Updated: Jan 3, 2019
DISCLAIMER: This story will have graphic imagery. If you are squeamish, I highly recommend not reading any further.
Here we are at the final world. I don't like to discuss this part and it still bothers me very much, but it's something that I have to do, so that I can put it behind me. People deserve to know.
At this point, I was well aware of the game's unnatural nature, but Zenith was different than the other worlds. While the others were certainly strange and sometimes frightening, the world of Zenith was like a nightmare. I didn't have to go any further than the board screen for an indication that something was wrong with Zenith. The first thing I noticed was the blood red color of the board and the music was an eerie whistling tune.
I noticed that I had Solomon and Anguirus back and I felt better for a second. Then, I scrolled over to the right to see who my enemies would be this time. This time, my enemies are Destroyah and Ghidorah. Judging from the icon, it was a different Ghidorah than the original, which is standing instead of flying. The grotesquely detailed pinkish red icon also caught my eye. I couldn't tell what it was supposed to be and I was afraid to find out.
Going back to my side of the board, I decided there wasn't much choice, but to do my usual "routine" by going to the quiz level before doing anything else. I was not ready for what happened.
I jumped back when this appeared accompanied by a terribly distorted version of the password menu music. It looked as though Face has fallen victim to some terrible glitch. Is this what he meant by "Will you miss me?" Did he know this would happen? My thoughts were stopped short as I noticed the screen was glitching and seemingly falling apart while I was inactive and so I quickly rushed out.
When I got back to the board, I had somehow gained a new monster. I hadn't even been asked if I wanted one. I tried to select it and this happened:
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!"
The game's behavior was scaring me and I had not even started the levels yet. I couldn't understand why I was randomly given a new character and then denied use of it. For the time being, there was little that could be done.
I viewed the last TV screen and this appeared:
No animation. No music. Dead.
Every instinct I had was telling me to stop playing. To just turn the game off. Something in the game itself might have been trying to warn me as to just how horrible this last world was.
But then, every stretch of the way I was compelled to give up. I couldn't do that now on the last world! Besides, after taunting me with memories of Melissa, I felt the game owed me some answers.
I noticed the first level was a red temple, so at least I would be familiar with the level graphics if nothing else. I went in with Godzilla, the monster I am most familiar with. Godzilla had been shrunk, the level and score meters are gone, and the blue temple faces were back. The music was similar to the blue temple also. It was strange and had haunting vocalizations. I tried to get my spirits up by thinking, "Well, if this level is like the blue temple level, then that might mean that there are no enemies to deal with." How wrong I was.
After a short walk, all of the statue's eyes starting to glow and a pack of the beasts from the shadow labyrinth came charging into me. Since they were coming from the right of the screen, I had to fight my way through.
The battle greatly tested my reflexes, but thanks to my speed I plowed through the beasts. They gave out health power-ups after dying, which helped recover the damage they had given me.
However, as I continued through the hallway, the statues eyes glowed again, summoning another wave. It seemed to be the same number of them, but I was less prepared this time and took damage. I had gone through four of these waves until I reached the end of the hall, where I heat beamed the last of the monsters over the edge into an abyss.
At first, it seemed as if I had reached a dead end, but after the eyes from the faces stopped glowing, a brick path slowly appeared before me.
I followed the path, which kept me moving towards the right until it stopped at a wall where I was going to jump up on the ledges. Along the way, I encountered new creatures and some sort of strange shrine, which had a statue of the hell beast and some other creature I don't recognize.
As I went through, the path took a downward direction. I had to aim my jumps carefully to avoid the enemies, which were plentiful in this part of the stage. They didn't have many attacks, but they could easily shove you over the edge off a platform.
At the end of this tunnel, there was a few small platforms floating above nothingness. I landed on the one towards the left of the screen and then something came down from above. It looked like the blue angel from the graveyard, except now it was red and had a skull face.
Any pleasant feelings I had from the blue angel were not present with this red one. As it hovered around, its eye sockets started glowing. Just like the statues, it summoned monsters to attack me. Surely, this was not the same benevolent being I encountered before. This was some kind of imposter.
The battle was nerve wracking as I started off with nearly half health and I had to deal with multiple opponents as well as threat of gravity. To make things even worse, as the red angel took damage some of the panels fell until only three remained. But my luck had not run out yet. Just when I thought it was over, I struck the red angel one more time and it turned out that one last hit was all it could take.
Just as the red angel completely disintegrated, the game instantly went back to the Zenith board. I moved Mothra over to the nearest stage from the red temple, which seemed to be a garbled mess of letters spelling KILL, and began playing.
As suspected, all of the level's graphics were made of jumbled letters. Just like Godzilla, Mothra was shrunk to half the size. I began to suspect that all of Zenith's levels would be like this.
The background music was terrible. It was like if someone put all of the sounds that the NES was capable of making into a blender and then piecing them back together as a "song." I had to turn the volume down because of it.
Playing as Mothra made avoiding the enemies easier, but they were nonetheless determined to get at me. The first enemies I saw were headless Gigans. Later on, there were hybrid monsters pieced together from previous bosses like the thing with the Biollante head.
Five minutes had gone by as I didn't see anything new and the level shifted into another segment. The music changed from the loud and annoying beeps into something far more ambient and menacing. The level graphics also changed, now looking like a blood drenched junkyard. The way everything in this level was red made it sickening to look at.
The enemies multiplied in numbers never ceasing to follow after me and it became harder and harder to avoid. At the end of the level, the situation reached a climax as the swarms of monsters fused together in one enormous terrifying hybrid.
Once I had gotten through the initial shock, I discovered a way to destroy this thing. I had to constantly shoot eye beams at the Hedorah cluster that formed its "head." If I attacked anywhere else, it would regenerate the damage.
Even with that knowledge, this was an extremely difficult fight. I'd say this was as hard as fighting the Moon Beast, if not harder. Its common attack was lunging forward with its arms covered in Gigan's saws and blades. If they touched it would instantly drain health.
When it was over, the remaining monsters collapsed into a heap. Then they, and the ground below them, started to disintegrate and sink towards the bottom of the screen.
When I came back to the board, I thought to myself, "So far, this game has been putting the easiest levels first...if that's the case, then how bad will the rest of Zenith be?" With two levels down and three to go, my monsters and I had taken our foothold in the world of nightmares that was Zenith.
Deciding what action to take next was more tense and difficult than ever before. But ultimately, I had no way of knowing what the next levels would be like or how well my monsters would be prepared for them. So my only option was to guess.
I tried to interpret what the icons of the next levels ahead of me were. The last level before the boss battles was obviously representing some type of volcanic area with lava and flames.
The middle icon I still didn't get, except it looked "fleshy" and vaguely looks like an organ of some kind. Oddly oversized as well.
The one I was nearest to, and about to enter next, looked like thorny vines covering a puddle of blood. I guessed this would be a level with blood "rivers," like the chase level in Dementia. As such, I went with Anguirus because due to his rolling move he would have the fastest speed while submerged.
The level, which I call "Blood Lake," looked like what I expected. Rivers of blood accompanied by thorn covered vines, which were scattered along the sides of the ground. The music was rather faint, but I could hear a distinct drum beat and a few other instruments. A lot of echoes and sometimes it sounded like someone was hitting a drum underwater.
I was disappointed to see that Anguirus was shrunk down just like Godzilla and Mothra had been. Apparently, all of the Zenith levels would be like this. I felt less secure with my giant monsters no longer being so giant.
I walked along without interruption for only a minute until my path reached a dead end. There was a massive gap between the ground I was walking on and the ground to the right of the screen. I would have swam across it and continued walking to the right, but due to the huge mass of brambles in the way there was nowhere to go.
Two creatures with membranes meant for gliding on their arms and lamprey like mouths were perched on the outstretched vines and screeching at me. Much like a crow does to an invader of its territory. Another unnerving display of possible sentience by the creatures of this game. If it's even accurate to refer to them as being "of the game," that is.
I descended into the blood lake, slowly sinking to the floor. Aquatic enemies were everywhere and they were hard to avoid. The black shark in particular was very aggressive and hard to deal with, but thankfully I only encountered one.
As the scene became more and more crowded, I swam up to the surface to find that it was littered with floating corpses. "Creepy, but at least they're not a threat." Or so I thought...
They sprang to life and leaped on to me! They were trying to pull me under and they were draining my health as they did. They all attacked as a group and when I got one off of me, another would jump on me from behind. I had to curl up into a ball and roll for them to loosen their grip. When they did, I quickly retreated.
It wasn't long before I reached another land path. A note regarding the brambles, you can stand on them, but it causes pain. You can destroy some of the vines, but only the thinner ones. I had to destroy multiple vines as well as dealing with more enemies.
Now, all I could think of was getting the hell out of this level as quickly as possible. My heart was racing and my thumbs were straining from the stress of pounding on the buttons on my controller to get to the exit as fast as possible.
Suddenly, I was interrupted by this screen:
The screen was up for about thirty seconds. Then when it went back to the level, I was facing another dead end and pregnant humanoid creature being hung from the top right of the screen by a spine or umbilical cord. Instantly, the creature's belly was ripped open from the inside!
As the lower part of its body was ripped apart and fell into the river below, the Blood Lake's boss was revealed. It came flying towards me, making a shrill, hacking scream. I was forced to move back.
The bat was a highly mobile boss, fast and difficult to hit. As I moved back along the ground, the monster opened its mouth and shot a barrage of needles. I jumped over them and managed to give it a blow to the head and it started flying out of my reach.
As the bat was flying, it shot a stream of fire from its eye sockets and started trying to hit me with the flames. I rolled around the ground, which drained my power, but put us at equal speed. This cycle repeated around three times until the monster was defeated. With most of my health drained, I went back to the edge of the level and the large bramble vine blocking the exit was now gone.
"Now, only two levels left to go. Who to send this time?" Godzilla, Mothra, and Anguirus had all completed one level, leaving Solomon and the mysterious fifth monster. I tried again to access it, but with no luck. I chose to use Godzilla again for the next level and Solomon for the final one.
The second to last level was what I referred to as the "Organic Level," which was the most visually unpleasant of them all.
Right from the start, I could already tell that the graphics were freakishly different. The atmosphere was gruesome and foreboding, with the addition of the loud, droning music. I was dreading what I would see in these levels and it was only a few seconds before the something appeared.
Two hideous...things. It's hard to describe most of this level. Everything had a disturbing "semi-real" look to it. Most of the enemies look halfway between real animals and misshapen lumps of gore with teeth.
It's also worth noting that all of them were considerably larger than Godzilla. Although the majority were not very intelligent, each of them took around 30+ hits to kill. Due to this, it was a better idea to just run away from them than fight, but it was never clear exactly which direction to run to.
While most of the levels involved going to the right to get to the exit, the path of this level was primarily going down by walking to edge of one platform and jumping down to a lower one. There was no way to make sure you were going the right way, nor any apparent means of getting back up to the higher platforms if necessary.
Also, certain enemies acted as if they were aware you had to jump down and would stand at the edge of the lower platform waiting for you. When this happened, I would have to walk back and wait until the monster would leave.
As I went on, I came across platforms stacked above each other with little space in between, looking like a maze. This meant that I couldn't jump and it made escape from enemies difficult. Thankfully, the only enemies able to fit through these mazes were the four-legged beasts seen at the beginning of the level.
Adding to the difficulty were long, tape worm looking monsters that would raise themselves up between the platforms and trap you. The only attack they responded to was the heat beam, which would cause them to shrink back down. But this costing even more power and I could not afford to not go without the heat beam for long.
While trying to avoid these abominations that dwell in this level, I found that if you stand idle in one place for too long, the ground will try to absorb your monster. I think it was about four minutes before the end that this level was making me physically sick. The tension was getting to me and having to take in all of these disgusting sights made me want to puke. I nearly did pause the game and look for a bag, but I was able to hold it together.
I found a trick at the end of the level, though it was too late to do me any real good. If two different species of monsters were to run into each other face to face, they would fight each other and leave me alone. I didn't intentionally cause this. It just happened on its own.
Finally at the end and it was time for another boss fight. It was certainly ugly, but not quite as horrific as I feared it would be. What was more important than dealing with its appearance was defeating it. Since I had less than half of my health left to start with, there was no room for errors.
It was attached to the floor when I first saw it, but after ten hits it detached from the floor and began floating. It moved fast and unlike the boss at blood lake he wasn't impeded by any sort of gravity. It was even able to fly through the ground without any collision effect.
It used this to its advantage. It would float beneath the ground and spring up randomly to bite at you. The creature stopped doing this after a few well aimed kicks to the face. The pink area on its upper jaw was a weak point. Too many hits there would cause it to spasm uncontrollably.
The new strategy was to rapidly float up and down while moving back and forth across the stage, trying to constantly keep its jaws aimed towards me. Health was getting critical at this point and I spammed the heat beam for this thing had no defense against it.
In the last stretch of the fight, the monster had lost its mind rapidly rushing back and forth and gnashing its jaws. I had to duck under it and then strike when its back was turned. Twenty more hits and it was destroyed.
It was down to the last level and I didn't hesitate. I chose Solomon and entered. Perhaps, I chose a little too fast.
This last level was definitely the peak of disconnect between what the NES was graphically capable of and what this game could create. The music also caught my attention. It was one of the only songs that appeared more than once. The horrible screeching from when the Hell beast appeared in the graveyard.
As soon as I started, there was already an enemy prepared to attack. A centaur wielding a whip. And it was not alone.
When I started fighting, several more centaurs appeared coming from both sides of the screen at the same time. It was too much to handle. Solomon's flight saved me from taking too much damage at the start of the level. The centaurs followed after, but seemed unable to jump.
After escaping from the centaurs, I noticed gaps in the ground. While trying to avoid the jumping sword mouthed enemies in mid-flight, I got close to the surface of the lava and a creature emerged and tried to grab me. It didn't succeed, but I was startled. Careful maneuvering would be needed to avoid instant death here.
As new enemies appeared, the level soon became very difficult. A lot of the trouble came from the stocky red demons that stood on top of the tall, narrow mountains and spewed fire. I got by them by waiting till their back was turned and hitting them with a flying kick, which made them fall into the lava. It was at this time that I noticed that I wasn't gaining any health from killing enemies.
Not all of the ground was stable. At one point, the ground was reduced to small chunks that slowly drifted towards the right. Some would sink into the lava upon landing on them and there was no way to tell which ones would sink and which would not. Being so close to the lava added the threat of the lava creatures and this was very frustrating.
I was also very hot, which made concentrating hard. If you've ever had a heat rash, it felt similar to that. I had to stop periodically for water because it was so hot. This was certainly due to the game and not my imagination, but I kept pushing the thought out of my head. I didn't want to think about it.
At the end of the stage, I encountered the boss rising from the lava. Its arrival noted with an ungodly roar.
When it walked on land, I saw how gigantic it was. The beast was several times the size of Solomon. I was about to fly up and attack it when it opened its mouth and let out a huge blast of fire.
I had to fly to dodge the flames and then get close enough to the boss to fire a heat beam at its face, causing it to stumble backward. If it didn't stumble backwards, it would have kept moving left until it forced Solomon into the lava as there was no more ground within reach.
The beast had to wait between uses of its fire breath, as it seemed to cost a great deal of energy. I used this time to attack it, but fire wasn't its only weapon and I had to be wary of the monster swatting at me with its claws. As its health decreased, it moved faster, and the battle felt like a tug of war between the two monsters over this bridge of land.
After about forty hits, it was defeated, tumbling backwards into the lava from whence it came. And then, the final stage was complete.
At last, it was down to two bosses and the final encounter with the Hell beast. For some reason, I thought Ghidorah would be easier to beat, so I encountered him first. The classic "Ghidorah Battle" music from the original game started up as I was faced against the new King Ghidorah.
King Ghidorah was as powerful and unrelenting as ever. He instantly lashed out with Gravity Beams, which were more damaging than Godzilla's heat beam. It became a struggle of constant beating Ghidorah at every opportunity to keep him from using the attack.
But Ghidorah soon saw through my tactic and started using physical attacks as well. He would strike with each of his heads, knocking me backwards, making it impossible to get close enough to punch him. But I had an idea, to wait for him to lunge with one of his heads and immediately blast it with the heat beam. It worked! And to my surprise, the heat beam had actually obliterated Ghidorah's middle head. It was only a few seconds before I realized what this would lead to and sure enough it did.
King Ghidorah used the power of the glitch to transform into Mecha King Ghidorah. What really shocked me was the change of music. I had heard it before, but it wasn't from the original NES game. It was from the Super Nintendo game, Super Godzilla, during the Mecha King Ghidorah fight.
Mecha King Ghidorah's first attack was the most deadly, the machine claw. Very similar to Gigan's buzz saw, it immobilizes the monster and rapidly drains the health bar. Fortunately, before Ghidorah could do a lot of damage, the timer ran out.
I would need to defeat Mecha King Ghidorah quickly to prevent him from using his claw, so I sent Solomon to fight him. The two monsters were evenly matched in strength, but Solomon was faster. By slashing and using his heat beam without pause, the cyborg monster soon met its end.
With Ghidorah defeated, I was returned to the board. I now outnumbered the enemy by four monsters to one and victory was soon at hand. The base icon had changed to a blood red color. I could feel hatred emanating from it.
I started the fight against Destroyah with Anguirus and the music was the same as Ghidorah's. When the fight began, Destroyah was in his Crab form. After one hit, he changed into his Juvenile form, which had few attacks and was also dealt with easily. The fight got serious once Destroyah entered his Aggregate form, gaining use of the long arms and the micro-oxygen beam.
Anguirus's roll attack, which had been very useful up until now, was rendered useless by Destroyah constantly attacking me with his large arms when I tried to use it. For this part of the fight, I had to rely on brute strength.
Just before the timer ran out, Destroyah had changed into his flying form, which Anguirus was ill-suited to fight against. Going back in, I fought against the flying form with Mothra (which seemed fitting).
Mothra was weaker than Anguirus, but was much better equipped to dodge and counter Flying Destroyah's attacks, so the fight was in my favor. However, the Mecha Ghidorah fight music started playing and Destroyah changed into his final form sooner than expected, which drastically turned the tables.
Mothra's attacks were doing very little to Destroyah and I had to move furiously to avoid damage while waiting for the timer to run out.
Even though it was nearly impossible to beat Destroyah with Mothra, I still had three other monsters. Final Form Destroyah was very resistant to taking damage and the heavily armored foe would not be defeated without a long fight.
In the last part of the fight, I wasn't using much strategy. Just attack as brutally and as fast as I could. On his last bar of health, Destroyah tried one last counter attack, a beam of energy from his chest.
I don't know how powerful it would have been because just before he could fire I punched Destroyah in the chest, destroying him! And then, that was it. The last kaiju boss was gone. In the midst of all of the excitement, I had briefly forgotten that there was still one more thing to do before the game would over.
Seeing the icon again hit me like a ton of bricks and I froze for a few minutes. I had come so far to get to this point, but I was terrified. I really did not want to know what this last encounter was going to be like.
Before I could let myself think about it any longer, I moved Godzilla over and began the stage. "You're here now. This is the end. Just one last thing and then it's all over," I said to myself as I pushed the button to start the level.
And when the screen changed, there was... Nothing.
Just Godzilla and a black screen. I walked back and forth and fired a heat beam. Nothing happened for a while, until I heard something. The faint sound of a familiar drum beat.
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