Monday, May 18, 2009

Video Games and Myth: Suikoden Preview

Gentle readers, it gives me great pleasure to finally present another installment of Video Games and Myth. Sadly, however, my original plan for this issue was to cover the PSP's Jeanne d'Arc - a loose interpretation of the events surrounding my favorite female historical figure. Alas, I found to my dismay that, after purchasing the game from the PlayStation Network, PS3's apparently are not fitted with emulators to run downloadable PSP titles. As I refuse to vomit up an additional $150 simply to play this one game, I have moved on to warm-up for this summer's major project for Video Games and Myth - PlayStation's fantasy-epic/RPG Suikoden.

Suikoden is loosely based on one of the Four Great Chinese Classics, this one titled Water Margin (aka Outlaws of the Marsh) supposedly by Shi Naian (or, depending on who you talk to, Lou Guanzhong). Written in the 14th Century, the great 2,141 page novel covers the fictional events where over one hundred men and women are forced by the Feudal Lords of the Song Dynasty to take to the hills - only to band together and crush every conceivable attempt by their government to oppress them. The relationship between Water Margin and Japan is interesting due to Japan's attempts to seemingly naturalize and integrate this tale as its own. By translating the game title from Japanese, Suikoden literally means "Water Margin," an obvious derivative of the Japanese translation from the 1700's. Over the years since the Japanese translation, references, re-translations, and even attempts to portray the characters from Water Margin as Japanese have popped up in festivals, tattoo art, and present day anime. It will be interesting to see whether the differences between the original tale and the game developed by Konami present further evidence of this possible trend (that and it just sounds like a very cool story).
 

I am excited to embrace the challenge Suikoden presents, primarily because I am unfamiliar with either the Water Margin novel or Suikoden the game. In fact, I am fairly foreign to most myths/legends with roots not in the Americas or Europe. Part of my motivation for creating Video Games and Myth stemmed from my desire to explore myths and legends from cultures to which I have minimal exposure. Water Margin seems like a great place to jump into some classic Chinese tales and Suikoden itself seems oddly up my alley to not have heard about it before. Either way, I am incredibly stoked to begin this journey and to see where it leads. Between reading the novel and playing the game, I hope to have it all done by mid-June. As always, feel free to comment or make requests below in the mean time.

7 comments:

David Pratt said...

I guarantee you will love not only the game but the myth it stems from.

Also, if you want any tips, feel free to ask. I've gone through Suikoden (and Suikoden II) so many times I can play them in my sleep.

Ozkirbas said...

Mucho apprecionado. I MIGHT ask you later about possible reference materials for the myth itself if the task gets too heavy and you know of any. Or, you know, I might just ask to have a meeting of the minds on the comparisons I make between the myth and the game. Is it cool if I use you as a potential reference tool?

B.Graham said...

I'm sure Steve (non gent) would lend you his game/PSP if you'd still like to play Jeanne d'Arc. He liked it a lot.

Ozkirbas said...

Oh man. Everyone's being all kinds of helpful. Next time I see the Bodman I'll talk to him about it.

Stephen said...

I'm wondering if Perfect Dark's Joanna Dark is related to Jeanne d'Arc. What a weird coincidence that those names are so close.

Ozkirbas said...

You know, I thought about that one. The character's name IS "Joanna Dark"... but, I haven't played through the game recently enough to look for any important similarities with Jeanne d'Arc's story. It DOES have a strong, female character dominating over a predominately male occupation (i.e. 007)... but, I don't remember if she's betrayed or if she had a specialized weapon/breastplate/whatever. I could argue that her headset is the voice of God. Hmmm... we'll see what's up after Suikoden is done.

Jstone said...

Suikoden also draws heavily on myths from around the world. The game that is. The Scarlet Moon Empire is a multi-national empire that is in parts 18th century France, 17th century Japan, Medieval eastern Europe, and Third Age Middle Earth. You have a helluva post to make.

ps- from the wiki "The name "Joanna Dark" was taken from the French pronunciation of Joan of Arc as "Jeanne d'Arc"."