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Nine Lives and the Video Game Industry
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on April 06, 2007   |   Episode 9 (Show Archive)  

   

Dogs may love to run around and play catch, but your cat will definitely love to watch you play games!
In the fight over cats and dogs it's safe to say that dogs always win. You need not look any further than Nintendogs to see that in the land of video games canines are king. But what if you're like me and you prefer hanging out with a cute little kitten? Judging by the polling results found on Nintendo's Everybody Votes Channel then you would be in the minority, and as we all know there is nothing more accurate than the Everybody Votes Channel. But all joking aside, it does feel like cat lovers are given a lower priority when it comes to strong video game characters.

The problem isn't that we don't have feline heroes to root for; it's that all of the cute and cuddly cats in video games suck. While everybody loves Sam the crime fighting dog in Sam & Max or PaRappa the rappin' mutt in PaRappa the Rapper, cats are

It's hard to argue that cats are unappreciated when Electronic Gaming Monthly puts one on their cover ... and then calls him the worst mascot ever!
generally given less interesting roles or are in crummy games. Whether or not it's done on purpose, it feels like the history of cats in video games is one full of disappointment.

Probably the biggest feline disaster comes in the way of Bubsy the Bobcat, the cynical paint-by-numbers mascot character developed by Accolade in the early 1990s. At best Bubsy was a mildly entertaining platformer with colorful graphics and a lot of personality, but it was also a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of popular characters like Mario and Sonic. Although the series received high marks at the time, magazines like GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly have lambasted the series, even going as far as to suggest that this feline hero is one of the worst mascot characters of all time.

Unfortunately Bubsy is just one of the many examples of terrible cat characters in video games. And it's not

Sure those Nintendogs are cute, but where's my Nintencats game?
just 15 year old games that should frustrate us, its recent mascots like Blinx the Time Sweeper. To be fair to Blinx, when it came right down to it Microsoft didn't have a clue what it took to make a worthwhile 3D platformer. All of their attempts (no matter if it was Blinx or the equally lame Voodoo Vince) were sub-par, especially when compared to all of the amazing games in the genre coming from Sony and Nintendo. But Blinx was bad for one very specific reason; it featured a cat that was neither cute nor interesting.


Pun or not, the fact is that Blinx the Time Sweeper sucks!
Considering how adorable cats can be, you would think that somebody could come up with a game that plays up to their assets. But no, instead we get Blinx the Time Sweeper and Bubsy the Bobcat. There's no reason that Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot should be more adorable than a game based on a little kitty, yet every game featuring a cat seems to ignore the fact that they are inherently cute.

Speaking of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's long running franchise is one of the worst offenders when it comes to misunderstanding cats. How else do you explain Big the Cat from Sonic Adventure? He's this gigantic blue cat with a belt and a fishing pole; he might as well be sloth from what I can tell. And if Big the Cat wasn't bad enough, along comes Blaze the Cat from

Creepy fact: My ex-girlfriend lives with eight cats (which certainly keeps me away)!
Sonic Racers. Blaze the Cat? Are you kidding me?? I don't expect much from my video games, but when you're a multi-million dollar corporation known for making some of the best games of all time you really need to put more effort into your products. If these two characters aren't the perfect analogy to how bankrupt Sega's design team has become then I don't know what is.

Perhaps the biggest offense doesn't come from a mascot, but rather the White House. Of all the famous cats you could base a video game around, it was Bill Clinton's cat that made the cut ... or, at least, almost made the cut. In the early 1990s Kaneko announced Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill, a 2D platformer for the Super NES that featured you running through levels and battling evil bosses such as (and I'm not kidding) Richard Nixon and George Bush Sr. Unfortunately the game,

Maybe if Bush's approval rating was over 28% his dog would have his own game!
although finished, never made the light of day and was only played by lucky (or perhaps unlucky) game testers working for Kaneko at the time. Here we have an example of a feline character I might have wanted to play, yet the cat haters of the world (in this case Nintendo) decided that it wasn't worth releasing. Yet again the dogs have the last laugh.

I suppose it isn't all bad news for those cute and adorable felines. These days you can find cats making cameos in some of the most popular games, including Pokemon. But it's not the same as being the main star, it's hard to feel like cats and dogs are on equal footing when you see Bubsy the Bobcat and then Nintendogs. I don't care how many copies of Star Fox 64 sell on the Virtual Console, it's not going to do nearly as well as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

But don't fret cat lovers; there are a few examples of strong, worthwhile cat characters. When it comes to Darkstalker characters Felicia is definitely one of the most popular (if only because she's one sexy beast). Red XIII

Even musicians agree that cats deserve some respect, too bad they never made Make My Video: Cat Power for the Sega CD!
certainly saves the day a number of times in Final Fantasy VII, giving large red cats everywhere a good name. But neither of these characters are in the leading roles, instead they just pop onscreen when needed and share the billing with dozens of other people.

The one exception I can think of is Kay from The Legend of Kay. Believe it or not, The Legend of Kay is a surprisingly good game, yet the cover may just be enough to turn most gamers away from the product. Even with the great graphics, solid game play and cool character's, The Legend of Kay just wasn't able to sell enough units to warrant a sequel. Yet there are now four different versions of Nintendogs. Where is the justice I ask you, where is the justice?

Cats may have nine lives but with the way the video game industry treats them they are going to need all of those lives and maybe even a few continues. I hate to beat a dead horse (another animal that gets more respect than cats), but it's about time felines have their place in the sun. If only so they can lie in the heat and look cute. With their sharp claws, cunning intelligence and speed you would think that this animal would be the perfect video game character, yet the evidence shows that they are constantly being forgotten. Isn't it about time our feline friends had a video game hero they could look up to? Somebody better than Bubsy the Bobcat or Trevor McFur? Say what you will, cats will have their revenge. You hear that Shigeru Miyamoto? Cats will have their revenge!
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