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Video Game / Anachronox

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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.
  • Alien Geometries: Anachronox is a constantly shifting world which has gravity in all sorts of different direction. Ceilings, floors, walls: it's all fair game.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad Friend: Grumpos, the second party member, reveals he's with the bad guys and opens the Echo Gate in the end.
  • 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 realize 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.
  • Blade Enthusiast: Stiletto has plenty of throwing knives to go along with her Combat Stilettos.
  • Blind Jump: The Sender Spikes going to and from Anachronox aren't fully mapped. You meet an NPC that makes a living testing new ones, even though he could be stranded on the other side or killed by whatever's there. The party also does one by accident when their attempt to use a Spike is disrupted by an explosion, causing it to fling them in an unintended direction.
  • 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.
  • Butt-Monkey: Oh, the poor, poor Bipidri — cute little smurf-like people used as cheap, disposable industrial labor and the butt of some pretty dark jokes throughout the game.
  • Canis Latinicus: Game characters say that Anachronox means "poison from the past", which is one way of interpreting it ("a-" against; "chrono-" time; "-nox" harm, as in noxious)
  • 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.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Or at least Democratus is stupid. Painfully stupid. "Almost let itself be annihilated by a Horde of Alien Locusts" stupid. The only reason they survive their introduction is because the Only Sane Man gets really good at yelling the other seven council members into agreeing with him. The quickest (and only unanimous) vote that they have is when the entire team is about to die on the prison ship.
    Obstructive Bureaucrat: We have no evidence that the missiles are even destructive in nature!
    Only Sane Man: Evidence? The Verilent Hive has been doing this for hundreds of years: Bomb planet, wait for dust to settle, then re-colonize to expand hive! What exactly do you think is inside those warheads? Gift baskets?
  • 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.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Sender Spikes launch ships to Anachronox, and Anachronox sends ships to Sender Spikes around the galaxy, making it the hub of galactic transportation.
  • 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.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: It is implied to be relatively common for robots to develop to the point of gaining free will. PAL reaches this point relatively early in the story when he has finally had enough of Sly's crap and refuses to obey him any longer.
  • 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.
  • Healing Potion: "Healgrease", just to Hand Wave why it works on the Robot Buddy.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The insect-like, resource-hungry, relentlessly destructive Verilent Hive.
  • 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.
    • Paco was once a respected hero, with a well-paying comic book line chronicling his adventures. He could even fly! The cancellation of his comic book hit him hard, and the depression (and subsequent descent into alcoholism) caused him to resign from heroing. It's not clear how he lost his flying power.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: 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.
  • 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).
    • This and the lack of fast travel could also make it take annoyingly long reach areas you had been to before if you have to fight through a dungeon to get there and back just to turn in a quest.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: The game only features fictional planets and doesn't mention Earth.
  • Meaningful Name: All over the place. Often Ironic Names or Punny Names as well.
    • Main character Sylvester "Sly Boots" Bucelli, a slyboots being a somewhat old-fashioned word for a sly or tricky person — and he's a (not very sly) detective.
    • PAL, originally a toy robot companion for children.
    • Grumpos. Guess.
    • Rho's first name is the 17th letter of the Greek alphabet, and as such, has a great many uses in math and the sciences.
    • The planet Democratus, where they vote on everything.
    • Many of the Krapton superheroes and villains have meaningful secret identities. El Puño, meanwhile, has the rather Generic Name of Paco Estrella (Estrella meaning star, but still common enough).
    • Stiletto Anyway wields tons of tiny throwing knives. She also wears high heels. She's also got a laconic, too-cool-to-care attitude.
    • Boots' bartender/landlord Rowdy... isn't.
    • Crime boss Vendelin Detta, a man who can really hold a grudge.
    • The planet Sunder gets ripped in half. Before exploding for good measure.
    • Hephaestus is covered in molten rock and is named after the Greek god of the forge.
    • Anachronox itself is a dog Latin term said to mean "poison from the past". It's a Big Dumb Object in which various denizens say their dreams are haunted by the ghosts of long-dead alien civilizations.
  • Mini-Game: All of the characters' "world skills," which let you do things like pick locks and hack computers, are controlled by playing simple games.
  • Mood Whiplash: The story immediately goes from having an entire planet getting blown up (with the entire population save one dying) to your party comically going stir crazy trapped in a damaged spaceship.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Vendelin Detta, Anachronox's most feared mob boss.
    • The Verilent Hive. No, not "virulent", but it might as well be.
    • Anachronox itself, especially if you're going with the non-literal translation of "poison from the past".
  • Neon City: The dank streets of Anachronox are lit up by numerous neon lights, frequently advertisements.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Democratus High Council.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Two civilizations are literally named Order and Chaos, and Order banished Chaos into the current universe so they could live in peace in the next universe.
  • Overly Long Fighting Animation: As the game draws much of its inspiration from Final Fantasy VII and other JRPGs 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.
  • Portal Crossroad World: Anachronox is covered in Sender Spikes that connect to other spikes all over the galaxy.
  • Power Walk: The entire team that's still around does one in the ending cutscene.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Come on, you have to guide a team of a loser detective, a sadist old bruiser, 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.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: Grumpos has learned to weaponize this. At several points, he can "Yammer" at people, which drives them into frustrated fits and makes them do what he wants, just so he'll shut up finally. In combat, a different form can be used to stun opponents.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: PAL, which is a plot point since robots do not usually act this way.
  • Sequel Hook: The game ends with the bad guys released into the previous universe, free to enact their plan to destroy the current one. After a poignant moment between Boots and Fatima, the team Power Walk to their ship and fly off in pursuit. Unfortunately, the studio was closed before the game was even released.
  • 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.
    • The guards on Anachronox are practically recolors of Judge Dredd.
  • Space Friction: Averted for a good spot of suspense: The Verilent Hive has launched missiles at Democratus, and the team makes an assault on the Hive to remotely disable the missiles. After they are done, the missiles are still approaching. Rho points out that since there is no friction in space, they won't know whether they were successful until they see whether the warheads will detonate on impact.
  • 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 Glodents"; N-R-G. There are also "Batts" AKA "Bat Batteries".
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The ultimate cause behind all the cataclysmic events seems to form one: The universe forms an endless cycle of Big Bang - Big Crunch events. A war between Order and Chaos in the next universe ended with Order banishing Chaos into the current universe. Chaos has set plans in motion to escape into the previous universe, and shunt enough mass from that universe to the current universe so that the total mass of the previous universe does not provide enough gravitational pull to cause a Big Crunch, and the future universes will never be born. How this can be successful when logically it should mean that a) Chaos erases its own existence and b) also erases the universe where they were sending all that matter, is never brought up. Nor is why Chaos's presence in the current universe does not alter the course of the next one— no Butterfly Effect here. Apparently what happens in one universe stays in that universe.
  • 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, a side-scrolling shooter section and a mandatory rail shooting section.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: After Grumpos joins the party, the player can haul his miserly hide to pay what he owes to a delver who lost her leg while working for him.
  • 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.
  • Waiting Puzzle: Getting PAL's Infinity +1 Sword requires leaving him to play in the ball pit of a burger place for four hours in real time. You cannot leave the place while he is there, and there is nothing around to occupy your time with. And you can get one more very powerful piece of equipment by waiting a total of seven hours.
  • 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. They all have their own minds and several have gone off to live their own lives.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Lost in Space

Trapped in a disabled shuttle after barely escaping the destruction of Sunder, the group tries to maintain their sanity as they drift aimlessly through space. Emphasis on "tries".

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / CabinFever

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