Monday, August 8, 2011

Dueling Samurai and Neoclassical Painting

I’ve had this rip from the background of Samurai Shodown 2 sitting on my desk for a while, and I’ve hesitated to post it just because I couldn’t think of anything clever to say about it. It’s the background of the stage at Versailles, and the painting hanging on the far wall depicts the cast of the first game — with French fencer Charlotte literally getting highlighted — taking on the main villain of the second game. Then I realized I didn’t really care if I had a justification for posting this. Just the fact that it exists was enough — that someone creating art for the game thought this might be clever and then arranged the pixels in a manner that approximated this kind of painting.

An enlargeable close-up of the painting itself:

And a detail of the scary lady, Mizuki, who is notable for being one of the first female big bads ever in a fighting game:

I do wonder how this cast was selected. I mean, clearly whoever designed this bit of art put some time into making it look good. But then why chose this particular combination of characters. The red-masked guy on the far left — a fighter from “Green Hell,” which is what the game’s creators thought was a reasonably named nation to locate in South America — isn’t actually in the second game. And yet he’s standing with the cast, taking on the scary devil lady who only appears in the second game. Weird. Also, Mizuki who never actually looks this demonic in the game itself, but I guess the “painter” is taking creative license. Still it’s interesting that the painting depicts events that haven’t technically happened yet rather than commemorating, say, the end battle of the first Samurai Shodown.

Before I drop the subject, I’ll say that one other stage in the game does a commendable job of creating not only an atmosphere but in fact the atmosphere that sums up the essence of the game. It’s this Japanese stage, which belongs to one of the game’s villains and which reminds me of a spaghetti western in spite of how very Japanese it looks:

Couple it with the background music — howling winds and howling flutes and the occasional howling dog — and you have a great example for how well a video game can create a mood as well as why a video game can create a mood in a way that no other medium can.

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