Sunday, October 8, 2017

Even Homer Nods

Some references in gaming are obvious and other times they're hard to spot.  A lot depends on being in the know, and what might seem obvious to one person may fly completely over the head of another.  Here's three things that took me a long time to notice.

The assorted shrine puzzles found in the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild come in a variety of forms.  One type that stands out though involves manipulating oversized glowing ball bearings.  Specifically, the challenge is to get them in shallow bowl-shaped depressions in order to trigger a particular mechanism.  Some require the use of pistons to knock them around, while others utilize motion controls to tilt the terrain (which causes the balls to roll a particular way).  The thing is these "marble mazes" are surprisingly similar to some of the toys Nintendo used to make before they got into the video game business.  I've heard a lot of people claim that Breath of the Wild is an example of Nintendo returning to its roots.  I think they're right even more so than they might realize.

It's no secret that the Wing Commander series is basically World War II in space.  Instead of the Empire of Japan though we have an alien race of anthropomorphic felines called the "Kilrathi."  I'm not sure why they went with cats...maybe because asian sometimes have a more slanted shape to their eyes than people of european descent?  Personality-wise I think the Vichy French in North Africa are a better fit, but I digress.  Slightly racist undertones aside, the space fighter craft found throughout the Wing Commander series look vaguely similar to modern jet fighters, but oftentimes use real WW2 combat airplanes as a template.  Missile systems aside, most medium fighters seem to be based on the Bf 109 or Mitsubishi Zero.  Meanwhile, heavy fighters (particularly the "Jalthi") feel like copies of the Bf 110 "Zerst√∂rer."  Additionally, the Dralthi IV resembles the Heinkel He 100 prototype fighter.  Not to mention in one of the novelizations the Asjaka torpedo-bomber is a rather obvious stand-in for the B6N "Jill."  Granted, WW2 didn't feature neutron guns or tachyon cannons so the analogy isn't perfect, but then again, if we're talking accurate depictions of space warfare then Children of a Dead Earth has pretty much everything else beat.

There's a long running gag in Paradox Interactive games involving comet sightings.  It usually happens toward the start of a new game and has no real significance beyond what appears to be an auspicious beginning.  More recently though platypus sightings have become the √† la mode.  Stellaris featured free DLC in the form of a mammalian race that looks suspiciously like a platypus.  Hearts of Iron IV also features an easter egg of sorts in that converting Australia into a fascist regime earns them the name "Empire of the Platypus."  Some players on the official forums bemoaned this for making the game seem silly, while simultaneously failing to realize that the whole idea of Australia adopting such a system of government is completely ludicrous to begin with.  When you think about it, the platypus is a weird animal; it lays eggs like a reptile, but has the feet and mouth of a duck attached to the body of a beaver.  Also, for some reason it has poisonous barbs in its appendages.  Because the platypus is such a bizarre and contradictory creature, it's not hard to imagine why a company called Paradox Interactive adopted this particular animal for their corporate logo. 

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