Kid Icarus & The Most Terrifying Status Ailment in Video Games
Status ailments can really screw up your day while playing a game. Across a variety of games, you’ll see all sorts of different effects that can mess up your character. Dark Souls’ Curse ailment, which turns you to crystal. Bad Breath, which slams you with every status effect from Final Fantasy VII. Sleep, which can send your front line Pokémon for a (likely deadly) snooze. They’re often annoying and can cause a lot of trouble, but I wouldn’t say I FEAR any of them. Well, except for one. The Eggplant ailment from Kid Icarus.
The game, which hit the NES back in 1987, has you guiding Pit, an Angel from Angel Land. Angel Land was run by Palutena, but she’s been deposed by Medusa and the monsters of the Underworld. Now, Palutena had a whole army, but she lost to Medusa. But you have to beat Medusa all by yourself. Maybe your little bow and arrow will be enough? Not likely, though, given how little the game tells you about how to get more powerful. Also, you can’t fly despite those wings on your back. And the first few stages are all vertical. And you die if you fall off the bottom of the screen as you climb.
If you muster all your strength and conquer a few stages of Kid Icarus, you’ll make it to a fortress. Here, the game shifts from a standard NES sidescroller (Verticalscroller?) to something more exploratory. The fortresses are mazes of rooms full of enemies, shops, and the challenging boss of the area. And a hospital. You might feel a sense of relief that there’s a location to refill your health in the dungeon. Good to get some hit points back, even if it’s in an out-of-the-way place, right?
Well, the hospital doesn’t do that. It doesn’t seem to do ANYTHING when you first enter. If you bought the game brand new or somehow had the good luck to get the manual with it, you’d find that the hospital is how you heal yourself from the Eggplant Wizard’s spells. Which the manual tells you is “a fate worse than death”. And it really isn’t kidding.
Kid Icarus has a couple of rooms in it with the cyclopean purple wizards in them. They look pretty ridiculous with their white capes, eggplant-topped staves, and gaping maws. Kinda like living eggplants marching about, all while they also fling eggplants at Pit. They feel like something that wandered out of Super Mario Bros 2. However, their abilities are far more monstrous. Those silly-looking eggplants they toss? Those give Pit the nastiest status ailment in all of gaming.
If you touch this spell, you turn into an eggplant with legs. It’s pretty funny, at first. Becoming a giant, walking eggplant just feels so on-the-nose for the kind of absurd stuff that could happen to you in a Nintendo game. However, you may notice that you’ve lost the ability to attack due to the ailment. This caused a short moment of panic the first time I was afflicted by it. It subsided fast, though. Yeah, I can’t fight back. I figured that you just needed to dodge for a minute until it wears off.
A few seconds passed. Thirty. A minute. Two. All while I hopped around the room trying not to get hit again. Eggplant does not wear off in Kid Icarus. You’re stuck with this ailment until you cure it. Remember those out-of-the-way hospitals I was talking about? That room is the only place you can dispel the ailment. That means you’re unable to attack for the entire duration of the walk to the hospital. All you can do is hope your dodging skills are up for the job.
In a game with only a few enemies, this might be a surmountable task. Each room on the way to the hospital is filled with foes, though. Many rooms have a handful of enemies in each, and they all respawn the second you step out the door. Not only this, but a lot of places have pots that dump snakes into the room when you come near. It’s hard enough to time your movements to avoid a shower of serpents when you can fight back. When you can’t, you can find six or seven new foes added to the room to avoid. Things get out of hand quickly.
You also don’t get a lot of health throughout Kid Icarus. Well, unless you’ve done your research and played very carefully. Health (or Endurance, as it’s called) is increased by getting really high scores throughout the stages. If you avoid a lot of enemies, or don’t specifically pick fights with hard, valuable ones, you may not have much health to lose when you get hit with the eggplant effect. Also, the game doesn’t really tell you this, so until you figure it out yourself, you may have no idea how to gain more health and be in a bad position the first time you meet the Eggplant Wizard.
So, make it a priority to kill the wizard and you should be all right. Well, Eggplant Wizards tend to occupy rooms in groups. Not many rooms, thankfully. Still, there’s usually at least two wizards when they appear. Their spell fires in an arc over them, so trying to run over them or under them requires precise timing. Running over them practically guarantees you’ll get hit, by the way. Don’t do it. With two of them tossing eggplants, it means you have to carefully gauge when to move.
It means running is hard, but since they take many hits to kill, it also means that sticking around and fighting may be harder. Especially since there’s usually two of them. This means more time spent weaving around and shooting them while praying you don’t get hit yourself. If you think you can just get stronger weapons, that’s technically possible in Kid Icarus. You can level up your arrows in certain rooms. However, to do that, you need to achieve an invisible skill score before you enter certain secret rooms. You gain skill from doing certain things, but you also LOSE skill from taking damage. And you lose some from firing your weapon. None of which you’d know without looking up a walkthrough OR playing the game for ages.
So, Eggplant status makes you permanently helpless unless you can get to a hospital. Good luck remembering where it is, too. The fortresses are mazes that are easy to get lost in. Luckily, there’s a Map you can pick up! Which does next to nothing besides show a grid of what the place looks like. If you get the Flaming Torch and Pencil, you’ll be able to see where you are and the rooms you’ve explored, respectively. Nothing shows where that hospital is, though. Best hope you can recall it. Unless you haven’t even found it yet. Finding it while defenseless is a REAL TREAT.
The eggplant status ailment leaves you defenseless in a game where you can die easily. Kid Icarus doesn’t make it very clear how to get stronger, so surviving long enough to reach a healing hospital will be difficult. Even moreso if you haven’t found one yet. Fighting or avoiding the thing that casts it is also an ordeal, one where you’ll likely be afflicted unless you play really well. As such, I have to leave the room whenever I run into an Eggplant Wizard in the game. Gather myself. Take a deep breath. Summon my courage. Because there’s no other status ailment that causes more pain and slow death than becoming an eggplant with legs. It’s the only ailment in gaming I’m actually afraid to catch.