from cinema to joystick, video games in Kurosawa mode

Leonard Menchiari, under the auspices of the American publisher Devolver Digital, has teamed up with the Polish studio Flying Wild Hog to make a chiaroscuro tribute to samurai films.

In the movie The game of death (released in 1978), Bruce Lee climbs the floors of a pagoda to fight a series of increasingly difficult battles against chief. Among the virtuoso filmmakers in Hong Kong, jumps and double jumps follow each other over the clash of blades, similar to the spinning acrobatics of platform games. If martial arts movies for us today seem so close to video games, it’s because the latter from his earliest years drew some of his most enduring renunciations from these Asian cinematographs – such as. Karateka who in 1984, using rotoscopy, invented a video game similar to the technical apotheosis of kung fu film. The influence has become mutual, as the latest Sifua ruthless fight that pays homage to the famous “corridor dolly” from the Korean thriller old boy (2003), even perceived as horizontal scrolling of a video game.

A pioneer in rotoscopic animation,

A genre other than martial arts cinema, the chabara (or Japanese sword movie) is also an important reference in action video games where samurai, rhinos and other ninjas are recurring characters. katana duels Samurai Shodown (1993) to the sharp gloom of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019), are the titles – mostly Japanese – that benefit from the archipelago’s chivalrous folklore legion. But if most are based on heroic, delirious and grotesque gestures (like the series Onimusha), few have dared to be as literal with the samurai movie as Karateka had never been in the kung fu movie. Recently, however, several titles have claimed this famous but hard to honor legacy.

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Back to the classics

Among them, Trek to Yomi, which will be released on Thursday, May 5 (on PlayStation, Xbox and PC consoles), stands out with a grainy black-and-white image and an elegant sense of framing. Presented as a love letter to the films about Akira Kurosawa, this short title benefits from an aesthetic in paintings in which enemies emerge as so many surprises from the boundaries of the plane. Its director, Leonard Menchiari, once again evokes the spirit in them “cinematic” action-adventure games from the 1980s and 1990s, Kareteka and other Another world rotoscoped: he had already paid tribute to the latter The eternal castle in 2019.

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The return to a more primitive form of the video game allows the cine file Menchiari to work on scale relationships, transitions, games with caches and silhouettes, this time in the striking imitation of patina. chabara of the 1950s-1960s. In addition, a documented re-creation of the Edo period, as well as convincing loans from other film genres such as jidai-geki (period film) or kaidan-geki (great film). This quest for authenticity, right down to the exemplary soundtrack, will seduce connoisseurs. The cinematic argument, however, fails to cheat beyond the first hour, certainly attractive, of a fighting game based on clashes with sometimes frustrating repetitions.

This is due to the use of”Kurosawaian”the model here is more a question of image texture than of playful reinterpretation, as was the case in 2020 for The ghost of Tsushimaa spectacular open-world game set in 13th-century Japanand century and based on exotic images. The blockbuster from the American studio Sucker Punch had been adorned with one “Kurosawa”mode, a filter that allows you to change the image to black and white with contrast effects that are film-worthy in TohoScope, adorn it with a rougher sound and squaller that lets go. elements as in the masterpieces of the Japanese master. But basically The ghost of Tsushima remained an ultra-classic action game, a thousand miles from the strict clipping of the director Seven samurai. essentially staged in a sequence shot in the hunt, hand-held camera, by a frolicking protagonist rather than by a wandering ronin.

Inspired by the style of Akira Kurosawa has
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Beyond the edge of the sword

Like the game næh (2017), first thought of as an adaptation of an unfinished script by Kurosawa, which in the course of its development has changed into a supernatural story that is ultimately very different, the video game would struggle to acquire the codes of the cinema with Japanese sword? Remarkable exception, the cinematic saga itself Yakuza produced two sparkling episodes (unfortunately unpublished in France) in feudal Japan that owe just as much to dramas of period of Japanese television than with the historical melodramas of Kenji Mizoguchi or that with The legend of Musashi (1954) by Hiroshi Inagaki. After all, video games way chabara often remains limited to a stylized aesthetic that hardly goes beyond pure homage.

Announced in 2004 as an adaptation of an unrealized manuscript by Akira Kurosawa,
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Remember that Akira Kurosawa not only recorded black and white films and was not limited to saber films. Its characters are individuals who dare to reject the duty conventions on which video games nevertheless like to develop their samurai characters. In Kurosawa, violence only intervenes as a last resort. By the exit of Sanjuro (1962) explains the character played by Toshiro Mifune “The best swords should remain in their sheaths”. Thus, the last duel lasts only time with a glimpse and a splash of blood. IN Trek to Yomithe mentor is also called Sanjuro, but he drags the hero to hell in a series of battles performed in the name of revenge and redemption.

From Kurosawa preserves

In addition to the humanism that Kurosawa loves, the samurai film is a cinema about the delayed attack, of ellipses, which is based on an action economy. It is this unique grammar that Sergio Leone re-acquired with the spaghetti western, an extended and piquant version of the classic western, conceived after the model from Bodyguard (1961) by Kurosawa. The video game would undoubtedly have much to gain by performing such transposition given the chabara not as a simple aesthetic filter, but as an opportunity to reinvent the rhythm and staging of the action game. From 1984, slowness and attitudes of the duel list of Karateka outlined a cinematic playability that Trek to Yomialthough it is in line with this classic, it does not quite manage to bring it up to date.

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