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Hostage Spirit Link

"Hey, Mr. Blonde! You been watching too many movies?!"

Curious phenomenon in modern Light Gun games where accidentally shooting innocent people will cause damage to you, either through health and resources, or to overall score.

This is used to add difficulty and to prevent the player from spraying bullets everywhere whenever he turns a corner. Naturally, these innocents will be in places where it's easy to get startled and confused and shoot them. If handled poorly, it can often seem that the innocents are simply trying to get shot.

A form of Videogame Cruelty Punishment. Contrast Friendly Fireproof.


Examples:

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     Action Adventure  
  • This is what made the not-so-final boss of the not-so-obscure Game Boy game Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages difficult. Defeat the boss using a specific sequence of attacks? Easy, given time to figure out which ones. But the boss is holding your friend's ancestor (sorta) hostage, and hitting the ancestor drains Link's life instead.
    • This also happens earlier in the game when the titular and still-possessed Oracle is battled in a similar way. Additionally, in sister game Oracle of Seasons, Onox uses Din, who is still trapped in a crystal, as a shield in one phase of his fight. Hitting her with anything but the Rod of Seasons damages Link.
    • Especially jarring in Four Swords Adventures, there are a couple of points in the game where you must escort an NPC to safety and all of the NPCs have only a single heart's worth of health. If they die, all four Links will spontaneously croak - even in multiplayer.
    • In the final battle of Spirit Tracks, Zelda is Friendly Fireproof but must be defended from enemy fire. If she's hit, you lose some life.
  • In the video game adaptation of Superman Returns, Superman does not have a health meter of his own; he's indestructible. When he's hit, his power meter goes down and he's stunned for a bit. Instead, the health meter is the health meter of Metropolis itself! So if there's too much damage to the city or the people, it's game over for Supes. Annoyingly, most of Superman's more powerful abilities tend to cause collateral damage.

     Action Game  
  • In the old NES game version of Mission: Impossible (a top-down action-adventure), the fourth level boss used a hostage as cover. Accidentally hitting the hostage would instead cause you to lose health. Fortunately, you had far more hit points than most characters in light-gun games.
  • The Dick Tracy game for the NES has a bizarre variation. The eponymous detective is only allowed to shoot enemies who are shooting at him; if he shoots an unarmed enemy who is merely trying to punch him in the face, it is at the cost of a full unit of health. Keeping in mind that getting hit or shot by an enemy only costs half a unit of health, this is an especially extreme penalty.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum gives you a game over if you let any hostages die.
    • Made somewhat more annoying when one of said hostages dies in the cutscene that follows immediately after.

     Adventure Game  
  • In Snatcher, there's a scene where the Snatcher that has replaced Benson Cunningham takes a woman hostage. Hitting the woman causes Gillian to take damage.
    • It's done once again in the Genre Shifted remake, SD Snatcher, where a certain robot will take an NPC woman hostage, and hitting the woman will cause Gillian to take damage.
    • The best use of this in Snatcher, though, is right at the end of the Sega CD version, when Gillian leaps into a room and sees a figure. Shooting the figure will give you a game over - it's Jamie, Gillian's wife.

     Beat Em Up  
  • The Konami beat'em'up Oz, also known as The Sword Of Etheria in Europe and Chains Of Power in Korea, has a level with the ghosts of innocent people who were killed. Damaging them damages you.

     Fighting Game  
  • In the Playstation port of the Capcom fighting game based on JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the minigame based on the "Strength" chapter is in the vein of a light gun game. Here, the innocent is the stowaway girl that was introduced in the "Dark Blue Moon" chapter.

     First Person Shooter  
  • Americas Army has an early training mission use this. The trouble is, the difference between "hostage" and "hostile" is a lot less than three letters. You'd think it's the people with guns, right? No; several hostiles don't have guns, and one innocent has a gun.
  • In Soldier of Fortune II, if you accidentally shoot an ally, or if an Escort Mission character dies, you die too. In the first game, the game ends if too many innocents die or Hawk is killed.
  • A nice way to stop team-killers without just preventing friendly fire: in some multiplayer modes in more recent Call of Duty games, any damage you inflict on a teammate is applied to your character instead. This is also an option for local and private games. Hardcore mode instead has normal friendly fire damage, but kicks any player who kills too many teammates.
    • Other games like Left 4 Dead also have this feature if one is playing on a modded sever.
    • Modern Warfare also has somewhat like the America's Army example above in the first level of the second game - you're timed for a run through a live-fire course with pop-up targets to determine what difficulty you're ready for. Killing civilians docks your overall score - in the Special Ops version of the course, where you're scored with one to three stars depending on how fast you finish the course, if you hit any civilians you're only getting two at best.
  • In PAYDAY: The Heist has civilians, which can be taken captive, let alone or killed. The more civilians you have captured, the longer times you get between assault waves; causing them even the slightest amount of damage kills them however, which ramps up the enemy difficulty.
    • Sequel PAYDAY 2 makes this worse, as hostages have a habit of getting themselves killed, and each death you cause costs a large amount of cash; said cash is explained as "cleaner costs" to pay away the heat you're adding to yourself, and as it further increases on higher difficulties, it's entirely possible to come away from a heist with slightly less money. Granted, civs can be forced down and cuffed with cable-ties, but if a SWAT agent reaches them they can be freed — so expect to be firing at an enemy, only for an innocent to pop up and charge through the SWAT line of fire into yours.
  • Halo: Reach causes Noble Six to die the moment s/he kills a civilian, even accidentally. This may lead to some frustration if you're trying to save that first civilian on New Alexandria and you forgot you had a Needler out.
  • A common(ly frustrating) variation, such as in the Medal of Honor series: if an escortee is killed, it's Mission Failed.
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein: "Mission Failed. You killed a civilian."
  • In the Rainbow Six series, the death of a hostage causes immediate mission failure.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money, your companions' bomb collars are linked to yours, so if they die, you die.
  • Tron 2.0: Shooting any ally or innocent Program is an instant Non-Standard Game Over

     Light Gun Game  
  • While the Time Crisis games don't usually have innocents to avoid (except in those sequences which involve rescuing hostages), on the rare occasions where the final boss uses one as a Human Shield, you only lose points rather than a life if you accidentally shoot her. And when the other player is visible in your screen in certain scenarios, shooting him will deduct points, too.
    • Done straight in Time Crisis 3's Rescue Mission, in which shooting an innocent will take off a life rather than points. This has the side effect of making its third stage a Scrappy Level.
    • Also done straight in Spiritual Successor Razing Storm, where several civilians have not been evacuated before the gunfight starts. Shooting them penalizes half a life each, but the main problem is that some of them run back and forth, making your shots harder. Lampshaded in Stage 2:
      "Don't shoot the civilians!"
      "Oh yeah? Well, easier said than done!"
      "You've fired that thing a million times! It shouldn't be that hard!"
  • One of the original Light Gun games, Nintendo's Hogans Alley, penalized you with a miss for each "innocent" you hit. This isn't really as peculiar, though, since the game apes the paper-cutout style of firearm training course, and hence scoring is expected to be artificial.
  • Notoriously bad in the Virtua Cop series, where, after seeing you blast away hordes of terrorists, a civilian will always leave the safety of their cover to wave their arms at you wildly.
    • In VC3 there's one bit where two civilians stand up, and then one pulls a gun on you. You don't lose a life for shooting him but it counts as a civilian shot on your score. And yes, he does shoot you if you don't do anything.
  • In the Police 911 series, you don't actually die, you just get treated to a time-wasting cutscene, and you lose a few ranks. The same applies to Lethal Enforcers 3, in which it shows a news headline reading "[occupation of civilian] shot by mistake."
    • It should be noted that in Police 911 every mission is timed, and you get a single timer for an entire level. The timer is replenished slightly every time you shoot all the criminals in a particular section, and the higher your rank goes, the higher your time bonus for each "apprehension." Running out of time gives you a Game Over no matter how many lives you have left, so this can kill you, it just does so more slowly.
  • Carn Evil also has this, every so often, Lisa (the player's girlfriend) pops up and you have to avoid hitting her or lose some life.
  • Silent Scope. "BEEEEP!: Don't shoot innocent people!" Doing so takes off a full life box, as opposed to the half-box taken off by most damage.
  • GHOST Squad
  • In the Terminator: Salvation arcade game, humans will periodically get in your way. Shooting a human causes a large X to appear over them. The human doesn't even get hurt and you don't even lose life/points for it. This was probably because the game is really freaking hard.
  • Area 51, Maximum Force, and other Mesa Logic arcade shooters all follow this pattern.
    • Area 51 handled it exceptionally poorly. Often, in the middle of a pitched firefight, one of your teammates would suddenly jump directly into your line of fire, not to mention blocking 80% of the screen. Since accidentally shooting your teammate damages you, you're forced to stop shooting until the idiot moves out of the way. Of course, the enemies are still shooting at you while you wait, so you end up taking unnecessary damage anyway.
    • The game takes this trope to the next level by turning you into an alien and tasking you with killing soldiers in a special mode if you consciously off your buddies and don't kill any of the proper targets.
    • In Target Terror, if you shoot the pilot on the final mission, you get a Nonstandard Game Over with the plane crashing into the White House. If you directly shoot the hijacker, he blows up the plane with a Dead Man Switch.
  • The first two House of the Dead games had innocents being threatened by zombies. Killing the zombies before they harmed the innocents would often result in them rewarding you, but you would lose a life if you shot the innocent (but not if you simply failed to save him).
    • Averted in III in which you occasionally rescue the other player, and if you shoot him/her... nothing happens. In fact, this is prominently shown in a hint video in The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return. The House of the Dead 4 simply does away with having to rescue anybody...for not-so-positive reasons.
      • Plus, in House Of The Dead 4, you've got a freakin' machine gun!!
    • In Overkill, you're docked 5,000 points (the amount you get for saving them) if you shoot them yourself, and Washington criticizes you - "Shit, man! That was a live one!" You suffer no penalty if they get killed, and G frequently makes a "can't save them all" comment.
    • And averted in the spinoff Typing of the Dead, where you can fail to save an innocent but can't shoot one. This actually makes sense: the Hand Wave for the "type to shoot" gameplay is that your weapon is actually under the control of a portable tactical computer and your typing provides the feedback allowing it to track targets, and discover and exploit boss vulnerabilities. Being entirely friendly-fireproof is the reason the expensive equipment's been issued to agents in the first place.
  • Lethal Enforcers featured both hostages/civilians and fellow police officers that, when shot, would detract a life from the player.
    • This game also had an interesting occurrence in one mission where an apparent civilian in a white suit would appear with hands raised and the usual "Don't shoot!" but instead of hiding again would pull a gun! Turns out it was a bad guy playing hostage. You can shoot them before they draw though without penalty if you know who it is.
  • The second boss of Operation Wolf was one of the earliest examples.
  • In the Point Blank series, shooting certain objects—usually bombs, (cardboard) civilians, and targets of your opponent's color—will take off a life, on top of the life you will lose if you fail the stage. You can continue to shoot such targets until the stage ends. This means it's entirely possible to clear the stage but lose all three of your starting lives within the same stage.

     Platform Game  
  • In Dynamite Headdy, one of the bosses holds love interest Heather in its hand, and uses her as a shield to cover its face. Accidentally hitting her reduces your health.
  • This is what made the final boss of the obscure NES game Wrath Of The Black Manta difficult. Defeat the boss using a specific sequence of four ninja powers? Easy, given time to figure out which ones. But the boss is holding the kid, a friend of the Black Manta, hostage, and hitting the kid drains BM's life instead.
  • In Super Paper Mario, killing a brainwashed Cragnon in Chapter 5 (which equates to accidentally jumping on them once) will dock you a few hundred experience points.
  • One of the levels in Mega Man Zero 2 has reprogrammed Resistance members as enemies and killing them hurts your mission score. Subverted to a degree that when killed, they always drop an extra life.

     Shoot Em Up  
  • Happens in the last stage of the video game of RoboCop. The Corrupt Corporate Executive uses his boss as a meat shield, and hitting him nets you an instant Game Over.
  • In the old Amiga game Gunshoot, you're manning a bank and have to receive money from customers, as well as shoot any robbers that come in. If a robber shoots you, you die, but if you shoot an innocent customer (or shoot the poncho-clad robber before he's drawn his gun) you also die, with the odd game over message "You lost your brayn."
  • The indie game Graveyard Shift is particularly mean about this. You take damage any time a "damsel" dies, whether or not you're responsible, and typically there are quite a few zombies between her and safety.
  • The Punisher for the Xbox. Blasting a hostage? Instant death for our hero, no matter what.
  • One enemy in Prohibition is a gangster holding a woman hostage. Shooting him is worth 1000$ (the most any enemy brings, save mafia bosses), but shooting her costs you the same amount. It becomes very difficult late in the game when gangsters require multiple hits to die.

     Stealth Based Game  
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear for MSX2 and NES, shooting a hostage would cause you to be demoted to the previous rank, which resulted in reduced maximum health and carrying capacity. Given that you had to be of a certain rank to get a specific item needed to beat the game, and rank was gained by rescuing hostages, this usually resulted in making the game Unwinnable. One of the bosses, Coward Duck (or Dirty Duck if you're playing one of the re-releases), actually uses this trick to kill you.
    • In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, shooting a child caused Snake to take damage.
    • Metal Gear Solid does this pretty directly: the fight with Ocelot centers around a hostage hooked up to quite a lot of explosives. Accidentally (or not) shooting him causes the entire room to explode, instantly killing you. And OCELOT will call you an idiot. In the same game, killing Meryl will result in an instant game over. Harming her in any way outside of your Manchurian Candidate fight results in the bitch-slap from hell. Fortunately there weren't a lot of other hostages to avoid.
  • Killing civilians in Assassin's Creed I causes you to lose several points of synchronization. Justified in that synchronization reflects how well you're following your ancestor's memory, and the ancestor never attacked civilians.
    • Subverted in ACII and onwards: Your synch and health is not the same anymore, but instead when you kill a civilian, you get desynch'ed for each civilian killed, but after 3 strikes you're out, and the game reloads you to a checkpoint nearby.
      • However, this has the opposite of the intended affect in practice since checkpoints are so frequent (you get a checkpoint every time you do anything remotely significant) and since you are always respawned with full health, so killing civilians to desync yourself is an excellent way to restore your health for free.

     Tank Game  
  • More of a Team Spirit Link, but in Bz Flag, if you shoot a teammate, you hear a donkey bray and immediately explode.

     Third-Person Shooter  
  • In Red Dead Redemption, essential Non Player Characters such as John's family members are not easy to kill on accident. Not only do they have large amounts of health, but the game prevents weapons from being fired while one of these characters are within your crosshairs. Nonetheless, it is possible to kill them using explosives, and the instant one of them dies, John will also fall down dead.

     Web Comics  

Hostage SituationI Have Your IndexHostage Video
Hiroshima as a Unit of MeasureImageSource/WebcomicsI Know You're Watching Me
Hold the LineVideo Game Difficulty TropesI Can't Reach It

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