Ladies and gentleman, welcome to a new series called "Villain Analysis", where I analyze villains from various media and give a lecture on why they do and/or don't make such effective villains in the series or stories they appear in. The order of the categories will be this: History in Franchise, Design, Personality, Actions, Backstory, Symbolism and Summary. In any case, here is the first entry: the Shadows from the Nightmare Ned PC game.
HISTORY IN FRANCHISE
Back in the 90's, Walt Disney Interactive released several PC games. Most of them were either adaptations of classic movies or spin-offs of them, such as Villains' Revenge and Hades' Challenge. There was one, however, that was an original idea. The idea was Nightmare Ned, a game about a boy overcoming his greatest fears and nightmares. The game begins when Ned comes home from school to find his parents and sister missing, at which point he stays up late eating sweets and playing video games. It wasn't until a storm arrived that made Ned want to go to his room and fall asleep. But he wasn't alone; the Shadows had followed him there and possessed his quilt. This sent him to a world of nightmares, where the Shadows set up nightmares for Ned to be tortured with. The Shadows only ever appear in the game, making this their only known appearance.
The design of all five Shadows is simplistic. All they are are purplish (transparent and black in cutscenes) monsters with varying amounts of green eyes. Each Shadow does have distinguishing features to help tell them apart. The Medical Shadow has fingers that resemble needles and one big gree eye. The Bathroom Shadow looks slug-like and also has one green eye. The Attic, Basement and Beyond Shadow has two heads, both with antennae and two eyes, both of which are in different places. The School Shadow is bulky, has hair-like antennae and has small green eyes. And finally, the Graveyard Shadow has the most menacing appearance, sporting a devil tail, devil horns, bat wings and, most fittingly, a sickle. Each of their appearances greatly reflect the tone of each stage Ned goes to, just as the emblem representing each nightmare shows what kind of nightmare is waiting for Ned.
Each Shadow can be rather bland on the surface. More often than not, they'll just trying to convince you to enter their nightmare. However, they do have various hints to their personalities hidden behind their words, such as the Graveyard Shadow's murderous nature and the Medical Shadow's sadism.
The simple act of creating nightmare world to torture one kid with is bad enough. To add to their personalities, however, they amp up the fear factor and psychological trauma to eleven for Ned. Here comes the meat of their natures. It isn't what they say or do, exactly, but it has more to do with what they show Ned or make him experience that makes them truly wicked. It also helps determine which Shadow leads the others. The School Shadow wants to humiliate Ned in many different extreme ways. The Attic, Basement and Beyond Shadow wants to spook Ned and play tricks on him, even some more harmful ones for kicks. The Bathroom Shadow, while being violent and equally goofy in his methods, is quite counterproductive, making Ned learn about getting and conquering his fears. The Medical Shadow has sociopathic tendencies and loves to play sadistic games with her young patient. And finally, the Graveyard Shadow is not only to the point, but he hits home by torturing other children in his nightmare, such as a young girl that had been buried in a tomb that is pitch black. He also has zombified versions of Ned's own parents attack him. This makes the Graveyard Shadow worse than the other four, with the Medical Shadow not too far behind.
The Shadows don't really have one, so their origins, among other things, are a total mystery.
If there's one thing that Nightmare Ned did right, it's including villains that had just as much symbolism as the nightmares they created. Here is a list of symbolism for each shadow:
The School Shadow and his corresponding nightmare world are themed around the fear of both the school environment and bullying. Alcatraz Elementary, the School Nightmare, is, fittingly enough, an oppressive place. The students are rude, faculty is mean, and the principal is prone to thinking the worst of Ned. Bullies are the best words that describe those who willingly put children through such cruelty, and they have detrimental effects on the victims' mental and physical health. There are even times where bullying leads to either the death of the victims, the bully, or anyone in the surrounding area. Sometimes, the bully may be either oblivious or too stupid to realize that the ramifications of their actions might be dire. Overall, the School Shadow is a tyrant who may not be aware of how cruel he truly is, as his dialogue shows that he is arguably the dumbest Shadow of the lot.
The Bathroom Nightmare takes a turn for the eerily whimsical as mice sing about killing Ned with tubs and electricity. And yet, there's another musical number involving puberty. It's an odd combination, and yet, the Bathroom Shadow was okay with it. On the surface, these two things wouldn't matter much. However, the bathroom serves to hide the true theme for this nightmare: the fear of growing up. Getting older might bring one closer to death, but it also brings confusion, as the transition from child to adult is a tedious and dangerous one. Teenagers experience all sorts of new sensations and situations that it can become overwhelming, Tying in with the bathtubs and electric beavers, the pains of getting older might be too much for people to handle, effectively leading to a detrimental outcome. In terms of what the Bathroom Shadow is doing, it's self-destructive. He's technically helping the very person he seeks to torment, but seems to be enjoying his work a lot. Ultimately, the philosophical yet foolish Bathroom Shadow is a comedic idiot and yet is quite the genius in his own right.
The Attic, Basement and Beyond Nightmare is an odd place themed around two things: the fear of the unknown and the fear of being forgotten. The characters embody the former, as they are either mostly hidden from view or they are too bizarre to comprehend. The environment, ranging from an attic, a basement, and even a small, lonely forest, embody the latter, as they are either places where old things get stored (much like graves in a graveyard) or, in the case of the forest, isolated locations where one can get lost. The ABB Shadow, by extension, can best be described as an enigma who wants to mess with Ned by making him feel alone.
The Medical Shadow gets right to the point. She wants to sadistically torture Ned in disgusting ways, and she'll enjoy every second of it. Such is the nature of the Medical Nightmare, where Ned's organs can be stolen from him and used as trophies in a twisted game and where Ned must traverse a rotting mouth before a mad dentist can send him to the quilt. Needless to say, the fear of poor health plays a key role here, especially since death and decay are often present at hospitals.
Does anyone notice a recurring theme, something that is connected to all four Shadows discussed in this section? There is a theme, and that is that each fear either helps lead to or serves as a metaphor for death. This, of course, leads into.........the Graveyard Shadow and the Graveyard Nightmare. It is implied that the Graveyard Shadow is the leader due to his placement on the quilt, being in front of the head of the bed. There is also the straightforward nature of the Graveyard Nightmare. Like death itself, it's best to embrace it if no options to save oneself come up. Also, there are a few trick-or-treaters and other Halloween-related people and things in the graveyard, seemingly representing a need to sugarcoat death so that it isn't as scary as it seems. The cruel reality is that death comes for us all, and the denizens, no matter how ugly or adorable they may be, are subjected to it. The Graveyard Shadow reflects this by setting his own creations up to be tortured and killed, like the aforementioned girl or the little boy that was eaten by the demon. However, although the Shadow and his nightmare are primal in nature, Ned has his own personal demons to put down. Thus, the Graveyard Shadow and the Graveyard Nightmare get as personal as possible, sending Ned to fight his zombie parents and toying with the fear and sorrow of losing loved ones. Taking all of this into account, the Graveyard Nightmare is the most evil place in Ned's nightmare world, and the Graveyard Shadow is a complete monster, hurting all who can be hurt while remaining a deeply personal antagonist to Ned at the same time.
Overall, the Shadows represent the darkest fears of those they haunt, the person getting haunted being Ned Needlemeyer. They love using a wide range of methods to torture Ned with, and they are most certainly not afraid to get personal. Led by the Graveyard Shadow, they are a force to be reckoned with. Well, so long as you're asleep, of course.