Little Things: Monster World IV

Westone’s Monster World IV is full of adorable details. There’s the smile that heroine Asha wears after filling a bucket with water. There’s the way her flying pet Pepelogoo shakes himself off after a swim. There’s the yawn that Asha gives if you don’t touch the controller for a certain length of time. There are so many little touches that I hesitate to give any more away. After all, you can (and should) buy the officially translated game on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii right now.


Yet I must mention what happens when Asha dies. It’s a tradition for Monster World protagonists to turn into angels and float off the screen, which may be part of a larger motif in old Sega games.


This holds true in Monster World IV. If Asha runs out of hearts, she becomes a pious, robed spirit and drifts heavenward.


There’s one way to counter this. If Asha’s carrying an elixir, her loyal Pepelogoo (henceforth “Pepe”) will drag out the restorative vial and empty it onto Asha’s lifeless form. This is one of many services Pepe provides throughout the game. He also absorbs fire, presses switches with his tongue, helps Asha float through the air, rescues her from a watery grave, and comes through as a deus ex machina when everything’s at the worst.


After the elixir’s dumped on the dear departed Asha, her angelic avatar dives back into her body. Pepe still looks worried here, apparently putting no trust in modern medicine.


Her soul returned, Asha sits up and looks about. She's surprised at her near-death experience, and so is Pepe.

The marvelous thing about all this is that Westone didn’t have to show any of it. The elixir could've just refilled Asha’s health immediately after she lost her final heart, without cutting to a separate screen. Or the game could’ve scrolled up a generic continue notice. Westone went beyond the call of conventional game design to depict Asha’s revival and build up the bond between the heroine and her pet.

This brings us to Aquario of the Clockwork, a Westone arcade game that never quite made it beyond the test stages back in 1993. During an interview with Hardcore Gaming 101, Westone’s Ryuichi Nishizawa surprised a few people by revealing that Aquario was indeed completed. Then he surprised more people by digging through some files and finding the game’s source code.



Nishizawa has since revealed more about the game on his Twitter, including this shot of its three playable characters. Note that Elle breaks up the naming scheme by not having a violent moniker like "slash" or "slice."


Nishizawa also posted the above sheet of sprite animations, which show how Hack, Elle, and Gash can pick up and throw each other. It also reveals Aquario’s faithfulness to Westone tradition. Upon dying, Hack and Elle don robes, wings, and halos. But if the player continues, they’ll throw off their angel costumes and dash back into the fray. If that doesn’t make you want to play Aquario, sirs and madams, I don’t know what will.