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Berserk Miscellaneous / Re: Interpreting Berserk through games.
« on: July 09, 2016, 02:28:58 PM »
I think it's pretty evident that not all stories befit all mediums. And I'm pretty sure that most authors, including video game creators, agree with that.

This isn't Death Note, though; pivotal moments are marked moreso by characters' actions than their words in Berserk. Skelley's exposition is a nice way to occasionally convey information to Guts and the audience, for instance, but his characteristic actions are his interventions against the God Hand (and doing some guardian angel work on the side). As much as some dialogue is required to convey Berserk's themes and lore, plenty of interpersonal interaction can be sufficiently conveyed with limited dialogue. Show, don't tell, where possible.

While I agree that not absolutely everything can be adapted, adaptational naysayers have been wrong on some pretty big counts in the past. For instance, the Lord of the Rings films were excellent films overall, despite diverging a fair bit from the source material. I'm not a fan, but Game of Thrones' success has been intense. That's because they gave preference to primacy of the medium rather than primacy of the source, which I take to be the necessary approach in the majority of adaptations. Absolute faith to each literal element of a source material isn't necessary; in the long run, audiences respond to the conveyance of themes, and states of emotion and tension, above other factors. This isn't to defend pointless divergences, but to defend the necessity of clever, creative adaptation.

I feel this is important for the longevity of any great story, whatever mediums it ends up transferred to. That process does influence continuing iterations of the work in question, but we live in a time of unprecedented access to the entire story in its original form. No amount of adaptational variation can do lasting harm to the manga, so I'd rather encourage creative tellings that work with the needs of different mediums. 

The problem is about how much compromise is necessary to make it work. How would the fight against Rochine work, for example? You painfully parry her attacks twice, then press a key to let her impale your arm at the right moment, then cutscene, then you press a key to fire the arm cannon. Done. That's not a good video game fight. But if you change it completely to create something that works in a game, it's not going to be the same fight, not the same vibe, not the same story. And because you'll have to do that again and again, in the end it just won't really be Berserk anymore. It's exactly what happened with the PS2 game.

The objective would be to convey the character of Rochine above all. Her fight with Guts is more about her character than his, so the fight be be given a tragic tone through music, Rochine's dialogue, and other techniques. Guts is fighting an abused, runaway child, after all. While again not a literal depiction of that sequence  of events, it could be just as good at drawing a response out of an audience while conveying the same themes. That execution would be a particularly valuable one, as a player is made to feel complicit in Guts' actions in a way that a reader isn't.   

I personally don't think Berserk needs to gain things that are "outside the capabilities of manga" at the detriment of the things it excels at. I like it just the way it is. I'd rather have a game inspired by it but that does its own thing and takes full advantage of its medium.

I'm pretty fond of Souls games and Dragon's Dogma also.

Uhhh, I'm not sure what you're talking about. That "centreline" business doesn't make sense to me. Basically, my point is that Berserk's fights are highly choreographed. They're often sequences of specific events leading to the desired outcome as set by Miura. Some are a bit easier to adapt than others, but overall I don't think they lend themselves to it all that well.

Berserk's choreography exists to create visual tension and resolve it. It's not a perfectly executed narrative; there's often quite a lot of combat exposition, which would be unnecessary in a game with consistent mechanics. That way, the focus can be on creating the most compelling Berserk combat possible. Owing to Berserk's themes and content, that could turn Guts' risk to himself into a feature of gameplay rather than a repeated sequence of similar narrative events (e.g. Guts becomes injured for the Nth time, narrative injury should be saved for necessity). So any combat encounter has two major risks: losing the fight, or losing Guts' psychological battle to self-destructive ends.

Concerning the "centreline" thing, imagine a vertical line down the centre of an opponent in a sword duel. If each combatant cuts towards that line from their own right (or left, as long as it's the same) at the same time, then the first to occupy or deny that line to their opponent will have an advantage; preventing an opponent from even contesting it usually means you've won. Controlling the centreline is a very powerful base strategy, and Guts' favoured approach. Miura peppers combat sequences with little bits of martial logic like that, despite the fantastical and implausible elements mixed in with it. Basically, video games are good at representing spatial relationships and turning them into gameplay; Miura puts spatial nuance into the combat he depicts, too, both technical and aesthetic. I'd view Berserk's battles and the needs of gameplay to have more synergy than conflict.

Berserk Miscellaneous / Re: Interpreting Berserk through games.
« on: July 09, 2016, 10:24:25 AM »
Berserk's story is so intricately told, with every encounter being unique and dependent on the characters and circumstances involved, that I just don't think it lends itself to being adapted as a game. That's something no one who's ever made one such thread has been happy to hear, but it's quite obvious to me. The complex storytelling just doesn't allow for a proper retelling in game form. What makes Berserk great as a manga, the fact every little detail is accounted for (even during fights), makes it unfit for a medium where the player should be making most of the choices.

This is where I disagree, at least in part. While the ideal use of the medium would provide narrative choice, video games work just fine as narratively linear experiences so long as the play is interesting. As for intricacy, I agree that not every subtlety of the manga could be literally conveyed, but that's part of the appeal of this kind of discussion (as least as I see it). An adaptation has to make compromises, but clever adaptations make up for the lost information by conveying it in a way the medium prefers. For instance, a Guts-focused game that includes Lost Children (for instance) doesn't have to cut the character development of Jill if it chooses to convey that information differently. Perhaps Jill has a survival horror section through a labyrinthine wilderness, providing ample time to reflect on her character (perhaps being guided by Rosine?), which is the trail you follow as Guts.

That isn't a completely literal representation of the events of Lost Children, and some things are necessarily lost, but other benefits might also be gained -- especially those that fall outside the capabilities of manga. Given that these mediums are quite different, it does mean the execution of some story elements would be different, but that just means we choose what we judge to be the most elegant solution. It's working against limitations like those that often make adaptation interesting to me.

In terms of more material things, especially combat, I think Miura does a good job erring in favour of "realistic" logic in terms of swordplay and whatnot. Obviously the Dragonslayer's dimensions and weight are off the charts, but nonetheless, Guts is shown to have distinct tactical preferences -- basically boiling down to "occupy and/or deny the centreline", which Miura uses Griffith to contrast in their first duel. Griffith leads Guts to try and occupy the centre, but he executes a soft bind and weaves around Guts' commitment to the aforementioned centreline. As much as Miura's action sequences go off the rails, there's a kind of tactical grounding to them that games handle just fine. 

Also, cheers for the link.

Podcast / Re: SPECIAL: Berserk (2016) Anime Impressions - Episode2
« on: July 09, 2016, 02:03:28 AM »
For the most part I echo the sentiments of this analysis/discussion; the narrative elements are much stronger in this episode, but the visual presentation and sound design hold it back. I'm not so concerned about literal adherence to the manga (adaptation being what it is), but this anime isn't plugging the holes it's created so far. If they're going to do approximately 13 episodes in this season, I think they'd have been better off just doing Black Swordsman and Lost Children. Despite rumours, I do suspect it'll be about 13 episodes, given that a 24+ episode season should provide them with ample space to adapt without leaving anything major out.

Also, RIP Tonio.  :judo:

Berserk Miscellaneous / Interpreting Berserk through games.
« on: July 09, 2016, 01:09:46 AM »
Adapting good fiction is hard. Adapting Berserk, therefore, is probably very hard. For all the flaws of the feature length movies, the currently airing anime, and even the 1997 anime, each of those has at least shown their work and effort in attempting to convey Berserk's story and characters. This is why I'm not convinced by Berserk Warriors/Musou. These games are typically reskins of Dynasty Warriors with some token recognition of their source material; Hyrule Warriors, for instance, had clunky items and awful boss battles to sell its "Zeldaness". A fun diversion? Quite possibly. But not really what Berserk deserves, given the things games can accomplish. Currently, the best "Berserk" games are Dragon's Dogma and the Souls series, and not only because of the direct material references contained in those games. Dragon's Dogma and the Souls games both have thematically similar narratives when compared to Berserk, revolving around the conflict between free will and predetermination. They set us against powerful enemies that require us to use our tactical options to greatest effect, mixing strategy with the disempowerment of horror games.

All that naturally begs a question: What does a truly great, but plausible, Berserk game look and feel like? One thing I enjoy so much about this question is the lack of an absolute answer. To me, different arcs are very much asking for different game structures and different gameplay mechanics. The Golden Age arc could very much be communicated by a fairly traditional strategy game, but Black Swordsman through to the conclusion of Conviction probably want to be an action RPG. Millennium Falcon onward, with its shifting character focuses, could very well be a party-oriented RPG. None of those, of course, are absolute statements. But games want to take different forms to convey their content appropriately, just as any other medium does.

To round off this post, I'd like to talk about approaching the kinds of concepts I feel would be appropriate for representing Guts. This could be a challenge, as we can't have mook squads be too weak (as that doesn't generate tension), but Guts also has to have the capacity to ultimately fight godlike beings -- if at a cost. The best thing I can think of is to use percentage damage modifiers that stack as separate parts of damage calculation (so each modifier influences the other modifiers), rather than providing flat damage upgrades or bonuses. With the right values attached to the right triggers (especially those associated with aggressive approaches to combat), this could allow Guts' damage to scale sharply upward while pushing the player to roleplay Guts' through his combat style. A group of brigands might be no issue at base damage, but fighting Zodd to a standstill should require Guts to concentrate his strength. The resulting experience would, hopefully, feel dramatic; some damage boosting triggers might require very risky actions, ensuring that accessing Guts' maximum power puts success on a knife's edge.

And that's only discussing one potential approach to one character. I think I've made my point: Berserk is a sprawling story with fantastic characters, and each of those characters could be represented through their own themes and trials as depicted within the manga. Just as Guts doesn't need to be a generic greatsword character, Schierke doesn't need to be a generic DPS wizard, and so on. The potential of Berserk games is as broad as the story itself, so I'd love to see something more than the "best of" approach Warriors/Musou games take, especially given how far even simple character action games have come since the DC/PS2 titles.     

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