Revisiting VOLFOSS!!!!

I last talked about Volfoss a whopping eight years before writing this. A tactical RPG released for the original Playstation in 2001, it never made its way out of Japan and would remain a sort of obscure "cult classic" even there, to the point that there's still little information available about its characters or storyline. What truly distinguishes it however is that its entire world and wide array of creatures - all of which you can recruit! - were designed by the late Yasushi Nirasawa, an artist we also ran into as I reviewed various Tokusatsu creatures this season.

Back when I first reviewed some of the game's creatures, the only images available were relatively small and low-resolution; some so poor that a few of their details were even lost! But this year, GELGELADA on tumblr helped me out by actually scanning pages from a rare Nirasawa artbook, at least as much as pages could be scanned without any damage! So, after nearly a decade, we can not only look a bit closer at this game's designs, but at several I couldn't even find way back then:

Caldea Soldiers

I'm going to preserve how the designs were paired together in the book, even though most of them aren't necessarily paired together for a thematic reason, as near as I can tell. An exception are the different "soldiers:" Volfoss involves war between three different "kingdoms" or "factions," and each has two signature enemy types. I thought I'd share the zaniest of these first, to give anyone new to Volfoss a taste of how weird things are going to get, and include the remaining, less absurd soldier types for completion.

Caldea is a colorful kingdom of plush toys, puzzle pieces, circus imagery and clowns. Its common foot soldier is a thin, blue humanoid with pointed ears, bright green stripes, spiny shoulders, a big goofy curl of orange hair and a porcelain mask with simple crescents for the eyes and mouth, displaying with a sneaky smile or disappointed frown! More entertaining is that one arm is a big, long accordian-like "tentacle" with a giant playing card for a shoulder pad, while the other wields a sword shaped like a big question mark.

The other soldier type is the "drill soldier;" a big, corpulent green ghoul whose earless, noseless, lumpy head and black lenses remind me of Butterball from Hellraiser, with a very wide switched-together mouth. It wears pink and teal striped tights over its big, round lower body with only a pair of pinkish spikes for feet, one arm is a bulky cybernetic hand and the other an even bulkier drill. The best part however is the cluster of giant eyeballs, floating like balloons tethered to its back!

Ikuaipe Soldiers

Like I said, the other soldiers aren't as zany as Caldea's demonic clowns, but in terms of weirdness you haven't seen anything yet, and the other soldier enemies can give you an idea of the remaining "factions" of this world: Ikuape is almost the polar opposite of Caldea, a grim and grey metropolis combining a medieval aesthetic with that of a smog-belching industrial city. Its common foot soldiers reflect this well, resembling high-tech if slightly rusty "knights" whose narrow helmets barely look like they could accomodate a human head, their only "facial feature" a thin, vertical, glowing green visor.

The tougher "wall soldiers" are in bulkier, hunch-backed power armor, with more vent-like metal knight visors, Each arm bears a large, simplistic shield, just a rectangular section of slightly curved wall covered in the same cylindrical metal studs that also encrust the foot soldier's armor.

Throughout this page, you'll see monsters with more of these "mechanized dark-age" elements to them; most of those are presumably from Ikuaipe, but with precious little information about this game from even the rare Japanese fan page, it's not always certain.

Adenia Soldiers

Adenia is another realm with a medieval vibe and therefore another with knight-like soldiers, but this faction has more of a "magical fantasy" flair than "industrial dystopia," ruled by technological "mystics."

In stark contrast to Ikuaipe's brutalism, Adenia's knights have intricate, organically curved black suits with in an insectoid, beetle-like style! The basic foot soldier has a single horn curving forward from a helmet with two vertical, red gashes for "eyes," additional horns on the shoulders and a nasty looking wavy sword. The larger "Ax Soldier" looks even more like a hulking armored warrior crossed with a hercules beetle, and its chunky arms end not in hands, but in segmented black tentacles that wrap around its huge, biomechanical looking axe!

Volfoss characters with a "dark fairy tale" feel usually come from Adenia; those resembling cyberpunk fairies, goblins, demons and spirits.

Fenbelil Soldiers

The mysterious Fenbelil, from what I can gather, is distinct from the previous three "main" nations, a neutral party in the war but perhaps one with a sinister motive. It has a pure, angelic sort of motif to it, a lot of white and gold and simple, sterile looking surfaces. Its foot soldiers, differing only in having a bulkier "XL" version, wear white suits that almost look like crash test dummies or mannequins made of soft panels with noseless, mouthless masks, legs hidden under skirts that kind of give me a medical vibe.

In addition to these major nations are, apparently, many smaller neutral factions that characters and creatures can belong to, so good luck trying to place everything coming. I didn't say you HAD to!

RINGER HUT: our first minor being is probably from one of the two Medieval cities. It's humanoid and seemingly mostly robotic, with an armored, chunky grey torso. All we can see of its face are tiny, glowing red eyes and a rectangular grey mouth-vent in the darkness between its torso and a long, pointed red hat like an upside-down golf tee, and instead of arms, it has two giant golden rings attached to its sides by rotating gold sockets, keychain-like, each ring with three curved spines. An awkward anatomy that can't be all that terribly effective for fighting, but what do I know???

KNIGH DETH: This is one of the ones I always remember well. It seems to be a skeletal red demon with a small, cackling horned skull, but most of it is "wearing" filmy, dark blue "cloth" covered in speckles almost like a night sky pattern, and I put it all in quotations because the fabric of it blends seamlessly into its very long, arthropod-like forelimbs, ending in nasty red hooks. I really like its huge, rectangular shoulder blades, too, almost evocative of raised beetle-like elytra, covered in more of that starry membrane. Of course the first thing you notice about this design is that it stands atop a big giant 8-ball for no obvious reason.

NEURON: Love this weirdo! A skinny guy completely covered in tight, red leather with a gas-mask sort of face and lots of spikes, basically a devilish looking gimp suit, and he's in turn caged with a giant sphere formed from spiny, metal bands, like a sadomasochistic hamster ball! Why is he called "Neuron?!"

DEVIL'S EAR (AND JIMMIE!?): One of the most preposterous character designs, for sure, is literally a huge, giant, pointy red ear. It's floating upside-down and appears roughly torn off of its original, presumably devilish owner, and it has a number of silver piercings including a stud shaped like a humanoid skull, giving it a "face" of sorts. Included alongside it is also an entity labeled JIMMIE; a little, tangled up yellowish worm with a lamprey-like mouth. Is this a symbiote of the giant demonic ear?! I have no idea what their relationship is! If I ever find some sort of canon character guide, I'll have to update this page with any explanations I can uncover for anything we're looking at.

Junicorn & Society

JUNICORN: This seems to be the most well-known enemy in the game, possibly one of the first encountered and featured on some promotional materials. The body is a dark, grimy metal sphere with lots of pale, pinkish veins in almost circuit-like patterns, and with a whole lot of assorted leather-looking tags and straps hanging off the front. The "head" is just a curving armored panel on top of this sphere, flaring into a rim kind of like a bony crest on the back? Kind of like a triceratops skull? And then it just has one HUGE, long, conical red horn, longer than its whole body. A pair of small, scaly arms and legs protrude from ports in the metal sphere, humanoid but clearly not attached to a human-shaped body. It also has the interesting title, "Eternal Truth" in addition to its name. Huh.

SOCIETY: Sharing its visual motifs with Junicorn, "Society" is a grey, concrete looking pillar, cracked and pitted, with a circular depression on the front and blood red "foliage" around the base, fleshy looking reddish "leaves" with curly red "vines" that also spread up the pillar and dangle from the top.

So...this is a character? This is a monster? How does it move? How does it attack? I might find out from gameplay videos, but the longest on youtube is TWELVE HOURS LONG and "INCOMPLETE."

FLAMIENA: So here's your first of many potential Volfoss Girlfriends, because Nirasawa really, really likes designing cute ladies with grotesque (another, different word for cute) monstrous (same) features, and don't worry if you're looking more for a Volfoss Boyfriend because he's got plenty of half-monster half-naked dudes on the way, too. Flamiena is basically a Flamingo Harpy, but a bit weirder than your usual bird-person. She has giant, scaly pink flamingo-like legs growing out of her back instead of having bird wings, with nastier, more raptor-like talons for feet, and these are what she walks on, while her much shorter human legs end in identical pink talons she uses for fighting and grasping! The rest of her looks human except for the long, pink feathers sprouting from her back and the top of her head, and I love the way she's posed like she's just lounging, lying back while the giant legs carry her around and her feet do all the combat.

PEEK-A-BOO: A very different girlfriend from Flamiena; Peek-A-Boo has the head, torso and right arm of a human woman with froggy greenish-yellow skin, long green dredlocks and thin, spindly claws, but her left arm is a big badass cyborg one with skeletal-looking metal digits. From the waist down, her flesh gives way to a colorful array of tubes and hoses connecting her to the inside of a gigantic, roundish shell formed from all sorts of metal paneling, tubine, drills and spines, a cybernetic snail-woman cobbled together from salvaged machinery. RAD.

Dicela & Bite 

DICELA: This is pretty bluntly from the clownish Caldea city! A giant white cube like a six-sided die; on one face (that we can see) are big, red human lips displaying teeth with sharp incisors, which we can assume is the "#1" side of the die. On another face are two lidless, bloodshot eyeballs, arranged diagonally like the traditional #2 side. On top she has four blunt spikes, each a different color, so there's #4, but protruding from the bottom face is a human lady body from the waist down, with red and green striped stockings, and the legs seem to fuse into just one leg and foot from the knees wait, would that be the "1" on the die? Or is something else under there to make it a 3 or a 5? And what are the two faces we can't see? As far as I'm aware, she still never even shows up in that twelve hour longplay.

BITE: See, I told you there'd be boyfriends didn't I?? "BITE" is a gnarly looking muscular dude straight out of an edgy 90's comic book, with bandages and leather pants and iron bands and a vicious looking inhuman face, a sort of noseless skull with a wicked grin and narrow white eyes. His name however refers to the two GIANT human skulls he has for "shoulders," sort of. Each skull is turned on its side, one of Bite's arms emerging from the lower eye socket with a terrified-looking eyeball in the upper socket, and the teeth of these skulls are elongated into crooked spiny fangs that interlock over the guy's chest, presumably able to open up and "bite!" That one skull is purple and the other is green remind me a bit of Caldea, but the rest of him doesn't quite match that zany toybox aesthetic. Maybe he got kicked out for being too grimdark?

FIRE HEART: TOO radical. Fire Heart is a woman so pale you can see purple veins through her eerily cold white skin, though all you can really see of her skin are her thighs, her boobers (with heart shaped nipples???) and her face from the nose on down. Her head and body are otherwise encased in a giant, leather or latex red heart, kind of the Valentine type of heart and the Body Organ kind of heart, with blue flames erupting from its valves. She also has giant-sized barbed wire wrapped around her with ridiculous long spikes, and some of this dangles down to kind of serve as an "arm," since her own, if she has any, are inside the ludicrous heart costume. What even goes on in this person's mind to be wearing all this nonsense. What could possibly ever be the cultural or personal meaning of all this.

DETHROD: I don't know what to make of this. It's a tangled column of multicolored human skeletons, the bones either purple, orange or green, interspersed with what appear to be engine parts. The whole thing stands on four spidery legs formed from various human and inhuman bones, giving it overall a sort of bacteriophage silhouette!

I'M STUFFED: So this monster is a giant roasted turkey, or maybe a duck, walking around on its severed leg nubs with green veggies and multiple human skulls bursting from its open belly, more greens pouring from its neck-hole like "hair" and kitchen utencils somehow clutched in the tips of its plucked wings. Weirdest of all are the tiny white angel wings up on its shoulders, too. I guess it doesn't walk around. I think it hovers?!

O M: I'm not sure what the name stands for, but these are two naked punk ladies attached waist to waist instead of having legs, one white and one red, walking on the red one's EXTRA EXTRA long skinny arms. They've also got metal blades and spines on their appendages, and the seam where their torsos connect appears to be a large zipper! And yeah, the upper one's nipples are shaped like skulls. Why not.

Skulla & Ichi

SKULLA: My absolute favorite, maybe one of my favorite character designs in general? Skulla is a tall, nude woman whose skin surface is a sort of black and off-yellow bone pattern, riblike striping down her limbs, and yes, again with skull-nipples, but her truly outstanding feature is the tremendous, monstrous skull where both her head and her left arm would be. The skull is turned just right for one of its deep, black eye sockets to align with where her human face should be, and there's a pair of glowing, devilish red eyes in there, making the whole eye socket kind of like a spooky, ghostly hood. The upper jaw of the skull is where her arm should go, and replacing her arm is a long, tentacular, slimy blue tongue! The whole design is just unforgettably novel in such a simple way, and far too badass to be a minor character in only one video game.

ICHI: this is another humanoid with a great big hump-back towering behind its head, but the head is a human skull with a red visor for eyes and most of the rest of the body is a bunch of bent, rusty metal bands, wrapped around him like mummy bandages. All we can see between these bands is pitch darkness full of tiny red eyeballs, and there's a cluster of red spikes or teeth sticking out the top. The figure is also missing a right arm, but the left is a long, emaciated limb wielding a bent-up, bloodstained sword. Wicked as hell, and I feel like this design "tells a story" even more than the rest, of a character with a very strange life or unlife leading up to this point.

POSSESST: This feels like a product of the industrial-medeival setting, a humanoid in heavy, crudely bolted-together and corroded armor, but whatever's wearing the armor has a whole lot of sickly-colored cephalopod tentacles pouring out, not all where the figure's arms would be. The face has a sort of metal "eyemask" with dull, gloomy looking luminous eyes, and the rest of the head is just a veiny brain with more tentacles. What do we mean by "possessed" here? It doesn't look like there's anything left of an original, more humanlike body to be under "possession," if there ever was one at all.

SHOUTS: IT'S SHOUTS! What an adorable name for some adorable little pals! It's a gooey, gummy, amorphous mass of simplistic "ghost" faces, like bubbles of goo with empty, round holes for eyes and mouths. I love the way they're flowing around each other, with strands of goo between large gaps in the collective. Similar faces can be seen on various Caldea characters, and the candy-like colors of the different gooey ghosts here all but confirm their alleigance.

SCARECROW?: This design comes unnamed in the art book, so your guess is as good as mine; it's a scarecrow made from nailed-together scrap wood, ragged red clothes, straw and iron, its jointed body ending in a sharp, thin metal lance it can hop around on like a pogo stick, and its stick arms end in long, curved metal blade that look kind of ornate and repurposed from something else, like a suit of armor, not just your typical simple scythe-blades.

G & W: These two are clearly connected to Fenbelil, bearing the same black triangle marks and pale pillow-like materials we saw on their soldiers, but these two figures are a bit grimier, more asymmetrical, roughly stitched together. "G" is a lumpy bruiser with big fists and sad, beady red eyes in the lopsided bump where a head should be, while "W" is a skirted figure with whose arms and head are just long, uneven, tapered curls of patchwork cloth. Unlike its counterpart, "W" has no eyes, just that ominous black triangle mark where a face would be.

F & I: Obviously standing for "Fire and Ice," this is another Fenbelil weirdo, but this one's cloth body is especially messy and ragged, really sewn together with lots of little scraps an stitched up the middle with thick white cord. One half of the body is pale blue-green, its cloth scraps dangling almost like pale, dripping liquid, the "Ice" side of the being, while the other half is more orange-red, and its cloth forms upward, flamelike spikes. Each side has its own simple lump of a head, one a melty dome, one an upright flame, with another single, black triangle for an "eye!"

MM: This last Fenbelil creep obviously stands for a certain copyrighted rodent, since the head is just a sphere with two smaller spherical "ears," haha. The rest of the body is a whole lot of cloth lumps sewn together in such a way that they kind of look like mutated, tumorous muscle, part of its stitchy dress is missing to expose finer, ropy purple organic tissue or fabric, and it wields a very mean looking scythe that also kind of feels like a severed, insectoid leg, the entire design a mix of dirty, yellowed white cloth and sections of intense purple. Genuinely scary as hell, I'm really intrigued by these more vicious and far less "orderly" beings who seem like either banished corruptions of the neutral faction or simply the kinds of members they don't like to talk about.

HUNGER: An exceptionally odd one. Hunger is a nude, bat-winged woman with pink runes or tattoos on her skin, sort of a succubus-looking pixie, but she's all curled up in a sort of giant, upside-down lightbulb full of green fluid, the metal part of the bulb equipped with thin, spidery biomechanical legs. Who is she? Why is she "Hunger?" Why is she contained in this gigeresque mobile bottle?!

FLASKONG: This feels related to Hunger in some way, maybe from the same section of the game? It's an abnormally muscular, veiny blue demon with big, clawed hands, lots of spikes and a spiny, toothy little humanoid head with a metal ring dangling off one side of its face, not even where there's an ear or anything (there aren't any), so I get kind of a "mutant genie" vibe, especially because it's erupting from a relatively small glass bottle from the waist up. Not a magical potion bottle, though, a scientific flask with an unreadable label and measurement lines and everything.

PUZZ: This is one I always remember when Volfoss comes up, and has to be one of the Caldea entities. A big burly humanoid, his back forming a huge swollen hump shape behind his relatively small head. THis head is almost featureless except for a lipless mouth exposing the gums and mean little teeth, and all the rest of the body is formed entirely from red, blue and orange puzzle pieces. He's also evidently completely hollow, since you can see only darkness through the missing pieces, or in a couple cases, all the way through to the white background!

LUNAPONNY: I think it's safe to assume this is one of Aldea's fairy-tale inhabitants. Lunaponny is a centaur woman, but her four equine legs are severed from the knees down, replaced with conical golden spikes, and around her humanoid waist are four additional, smaller, thinner limbs ending in knifelike claws, almost like a cross between horse legs and crab legs! Her whole whitish, greenish, yellowish tinged body is also covered in blue, green and pink paisley patterns, she has eyeballs stuck in her poofy pink horse tail, a bright pink mohawk, pink rope tethered to her legs and nothing covering her centaur gazongas but a set of pink and teal pasties.

I mean it in the most supportive way possible that this is one of the gayest character designs I've ever seen in my life. Lunaponny is the monster Americans fear hiding under their bed, waiting to turn all their American flags into rainbows and trick their children into seeing a picture of two dads holding hands.

We're going to end here for now, because this has gotten a bit long and we're only half way through! Keep checking the front page, RSS feed or bogleech@tumblr for Part II in the coming days, and again, thank Gelgelada for making this possible!