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Segmented Serpent

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The Segmented Serpent is a snake-like or worm-like enemy which is made up of lots of individual body segments, all joined together in a line. This is a simple way to allow for interesting dynamic flexing and bending movements in a 2D sprite-based game, although the same principle can work in three dimensions as well. In its simplest form, a Segmented Serpent is simply a line of enemies following an invisible track, giving them the impression of being a larger composite creature.

This enemy type is very common in scrolling shooters. Because it normally appears in 2-dimensional games, it can often move through its own body and form closed loops to trap the player. Burrowing into the surrounding terrain and reemerging is another common tactic.

There are many different design variations on this idea, some exploiting the unique properties of a segmented creature to come up with interesting gameplay mechanics. Common ones include:

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Being made of multiple sprites, Segmented Serpents are often quite large, usually larger than the player. They often appear as end of level bosses due to their spectacular appearance and their potential for interesting gameplay. They can be given weapons, but more often than not, their sheer size and dangerous movement is enough of an obstacle.

Most easy examples of this trope occurred due to graphical limitations, as a set of discrete rigid objects moving in a sequence is easier to animate than a single flexible length. Modern examples tend to be deliberate artistic choices, usually either representing mechanical or arthropod-like beings who actually look like that or as nostalgic call-backs to older games' art styles.

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When a Segmented Serpent is destroyed, it's common for them to explode segment-by-segment from the point of destruction.


Examples:

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    Action-Adventure 
  • Bugsnax: The Megamaki, the boss Bugsnak of Wiggle's sidequest line, is a huge serpentine creature made up of several small sushi rolls (Minimakis) which follow the main head. To defeat it, you have to use the Trip Shot to break it apart, which scatters the Minimakis, then catch all of them, which will leave the Megamaki head vulnerable to capture.
  • The Legend of Zelda: This is a common appearance for the Lanmola and Moldorm/Tail enemies and bosses, especially in the 2D games.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Moldorm is represented as a string of five red-and-orange circles. Unlike later games, they can be damaged anywhere on their bodies. Lanmola has a similar appearance, but with a large eye for its head segment.
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: Barba/Volvagia is a serpentine dragon whose body consists of several centipede-like segments. In the official art, however, its a regular serpent.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Lanmolas blur the line between this and just a segmented arthropod, and can only be damaged on their heads. The Moldorm King consists of five progressively smaller segments, and has to be defeated by hitting its tail (ordinary moldorms are mostly head and targeting the tail isn't necessary for them). The second form of Trinexx, the boss of Turtle Rock, resembles a segmented snake whose weak point is unusually in the middle. Swamolas are enemies found in the swamp areas whose bodies are composed of several circulation segments.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening has the return of Moldorm (twice), as well as the miniboss Lanmola, all retaining their jointed appearances. Pincers, enemies that pop out of holes to attack you, are a particularly odd example in that their segments aren't actually connected — there's a very noticeable gap between each free-floating sphere. The boss Slime Eel is a much larger segmented beast; its weak spot is the segment right behind its head. Obviously this game is very big on segmented serpents.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Tailpasaran, enemies found in Jabu-Jabu's belly, resemble serpents made out of several balls of energy.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: The dual boss Twinmold resemble a pair of giant burrowing worms composed of multiple armored segments, with their heads and tails being their only weak spots.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: Skeldrich is an odd example in that it's a human skull on a spine rather than a snake or worm.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: Moldorm, like its inspiration in A Link to the Past, resembles a set of four uncannily hamburger-like segments ending in a bright red, vulnerable tail.
  • Nintendo Land: In Pikmin Adventure, one of the later bosses is a large centipede monster on wheels. It attempts to bite the players. Its body segments are its main weak spots, and some of them break off and becomes whirling tops o' doom. The best part? When you kill all its body segments, it Turns Red and starts doing a charge-up version of its usual bite move. Its weakspot is only viewable during the charge, but it doesn't move either. After this is beaten it simply charges around with a single weak point, making it arguably tougher. The damaging tops are there in all three parts of the fight.

    Action 
  • Kamiko: The second boss is a serpentine demon whose body is broken up into six segments, one of which contains its weak point. As it takes damage, it begins to split its body apart and becomes more difficult to avoid.
  • P.N.03: Orchidee, the third proper boss, is a mecha-centipede on rails.
  • Strider (Arcade): An early boss is a long, segmented Transforming Mecha that slithers around in the air and is made of politicians.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • Battletoads:
    • The NES game has these in Karnath's Lair. Instead of killing them, though, you have to climb them as they slither around spiked balls hovering in the air.
    • The Battletoads arcade game's second boss is a bit of a subversion in that one of these snakes is a boss. He still looks segmented, but all he does is bite at you from the background.
  • Muramasa: The Demon Blade features a couple of centipedes as Kisuke's second boss that crawl over the buildings and fire flames out of the various segments.

    Platform Games 
  • Alien Soldier has about four enemies of this variety. One of them attacks by breaking apart and hurling all its segments at you.
  • Bug has a borderline example in the form of... "caterpillars". They will fire out their "segments" one by one, and only after all the segments have been fired out will the "head" (actually an insect by itself) run away and become vulnerable.
  • Dragon Egg: The fifth boss is a segmented dragon that circles around and loses segments when hit.
  • Crystal Caves has a rare enemy which looks like a green snake built of four segments. Shooting it in the head causes it to become shorter.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns has the boss Mangoruby, a plant-like serpent with six purple, spherical segments strung along its length.
  • Disney's Magical Quest: In Mickey Mouse's Magical Quest, the first boss is one of these, and you can knock the segments off to throw back as a missile weapon at him.
  • Kid Niki Radical Ninja: Green Grub, whose segments become skeletonized as you fight it.
  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe features Coily Rattler, a snake made out of solid gold, ornated segments. They can separate as well to be sent individually at the pink puffball.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man (Classic):
      • Mega Man 3 and the Big Snakey minibosses in Snake Man's stage. Somewhat unusually, the segmented portion is actually part of the floor and stops moving when you destroy the head.
      • Mega Man 7 has these in Junk Man's stage.
    • Mega Man X has two on Launch Octopus' stage: One that actually obstructs the path leading to the boss and must be killed to advance, and another that blocks the way to a secret Heart Tank. Neither can be harmed in any way except by shooting the head or the tail, and those are the only parts that can hurt you, so you can go for a ride on its body and pelt the head or tail with shots as much as you want.
    • Mega Man Zero: In Mega Man Zero 2, a variation is used in an early boss fight, where it's the battlefield that's the segmented serpent. The boss is simply a snake-themed robot master.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon: A sidequest involves combining the Superfly and Superflame powerups to chase after two Segmented Serpents that regrow their segments if you don't destroy them fast enough.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Gomola Speed: You play as the head of a worm-like creature and join up with other segments, which will scatter if you get hit. The object of the game is to eat food by enclosing it; enemies can also be defeated this way.
  • Jetpack has the so-called Marble Worm. It's actually not a single enemy but a bunch of Steel Balls lined up in a row, though they can't be separated. This comes up again in "Double Wormage."
  • Snake features one as the protagonist, where the snake keeps moving around a Wrap Around map and grabbing segments of food that cause it to grow another block in length. The main difficulty comes from the fact that hitting the snake's own body causes a Game Over, which becomes increasingly harde to do since the snake occupies most of the screen.
  • Trauma Center has Paraskevi, a nasty variant that must repeatedly be sliced in half until each part is just one segment. And each part aims to escape towards the heart and needs to kept stunned.

    Rail Shooters 
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising: Lurchthorns are enemies formed from a string of connected triangular segments, essentially resembling flying fish skeletons with laser cannons on their sides. Their segments can be destroyed independently, but taking out the head will destroy the whole beast at once.
  • Night Striker has the Dragon Head bosses, which are robotic sea worms. Unlike most examples, their whole body is vulnerable. Which is a good thing, because you'll have to fight more than one in later levels.
  • Space Harrier: The dragons are quite impressive-looking examples of this for a 1985 game. Averted in the PlayStation 2 remake, where they have more complex 3D models.

    Roguelike 
  • The Binding of Isaac: Larry Jr. and its improved form, the Hollow, as well as Pin and Scolex to a lesser extent. The first two have the segment-by-segment destruction and the capability to split into two if cut straight down the middle, while Scolex is only vunerable to shots that hit its tail. Interestingly, the fact that each segment takes damage for the whole unit means that you can hit them with something that hits all the parts at once (like piercing shots, lasers, or a Herd-Hitting Attack) for massive damage.
  • Enter the Gungeon features the Ammoconda, a second floor boss inspired by Snake. Each segment can fire and be destroyed (which only stops them from firing; the segments remain until the boss is defeated) individually, though each segment shares a health bar and shooting the head does more damage as a whole. Additionally, as you deal damage, more segments occasionally appear around the battlefield; if the Ammoconda manages to eat one before you can destroy it, it will regenerate some health, add the segment to its body, and move and fire faster for a few seconds. Once defeated, each segment explodes one-by-one starting with the tail.

    Roleplaying Games 
  • Colossatron: Massive World Threat allows the player to become one of these. While you don't really control Colossatron's movement directly, you add on new segments with corresponding weapons onto its body, some of which merge primary colors into secondary colors, unlocking new weapon types, or combining three consecutive like-colored segments into a more powerful version of that weapon.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: Zigzagged. The fal'Cie Dahaka is a flying serpent creature that resembles a chain of beads, and while the "bead" segments do have to be destroyed, it's not part of the critter's boss fight, but rather done in cutscenes by the Menhirrim, not the party. But in true Segmented Serpent form, Dahaka will only die after you take out its "head" segment.
  • Kingdom Hearts: The Pot Centipede is nothing but the head and tail piece; the rest of it is made of of Pot Spiders. While you can destroy the Spiders to make the Centipede smaller, the only way to deal damage to the boss itself is to attack the head or tail.
  • ''Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story': The giant Wiggler. When Bowser fights him, he has to attack the segments first as its head is invulnerable until all the body segments are turned yellow. Once he does so, the head can be attacked, but only for a short while — the Wiggler will turn red again after a few turns, forcing you to repeat the process.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: One of the toughest viruses in the first game is a three-segmented serpent. It can't trap you, but it can easily block attacks to its head with its two body segments. Luckily, you only ever have to deal with just the snake, being one of two virus types that are only ever fought by themselves.
  • Pokémon: Onix and Steelix resemble large snakes made out of several linked boulder or chunks of steel, respectively, although this is a purely aesthetic detail — you can't target or affect any particular segment.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Elemental Master: The water dragon boss is composed of segments, unlike all other dragons in the game.
  • Gradius:
    • Salamander has the Intruder, a serpentine fire dragon as its 3rd stage boss, although unlike most examples, the Intruder is pretty clunky and rigid in its first appearance, but future Gradius games give the Intruder and its kind more fluid animations due to more advanced computer programming.
    • Gradius III's dragon boss starts off as a 3-headed wyvern (kinda like King Ghidorah), but it transforms into a serpentine dragon with A Head at Each End, making the Vic Viper attack two weak points. This is only for the Arcade version; the SNES version just skips right to the serpentine form.
    • Gradius V has huge wormy monsters with vulnerable heads or tails. The ones in the Womb Level are actually downgraded versions of Gradius Gaiden's first boss.
    • A fire serpent enemy from the NES version of Gradius II, which was previously a boss in the arcade version of Salamander/Life Force.
    • Robotic worm-like creatures in Gradius: The Interstellar Assault/Nemesis II: The Return of the Hero show up as enemies in stage 2.
    • The fighter's Options and their tail-like behavior give the Vic Viper a vaguely serpentine appearance, hence its name. The Vic Viper's ally fighters also have these kinds of Options.
  • Heavy Weapon has the Mechworm boss, which has its head as the weak point. It also has three segments that toss out bombs. The body parts are destructible, but getting rid of all three will make the head start using a Macross Missile Massacre.
  • In the Hunt had a long, ancient fish with a vulnerable head as the Mini-Boss of the fourth stage.
  • Recca had these as normal enemies, as well as sub-bosses. Like most examples they can only be attacked in the head.
  • Shadow Of The Ninja has a pair of these as a miniboss in Stage 2-1.
  • Star Fox Command has quite a few of these, including two bosses. Sometimes all segments need to be shot, sometimes only the head (but shooting all other segments first will give more points).
  • Star Soldier:
    • Super Star Soldier: The fifth boss consists entirely of joints, and moves very very fast. The fifth stage also features regular enemies of this wormy type (appearing one and a half minutes into this video).
    • Star Parodier has some odd takes on this: a flying roller coaster train at the end of the first stage, and a string of triangle blocks that rearrange themselves into various shapes at the end of the second.
  • Steel Saviour has these in stage 2, as well as the boss of stage 4.
  • Zed Blade the Stage 4 boss is a serpentine segmented mecha named Constrictor.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Terraria: Many worm and serpent enemies take this form — they typically have multiple segments of varying size and HP, and to kill them, you have to destroy any one, which can prove difficult with Bone Serpents — but the most significant ones are several of the bosses, which fit the Asteroids Monster model. They can be very tough to beat the first time (because you probably won't have access to the really good weapons yet), but since the game world is almost infinitely customizable and most bosses don't appear until certain triggering events, you can improve your chances significantly by building an "arena" to fight them in ahead of time.

Non-video game examples:

    Anime and Manga 

    Live-Action Television 

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • The joint snake is a creature from North American folklore that resembles an ordinary snake, but can split its body into multiple sections when threatened and reassemble itself if chopped to bits. Additionally, if one of the segments is taken away from the chopped-up snake, it can use the knife used to cut it up as a replacement.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: Spine chains are made of animated skeletons linked together to form giant undead serpents.
  • Palladium Fantasy: One made out of animated corpses shows up in the sample adventure in early editions.

    Web Original 
  • Mortasheen takes this to silly lengths with the Bratwurm, which is one of these made entirely out of hot dogs!

    Real Life 
  • Tapeworms consist of a sucker-lined head, called a scolex, which is then attached to a long chain of segments called proglottids that gradually mature the further they get from the worm's head. If the tail-end segments are broken off, they can often carry eggs that can spread to new hosts while the rest of the worm continues growing segments: this makes removal of tapeworms difficult, as if even only the head remains, it can coninue on growing.
  • Despite common belief this is actually averted with earthworms, and cutting them in half won't actually grow into two separate worms. The head end can regrow a new tail (provided it's cut low enough and none of its vital organs are harmed), while the tail end wiggles about for a while but ultimately dies.
  • Glass snakes, a type of legless lizard, get their name for the length of their body being mostly tail (unlike true snakes which only have a rather short "tail" section), with multiple fracture points. When grabbed by a predator, the glass snake's tail breaks apart into multiple twitching fragments to confuse an attacker, while the rest of it escapes to eventually grow a new tail.


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