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ScrollBoss Minus World: Into the drink! Into the drink

Legnendary, heroic characters like Billy Lee, Jo "Shinobi" Musashi, and Ryu "Ninja Gaiden" Hayabusa have spent years mastering techniques that can pound a man's bones into chalk dust, knock enemies colons up into their necks or just make people explode. Jo Musashi can even cause his body to explode only to re-assemble his molecules seconds later. Yet, when they fall into water, they just die. No attempt to float or paddle. No miniaturized floatation device that expands upon impact with water. No secret ninpo art of water escape. They just die. Oceans, rivers, lakes, canals, small ponds, THEY JUST DIE. The shower, birdbaths, even a Slip and Slide, man... they just die. THEY. JUST. DIE. Look, even small children can tread water for awhile. But not those hand-picked by fate to save the world and/or the universe. Nope. How the $%^& are you going save the planet and you can't even swim?!?!?! Hunh?!?!? Most of these people had sequels where they gained incredible new abilities and attacks, but apparently no swimming classes. You'd think they would've thought, "Hmmm...I seem to lack the ablility to survive in water...perhaps I should visit my local YMCA and learn to paddle...get on one of those foam things and float for awhile. It would only take a moment. On the other hand...I could spend the next year learning how to shoot energy out of my left nostril as a power-up attack! Yes! Screw swimming! I'll probably never encounter water in my next adventure! It only covers THREE FOURTHS OF THE ENTIRE EARTH! What are the chances?!?" Then we have to play their games and avoid water all the damn time. If you don't, THEY JUST DIE.

There are various degrees to how characters just die when it comes to water. They range from perfectly understandable to "How did this fool make it out of the house that day to even get into an adventure?".
Mario (can swim almost indefinitely)

You can make fun of Mario's bloodless and skank-free games all you want, but there's one thing that you'd better learn to respect: at least he learned how to swim. Oh, and the man has multiple job skills as a plumber AND a carpenter. See? The man learned two profitable lines of work while developing enough fighting skills to save damsels and kingdoms and still had the time to learn how to swim almost indefinitely in water. In other words, there's no excuse for those slackers at the bottom of the list!

Sonic (can exist underwater if oxygen is replentished)

Like a few other game characters, Sonic the Hedgehog can survive underwater for a limited amount of time. He can hold his breath for a while, but must always keep a sharp eye out for air bubbles that he can catch his breath from in the Labyrinth Zone. That's right: the game starring a super-powered walking (and running) blue hedgehog in red sneakers has one of the most accurate portrayals of underwater action.

Jo Musashi (can drown in harsh ocean waves or high waterfall plunges.)

Okay, I'll give ol' Jo a pass on these, since he's burdened with two hazards that really could kill ordinary people. Of course, being a super-ninja and all, you'd figure that he'd have some sort of magic for that, too. Oh well. At least he does better here than his PS2 replacement **rolls eyes completely out of skull**

the Lee Brothers (can drown in perfectly calm bodies of water)

Here's the most common fate of any side-scroller character who falls into water. That's probably a lake, since it's not churning or anything. Certainly nothing treacherous enough to kill off someone with the ability to fight off entire street gangs all alone, right? Ha! That screenshot is of Billy Lee splashing into his watery, fishy grave. Laugh all you want, 3-D fans, but even characters like Tommy Vercetti from GTA: Vice City can't swim.

Magic Sword Dude (damaged by contact with water)

Another common game reaction to contact with water is injury. Here, Magic Sword Dude gets hurt by water. Is he drowning? No, it doesn't even come up to his non-existant neck. Is it poisoned? In this game, poison turns you purple. My guess: the evil Drokmor used his magic to make the water EVIL. You know, like the nasty kids at the public swimming pool. Then again, even the enemies get hurt by water here. How about this: maybe it's just a video game? Nah, too simple. Let's roll with the evil water theory.

Super Joe (can drown in water that everyone else is standing in)

Man, Joe's not looking too super right there, is he? For those who have never played Commando (if not, I suggest the NES version), let me explain that screenshot. Super Joe drowns in the very same water that the enemy soldier is standing in. If you want to rationalize it, you could claim that there's underwater spike traps that cover the edges of every body of water in the entire game. Perhaps the water-based shooters are on stilts like some crazy Spy vs. Spy trap to trick Joe into drowning. Or you can do what I do and accept the sad fact that Joe can't swim.

Hotsuma (instantly drowns as soon as water goes above his head)

Let's see if I've got this straight: Hotsuma can pretty much survive everything from sword cuts to being beaten by an ogre's club to gunfire from a helicopter to being shot at point blank range by a demonic tank. Go 'head wit' ya bad self! Oh wait: he drowns the millisecond water goes over his head. Hmmm... maybe THIS is where the evil water is!

So, what have we learned today? One thing would be that the 'instant death upon contact with water' routine is just a crude level hazard added to spice up games. It's not a knock against the programmers, but that's just how things were back in the ol' days. There wasn't enough CPU power or time to have a logical reaction to everything in a game. Then again, water is still a video game killer even after decades of progress. Another thing we've learned is that the more unrealistic the game is, the more realistic (or less harsh) the reaction to water seems to be. Sonic the Hedgehog finds air pockets to regain oxygen while Super Joe drowns in waist-high water. It also seems that old-school holdovers like 'instant water death' look a bit f#$%ign laughable awkward in new, 3-D games. With the powerful systems like the X-Box 360, the Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3, one can hope that the added machine muscle needed to code better interaction with water. But like most of the people on that list, I'm not holding my breath. Ba-dump-bump!

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