E.V.O.: Search for Eden is an excellent Super Nintendo title that sees a generic “lifeform” evolve from a meager fish to the dominant species on Earth (if you are reading this, I am talking about you). It was an unusually ambitious title for 1992, and, with a protagonist that could grow and evolve in so many different ways, it made “Mario can wear a cape” look like clownshoes. But, while you can evolve through a variety of forms and shapes in E.V.O.: Search for Eden, you cannot evolve into everything. You are limited by the preprogrammed choices available, and if you want to evolve into an elephant for a period longer than a few minutes, too bad. So what are some evolutions that could have made E.V.O. better? Well…
Our good friend Charles Darwin got the whole evolutionary theory going thanks to visiting the Galapagos Islands nearly 200 years ago. Basically, he saw a bunch of birds and lizards bobbing about, but, from island to island, they all had biological advantages that were specific to the conditions of their private islands. This jumpstarted the theory of biology adapting to specific environments, and toddled down the trail to evolution as we know it today. Unfortunately, E.V.O. does not reinforce Charlie’s elite beliefs. The best jaws are the best jaws if you are in the ice and snow or a desert, and the best jumping legs do not care if you are on a cliff or a plain. What’s more, the most effective way to eat your meats is always a meager press of the A button, and not adapting a prehensile tongue to slurp out snacks. Adapting to individual situations is exactly what evolution is all about, so it is disappointing that all we get here are a series of evolutions with price tags that are just like buying the best armor in Dragon Quest. This would be the best excuse for why we need an E.V.O. 2.
Everything must become crab.
You have seen a crab before, right? They are those red things that Mario fought that one time. Big ol’ pincers, flat little body, and a bunch of skittering legs that carry their crabby selves all over the place. Well, it has been determined that carcinisation is real and powerful, and, given enough time, nearly every crustacean just goes ahead and evolves into a crab form. Hermit crabs used to be little spider-looking dudes, but they went whole hog on the crab to become king crabs. Hairy stone crab figured out camouflage and how to be a decent crab. And even squat lobsters apparently made the jump to be porcelain crabs when they decided crab was the way to go. Crab-shaped is the inevitable and enviable goal of so many creatures out there, but crab-form is wholly unobtainable in E.V.O. Where mah crabs at!?
Luck of the Spineless
E.V.O.: Search for Eden starts with a lifeform that has just become a fish. From there, the basic sequence of fish – amphibian – lizard – bird – mammal is followed. And, while you do battle a Queen Bee (and her less dangerous mate), you never get to dip a toe into the insect kingdom. What’s more, you aren’t allowed to transform into a single creature without a spine, so spineless monsters like spiders, squids, and President Donald Trump are all completely unavailable. And, despite level 1 being entirely underwater, this includes an awful lot of marine life. You could make an entire game out of a create-a-character where you can customize a nautilus shell, or base an adventure on the exploits of a horseshoe crab. … Dangit! We’re back to crabs again. Need to get away from those.
Here is a branch devoid of crabs! E.V.O. starts too early, as the Ocean of Origin with its bespined fishies is far too late in lifeform development. How about we work our way up from some amoebas? And, hell, that would make a whole lot more sense within the framework of E.V.O., as breeding is wholly ignored on this evolutionary journey. Every upgrade is simply purchased, and you don’t have to spend a half hour wooing Mrs. Weird Horn Monster with Angry Jaws. But amoeba would be great for that kind of gameplay! You can just cellularly divide at will, and spend your EVO points at will as you do it. And, hey, maybe society at large needs a reminder on how viruses can change and mutate over time, as I seem to recall that has been relevant to current events of late.
It is a “secret”, but you can become a bird in E.V.O. In fact, given the mammalian upgrade is optional, with a little skill, you can steer a bird creature straight from prehistory to the Garden of Eden. And, while the aerial advantage is always… uh advantageous, the bird options are limited. Practically every evolution is limited to influencing your flying ability (with strength and size being the only other options) and every other potential route in the universe falls by the wayside. And this makes sense, because this is a 2-D action game, and granting the power of flight sends the traditional gameplay balances off the side of a cliff. But! Real-life birds are not just about flight or beak strength, they are about aesthetics. There are some damn pretty birds out there, and it is a tremendous missed opportunity that you cannot peacock-out by transforming into a flamingo. The blue crowned pigeon is right over there being majestic, but forever out of reach.
Everybody knows that the ultimate goal of all evolution is to become a mermaid, and…
Oh. Well. I guess E.V.O.: Search for Eden gets some things right.
FGC #649 E.V.O.: Search for Eden
- System: Super Nintendo. If it is anything else, you are thinking about a different game.
- Number of players: Evolution should not be such a solitary activity.
- Favorite Temporary Evolution: You can turn into a dragon in the secret cloud area of dinosaur times. This looks radical… but there isn’t anything around to actually attack in that bonus stage. A temporary dragon powerup that cannot be used for anything is a crime that should be punished thoroughly.
- Favorite Age: The age of the stegosaurus feels like a point where the game opens up, as you can be a terrible thunder lizard, or find the secret area that grants bird powers. And, unfortunately, that much variety is never seen in E.V.O. again, as the only choice you’ll see later is the mammal upgrade, and, come on, who would choose not to be a mammal? You’re a human playing this videogame! You know how this thing is supposed to end!
- For the sequel: While those waters are muddier than a mudskipper’s natural habitat, E.V.O. is basically a sequel to the PC-98 game 46 Okunen Monogatari ~The Shinka Ron~ ( 4.6 Billion Year Story: The Theory of Evolution). That sucker never had an official translation, and is basically a JRPG that borders dangerously on the territory of visual novels. That said, it is arguably a more interesting game, as you are directly standing against Lucifer, who is portrayed here as either a pretty blonde lady or a spider. Oh, and you have less control over your evolution (more just stat manipulation ala Final Fantasy Adventure), and your ultimate evolution will be a humanoid elf. Elves fighting the devil on the moon is the finale, which I am pretty sure was something Darwin himself predicted.
- An end: Speaking of endings, the finale of E.V.O. sees whatever your creature happens to be being accepted by Sexy Mother Gaia and ushered into Eden. The implication from there seems to be that “you” will be the basis for whatever substitutes for the human race on this version of the world (you are distinctly granted man’s intelligence… even though there was never any indication you were anything but the smartest thing around anyway). As a child, I was always disappointed that this did not lead to a custom “the end” graphic with your armored jaw-monster walking around a modern city wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase.
- Watch it, buddy: Oh yes, this article was inspired by the recent Even Worse Stream of E.V.O., featuring Dallas of Take That Darwin as a special guest commentator.
Original Stream Night: November 8, 2022
If you can believe it, I have been trying (poorly) to get that stream together for the site since roughly 2019. I am slow!
- Did you know? According to BEAT, the subtypes of evolution are, “you know, mermaidloution, marvevolution, crabforming, triple reverse crabforming, your basic micromaloevolution subsets, apeforming (v rare), alolan forms, smolboiing, etc etc.” You should listen to him. He is a scientist.
- Would I play again: E.V.O. is a lot of fun… when you cheat your way into infinite evo points. When you don’t do that, the fun is hampered somewhat by looping 2-screen wide levels repeatedly as you eat the meatiest monsters available over and over again. But a version of this game without grinding thanks to a Game Genie is pretty alright! So I’ll play it again.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Haunting Starring Polterguy for the Sega Genesis! Let’s get our Halloween content out of the way right here in January! Please look forward to it!