The X Button - Tendered Mercies

by Todd Ciolek,

The Drakengard 3 Contest is now over. This was easily the hardest competition I've had to judge here, and not just because I had to read about 15,000 words concerning Drakengard 3. It was difficult to decide on the winners, since all of the entrants were knowledgeable and amusing in some way. Meanwhile, the stories in the Worst Entry Contest were terrible, and that was pretty much the point.

Our grand-prize winner is Lynette Smith, who put together an amusing little story about a problem I'm sure all of us have encountered at some point.

Getting Inside

He spied his flower, stretched out and awaiting him on a large and ornate bed. With swift and light movement he made his way through the elegant and well-appointed room. It was a great stone chamber filled with only the finest of possessions, not that he noticed such things. He was wholly fixated on the flower that awaited him. He barely perceived the well-made furniture or high-quality trappings that marked the room as something luxurious that could only belong to someone of the highest social ranking. He did not care about such things, nor did he care about the half-dozen or so fresh bodies that somewhat marred the beautiful and otherwise spotless room.

He hovered above the bed, filled with single-minded anticipation. Zero lay with her eye closed, she was soft, white and covered in gore. The flower in her eye was stained completely red. She was still clothed, but looked comfortable and relaxed. Zero's sword lay discarded a short distance away, the blood on it was still fresh and seeped slowly into the sheets. Her head rested on a hard white wing, belonging to her familiar, Mikhail. The dragon was stretched across the far side of the bed, his weight threatening to break it.

He ignored the dragon, whose attendance in this little affair was of no consequence to him. Lingering in front of her face, he could feel her soft breath against his body. With his long and thin tongue he licked at the center of her flower. A moment passed, Zero's eye shot open and locked with his own. Zero's hand gripped something long and hard, and pulled.

With one swift movement, Zero cleaved the small bird in two. The little hummingbird exploded into a spray of blood and downy feathers. A chunk of bird flew across the room and hit what had once been a priceless mural, making a red splat that dripped down the painting before falling with a splash into a jug of water. The splat didn't make much difference though; the work had already been half-covered in gore from an earlier kill.

Zero blinked and then sat up, growling in annoyance. This wasn't the first time a hummingbird had tried to drink from the flower growing from her eye, nor was it the first to die in the attempt. A long time ago One had told her that hummingbirds were attracted to red flowers, although Zero hadn't really been listening. Still, if Zero failed to wash the blood off after a slaughter then she would occasionally find herself molested by the irritating little things. Zero briefly considered getting up to go wash the blood away, then decided against it. If another stupid bird decided to try its luck with her flower, she'd just kill it too.

Zero's scowl softened as she laid back down, resting her head on Mikhail's wing. She stretched her arms and yawned… and sucked in several of the small down feathers still floating in the air. Zero rolled into a sitting position and began coughing. Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she got up. She grabbed a pitcher of water from a nearby desk, and drank. A chunk of errant meat bobbed about in the red tinged water, and Zero swallowed it.

Afterward, Zero glanced back at the still-snoring Mikhail and the comfy bed that was probably going to break under his weight. Zero glared a minute. Then, grinding her teeth, she went to take a bath.

We have several runner-up winners as well, but I'll put them at the end of the column so as not to crowd out everything else. I intend to publish all of the entries during the coming weeks, so let me know if you'd prefer I didn't run your contribution. And my hat's off to all who took the time to enter!

NEWS

NAZO NO MURASAME JO FINALLY HEADS TO NORTH AMERICA
It seems odd that Nintendo didn't release all of their early Famicom action games in North America. Any cultural or religious oddities could be fixed, and there was space enough in the Nintendo Entertainment System's first round for anything to catch on. Yet Nazo No Murasame Jo didn't make it. Being a Famicom Disk System release and a samurai-themed title were not impediments for localization in the dark, post-crash times of 1983, but if Kid Niki: Radical Ninja and Ninja Kid (itself a remodeled Gegege no Kitaro game) could come to America, Nazo No Murasame Jo could've done the same.

And now we can see just how Nazo No Murasame Jo fares…at least in Europe. It's coming out tomorrow on that region's 3DS Virtual Console, under the title The Mysterious Murasame Castle. It's an interesting piece from Nintendo's early days: the overhead viewpoint recalls Zelda, but the action is a little bit quicker. I hope a U.S. release isn't so far behind.

Then again, it could end up like Devil World, Shigeru Miyamoto's somewhat obscure Pac-Man clone. Europe got it on the NES back in the day and on the Wii's Virtual Console, but we Americans never saw it. It's not a particularly good game, but there's always novelty in a Nintendo-backed title full of demons, crosses, and little Bible power-ups.

FANS MAKING THEIR OWN MEGAMAN LEGENDS 3
Here at The X Button, I use any excuse to talk about Mega Man Legends 3 and its unjust cancellation. However, the latest news about it is relevant: having realized that Capcom won't revive Legends 3 in a rush of contrition and financial waste, some fans are determined to make their own version of the game with the Unity engine. The Our Own Mega Man Legends 3 project is currently seeking programmers, and the first video of the project doesn't look half bad.

The big problem, of course, is that they're using Capcom-owned characters without any evident permission, and that's just asking for a swift lawsuit to shut everything down. It happened to Chrono Resurrection, the Chrono Trigger fan remake. It happened to that fan-made My Little Pony fighting game. And it'll probably happen to this promising revival of Mega Man Legends 3 (or Rockman Dash 3, as the game would've been called in Japan) if the fans behind it aren't careful. Maybe I shouldn't even talk about it here.

Fan-made games often face this Catch-22: publishers will stamp them out if they reveal themselves before the project's finished, but they can't drum up support if they're made in secret. Perhaps this new Mega Man Legends 3 will slide by, just as EasyGameStation's Duo Princess slid by without Square invoking its Threads of Fate copyright. We can dream.

MONSTER MONPIECE IS OUT, RUBBING AND ALL
After delays and tribulations over its censorship, Monster Monpiece is now available for the PlayStation Vita. I'd say that it will be known as “the game where players rub anime girls with the Vita screen,” but let's be cynical—Monster Monpiece probably won't be the only creation to fit that description during the Vita's lifespan. It's just the first to bring the idea to North America.

Monster Monpiece is a strategy game driven by card battles, but most of those cards depict scantily clad women, and players power them up by vigorously rubbing the Vita's touch-screen. Idea Factory International actually deemed some of the portraits too suggestive for North American audiences. That should tell you all you need to know about the game, though early reviews say that it's a solid strategy-RPG beneath the card-fondling. I think I'm better off not learning more, but for those who want it, Monster Monpiece is on the PlayStation Network for $29.99.

OPINION: PITIFUL OPPOSITION

At one point in Gunstar Heroes, Treasure's crazed and delightful Sega Genesis shooter, the player speeds down a railed mineshaft and destroys a train full of enemy cyber-soldiers. Colonel Red, the game's primary villain, detaches the engine and escapes in it, with his minions holding onto the cab. One of them even runs frantically beside it, arms raised in terror as he struggles to keep up with his ruthless commander.

It seems a humorous touch. The player's gunfire has no effect on the panicking soldier, and he's the only one of the train's attached stooges who doesn't blow up once Colonel Red takes enough damage. The exploding train just slides out of view, along with the desperate robot flunky. They are robots, right?

Yet it's also a bit pathetic. The little guy just wants to get away, and his leader, the one who lured him into mechanized service with promises of wealth and planetary domination, doesn't care enough to help him aboard.

This stayed with me. I'd been through innumerable games where I gunned down attacking soldiers and fierce monsters and rival assassins and whatever else the game cared to throw at me, but that scrambling figure in Gunstar Heroes marked the first time I ever felt sorry for an unimportant and presumably mindless enemy. And I doubt it was intentional. Gunstar Heroes is full of rampant destruction cast in cartoon cheerfulness, and you'll demolish hordes of those steel-suited soldiers on your way through the game. Some of them goof off or bully tiny villagers, and it's all staged for a laugh. My sympathies were not required.

Gunstar Heroes wasn't the first game to give an enemy's demise some tinge of pity. The Wonder Boy games grant each monster a brief expression of shock before it blinks out of being, and some of them look downright horrified. Many of the foes in side-scrolling action games of the late 1980s are a bit too cuddly for the player to murder in abstract. Even stomping Goombas in Super Mario Bros. could be disquieting for the rare sensitive child who took the manual's “one stomp and he dies” advice to heart.

Then there's the SNK tradition of doomed soldiers. Whether by motif or by some morbid company directive, many SNK games put a grim flourish on enemy death. It perhaps started with the brief pirouettes of dying foes in Ikari Warriors or the surrendering forces in Guerrilla War, but it was far more noticeable in Iron Tank for the NES. The most basic adversaries in the game are huge-headed troops who scuttle around and, once hit, gasp in silent agony before they flicker away.

SNK continued this idea in its most celebrated action series, Metal Slug. Originally crafted by Nazca, the side-scrolling wargames show all sorts of exceptional detail: grimy city backdrops, wobbling tentacle aliens, giant pulsing jellyfish who are eaten by even larger eels, and, of course, rampant cartoon violence. The soldiers of the evil Morden Army gawk in surprise, point and laugh, duck and cover, and try to kill the player numerous times. They also scream an awful lot, whether they're slumping over in death or hurling aflame from an exploding battleship.

And it sometimes gets uncomfortable, particularly when you can gun down soldiers who are huddling around their cookfires or sunning themselves in deck chairs. The game punishes you not a whit for this. After all, the Metal Slug series was (and in some ways, still is) an arcade joy, not a three-hour Terrence Malick sojourn through the nature of war. Yet SNK may have suspected that players would spare some clemency for the wailing underlings of General Morden. Metal Slug 2 and 3 climax with the heroes and the Morden Army joining forces to fight off an alien invasion.

Look beyond two-dimensional action games, and you'll see plenty of games that clearly want you to feel sorry for the enemy at some point. No RPG from the Super NES era onwards can escape a scene where the protagonists are forced into a deadly battle against an erstwhile friend, corrupted either by foul magic or more complex ideals. Whether it's Edge's mutated parents in Final Fantasy IV or a horrifically altered rat-man merchant in Xenogears, it's a rather obvious way to stoke some melodrama.

And what of the humble monsters the player fights in an RPG? Most games prefer to ignore them, but a few take on the question of just what a typical RPG quest would entail in a realistic world. Kenichi Nishi's Moon: RPG Remix Adventure is a pointed attack on the whole idea of video-game violence. It starts with a child playing an RPG in which the hero struts around in typical monster-slaying fashion. Then the child is mysteriously warped into the game and finds it to be far more detailed in both appearances and morals. There, the hero is a bothersome brute who kills harmless creatures and breaks into others' homes.

As games moved toward more realistic depictions of violence, many openly questioned it. That's a hallmark of the Metal Gear universe, which allow the player to take down inattentive guards with non-lethal means…or just blaze through like a bare-chested arcade hero. Creator Hideo Kojima rarely misses a chance to remind the player of their sins, and his methods range from ham-fisted exchanges about war and death to Metal Gear Solid 3's haunting battle against the Sorrow, a medium who forces the player to walk a river filled with the ghosts of the enemies they've killed earlier in the game. Metal Gear Solid doesn't let even the nicest player off the hook. Should you spare every lackey, you still won't survive without slaying a few major characters.

Yasumi Matsuno's Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together has a more ornate tone, but the same idea persists inside it. This strategy-RPG presents its main character, Denam, with a thorny plot of noble backstabbing and outright genocide, and there's no easy way through it. One route could see him killing a mercenary, another might have him recruiting the same warrior and instead fighting a former comrade. Even treading the most merciful path puts you in deadly straits with men and women who often have perfectly understandable reasons for wanting Denam dead. In fact, that's the entire point of Ravness Loxaerion, a spearfighter introduced in the game's PSP revamp. If Denam walks the bloodier route, Ravness will detest him, and rightly so. If he pursues merciful ends, the story itself will detest Ravness.

Yet Tactics Ogre also cuts a break when it comes to the randomly generated rabble of supporting soldiers. From the human archers and hoplites to the lizard-people and griffons, humdrum enemies can be recruited by players who have the right skills and alignments. Of course, you couldn't recruit every foe in the game…but you could try.

There's no lack of games that leave such sympathetic decisions up to the player. From Ultima IV to Arcanum to the latest Dragon Age, RPGs long allowed players to choose which side to take, which characters to kill, and, with increasing detail, which allies to bed. Embracing the wide worlds and moral decisions that would drive any tabletop role-playing session, such games let players choose their own path, and that includes deciding on which mediocre little bad guys they decide to murder. Yet such decisions can lose impact when a game puts too many of them in the player's hands and a reversing a character's death is as simple as reloading a save point.

Other modern games take a direct approach. Spec Ops: The Line drew ample attention for its breakdown of the casual action-flick warfare so often seen in Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, and…well, previous Spec Ops games. As three soldiers track down a possible rogue unit in disaster-crippled Dubai, the game tears at the player's motivations. Civilian deaths and other tragedies bring out hallucinations and savage turns in the group's leader, and the game's parallels to current wars (and Joseph Campbell's Heart of Darkness) are forcefully clear. It's a good distance from the antics of Metal Slug, but the effect is the same—and there's no mistaking what The Line intended.

This brings us to Taro Yoko, whose most acclaimed work is the 2010 action title Nier. It evokes sympathy for its repeatedly felled creatures, though perhaps not at first. As the title character explores a world dotted with the ruins of civilization, he fights Shades, glowing silhouettes of scribbles and darkness. They appear to be generic monsters at first, though they babble unintelligibly and spurt blood when killed. Finish the game once, and another playthrough adds subtitles that translate some of the Shade gibberish. It's a remarkable idea tied to the game's biggest secret—one I don't want to reveal, because you should play Nier for yourself if you can.

However, Yoko is also known for the Drakengard series, or at least for the first and third games. As he explains via puppet interview, Yoko created the original Drakengard's loathsome, unhinged characters in response to action titles that congratulated players for mowing down fields of enemies. So Drakengard puts players in control of Caim, a vengeful sadist of a prince who kills his way through an empire, sparing not even child soldiers who cry out for their mothers. Strangely enough, Yoko's idea might've backfired. Drakengard is an insane, off-putting slog in the gameplay department, and a good deal of its fans seem to like Caim, however ironically.

Yoko's latest is Drakengard 3, and it achieves what the original game set out to do. Its lead is Zero, an Intoner goddess who dices through her five sisters and their armies, all to leave herself the sole deity for undisclosed reasons. While Drakengard's Caim has revenge and a lineup of equally depraved supporting characters, Zero is undiluted in her evil. She casually shreds everyone in her path, taking a distant, sarcastic approach to the chore of killing. The game's handful of likeable characters, including Zero's pet dragon Mikhail, only play up how horrible she is.

Naturally, Drakengard 3 has numerous ranks of soldiers to cut down. They come across as poor suckers caught defending their goddesses, and they shout orders and scream in horror as Zero mauls them. Some of them even crawl away in fear. Zero doesn't care, of course, though she's really just after her sisters. A more compassionate lead might offer the troops a chance to surrender, and a more devious one would lie her way to the Intoners in charge. Zero does neither, because rampant murder is easier. So she embodies both Nier and Drakengard's philosophies: killing is possible when you think you're in the right, and it comes much more naturally when you're a monster. And if Zero is repulsive, so are the excuses that a lot of our games make.

This is the part of the piece where I should wonder if sympathetic enemies push games toward some deeper meaning that older, more established mediums can't embody. But I don't think that applies. Driving viewers to sympathize with the ostensible bad guys is the stuff of any competent fiction, isn't it? With the exceptions of Nier and Moon: RPG Remix Adventure, the examples I've given above could be done just as handily by a good movie, book, or overlong prog-rock album. And then there's the fact that many games, operating on horror-flick standards, indulge the same violence they condemn. Even if it's wrong deep down, you're supposed to enjoy it on the surface.

At best, games set themselves apart by making the audience complicit. There's a conspiracy of interaction in the knowledge that you abetted and enacted some poor underling's demise. In that light, games could make you feel even more guilty. The storyline may have forced your hand, but you could've stopped playing if you really cared.

So I still think about that panicked little robo-soldier vanishing down the mineshaft in Gunstar Heroes. I hope he made it.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

HYPERDIMENSION NEPTUNIA PP
Developer: Compile Heart/Tamsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: June 3
It Stands For: Producing Perfection
MSRP: $39.99

The Neptunia series has one idea pulsing at its candy-colored heart: ultra-cute heroines who symbolize old game systems. And it's clearly working for someone. Compile Heart and Tamsoft have at least four Neptunia titles in development, and that's not counting the unfortunately titled Hyperdimension Neptunia PP. No longer going through the motions of an RPG, this latest Neptunia latches onto the game industry's leading source of twee anime girls: the idol simulator.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Producing Perfection finds the world of Gamindustri (yes, I know) gripped by a pop-idol craze. Like all avatars of exploitive corporations, the land's patron goddesses leap upon the trend and become pop stars themselves; yes, even Blanc, the Wii analogue who would presumably possess Nintendo's resistance to indulging such fads. In attempts to boost the market shares of their respective nations, the goddesses and their techno-suited alter egos take the stage, belt out their upbeat pop numbers, and live the life of an aggressively marketed starlet. And the player manages all of this.

The duties of an idol caretaker include scheduling the education, vacations, and concerts of the various ambulatory game-system women, all of whom must survive the pop-stardom melee with their market shares high. Said duties do not include actually playing the concerts as a rhythm game; you'll just set up everything and watch the girls go. You'll also watch them grow through conversations that provide another showcase for Neptunia's blend of cute girls doing cute things that just so happen to vaguely reference old game systems. Fans may deem it less substantial than the RPGs of past Neptunias, but I'm not sure anyone indulged in those for the gameplay.

TOMODACHI LIFE
Developer: Nintendo SPD Group 1
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: June 6
Miis Dream: Of Nintendo-Censored Sheep
MSRP: $34.99

Tomodachi Life dominated many discussion in recent weeks, and not for the reasons Nintendo quite wanted. It's a game all about player-created Mii avatars building their own livelihoods, and a bug in the Japanese version allowed players to tinker with the settings so that Miis of the same gender appeared to be married. Many complained when Nintendo revealed that this would not be possible in the North American and European releases, and the whole mess ended with Nintendo issuing a standard corporate vow to make future games “more inclusive.”

But what else is there to Tomodachi Life? Well, it's the most ambitious treatment yet of Nintendo's Mii idea. Players can create their huge-headed effigies just like they've been able to do since the original Wii, but Tomodachi Life sets them free on a spacious island where they can rent apartments, play games, hold jobs, and associate with other Mii icons. The Miis have their own personalities, voices, and accessories well beyond the old shirt-and-pants combos of the older varieties, and they're capable of making friends, exchanging presents, and having rap battles with their robotic intonations. They have minds of their own, and they'll often tell the player who they want to befriend or what they want to do. And yes, they can get married, but only to the opposite sex.

Players can exchange their Mii creations through local multiplayer or QR codes. And that raises troubling questions. What if other players abuse your Mii? Can you be sued for slander if your Mii insults someone else's Mii during a rap-off? What if different Mii versions of the same person marry different Miis? And do Miis have souls?

Also Available:
Airtight Games' Murdered: Soul Suspect arrives on the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It's a twist on the old solve-your-own-murder mystery, as a detective finds himself wandering the spirit world, with a young psychic as his best ally in the material realm. It sounds a bit like Ghost Trick, but Murdered: Soul Suspect looks a little more like Beyond: Two Souls and plays out through dialogue, investigations, and the occasional fight against purgatory-breaching demons. Cats do figure into his otherworldly trek, though. Don't they always?

THE DRAKENGARD 3 CONTEST: RUNNERS-UP

There's more than one winner in the Drakengard 3 Contest! Here's our second-place entry, by John J. Sears. He wrote about the game's most beloved character. Well, I assume he's the most beloved character. It's hard to tell with Drakengard fans.

Drakengard(en)

Zero's mad again. She's usually mad, but not this mad, the kind of mad where stabbing something makes you feel all better. Well, makes her feel all better. The other thing feels dead, I guess.

Maybe "mad" isn't the right word. I think she might be "annoyed." Either way, I don't like it when Zero's this way. She gets all grumpy and then I get kicked in the face and nobody's happy.

It all started when we came to this poor little village in the Land of Forests. Zero was tired because I'd messed up and not quite killed this one monster.

It wasn't my fault! He was sneaky.

Anyway, the village was poor. You could tell it was poor 'cause nobody had anything to eat and all the grownups were looking at me like I was a big juicy cow.

That wasn't my fault either! I'm a dragon, we're supposed to be big.

But I kept my mouth shut, because even though they were being mean to me, I didn't want Zero to have to kill them. She already had a rough day because of me.

A really, really old guy started asking Zero for help. I guess he was in charge. The village probably put him in charge because when you're that old you need something to do.

He said a bunch of boring stuff about the soil going bad and their crops dying, and Zero managed to pay attention the *whole* time. I was really proud of her.

The old guy said something about needing "fertilizer" and a legend that their village had been founded on lands blessed by the "spoor" of an ancient dragon. They wanted more to save their harvest. If things turned out really well they could feed their children again, and maybe even the ones who had run away would come back.

See, Zero? Dragons are awesome! I'm always telling Zero dragons are awesome.

Zero was really surprised by the story though, and almost fell over laughing. Not the kind of laughing when someone she really doesn't like dies either. Some other kind I don't hear much. It made me happy!

Then Zero told me what spoor was and I was so embarrassed I almost died. Right there. The villagers wanted dragon poop! My dragon poop!

But it would make everyone happy, and then nobody would have to fight and maybe Zero would even laugh some more.

There was just one big problem: I couldn't do it. A dragon has to eat to poop, and I hadn't eaten anything in days. Honest.

So Zero got mad, and sent me off to look for something to eat. I hate hunting in the forest, cause of all the branches. Branches are hard on my wings.

I spotted a little fire not too far away and landed, hoping whoever was there would share their food. But the people there were bandits! Tiny little bandits with crummy knives instead of swords. Stupid! Then they stuck me in the legs with their little knives! Stupid!

So I ate the little bandits. That will teach them to be mean to dragons out being nice.

Then I went back to the village and after a couple days I… did my business. The villagers all seemed happy, and Zero and I went on our way.

But afterward I told Zero I had taken care of the village's bandits too and she got real, real quiet. Then she got mad. I don't know why she got mad! Two good deeds are better than one!

Maybe *she* wanted to kill those bandits?

--BY MIKHAIL

Isn't Mikhail just adorable? And now we turn to the two runners-up. The first is Christine Langley, who wrote the most Drakengard-ish of all the entries. It's so Drakengard-ish, in fact, that it may make you physically ill.

Bon Appetit

Covered in the gore of what used to be his mistress, Dito stood triumphant, finally free from that sack of blubber and hair. A few swift and brutal posthumous kicks weren't nearly enough to express his intense emotions towards the body at his feet, but it would have to do. Dito wondered if that bitch would still consider herself beautiful if she could see what he and Zero had done to her. He snorted and aimed an extra hard kick at her face. Of course that woman would still see herself as top choice—she thought the world of herself, despite being rotten to the core.

However, once dead, even a goddess is just a lump of meat. After spending so much time with Five, Dito knew one thing well enough: rotten meat got sent to Two.

Zero watched, nonplussed, as her new ally tore into Five's body, hacking her into more manageable pieces. He sat on the ground, absorbed in his task, skinning the smaller chunks and then carving her meat from the bone. He casually tossed the waste aside, creating a grotesque mish-mash of inedible bits that Zero would have Mikhail dispose of later.

After an hour or so, Dito stood up and carried a tightly wrapped package of his best selections. He paid no mind to the leftover scrap, walking straight to Zero.

"Do you mind if we take a quick trip to the desert before heading wherever it is you need to go?"

Zero looked to Mikhail, who simply shrugged.

"Sure, that shouldn't be a problem."

Cent walked in on Two cooing over the contents of the mystery package that had been left at their door sometime in the morning. It was lucky Two decided to open the gift in the kitchen, as a suspiciously familiar liquid spilled out from the wrapping, creating a red puddle on the floor. Two seemed unconcerned though, so Cent shrugged off his worry and peered over his goddess' shoulder at their gift. "Oh! That looks amazingly fresh," he exclaimed, salivating just a bit.

Two nodded happily, sectioning off the raw meat into piles with recipes already in mind. She held up a large hunk and gazed at it in reverence. "Look at the marbling and texture of this! Whatever animal it was had some nice fat content. And whoever gave it to us took a lot of time and effort to tenderize the whole batch—go ahead and feel how smooth it is."

The pair spent several minutes ogling the tender, bloody mess on their counter before Two beamed at Cent, a beautiful idea sparkling behind her eyes. "Let's have a feast tonight! We'll make a whole batch of different dishes and use it all! It's too wonderful to hold off on eating, don't you think?"

Cent, of course, agreed, and preparations began. Pots bubbled away for stew, the oven reached its peak temperature for a luscious roast, and one particular thin steak got tossed on a screeching hot pan with a splash of oil and dash of Two's secret five-spice mix for flavoring. She barely gave it time to cook before pulling the pan away from the flame and dishing out the rare treat.

"I think we need to test out the taste before serving it to the kids, so dig in," Two offered, picking up half the dripping steak with her fingers and sliding it into her mouth. Cent was enraptured, watching Two moan in delight as she chewed a mere five times before swallowing the large mouthful.

"Oh! It's so good! It melts like butter on your tongue. I can't wait to see everyone enjoying dinner tonight!"

You know, I get the feeling Drakengard fans don't like Five too much. Anyway, the other runner-up is Dean Koash, who gives us a little tale about Octa, Drakengard's resident filthy old-young man.

Octa's Whitest Day

The sun was pertinent of the late afternoon, through the drawn-out emerald trees it radiated a light that would flicker as the wind tickled each branch. Every time my feet elevated, gravity transported my platform-like footwear deep into the soil, wounding the Earth with each and every step. Plodding around creating hole after hole, blood hurried to my face…I was blushing.

“Ho-Ho-Ho!” I ejected a chortle that reverberated throughout the forest. This drew Three's attention momentarily; she caressed the nearby grass on a placid search for her scissors, though her focus seemed to be elsewhere. Was she drifting off to sleep? Pacing prudently I voyaged over to where she sat. Her lavender hair veiled the majority of that attractive face, one eye perked through and it was absorbed by a toy she apprehended in her left palm.

Three had exhibited her figurines in a scene across the woodland floor. Glancing around, I could not help but notice some conversant faces.

“Is that me—and your sisters?” I retorted in reaction to her diorama.

“Yes.” Her response was practically snappier than the copious layer of hair that she procured from her own head in that instant. Observing as she played out her scenario I rapidly detected that my figure counterpart wore a suit; my protracted liquorish shoes remained the same. Next to this was a toy, in a puffed-out pearl white wedding dress.

“Am I…ho-ho-ho—getting married?” My grandiose perverted thoughts flickered; I could sense my eyes broadening.

“Yes.” This reply was no different from the former, nor was the succeeding mass of hair which fell. Falling closer, my eyes beamed lavishly at the veiled bride. Was it Five? I considered her "perky assets" and those overlong first-class locks. Perhaps Three had engaged herself in such a scenario, would this be superlative to her? Four would be desirable, her incompetence to act out her own yearnings fashioned a forbidden fruit that needed to be tasted. Two's loved-up personality would surely provide security…and suffocation. One's rather underdeveloped but put together in the right places. My serious deliberating was soon shattered as I comprehended all of the aforementioned stood there as bridesmaids.

There was only a singular other, the most striking of them all. Rapidly I brushed my hands together as Three unrelentingly started walking the pair down the aisle. My heart pumped each second, like the beat of a drum. Beads of sweat clear-fell from my forehead, dribbling down from the tip of my beard like rain droplets.

“Ho-ho-ho!” The sensation of blood returning to my face reimbursed, this time pure elation developed within me.

“You may now kiss the bride.” Three's stern words captivated me and from them followed the gradual unveiling of the bride. Using my figure counterpart, she took control overturning the snowy veil away from my impending bride. Captivated by the whole moment, my imagination took the better of me as I propped in towards the thin air with my lips puckered.

“You and Cent look good together.” Three spoke, as she breached my daydream. It was too late; Cent's undemanding lips and mine were touching. Immediately returning to reality, I tossed over Three's wedding play set and returned into the forest.

This brings us to the Worst Entry Contest, where Chris Farris took the top spot with his vision of a game industry gone mad.

Marvel VS. Drag-On 3

In an alternate universe where Capcom maintained the Marvel license and kept pumping out minimal revisions of 'Marvel vs. Capcom 3', Zero found herself roped into the seventh version of the game (All-New Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 II Ver. b Correction Edition: The Midnight Carnival) due to a complicated universal licensing loophole. As it was: Marvel was owned by Disney, Disney characters and universes were the basis for Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts was developed by Square-Enix, and Square-Enix published Drakengard. Thus, Zero was perfectly acceptable, with Capcom mostly hoping people wouldn't catch onto the fact that she was just a re-skinned Trish (unlikely, as the ANUMVC32VBCETMC competitive tiers were dominated by Superior Spider-Man, Devilotte, and of course, Captain Commando). So did Zero resign herself to an existence of getting picked occasionally by newbies, spouting wry win quotes like "That fight really DRAGged-ON!" and "You couldn't get NIER me!" while hoping that a DLC costume might make her relevant.

Then one day, a twist of fate (or the random-select function) put Zero in a most unusual situation: Face-to-face with Capcom's own preferred character of the Megaman X series: Zero! Now, same-name situations weren't uncommon in a crossover work such as this, but with a person like Drakengard's Zero, this encounter took on a unique tilt: She had bested her own numeric sisters and wooed their male companions for her own in the past, but the opportunity to engage in potentially intimate combat with a handsome potential partner bearing her OWN nomenclature? Now THAT was a thrill to be had! Thus Zero eagerly jumped into battle with this other Zero, excitedly ready to pursue the potential of adding Zero and Zero!

Swords clashed (despite one being made of lasers) while stunned onlookers (and that one douchebag who thought it was funny to keep making the joke about "Which one's the girl?") gazed upon this exciting clash that it's surprising no one had thought of before! For the first time since whatever happens at the end of Drakengard 3, Zero felt fulfillment, satisfaction. Maybe even...peace in this nominally self-destructive existence!

But then suddenly, a third party entered the fray. Zero could hardly believe her eyes, or even come up with an explanation for the new challenger who had somehow come here: Was the game she was part of actually a hacked, modified copy? Was she actually running on a version of MUGEN all this time? Was this nothing more than a somewhat amusing fan-fic thrown impulsively thrown together at the last minute? Whatever the explanation, the end-result was right in front of her in the form of her and Zero's new opponent: Zero, from the hit 2006-2007 anime, Code Geass!

“Amazing,” Zero said to herself, her eye and flower wide open in shock, “At long last I have before me two men who would be perfect cohorts on the basis of their names, ambitions, and sword-fighting capability, and wouldn't you know it, they're BOTH voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch!”

Just as she could barely conceive of the situation and what choice she should make, the timer ran out, the Zeroeses fight ended, and the players decided it might be funny to play an all Shuma-Gorath match instead.

THE END!

But that's not the end of the contest entries! I'll run more next week!


Todd Ciolek occasionally updates his website, and you can follow him on Twitter if you want.

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