A break from elves: a dip into ancient Japan
Sometimes I want a bit of a change from elvish, dwarvish and orcish fantasy. So, having a leaning towards indie-type games, I go and have a bit of a nose around the world of indie gaming to see what else I can find. Now I’m also a touch partial to Japanese folklore. As a result, if I find a nice indie game that includes some, then I’m a happy kitsune!
Now during my rummaging I’ve found a couple that particularly caught my fancy.
This was released in 2007. It’s short and rather strange which is just how I like my indie games. It’s a puzzle game with two adventures in separate parallel worlds. What you do in one is reflected in the other. In the top world you are a samuri from Japanese legend. In the bottom you play as the heir to a fast food empire set in the future.
The design of each world is completely different. The upper game is drawn in sepia brushwork; the text is in Japanese. The bottom world is depicted in a brash, bright cartoon style with the writing in English. However, if you solve the lower game, translations appear in the upper. In order to win and find out how the two stories are connected, you need to complete both. The easiest way is to focus first on the lower game and work the puzzles through systematically. Of course what attracted me, as well as the clever game design, was the traditional Japanese theme. Plus I have spurts of trying to learn Japanese (simultaneously as hard as you would imagine but also easier!). I hoped that the use of Japanese in the game would help with this which it didn’t.
The second is the Cosmology of Kyoto. Whereas Linus Bruckman brushed Japanese legend, this game is Japanese legend. It is set in in the 10th and 11th centuries AD in Kyoto, then known as Heiankyo.
The game was released in 1994 and the graphics are quite dated. However I felt it had a slightly eerie hand-drawn look which felt appropriate, so this did not detract. There are no puzzles as such to solve. It is more of an interactive adventure game. I spent a lot of time exploring, talking to beggars, peasants and mechants, and getting killed by dogs, palace guards,ghosts and demons. Everytime you die you enter one of several versions of hell and the afterlife and then are reborn, not necessarily as a human again, depending upon your previous conduct. Don’t expect fast paced action and combat in this game. Rather a gentle, though slightly disturbing wander, through ancient Japan.