The effect that Journey to the West had on video games
A monk, a pig, and a monkey walk into a bar...
It's time to start the week off right with another Kim Justice video! And this one is hopefully the first in a new series that should be coming around every so often called Virtual Adaptation -- a set of videos looking at games based on or inspired by a novel, film franchise, person, event, and so on...the first entry of this series is a classic Chinese novel: Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West, a 14th century tale about a Buddhist monk by the name of Xuanzang who goes on a journey to India in search of Buddhist texts. Along the way, he meets up with several helpers -- including, most famously of all, Sun Wukong (also known as Son Goku) the Monkey King, a riotous, strong and violent simian who's ready for action after chilling under a mountain for 500 years.
Journey to the West's episodic tale has inspired more than a few games, most of which get covered in this video -- there's Capcom's classic Arcade game SonSon, the Saiyuki World series of NES platformers by Jaleco (the second of which was localised in the West as Whomp 'Em), and an intriguing PS1 strategy RPG by Koei called SaiyukI: Journey West alongside several others. Two games certainly stand out though -- there's Super Monkey Daibouken on the Famicom, an utterly inexplicable quasi-RPG that's right up there as one of the very worst games ever made, a legendary kusoge that is, frankly, a baffling creation that you gaze upon as if it were an old wreck, wondering what on earth happened. There's also Enslaved: Odyssey of the West -- while not a retro game, it's a detailed adaptation of the story that places it in an overgrown, post-apocalyptic America. It's a little flawed in some areas, but the beautiful graphics and story have made it something of a cult title, even if it sadly didn't receive enough attention at the time to warrant a sequel being made.
Being the first episode in a series, there are perhaps still some kinks to iron out here and there -- in particular, the question of how far one should go when it comes to selecting titles. One big decision I made while writing this video which I could have perhaps approached differently was the inclusion of games based on Dragon Ball, a classic anime/manga series which is heavily inspired by Journey to the West...ultimately I chose not to include it -- Dragon Ball is a big franchise all on its own with plenty more strings to its bow than just this one novel and a whole lot of games of its own, and this video would not have really been able to do those justice...as a franchise, Dragon Ball is more than big enough to warrant a video entirely on its own, which may or may not happen in the future. Still, it could have been mentioned at least...but there we are. It's all about calibration.
In any case, hopefully there will be more videos in a simliar vein on other topics in the future -- this one was a good starting point, with a decent range of titles and just enough of them to cover most everything without having to dart back and forth between dozens of games. Also, the first entry in a new series gives me the opportunity to ask what things people might like to see covered in the future -- so if there's anything that you'd like to see here, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments. But for now, hopefully you enjoy this video!