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 Post subject: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:11 am 



Joined: 26 Jan 2005
Posts: 364
Location: Eastham, MA
I know the ending is notorious for being inexplicable (I don't suppose there was a Japanese text release we could translate?), but I think I've determined at least some details.

First of all, the reference to the Nemesis star/planet (星/hoshi can signify either, depending on context) seems to come from a 1984 idea of the Sun being part of a binary, with Nemesis being a dwarf orbiting it. Nemesis was postulated to be the reason for the cycle of mass extinctions in Earth's history. So, that seems to be where this idea got its origin. Just even more malign than the name suggests (Nemesis was the name given to Aphrodite as the embodiment of punishment of hubris), and more to do with the Nemesis creatures plundering Earth than what I guess would be gravitational distortion.

A bit more important, though, is the name of the final stage--"Mirage of Mind Gaia". While investigating the Jeffrey's Japanese-English dictionary didn't supply any supporting evidence, I still wonder if "mirage of mind" might actually be an attempt at "hallucination". This would actually fit a little with the changing background during the Omega Zone battle (just don't ask me what the cat signifies; for all I know, there's a more important word with the "ne" and "ko" syllables together we should be looking for that the image is making a visual pun with)--Omega Zone may be a manifestation of all the memories of Earthly life, with human nightmares first and foremost. It also explains the infamous first image after Omega Zone's destruction...although it's not Earth that's being bisected, I think, but rather Nemesis itself.

Thus my main suspicion--Nemesis isn't a real star or planet at all, but rather (in part; more later) a shared dream/hallucination/nightmare of Earthly life from the first bacterium onwards. The events of Metal Black just chance to happen during Nemesis's sixth draining of the planet. Of course, there's the problem of how a hallucination, individual or shared, is going to drain anything in the first place. This gave me a thought that Nemesis is trying to steal Earth's place--Nemesis trying to become the real deal in lieu of Earth. On top of that, there's the Irish idea of the fetch, an image of a person's double that portends that person's death. (Attaching this idea to the German doppelgänger is actually fairly recent.) So, a death portent...born of Earthly life's fears and terrors combined into something that would probably unnerve even Hastur...trying to take its progenitor's place.

Which makes it sound like that Nemesis is actually Hell itself. Except this is not something I think the designers necessarily intended; it feels too tenuous. Nemesis as Earth's fetch is probably the furthest limit they intended.

Nemesis as a shared hallucination, by the way, explains how the bad ending works. The hallucination exists for everyone, not just the player-character (which probably means the other fighters can benefit from the Neuron power-ups too; these are effectively the neurons of life as a whole), so of course they can find Nemesis themselves.

Note that while typing this, I remembered that pieces of the other bosses' themes play during the Omega Zone fight, interspersed with whatever the next part of "Time" happens to be. Maybe this is supposed to suggest that the Nemesis creatures aren't actually individuals, but just extensions of the Nemesis planet-fetch? (Great, now Nemesis is Lucifer/Azazel/Belial/Apsu/Qingu/whoever.)


Last edited by Skyknight on Thu Feb 25, 2021 3:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:33 am 



Joined: 26 Jan 2005
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Location: Eastham, MA
Meanwhile, a few other tidbits I found at the Japanese Wikipedia page...

--The title is probably more properly rendered as METAL BLACK, as it's actually an acronym. Military Enforce Totalwar for Absolute Liberty, Beam, Lesson, Aircraft, Carrier: Kill off.

--Boss names (and I won't make English rendering attempts this time. The less said of, for instance, my interpreting the first boss's name as Apartheid and putting that on the English Wikipedia, the better...):

1. Aparutoheddo. It's explicitly called a "chimera" of flesh and machine. (Don't we call that a "cyborg"?)
2. Fedoro.
3. Daio and Gishiin. Daio may be a mispronunciation of Dio, given that the boss theme itself is called "Dio Panic!". Note that the scarab is Daio, while the opabinia-like chimera/cyborg is Gishiin.
4. Amazo.
5. Gaasuto.
6. Omega Zone (technically "Ω Zoon" to stick to the katakana, but this one's easy to understand). Interestingly, the stage description on the Japanese Wikipedia refers to both the "Mother Universe" and "Baby Universe" being visible after the "gold and silver moons". (So now I'm wondering if Nemesis is an extension of the "baby universe" impatient to come into proper existence--even if the "mother universe" dies in the process.) I'm not sure if Omega Zone's body being based on the Glassy Nautilus was meant to be any sort of symbol.


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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:37 am 


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Nice, had no idea the title was an acronym. :o And a good one, too! Last of those I caught was MUSHA's Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor. :mrgreen:

Skyknight wrote:
1. Aparutoheddo. It's explicitly called a "chimera" of flesh and machine. (Don't we call that a "cyborg"?)


I've always seen its name Romanised as "Apartheid," though I can't recall the source. There is a ton of Japanese commentary in the OST's liner notes, I think it may have been thereabouts?

I guess "chimera" works in the general sense of a composite creature. Seems like a Chameleon Gone Wrong for the most part.

AFAIK, "cyborg" / "cybernetic" (from the Greek kubernan / "steersman") can apply to any instance of a system integrated with and controlling another. This covers the common use of a human with machine augmentations, but there's no requirement the controller be organic, or their augments mechanical. The Terminator, a robot with integrated human tissue which provides biofeedback, counts as a cyborg. #17 and #18 from Dragon Ball, humans augmented at the cellular level via bioorganic technology, do too. The obsolete infiltration units Kyle Reese mentions, robots covered in rubber, aren't cyborgs.

Quote:
2. Fedoro.


This one's usually "Feeder" in my experience - with behaviour to match, gobbling up all the Neurons he can - but now I wonder if there was something more obscure, or maybe a double meaning.

The "twin sun" aspect of Nemesis seems to gel with Feeder's own delivery mechanism, a false moon. A "Dual Moon," even. IIRC, YACK's studio bears that name. The cosmic doppelganger concept is a really cool one, at any rate. :smile: Very Lynch-meets-2001, which is roughly the sphere I file MB in. Maybe that's not "our" Earth dying in the ALL ending, but theirs. Or maybe we just witnessed death and rebirth on a cosmic scale, sort of Radiant Silvergun +1.

Quote:
5. Gaasuto.


Ghost/Geist is what I've always seen, gelling with his BGM "Phantasm," as well as his vanishing capabilities (which I suppose may owe just as much to the creature's chameleon inspirations)
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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:50 am 


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Is there a source on this acronym thing somewhere? An official game instruction manual or something?
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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:28 am 


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MathU wrote:
Is there a source on this acronym thing somewhere? An official game instruction manual or something?


Not sure about the game or its materials, but there is this, from page five of the booklet for Metal Black: The First, the 1997 AST.

Spoiler: show
Image


It's an official Zuntata release, and YACK was credited with "Game Design" in the game's staff roll, so even if it's a backronym, I'm willing to indulge it. :wink: I wonder if it was acknowledged any earlier. (by comparison, Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor: Aleste is found in the game's instruction manual, and carried over to the Genesis version)

Now I've been drawn back to MB's nutty world, I'm also curious what the "19th, Moon" above its title on the OST cover might mean.
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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:02 am 


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Neat, I actually listen to that album every now and then. Never had it physical though. Taito always had some quality Engrish in their games, but that is just amazing.
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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:06 am 


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Speaking of! From MB The First's disc tray illustration (all credit to VGMdb for the scans)

Click for full res (huge)
Spoiler: show
Image


some
reticent
goddess
put
the
children
to
sleep.
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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:50 am 


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Funny enough, there's been a hypothesis since 2014 that a ice giant in a highly eccentric and inclined orbit might be able to explain the improbably grouped orbits of the trans-Neptunian objects we've managed to discover so far. Of course if its closest orbit intersected Mars and Jupiter the inner solar system would never be stable.
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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2021 3:19 am 



Joined: 26 Jan 2005
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It looks like the "gold and silver moons" are actually the images of Venus (?) and the Moon that briefly seem to be racing towards the background galaxy (or maybe that is the dwarf star Nemesis) before the stage fades out and you enter the battle with the Omega Zone. So between the mother and baby universes, one of them is the stellar object background which fades out as Omega Zone's body appears, and the other is the blobby foreground. I just don't know which is which. What is clear to me is that one of them--whichever we should associate with the foreground where Omega Zone drifts (unless the background congealed into Omega Zone)--is fighting you. Two possibilities:

1. The mother universe resents that it will be displaced by the baby eventually, and so is draining it (starting with Earth) to replenish itself.

2. As I suspect above, the baby wants to achieve physical (or specifically baryonic) reality NOW, and doesn't care if it has to destroy its mother to attain it. Which it actually is doing, by eating the mother (with Earth first on the menu).

I think this might be why the final stage theme is called "Time", as in either scenario, whatever lies behind Nemesis has a low opinion of time. Either the mother hates that the flow of time will lead to its end, and succession by the baby (assuming the mother universe isn't undead already), and so effectively wants to reverse it; or the baby thinks time isn't flowing fast enough.

{frowns} Either way, neither situation explains how the actual Nemesis stage is called "A Mirage of Mind Gaia". I know I hypothesized it should be more like "Hallucination Gaia"--or better, "Hallucinatory Earth"--but I don't know if there's any one kanji signifying "mirage" that I can use to chase down possible words using it. But considering the implicit meaning of the final boss being named Omega Zone--a place where all things end--maybe it incarnates some sort of life-wide death wish? (Leave Philipp Mainländer out of this.) Could be the sort of thing the adversarial universe seized on to begin displacement/absorption. (I should probably look up Japanese words that can translate to "reticent", and find what else they can translate to, in order to circumvent possible Engrish.)

EDIT: At least from Translate Google, "reticent"'s only translation is 寡黙 (kamoku), which can also mean "silent" or "shy". Which does make it sound like the mother universe isn't on the noxious side. So, more potential evidence for the force behind Nemesis being a spectacularly impatient and selfish baby universe.

EDIT THE SECOND: In exasperation, I decided to just set up a list of the kanji Jeffrey's pulled up for "illusion" (no kanji that specifically mean "mirage") and "mind". I'm also attaching the other English words attached to the kanji.

--Illusion:
迷 (Fifth Grade; astray, perplexed, doubtful, lost, err)
夢 (Fifth Grade; dream, vision)
幻 (General Use; phantasm, vision, dream, apparition)

--Mind:
意 (Third Grade; idea, taste, thought, desire, care, liking)
気 (First Grade; spirit, air, atmosphere, mood)
心 (Second Grade; heart, spirit)
神 (Third Grade; god, soul)
衷 (General Use; inmost, heart, inside)
臆 (General Use; timidity, heart, fear, cowardly)
氣 (no classification listed; spirit, air, atmosphere, mood. Variant of 気?)

I just wish I knew how to search for all the possible dyads at once.

Just so we're clear, Jeffrey's is here: http://rut.org/cgi-bin/j-e/jis/tty/dict


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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2021 4:43 am 


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Skyknight wrote:
{frowns} Either way, neither situation explains how the actual Nemesis stage is called "A Mirage of Mind Gaia". I know I hypothesized it should be more like "Hallucination Gaia"--or better, "Hallucinatory Earth"--but I don't know if there's any one kanji signifying "mirage" that I can use to chase down possible words using it.


Wouldn't surprise me if this was simply artistic choice, maybe for euphonic reasons (I've certainly enjoyed having that phrase in my sig for going on a decade :lol:).

* completely unrelated link to Hyakutaro Tsukumo's Moon of Mind *

Offhand, I remember the natively English-speaking voice cast of Silent Hill 2 (the four KCET games were only ever recorded in English, to enhance the desired aesthetic of Western horror fiction) saying they wondered aloud if certain lines should be rephrased - only to be assured that the Japanese devs wanted them to follow their scripts to the letter, because "it just sounded better" to Japanese ears (the game being subtitled for its native territory). I suspect one of the game's bigger clangers

"Liar that's a lie!" (speaker is an upset little girl - understandable)
"No. That's not true." (WTF?! "No. It's the truth," surely?! oh well, BGM owns)


resulted from this euphony-first approach.

For an opposite approach - the Japanese heavy metal legends Anthem (a band any STG/VGM fan should try out) mentioned their singer needing three times his usual number of takes, when they recorded an English-language compilation for Western audiences. They were determined the songs sound right to Western ears, so their EN linguistic technician nixed a lot of takes they'd assumed were bang-on.

It wouldn't surprise me if this approach would indeed produce a more precise term than "Mirage Of Mind." Technically, aren't all mirages of the mind? They're what happens when a human intellect misinterprets the perfectly mundane occurrence of atmospheric distortion. No mind = no "mirage," though the occurrence itself persists.

It sounds rad though. :cool:
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 Post subject: Re: Thinking about Metal Black's final boss and ending
PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 8:57 pm 


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At first I was also deeply interested in Metal Black's ending, but the more things I pieced together the more I realized that this was exactly what the game was going for.

I don't think the game has any true plot concerning the ending. More specifically I think the closest we can get to the plot is what the developers were going from when they made the ending so deliberately vague. Not what they were going for, mind you, but from. Whatever "the truth" may be, Metal Black does not contain it and this is done specifically to add to the atmosphere of the game and get people to think about it, like we see here. It's as deliberate of a design choice as the soundtrack.

TLDR instead of thinking of the truth behind metal black, the ephemeral nature of the final boss, or the metal black/gaia seed conspiracy, praise the devs for making one of the most memorable shmup settings ever instead.

Though, for the sake of contributing to the thread as well, I will point out that my own impression was one far simpler than a mother universe or some cosmic switcheroo.
Spoiler: show
The pilot is using experimental technology and is literally going insane by the end of the game. By the end he's fighting the real aliens as much as his own trippy demons, and the two blend together.
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