Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A salute to the best dogs in video games

Just like cats, canaries, and pet rocks, the faithful dog has been strangely underrepresented in the world of modern video games ...Nintendogs notwithstanding.

Microsoft - or more specifically, Infinity Ward - aimed to change that yesterday during the Xbox One unveiling when the entire presentation was shanghaied by that high-res, handsome devil dog from Call of Duty: Ghosts above.

Said dog has become an internet sensation in the past few hours, and has even inspired a spoof Twitter account (@collarduty).  Such fame isn't meant to last, thankfully, but it gives us a great excuse to take a moment and look back on some of the best pooches in the history of video games.

Grab your jerky treats and get ready to scratch 'em behind their ears, these good boys have earned it.

Link - Twilight Princess

Technically more wolf than dog, Link - as a member of the Canis genus - is the most playable dog on this list and the only one that players ever have complete control over.

Transformed into a wolf by a short-sighted curse in the Twilight Realm, wolf-Link is able to dig for hidden treasures, follow scent trails, and tear a bokoblin's goddamn jugular out with his teeth.

The gimmick wears thin after your fourth or fifth trip into the Twilight Realm, unfortunately, but those first few hours that you're in control of wolf-Link are some of the most enjoyable in the franchise.

Your Dog - Fable II
Faithful to an eventual fault, the noble dog was included in Fable II to strength the player's ties to their home country of Albion.

Although the dog's main purpose is to help you find treasure chests and buried items (sensing a trend yet?) the dog acts as a touchstone for emotion and sympathy throughout the game right until the final curtain falls.

More companion than helpful NPC, the dog in Fable II is the first real attempt by a video game to make you feel invested in a pet... which makes the stupid decision at the end of the game that much more annoying to deal with.

Interceptor - Final Fantasy VI

Unlike the first two dogs on this list, Interceptor never stooped to digging up buried items for his master, Shadow, but instead dove selflessly in front of enemy attacks to keep him master safe from harm.

One-half plot device and one-half special attack, Interceptor would also appear randomly during battles and lay a massive hurting on enemies with his Wild Fang or Takedown abilities.  Neither of these ever really turned the tide of the game, but it's still fun to watch the 16-bit German Shepard haul ass across the screen to deliver a beatdown for his master.

For all of his good, however, Interceptor wasn't the best dog to come from a Final Fantasy game...

Rush - Mega Man III
The plucky blue hero Mega Man is arguably the last video game character in need of a sidekick.

After every boss battle, Mega Man's famous for tearing  off a portion of his defeated foe and attaching it to his own body.  This makes Mega Man versatile and pretty hard to kill, yet for every Thunder Beam, Bubble Lead, and Quick Boomerang at his disposal, the blue bomber constantly found himself in positions where a gimmicky vehicle or consumable super jump would be really useful.

Enter Rush, Mega Man's trusty companion from Mega Man III who allows himself to be used as a jet-powered hoverboard, adorable submarine, and high-powered trampoline - the latter of contributed heavily to a worrying, but thankfully short-lived, series of canine spinal injuries from Nintendo-obsessed youth in the early 90s.

Angelo - Final Fantasy VIII

Another faithful hound who's not above digging up buried treasure, Rinoa's pet Angelo serves as her limit break for the earlier part of the game.

Like Interceptor, Angelo's not above running down an enemy to deliver a vicious bite attack (even when said enemy is a motherfucking dinosaur)... but what makes Angelo really shine is how creatively he allows himself to be used by Rinoa via the 'Combine' limit break.

Serving as Rinoa's mount, flying avenger, and arm cannon projectile, Angelo can deliver an impressively well-coordinated beating before bounding back to Rinoa's side for a quick treat and a pat on the head.

Unfortunately, you rarely use Angelo towards the end of Final Fantasy VIII once Rinoa has access to Angel Wing - but until that time, he makes limit breaks worth watching.