Friday, March 13, 2009

For the gamers out there! Three vintage video games for Japanese film fans

by Chris MaGee

Okay, confession time here. I'm not a gamer. Besides the occasional game of computer solitaire when things get slow at work I've never caught the video gaming bug... Well, that's not entirely true. As a kid growing up in the 80s I was just as crazy about Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Q-Bert as the next guy and I had the dusty old Nintendo game consule in my parents basement for the longest time to prove it. Too bad I wasn't a Japanese film fan back then because had I been I would have been able to get early onset Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by playing games that were developed and endorsed by some pretty big names.

First off there was the 1989 Sega Genesis game "The Revenge of Shinobi", which was actually a sequel to the 1987 game "Shinobi", but this one was a thousand times better if only for the reason that the opening screen featured none other than "The Streetfighter" himself, Sonny Chiba, all duded up in his Hattori Hanzo outfit from the 1980 Fuji TV action series "Kage no Gundan (Shadow Warriors)". Check out the opening and the first level of the game below.

I know that Howard Stern claimed to be the "King of All Media" for the longest time, but I seriously doubt that he can hold a candle to Takeshi "Beat" Kitano. Over a dozen TV shows in the past 20 years, 14 feature films, umpteenth books and newspaper columns, plus he's a poet, painter and owner of his own production company, Office Kitano. If that wasn't enough he even helped design and endorse four video games for Nintendo's Famicom during the 80's. You can check out the commercial for one of them, "Takeshi No Sengoku Fuunji (Takeshi's Civil War Country Lucky Traveller)" below. What the hell's going on in this???

Here's one that not only was the product of some heavy-duty cross marketing, but it's cinematic pedigree is surprising. The Ninetendo Famicom game "Sweet Home" in which players had to navigate a haunted house, was based on a 1989 horror film of the same name produced by Juzo Itami and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. What's really surprising about this one is that the "Tokyo Sonata" director is credited as the game's creative supervisor. I can hear you rushing to check out those eBay auctions now.

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