The Best Monsters
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Probably intended to be Necro's Fortress, the collectible gaming system Neclos Fortress was more or less exactly what I spent the first twelve years of my life wanting to play with. I know I'd have been positively rabid for these stupid little hunks of plastic had they ever left Japan, which as far as I'm aware, they did not.
Information in english is sketchy, but I do know that each figure came out of a vending machine or secretive little box that may or may not have also contained chocolate (...one blow after another) with accompanying stat cards and items. Every monster you added to your collection was another foe you could defeat and another treasure for your inventory, making your collection progress and game progress one and the same. It sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, though had I really gotten my hands on it as a kid, I'd have probably ignored the rules in favor of my own preposterous machinations.
HERE you can browse all hundred some monsters, but I'm just going to go over some of my favorites. Believe me, it was hard enough to narrow things down to even this hefty list:
The first Neclos monster we're going to look at is the Appla, which is exactly as cool as a killer apple monster could ever possibly be. I adore his little teeth and blank, soulless eyes. He's actually a "level four" monster, but looks like the sort of lower-level critter an RPG would latch onto as a major mascot. Adorably, the mini figure has human teeth marks on the back of its head! Appla might have been better off with a worm or something for an item. Or maybe an orange. That would have been funny.
There's actually an Oranjah monster in one of the later worlds, but it's clearly inferior. That's just an objective and empirical fact.
This is a pretty interesting, alien-like design, the segmented worm-like head is darn cool, and apparently this monster is all about licking stuff, if its attack icon is any indication. I don't know why on earth it would carry a fly swatter, though - or "fly flap," sorry. It does share its level of the game with the "war fly," so maybe its job is to keep them in line?
This has to be one of the most appealing cactus monsters I've ever seen. It's that single, spooky eye in the upper "leaf" that does it for me. Humanoid in outline, but the resemblance is completely superficial. That's the way you do it! He comes with an "injector" for reasons we can only guess at. I guess he has an affinity for needles of all sorts...but just what does he inject? Psychedelic cactus juice?
This one-eyed giant centipede is a solid, pleasing design as far as one-eyed centipedes go, but not really outstanding. What I really appreciate here is the item choice; how adorable is it for a giant, monster centipede to carry around a manicure kit? No weapon, no magic, no precious golden treasures...it just has a lot of toes to take care of!
This giant, walking hand is the first in a pair, and for what it is, it's a fairly neat-looking monster. I like that weird little mouth, and a giant hand with legs throwing a presumably huge shuriken is a pretty neat visual.
This counterpart to Handla is easily one of my favorite Neclos monsters. That blank, staring face is surprisingly ghastly and would be cool enough, but he's also got a nasty-looking red wart with its own darling little octopus-face!
This other Handla doesn't show up until the very last chapter in the game, and looks a lot more threatening than its brother, with a set of metal shears implanted directly into two of its fingers! Why it carries insecticide is anyone's guess, though.
This simple, one-eyed Hydrozoan has a very likable design, I love the two tentacles with what are probably large clusters of stinging cells, and its fancy little hairbrush is almost cuter than the centipede's item - it just has to keep its tentacles looking their prettiest while it envenomates and digests intruders.
I'm not someone who finds clowns in themselves to be disturbing, but this is one damn disturbing clown, due in large part to its "laughing mushrooms." I don't know what "laughing mushrooms" are supposed to be, but I do know they're not something you want to take from a clown who slinks around in monster-infested dungeons.
I know from Digimon that "Nume" means something like slime or sludge, and this is a darn cool slimy, sludgy monster. It appears at first glance to have four eyes, but I think the eyeballs on its stalks are its only pair, the sockets in its face looking a tad empty. I've done the same thing with some of my own monster designs; separate eyeballs and sockets are always a hit with me. The sockets create a rather menacing facial expression, but when we look at the mouth and eyestalks, Numelian seems a lot happier and dopier. Also, he has a poor sense of direction, apparently.
How can you look at those two little kitty-cat fangs and not want to pet Mold on its musty little head? This fungus has such a simple anatomy, but everything about it endears me. If I only had my own magical fortress, these might be the very core of my monster army.
This would just be a normal, boring cloud guy if not for the gaseous suckers and the name, which push him into toxic waste monster territory, and you know damn well how much I like that territory. He also smokes himself! Ha ha!
The freaky, bloodshot eye-boobs are a pretty edgy, interesting design choice, but I'm even more entertained by the literal siren she's using. I guess she's not much of a singer.
I love everything about Medeum. Who wouldn't? It's a giant pink eyeball with mascara, dinosaur feet, cycloptic serpents for arms and a clown parasol. It probably has some terrible power it emits from its eye(s). Maybe it has some kind of insanity-based power, I have no idea. It ought to.
Slimes are a mainstay of fantasy game worlds, and I always enjoy how different franchises try to give their slimes unique, iconic designs. The eyeball-mouth combo is always a fun choice for monsters of all sorts, and looks great on this dripping heap of goo. It also appears to have a number of additional, more rudimentary eyes, probably for when its mouth is closed. It carries around a tube of cement, which it probably has to hide from the other slimes around the locker room.
Like slimes, giant slugs are in a lot of role playing realms and always elaborate on the real animal in their own special way. The horrifying jaws and pointed head of this slug are fairly cool; it could totally hide them if it crawled with its head down, like an actual slug. I can vaguely understand what "DISSOLUTIONER MELTING" means. Be careful with that, Slug!
Snail lacks the vicious, slavering fangs of Slug, but its luminous-looking spots and emptier, more alien eyes might be a little bit cooler, and a monster-shaped megaphone is definitely the most ridiculous thing they could have given it as an item. Does it actually use it? I sure as hell hope so.
This one-eyed, one-toothed starfish guy is simply darling! Maybe one of the most lovable little critters in the whole damn fortress, even when he comes at you with his terrifying, futuristic Tomahawk. Even by the standards we've already seen here, that's an absurd visual.
The first "boss" caliber monster just special enough to include here, Balulog sounds like a distortion of Balrog, but a martian-skull-brain-snail-knight is practically the opposite of Tolkien's fiery hellbeasts. Opposite in a vastly superior way. YOU SHALL NOT PASS! WHEN YOU FINALLY GET HERE, ANYWAY! I'LL WAIT!
"Tako" means "octopus" in Japanese. "Taco," on the other hand, only ever means "taco," and "lazard" means nothing at all. I guess they were going for "octopus wizard" and screwed it all up in the cutest way I've ever seen. Tacolazard's design is extremely simple, but it's almost as charming as Starm. He looks like he would be really small, too. You just want to scoop up Tacolazard and cuddle him in your arms like a sticky, squiggly cat, finding any excuse you can to use his name in a sentence.
This is another "boss," and I really don't even want to know his story. His eye sockets are melting, his root-like flesh melds into his tacky cloak and he carries around a Teddy Bear. There isn't any explanation here that could possibly be as terrifying as a complete lack of one.
Flogga is a pretty creepy looking creature, only superficially frog-like with its tentacle-tipped face and rune-like skin growths. It reminds me more of one of H.P. Lovecraft's Moon Beasts than anything else, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were intended as one, since all the rest of our monsters draw from Lovecraft's work. I do wonder what it does with the lipstick. Maybe that's what colors those veins down its sides?
Now we're definitely getting into Lovecraft territory, though he described "gaunts" as bat-winged, gargoyle-like monsters with smooth, featureless faces. I guess these gaunts got tired of being laughed at and all bought Ultraman masks.
"Insmaus" is almost certainly a corruption of Lovecraft's "Innsmouth," the port town where humans have supposedly interbred with the ancient, fish-like Deep Ones. This guy looks remarkably similar to early Skum from Dungeons & Dragons, though by obvious coincidence.
Nyarlathap resembles certain forms taken by Lovecraft's Nyarlathotep, though the distorted name is a little more fun to say...or maybe this really is a distinct cosmic entity, actually named Nyarlathap? He's probably way more chill than his Egyptian cousin.
Tsuatoga is clearly meant to be Tsathoggua, and succeeds at looking a lot grosser and creepier than most other portrayals of the fat, furry deity. I like the little suckers throughout his saggy flesh!
The last Lovecraft reference in the game is of course none other than Cthulhu, who has the unique honor of being spelled correctly. The second toughest boss before the final form of evil wizard Neclos himself, he's also one of the coolest looking depictions of Cthulhu I have ever encountered. Seriously. The central trunk, rootlike lower body and massively bulbous head are all a lot more interesting than the usual "green guy in a squid mask."
I wasn't sure what to save for last, but this classic H.G. Wells martian (the standard "cartoon alien" in Japan) seems like a high note to end on, namely because it isn't an enemy character - it's a playable hero of the highest possible level! I love how totally bonkers it looks, too, which is understandable for someone surrounded by primitive talking apes on a medieval fantasy planet. It would be like you having to fit in amongst singing clams on a film noir world or a spaghetti western dimension where everyone is a flying pineapple.
Let's at least hope that if "Alien" never finds its way home, it at least finds true love. Wouldn't it and Man O' War just look adorable together?
MANOWALIEN IS MY OTP