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Video Game: Aquaria

An independent video game developed by Bit-Blot. Aquaria follows the story of Naija, an amnesiac aquatic Fish Girl who has been living in a cave, eating fish for as long as she can remember. Eventually, wanderlust forces her to leave and explore the ocean around her. Not five minutes after she leaves her cave, she encounters a mysterious robed entity, whose touch gives Naija a vision that brings back some of her memories. The entity disappears and Naija follows, leading her on a grand adventure in which Naija discovers more about her homeland than she could have ever imagined.

Aquaria was released in December of 2007, winning numerous awards from the independent gaming community as well as widespread praise from gamers.

Gameplay is mostly focused around exploration and puzzles, though there is plenty of combat. Think Ecco the Dolphin meets Metroidvania.

Following the success of the "Humble Indie Bundle" charity drive, Bit-Blot, the developers of the game, have released its source code (info here). Keep in mind that the game's content will remain closed, so you will still have to buy the game in order to play anything more than the demo version.

Not to be confused with the online game Aquaria or the Brazilian metal band Aquaria.

Tropes:

  • Ability Required to Proceed: You can't proceed through obstacles without the appropriate form. Some of these obstacles are even inside Naija's home.
  • Action Girl: Averted at first by Naija until you unlock the Energy Form. Then she becomes this.
  • After the End: Hints of numerous ends, to the point Naija fears she may be the only person left alive.
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: The absolute last boss battle of the game appears to take place in space. Even though you're still underwater.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Exploited trope: In the secret ending, Mia intentionally wipes Naija's memory so Naija will gain a thirst for adventure and leave her family for the surface. Mia plans to use Naija's ambition to extend the powers Naija, and as a result, she, obtains.
  • And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating: Most of Naija's trophies go to fill out out her lair. The rooms of the lair will mirror her conquest of the game world.
  • Apparently Human Merfolk: Li, whose name is too short for spoiler tags becomes this shortly after Naija finds him. It might only work if the two are in close proximity, though — Li puts his old diving helmet back on if Naija decides to leave him behind somewhere. Their son Lucien might also count.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: The last area before the final boss - "The Gauntlet". Nothing but Dual Form combat against some of the toughest enemies in the game, set to an epic guitar track. The music track itself can be found Here.
  • Arm Cannon: While Naija's energy blasts resemble this, the better example is Li's shooter.
  • Babies Ever After: The normal ending.
  • Batman Gambit: Naija's mother wiped her memory and counted on her daughter's natural curiosity to cause her to grow in power.
  • Beautiful Void: Aside from the occasional Physical God, nobody speaks. The only other mortal Naija comes across is Li, whose name is far too short for conventional spoilers, and he doesn't say a word.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The Creator created Aquaria and, either directly or through sub-gods, its inhabitants; and Mia is the puppetmaster behind Naija bringing the Creator down.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The spirits may be freed from The Creator's imprisonment, but each of them is the last of their kind.
  • Blackout Basement: The Abyss, the Sunken City and The Body.
  • Bonus Boss: Many of them, most granting a pet, armor, or tool. The "Simon Says" boss is a straight minigame rather than a fight.
  • Charged Attack: Several forms have this: Energy form charges from a basic fire blast to a stronger multiblast and Nature form charges from a useless flower to a rather impressive cactusoid. Sun form doesn't have an attack, but charging her "aura" lights up the area for several seconds, which is helpful in the Abyss. Both sides of the Dual form have only a charged attack, and one is furthermore dependent on the other.
  • Chest Blaster: The Creator's final form.
  • Chest Monster: The common plants that give you food supplies sometimes release monsters instead. Happily, these are always monsters likely to leave a good health drop.
  • Collision Damage: In addition to being vulnerable to it herself, Naija can also cause it by equipping the Urchin costume. That's not just defensive, as she can grab onto some of the larger enemies.
  • Concept Art Gallery: In the credits.
  • Cosmetic Award: See Virtual Paper Doll, And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating.
  • Critical Annoyance: A rather minor example — the edges of the screen simply glow red (impeding vision), rather than making an annoying beeping sound.
  • Cry for the Devil: You've spent the entire game witnessing the effects of the Creator's mad fury, and putting the remains of his creations out of their misery. And then, once you've defeated him, you find out he was a little boy whose entire family was killed, and "I should have died with them". He's spent hundreds of years trying to create someone who would love him like his mother did, and failing. Yeah, you're gonna cry.
  • Crystal Prison: In the main menu; there has been speculation as to what Naija inside the crystal symbolizes.
  • Developer's Room: "Two odd creatures floated nearby, each staring into a glowing orb. They seemed inexorably tied to their fate, caught up in whatever they thought they were accomplishing by staying in one place for long periods of time without rest. I found the whole thing rather silly."
  • Diabolus ex Machina: What happens in the extended ending.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In the course of her travels, Naija will kill or finish off at least 6, and up to 12, "lesser gods" of her world (including gods of battle energy, a personification of nature, the former god of a ruined city, a huge sun worm, and several "species bosses"), then top this off by slaying the creator of Aquaria. (But not her mother, the Creator's 13th creation, and the game's true puppetmaster. Too bad.)
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • Easter Egg:
    • The games files reveal several in-jokes:
      • Dolphins are called Ekko
      • Starfish are called Starmie
      • The name of Naija's son is Lucien
      • The name of the Creator is Eric
    • There are a couple in-game as well, notably near the whale.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Most of the gods, but the Creator himself is the biggest example. His first form during the last battle is tame enough, being a giant statue, but he becomes more and more strange as the battle progresses. See Sequential Boss below for more info on his forms. An interesting case in that he started out as a human boy.
  • Eleventh Hour Superpower: The Dual Form.
  • Eternal Engine: The Sun Temple.
  • Ethereal Choir: Most of the background music have some vocal variants.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Pretty much. You can run across the odd benign creature, but by and large, this is a fish-eat-fish world.
  • Evil Matriarch: Naija's mother in the extra ending.
  • Feed It A Fat Poisonous Mutant: Mithala.
  • First Time in the Sun: The game takes a moment to show off the first time Naija goes above-water in The Veil.
  • Fish People: Pretty much every ancient ruined civilization was composed of these sort of people, and, of course, Naija is one herself.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Abyss.
  • For Massive Damage: Played very straight. There's even a literal Giant Enemy Crab.
  • Fusion Dance: The Dual Form, where the Li side empowers Naija's Sonic Scream.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Quite literally. Complete with a weak spot on its underside.
  • A God Am I: A little boy who fell into the ocean somehow became the creator of all Aquaria. And then he gets slain by Naija.
  • Guide Dang It:
    • Many of the puzzles in the Sunken City.
    • Some of the boss fights have particularly obscure dances needed to win.
    • The cooking, too, if you're trying to find recipes by trial-and-error, instead of finding the completed dish hidden somewhere. The developers clearly expected people to try doing the former instead of the latter, because after every third failed attempt or so, Naija will let out a frustrated cry of, "Not another Sea Loaf!"
    • Eel singing. You can sing to eels to consistently get at least two eel oils per eel, where killing the eels would get one oil if you're lucky.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Naija and Li's son.
  • Heart Container: The Verse eggs.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: One of the things that worries Naija about the energy form is that she's starting to enjoy its destructive power, and fears she'll lose her sense of self if she succumbs completely to this. It's not just something she's saying, either; if you fire off a prolonged salvo (fighting something big and tough, like a leafy dragon, for example), she giggles.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Mithala, the Golem/Priest as a pair, and The Creator. All of them are more-or-less Mook Makers, and the creatures they create are all essential to defeating them. The King Mantis doesn't create Mooks as such, but you need to turn his energy balls against him.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Naija can ride sea horses in Song form. There's even an outfit she can win to make them faster.
  • 100% Completion: There are 52 recipes, 32 treasures, 4 pets, and 5 Verse eggs to collect, not to mention 56 maps to explore, and 26 "achievements" ranging from the inevitable to the esoteric.
    • Also subverted in that one of the ingredients (Red Bulb) is only available in finite, small, quantities, while others (Special Bulb, Rukh Egg) are closely limited. Good luck experimenting with those! For the Red Bulbs, you don't even get the recipes specific to them until the endgame... but from the beginning, you do have recipes which can waste them.
    • There are also a couple of recipes which don't appear in the game at all unless you make them yourself: Vedha's Cure-All and Vedha Sea Crisp, both of which require ingredients that no other recipe uses (including the aforementioned Sea Loaves).
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: The game's protagonist, Naija, is able to eat food to instantly heal, cure status ailments, or apply an assortment of buffs.
  • Interface Screw:
    • If you don't move around for too long, the view zooms in on you, which can be rather inconvenient.
    • The result of ingesting Rainbow Soup.
    • Getting blinded by squid or octopus ink.
  • Interspecies Romance: Naija and Li.
  • Item Crafting: Naija can cook a multinational restaurant's menu's worth of food items at any time on the pause screen, as well as consume them there before resuming gameplay (see Hyperactive Metabolism, above, and on the actual page). Thank heavens. Unlike your forms and other songs, recipes are not locked before discovery. This makes replays a lot easier, as some of the recipes are too simple not to remember, even without cheat sheets.
  • James Bondage: Li, toward the end of the game. Twice.
  • Just Add Water: Many of the recipes in the game are quite simplified compared to their ingredients. An unusual example is that you can combine two bones to make a Sea Loaf that heals you.
  • Last of Her Kind: What Naija fears. The loneliness that results from this is her motivation for venturing out into the world.
  • Level Editor: Built directly into the game, so you can test your levels on the fly.
  • Little Did I Know: In the early stages of the game.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The Creator created the denizens of Aquaria to make a substitute for his mother, before destroying them when he realized they would not love him unconditionally.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Naija's Energy Form can do a minor form of this with a wall-jump-to-flourish charged blast with a lock-on (or a single enemy present sans lock-on), firing six energy bolts at one foe. Some bosses can do this, as well, especially when they go critical.
  • Magic Music: Naija sings (or the players can use hotkeys) to switch to different forms, pull certain objects, attract fish, etc.
  • Mega Manning: Eating certain enemies in Beast form allows you to copy their projectile attacks, or in some cases, such as that of the Moneye Squid, to use the enemy itself as a projectile.
  • Metroidvania: A unique, underwater version, nonetheless. There are some above-water exploration portions, which don't just include, but require, wall jumping. It's still 98% underwater, though.
  • Mood Whiplash: In the extended ending, we find out that after living some well-deserved happy (if adventure-yearning) years with Li and raising a family, Naija's mother finally reveals herself to her, reveals she was the one who wiped her memory, knowing she'd do what she did during the course of the game, tries to convince her daughter to join her in her scheme to Take Over the World, and finally incapacitating her and kidnapping her. Alec said he "was interested in making the statement that there are no happy endings". The game explicitly does say 'to be continued', yet the game developers have split and moved on to other projects.
  • Mook Maker: Numerous. From the Moneye Squid nests to the Bigmaul Forest Goddess to Mithala to The Creator's second and final forms.
  • Multi Form Balance: Dual Form has a Li Mode, which launches a fairly powerful Charged Attack, and Naija Mode, which emits a screen-blasting scream but must be charged first by destroying enemies in Li mode.
  • Multi-Stage Battle: The final boss, which starts in a shrine, travels to a dark pit, continues to a circular room (with a creepy infant doll in the center) and finishes with a wide open area containing a colossus.
  • Mushroom Samba: The Rainbow Soup.
    • A much more "realistic" samba than most examples of the trope; first you get the standard tripping out, with all its pretty swirling colors and all that, and then comes the crash, when the color scheme goes dark red with earthquakes and Naija makes painful grunting noises until it wears off. Fortunately her health bar doesn't actually drop during the crash, it's just alarming and ensures you'll never do that again.
  • Musical Spoiler: Done brilliantly toward the beginning of the game, when Naija first enters the Song Cave to open an ancient door. The song she needs, though it is written elsewhere in the cave, can also be heard repeated and remixed in the background.
  • Noob Cave: Naija's initial cave, Home Waters. This area remains a useful resource throughout the game.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Plenty. For example, the boss theme, the music for Mithala's Cathedral, the first two parts of the Final Boss theme...
  • One-Hit Kill: Made possible by a late-game powerup.
  • Opening the Sandbox: Completing the first temple allows Naija to fix a Broken Bridge with her newfound powers, unlocking the rest of the game. This sets the pattern, as every form enables use of a new set of doorways or passages.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The leafy sea dragon. In reality, a harmless fish related to seahorses. In game, an enormous monster that roars and breathes solar flame.
  • Palmtree Panic: The Veil.
  • Physical God: Almost all of the non-optional bosses. Or even the optional ones, if you count non-sentients as worshipers.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: The Dual Form
  • Playable Epilogue: The reward for finding all of Naija's lost memories.
  • Puzzle Boss: Most of the bosses in the game, but the Simon Says creature is notable for being a non-combat puzzle. It's easier to list the exceptions: Sun Worm, Nautilus Prime, Mermog, Blaster Prime, King Jellyfish, and the first couple of forms of the final boss.
  • Quest for the Rest: Naija's starting motivation.
  • Quicksand Box: It won't be a Metroidvania game without it, sadly. It can be quite confusing on where to go.
  • Recurring Riff: The plot-centric 12-note tune. It's easiest to hear in this track, which plays when you enter Open Waters. It also makes up the melody of Boss Fraught (played for every non-story boss), it's used in a puzzle in the Sunken City, the first four notes are used to activate Dual Form, and several other times.
    • It's implied that this tune is the magical "Verse" that Naija taps into in order to do all her neat stuff.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The lesser gods created by the Creator are meant to replace his mother, who died at the opening scene of the game.
  • Sanity Slippage: After killing the last miniboss in Mithalas Cathedral, Naija starts worrying about slipping into dementia or worse.
  • Satellite Character: Li, whose name is still too short for regular spoilers. Naija can leave him at either his home or hers, but there are a couple of places where he must be present to continue in the game.
  • Scenery Porn: Everywhere you go, but the Veil deserves a special mention on the virtue that it's essentially the Bahamas and associated reefs as seen from underwater, and occasionally on land. Also, there's monkeys!
  • Sequel Hook: In the extended ending, Naija is abducted by her mother to fuel her plans to Take Over the World. Afterwards, Naija and Li's grown son leaves Aquaria in an airship, presumably to find her, while the words "To be continued..." appear on the screen.
    • Sadly, the two guys who make up BitBlot dissolved the label and went their separate ways after Aquaria was finished, and are working on other projects now, so the sequel may never happen.
  • Sequence Breaking:
    • The Kelp Forest should be inaccessible without the Beast Form, gained by completing Mithalas. However, it's possible, even easy to just force through the currents without even noticing you did something wrong.
    • In earlier versions of the game, it was possible, using the Nature Form, to bypass the "tongue" leading to The Body, even before one has found Li. This had the unfortunate result of completely destroying the game: if you did this, you couldn't reach the end.
    • Careful application of wall jumping can, at least in earlier versions, allow one to enter the Sun Temple through the roof, leading straight to the boss. Since one of Naija's memories is only accessible from inside, though, you miss out on the Good Ending.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: The Verse. Naija can channel its power by singing.
  • Sequential Boss: The final boss, the Creator, has five forms:
    • The first of which is a humanoid figure on a white throne, who occasionally sprays fireballs from his hand.
    • His second form is similar to his first, but loses his mask revealing a black void; and his legs, replaced by purple tentacles.
    • His third form is insectile, but with the body of a human infant.
    • His fourth form resembles a human child with Barbie Doll Anatomy and Li's hairstyle.
    • His fifth form is a gargantuan humanoid figure with visible muscles, eyes and brain, as well as a stomach which opens up to reveal a baby's head which shoots a huge laser from its mouth for massive damage.
    • The game's data files contain evidence of at least one more form that was Dummied Out.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Frozen Veil and Ice Cavern, though in fact they're not slippery.
  • Stripperiffic: Practically all of Naija's wardrobe, considering both her alternate forms, and the alternate costumes for her primary form, though some elements — goofy helmets, or the claw-gloves of the Crab Armor — could be considered Fetish Retardant. (Yes, there's a "nude mod" available.) Then there's the costume that Naija herself describes as "rather revealing". We'd call it a bikini. In the post-game scenes and stinger, she and Li, the spoiler of spoiler tags wear even less....
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: In the game's files, there is a remix ("superflyremix.ogg") of the dummied out line, "Quit your jibba jabba and get out of the water!" One could only imagine what it was meant for.
  • Swiss Army Hero: Naija.
  • Talking To Herself: Jenna Sharpe voices both Naija and her mother, Mia.
  • The Stinger: If you collected all the lost memories.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: The Creator of Aquaria created 12 gods, and dismissed each as imperfect. The thirteenth, Naija's mother Mia he declared perfect. She ran away and set up Naija to destroy him.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Ha ha. No, seriously. Li is mainly along to offer a bit of extra firepower, but only he can open the metal door in the Abyss.
  • Turns Red: Almost every single boss, and some of the other monsters as well. In some cases, this forfeits a boss's prior invulnerability, trading their "kill dance" for a straight slugfest.
    • The Forest Goddess has a dual usage: She starts with three cyclic stages, one of which lets you turn her red and shootable for a few seconds. After a few rounds of that, she goes "critical" and starts hammering you continuously, but also stays vulnerable.
    • Similarly, "Father" cannot be injured for the first part of the fight unless his controller is stunned, but loses the invulnerability after taking a certain amount of damage.
    • After you damage Mithala enough, the entire battlefield turns red and he starts spamming powerful fireballs.
  • Underwater Kiss: How Naija and Li, whose short name still complicates spoiler tags meet. Happens partly because Naija doesn't understand the concept of scuba gear.
  • Under the Sea: (Almost) the entire game.
  • Underwater Ruins: The Krotite temple, the Mithalan city and cathedral, the Sun Temple, and the Sunken City.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Naija in the extended ending.
  • Vicious Cycle: Naija eventually discovers that, in an attempt to create companions for himself, The Creator made numerous creatures, including sub-deities, then destroyed their civilizations when he deemed them imperfect.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: As this video shows, Naija gets a lot of various ways to attack things throughout the course of the game. And nearly anything can be killed in some way. Between dropping rocks on things, shooting things, eating things, impaling things on thorny spikes, and using a Wave Motion Gun to power a super sonic scream, there's a lot of ways to inflict suffering on Naija's fellow creatures.
    • Using a giant thorny plant to fling a monkey from its tree into the middle of the sea isn't particularly useful, but it is noted as an achievement.
    • It helps somewhat that, barring small fish, the odd eel, macaws, and the aforementioned monkeys, pretty much everything hates you and wishes to feast upon your juicy corpse.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: You can find 8 new costumes for Naija's default form. Four of them have legitimate uses in the game, the rest are just for show.
  • Wall Jump: Though not as useful underwater, it's still there. Granted, it can help you speed along if you wish, is used in Energy Form's fiercest charge blast, and allows you to hold still and open a song plant within a current by sticking you to the wall in Beast Form first. Out of the water, however, it works much the same way as normal, and is in fact (sorta) the only way you can actually move.
    • As such, it averts Sequence Breaking, to the surprise of some people more used to Metroid, where wall jumping gave access to certain items before they were conventionally available; in Aquaria's above-water segments, wall jumping is your sole form of locomotion, and very much part of the plan. There are a few special items which can only be reached by wall-jumping, but still part of the plan.
  • Warp Whistle: Ancient Turtles.
  • Was Once a Man: Two examples:
    • Mithala. He was originally a humanoid resembling the creatures he created, but was turned into a gargantuan beast by the machinations of a Path of Inspiration in sacrificing/force-feeding his own followers to him.
    • The Creator, meanwhile, provides a more literal example. He was once a young boy whose (flying) city was destroyed and somehow gained godlike powers.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Reversed in the stinger. "One could hardly call a human a real person."
  • Wingdinglish: The runic text scattered throughout Aquaria is just a different font. Substituting the letters there for English ones can occasionally give a useful hint, such as at the end of the Mithala Cathedral. An alphabet and translations are available online... or if you're feeling lazy, you can just go into the 'gfx' folder and swap the 'aquarian.png' and 'aquarian_alt.png' images, which will replace all the Aquarian text with (bright orange) English in-game.
  • Womb Level: Not one, but two. Mithalas Cathedral has the player destroying gargantuan body parts, and then there's The Body, complete with giant blood cells.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Big Bad is a young boy who fell into the sea and somehow gained godlike powers. He created the entire world of Aquaria in attempts to replace his lost mother. Of course, he destroys all his creations when he discovers that they don't love him like his mother did.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: Technically, you can use the Shield Song before you learn it (a few minutes into the game), but the rest of the Songs are only available after finding them.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: In cutscenes/stinger.

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