Last week in the run-up to the Oscars on the 25th I started a wish list of classic movies that are crying out begging to be gamified.
This week my focus is movies from Pacific Asia. Up front I will own that I don’t have nearly the range of knowledge to draw from. Although I’d like to think of myself as a little ahead of the curve, the fact is with the explosion of Asian cinema available here over the last twenty years there’s no way I’ve been able to keep up with it.
What I’m saying is that I’m sure most of you reading this would probably be able to come up with deeper cuts than the five I’m presenting–and that’s a testament to the richness of the cultures represented.
Arguably the movie that broke martial arts in North America, Enter the Dragon’s place in film history is of course all the more bittersweet by being Bruce Lee’s final film. And if Lee is still iconic enough to be included in the first wave of Unmatched, why not give him a game of his own? I’m imagining a solo game where the player takes the role of secret agent Lee running a gauntlet of battles while also trying to rescue his old army buddies. Maybe Manuel Correia could revive his Agent Decker system for this?
Juzo Itami’s homage to noodle soup (and the place of food in contemporary Japanese culture), Tampopo would be perfect for a worker-placement type game where players send “agents” out to “research” the perfect components for their dishes as well as spruce up their initially-drab lunch counter. At the end of every round players would then draft customers from a conveyor-belt market; each customer would have different preferences, and players would score depending on how well their soup matches those preferences.
An ealy Studio Ghibli effort, Pom Poko’s nature fable would make a perfect co-operative game with players trying to beat back urban spread à la Spirit Island but with bigger testicles (yes, I am referring to something specific in the movie).
I never saw Martin Scorcese’s remake (The Departed) of this movie starring two of Hong Kong’s biggest stars of the time, Tony Leung and Andy Lau because I never saw the need for one. In the movie, a rookie cop goes undercover to infiltrate a notorious crime gang while at the same time the gang recruits a mole in the police department. As the men work their way up their respective hierarchies they both begin to lose the thread of their original missions, despite clinging to their secret loyalties. What a perfect setup for a two-player game of bluff and double-bluff–inspired by an anecdote mentioned in the film itself: two kidney patients, each needing a transplant to survive, decide to gamble for it. Each picks a card and puts it card in the other’s pocket; whoever comes closer to guessing the card they were given wins. I see something inspired by Cold War: CIA vs KGB, but with this added twist: at the beginning of the game each player secretly chooses part of the other player’s victory condition: do they stay loyal or defect to the other side? (Fun fact: the movie actually has an alternate ending where Lau is arrested instead of going free.)
Unquestionably an over-the-top guksu Western, TGTBTW would make a perfect four-player Bang!-ish game with the three protagonists joined by the Japanese Army in their search for buried treasure. Each player would have unique abilities: Chang-Yi starts the game with the treasure map and gets plenty of redraws; Chang-Yi has an excellent rifle; Do-Wan doesn’t care about the treasure; he just wants to kill the other two and earn his bounty money; and the Japanese Army player has the biggest hand. Temporary alliances, backstabs, and sooooo much take-that.
Curious/outraged that there’s no Kurosawa film on this list? There is a decent tabletop version of The Seven Samurai available in the form of 2014’s Samurai Spirit, which despite adding a supernatural element preserves the basic outline of that classic’s plot. Plus if you count the fact that George Lucas stole the plot of Star Wars: A New Hope from The Hidden Fortress, then by induction every Star Wars game is in fact a Kurosawa cover version.
All movie posters courtesy of imdb.com.
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