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Enslaved As It Should Have Been

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 9 Nov 2010 17:00
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The thing about Enslaved is that it sounds like a joke. It really does. The kind of joke smug British comedy writers might come up with to satirize the American movie industry. Like a spoof war movie in which Winston Churchill is recast as a vest-wearing American commando fighting for the love of Queen Elizabeth.

We have an adaptation of an epic Chinese poem about redemption and pilgrimage, but taking place in post-apocalyptic New York with Sun Wukong being played by a bloke the size of two horses taped together, fighting robots and riding a motorbike. With the peace-loving holy man Tripitaka (or Xuanzang) replaced by an unstable vengeance-seeking hot teenage girl with an exposed midriff. Incidentally, what is it with female video game characters and exposed midriffs? It's like the first thing to get rationed in times of crisis is the bottom four inches of all the world's baby doll T-shirts.

At least in the example of Too Human the adapted characters from Norse mythology were originally psychotic fucks who spent most of the time fighting and cutting off each other's tallywhackers. The characters in Encharted - sorry, Enslaved bear no resemblance to their original counterparts, nor do any of the events of the story. Believe it or not, there weren't many giant robot laser scorpions in Chinese legend.

It's not like the Monkey King in his original form wouldn't have made a good video game protagonist. He was a highly skilled warrior but also a staggeringly arrogant prick, not unlike, say, every protagonist from every video game ever, who even possessed a magic cloud that allowed him to double jump. Journey to the West spends a lot of time establishing his character, with all that business of being thrown out of Heaven for being such a douche, getting trapped under a mountain, jumping around inside the palm of Buddha, acquiring more random powers than Superman five minutes before a DC comics publishing deadline, etc. The Monkey in Enslaved doesn't seem to have much of a character at all. His backstory and motivation are absent without leave and he's pretty much just a big wooden club tied to the plot with string.

It makes me wonder why creators do this. Adapt works when they don't intend to follow the source, I mean. In that case, why not just create their own IP? Of course I already know the answer to that question: because new IP doesn't have "brand identity" and wouldn't sell as well. But honestly, how many die-hard fans of Journey to the West were waiting on tenterhooks for the videogame adaptation? Even if there were a few, I would put money on them only knowing of it through the TV show.

Cast your mind back to two paragraphs ago when I said the Monkey King would make a good video game protagonist. I stand by that sentence. And I'm also standing by this one coming up: Journey to the West would make a good videogame even if you adapted the story closely. I like to think that the videogame-buying public aren't so mentally fried that they need there to be giant robot thumping to maintain their interest.

So here's my idea for a more faithful sci-fi retelling of Journey to the West. The whole sci-fi thing is questionably necessary, Okami shows that you can adapt mythology into a game without having to set it on the Planet of the Apes, but I'm going to go along with Ninja Theory on this one for the sheer creative challenge of it. So here's a Wikipedia article that gives the synopsis of the original, feel free to compare it to the following.

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