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Video Game / SOS

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This is to be the largest passenger shipwreck to date.
There are a reported 2300 passengers aboard. The voyage will turn from ecstasy to catastrophy.
The ship is in total chaos. Passengers and crew alike begin to panic, as they near the grip of death.
Now, the real tragedy begins...

SOS, known in Japan as Septentrion (セプテントリオン), is Cinematic Platform Adventure Game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System developed by Human Entertainment and released in 1993. The U.S. version was released by Vic Tokai. Basically take The Poseidon Adventure and turn it into a side-scrolling platformer in the vein of classic Prince of Persia and this is what you'll end up with. The Lady Crithania capsizes during a storm and it's up to you to escape with your life. Along the way you will encounter other passengers and crew who you must try to rescue... or not. You have to escape within one real life hour or it's game over.

You play as one of four adult males trying to escape. Each character starts in a different part of the ship, and must rescue a certain person or people to get their good ending. Depending on your character's personality, passengers may come with you right away or refuse to come along at all; you must balance time spent rescuing people with time spent escaping. In general, the more people rescued, the better the ending. With the exception of drowning, the only penalty for getting hurt is to lose five minutes from your remaining escape time, which is also the only time you get to see how much time you have left.

The game was hardly advertised at the time and not very popular. However, its innovative approach to the Survival Horror genre influenced later games such as Dead Rising, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, that expand on its ideas. The most apparent is that losing the game or getting a bad ending is entirely possible and all too easy. However, this allows players to replay the game with more information than you had before and can lead to better playthroughs and endings, where the meat of SOS's depth lies.

There's also a Japan-only sequel, Septentrion: Out of the Blue, which was released in 1999 for the Play Station, but wasn't as well received due to the lack of the mechanics that made SOS stand out and throwing in a conspiracy into the mix.

Tropes associated with SOS:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: The game happens to be set on September 13, 1921, in which the Lady Crithania is swept in a tidal wave during a violent storm.
  • Almost Dead Guy:
    • When playing as Redwin Gardner, you'll come across Ms. Adams (Harry and Stella's mother), who is dying of terrible injuries from a fall in the ballroom. She tells you to save Harry and Stella before expiring.
    • Paddock Saribate, the sailor in the control room, is critically injured. Eventually, he loses his sight and hearing before falling into a coma.
    • The ship's resident doctor is in grave condition. He cannot move, at all. As he dies, he encourages his nurse, Anna, to go with you and escape.
  • Artificial Stupidity: People in your group, once called, will all take the same path in the same way, even if that involves jumping to their death after seeing someone else do it or just getting stuck in the floor for five seconds before continuing normally.
  • Backtracking: If you are dedicated to saving certain people, you must sometimes go away from the exit to get to them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Depending on who your character is and who else you rescue (if any), you don't always end up surviving even after you "get out", though some other people may survive. If you see that the ending picture has a blue sky, you've got a bittersweet ending.
  • Blackout Basement: After 10 minutes, the power goes out on the upper (now lower) decks.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: If the opening text didn't tip you off, the translation is spotty. Hell, one person's first name and another one's surname are mistranslated at the end of the game, while another passenger's name is changed somehow.
  • Boring, but Practical: There are a lot of passengers to rescue with quite a ship to explore. However, the best ending requires the player to have rescued 25 points worth of passengers and their key passenger. Most players find themselves going for the passengers who come in groups of 2-3 because it's quicker and these passengers usually give a good amount of points when rescued together. The only exceptions are Francoise and Mary Maxwell (who are separated, but Mary is worth the most points) and Jack Hamilton (who is required for Redwin, but not for anyone else, and is worth 5 points).
  • Bowdlerise: The localization made the ship's bar inaccessible (and two people inside, Brian Dexter and Anthony Paines, unable to be rescued later on as a result). Redwin's minor alcoholism was removed from his character, and his job status as a minister in the Japanese version was changed to him being a counselor.
  • Controllable Helplessness: If you're still conscious when your time limit runs out, the ship will plummet into the depths and the interior will flood completely, leaving you to swim in your sinking grave for about thirty seconds before drowning.
  • Cool Old Guy: Jeffrey Howell is a 54-year-old doctor, yet can still jump, swim, and save survivors as well as anyone else. Redwin Gardner also counts, though downplayed since he's in his near-forties.
  • Crouch and Prone: You're required to crouch to get through small areas.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: You can take some time talking to random passengers at the beginning, a few minutes before the disaster unfolds. There's a surprising amount of content for something that is so short and completely optional.
  • Downer Ending: Sometimes no one survives the rescue. If you see that the ending picture has a black sky, you've got a bad ending.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: If you want to get the best ending for each respective character, you'll have to escort many people to the engine room, as well as save one (or more) critical characters per individual.
  • The Gambler:
    • Redwin Gardner begins his story in the casino. He wins big and attracts the attention of a pretty woman.
    • The fellow who loses to Redwin in the beginning is a possible survivor. He is very pessimistic and would prefer to gamble away his house than try to escape.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Played straight and averted. Straight in that people in your group are immune to some things that would cause you to lose 5 minutes, like fire and falling chairs, but averted in that they are not immune to falling or drowning.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Some of the survivors are very well hidden, and won't come with you if you don't do certain acts in a very specific way. There's also a dialog scene before the boiler room where you will lose all the survivors if you don't answer it correctly.
    • Each person has has a score value assigned to them. If you want the better endings, you'll have to rescue people that give you a higher score, since you can only escort up to 7 people maximum. And no, the game won't tell you who gets what score.
  • The Hero Dies: Happens to Capris if he escapes with a B or C ranking; to Redwin if he escapes with an A, B, or C ranking; to Jeffrey if he escapes with an A, C or D ranking; and to Luke if he escapes with an A or B ranking.
  • Hide Your Children: Averted. You can rescue children, and they can die if you are not careful.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: You have one hour in real time to escape the ship. After the thirty minute mark, the ship starts sinking. This makes the lower parts of the map flooded and without power. Due to this, some people can't be rescued; however, others can only be rescued after it.
  • Inconsistent Spelling: One of the survivors is spelled as "Claiver Matthews" in-game, but ends up as "Kleiver" in the credits.
    • Same goes for Luke Haines, as his surname is misspelled as "Heinz" in the credits.
    • And Henry Abrahams' assistant... was it "Ussar" or "Ursar" or "Ussarr"?
  • Interface Screw: The ship will list to and fro at fixed intervals, changing the accessibility of certain areas. The lights can also go out and intense heat can cause the screen to shimmer.
  • Interrupted Suicide:
    • If Luke escapes with Ismay Carl Townsend and at least 25 points of survivors, his boss congratulates him on a successful escape, but tells him that he won't live with the shame. When Townsend attempts to shoot himself in the head, Luke knocks the pistol out of his hand and slaps some sense into him before telling him that he has to move on and live to tell the story.
    • In one of Capris' endings, Amy will try to kill herself because she thinks that he really meant to abandon her by leaving her alone in the room. Capris talks her out of it, eventually.
  • It's Up to You: The rest of the people on the ship are perfectly happy to sit in one place as the ship fills up with water around them. Only you can convince them to actually try to get out.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: If you run out of time, it's not an instant Game Over. Instead, the ship sinks completely and immediately fills itself with water, forcing you to give up the game, all while somber music reminds the player of their unavoidable death.
  • Large Ham:
    • Redwin at times.
    • The dude with the violin.
  • Marathon Level: There's no save system, so you have to beat the game in one go. Fortunately, a playthrough can only last an hour.
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on who your character is, who you rescue, and if you've rescued enough people.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Sergeant John Rattler will introduce himself in this manner if you saved him as Capris.
  • Never Say "Die": Characters don't "die" in this game, they "perish".
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, as there are two women named Katherine Clayton and Katherine Meibrus, both worth 6 points each.
  • Optional Character Scene: Marie/Mary and her mother. Jack Hamilton and his cousins. Luke Haines and Ismay Carl Townsend. Claiver/Kleiver Matthews and Barbara Sinclair. Capris Wisher and his stepsister Amy Markarson. There are a lot of them.
  • Palette Swap: You'll encounter many dead passengers on the ceiling (now the floor) who look the same except for the color of their hair and clothes. Sometimes even passengers in your group will exhibit this.
  • Point of No Return: The boiler room.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Anna Tamaro wears a turquoise sailor shirt and black capri pants to show that she's not like other women since she can perform as a nurse. Averted when she needs to be saved like everyone else. Although Capris does lampshade this if you're playing as him while talking to her:
    Capris: What are you doing? You're wearing men's clothes.
    Anna: How I dress is not important. It's not easy to move around. I'm Anna, the ship's nurse.
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension: After the ship breaks apart when there are 33 minutes left, the ship begins to tilt and fill up with water. When there's only one minute left, the ship will quickly flood itself with water. If you don't get out safely before time is up, the ship will soon be your grave marker.
  • The Roaring '20s: This game is set on September 13, 1921, natch.
  • Rule of Drama: Some characters will flat-out refuse to leave their position or do something about their situation for several reasons that defy common sense. One character in particular (Michael Burnings) won't try to save himself because he lost a violin. A violin.
  • Run, Don't Walk: Averted. You can't run, you just move at a brisk walk.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Averted. You get the choice of 4 playable characters, and once you pick one, Luke and/or Jeffrey become rescuable survivors.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The man who owns the Lady Crithania, Ismay Carl Townsend, is a reference to J. Bruce Ismay, the managing director and chairman of the White Star Line who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic.
    • In the Japanese version, Brian Dexter, one of the possible rescuable survivors, is probably a reference to Bryan "Dexter" Holland, lead singer of The Offspring.
  • Sinking Ship Scenario: The Game.
  • Soft Water: You can fall any distance, and as long as you land in water, you'll survive, even if the screen has already gone black before you cannonball.
  • Taking You with Me: If Luke escapes with Mr. Townsend but with less than 25 points of survivors, Luke realizes that he has to go back for more people, but his boss stops him, telling him that it's all over for him and that if the ship goes down, at least he will take Luke down with it, before fatally shooting him.
  • Timed Mission: You have one real-life hour to save as many survivors as you need to and get out of the ship.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: The more people you rescue, the higher your score. Some special mentions of note:
    • Francoise and Mary Maxwell, a mother and daughter
    • The Smith family: Cooper (father), Pamela (mother), and their daughter Stacy
    • Jack Hamilton, a child who is rescuable by everyone
    • Miller Streissers, a bereaved parent (cannot be saved if you play as Capris)
    • The dancer at the music hall who lost her husband (there is a bonus cutscene if you save the violinist beforehand and bring him as you talk to her)
    • The restaurant waiter whose friends abandoned him
    • Alan, the wireless operator who has injured his leg
    • Sergeant John Rattler, a slightly obnoxious passenger who tells Capris a bad joke. You can catch him as he drops down from a ledge.
    • Jeffrey and Adela Howell, who can be rescued together even if Jeffrey is not the player character.
    • Anna Tamaro and Frank Morton/Coney, a nurse and one of her patients.
    • The two girls near the barber shop; one has hit her head and cannot hear anything. You can save both of them, but it does take your character a while to figure out a solution.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • As Capris, you can let Sgt. John Rattler fall from the ledge without trying to catch him. He survives the fall, but he will be so appalled at your heartlessness that he will not join you.
    • You have the option of abandoning your required character(s), but there are consequences (see below).
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment:
    • If you decide everyone for themselves, or only get your required passenger and rush to the end? You definitely get punished with a bad ending. Sometimes you get called out by the characters.
    • If you abandon your required character(s), you will not get the best ending. Specifically:
      • Capris will either be trapped in a sealed boiler room, or if he has enough points from bringing survivors, he himself will go back down into the ship to Amy. Both perish in the sinking.
      • Redwin will not survive, at all, unless he saves Harry, Stella, and Jack plus enough passengers. If he abandons any of the three kids, he will be trapped in the sealed boiler room until he perishes. If Redwin saves all 3 children but doesn't have enough passenger points, there will be a hole in the hull from the explosion, but Harry will sneak back down into the ship to look for his mother. Redwin will go after Harry, explain to him that his mother has passed away, and then send him back to the top of the boiler room. Meanwhile, two sailors from the Benjamin come to find the survivors. Stella urges them to wait, because Harry and Redwin are still supposed to come back. Eventually, Harry emerges without Redwin, and the sailors tell them they cannot wait anymore.
      • Unless he saves the ship's owner, Luke will either get stuck in the sealed boiler room, or if he goes completely alone, two sailors from the Benjamin will ask if there are any more survivors besides him. He will say no, that he probably left some people behind who could have been saved. You are not counted as a survivor in either ending.
      • If Jeffrey leaves Adela behind but takes other people with him, he will show remorse when the sailors from the Benjamin arrive and then try to go back down. They overpower him and forcibly drag him onto their ship. If Jeffrey escapes alone, he will give out from exhaustion at the end.
  • Visible Silence: All the time in your conversations with passengers.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • A good way to get through the Boiler room without having to escort the passengers? Just go to the end and let yourself get hit by a hazard. This causes the passengers to teleport right behind you so you can easily escort them out.
    • Some passengers are worth more than others. If you don't like any particular passengers because they aren't worth a lot? Just find a way to toss them to their doom.
  • Workplace-Acquired Abilities:
    • Jeffrey Howell is a medical doctor with years of experience. He has an advantage whenever he finds someone who has an injury or a chronic condition. He is very self assured and difficult people respect him.
    • Redwin Gardner is a counselor. Like Dr. Howell, he is a distinguished gentleman who reasons well with difficult people.