The Isle of Champions Doodle deserves a Game Award

The Isle of Champions Doodle deserves a Game Award

Tokyo forces the Olympics to get rid of the thought and the hot potato off him. They are a train of 2020, a curtain to open and close as quickly as possible. The stands are empty and the public is at home, at the beach or at the restaurant waving their Green Pass. Yet, Google has its Island of Champions ready, a video game that was used to party but which as things stand (just think of the athletes on the verge of a nervous breakdown) has the effect of the dream parade in Paprika, the Satoshi Kon's feature film that transforms Japan into a chaotic mass of psychedelic objects.

An empty Doodle, more for the occasion ruined by the contingencies due to Covid than for anything else. But had it been an Olympics like any other, it would have been just a tinsel: this is the triumph of the video game, the virtuality used as a tool to unite and sing a hymn to Japanese culture, where it is not allowed by proper social distancing. To make this operetta Studio4 ° C was called: people who have been making animations since 1995, from the time of Spriggan in the company of Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira). A production team that boasts Tekkonkinkreet and animations for Hack, Catherine and Asura's Wrath in their curriculum.

The Doodle Games of the Island of Champions take place in a very rich city in Pixel Art. We are facing an operation worthy of Devolverland Expo and why not, of some awards at the Game Awards. Remember how Devolver and the Flying Wild Hog brought players together, building an interactive showcase of their products? You know how Fortnite's black hole has glued millions of players to a screen, perhaps between meals? The scale is different, but here we are, once again. Three times over a period of about two years.

What's interesting is how these Isle of Champions Doodle Games don't surprise you at all. Japan, from the postwar period to today, is synonymous with technology, manga and animation. The entire national folklore has been scattered several times to the four winds, allowing certain suggestions to be known thanks to the most diverse interpretations of its artists. To find familiarity in certain scenographies, it is not necessary to discover that the Pokémon Ho-Oh corresponds to an almost homonymous phoenix of the Rising Sun, that the Beyblades had the names of the four protective spirits of Kyoto, that Sailor Mars and Inuyasha took elements from the traditions of Shintoism .

Google did not miss the opportunity to insert animated scenes. Such a natural (almost logical), yet global appearance of the video game, had never been seen. It is not a question of cultural colonialism, it is not that a Big Mac has been subtly imposed. It is a diffusion from ancient Greece, which although incorporated by Rome has made it possible for the rest of the world to welcome and recognize its entire mythology. Today, western comics, for example, cannot fail to confront Kentaro Miura, who had taken so much from European atmospheres with his Berserk. A Pacific Rim can only ape oriental Kaiju and Mecha. Video games can only move from the very solid game design bases built by Shigeru Miyamoto and colleagues.

Open the browser we are faced with a fluid and visually rich game, even beautiful to explore. Simple, Japanese down to the last pixel and full of secret content: gameplay that just a few years ago could not be thought of offering globally. At the most to the slice of enthusiasts. What could be limited to a few minigames (let's say a T-Rex Runner) is almost a JRPG, well designed, with side-quests, lively dialogues and backgrounds worthy of Ghibli. An inexplicable effort if Google did not imagine someone, a far from small number of players, ready to dedicate themselves to the challenge (but Google does not imagine, you know, precisely because we are talking about Google).

Tekkonkinkreet, with its Treasure City, is a great example of Studio4 ° C's animation quality. For those who do not have time, the games (if you do not delete the history), are even saved. Not that the game lasts that long, but in its small way it is interesting, slender, does not have the shadow of a bug and has a cure that if in Triple A it is often lacking for the grandeur of the works, in indies it is often lacking because not everyone boasts of the same resources and skills. There is even an online component, in collecting points to move your team forward. And there are even narrative choices, because each team excludes access to rivals' locations.

This is not a review, needless to dwell on how playable the skate section or Ping Pong is within the Island. What we want to emphasize is that even in a context like this there are familiar elements for everyone, already at the opening one gets the impression that the search for the champions to challenge is equivalent to the search for the Dragon Balls, to the search for Gym Leaders in the past. mentioned Pokémon, in search of the relics of the saint in JoJo. You don't need to have played Persona 5, Sekiro or Tenchu ​​and know Amaterasu's mythology and genealogy to find something familiar in these days' Doodle.

Each team is tied to a creature of Japanese folklore. A multiplayer component reminiscent of the challenge of the Harry Potter houses. Most read now

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And the lack of components wouldn't be a problem.

This Doodle is important because it demonstrates how pervasive a coherent and mature culture can be, which certainly has its shadows socio-economic, especially as regards work and psychological attention to individuals, but which in art has diamond points that are impossible to ignore, due to the influence and diffusion of narrative techniques.

Meanwhile, in this part of the world, the Farnesina has asked Forge Reply to play a tourist catcher game, such as ITALY: Land of Wonders. Try it, for the sake of country let's say. But as much as Reply are smart (among other things, they have a good game about Lone Wolf behind them), it demonstrates only one thing: we are not able to appropriate our own aesthetics, to embroider it around ourselves. Disney is better than us, with our stories: be it Vespas, mermaids or Pinocchio. When it's our turn, if Google will only have pizzas, mandolins and if we're lucky Dante, Calvino and Fellini, let's ask ourselves what effort we have made to spread everything else.

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