Mento's "What The Floof?!" Guide to Vertical Cities

Off on a crazy tangent today folks, with this here thing I wrote about vertical cities.

Regular Mento blog readers, the numbers of which rapidly dwindle each time Mento refers to himself in the third person, are aware that I base my weekly theme around the games I played that week. Well, this time I only played one: Eidos Montreal's Deus Ex: Human Revolution. There are various intriguing questions raised by this Franco-Canuckian knucklefest about the morality of human genetic augmentation, a man's struggle with the half-machine he's become and the possibility of a rampant corporate culture threatening to overpower and replace the world's present governmental structure. But instead I decided to ignore all of those in favor for something about cities that go up and down more than they go left and right, because those are cool. This is a blog for smart peoples.

A vertical city, similar to but not exactly like the arcologies of Sim City 2000, are a hypothetical sci-fi construct where we decide to build upwards as we run out of room on the horizontal plane. This is because of architect reasons. General similarities with these settings are:

  • A sort of urban segregation system, where the poorest live at the bottom and the richest live on top. Generally conditions are no so great for the poor folk, as they don't get a lot of sunlight and have to deal with all the rich people garbage that gets thrown down.
  • Sometimes the "ground floor" of these cities are filled with monsters of some kind, with a limited amount of fortification blocking them from the non-monster people above.
  • Occasionally there will be floofs. Not to be confused with the Oscar winning Daniel Day Lewis picture, "There Will Be Floof." Or these things.

Project Eden


I'm starting with Project Eden because of this fantastic intro video, that demonstrates both how one of these tiered vertical cities tends to work and also how ineffective 2001's graphical technology was at making faces don't look like mutants or early hominids.

Project Eden follows a crack team of specialists that the player switches between to solve puzzles and progress to the end of each stage: Carter, team leader and the only member to have clearance for many security checkpoints; Minoko, the young hacker needed for many of the consoles and panels in the game; Amber, a giant robot that can survive most environmental dangers and Olaf, who can block the ray-guns of Tomator's alien henchmen with his sturdy wooden shield. Each stage in the game tends to be a few floors below the previous, and markedly more dangerous. It's impressive how badly things have gotten - it's as if each time something bad happens, the city just builds a new level and migrates up to it.

Beneath A Steel Sky

Beneath a Steel Sky Box Art

Beneath a Steel Sky is a classic cyberpunk graphic adventure that's actually been free to play on GOG for a while now. I mean in a legitimate free to play way, where all the content is there for you to enjoy and not sitting behind micro-transactions.

Like with Project Eden, the vertical city is the game's chief setting: The player controls the foundling Foster who, along with his wisecracking robot buddy Joey, needs to find a way out of the monolithic Union City after he's stranded there when future-soldiers kidnap him for reasons that become clearer as you play the game. Many of the game's sequences are simply finding a way to get to a higher (or lower) floor of Union City, using items lying around and Joey's ever-changing robotic form to proceed.

Star Wars: Jedi Knight

Original Box Art

Jedi Knight's most immediately striking feature, besides the completely awesome 90s FMV intro, is the typically Star Warsy city of Nar Shaddaa: A vertical city full of smugglers and informants. Informants like 8T88, who Kyle Katarn (the protagonist) is there to meet when the game begins.

Nar Shaddaa is full of dangers, mostly of the "falling off an edge into nothingness" sort. Jedi Knight just so happens to be one of those early 90s FPS games where jumping puzzles were ubiquitous and mostly crapshoot-y. So that's good. Despite the early blocky graphics, though, Nar Shaddaa creates an impressively treacherous environment, and is perhaps the biggest vertical city on this list. It's certainly one of the deepest! Ask Kyle! He knows!

Final Fantasy 7

Front cover of Final Fantasy VII (US) for PlayStation

I figured I'd get internet-keelhauled by the comments section if I left off Midgar. So...


It's also a vertical city.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution


So now we move onto Deus Ex: Human Revolution's Hengsha - a Chinese miracle of architecture mostly funded (and controlled) by the Tai Yong Medical biotech corporation. Though the Upper City is briefly spotted (and is your typical overbearingly white and clean utopia) Jensen spends much of his time hobnobbing with the Triads and hookers of the Lower City: a darkened slum of capsule hotels and oppressive PMC patrolmen.

It's also a city where there's more convenience stores than there are houses. I'm not about to tell people how to run a business, but something's amiss there, surely? Then again, most of the apartments appear to be on roofs and need jumping augments to reach, so maybe I just saw a much higher proportion of stores than homes. The future is a strange place.

An Announcement of Sorts

A while back, I wrote a couple of blogs about a massive internet poll to find Japan's favorite video game music. They collectively managed to create a tracklist of an amazing 700 songs, from which I pulled the games that most frequently appeared and wrote a little about them. You guys remember those blogs, right? They had words and pictures? Yeah, those ones.

Now HG-101, the #1 video game site for incredibly detailed rundowns on obscure-as-hell vidya (as opposed to the #1 site for incredibly detailed wikis on obscure-as-hell vidya, which is right here naturally), is holding a similar competition for us Westerner types. I'm still working on my own list, but I'm also asking anyone on here that's interested to make their own and submit it on their forums. They're accepting lists of up to 100 (less is also fine, I'm guessing), with a YouTube link to each track desired but not compulsory. I may be severely overestimating how many people actually read these blogs and are also willing to spend several hours making a huge list of video game tunes, but I know a few of you (buzz_clik and VGK especially, and I'm sure there's others) know a lot more video game music than I do and could put together something pretty special.

Be sure to make a blog on GB with your list if you decide to go through with it. And if you just want to post a couple of your favorite VGM in the comments instead, go right ahead. I could use the input.

Bonus Comics

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The origin of a Fear Gauntlet running gag. This comic is two, three days old.
The origin of a Fear Gauntlet running gag. This comic is two, three days old.