Sega Retrospective

Sega Retrospective
Thanks For all the Fish

Brendan Main | 25 Jan 2011 13:55
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There are certain duties that you must perform - the tank's temperature must be tended, the pond scum must be skimmed from the top, and every now and again the seamen require a sprinkle of food. But mostly, there's a lot of waiting. This might be said to be the central aspect of most aquatic pets' lives: you can only swim around the same few feet of water before it begins to repeat itself. Mostly, they just want to talk. Much of the gameplay hinges on interacting with these creatures via a microphone, as the tank's inhabitants recognize certain words and phrases and remember them for later. The seamen don't so much interview as interrogate - how old are you, and when were you born? What's your sign? Do you have a sweetie? These exchanges are carried forth in a lugubrious, droll tone, like George Takei with gills. Normally getting to know your pet is a wholesome enterprise, but these back-and-forths always seem to smell faintly septic - it may be because there is no question, no matter how innocuous, that fails to become strangely suspicious when asked in a tone of voice more suited to inviting random kiddies inside for lollipops. And it doesn't help that the seaman takes to calling your girlfriend your "love biscuit," because, ew.

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The seamen themselves don't seem too worried about being polite. They hector you constantly, they insult your intelligence, they grumble in perpetual displeasure. The very duties of living out a life seem to them like an awful chore. There are a few exceptions - once they're old enough, and matured from little tadpoles into grotesque man-fish-frog-things, eventually they'll be ready to mate. It is like nothing you've ever seen, except, perhaps, in the darkest recesses of the internet: One swims overtop another, and the bobbing flagella that protrude from their heads schlup together to form a continuous hose. Then, fluid bulges like from those old Looney Tunes cartoons begin traveling from one's head to the next, while the seaman murmurs, orgiastically, "Ooh. That feels goooood!" This act of course opens itself to all sorts of biological questions: Is it homosexual if every seaman seems male by default? Is it bestiality if these creatures are both human and fish? And perhaps most importantly, if this is a beautiful part of nature, why do I feel so icky?

It seems bizarre that a published game might get away with graphic animal sex acts, complete with wacky sound effects, impassioned man-moaning, and a little slap and tickle. Perhaps it's proof that we're a little more tolerant of "the birds and the bees" when it happens to the fish and the frogs. As an act performed by lesser orders of life, it seems robbed of tension and taboo - just another messy fact of primordial life. Way before there was Hot Coffee, there was Microbial Soup.

The seamen, for their part, don't seem wound up by outdated Victorian formalities. Sex is just like a handshake to them ... a handshake where one person dies immediately afterwards, and the other wanders off to excrete eggs from his forehead. The daddy-to-be even has time for a little humor on his way out, cackling, "Might as well leave a few little ... seamen ... behind! Heh heh heh. Get it?" Well, of course we get it. It's just weird that he does. Other games might play coy with the fact that their very name barely conceals a one-note pun that belongs in a dirty limerick, but try telling that to these sick-minded fish. Stay classy, you miserable brutes.

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