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Old 12-13-2012, 03:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Death Itself

Death is shown in many forms. Sometimes it's a helpful psychopomp, guiding souls into eternity. Sometimes it's a phantom that haunts our every living moment, whether we realize it or not. And sometimes it's a cute little sentry that squawks excitedly and calls down smaller versions of itself. Here's a sampling of the numerous forms the reaper takes in video games.

DEATH (Darksiders II)

The Darksiders version of Death isn't based so much on the vague, omnipresent custodian of the afterlife. Rather, he's one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Like his three companions, Death is one of the Nephilim, angel-demon crossbreeds that rebelled against heaven eons ago. In the ensuing war, Death wiped out his own race, and it left him none too pleased. Darksiders II sees him wandering the franchise's strange cosmos, digging up a murder mystery and rescuring his brother War. There's symbolism in that, we're certain.


Manuel 'Manny' Calavera puts on the scythe-and-robe getup of a traditional grim reaper, but only when he's meeting (and sometimes scaring) new clients at his afterlife travel agency. That's a small part of what makes him the most likable instrument of death that games have ever produced. A struggling, low-ambition salesman, Manny is launched toward greater things when his clients are denied the rewards they've earned through their earthly lives. On his journey through the criminal underworld of the actual underworld, Manny swaps his morbid guise for a more stylish rotation of suits, and like any protagonist crafted by Tim Schafer, Manny's rarely without a clever line. Better yet, the game never tells us too much about just who Manny was in the realm of the living.

LENNETH VALKYRIE (Valkyrie Profile)

As a valkyrie in tri-Ace's warped Norse-fantasy RPG series, Lenneth isn't a reaper so much as she's a recruiter, and the only character to call her a 'death goddess' is bluntly corrected. Tasked with gathering the souls of elite human warriors to join the forces of Valhalla, she spends a lot of her time following around mortals and watching them die unpleasantly. As one might imagine, this doesn't put her in the best of moods, and she eventually breaks free of her depressing day job. Her two valkyrie sisters handle the same profession in diverging ways; the rebellious Silmeria leaves Valhalla in the second Valkyrie Profile, while the stiffly loyal Hrist plays the part of death with little sympathy for mortals. Perhaps that's why Hrist hasn't earned a Valkyrie Profile of her own just yet.

DEATH (Castlevania)

One of the nastier bosses in the original Castlevania, Death rose above the ranks of mummies and Medusa to become a recurring character and perhaps the most important of Dracula's minions. As shown in Lament of Innocence, Death was instrumental in establishing Dracula as the recurring villain of the series. Death has appeared in numerous other Castlevania games, though he's remember most bitterly for swiping Alucard's equipment at the start of Symphony of the Night. It raises a few questions. Is he the actual Death, the one that presides over all of the deceased? And if so, why is he some vampire lord's flunky?

GRIM (Maximo)

Capcom's tribute to its own Ghosts N' Goblins begins with the heroic Maximo banished into limbo by the sorcerer Achille. Technically not dead, Max is fished out of the watery afterlife by Grim, who resents Achille raising the dead for twisted mortal schemes. For the sake of job security, Grim sends Maximo back to face Achille and battle through all sorts of fiendishly hard stages. The slightly more forgiving sequel, Maximo and the Army of Zin, even allows its hero to change into the grim reaper at certain points.

REAPERS (Kid Icarus)

The image of death as a robed, scythe-toting, skeletal being has its origins in the late Middle Ages, though enterprising scholars trace the scythe imagery back to the Greek god Cronus. So it's not a terrible stretch for Nintendo to put a similarly attired reaper amid the more Hellenistic monsters of Kid Icarus. They're hardly the most threatening of video-game grim reapers, however; upon seeing the heroic Pit, Reapers yip and hop and summon both a rain of Reapettes and a change in the soundtrack. They do much the same thing in the recent Kid Icarus: Uprising, complete with musical accompaniment.


Most of the hazards in Atari's Paperboy are common suburban sights: dogs, skateboarders, construction crew, and agitated seniors waving rolling pins in the air. There are a few oddities, though, and the avatar of our own mortality is one of them. The robed figure doesn't do more than walk across the paperboy's path, and it does no more damage than a dog or a sewer grate. Yet its presence makes a lot more sense once you note the funeral home and hearse further up the road. Like a lot of Paperboy's obstacles, death is just going about its business.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:46 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Death Itself

All that and no mention of Gregg? By far the greatest Death character of them all!

Conker's Bad Fur Day (Gregg the Grim Reaper) - YouTube
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