Friday, 16 November 2012

Ooboromurakami


Though I unfortunately had to leave my many video game systems behind for now, I have watched a few playthroughs since I got here. Normally I confine myself to games I'm interested in but can't be bothered to actually play. However, for some reason I recently decided to concurrently view the Wii games Ookami and Muramasa, which is unusual since I actually intend to knock both off my list at some point in the future. On the other hand, both sets had player commentary, which I abhor in English but view as good practise in Japanese, so it will be a significantly different experience (and good kanji practise) when I get around to playing them myself.

I didn't put them together on purpose, but after I started watching I realised they actually had a couple of interesting superficial similarities. For one thing, both represent fairly experimental and extremely high-quality visual styles. More significantly, both draw their entire plots from the vast reservoir that is ancient Japanese mythology, taking unrelated elements and mashing them together to form a larger story. In fact, Muramasa takes a lot of stuff from Buddhism and Ookami is more focussed on Shinto, making them practically sister games! Muramasa is all action, taking two of the most well-known Noh plays, throwing them together, and adding demons and acrobatic swordfighting. Ookami, more interested in exploration, has you play as Goddess of the Sun and, really, the Whole Damn Universe, Amaterasu, stripped of power after an intense battle and forced to take refuge in the form of a wolf (or 狼 – 大神, get it?), armed mostly with a cosmic Ocarina calligraphy brush.

I was already familiar with a lot of this stuff in passing, but I ended up getting interested, so I read up and learned a bunch of new stuff as well. I'm not completely sure how useful this information is since in the long run I don't really care much about mythology, but in my opinion if you intend to live among the Japanese it's good to have some knowledge of such matters. For example, you should at least know who Momotarou is and what went on with him, because that's going to come up from time to time. It isn't necessary to have an encyclopaedic understanding of the Shinto pantheon, but if you want to understand the references and appear culturally up-to-speed you're gonna need to have little bits and pieces tucked away somewhere.

Anyway, my real point here is that I can totally envision Ookami and Muramasa existing within the same continuity. They both explicitly take place in Japan in the distant past, after all, and of course the storylines should be completely compatible. Just from looking at the technology depicted I would have to say that Ookami likely takes place several hundred years earlier at the very least, but there's always ways around stuff like that. Maybe in the future we'll see a Capcom-published, Vanillaware-developed interquel linking the two games together? Get to work, fanfiction authors!

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