Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Bogleech's Top Thirteen
Archfiends of Soul Sacrifice!
For those of you just tuning in to Bogleech, I've never really considered it a requirement that I play a video game before reviewing its monsters, which are generally much more interesting to me than any actual gaming experience, and when it's interesting monsters you want, it would be damn difficult to beat what Soul Sacrifice has to offer. In this dark fantasy adventure for the Playstation Vita, humans and even animals may be transformed into such legendary beasts as centaurs, ogres and goblins to fulfill their deepest, darkest wishes, and if you think you've seen those all before, guess again, because what "Soul Sacrifice" considers a Centaur is closer to a horse carriage snail-man.
It's exactly what I like to see; none of the game's monsters are content to be predictable or conventional, and monsters never should be. Especially not when they're intended to be horrifying. Every time you see the same thing again, it's only going to be half as disturbing as it used to be. I mean, is anybody even still creeped out by zombies at this point? Here's thirteen of my favorite crazy, twisted Soul Sacrifice demons!
See? You think a "Phoenix" is always just some flaming bird, but Soul Sacrifice thinks a Phoenix may as well be a flaming moth, and why shouldn't it? That makes so much sense that I can't believe it isn't done more often. This particular moth-phoenix was once a woman who felt her entire life wasted, forced to live in hiding while her parents illegally bred hallucinogenic moths as phony magic potion ingredients. Unappreciative of such an awesome business to inherit, she eventually tried to burn it down around her, innocent moths and all. In her rage and regret, she was granted the power of unlimited rebirth, but now ages faster and becomes increasingly moth-like with each new life, so the whole deal is really a lot better than she thought it was.
The Kraken of Soul Sacrifice was once a sea captain who loved his ship more than anyone or anything else in all the world, only to have it stolen by pirates and devote the rest of his human life to hunting them down. I'm sure you can guess how that turned out; and then he never had to part with it again! Everything this "Kraken" consumes becomes a part of his body, allowing him to continue building and maintaining his beloved boat. I love those misshapen eye sockets flanking the remnants of his human head, and the tentacles, of course, are just his transformed entrails!
I enjoy perky monster cleavage as much as anybody else does, believe me, but I can't tell you how pleased I am by how grisly, nightmarish and damn near sickening this harpy is. Even considering the little-known fact that mythological harpies were described as attractive before they were ever described as grotesque hags, I'm long tired of fantasy gaming playing every vaguely woman-like organism for pure sex appeal. Female monsters with any semblance of human anatomy are so rarely allowed to be as vile and horrendous as this corpulent wretch; just imagine that sagging grandma-face drooling for a taste of your flesh, probably stinking like a mix of tooth decay and soured perfume. Ew!
"Slimes" are a staple of gaming, but virtually never as elaborate as these gorgeous freaks. It's almost far too simple a name for them. They're apparently humans transformed by the simplest and most basal desires, and here we can see slimes born of gluttony and greed. The golden jewel-encrusted greed slime is alright, but the gluttony slime? That is ART. The comically oversized forks, complete with a hunk of meat, are my favorite detail, though the pineapple head at the top is also pretty funny. Apparently there are also slimes that form from lust, but I have no idea what those would look like. I sure as hell want to, though, and don't act as if you don't, too.
Another beast of gluttony, Behemoth used to be a little boy who stole fruit from his own parents, and now his fat, deformed body is weighed down by a huge, demonic apple tree. Haha. I love me some awful, awful things happening to snotty children. The pitiful human base and giant, tumorous trunk are beautifully designed, while the giant apples with teeth have a nicely terrifying, surreal silliness to them. Like any other apples, they can drop off and try to eat people.
It's certainly not often a cat monster is weird enough for me to feature, and "Cat Sith" (sic) is simultaneously the weirdest, creepiest and most hilarious cat monster I have ever seen. He is a giant, flying, tattered cat-skin phantom with a completely ordinary, adorable little kitty face on top, apparently some spoiled-ass prince who admired the carefree lives of cats so much, he was transformed by demons into a haunted fursuit and couldn't be happier. Of course, nothing about this would be funny slinking out from under your bed at night. A dose of the ordinary, adorable or even hilarious can bring out the real horror of a design like a little pinch of salt unlocks the true, hidden sweetness of watermelon. You never tried it? Ugh. Every watermelon you've eaten was wasted.
It's especially not often that two cat monsters are weird enough for me to feature, let alone from the exact same game. Interestingly, such "minor" staple monsters as goblins and ghouls in this title are the result of animals, like rats and birds, making their own cute, stupid little animal-sized infernal pacts. Orcs are perhaps the most lovable of the bunch, being lopsided, slimy, multi-jawed sacks of flesh with, yet again, otherwise ordinary and utterly precious little kitty-kitty headsies. Their cavernous maws are also filled with human skulls, something normal cats are a lot better at hiding.
Possibly one of the game's most batshit concepts (almost rivaled by their Leprechaun variant), the Dwarves are a trio of boozers who loved drinking so damn much that they were transformed into fiends who sweat alcohol, collecting it in the barrels they now wear as armor. Unfortunately, they sweat less and less as they age, so now they kidnap normal humans and shove those into their barrels, fermenting them into wine.
Incubus was once a painter famous for a work entitled "Obscene Dream," but when his popularity waned, he wished he could repaint it much more vividly. So vividly, he had to become a living embodiment of his art to pull it off, and the result was this deranged, fleshy art-man who wouldn't look too out of place in a more flamboyant Silent Hill. Notice the naked bodies writhing in his slimy paint-tentacles! And yes, he had that mustache when he was a human, too.
We've got a lot of firsts on this list. The first Bogleech-worthy phoenix, cat creatures and now a Pegasus totally gunning for the top of the list. It's a shame that this is the best picture I can find, because it's not just about the fly-eyes and the mandibles; its head is also obscenely huge for its decrepit, much more human-like than horse-like body, and he's supposed to have a surface like "dripping wax." He was apparently some traitorous conspirator fleeing his King's soldiers when he came upon a creepy, abandoned farm littered with wax wings, which sounds like it has a far more interesting origin story that we're never given. As he made his diabolical wish to fly away, safe from capture and looking down on the land, he was, of course, bitten by a horsefly. Haha. Puns!
The Iron Maiden
What was I just saying about female monsters? Soul Sacrifice has several more that break out of the usual sexbox in favor of pure fear-factor, and Iron Maiden is probably the most kick-ass. I don't know what her story is, but her design is a female variant on the game's Dullahan, a mythological being I featured last year and lamented its seldom-accurate portrayal. Leave it to good old Soul-Sac to know exactly what a Dullahan is supposed to be, and offer such a gorgeously disturbing Dullahanette.
I won't lie, though...it's still sexy.
I put this guy at number two solely because I've already featured him on Bogleech, in my article devoted just to the "Beelzebub" phenomenon. I can't say I have much new to say about him, but as recent as he is, he just might be one of my very favorite interpretations of the unholy insect. I love how brightly colorful his face is on such a slimy, diseased looking body, and he goes airborne not by flying on his own, per se, but by having his ADORABLE monster fly-minions carry him around. Adorable monster fly-minions with poop hats.
Roughly tied with Beelzebub as my favorite thing (thus far) in the game, the Basilisk has a beautifully colorful, terrifying and alien design all brought together by eye-stalks so unnaturally huge they can't even remotely fit in its head. Eye-stalks that actually used to be this guy's ears, and now also double as, er...wings. Yes, he can fly with those things, and it looks as funny as it sounds. The Basilisk is also blessed with what may be the coolest, darkest origin story yet. I would love so, so much to see an anime, manga or comic series that just further explored each fiend's tale.
All in all, Soul Sacrifice has some of the most imaginative, memorable and genuinely scary demonic creatures I've seen in a magical fantasy game, as well as some of the most ingenious re-interpretations of otherwise tired creatures.