Video Game / Anachronox

Anachronox is a third-person RPG from 2001, developed by Ion Storm Dallas (infamous for Daikatana; the Deus Ex team was Ion Storm Austin) for the PC. A sort of a love-letter to Japanese-style RPGs (especially games such as Final Fantasy VII), it tells a Science Fiction story that follows the tale of a down-on-his-luck detective Sylvester "Sly Boots" Bucelli and his eclectic True Companions, who range from a stripper/assassin to an old collector of seemingly inert Phlebotinum to an alcoholic superhero to a planet shrunken down to your size. In true JRPG tradition, Sly and his companions travel to a variety of planets, meet interesting and weird people, hunt for widgets, and engage in a lot of Turn-Based Combat.

Although intended to be a humorous game, it isn't really a parody of the genre. It features a wide variety of tropes commonly associated with Japanese RPGs of the period such as the 3D installments of the Final Fantasy series, as opposed to Western PC RPGs of the period such as the Baldur's Gate series. The game did reasonably well with critics, but was not a big seller. Among those who did play it, it is notorious for its ending, which is a very obvious lead-up to the sequel that was never to be.

The game was compiled into a feature-length Machinima in 2003 by one of its creators; it can be watched here.

The game is available for sale through and Steam.

This game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Shields and MysTech are powered by radioactive rodents.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Averted. Standard items cost the same anywhere, and inn prices vary logically according to location and accommodations, not how far along you are in the game when you first get there.
  • Apocalypse How: Sunder suffers of physical annihilation severity, which is itself merely one part of a larger plan by the villains to perform a multiversal destruction. To be specific, since reality is an endless cycle of Big Bang/Big Crunch, they seek to eject enough matter from the past universe into the present universe so that universe has no Crunch, destroying not only the present universe but the future universe where their enemies are.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Only three out of seven party members can be active at the same time.
  • Badass Longcoat: Boots, by the end — especially with his "Cap" skill.
  • Bag of Sharing: Just one inventory, even in segments where everyone's spread out in totally different areas. Or on totally different planets. In prison.
  • Bilingual Bonus: One guy in the all-male strip club in the red light district refers to himself as "Blue", which seems odd, until you realise that in Russian, the word "Goluboj", literally meaning "Blue", is also the slang word meaning "Gay"
  • Black Comedy: Plenty, as this is a comedic game with Film Noir overtones. See Broken Bridge below for one example.
  • Bonus Boss: The Mephad'in DoorLord is an optional encounter in the MysTech Tunnels after Limbus. He's the single most powerful enemy in the game, with a Total Party Kill attack (9999 damage) that can only be prevented by stunning him. Defeating the DoorLord gets you the most powerful shield in the game.
  • Broken Bridge: "Someone's on fire just around the corner. This area's closed off until he puts himself out."
    • Just in case you think he's kidding, you can see a man behind him, fully aflame, running around and screaming. The guy you're talking to is a cop, and he's doing absolutely nothing to help the poor man. It's just that kind of game.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Every type of mystech has a specific color, and every character in the party has their own type they have the best affinity for — the matching color will be prominent in their appearance. For example, Rho is best with poison (green) while Paco has affinity for fire - thus Rho wears a big green coat while Paco's hero spandex is red and black.
  • Combat Stilettos: Stiletto wears them, naturally.
  • Disc One Nuke: Paco's Infinity+1 Sword is obtained by photographing eight red Bipidri and turning the photos in to an NPC on Anachronox. Said eight Bipidri are all placed in areas you'll visit before meeting Paco. As a result, you can get his weapon well before he should have it, making his initial level (and several after it) a cakewalk.
  • Dungeonpunk: The setting is completely cyberpunk, but it feels like magic wouldn't feel out of place.
  • Emergency Transformation: Fatima was put in the Life Cursor after she was thrown from Boots' crashing car, which ultimately crashed into her.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Totally Arbitrary Collectible Objects, or TACOs for short. They look like golden taco statuettes.
  • The Future Is Noir: The Bricks, the first area of the game, is a place a Blade Runner character might find comfy.
  • Global Currency: The galactic currency is the Canadian Dollar.
    • It's the de facto Galactic Currency. One of the newsfeeds you can read in the game mentions that a conference will be taking place soon to decide if the "Loonie" should become the de jure currency.
  • Green Rocks: The MysTech "stones", which are really what let you cast your spells, once they are eventually "awakened." Each one corresponds to different elements, such as wind or healing.
  • Guide Dang It:
    • The red Bipidri, one of which is inexplicably in space. The same goes for the TACOs, which are more numerous and even more difficult to find.
    • A very mild version, as it's not spelled out in black and white and thus easy to miss. Spells have certain types: confusion, damage, poison, etc. Casting these on enemies does as you would expect. Casting them on yourself, on the other hand, does the opposite (cure poison, remove confusion, etc.). Nowhere in the menu is this mechanic actually discussed. Instead, it is Rho who tells you about it when you first arrive at Votowne, and she isn't perfectly clear about it (the idea was that you're supposed to test it yourself, it being a new frontier and all). It's quite possible to go through the entire game without realizing this helpful fact.
  • The Gunslinger: Boots, and Rho depending on the weapon she's using.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Hints are dropped here and there in the game that Sly Boots wasn't always the bum he is at the start of the game. Then a pair of cutscenes roughly halfway to three-quarters of the way through the game show that he was once a respected Private Eye in the fashionable section of Anachronox, with a nice office, a snappy suit, and a Cool Car.
  • Idiot Hero: Boots. He can't spell "Anachronox". He lives on the planet Anachronox.
    "Unachronox! Man, you guys are dumb."
  • Improbable Weapon User: Rho Bowman uses devices that attack with SCIENCE! Democratus attacks with orbital lasers and nukes. Paco, being a comic-style superhero, equips old issues of his own comic to access his fighting moves. In addition to all this, spells are powered by insects.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: Each character has their own. Notably, Paco's can be obtained earlier than you actually get the character, making him stupidly overpowered in the short term. Also, the "harmonic" mystechs, one for each color, are the most powerful mystech in the game, short of the eight super-bug modular mystech.
  • Jerk Ass: Sly Boots. This is even mentioned in the manual when after giving the sob story of his life up until that point in his bio, Fatima (who narrates the manual) says "But don't feel bad for him. He's a jerk."
  • Justified Save Point: Most areas of the game have a frog-like creature called a "Time Minder" somewhere. Touching one lets the player save the game, with the justification that the Time Minders experience the entire continuum of their lives simultaneously, and thus touching it makes you part of their entire life. Exactly how this relates to saving the game is left unclear, but touching one is supposed to bring good luck — that is to say, the person who touched it probably reloaded the game and tried again.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Lampshaded. At one point you can break into someone's room. They'll acknowledge that you're probably here to rob them and make no effort to stop you, nor is there any punishment for it.
  • Knife Nut: Stiletto has plenty of throwing knives to go along with her Combat Stilettos.
  • Level Scaling: Enemies are scaled to Boots' level after leaving an area, and his fellow teammates are likewise scaled to close his current level. This had the effect of discouraging Level Grinding, as doing so excessively made the game impossible to win (almost all your teammates would be useless against even mooks).
  • Obvious Beta: The original game shipped with a number of rather obvous minor bugs. Pathing was an issue, causing characters to jitter around in circles or be unable to figure out how to get where they needed to for an ability, and the camera would often end up behind a character for a few seconds, blocking ones view or looking 'through' their chest. Most such bugs were minor and didn't have a significant impact on the game or enjoyability, but it does give a feeling that the game wasn't quite done
    • The most obvious example, which is a sort of good Game-Breaking Bug was the shields. The idea was that a shield would absorb a small amount of damage in battle before the character's hp took damage, and unlike health the barrier's would recharge to full after each battle. However, instead of adding a barrier of damage as intended instead the game simply increased the players health if it was lower the then maximum health of player + shield at the start of battle. This meant if any character took less damage then their shield could absorb in a battle they got to keep the extra health, effectively being healed. The mechanics of combat made it entirely possible for one character to never get targeted in a given battle, so the free 'healing' from this bug happened pretty often, and could add up enough to save using a healing potion or two.
    • There was also an issue with incomplete abilities. For instance Grumpos starts with a Yammer ability, all the players are told is that he could probably talk characters to death by yammering at them. The intent was for the ability to be a short duration stun when used, but it didn't work as advertised for all players. For some it would do nothing at all, making it a complete waste of time and resources to use. Considering the description provided some players presumed it was intended to be an instant death ability which usually missed.
      • stun abilities from other characters had similar issues. Grumpos was simply the most obvious since he had no other abilities which he could use Bouge on for awhile, making the Yammer ability more tempting to use, and the in-game description left it so unclear what the ability was intended to do.
  • Overly Long Fighting Animation: As the game draws much of its inspiration from Final Fantasy VII and other JRP Gs of the era, some of the game's "Bouge" skills (Limit Breaks) have cutscene-like animations. A "speed up" key was added in a later patch, which greatly remedies this situation.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Come on, you have to guide a team of a loser detective, a sadist Badass Grandpa, a robot that would make Asimov cry, a geek scientist who accidentally destroyed a planet and killed a lot of other scientists (though to be fair, you find out it wasn't actually her), a planet shrunk down to human size, a killer stripper and a drunkard superhero.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: PAL, which is a plot point since robots do not usually act this way.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: You may save only with "Time Minders" (Justified Save Points) if you want.
  • Shout-Out: If you look closely at the objects above a characters head when they are affected with "Nuts", the textures of the cubes look similar, if not identical, to the walls from the rooms in the the movie Cube. The animation also has the objects move around erratically, as the rooms did in said movie, though that just may be over speculation.
    • Votown pretty obviously refers to Motown.
  • Standard Status Effects: Although they have weird names, in keeping with the game's tendency to have everything a standard RPG does but with odd names.
  • Stealth Pun: For starters, both your characters' Deflector Shields and Applied Phlebotinum run on "Neutron Radiated Glowdents"; N-R-G.
  • Traitor Shot: just as Grumpos approaches the Echo Gate, a breeze ruffles his beard, revealing the emblem of the Dark Servants on his chest. He's been in league with the Big Bad all along.
  • True Companions: And a bizarre set of one, at that. One of your companions is an entire planet, shrunk down to your scale.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The game features at least one short stealth sequence and a mandatory rail shooting section.
  • Virtual Ghost: Fatima, Boots's "LifeCursor", is actually the mind of Boots' secretary downloaded into a little flying apparatus that acts as a sort of a combination of futuristic PDA and the game cursor. She appears to Boots as a hologram since she doesn't actually have a body. She is not overly happy with this arrangement.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Played straight and lampshaded. Every character in the game is nothing but a stock set of phrases. One particular fellow in the Anachronox train station, however, is aware of this fact and preaches it to the masses. They don't believe him, of course. Near the end of the game, speaking to him will reward you with a Harmonic MysTech, his way of making sure you remember who he is.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: Lampshaded via the character Multidude, who can create copies of himself.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Subtle, but it's there: When you meet Rho, she theorizes that mass from the previous universe has started destabilizing the current one; the Chatagra and their servants have already escaped into the past, and everything you do just leads up to their release.