All Together Then: Seals of Quality
It's the loneliness that's the killer.
Seals are something of a neglected entity in our blessed hobby of "compute the games", with the mammalian misfits putting forth only sporadic appearances. Indeed, my first recall was the poor chaps in Crash Bandicoot 2's ice levels, doomed to merely walk back and forth honking until the hideous trousered marsupial erases them from existence. Clearly, then, whenever they see fit to waddle into frame and take centre-stage, it is a cause for celebration. Or should I say seal-abration? (No. - Ed)
All Together Then, and let's look at some gaming Seals of Quality that didn't necessarily come from Nintendo.
Havoc (High Seas Havoc, Sega Genesis)
The oddly-named Havoc is an even odder-looking anthropomorphic seal, star of Data East's typically bizarre High Seas Havoc, a colourful platformer released in 1993 for Sega's 16-bit. It plays well enough, reminding me a little bit of Konami's superb Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure from the same year. My issue with it, and with Havoc himself, is that I struggle to accept a seal wearing shoes. A hedgehog wearing them is fine, but not this. This is a step too far. At any rate, Havoc is not half bad, falling into the same Sonic-clone template as the likes of Socket, but certainly a step-up from that. You'll have fun with Havoc and only occasionally deign to use swear words.
Ceceelia (The Aquatic Games, Amiga 500)
Heading up the esoteric James Pond olympic spin-off The Aquatic Games, Ceceelia's job is to prevent errant beach balls from waking her fellow blubber-buddies, all sleeping soundly after a long day of clapping their stupid fins together like idiots. She does this by tearing around like a seal possessed, bouncing said balls away with her nose in the manner of a humorous Sea World circus act. Occasionally an alarm clock will manifest out of nowhere, and must be collected before it starts ringing and wakes up the entire group. The experience is an effective metaphor for adult romantic relationships, if you think about it. A bit. Maybe.
Mecha Sea Lion (Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sega Master System)
Unlike most seals, who are precocious at worst, this little sod is absolutely begging for a slap. And a slap is what he'll get, because this pinniped is pathetic as he is provocative. Regular jumping attacks prove ineffective thanks the little bastard's talent for balancing spherical objects on his little nose. Instead, Sonic must use his legendarily volatile patience and wait for his whiskered nemesis to inflate a small orange balloon-thing, whereupon he leaps upon it to destroy it and score a hit. The seal's enraged flipper-flapping raises a smile to this day and remains the breezy highlight of the otherwise horrific Aqua Lake Zone.
Clapper (Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, SNES)
There's something about Clapper that's downright unsettling. I don't know if it's his little CGI puppet face, or his ability to vomit ice water in such copious volumes that he can render a lake of lava comfortably swimmable. Yes, Clapper must be used and abused to help your mangy monkeys pass a couple of levels in Donkey Kong Country's excellent-but-bloated sequel. In one early stage he utilises his aforementioned arctic halitosis to - yes - cool off molten magma. Much later, you'll run into him again in an ice cave, freezing an underwater estuary so you can use it as a platform and slide under some big bees. I don't really care for him, though. He just stands there barking at you like a drill sergeant.