Awaiting the Miike Treatment – Weekly Recommendations 30/05 – 05/06

Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.

Japanese director Takashi Miike is currently working on a screen adaption of popular DS courtroom series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Miike recently hinted at his on-going project, describing it as “a very light comedy … a court drama, based on a video game, the Nintendo game DS” but stopped short of naming the game. Capcom later confirmed that the source material is in fact Ace Attorney.

Takashi Miike is best known in the West for his controversial and violent work, most notably Audition and Ichi The Killer, so his being named as director for Ace Attorney surprised many. However, he is an extremely versatile and prolific film-maker - accomplished in a number of different genres including musicals, family drama and anime. He is also no stranger to video game movies, having directed Like a Dragon, which is based on the first Yakuza.

Whatever the final outcome, you can be sure that Ace Attorney will be unique and more memorable than the average game to movie adaptation. Once he has finished with Ace Attorney, he would do well to consider bringing one of these three to the silver screen, all of which would lend them to his distinctive style.

1. Fear Effect – PS (2000)

A twisted adventure set in a futuristic Hong Kong, Fear Effect follows three mercenaries as they embark upon a disastrous manhunt which leads them into the depths hell. On the way we are treated to amputations, legions of Triads and a trip to a demonic brothel, all of which make Fear Effect a Takashi Miike film waiting to happen.

A survival horror, Fear Effect is perhaps best known for its striking visuals. Hana, Deke and Glas – our three protagonists - are animated in a way that makes them appear cel-shaded, contrasted against detailed full-motion video backgrounds. The controls will be familiar to any survival horror fan, though the action is a little more stylised than its contemporaries as characters can roll, run and gun and dual-wield weapons. Bosses are memorable and challenging, and the combat is mixed up with some fiendish puzzles.

Visuals aside, it is the mature storyline which helped it stand out from the crowd of survival horrors released at the time. Incorporating elements of Chinese mythology, this tale of violent and immoral mercs on a manhunt gone wrong is cinematic in its presentation and unyielding in its violence and action. Character development is spot on, and although it is comically short for a four disc game, it’s not lacking in thrills.

Despite borrowing from numerous sources, Fear Effect is one of the most unique action games on the PSX. A sequel would follow a year later, which leaned a little too heavily on Hana’s sexuality, but I would advise playing the original if you want to get a true feel for this oft forgotten series.

2. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – DS (2009)

A gentleman never leaves a puzzle unsolved, and there are plenty here to keep even the most inquisitive of fellow content for hours on end. They range from the ingenious to the mundane, but they flow effortlessly from one to the next. Any developer could throw a bunch of puzzles together and call it a game, but the Layton series goes above and beyond thanks to Level-5’s unique and charming design and the curious narratives and strange characters that bring them all together. This is why I believe Layton would be an ideal candidate for a Miike adaptation, as he could bring out the dark undertones and weird and wonderful characters which populate Layton’s world.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box sees our inquisitive Brit and his companion, Luke, embark upon a journey to uncover the mysteries of the titular box; a strange device which is said to claim the life of any who dare open it. The Professor is drawn into the intrigue when his mentor, Dr Schrader, dies after a run-in with the legendary box.

The music, voice acting and visuals are of an unusually high standard for a DS game. The antiquated, European-flavoured setting and characters give it its distinctive charm, and offer ample reason to persevere when the random puzzles start to wear thin. By and large, the puzzles are well presented and varied, and the trickier ones never feel cheap. Conundrums aside, there are a collection of mini-games to keep you busy, including the most commendable of pursuits; tea making.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is full of intrigue and puzzles of all varieties, but there is no mystery to its global appeal. The only question left unanswered is why the good Professor insists on hanging-out with a ten year old boy, but then some mysteries are better left unsolved.

3. Dead Rising 2 – PS3, Xbox 360, Windows (2010)

2010 was the year of the video game zombie, as they popped up everywhere from Nazi Germany to the Wild West. Dead Rising 2 did the most with its rotting corpses, building a deep game around the simple premise of butchering them in increasingly inventive ways. Miike is no stranger to zombie infestations, and I’m sure he would work wonders with DR2’s tongue-in-cheek take on the undead.

Improving upon the excellent but flawed original in virtually every way, we step into the shoes of motocross champion and game show contestant, Chuck Greene. Stranded in a complex of malls and casinos, Chuck must procure medicine for his sick daughter whilst collecting survivors and trying to secure an exit strategy. There is a suitably silly story to follow, but with the exception of having to find medicine for your sick daughter – a time sensitive and consistent mission – you are free to do as you please. You may spend your time trying to hunt down as many survivors as possible, who only appear at certain junctures of the game and will perish if you don’t reach them in the allotted time, fighting the human psychopath bosses or simply orchestrating your very own zombie genocide.

It can be tempting to abandon the narrative entirely, so appealing is the prospect of massacring zombies with the exhaustive methods on offer. You can mow them down with a motorbike or have at them with a trusty baseball bat, but it is the imaginative array of customizable weapons which steal the day. These tools of the trade range from more plausible items like a spiked baseball bat or bladed gloves, to the more absurd like the Dynameat (dynamite on a piece of meat) and everyone’s favourite – the assault rifle electric wheelchair. It’s amazing what you can do with some duct tape.

Competitive and co-op multiplayer add to the overall package, and thanks to branching storylines there are plenty of reasons to return for multiple playthroughs. With up to 7,000 zombies on-screen at one time, you will want to savour every blood-splattered moment in Fortune City.


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