Chasing the Dragon


When thinking up ideas for video game related posts, there were two games involving dragons, or at least eight-bit versions of dragons, that came to mind. The first was Adventure, sometimes known as Atari Adventure because its official name is so generic. It was released for the Atari 2600 in 1979, and was largely responsible for the action-adventure genre of video games. It was based on a text adventure game, with the programmer trying to bring the same feel to a graphical action format. The graphics were pretty simple, with the hero being a square. And I don’t mean this in the 1950s slang sense (although that would fit a lot of heroes); I mean he’s actually a rectangular rhombus. I didn’t grow up with this game, but Beth did, and I found it quite interesting when I did finally see it. Hey, if it weren’t for Adventure, we might never have gotten The Legend of Zelda. The goal is to bring a chalice to its proper place in a castle while trying to avoid hungry dragons and thieving bats. The dragons, which kind of resemble ducks, were created by the evil magician who stole the chalice in the first place, at least according to the instructions.

There are three of them, named Yorgle, Grundle, and Rhindle. The first letter of each one’s name refers to its color.

Rhindle is the fastest and most ferocious of the three, and guards the White Key. Grundle guards the Black Key, but also bridges and magnets. Yorgle is scared of the Yellow Key for some reason, and refuses to come near it. He guards the chalice when he can find it, but otherwise doesn’t have any particular object to protect. All three dragons can be killed with the arrow-shaped sword, although if you have the difficulty switch in a particular setting they run away from it.

The other game I had in mind was Bubble Bobble, which I’ve discussed before. The playable characters in this game are bubble dragons, although I’ve occasionally seen them referred to as dinosaurs. I’m not sure there’s really a difference in media translated from Japanese.

A bubble dragon is apparently a small, cute, spiky-baked reptilian creature that has the ability to trap its enemies in bubbles, then use their spikes to burst the bubbles and kill the enemies inside. This often results in food or other prizes, and I can’t help but feel it would be very convenient if that actually happened to people when they died. Not only would it save on burial costs, but there would be something to eat at the funeral reception. Anyway, the official story behind the original Bubble Bobble is that Bub and Bob were human brothers who were transformed into bubble dragons, and if you get the best ending they are restored to their original forms.

Why would whoever enchanted them (Baron von Blubba, perhaps?) have given them shapes that had such useful powers? Maybe if they’d stayed in human form, they could have brought guns to the Cave of Monsters. Later games show them as being able to switch between human and bubble dragon forms at will. Maybe it’s like morphic resonance in the Discworld series, with things that have been magically transformed carrying some memory of the other forms they’d taken. They have a cousin and a grandfather who are never seen as anything but bubble dragons, in the latter case one with a beard.

Even their girlfriends, who are clearly human in the original game, later show up as bubble dragons.

So was the whole family transformed? Or were Bub and Bob bubble dragons who were transformed into humans as children, and came to think those were their proper forms? I’m not sure the creators of the games would have an answer for you. And that’s not even getting into the Super Drunk turning out to be Bub and Bob’s parents.

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4 Responses to Chasing the Dragon

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