Tag Archives: Shogun

Shadows are Us

It is almost 20 years ago that me, myself, I, my playstation and controller took a gander into the world of Tenchu. Even as I now shiver on the graphics that were then amazing, the gameplay is something I missed. This came to light when I got a dose of Aragami 2 on YouTube. Proper sneak games are a rare commodity, and as we look for the next sneaker (Splinter cell, Metal gear solid, etc.) those who love stealth games, we all have a fondness for Tenchu, 

I personally do not think that there is an exception to that rule. And for some reason, even as we all love Thief and its versions, it feels a little more amazing in Japan around the 1600’s. Japan in that era was a fun place (a little superstitious), but fun none the less. So Tenchu was a lovely step into the past. 10 years after that, when Microsoft still knew what it was doing, Tenchu Z was launched and the thump in my heart was as happy as it could be. 

Even as we saw some repetition in the levels, the levels themselves were amazing. And there was the second setting where you wanted to live in the levels you were mastering, the house, the inn, they were all amazing. There were off course issues, there always are for those who do some of the levels again and again, some of the parts that Tenchu 1 offered did not happen in Tenchu Z, yet I was not upset, after 10 years I got to tenchu again. 

So what happened? Why did the PS4 not have its own Tenchu, or whatever it would be called. A Japanese set stealth game, I know there is a sizeable population that wants one. Even if we see an upgraded remastered Tenchu Z, it is a stage that could propel the cloud consoles (Google Stadia, Amazon Luna and whatever Microsoft has) forward and yes, Microsoft does have the advantage, but only if they act, if not it is up for grabs. Microsoft does not have IP on Japan or stealth gaming. I wonder why I had not missed it sooner. Perhaps I had hoped that Ubisoft got its act together. Perhaps I hoped that some would remember the great games. 

Yet if Aragami 2 (due out in September 2021) delivers, we will feel happy and after such a long silence it should optionally receive a large following. Yes, the first Aragami had flaws (a few) but it felt much closer to the original Tenchu than many other stealth games. Styx and Thief are good games, they have their own niche and they are quite good, yet it is not sneaking in 1600 Japan. The era speaks to our imagination, it has pretty much since a man named James Clavell wrote Shogun in 1975. The age of Blackthorn and Toranaga. It spoke to most people and the image continued in gaming. So now, when we see the Sony PS5 and Microsoft alternative, we see a system that can render an entire village, one would hope that Tenchu gets a new lease on life in gaming, optionally in a much larger setting. We learned so much over 20 years that this is all possible and cloud gaming might actually end up with a larger advantage.

Options
Cloud gaming has its own stage and its stage is a lot larger than any game. I staged that play in a previous blog when I coined the return of Murder on the Zinderneuf. The cloud consoles will have an option what I call ‘cross gaming tokens’ Something found in one game can be used in another game, or better stated becomes an unlocked item in another game. Consider that you find a house ceramic in Murder on the Zinderneuf, that could unlock the steampunk version of Monopoly, When you play Tenchu, you can unlock a weapon that is an additional weapon in Clue, and so on. It is a stage never contemplated before , or never acted on, but in cloud gaming it becomes real, as we embrace subscriptions and therefor we need long term gaming. As such long term gaming is found in adding to games, but what makes the addition? By adding games, other games will optionally be enhanced, or even added to, all because you played Murder on the Zinderneuf and you examined the chess set in a room, a new chess set is added to chess. And there is no end to the options you can unlock making a long term connection. Now consider that setting in a game like Tenchu. As the enemy is there, it is also possible that a game like Anno 1600 will unlock more powerful enemies in Tenchu. 

Remember that evil Dutch Merchant? Well, if you played Anno 1600, he will become a VOC representative, complete with two bodyguards yielding a ‘Donderbus’ (the Dutch invention that would later become the shotgun). When the stage is adjusted the game becomes again enticing and rewarding. A simple stage of adjusting, and players like Ubisoft never went there, why is that (equally other players did not go there either). 

So whilst we can argue that we must move forward, we have a ton of options that have not been acted on, as such there are years of exploration in sight and there Cloud gaming has the option to offer more, not merely another version of a game, but a much larger game, if only the developers had that in sight when they thought that one platform is merely a port of another platform. 

In all this we can lie in the shadows awaiting what comes next, or we can adjust the lights and create alternative paths. So whilst we all await a new game, what is wrong with replaying a game we forgot about, only to see that it has been enhanced by other games we have played in the meantime. I believe that there are a lot of developers and they do not realise the impact of long term gaming yet, they seemingly forget that soon we get to a point (in 6 months) when some people will have played the same game for 10 years. There are not many games that are worthy of that but Skyrim pulled it off, so what happens when on 11.11.21 the game offers the players something new in the same game they played? In opposition, what happens when the ‘patch’ will unlock a whalebone dagger in Dishonored 2? These are options that cloud gaming can offer, or perhaps a Skyrim board in Monopoly, an Axe in Clue or a Skyrim style chess set? It is not merely cosmetic, consider that over time you get additional rooms, people and items in Clue. The standard formula you had in your mind will no longer work, it needs adjusting for the different items optionally altered items. The game suddenly becomes more fun to play again. A stage many forgot about but Cloud gaming enables it and suddenly the stealth games all get an upgrade and that is what we like a challenging game that offers more over time. So whilst we see Aragami 2 coming in September, what happens when some of the guards have crossbows? Do not laugh, the Japanese had crossbows as early as 230 AD, they called them Shudo, they also had something not unlike a ballista, but that came 400 years later, still ahead of Europe though. History provides a whole range of options and opportunities. And the coming of Argami 2 made me consider that. I wonder what Google and Amazon are doing. Most likely relying on a deal with Ubisoft, I wonder how that goes over time. 

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A streaming war

Yup, this is about to come to larger blows, you see, there is Netflix (of course), Apple, Amazon Prime, Canal Plus/Foxtel and Disney Plus. There are a few more, but in many cases HBO is added to the film channels of Foxtel, and so on. Yet these players never took a serious look at the treasure of the east, Japan particularly. Yes they all look at the manga, yet there is a lot more. The Zatoichi series, which was followed by an amazing movie with Takeshi Kitano. There are a lot more, and even as there are some really good movies around that are done in
Japan (Earthquake bird with Alicia Vikander), Japan has a lot of original non manga material to offer. In the horror section there is the Audition and Oldboy, the second one is also seen as a remade English version, but it is nowhere near as good as the original, perhaps it was the atmosphere. There is of course the setting of Ju-On and that video that kills within 7 days, but those are the visible ones that made the press. A lot of people got interested in Japan as a provider of entertainment after Kill Bill part 1, that is fair enough, we all have our moments. For me it was the 1980 TV-series Shōgun with Richard Chamberlain, based on the novel by James Clavell with the same name. A series where we see giants like Toshiro Mifune, Yoko Shimada, Frankie Sakai, and Hideo Takamatsu (and many more). Not just that, even the Middle-Earth trusted Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) was already amazing 40 years ago. I reckon it might be time for a remake, if only the 1980 version was not so darn perfect. Yet there is more in Japan than just remakes. To see that we merely have to look at the Playstation 4 and the almost perfect Ghost of Tsushima. Until the game was there, I know nothing of this place and the setting it had. And I know I am not alone. We might want to travel back to 2006 when Clint Eastwood release the second part, Letters from Iwo Jima. As Flags of our fathers showed us the American side, Clint took a gander and showed us the other side as well. What we ended up with is a near complete view of a war no-one really wanted, but we were all forced to fight it, because there was no other way. 

Yet as we see the roll call of movies in Japan, we see the western view of it and some of it is really good, there is the Forest with Natalie Dorner who is pretty amazing (for those who merely know here from her ways to excite Henry VIII, or be the sweet dear in GoT), this is the movie to watch her in). We need to acknowledge that a movie about Japanese in Japan can only be made by the Japanese. We do not deny that Lost in Translation is a gem, yet who knows of 100 Yen Love, and before you think that this is mere love movie, think again, in this particular case it is Billion dollar baby on steroids. A slob turning her life around and it is that underdog fight that for some reason is a lot better when it is done in Japan. There is another example, The Ramen Girl, underestimated and a little shallow, but it shows us a side of Japan we rarely see, their strife for excellence, a spiritual side perhaps, perhaps not. But there is a multitude of sides to Japan we always seem to ignore. The technologists look at Japan, because what we see there now will hit our borders in about 5 years. Yet in all that, we seem to forget that Japan has a soul and even if we do not understand it, some wall parts are shown in their movies and TV-series. With the world wanting more and wanting something different, there is every chance that Japanese entertainment goods will b e fought over by the streaming giants. And if these parts do not convince you, take a look at Gokusen (2002) and I can tell you right now, the plot twist that hits you at the end of season one, is one you we’re never ready for. 

You could say: Only in Japan!

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