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Analysis of Kengo: Legend of the 9


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This is a powerpoint discussing the accuracy and authenticity of the XBOX360 video game, Kengo: Legend of the 9, as compared to actual Japanese and samurai history.

Revised December 3, 2009.

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Analysis of Kengo: Legend of the 9

  1. 1. ANALYSIS OF KENGO: LEGEND OF THE 9 AS COMPARED TO AUTHENTIC SAMURAI HISTORY XBOX360 (2007) Rated M (Blood/Violence) Ann-Marie Przyslupski JAPAN 242
  2. 2. OVERVIEW AND PURPOSE <ul><li>Kengo: Legend of the 9 (LO9) is a samurai battle videogame with the premise that one can play as and against 9 real Japanese samurai from Feudal Japan (12 th –19 th century). </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss accuracy of the game, how images and information portrayed, and the notions of samurai as observed and believed outside of Japan in advertising and media. </li></ul><ul><li>Examine and analyze correlations and discrepancies between the game and historical reality to obtain greater insight into authentic Japanese history. </li></ul>
  3. 3. PRODUCT ADVERTISING <ul><li>Kengo: LO9 is packaged and advertised as though one would assume that they would be playing through storylines that are relatively true to life for each samurai character. This is emphasized with the name of the game, Legend of the 9, where it would be assumed that the game would contain separate, distinct, and accurate storylines, game-play, and background information regarding the samurai featured in the game, as well as the aspects that made them legendary. </li></ul><ul><li>However Kengo: LO9 is rather a player-versus-computer focused battle of the different samurai with no regards to the specific time periods in which each samurai existed. </li></ul><ul><li>Samurai images and fight sequences are depicted as very heroic and over-the-top, as such is what the media has taught consumers to believe was the reality. </li></ul>
  4. 4. AUTHENTICITY <ul><li>Contrary to Legend of the 9’s packaging and plot summarization, the game play does not follow the actual lives of the samurai. However, the samurai characters, from different time periods, are made to fight one another in simulated combat and separate, yet nearly identical storylines. </li></ul><ul><li>Although vaguely accurate aspects of the samurai’s lives are kept intact, most of the storyline is fabricated in order to align with, and incorporate, the other samurai in the game and create less work for the developers. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This game is ironic in that it has famous samurai, some who have been claimed never to have lost a fight, battling and killing each other. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kengo: LO9 is structured so that all playable characters interact and engage in fights to the death with one another. Therefore, in each character situation, the active samurai’s goal is to kill all the other famous samurai he/she faces. Although this may provide amusement and the satisfaction of a favourite character defeating someone not as likable, it is highly inaccurate as in reality, not all of these samurai may have personally met one another, let alone killed the other in combat. They may not have even visited the places as observed in the game, as well. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For example, it is likely that Sakamoto Ryouma and Okita Souji had met, as both were Anti-Shogunate ronin and are usually mentioned in texts together, somewhat due to the conspiracy that the Shinsengumi murdered Sakamoto in1867 at Oumi-ya. [Hane, M. (2001)] [Unknown author. (2004)] </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Also, the style of game-play and storylines for each samurai are almost identical. We know this to be false, as each samurai lived their own separate life. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Because of this, the plot text after each mission can be rendered useless in determining the actual lives and travels of the samurai. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Years and methods of death: </li></ul><ul><li>1612 – Sasaki Koijiro (killed by Miyamoto Musashi) </li></ul><ul><li>1645 – Miyamoto Musashi (natural causes) </li></ul><ul><li>1650 – Yagyu Jubei </li></ul><ul><li>1652 – Ito Ittosai </li></ul><ul><li>1703 – Horibe Yasubei (seppuku) </li></ul><ul><li>1865 – Okada Izo </li></ul><ul><li>1867 – Sakamoto Ryouma (murdered by Mimawarigumi) </li></ul><ul><li>1868 – Okita Souji (tuberculosis) </li></ul>
  5. 5. SAMURAI CHARACTERS <ul><li>Miyamoto Musashi </li></ul><ul><li>Okita Souji </li></ul><ul><li>Horibe Yasubei </li></ul><ul><li>Sakamoto Ryouma </li></ul><ul><li>Sasaki Kojiro </li></ul><ul><li>Sanako Chiba </li></ul><ul><li>Okada Izo </li></ul><ul><li>Yagyu Jubei </li></ul><ul><li>Ito Ittosai </li></ul><ul><li>Jion (amalgamated, entirely fictional) </li></ul><ul><li>Due to the repetitive nature of the game, the lives of </li></ul><ul><li>Miyamoto Musashi and Okita Soji will be compared to the </li></ul><ul><li>game’s storyline. </li></ul>
  6. 6. CHARACTERS – MIYAMOTO MUSASHI <ul><li>One of the most legendary samurai. [ Tokitsu, K. (2004)] </li></ul><ul><li>His manner of dress and aesthetic appearance in Kengo: LO9 is kept accurate and relevant to how he is normally portrayed in media. </li></ul><ul><li>Musashi was born into a family of Samurai and consequently took up the sword at a young age. He fought his first battle when 13 and began traveling across Japan at the age of 15. He fought many duels and wars, such as Sekigahara (1600) and the Osaka battles of 1614 and 1615, and is rumoured to have never lost. His most famous battle is with Sasaki Kojiro in 1612 on Funajima Island, where Musashi killed Kojiro. He died of natural causes in 1645. [ Tokitsu, K. (2004)] </li></ul><ul><li>Game Story/Timeline of Fights: Ito Ittosai, Yagyu Jubei at Yagyu fortress in Owari, Horibe Yasubei in Edo, Chiba Sanako and Sakamoto Ryouma in Edo, Okita Souji in Kyoto, Okada Izo, Sakashi Kojiro at Kokura in Buzen, Nen-ani-Jion. [Majesco Entertainment. (2007)] </li></ul>
  7. 7. CHARACTERS – OKITA SOUJI <ul><li>In his life Okita Souji fought in many battles, such as Ikedaya, and moved from Edo to Kyoto (1863) to join the Shinsengumi. He became Captain of the First Unit of the Shinsengumi in Kyoto in 1865 and died three years later due to tuberculosis. He is normally portrayed as wearing the traditional blue and white Shinsengumi outfit. </li></ul><ul><li>Okita suffered from tuberculosis, which is also mentioned in Kenho: LO9’s character preface. However, the game has Okita traveling across Eastern and Western Japan and partaking in many excruciating battles and strenuous activity, which is something that would not be physically possible or recommended for an individual with tuberculosis, or any serious disease. </li></ul><ul><li>Game Story/Timeline of Fights: Horibe Yaubei in Edo, Sasaki Kojiro, Ito Ittosai, Yagyu Jubei at Yagyu Fortress in Owari, Okada Izo and Chiba Sanako in Kyoto, Nen-ani-Jion. [Majesco Entertainment. (2007)] </li></ul>
  8. 8. CHARACTERS – NEN-ANI-JION <ul><li>As opposed to all the other playable characters in Kengo: LO9, Nen-Ani-Jion is completely fabricated, perhaps for the sake of more interesting and challenging game-play. He may also have been created specifically with North American audiences in mind, as the average individual is of the mindset and stereotype that Japan and Japanese history contained monsters and magical, mythical beings. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Such is how Japan is portrayed in entertainment media, and is enforced through Jion, as his appearance is monstrous and alien looking, and the environment in which the player battles him is very dark, wooden, and contains multitudes of angry, golden Buddhas . </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. CHARACTERS – NEN-ANI-JION <ul><li>Jion is the final opponent for every samurai character, no matter the storyline, with the identical premise that he is “an unknown presence” and “...the one who brought [them] on the path of the sword,” even though this is not the case for any of the samurai. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This failure of deviation results in frustrating and boring game-play. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It may also lead to lessened views of the samurais’ lives in those who play the game, as well as misconceptions and a flawed historical notion about why and how samurai initially became warriors. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. AUTHENTIC SAMURAI SWORDPLAY <ul><li>Kengo: LO9 is advertised as offering prime samurai swordsplay simulation. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Such is accentuated with the game’s highly detailed and location-specific graphics, which illustrate authentic feudal Japanese environments and provide cultural integrity to the game. The playable samurai also contribute to the authenticity of their real-life character, and the portrayed feudal era, through their outfits and mannerisms. However, the clothing worn by these main samurai characters is sometimes detailed and flashy, which would not have been ideal in combat. Due to their aesthetic appeal, the graphics also provide for interesting visual relief, as well as motivation to continue playing the game and fight in new locations, even though the game’s formula is highly repetitive. Because of this, they contribute to the likeness of samurai battles in the past. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. SWORDPLAY <ul><li>To account for different players’ level of video-gaming skill and experience, Kengo: LO9 offers three skill subsets of playing the game: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy, Medium, Hard </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In the game, the easiest way to make a kill is to force the opponent into a “sword clinch” (Kumitachi), where both characters are locked together at the sword in an attempt to overpower the other. [Majesco Entertainment. (2007)] Due to differences in thinking and physical attributes, this is not necessarily the way kills occurred in battle, although the method and premise of such attacks is to throw the opponent into a completely vulnerable state and kill him in one strike. This method of attacking reinforces the notion of the “Heroic” and “Invincible” samurai in that the average individual normally holds the notion that samurai could defeat any opponent as quickly and decidedly as possible, and image which has been reinforced through media and general stereotypes. </li></ul>
  16. 16. SWORDPLAY <ul><li>Actual Japanese samurai prior to, and during, the Feudal Ages, engaged in a “no holds barred” style of combat, where the individual would use cunning skill and perform any action in order to win the battle or fighting engagement. [Friday, K. (2009)] Such actions and quick thinking are observed in the story “Yorozu: I Wanted to Show My Bravery!” in the anthology, Legends of the Samurai [Sato, H. ed. (2004)], first published in the Nihon Shoki, where Yorozu defeats the attackers with his bow and arrow by hiding in the bamboo and gaining an advantage by shaking it to give a false impression of his location to any enemies and remain safe and concealed. Such battle tactics are not possible in the video game, as motion and character sensing are programmed into the game and its computer AI characters. Thus, one is not able to run and hide without the opponent not knowing their location. </li></ul><ul><li>During battle in the game, the camera does not automatically adjust itself to give a prime outlook of the fight. Although this can make for frustrating game-play, it is resonant of an accurate perspective of the samurai being played while in battle, which adds to the legitimacy of the game regarding offering a prime samurai experience. </li></ul><ul><li>There is also an option in which the blood from attacking can be turned on and off. Though an amiable option for squeamish players, such is almost an insult to the art of battle, as blood is inevitable during stand-offs and may even be considered a badge of credibility or honour for the samurai in that they were of equal match to a formidable opponent, or that they were able to complete their missions successfully. </li></ul>
  17. 17. SWORDPLAY <ul><li>In contrast to this, Kengo: LO9 offers rather a fighting interface where the player is required to mash buttons in order to attack and defeat their opponent. Because of this, the game resembles a likeness to, and could be considered, a “button-masher” like Street Fighter, in that no strategy or skill input from the player is required to successfully win battles and “make oneself a samurai.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>However, the difficulty of game-play changes when the difficulty is raised to a more challenging state, such as Medium or Hard, as the computer AIs become more active and “skilled” at swordsmanship. The increasing of game difficulty could be correlated to the gaining of combat experience and sharpening of skills, as the AIs produce swifter attacks and are more successful at blocking player assaults, which leads to the perception that the AIs have a mind of their own and thus think and act like real samurai. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Also, Combat Mode is a featured option of fighting which pits two samurai to the death. Such is a very realistic method of fighting, as this was the situation in which most battles were fought. This experience can be made even more authentic when playing against another human, as the battle outcome becomes unpredictable, thus simulating the samurai’s own free will, spontaneous thought, and attack style. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>From this, it can be argued that the most realistic and authentic way to play the game is when set to Hard mode or Combat mode as human strategy and quick thinking are required to outsmart the opponents and succeed in combat. </li></ul>
  18. 18. IMPLIED HISTORY AND CONSUMER SOCIETY <ul><li>Just the premise of releasing a Japanese sword fighting game with actual historical figures in North America is notable, as it is a video game, which can be easily accessed and played. It also further assists in increasing awareness about Japan, and historical association with samurai. </li></ul><ul><li>However, due to the indistinct and not viable storylines presented, those who play this game, and are not educated in Japanese history or the history of the playable samurai, may develop false notions regarding the lives and actions of said samurai. </li></ul><ul><li>Although it is easier and less of a hassle for game developers to recycle previous storylines and create an amalgamation of “historical” iterations, pertaining to the game setup and walkthrough, if individuals in foreign countries develop false notions regarding Japanese history, then the consumers may also develop an inaccurate knowledge of samurai history. Consumers tend to assume that what is being fed to them is true, which is risky regarding the informational nature of Kengo: LO9. </li></ul><ul><li>While the play can be enjoyable, the discrepancies between truth and blatant fiction take away from the historical accuracy of the game, and such attitudes could lead to individuals who play Kengo: LO9 to dismiss information concerning Japan and/or samurai due to the somewhat irritating and partially blasé gameplay. </li></ul>
  19. 19. CONCLUSION <ul><li>Although Kengo: Legend of the 9 (XBOX360) offers interesting and rather accurate graphical game-play, and real samurai characters, the lack of historical accuracy and storyline deviation leave something to be desired. </li></ul><ul><li>Had Majesco Entertainment created the game so that the playable samurai had believable and historically accurate storylines, then perhaps the game would have more credibility and be regarded as a key product in the education of Japan’s most renowned samurai. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, one should realize and be aware of the notion that the information provided in this game is not 100% accurate and by no means should be considered an accurate timeline or biography of the playable samurai. </li></ul>
  20. 20. WORKS CITED <ul><li>1up. Kengo: Legend of 9 Screens. . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Arena 51. Screenshots: Kengo: The Legend of the 9. . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Badass of the Week. Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Crunchyroll. . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Friday, Karl. Honor Bounds: Loyalty, Reputation & Probity in the Samurai Tradition. University of Alberta. Telus Center, Edmonton, AB. 30 October 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Gaoshancha. Road Trip 2008 Part 1. . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Giantbomb. . . . . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Hague, Harlan. Japan in Autumn. Retrieved November 25, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Hane, Mikiso. Modern Japan: A Historical Survey. 2001. United States: Westview Press. . Retrieved November 23, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Kengo: Legend of the 9 Screen Captures. Personal photographs by author. November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Les Principaux Officiers. . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Majesco Entertainment. . Retrieved November 23, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Photobucket. Retrieved November 25, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Sakamoto Ryouma. . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li> . Retrieved November 25, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Sato, Hiroaki, ed. Yorozu: “I Wanted to Show My Bravery!” Legends of the Samurai. Woodstock , NY: Overlook Hardcover. 1995. </li></ul><ul><li>T.A.G. Annaka Scenes. . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>The Okita-ya Affair. Retrieved November 25, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Tokitsu, Kenji. 2004. Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings. Boston, Massachusetts. Shambhala Publications, Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Unknown author. Serizawa Kamo’s Biography. . 2004. Retrieved November 23, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia. . . . . . . . Retrieved November 24, 2009. </li></ul>