Earlier this year we went over creatures from the latest Fromsoft title, Elden Ring, but 1998's Shadow Tower is one of the publisher's older classics with a menagerie as creatively varied as any! Even looking at 31 is barely touching on half of them, the rest you can check out here.
Favorite Shadow Tower Monsters!
We're actually going in order of in-game appearance as per the internal monster guide, so our first and weakest creature is this "spider" which, by its stick-thin body and bulboud proboscis, is clearly just a terrestrial Pycnogonid or "sea spider!"
I've always loved creatures that specialize in ambushing prey from some kind of pit or tunnel. This one is considered a "fanged worm" but looks more like an eyeless, slimy skinned green snake with four protruding fangs.
Our first really weird one! A yellowish imp with a tapering, segmented looking body and an eyeless, toothless humanoid head, it has batlike wings for legs and flies around upside-down with its huge, forked red tongue reaching down to the ground, or I guess actually supporting itself on the tongue, using the wing-legs to offset its body's weight?
This monster appears as a kneeling human corpse, but conceals a bright green, flytrap-like mouth that emerges from the stomach on a little stalk. Adorable! Of course, if it inhabits dead bodies rather than living hosts and it eats insects then it isn't a parasite at all, unless it begins as a parasite and just switches to carnivory once the host dies.
I like monsters that aren't actually aggressive, but cause a problem just by existing. While described as only a "cursed tree" with a human skull stuck in it, the design is a lot more interesting than that, a thick wooden trunk almost actually shaped like a rounded-off casket with a human skull peeking out between two clawed, armlike branches folded over the top. A novel visual middle ground between a humanoid corpse and a plant, and instead of attacking it simply generates a nasty energy draining area effect!
A giant-sized human skull oozing with enough corrosive, green slime that it forms a crawling puddle beneath it. A very simple combination, but there's something about giant skulls that feels genuinely more disturbing than it should be. I don't know why. A regular animate skull is just kinda whatever, sure, a head bone. Wow, spooky. But an abnormally huge skull? It's like, where did that come from? Why is it big?! Does an acid skull get its skull from a giant person? Is it what's left of a giant guy eaten by a slime or does it inexplicably grow its own humanlike skull?!
Love a monster that's just an eyeball on a stalk, and this one's also a plant! I like that the monster guide specifies a "glistening" eyeball, which emits a "shiny ray."
We already saw a "tongue imp," but apparently a regular imp is just a head and one limb? It's the same simple, blind orb head as the tongue imp, but it has two large, curving horns, and instead of a body it just has one big leg it jumps around on.
I'd like this gastropod enough with a normal snail's shell or no shell at all; the long, whiplike eyestalks and flattened gooey body are just top quality mollusk. It's made pretty interesting however by its cylinder-shaped shell, which is covered in small holes that spray toxic fumes! It almost looks like an artificial, rusty barrel, except for a top and bottom just round enough that it might be organic.
The name "trickster" went to a creature that simple sprays acidic gas, but moves around erratically enough to be disorienting. It's a great design, too; a pale, fleshy teardrop-shaped body with a single eye and a mouth orifice that points straight down, surrounded by thin tatters of flesh or long, thin tentacles, or something, the entire creature suspended from four long, bony spider-like legs.
A cute one! This creature is like a big, hulking beetle or stinkbug in shape, but with only four limbs: a tiny pair of crablike hind legs and a bigger, beefier set of upper arms ending in pale tooth-colored pincers. Its face design is pretty charming, with two tusklike white mandibles (matching the pincers) and a pair of beady little black eyes in a walrus-like head, which also makes it a maggot-like head. It's not so slothlike that you necessarily think "sloth" at first glance, but it's large and slow and it has big claws, so you can definitely understand why it would be called that. It's also another enemy with a poison gas attack.
This is one of the most delightful things I have ever seen in a Fromsoft game. Acid Pod is nothing but a pitcher plant trap with tiny little teeth on its lid, and the bottom of the trap tapers into two thin tentacle-like legs. It not only spits acid, but bounces around like a sugar-addled madman just far enough away to be frustrating. Hilarious! I can't think of many carnivorous plant creatures with such rambunctiousness!
Another large, slow arthropod with deadly gas, but this one is like a big brown grub with ointed legs and a ghoulish head. Not the "human face" in its description, but a fanged lipless grin and a pair of squinting eyes. More disturbing is its ability to slow down your movement by laughing, though this is actually an attack shared by a few other monsters in the game.
A humanoid root with a paralyzing voice is basically a generic mandrake, but the description interestingly calls it a "plant-like animal" rather than just a plant, and the design, with a single sucker-like knothole in its mostly featureless head, is also the spitting image of Jan Svankmajer's Otesanek!
Elden Ring has a whole race of beings known as Worm Faces, but Fromsoft had a very different Wormface in 1998! It's not the most appropriate name for what is actually a worm with a face, but I like that the face isn't even anywhere that makes sense. It's a big fat earthworm that sticks straight up, with a humanlike face on a swelling near the lower end, right where it has two floppy boneless "arms" or "legs!" It's also another enemy that disorients with its erratic movements, just as unconventional for a worm-based monster as a plant-based monster.
Sometimes it's the simple things. Just like the Acid Skull, there's something about a plain giant brain atop a puddle of red goo that I can more easily find kind of disturbing than a lot of the other monsters. I love how it also gives a mushroom-like impression! But instead of having any powers pertaining to either brains or blood, it's just plain poisonous!
Oh wow, a nudibranch! A mottled brown slug with two cute little sensory antennae on top and a flower-like growth on its back that would be the nudibranch's gills, though this doesn't live underwater. It's unaggressive, but if you get too close it releases - what else? - poisonous gas.
This one is so whimsical, it looks more like something from Digimon or Persona than Fromsoft! It's a grody, rotten looking green egg with several round, staring eyeballs visible in the pitch darkness of a gaping fracture, and it has two hovering, detached "wings" that just look like metal check marks or lightning bolts. It's a pretty weird design, explained only as "a demon resembling a fling egg." It attacks with curses, and it's resistant to your own magic, which does remind me a lot of a specific Digimon line!
Oh my gosh, this one hits SO many of my favorite notes! It's a monster with just a pair of legs and no other limbs, specifically the big green legs of a frog. It's a monster whose body also peels open into fleshy "petals," like a grotesque flower, and inside is nothing but a big huge humanlike eyeball. This is absolute perfection already, but it's also another creature that attacks with an acid spray, one of my favorite categories of monstrous weaponry. This is the kind of monster I'd be perfectly satisfied with if it could be the only monster I ever have as a real-life pet, though more ideally, an army of several thousand of them.
"Sticks to the wall and sometimes attacks by dropping poison." Dropping poison? Sounds hilariously gross for a fairy to do! This creature is basically just a pale grey, hairless little lady head and torso, but with a green insect abdomen instead of legs and giant moth wings instead of arms. It also has thin insectlike legs it uses to perch, but these stick out the back of the torso, and it has antennae, but they're the antennae of a wasp instead of any Lepidopteran! I love this horrible, backwards poison-shitting pixie.
This demonic being is a big, meaty red sphere with a wide mouth full of blocky teeth, but it also has basically a skinned human face stretches over it, with the eyelids sewn shut. Very nasty! It also casts curses and poison magic, so it mixes things up a bit from flatulating or defecating at you like the rest of the tower's residents.
Hahahaha. This is basically a big floating nautilus, except the fleshy mollusk part is like a large, floppy tube that branches into three dangling tentacles that remind me more of sausagey fingers, or maybe a cow's udder, and it just has the saddest, most miserable looking human face half-way up the tube. It apparently generates a field of darkness, and oh wow, it spits acid. How original, Warpoor.
"A steel cross with a unknown face in the center" really doesn't do this creature justice. It's more organically shaped than just "a cross," more like a greyish chrysalis that tapers down to a conical point, and has two equally sharp spines that stick out the sides. The surface is textured, but the Playstation 2 resolution of this texture is a little too poor to make out. There's something like tattered, rotten grey gauze clinging to the two spikes, and between them is a large round hole housing this fat, pinkish human head with a scrunched up little baby-face. It actually feels very much like a homage to Conrad and Ubik from Berserk!
Refreshingly, this thing attacks with a paralyzing scream and fireballs.
Oh my god, YES!! What was I saying about monsters I'd be content with as pets or minions, even if just the one? "Chirper" is describes here as a "bug-like creature with a big glowing eye," even though it actually has two eyes. It's simple, compact, bony body has large, circular eyes, a beaklike point where a mouth would be, another spike sprouting off the back and a short, segmented tail, kind of shrimplike, then it walks around on just two skinny little chitinous bird-legs, each with another bony finger-like appendages sprouting off each knee.
It's drawn directly from the appearance of certain saltwater crab larvae, and it's not even the first time a Fromsoft title has based a darling, lovable monster on the same organism;
The even older King's Field featured this enemy, the Reik, resembling a more elongated, crab zoa with more jagged, spiny looking armor, almost pangolin-like, and nubbier clawed arms. This creature could float around, and also curl up into essentially a bladed wheel! I'd love to some day review King's Field enemies, too, but gathering the necessary images would be a real pain.
"Death serpent" is a pretty generic name for a very, very un-generic monster. It has an almost sluglike body, with four adorably nubby points for "legs," and then at the front of the slug is just this wide, bloodshot, slit-pupiled eye, almost comically grumpy looking, but that's not the end of its body. It continues up, tapering into a long segmented worm-like head with a simple sock-puppet sort of mouth. I love this so much. It's like if you combined an earthworm with a plesiosaur and then put an eye on its chest. SO charming. Its eye can fire energy orbs, but it's also another monster with the "paralyzing voice" attack, which I find extremely cool for this design. I love the idea of this slow moving thing creeping around waiting to fry intruders while its goofy worm-head screeches them to a standstill.
They call it "claw head" but they describe it as a "demonic hand," and neither of those phrases even slightly live up to what is actually something like the mouth of a venus fly trap made of thin, blue fingers with long, sharp nails, and of course it's got a creepy little eye in the center! This enemy is fascinatingly only encountered in a dungeon that's also technically an extension of the villain, King Edward, where you'll also encounter giant, dangling eyeballs and eventually battle a heart that attacks with its own "unclean blood!"
I decided to roll these all together, since the implication here is that they're technically all part of the same single monster.
Again, neither this creature's name nor its description - a "demon imprisoned in a clump of iron" - could ever really prepare you for what it really looks like, a collection of ten grimy looking metal blocks of varying dimension, a couple of which each have a large humanlike eye on a square of flesh nailed to just one face of the block. They float around in an arrangement that keeps each eye-bearing block in the same vertical column, and it attacks by firing "black lightning balls." This looks SO much like some Silent Hill enemy that never was.
This is such a funny thing to call a monster, but in this case it's pretty adequate, since this monster is 90% the giant face of an old man, a little creepier and droopier than is normal for a human, though it also has a pair of ears with lobes so huge it walks around on them like big floppy feet, or maybe it flies, I don't know, I haven't actually seen it in action. It has both the paralyzing scream attack and the slow-down laugh attack, which are both terrifying things for a giant old man head to have, though its only physical attack is apparently a headbutt. That's almost underwhelming, but a giant old man head that incapacitates people with its voice before bludgeoning them to death with its entire self is somehow all the more nightmarish.
The true form of the final boss unfortunately doesn't get an entry in the game's monster encyclopedia, but it's a stellar design; a lumpy green blob whose giant baby-like head is lopsided and malformed with three pupil-less, unblinking yellow eyes, the whole horrible thing dragging itself around on three huge, emaciated arms with even bigger three-fingered hands. Its dialog here references a "bothersome rodent" by the way because another "monster" in this game is just a friendly talking mouse who gives you tips!
We just have one more monster I felt like looking at, but it's one that was actually removed from the final game!
I guess someone thought this would be a little too controversial in 1998. "Dow Babe" is a legless creature with a tapering body, pterosaur-like wings and the bulbous head of a humanlike infant, with gloomy sunken eyes and a pair of dark feelers or tassels of hair hanging off the sides of its head. The baby face is unsettling enough, but it's also completely skinless from the neck down, so it also looks like a butched flying baby. Its description calls it a demon that "floats gently" and smiles or laughs, which I'm assuming would have had another slow-down effect. I can't BELIEVE I'm saying this, but I'm glad it doesn't attack with more poison gas or acid. This game tosses those around so willy-nilly that it almost (almost) makes those feel less special or something.
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