6 Video Games That Put Insane Detail Into Stuff You Missed
It has to be strange working on a video game, knowing that the work you put into background details and animation will be ignored by most gamers, who are too busy getting to the next teabagging opportunity to spot them. But that doesn't stop game makers from going to extreme lengths to cram their creations full of tiny, inconsequential details -- either because they're dedicated auteurs, or it's the only way for them to stop the demons screeching in their brains.
As we've mentioned before, this means that some of the coolest details in your favorite games probably went completely unnoticed:
Batman: Arkham City Has a Whole Gotham You Can't Access
Batman: Arkham City is a game about Batman punching criminals in the face, because fuck yes it is. It takes place within the confines of the eponymous open-world prison, but while you explore it you can see skyscrapers and landmarks from nearby Gotham in the distance -- basically just background wallpaper, like the green hills in Super Mario Bros.
And we're pretty sure those clouds are just painted on.
Obviously, since the player can't go beyond the walls of the prison area, you'd assume the developers just threw up some pictures of the skyline and called it a day. But no, they went through the trouble of creating an entire ghost city out there that you can't even touch. The only way to access it -- which 99 percent of gamers won't be aware of, never mind bother with -- is to use an obscure glitch to send yourself flying up out of the game world, at which point you can soar through the air like some kind of small, airborne mammal. A flying squirrel, maybe?
Once you've slipped off the surly bonds of your PlayStation, you're free to explore Gotham to your heart's content. Despite this being a part of the game that you were never intended to see, the city is surprisingly detailed. You can even dive-bomb cars driving around the city.
Reminder: the regular game features zero cars driving around the city.
If you perform the glitch in the right spot, you can actually fly all the way over to the setting of the first game in the series, Arkham Asylum. While it's not terribly detailed, it has a heck of a lot more detail than we were expecting (none).
It's covered in giant vines because, well, long story.
Unfortunately, you can't actually touch any part of Gotham, and trying to land will send Batman into a bottomless pit, but it's still pretty damn impressive that they made a realistically-sized city that absolutely dwarfs the size of the map you can actually explore. It's like if you could wander into the background of Tetris and check out all the sweet Russian buildings hiding there.
The Zombies in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Mourn Their Dead
These zombies are easily among the most nightmarish enemies in the game. They utter disturbing moans before paralyzing you with a shrill scream, at which point they saunter over and start snacking on your head like it's a juicy cantaloupe.
"Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow."
ReDeads are few and far between, but there's one group you'll see a lot of. When Link enters the Temple of Time, he gets put in a magical coma and wakes up seven years later. After he's finished examining all his new body hair, he steps outside and discovers that the neighboring town, a formerly bustling metropolis of 12 people, is now destroyed and populated by ReDeads, who are presumably some of the former townsfolk. Your options are to either (re)kill them or, because they take an annoyingly long time to defeat, run past them every time you're in the neighborhood (which will be a lot).
However, if you decide to pick a fight with the undead, you'll find that they have some surprising behavior. Normally, they just go straight for your delicious brains when you attract their attention, but if you kill one ReDead and ignore the rest, they'll become far more interested in their now re-deceased friend. They'll walk past you, approach their fallen comrade, and keel down next to them ... as if in mourning. Their shoulders even bob up and down, like they're weeping for the departed:
"*sob* *sob* *sob*. *nom* *nom* *nom*."
So these brain-dead zombies are far from that -- they still remember something of their former lives and are, on a very base level, still sentient. And you just killed them.
Admittedly, this is just a fan theory, but let's look at the facts. For starters, no other enemies do this. The ReDeads are also one of the few formerly human enemies you face -- they're a species powered by their own hunger, a desire that's overwritten by their barely-repressed memories of their former selves. It gives them a tragically nobility when they gnaw your face off, and most gamers never thought about this.
Keep in mind that to witness this, you'd have to wake up more than one of these nightmares at a time and, instead of immediately pressing your attack when one is killed, stop and see where their shuffling is taking them to. It's just a little tragic detail the designers decided to throw into a kids' game to reward children who like to pause and contemplate the meaning of mortality and consciousness in the middle of their fantasy adventure.
Multiple Games Contain Full-Length Movies and TV Shows
It's common for games these days to let you interact with the background in ways that don't really affect anything -- if there's a sink in the game, you can probably turn on the water, and if there's a toilet, you can probably flush it. These little nuggets of interactivity are usually there for no other reason than for kids to giggle and shout for their big brother to come watch them flush the toilet over and over. But some games figure that every apartment has a TV in it, and if there's a TV, well, there'd better be some damned programming on it.
If you're lucky, you might catch Downton Abbey.
So in the noir thriller Heavy Rain, when you're not engaging in uncomfortable foreplay or changing virtual diapers, there's a point where you're given the option to sit down and awkwardly watch TV with your estranged son in your shitty apartment.
Those boxes behind him are full of father of the year mugs.
It's easy to circumvent this entire scene and get back to being entangled in an elaborate murder mystery, but if taking a virtual load off and crashing on a couch while already on your couch sounds like your idea of fun, you'll be treated to short animations created by students of the world-famous Gobelins. It sounds like a French Lord of the Rings monster, but it's actually a school that's produced animators for Disney and Pixar.
This screenshot alone sold us on a full-length feature.
There are three shorts hidden in the game. You're never told to sit down and watch them -- the developers just included them, because why the hell not include a bunch of spectacular cartoons in the depths of your video game? And they crammed two more shorts into their next game, Beyond: Two Souls. Watch one and try to remember that it was specifically created to be hidden inside another piece of entertainment.
Then there's The Darkness, where you play a brutal mob enforcer who tears people limb from limb. Naturally, the game has a scene where you sit down with your girlfriend and watch To Kill a Mockingbird on a crappy TV. All of it.
Because the real darkness is institutional racism.
After a few moments, you can stand up and get back to ripping bad guys' spines out of their dicks, which you obviously want to be doing at all times ... but if you resist that urge, you can actually watch the entire movie. Or, if Gregory Peck monologues are too heavy for your gaming session, you can also find TV sets that play, respectively, an entire episode of Flash Gordon, 1955 Academy Award winner The Man With the Golden Arm, and a Popeye short, among others. The developers took a bunch of public domain shows and plopped them in the game, possibly just to placate that one asshole who'd complain about the TVs always showing the same thing.
Shenmue Has a Life of Its Own -- Right Down to the Actual Daily Weather from 1987
We've already told you about how Shenmue makes you get a tedious day job in the name of realism, but that merely scratched the surface of the developer's obsession. While the game is nominally about a teenager named Ryo searching for his father's killer, most of your time is spent exploring an incredibly intricate recreation of Yokosuka, Japan circa 1987. You can open every drawer, flip every light switch, and explore every one of the town's shops, bars, and arcades (assuming they're open for business).
They'd better be open on Valentine's Day.
Lots of games have day/night cycles, but Shenume went all-out to create a town with a rhythm of its own. Hundreds of non-playable characters keep to schedules and live their own little independent lives. In the morning, though the player almost certainly won't see it, each character wakes up, has breakfast, and goes to work. If they're unemployed, you might spot them taking a stroll or cleaning up around the house.
Someone's gotta sweep the same tiny section of road over and over again.
Life in Shenmue carries on pretty much regardless of what the player does (this led to a hilarious glitch in development where Yokosuka turned into a ghost town because all the characters tried to buy breakfast at the same time and got stuck in the convenience store). You just show up to watch the story unfold. And your reward for finishing the game is further proof that the developers might have had some sort of DSM-recognized obsession.
If you choose to play again, you get the thrilling option of replaying with the actual weather in Yokosuka during the game's time frame of November 1986 to April 1987. Shenmue's designers modeled each game day's weather based on the meteorological records of the Tokyo suburb.
Allowing you to finally get all that intense, pulse-pounding umbrella action you've been craving.
So if you've ever wondered whether it snowed in Yokosuka on March 3rd, 1987, Shenmue offers you the chance to finally find out for yourself. Remember, this is a hidden feature -- gaming meteorologists already had to invest around 20 hours into unlocking "anal-retentive forecast mode," and they need another 20 hours to fully appreciate the fact that some Japanese people got to enjoy a few sunny winter days two-and-a-half decades ago. But who wouldn't want to play a great game a second time around to see the pixelated skies in a slightly different order?
They Mapped Out 326 Possible Story Scenarios in Shadow the Hedgehog
Shadow the Hedgehog is the Poochie of the Sonic franchise. In his titular game, he steals cars (which he could actually outrun), swears, and shoots cops. It was Sega's sad, laughable attempt to appear dark and edgy, and to cash in on that Grand Theft Auto thing they heard all the kids are playing these days.
"Who wants to go to the Green Hill Zone to sell drugs and bang hookers?"
The game's unique selling point, apart from its ill-advised "mature" content, was its morality system. Every level had three ways to play through it: Hero (save good guys and stop bad guys), Dark (kill good guys and, uh, nuke a heavily populated city) and Neutral (ignore the game's terrible plot and just run as fast as you can). Credit where credit's due -- unlike other games where morality choices are little more than a temporary diversion, every different ending of every different level led to a completely different level, culminating in ten vastly different conclusions.
As seen here via flowchart, a staple of the Sonic franchise.
Furthermore, there are different ways to reach each ending. You could get the happy ending of peace and love by being saintly the whole way, or you could start as a rebel before redeeming yourself. You could get the ending where you punch Dr. Robotnik to death (yes, really) by being a total sociopath, or you could Anakin Skywalker it by being a noble hero who tragically falls. How many possible paths are there, you ask? Three hundred and twenty-six. In a freaking Sonic game.
"Coffin of Memories" refers to the friends and family you'll forget as you unlock all of them.
After you finish a path, you're welcome to re-watch the epic story you just witnessed. Of course, when you have hundreds of paths but only about 30 cutscenes to share between them, the storytelling becomes a complete mess. Characters appear and disappear, plot points are picked up and unresolved or show up from nowhere, and Shadow teleports around the world like a confused Alzheimer's patient. Best of all, each path has its very own name, all of which are worthy of a My Chemical Romance album title.
There's the grim "Under Darkness' Control," the probably-stolen-from-an-erotic-fanfic "Punisher of Love," the ridiculously melodramatic "Punishment, Thy Name is Ruin," the pretentious "Archimedes and the Tortoise," and so very many more. Spare a thought for the poor developer who drew the short straw and had to find a unique name for every single one, all of which he apparently took from his moody teenage poetry.
"Where is my happiness?" is also what gamers who bought this asked themselves.
It's an amazing and astonishingly pointless effort, considering most gamers probably didn't bother to finish this piece of crap once, let alone an additional 325 times. The complete list took 50 fans to assemble, all of whom deserve some kind of medal and a stiff drink.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf Lets Art Lovers Spot Subtle Forgeries
Animal Crossing is basically The Sims for furries. You move into a small town populated by animals, where your main goal is to decorate your house and wear spiffy clothes. Occasionally, a travelling salesman / con artist named Crazy Redd sets up a shady tent and invites you inside.
Because if there's one thing every video game needs, it's the equivalent of a used car salesman
Redd sells valuable paintings and statues based on real-life works of art, which you need to buy to help fill out the town's museum. But because he's a sleazeball, his items are often forgeries, and the only way to know if you were scammed or not in most Animal Crossing games is to try to sell it or have it appraised by the narcoleptic owl that runs the museum.
"And upon closer perusal, that is one fly-ass hat."
Then, without telling anybody, Nintendo decided to implement a way for players to spot fake works of art without a demoralizing trip to one of your animal neighbors. If you squint at your 3DS hard enough in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it's possible to pick out the alterations the developers made to the tiny, pixelated pieces. These are barely-noticeable tweaks, meaning that even if you know that it's possible to identify fakes, only those with a solid knowledge of art will be able to pick up on the hints.
For example, in Thomas Gainsborough's 1770 oil portrait The Blue Boy, does the titular boy have both hands on his hips or only one?
Too obscure? Well, how about this -- does the woman in the Mona Lisa have her right hand resting on top of her left hand, or is it the other way around?
Right on left is right, as seen on the left.
And have you studied Edo period woodblock prints? You damn well better have. Is the scary looking guy in the picture below supposed to be doing the double guns or jazz hands?
Of course, we assume you've memorized Caravaggio's 16th-century masterpiece Basket of Fruit. Because if you haven't, you'll miss the extra hole in one of the leaves.
They named the game after this new leaf.
Twenty-two of the game's pieces have subtle but distinct fake variants. The game doesn't tell you that you can spot fakes, so it would be natural to assume that the whole affair is luck-based. In fact, the game doesn't even tell you that these are real works of art -- while everyone will recognize the Mona Lisa, how many of you will spot that the blurry "Solemn Painting" is actually Diego Velazquez's 1656 masterpiece Las Meninas?
Only truly astute art collectors, as pictured.
It turns out that Art History minor will come in handy for you after all -- unlike the rest of the world, you'll avoid getting taken advantage of by your weird, greedy little animal neighbors.
Ridley Davis studies professional writing at Michigan State University. He also isn't actually named Ridley Davis. Karl Smallwood loves video games and writing, you can follow him on Tumblr and Twitter or see more of his work at Factfiend.com.
For more crazy things you missed, check out 7 Insane Easter Eggs Hidden in Movies and TV Shows and The 5 Most Elaborately Hidden Video Game Easter Eggs.
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