12/01/2015

Cubivore


In the early years of the Nintendo 64, Nintendo had time and time again, touted their new Disk-Drive expansion as the second-coming of Christ himself. The 64DD, as it became known, featured a proprietary re-writable disk format that would allow for customization never before seen - in a Nintendo game, that is.

They promised Zelda 64, which would feature a fully interactive, and totally persistent world, where every minute change you make, be it cutting down trees, leaving footprints, or smashing pots, would be permanent. They promised several sequels to Mario Paint, each one focusing on different elements of design, and utilizing the re writable disk format to store mass-quantities of user-created content. They promised new games, not before possible (on a Nintendo console), including SimCity, and Doshin the Giant (which is sort of like SimCity).

Of course, the 64DD was delayed - repeatedly - ultimately launching nearly 3 years after it's initial projected release-date. Because it was pushed back so far, many of it's killer-apps were ported to the vanilla N64, instead. The combination of numerous delays, and a lack of any true attention grabbers (F-Zero Expansion Kit, aside) the 64DD was a catastrophic failure - it was discontinued quicker than the Dreamcast after seeing only nine games - half of which were expansion to base 64DD games. All of it's ongoing projects were either shifted to the N64, or the then impending GameCube, if not swiftly cancelled outright.

Animal Thugs, despite it's quirky and difficult-to-market nature, was fortunate enough to get resurrected on the GameCube, primed for a Japanese release.... where it bombed - hard.

Nintendo decided it was not worth localizing the game for the western market, after all, if a game is too strange for Japan, it certainly stood no chance in football-watchin', jerky-eatin', America. Atlus disagreed, and in 2002, they published Cubivore for the GameCube in the US... where it bombed.

Hard.


Cubivore (GameCube)
Developed by: Saru Brunei + Intelligent Systems
Published by: Nintendo / Atlus


Cubivore could arguably be considered a permutation of the beat-em-up - Combat involves lunging towards enemies, and biting them, using the patented Legend of Zelda lock-on mechanic - It's very basic, but it's quite serviceable. Enemies are color-coded and once you've weakened a foe enough, you can savagely tear off a "meat-flap" and devour it to restore life, and possibly evolve.

This evolution is the meat of this game (hurr hurr) - which, contrary to the game's subtitle, is non-Darwinian in nature. The game features an appendix of 150 possible transformations to fill out by eating enemy meat-flaps. If you eat the correct combination of enemy colors, you'll take on new, possibly more powerful physiology. There are also a variety of bugs that function more as permanent power-ups for certain stats than actually enemies.

This exactly what Charles Darwin had in mind.
At predetermined points in the game, you find a "mate", get eaten by said "mate", and die. Your characters' offspring then inherits all of your stats, and evolutions, carrying the mantle forward. This happens twice over the course of the game, and yes, in case you're wondering, this is a linear stage-based game, despite it's concept seemingly lending itself to something more sandbox-y. Curiously, Cubivore features a day-night cycle, which forces you to fall asleep automatically. It sounds irritating on paper, but it's rarely intrusive.

But I digress.

Cubivore boasts five different color-coded species of enemies to eat - Bluocytes, Purpial, Redapeds, Yellobrates, and, the games antagonists, the Greyodons. In order to progress you have to eat quite a significant amount of each race. This brings us to Cubivore's narrative, which follows Piggy (that's you) on his journey to drive the greyodons to extinction, in order to restore "wilderness" (color) to the world. Doing so is achieved by hunting, killing, evolving, and reproducing, until you become strong enough to take down the Killer Cubivore, leader of the Greyodons.

Promotional screenshots for Dynasty Warriors 9.
One of Cubivore's defining characteristics is it's surreal, faux-lo-fi artstyle - a major point of contention to many casual consumers at the time. Some found the game too abstract, and other-wordly to be palatable, others still, complained that it looked like a N64 game, which it indeed was. This, combined with it's unconventional subject-matter lead to the miserable sales that I had mentioned earlier, in both Japan and the US.

Cubivore - Georges Braque (1913)
As such, Cubivore is something of a valuable collectible these days - a loose disc in a generic jewel-case will run you a good $50, a mint+complete copy can fetch upwards and beyond $150!

Sadly, Nintendo has never ported this to modern-consoles through their Virtual Console service, and, more likely than not, never will.

Lament the majestic Cubivore, a beast all its own, too good for this ugly, grey world.


I was unable to capture screenshots on my own, so special thanks to -
MobyGame - ObsoleteGamer - EmuParadise

2 comments:

  1. Cubivore is amazing I wish it would get a second game...

    ReplyDelete