Wander the wilds of any Final Fantasy game long enough and you're bound to run into some pretty bizarre enemies. Apparently after dozens of games and spin-offs often lasting a hundred hours or more the best you can come up with is a sentient cactus obsessed with The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian." Ridiculous doesn't always mean the same thing as bad, however. For instance, it's hard to think of a better example of grade-A character design than Final Fantasy VII's Gighee.
The next time you're exploring FFVII's last dungeon, keep an eye out for a random encounter with this horse-like creature. He sports a guitar neck as a tail, a fiery shock of spike hair, and even a star-like crest on his forehead. These add up to a pretty obvious reference to David Bowie's sexually backpedalling stage persona, Ziggy Stardust.
Don't worry if you didn't get the reference back in '97, either. It's not because you were a dumb, uncultured child. Probably. You were just speaking the wrong language. At least part of the joke was lost on us English-only players when the game first released. In the original Japanese, Gighee's name can be read in one of two ways. Either with two hard G sounds (meaning "bad horse"), or with a Z and a G (Ziggy). This was almost certainly comedy gold to 10-year-old Japanese players at the time.
(We covered this one before, but it's too neat to ignore.)
If you think gaming with the internet is bad now, just imagine what it was like 15 years ago. Long before game publishers figured out how to abuse you with overpriced downloadable content and useless-but-mandatory online profiles they had to get the truly abysmal stuff out of the way, first.
One such early experiment was Squaresoft's PlayOnline initiative. In tandem with BradyGames, then publisher of about half the world's strategy guides, the developer released a walkthrough for Final Fantasy IX. They might as well have released toilet paper with screenshots on it. The $20 book only gave the vaguest of "strategies," telling readers to instead head to Square's website -- PlayOnline -- for the actual information.
Fast-forward 13 years. Game FAQs user The_Kusabi claims to have found a mostly forgotten side quest in the PlayStation's final Final Fantasy while reading the game's companion book, Final Fantasy IX Ultimania. As it turns out, he was right.
Finding the quest requires some tedious hoop-jumping on the fourth disc. You'll have to repeatedly check in with the Nero family after each new boss and cutscene. They'll spout more-or-less identical dialogue with all the comedic value of a misremembered Abbott and Costello routine. The payoff isn't particularly rewarding, either. Along with the utterly useless guide, this probably explains how even a teensy bit of side content from one of the biggest game franchises of the time could go unnoticed in the United States for over a decade.