Depressing Game Endings: El Viento

El Viento is among my favorite weird games, perhaps because it isn't all that weird. Compared to Katamari Damacy or Cho-Aniki or even the culturally ratified oddities of Super Mario Bros., El Viento is ordinary. It’s a side-scrolling action game with jumping and boomerang-tossing, and its base effect isn't so different from the many other Sega Genesis titles where a fetching heroine saves the world from some eldritch menace.

Look closer, and you'll see invention. Like the two other (lesser) parts of the Earnest Evans trilogy, El Viento is steeped in 1920s adventure and interdimensional horrors, as it sends lithe Peruvian explorer Annet from Chicago streets to hellish caverns and an Empire State Building designed to summon demons. Like Indiana Jones with gangsters and Lovecraft beasts instead of Nazis and chilled monkey brains, El Viento brims with lower-key strangeness, and it's more fascinating for that.

So much of El Viento mixes typical action with fabulously bizarre details. Annet starts off by fighting Al Capone's thugs, but then she leaps across a Mount Rushmore full of smiling gun turrets and a floating cactus chain. Then she raids a blind-tiger club full of tiny imp mobsters and sluglike bartenders who explode when struck by her boomerangs and magic spells. Then she hops on a dolphin and rides straight into giant pixel jellyfish-octopuses. They explode as well. Most of the enemies come in weird and flammable varieties, and there’s never a reason why. Even the rats that pester Annet in a sewer look like they're wearing little sunglasses.

See? They're cool rats.

Annet does all of this to keep cultists and criminals from summoning the ancient deity Hastur, but she's also out to rescue her sister Restiana. Despite rampant evidence that the cult's planning to sacrifice her, Restiana is convinced that she'll become a veritable goddess with Hastur's powers, and she openly asks why Annet opposes them. Annet's response?