Okay, first things first, who the hell that’s ever played Yoshi’s Island remembered that angry blue blob was called Nep-Enut? News to me!
If you haven’t played Yoshi’s Island, aka Super Mario World 2, for the SNES, then I definitely recommend that you correct that. It’s one of the most fun and creative games of the 16-bit era and—biased by childhood nostalgia though I may be!—it remains one of my favorite games of all time. It’s got great music, a unique art style, and gameplay that is both varied and engaging.
Okay, nostalgia trip over. Back to the blue guy.
The grumpy (and hungry) looking fellow up there pops out the water to give Yoshi a bad time. His worst feature is, hands-down, his size. Nep-Enut is easily one of the biggest non-boss monster the player encounters in the entire game. More likely than not, you’re not going to be able to just jump over him.
This is what makes Nep-Enut interesting and threatening. He’s really more of an obstacle than a monster, but, when you think about it, aren’t most video game monsters just obstacles with nice graphics thrown over them? Well, let’s see if he’s animated enough to stand out as more than that.
So Nep-Enut is blocking your path. You can’t go around him. How do you get him out of the way?
Yoshi’s Island features an egg-launching mechanic as the main form of attack. Yoshi can carry up to six eggs at once and throws them at enemies to knock them out. Yoshi can also jump on some enemies, but that’s not an option with Nep-Enut—touching any part of its body hurts Yoshi.
So you have to hit Nep-Enut with an egg, which depletes your resources. This is a nice, sneaky way to make the upcoming part of the level more challenging.
But! It’s not enough to hit Nep-Enut anywhere. An egg off the angry-brows will just bounce right off. His weak spot is his mouth, so he challenges the player’s accuracy, too.
The final component is the way that Nep-Enut appears. He hides in the water until Yoshi comes close—sort of. You can see his classic Angry Eyebrows™ peeking up above the water line.
This is comically endearing, but it’s also useful mechanically. When he chases you from just below the waterline, ready to pop up and attack, you can see him gaining on you. That ups the tension. And—yeah, it would be more challenging for him to pop up without warning, but in a game designed to be kid-friendly? That makes sense. And it was still fun! It gives you that little nervous rush like you’re getting away from something.
When he’s blocking Yoshi’s path, our blue buddy is no different from a door, functionally speaking. He’s a good obstacle: taking away your resources is a good way to play with difficulty. But he’s also drawn with character—literally, in the sense of the art, but also through his motion. It’s in the way he tries to sneak up on you. The way his eyebrows have a life of their own.
Sure, you might hate him a little when he lands a good hit on you, but you’ve got to love those goofy eyebrows.
Is Nep-Enut a monster for the ages, the kind that makes you shiver in your seat and contemplate dark horrors? No way. But he’s a fun and memorable bad guy that fits the tone of the game and adds some variety to your combat.
He’s a monster that’s good at what he does, and what he does is sit there and glower at you.
And I can respect that.