Pixelitis Picks: Favorite fourth-wall shattering moments

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(Editor’s note: There are bound to be spoilers in this Pixelitis Picks. We’ll tell you when they’re coming up, but be careful nonetheless.)

“You are in a computer game, Max.” Don’t you just love it when game characters become self-aware?

Just like other forms of art, games have their fair share of (often humorous) moments where the characters, story or even mechanics break that barrier that exists between the imaginary plane and our own world. Whether it’s Max Payne acknowledging that he’s being directly manipulated by someone holding a controller or mouse or the jokes made at the expense of internet forum trolls in Super Paper Mario, breaking the fourth wall is a clever mechanic that can not only forge a special connection with the player, but also lets us take a step back from the engagement, chuckle, and remember that it’s only a game.

With the release of Marvel anti-hero Deadpool’s own game yesterday, we got to thinking: what better time than now to look back at all of those illusion-breaking moments that games like to employ?

No More Heroes‘ final battle cutscene gets fast-forwarded for “censorship”

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Spoilers for No More Heroes ensue.

In Suda51′s trippy, gratuitous grindhouse hack n’ slash, No More Heroes, players take on the role of hitman punk and anime aficionado Travis Touchdown as he slices his way through a hit-list of deadly (and just plain balls crazy) assassin bosses.

Aside from the hit-list’s organizer promising to sleep with you if you beat all ten assassins, the reasons for why you’re disemboweling laser-firing grannies and giant brains is never made clear.

That is, until you get to the final boss.

After confronting an enormous Darth-Vader look alike–who aptly reveals to you that you are his son–this giant bad guy is then punched into oblivion by none other than your long lost girlfriend who reveals that she is actually your long lost sister.

The reason why everyone is related? Well I’d like to tell you, except the final boss decided that the actual tale is too gruesome and complex for the audience so she literally fast-forwards through her final boss speech.

It’s a brilliant and comical critique of the atypical “pre-final battle speech.”

- Maxwell Coviello

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The player having a pivotal role in Earthbound’s final battle against Giygas.

Spoilers for Earthbound ensue. Obviously.

earthboundEarthbound has a myriad of fourth wall moments, enough to probably make an encyclopedia So picture this: you’re guiding Ness and friends through Summers in the middle of the game, when all of a sudden you get a call from Jeff’s pal, Tony. Rather than bug our heroes about something, Tony went forth and appealed directly to the player, asking for his or her name. So using the name entry screen last seen from the beginning of the game, the player would input a name, and go about his or her way with the adventure.

Fast forward to the final battle against Giygas. He’s one of the freakiest things you’ve seen in the game, and your weapons aren’t doing much to him. When the player eventually tries giving Paula’s previously useless “Pray” command a shot, the ability proves effective in dishing out some ridiculously good numbers on the final boss.

That “Pray” command, however, begins to taper off as Giygas’ form gets even more out of whack. Paula’s prayers are being lost in the void of darkness as Giygas continues to attack the party. Eventually, a garbled name begins to ebb out as a result of those repeated prayer attempts. That name eventually materializes into the player’s very own, and the text then displays that the player is praying for Ness’ troupe, despite having “never met them before.” The player’s prayers are answered, and Giygas is damaged for an astronomical amount of hit points. Eventually, this damage results in the battle being won. And it’s all thanks to the player.

The brilliant thing behind the way the game records your name is that it’s something you don’t really think long and hard about, since it happens so quickly and there’s so much more in the game to play through. So when you finally see your name displayed at the end as one of the key factors in defeating Giygas, it creates a wonderful connection for the player. Not to mention it’s oh-so extraordinarily meta.

- Patrick Kulikowski

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Conker talking to the game’s programmers in Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

While most fourth wall breaking that happens in games are a nod to gamers or other games/movies, Conker’s Bad Fur Day took it one step further by completely altering the story. And before I even begin, keep in mind that my entry spoils the ending of this twelve-year old game.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is ripe with nods to movies, with levels that take elements straight out of famous movies such as The Matrix and Aliens. And it’s the latter film that’s utilized here when breaking the fourth wall. At the end of the game, the evil panther-type king transforms into the alien queen. At the end of the fight, as Conker attempts to throw the alien queen out of the air vent, she somehow manages to hold on from being thrown out in the coldness of space, and subsequently pounces on Conker. Right as she goes for the killing blow, the game “freezes up.” Conker then goes on to talk to one of the game’s programmers, and with his help, he manages to completely turn the tide and change the outcome of the game.

And with that, Conker becomes king and brings the story full circle in one of the silliest fourth-wall breaking plot twists in gaming history.

- Allain Richard

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Psycho Mantis returns in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

mgs4_psychomantisIn the absolutely bonkers history of the storied Metal Gear Solid franchise, creator Hideo Kojima has loved to completely destroy the fourth wall. It’s almost a passion of his.

From Revolver Ocelot saying he’ll know if a player enables a turbo-fire feature on their controller to cheat during a torture sequence to Colonel Campbell telling the player to turn off his or her PlayStation 2, the direct reference of the person controlling the action happens a lot.

Given that there are so many instances to choose from, one of my personal favorites is from the PlayStation 3 entry, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Just as a major boss fight with Screaming Mantis is about to end, the spirit of Psycho Mantis appears, speaking to Snake.

When he tries to recreate the famous “you like Castlevania” schtick, he exclaims that he can’t find a memory card, commenting that Snake’s skills “have improved…or rather, your hardware” while optional images of the original PlayStation show up on screen.

Similarly, he asks the player to put their controller on the floor to reenact his psychokinetic display. If players were using the original Sixaxis controller, which did not have rumble support, he would lose his cool about that too. However, if the player was using a DualShock 3, he would happily exclaim that “Vibration is back!”

It was a cool take on a classic moment not only for the series, but for the history of PlayStation as well.

- Andrew Martins

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Author: Pixelitis Staff View all posts by