Previously on Level Playing Fields:
And now… fire levels!
First step is a doozy…
It was just matter of time to complete the holy-trio of the classic platforming levels, and unlike the previous one, this is by far the most chaotic level of all. A counter to water and ice levels, fire levels are usually used last; the final sections or the hardest part of the entire game, which means that you are not going to relax.
Of course, that doesn’t mean too much when the game is already too hard.
Most of the time, these levels are related to volcanoes, caves, or castles (like the fire temple of Ocarina of Time who is located deep within the Death Mountain crater). Sometimes though, they can be found on buildings like chemical plants and such. Regardless of the location in which these levels take place, they all have some of the following aspects: such as…
Your taking a comfortable stroll through the level and suddenly BANG!, a fireball comes out of no where and kills you. This is something that happens in all fire levels, and what make them annoying, is that they are usually located on places like pits filled with lava. Not to mention that sometimes they don’t come from below, they can also come from the front, back or even above you! So be careful when you’re playing a platformer and are about to make that next jump, because you could get burned.
Flamethrowers and Firewalls
Two things that are basically the same thing: big flames that that will block your way. However, there is a slight difference. Flamethrowers are usually fast, coming most of the time from the sides of the level rather than from below or above. They are fast but easy to dodge by moving, jumping or ducking at the right moment. Firewalls on the other hand are slower to appear and are most of the time are just barriers for a puzzle that you must solve in order to advance.
The Floor is Lava, Literally
You got roasted!
A lot of fire levels take place in volcanos, so it’s common to see lava all over the place that will kill you as soon as you touch it; like in some of the most classic platformers like Super Mario or Megaman. In other games, this will only cause you a lot of damage, particularly in ‘MetroidVanias’ like Ufouria or Kirby and the amazing mirror, FPSs like the Quake Franchise, and action-adventure games like Tenchu just to name a few. This is basically the main feature of these levels. While ice levels have floors in which you slide to your doom, fire levels have floors that will kill you as soon as you touch it. But that’s not all, we still have something to add to these levels…
Lava Flow and Eruptions
As if a floor filled with lava wasn’t dangerous enough, now the lava is flowing and you must hurry up and escape before it’s too late; this is something seen in many games. Sometimes you have to jump from one high place to another like in Megaman X 2 or X-men Mutant Apocalypse for SNES, or you have to run before the lava reaches you like in Sonic: The Hedgehog on the Genesis.
Eruptions on the other hand are when the lava and/or rocks are suddenly expelled from a volcano nearby (like in Hudson’s Adventure Island 3), or from the interior of the volcano in which you are in (like in Megaman X 5). They are fast but brief, so you better take cover before it’s too late.
God Dammit Alia!
Among the enemies that we can face here, there is not much variety in comparison with water levels. Let’s be real, there aren’t many animals that would like to live near an active volcano. Which means that most of the enemies aren’t normal creatures, such as…
Not very original, but an enemy made of fire or lava is actually not as dumb as it sounds. In fact, there are some legends or tales about creatures made of fire such as Hitodama (a Japanese ghost described as a ball of fire), the Salamander (a lizard that is immune to fire), and Cherufe (a humanoid creature made of rock and magma). In video games these creatures have several forms. We have the classic living fireballs with evil little eyes like the Bomb monsters from the Final Fantasy franchise. The humanoid ones as the flare dancer in the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And the ‘slime type creature’ made out of lava (remember what I said about slimes), like Slugma and Magcargo from Pokemon. Not to mention that all the enemies hurt you by contact, which actually makes sense. This is why their main attacks involve using their own body as a weapon; throwing fire balls, creating larger flames, or exploding.
Dragons and Phoenixes
Dragons are essentially big-ass reptiles on steroids, and like any other reptile they have a preference for hot places, but as they are dragons they don’t care for the heat of Florida or the Sahara…. oh no, instead, they go for the heat that only the Magmar of a freaking volcano can offer. Volvagia from TLOZ: Ocarina of time, the Dragon God in Demon’s Souls and Bowser from the Super Mario Bros franchise all have some experience with this kind of heat. You don’t only have to be aware that these guys can eat you with one bite, burn you to death or squeeze you with huge claws until your brain explodes, but also that if you fall into the pit of lava you are totally toasted.
If somehow, you managed to complete most of the level without finding a dragon then: “Hooray!” But that doesn’t matter too much because that probably means that your boss would be a Phoenix. If you don’t know what Phoenix is then don’t worry because I’m going to give you a quick summary. In Greek Mythology the Phoenix is a legendary bird known to resurrect after dying and turning into ashes, which in video games translates to a bird set on fire or totally made out of fire. This bird also tends to throw giant balls of fire at you if you are not careful and flies around the stage at top speed like a jackass.
Robots and Golems
Probably not as common as the living fire or the dragons, but golems and robots are the only things that can survive at this temperature so it makes sense to see them walking on lava without too many problems. Golems are giant monsters made out of rock or any mineral which means that they are usually slow but with a high resistance to impacts, such as Pyramid Gan: G in Mega Bomberman for Sega Genesis. But if you are fighting against an army of machines or the main villain is a mad scientist, chances are you are going to fight a robot designed to resist the high temperatures and the pressure of the molten lava. Although apparently, in games like Axelay for the SNES your bullets can still hurt them, or if you are Sonic the Hedgehog, simply jumping on them will kill them for some stupid reason.
I think that I stretched the list a little bit with the Phoenix, Golems and Robots but to be fair they are the only ones strong enough to support the intense heat of the magma. Another thing that I wanted to add is that unlike Ecco the Dolphin, there isn’t (or at least I could find) a whole video game that takes place on a Fire Level the same way you will see entire games on ice.
I could argue that this game takes place on an Ice level, but I really didn’t want to try.
I did manage to find games that take place inside caverns and similar places but all in all it’s not the same as an entire game taking place inside a giant volcano filled with lava pits and dragons. Sure, it would be great to see it but the closest thing to a video game that takes place completely on fire I could find was the fireman video games. Believe it or not, this is actually a genre and I have been playing one of these games, The Firemen for the Super Famicom.
Very original name, isn’t it?
It’s a fun game and kind of short and way easier than that damn dolphin game, but it doesn’t have as many of the previous elements except for the fireballs, flamethrowers, fire walls and the living fire.
Yes, there are bosses on this game and they are usually fire, flames and fire with flames.
There are other examples like Ignition Factor (SNES), Rosco McQueen Firefighter Extreme (PSONE) Fahrenheit (SEGA CD) and Burning Rangers (SEGA SATURN) among others, but in the end they are basically the same thing, rescue the civilians, explore buildings and, of course, extinguish the fire. Although in Burning Rangers you use laser guns instead of water hoses and your character is a 90’s anime hero with a jet pack.
But again, recording a Sega Saturn game is not very easy.
Personally, I always love these kinds of levels because they usually represent a great challenge and beating them feels like an accomplishment.
Slayer-Quest: Light my Fire