Under the sea, under the sea.
Yes my friends, after making the entry about ice levels we finally end up here, the cream of the crop, one of the central pillars in cliché levels in video game history: water levels.
Water levels are known by retro gaming as the downfall on every game, and it’s not like the ice levels where they can be problematic but enjoyable, these are just problematic, frustrating and boring. I’m not saying that these games are bad, but their water levels are and the reasons for that are the following.
Equip and Unequip.
Also Known as the Water temple syndrome from TLOZ: Ocarina of Time. Despite the fact that many people love this game, there’s something that even them admit, and is that the Water Temple is a pain in the butt, and the reason for that is because you constantly changing boots from one point to another, because you can’t walk in the deeps of the water and you can’t swim with the heavy boots, which makes the whole experience just tedious instead of awesome. Sadly this is not just something from the Zelda Franchise, other games also make a “Good” use of this setting such as Megaman Legends 2, whose basically the Capcom Version of this game, Castlevania: Aria of sorrows, where at least by the time you have to go underwater you have abilities to help you to reach some higher places over the water, Pokemon since with the dive move since gen III (Too much water).
By this point, I can hum the song that they use when you are getting drowned
If you didn’t needed in Ducktales in the surface of the moon, then why do you need it now? When games try to be more “realistic” is when everything falls apart, and this is the best example of all, because losing oxygen in a game only means that unless you found some way to recover air for your lunges you are going to die for sure, or in the best cases, lose energy very quickly. This is something that Sonic fans knows the best since the first game. Games like Super Mario 64, Earthworm Jim, Banjo-Kazooie, Ecco The dolphin and Mother 3 just to name a few share this same feature, and believe me, I’m pretty sure that there are thousands of other games with this similar feature
When your character can only jump to kill the enemies without the use of any power-ups that means that the only way to survive underwater is dodging the enemies, why? Because you can’t jump in the water, this is the other reason why water levels ruins the whole experience, they definitely more slow than regular levels, and more boring indeed because you are pretty much useless. This at least makes kind of sense in games of the Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong Country Franchise, here is where your flowers and Swordfish friend are expendables. Other variations include that you can’t use certain moves underwater, for example in games like Kirby once you are in the water most of your abilities would be replaced with the one of spit water (under water) at a high pressure, in other games such as Megaman 8 and Alien Soldier, fire-type attacks doesn’t work because apparently fire doesn’t work under water, which doesn’t apply to Mario or Luigi for some reason, I don’t know, Magic fire I guess, but for me the most bullshit example of all is in the Ocarina of time where your only weapon is the hookshot that somehow it works underwater, but you can’t use your sword because… things happen, but at least you can roll underwater with YOUR HEAVY BOOTS PERFECTLY.
If you played a Megaman game before, you’ll know about the changes that a water levels have on your character, this changes would make your character jump higher, slow down his moves and making him fall more slow than what he do on the surface, this is a classic element from one of the oldest platformers franchises of all times that still applies to these days, sadly, this don’t usually works in some games as it does in others, for example this is one of the things that makes more frustrating the water levels in Sonic because this only makes your quest for oxygen harder, not to mention a little contradictory to the whole idea of the sonic games of going fast. Not to mention.
Unless your body is made out of steel like our friend megaman or if you wear a really heavy armor over your body like shovel knight, is very improbable for your body to walk in the bottom of the sea, the swimming mechanic is very common in some platformers like Ristar, run and gun games like Metal Slug 3, beat em up’s like Battletoads, RPG’s like Mario and Luigi Super Star Saga, 3rd person action games like God of War and many more. In some games these mechanics are very well development and it makes the game very variety, games like Viewtiful Joe 2 suddenly become some kind of underwater space shooter, but of course that’s the case of good or at least regular games with water levels, because is not the same playing a good game where you can swim than playing a bad game where you can barely move, you hear me TMNT for the NES! and talking about Swimming.
I always found weird that in the game falling to the water in any level means that you are automatically dead, but then you have a level where your character is swimming without any problem, seriously, What the Hell? And this is not something from bad games like TMNT for the NES (The game that embarrassment Konami that much that they changed its name to publish it) this also applies to good games like Adventure island 2 to 3 where, well, is hard to explain why a you can swim in the deep of the sea but you can’t on a small lake and the same goes for the Donkey Kong Country franchise, just to name a few because I’m pretty sure that other platformers have this problem.
Spikes and Traps
For some reason water levels aren’t free of traps, in fact they have some of the cruelest traps in the whole game and not to mention that we have to get used to the new mechanics that the water environment includes. I mean if you think about it the level of Bubble Man from Megaman 2 has the highest number of spikes in the whole game, and the same goes for the level of Dive Man in Megaman 4, both being water levels. This is not only something from the Megaman Franchise, games like God of War 1 and 2, Conker’s bad Fur day, Adventure Island 2 and 3 and the TMNT game for the NES has water levels with several kinds of traps that might kill you if you are not careful.
Against the Current
Leaving aside the numerous spikes and giant blades, water levels also have strong currents that will make your progress harder than it should. The currents will try to pull you toward a trap that will automatically kill you, block your progress forcing you to find a way around, or just transport you from one side of the level to another, making you lose progress. This is something that happens in several games from Wario Land 2 and 4, Super Mario Bros 3, Megaman Legends 2, and many more.
Submarines and Water Scooter
Ok, this is not very common but I should mention it anyway.
When you think that your game needs variety and it’s impossible for your character to walk in the bottom of the sea or swim across it, game developers give you a water vehicle. Why? Because it makes sense, but of course that doesn’t make things easier. For example, In MegaMan 5 you have a water scooter that takes you from the middle part of the level to the boss liar. In Earthworm Jim, you have a bubble submarine to maneuver between the rocks without popping your bubble, all while maintaining your oxygen supply. In Star Fox 64, you have the blue marine to conquer one of the hardest levels in the game. It’s dark and some of the enemies and elements that appear are really hard to see until they are merely couple of centimeters away from you. The only good thing about the level is that you don’t have to help anyone from your team. In Viewtiful Joe 2, the whole game becomes a side scrolling space shooter that takes some time to get used to. Be careful to not being crushed by the screen. Seriously, I had to play this level several times to finish it. At least Metal Slug 3 was kind of fun. You have to face bigger submarines and sea monsters in a space shooter style, so you better have some ROCKET LAUCHERS with you.
Wow, more than half the article only to describe the annoying mechanics in these levels and I still haven’t gotten to enemies. Believe me, water levels have some of the highest number of enemies than in other levels. Water levels have even more enemies than what you find in graveyards, because there are so many different creatures of the deep blue sea.
We are going to face sea life of all size and colors: piranhas, angler fish, moray eels, crabs, shrimp, sea horses, starfish, stingrays, sea hedgehogs, coral, barnacles, whales, sea turtles, sea snails, seals, walrus, octopuses, jellyfish, squid, sponges, sharks, lobsters, rock lobsters, spiders that can walk on water, mermaids, mermen , Atlanteans, Cthulhu, eels, alligators, crocodiles, clamshells, giant water monsters, and don’t forget people such as scuba divers and submarine pilots.
We have a huge army of enemies to face, and I’m pretty sure that most of these guys were bosses in one or two games. I will only talk of three in particular because I’ve seen them more often as bosses and two because they are all kinds of badass.
The Kraken: Octopus/Jellyfish/Squid
Also known as “I’ve seen enough hentai to know where this is going.”
The kraken is the mythical beast from the Nordic mythology that was described as a giant octopus/squid that could sink even the largest boats with its giant tentacles. But that’s best known nowadays as a Japanese porn star. In video games, a kraken is the classic huge cephalopod that will try to crush your bones with their big tentacles. In real life octopuses have some of the best camouflage in the whole animal kingdom and they will use ink in order to escape if necessary. Squid are some of the best predators under the sea. Jellyfish are nearly indestructible and they can kill you with their deadly poison in the most painful way possible. Thankfully, all of them are more easy to kill in video games than in real life.
Take that Jaws, no more sequels
The king of the sea and one of the deadliest killing machines in all of nature is the shark. Since Stephen Spielberg made Jaws, and the multitude of shark movies to follow, the fear of sharks is has become huge. But sharks are some of the most dangerous creatures in video games too. They are also some of the most common enemies, and let’s be honest, there’s nothing more cool than to punch a freaking shark in the face.
The Leviathan/Water Dragon
This is it folks, the heavy weight of the water level: a huge-ass reptile that will eat your whole damn team unless you do something about it. Leviathan generally is a big dragon or sea serpent that controls the sea, and the fight against him is not easy. For me, any kind of boss that is a reptilian serpent creature that you have to face underwater counts as a Leviathan. The fight against a dragon is at least ten times more exciting than a shark, an octopus or a Sharktopus.
Dammit SyFy channel!
Of course, one thing is a water level in a video game, but what if the whole game is just a water level?
For that we have Ecco the Dolphin.
This my friends is one of the hardest and weirdest games I ever played. You control Ecco, the only dolphin that escaped from being kidnapped by aliens because… reasons. It’s up to you to rescue your friends with the help of other sea fellas, such as a whale or an oceanic entity. The entity sends you to Atlantis in order to get a time machine, travel thousands of years into the past to grab a mysterious artifact and bring it back to the present. It is then that you are able to reach to an alien fortress and save your friends.
What makes this game so damn hard is that you have most of the previous problems mentioned: the lack of oxygen, the strong currents, the numerous traps on your way, and slow and hard to control movement. Your primary attack is a tackle that puts you on the receiving end of damage half of the time. The fact that you have a lot of puzzles to solve on your own while swimming in a big labyrinth is also difficult, and that’s basically every level of this game.
Welcome to the hardest boss in a water level just after the hardest water level ever
Despite the fact that you have unlimited continues and eventually gain power ups like unlimited air, regenerative healing factor, and the ability to shoot sonic booms from your head, the game is still hard as hell. Thankfully our friend Zack has an article here that might help you to finish this game, I had enough of it so good luck.
I’ll be following this article up with fire stages to round out the common trio of stage types in video games. In the meantime, remember to be afraid of undersea stages, water temples, and other areas that put you under the ocean.
Slayer-Quest: Madman across the water