always got me? Everyone acts like horses are these beautiful, elegant, majestic beasts, but every sigle part of them looks bizarre, silly and haunting. They're just veiny, gangly, stretched-out people with creepy teeth, and their features can make almost any monster freakier, though the front end of "Dark Horse" here actually is just elegant and majestic by way of not looking like a human who got their face stuck in a pipe.
Uchida looks like a pretty important guy. Places to go. Board meetings to sit in on. Presentations to present. I like how he's clearly a completely amorphous, blobby mess but has managed to perfectly fit into that suit and hold its shape.
I've little to say about Gukyon, but I like it. I like its big, bulbous, armless torso and all the neon-green sea-urchin spines surrounding what may perhaps be a mouth. I feel like it probably throws up or breathes some sort of nasty gas.
Peek-a-boo reminds me heavily of the Sazae-oni, or shellfish ogre from Youkai mythology, albeit in cyborg form. I like all the drills and spikes and crap sticking out of her shell just to hurt whatever she rams it into, and I'm thinking when she retracts inside she plugs the hole with her robot arm? Like the larger claw of a hermit crab?
What the hell is this thing? Its name and its shape scream "musical instrument" but it does not, in fact, resemble an actual musical instrument of any particular type. It took me forever to even notice that yellow part at the top is a head, with an incredibly long beak or proboscis, and that it has two arms and hands clutching it.
EDIT: Oh, it's a music note.
I can't decide what the best part of Oblogg is. The giant, hooked thumbnail? All the lips and teeth? The fact that its squishy body is strapped together? That where a "head" goes is just a meaningless knob of skin? Or the perfectly normal legs in tight, red leather pants?
Really? Just a big, ripped off pointy ear? What the hell does this do? What even is Volfoss?!
I think Poisonna is a little mis-named, since it's obvious she delivers venom through her various barbs and claws. If she were poisonous, then she would be toxic to breathe or consume. I like the psychedelic colors of her skin, a nice contrast to her blood-red extremeties, and those are some holy BITCHIN shoes. I wish I could pull those off.
Another one with a cryptic brain-related name, though this is some sort of spiny gas-masked gimp-man trapped in a prickly hamster ball.
Nirasawa's kinky bondage fixation isn't limited to weird bug ladies! It's fun how this guy's hulking muscles and metal spike implants turn his entire upper body into a second flail. He could just hurl himself like a big, ridiculous bolas.
Look at this guy! PUZZ!!!! He's just a big old puzzle monster with freaky teeth! It's interesting how he's clearly three dimensional, but we can see through his missing pieces as if he's just a flat image. Pretty unnerving effect, I wonder if it worked that way in his in-game model.
We'll end on my very favorite, and I dare you to say she isn't up there on your own list. Skulla is just way too freaking cool. A human-proportioned body with a humongous, exaggerated skull head is already wicked awesome, but skewing things so her "face" is just one of its eye sockets, like the dark recesses of a hood, is bloody genius, and giving the skull a giant, slimy purple tongue to fill in for one of her arms is the only thing that could have made it more perfect. Skulla is so overwhelmingly boss I can't even laugh at the fact that her nipples are also little skulls. She has earned the right for that to be taken seriously. Just look at her head. She has earned everything she damn well wants with that head. If I were a monster and also a girl I could only hope to be one half as amazing as SKULLA.
And there you go. A bunch of VOLFOSS monsters. More exist, but I'm pretty sure I've shared all the weirdest and most interesting...and if you've actually somehow played and understand this game, feel free to fill me in.
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