Monday, August 11, 2014

Of Cats and Men

When it comes to dogs and cats, I prefer the former over the latter.  It's nothing personal, I just have a mild allergy to cat hair.  So, what does this have to do with video games?  Well...while I wouldn't consider myself much of a cat person in real life, I seem to have played a lot of games prominently featuring anthropomorphic felines.

My first major exposure has to be the Kilrathi from Wing Commander.  At first glance one might be tempted to label them as Klingons with furry manes instead of bony head ridges, but the reality is this race of proud(ly incompetent) lion-men are actually derived from the science fiction author Larry Niven's "Known Space" universe.  Of course in that setting they're known as the Kzinti, but are more or less the same in terms of being a warrior race of humanoid felines with impressive physiques.  Incidentally, the Kzinti also appear in older Star Trek fiction (check out the board game "Federation and Empire" for one such example).  The Kilrathi's appearance changed considerably over the lifespan of the Wing Commander franchise, but it's also worth noting some of the other copy-cats (get it?) as well.

In the 4X strategy game series Master of Orion, there's a physically impressive playable race of felines called the Mrrshans.  While I didn't play as them all that much I enjoyed having them present as one of the opposing factions.  Unsurprisingly, they get combat bonuses and generally operate as a military dictatorship with honorable leanings.

Moving into the realm of science fantasy, there are the Ronso from Final Fantasy X.  While a bit different appearance-wise, in that each male has a single horn sprouting from their foreheads, the Ronso retain all the warrior traditions and physical prowess associated with the previous examples.  They're also the only non-human race in FFX that I found to be at all interesting or fleshed out to any degree.

Thankfully, not all video games featuring humanoid cats are the same culturally.  The Khajiit from the Elder Scrolls series come in all varieties and are very much a blank slate when it comes to character creation except for a few tendencies toward thievery.  The one and only character I made (and played) in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was one of these stripped fur creatures.

Then there are the friendly Katta, who appear in every Quest for Glory game except the fourth entry (possibly due to the cold damp location that game is based in).  Rather than being yet another proud race of warriors, they are most often artisans, innkeepers or merchants native to a desert realm.  Their stature tends to be a bit smaller than humans as well.

The list goes on and on, featuring everything from those feisty little guys in Monster Hunter to some others which feature eccentricities such as extra pairs of arms or legs...but I won't be going into detail regarding any of them know with my allergies and all...In conclusion though I have to imagine that a lot of game developers own cats, or like them to such a degree that they project a lot of intriguing characteristics onto them in the world of video games.

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