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Reflections on E.V.O. - The Search for Eden (SNES; Enix, 1993)

I remember seeing this game at the local Blockbuster Video when I was a kid. This is a really, really weird game. The basic plot is as follows: you start as a fish in the Cambrian era, and must fight/eat/evolve your way through a billion years of Earth's history in order to marry Gaia, the spirit of the Earth. In the course of all that, you eventually uncover and foil a plot by aliens to inhibit the evolution of humans.

I know that sounds ludicrous, but if you don't believe, me, look at what Uncle Wiki has to say on the subject:

"Spanning a period of over a billion years, the game's story involves Gaia, daughter of the sun and mystical embodiment of the Earth, guiding the player through five distinct geological periods of the planet's history. Beginning the game as a fish, the player must travel across the planet defeating enemies and gaining the strength to evolve into more powerful and complex organisms before eventually earning a chance to enter the paradise realm of Eden, becoming Gaia's immortal partner. Crystals with the ability to influence evolution are laden throughout the player's quest, with the mystery of their origin becoming a secondary factor to the main story."

So, basically, this game was a quest to marry Gaia, who is depicted as some kind of female goddess with glowing sky-blue hair. And the way to marry her was to start as a fish in the time before land, then fight/evolve your way through a billion years, constantly defeating the penultimate beast of that time period, thus freeing up evolution to favor those primordial organisms which would eventually give rise to humanity.

On top of all that, the game was actually embedded with periodic lessons on Earth's natural history, albeit all of these mini-lessons were incorporated in as part of the many dialogs you could have with any of the NPC creatures throughout the game.

I still find it weird that my main character and player motivations for this SNES-ified interactive natural history lesson is that I want to basically get with an ethereal hot girl. And the weirdest thing about that is, I don't think that you can actually evolve into a human being by the time the game ends. You can evolve various parts of your physiology, one at a time, to essentially create a horrifying panoply of teeth, claws, and wings (and usually most players of this game ended up making weird hodgepodge beasts in order to beat the game because you are mainly purchasing upgrades for function as opposed to form). In fact, the following youtube comment on the longplay video featured below sums up my experience best:

"I always wound up hooking up with Gaia as man-eating horse beast."

said Darwingree5 about a year ago.

I laughed conspiratorially when I read that comment because that is exactly what I thought when I beat the game (literally years later via the magic of emulation and save states) as a man-eating horse-beast and entered the door to Eden (to get married to Gaia, I assume).

I find it intriguing that I remembered a game from when I was 13 years old because it was the quest of a shapeshifting monster to marry a goddess by traversing all of Earth's history on an eating frenzy. I learned about evolution along the way.

Still in all, I do think that the premise of this game's story is absolutely fascinating. And on a side note, every time I play the Metallica song "Blackened," which is about how millions of years of evolution are destroyed in minutes, I think of this SNES game.

About the Author

PhD Candidate in Japan, researching Narrative in Games. Responds favorably to Thrash Metal, Karaoke, and Dungeons & Dragons.

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