Pandaren and revived cottage cheese: characters that appeared thanks to a joke

By April 1, we recall the stories of how humor gave the players cult heroes

There are enough comic characters in the games. Especially in fighting games. There are just an actor in a motion capture suit named Mokap, a boxing kangaroo Roger, a bipedal bear Kuma and an animated training dummy Mokujin. Many of them have only one thing in common: they were originally conceived by the authors as clowns. However, there are heroes in the games that might not have appeared at all, if not for the desire of the developers to joke. On the occasion of April Fool’s Day, we recall the most striking examples.

Mew

Mew

Mew is one of the most famous Pokémon, although initially he was not supposed to get into Pokémon Red and Green at all (Pokémon Red and Blue overseas). Two weeks before release, it was not created by character designer and art director Ken Sugimori, but by programmer Shigeki Morimoto. At the end of development, the game cartridge was packed to the maximum. When the authors removed the debugging tools from it, a little space was freed up – 300 bytes. This was enough to shove inside the secret, 151st Pokemon, although the developers were strictly forbidden to change anything.

Morimoto had no intention of showing Mew to the world. According to him, it was just a prank within the team – only the authors were supposed to use the secret Pokemon. However, due to a bug, one of the players stumbled upon Mew, after which the stream of rumors could no longer be stopped. It got to the point that in April 1996, CoroCoro Comics magazine held a competition in which 78 thousand people participated. 20 winners promised to open Mew, but for this they had to send cartridges with the game to the editor. It wasn’t until seven years later that players learned how to get to Mew using a glitch .

For the studio, Morimoto’s idea was a salvation. Pokemon Red and Green came out well after the New Year holidays, which is why the game’s sales were below expectations. However, after the hype around Mew, the indicators first tripled and then quadrupled. This is how the joke behind the backs of the bosses helped to increase the popularity of the franchise, and at the same time gave rise to a good tradition of hiding mythical Pokemon in each new generation of games.

Meat and Rhine

In fighting games, secret characters appeared even earlier: in 1992 in Mortal Kombat , which was an achievement noted in the Guinness Book of Records . With the new games in the series, there were only more of them: the developers from Midway Games created heroes with an eye on the fans. For example, they turned rumors spread by players into reality, as in the case of Ermak and Scarlet. Or vice versa – they themselves spurred the imagination of fans with hints of supposedly hidden characters like Blaze.

A similar story happened with Meat in Mortal Kombat 4 . At first, it was not a character at all, but a “victim of fatality”. The fighter model replaced the original skin after a brutal finishing move. He looked like a bloody skeleton. However, due to a bug in one of the game modes, his model was superimposed on the appearance of other characters. Rumors spread in the community that the skeleton was a secret hero, which was immediately noticed by the developers.

In the latest update for MK 4, they not only fixed a bug, but also added a skeleton in the form of an Easter egg and a secret fighter. The creator of the game, Ed Boone, wrote on his website “Meat Lives!” This was the first time that a character was named by name (originally that was the name of the skin file). Meat was fully introduced into the canon of the series in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon : it changed its appearance and came up with a backstory. But that was all. In the following games, he appeared as a cameo.

Rain was not supposed to be a secret character at first either. In games in the late 80s and early 90s, a trick was popular among developers known as the palette swap. The bottom line is that the authors used the same character model, but with different sprites. This saves space on the cartridge and lowers cost and development time. Later, this term was jokingly called the characters-counterparts in fighting games.

The authors of Mortal Kombat used the palette change regularly. At the time of the creation of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, the franchise had about ten different colored fighters, similar to each other. One day, Ed Boone wondered what color the team had not yet used, and immediately realized – purple. The fact is that the game designer is a big fan of the singer Prince and his hit Purple Rain. Since the development of the UMK3 was almost over, there was no time to create a full-fledged fighter. Therefore, Boone simply hacked the game and hid a hint of the hero in the demo mode, which was launched on the arcade machine if it was idle.

In the video, the purple ninja Raine (that is, the literal Purple Rain) flickered for a second , who attacked Shao Kahn. Boone insisted that he was just playing the fool, and the character himself was a distraction to provoke players. However, he underestimated the fantasy of gamers. And when they began to invent that they were able to play for Rhine, the authors had to fully add the hero to UMK3 in the form of a secret character. Later, the joke was continued: it turned out that Raine is indeed a prince. He has appeared in film adaptations of the franchise and in several games in the series, including Mortal Kombat 11.

Fukua

Fukua’s appearance in Skullgirls also began with a change of palette, only someone else’s. In 2013, Capcom had long hinted at a new character in Ultra Street Fighter 4 . Only a year later, the studio introduced Decapri, a girl who actually turned out to be a double of another heroine, Cammy. Fans of the fighting game did not appreciate this move. Among them were the authors of Skullgirls. In their game, they decided to parody the palette swap and the announcement of Decapri in particular.

Filia vs. Fukua

In a few days, the developers created Fukua – a clone of the heroine Filia. The name Fukua was born out of a long-standing typo by the authors in the spelling of the name Filia (on the keyboard, the letters I / U and L / K are next to each other). And the basic palette of clothes referred to a bug that painted characters green (this was the case with Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sub-Zero and Scorpio in Mortal Kombat).

Fukua was added to the game on April 1, 2014, after showing a trailer that parodies the movie with Dikapri. The girl was later removed from Skullgirls. But due to the high demand from fans, the authors brought it back, updating the character and adding backstory. However, Dikapri never ceased to be a joke: different colors of the costume copy the classic clone characters in fighting games.

Akuma and Gouken

Pages from EGM April Fools 1992 and 1997

Once an April Fool’s joke spawned two heroes at once. In 1991, someone made a mistake in the English translation of Street Fighter 2 : Ryu’s winning line was “If you can’t stand against Shoryuken, you can’t win!” turned into “You must defeat Sheng Long to get a chance.” The mysterious name puzzled the players, which was immediately taken advantage of by the staff of the Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) magazine.

For the April Fools’ issue of 1992, they composed a story: supposedly, with certain actions of the player, an old man Sheng Long will take the place of M. Bison’s final boss. Of course, such a character was not in the game, but the wave of publications was already unstoppable: many international publications reprinted the EGM note without checking its veracity and not noticing clear signs of a prank. Even the recognition from EGM didn’t help.

In Street Fighter 2 for SNES, the creators changed the quote. However, Sheng Long was mentioned again in the English manual of the game. This time as a mentor to Ken and Ryu. Later editions of the manual were corrected, but in 1993 the fictional old man still appeared in the comics for the game. To curb this out of control joke, Capcom took matters into their own hands. In the manga of the same year, Ryu and Ken’s teacher was named Gouken, and in 1995 he was first briefly shown in Street Fighter Alpha. To appease fans disappointed with the rally, in 1994 the developers decided to create a real secret boss for Street Fighter 2. So in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo , Gouken’s brother Akuma appeared, who, like in the story about Sheng Long, knocked out M. Bison and fought instead of him.

Brothers Akuma and Gouken

But that was not the end. In 1997, EGM wrote the second April Fool’s joke about Sheng Long – this time the journalists started talking about his appearance in Street Fighter 3. The authors of the note separately indicated that Gouken is the Japanese name of the hero, by analogy with Akuma, who is called Gouki in the East. It turned out convincingly even though it was already the second rally. The employees of Capcom of America also believed in him, who called their Japanese colleagues asking why they hid the whole character from them.

Gouken appeared in a couple of anime franchises, and in Street Fighter 4 he was made a playable character at the request of fans. Moreover, some of the techniques in the game repeated those that EGM attributed to Sheng Long in 1992, and one of the winning quotes was: “You must defeat me to get a chance.” The Sheng Long joke has long been considered one of the best in the gaming industry and beyond. So, in the Disney cartoon “Ralph” you can see the inscription on the wall “Sheng Long was here.”

Pandaren

Sam Didier and his drawing of the pandaren brewer

A whole race in the Warcraft universe was born out of a joke . It all started with the artist and senior art director Sam Didier, who has been with the company since 1991 (he also came up with the name Warcraft itself). Didier is a longtime fan of pandas, for which he received the corresponding nickname. Once, after the birth of his daughter, he drew a card for Christmas with a panda and a cub, impressed by the manga “The Lone Wolf and His Child”. Later, with Didier’s permission, one of his colleagues at Blizzard used the drawing as the company’s official wallpaper. Warcraft fans immediately bombarded developers with questions about the supposedly new race in the franchise. Didier was pleasantly surprised and began to hide small images of pandas in future art around the universe, which only spurred the imagination of the players.

The very first pandaren drawing by Didier

Shortly before the release of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, the developers decided to stir up interest in the game with the help of an April Fool’s joke about the fifth race: the Pandaren came up with a story, a hero and three units. The authors received a lot of feedback from fans who truly believed in the emergence of a new faction. Of course, they were very upset when they realized that they were being played. To somehow make amends, the creators added pandaren in Warcraft 3 in the form of wild monsters and Easter eggs. In the Frozen Throne expansion, the developers have already revealed a couple of pandaren brewers, including Chen Wildporter.

We didn’t forget about the pandaren with the release of World of Warcraft. They wanted to make them a playable race in the first add-on to the MMORPG – The Burning Crusade . Blizzard artists managed to create concepts for cities, but the Chinese authorities, where they are especially sensitive to pandas, did not allow their image to be used . However, after five years, they changed their mind: it became possible to fully play for the pandaren in the fourth expansion to WoW – Mists of Pandaria .

Tofu

When Capcom created Resident Evil 2 , the team tested the game physics on a simple block. At the end of the development, the authors decided to joke in their trademark manner. The game already had an additional hardcore mode called “The Fourth Survivor”, dedicated to the operative of the Umbrella corporation Hanku, who had to quickly reach the evacuation helicopter on the roof of the Raccoon City police station. The developers parodied this short level: the dough block was replaced with a revived tofu bean curd bar, and they handed it a knife and a couple of medicinal herbs. Survivor Tofu turned out to be the hardest mode of Resident Evil 2 and was so loved by the players that it was returned in a remake of the game in 2019. This time, the developers scanned the real tofu and added four more soy “operatives” to the game.

All named characters owe their appearance to the authors’ sense of humor. And although play jokes are not always successful, many of them remain in the memory for many years. But today it is simply impossible to imagine such a thing. The only thing left to do is to remember the past.

 

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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