Why I Believe in Hanako – Soul of the Samurai, and Why You need to Play it.
(Zoom text if needed for readability. Read Time ETA: 5-7 mins)
Once in a while a group of game developers pull themselves together and create something wonderful using little more than their laptops and ingenuity.
It is in such a case, that I introduce to you a game that is indeed worthy of your attention.
Hanako – Soul of the Samurai is a stylized samurai action game that blends surreal visuals and authentic ancient Japanese culture.
It’s not merely enough that its developers are all industry professionals, with the team’s creative lead possessing 4+ years of industry experience under his belt. Or that Hanako has repeatedly topped the charts of Indie Db & Moddb (even during its humble beginnings as a college project for its developers).
I’ve been following, and keeping an eye on, this game since the beginning. While I’ve sworn to be tight lipped about the details, what I can tell you is that gamers are in for something truly special.
The gameplay is intense, pulsated and serene. Your character glides across Japanese vistas as he/she moves. Your moments of peace are punctuated by skillful and punchy sword fights. Sounds of clanging metal and shouting samurai fill the air as leaves fall and sun rays baste your eyes in reticent color. Hanako – Soul of the Samurai has a learning curve of a few minutes, but once you take a moment to handle your sword (or bow), you’ll find it as elegant, smooth, and accentuated as the very environments in which it commences.
Artistically, I often found myself just taking a moment to enjoy the scenery equally as much as I was eager to charge headfirst into combat. It takes a moment to appreciate the true be-wonderment of the visuals presented here.
From falling Sakura Blossoms, Clanging Gongs, subtle Sunlight Shines bouncing off of hardened wooden bridges, and an orange sun baking your eyes as though it were painted…. Hanako is filled with such moments of subtle, yet beautiful, grace.
This is the gaming equivalent of a master painter placing just a few touches here or there to be appreciated by those who care to notice.
Fans of such games as Okami or Zelda will understand precisely what I mean here.
Bruce Lee (Technically Not Japanese, I know, but still a worldwide legend in Asian culture) once said “Be like water.” In this, he was remarking upon the ability of the element of water to both flow and crash.
If this were ever Hanako’s core aim, it succeeds.
Indeed, there is a rhythm of movement to combat here. You and your fellow samurai will find yourselves smoothly alternating between gliding across the battlefield and crashing with swords and arrows.
In this game, it is just as much fun to run around and take in the scenery as it is to decimate the opposing swordsmen.
It’s integrated and well-thought design & aesthetic seamlessly blends flowing-and-crashing combat with blissful visuals and elegant music, filling ones eyes and ears with Ambient-Japanese-Twinged-with-Electronic-SurrealistModernism. Quite a mouthful, and perhaps hyperbolic, yet its true.
What Hanako’s Success Could Mean For You.
On a broader economic scope, Hanako’s success would serve to only bolster (tremendously, I might add) the success of the rapidly burgeoning game development, art, and tech scene in Atlanta, GA (Eastern United States), further cementing it as a viable hub for artistic synergy.
Support this game & its team enough and you may find yourself working for (or with) them someday very soon.
After what I’ve seen here, I believe anything is possible.
The core team behind this game are aficionados. Industry Professionals. True believers. Fans of Japanese Culture & History, Martial Arts, Gaming, as well as Anime, whose depth and breadth of knowledge is matched only by the humorous (yet mature) pleasantries of their respective social grace, functioning strongly as individuals as well as a corroborative whole. Indeed, each of the developers are high-growth individuals possessing near-superhuman creativity and work ethic.
Spend a few minutes in an intimate discussion with any of these individuals and you will soon come to
understand precisely what I mean.
Matt Canei, Connor McCarthy, Ajani Thomas, and crew believe Hanako can communicate a message, doing good for many, and they truly want the world to be a better place because of it.
The Purpose, The Theme, The Underlying Message.
Stepping even further Behind the (rather enjoyable) twitch factor and beautiful visuals, Hanako: Soul of the Samurai is (quite intentionally) crafted as a tribute.
Its namesake is a Tribute to a passing mother (Hanako is the Japanese equivalent word for “Jane”, as it means “Flower Child”) of the team’s creative director, while the blossoming Sakura trees and art are bathed in symbolism. Furthermore, the game itself shows respect and honor towards its source material (that of ancient Japan).
What this game is attempting (and succeeding) at accomplishing is bathing players in a synergy of symbolic art, sullen mood, true-to-form ancient Japanese culture, and stylized combat.
Hanako – Soul of the Samurai gives gamers a much needed blend. Yes, it has twitch, yet also possesses thoughtfulness, maturity and grace. It espouses all the elegant artistry of a ballet. Yet this ballet is armed with swords, arrows, Katanas, and beautiful waterfalls.
In truth, any game that sincerely promotes meditation and visual bliss is one to be considered.
If an action game can leave you walking away with a renewed appreciation for a particular style of art and have you meditating more often, then what else is possible?
In short, I believe Hanako – Soul of the Samurai, in some subtle (and, perhaps, not subtle) ways, moves the medium of gaming a notch forward.
And I suggest – no, demand – that you play it.
Oh, and one more thing… Ninjas. 😉
So grab your sushi, sip some green tea, pop on some Japanese ambient music and slash some samurai while meditating underneath falling Sakura Blossoms, taking in the whimsical scenery.
You wont regret it.
Hanako – Soul of the Samurai is slated to be released to Steam: Greenlight on January 7th.
Go to http://www.hanakogame.com to take a closer look & interact with the developers.
-Nicketas is a Game Design instructor, Author/Writer, and Professional Mentor.
Notice: Hanako – Soul of the Samurai is a protected Intellectual Property, (C) 2007-2014, +Mpact Games LLC.
Photo Courtesy of +Mpact Games LLC, used with permission.
This article is © Copyright (2014), Nicketas & Entelechy Studios LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Article Date: 12/17/2014
Could an in-game avatar become so ubiquitous, popular, and influential that they become recognized in the real world?
Updated April 22nd, 2014, 3:11am.
From the Desk of Nicketas.
Fellow Devs, Producers, and Media People:
Could being extremely popular and well equipped inside of a game become of such stature that it translates into a real-world career resume title?
If bungie’s upcoming game “Destiny” is to be believed, this could actually become true. It could, in fact, as far as I can see, be such that your in game character becomes so influential in shaping the story that it truly does become the stuff of legend, and a hand-crafted in-game avatar could have as much fame as a real person.
Supposedly, players will not be just players at all, but influencers in an unfolding story.
Particularly considering such exploits can be (and in fact already are, in other games) combined with social media. But what I’m speaking of is more than simply fan content.
It is a player-created avatar that actually rises to the level of its own cultural icon.
Could it be true? Can it be done? Will this be what occurs in “Destiny”?
There are a couple of other reasons I ask this.
I remember a time when bragging about being “a level 70” character (or whathaveyou) was laughable to the general public outside the context of a game of any kind.
To some extent it may still be, especially if it interferes with your actual life.
And it wasn’t that long ago that playing video games was largely considered a waste of time, particularly to non-gamers. Even more so to people who never saw the point of games in the first place.
However this perception began to change when several factors game into play.
One, the money. To my mind it wasn’t untill “Angry birds” that everyone finally – finally – unanimously stopped picking on video games and realized they needed to wake up to an industry that has been growing for some time. Ironic, since we’d long had established our own cultural icons in the form of Mario, Sonic, and many, many others.
Two: Esports/serious competitive gaming. Suddenly all of that time spent playing games translated into competitions, which then drew crowds. Advertisers and sponsors,
This was still a niche and slow to rise outside of certain circles but still big in it’s own right…. and has since grew.
Suddenly what was now being worshipped was not feats of athleticism in the traditional sense, but feats of dexerity and mind. In many cases teamwork still played a role just as in any other competitive group endeavor. Certain competitive gamers are good – so unbelievably good – at the games they play…… that it’s as Mind-boggling to watch – even for the casual viewer – as it would be to view a savant chess player.
At times these players even beat out the people who created the game.
Such players are still cult, but some have over a million followers on any given social network. Others have struck business deals with hardware manufacturers, sponsoring huge events.
So while cult, could we see a time when a person’s entire resume consists only of the games they’ve played, and won? And not only this, to such a degree that they veritably become uber-famous for this?
Three: Social media paired with advertising, and user generated content.
Bringing this back to the original example: Several MMO games, and many games in general, have players developing reputations for the decisions they make, the “micro-stories” they create if you will, the crowds they draw, the events and memories they create in the game, then record, and release to the public as proof, shared enjoyment, and so on.
Such players, currently, fit the ironic mold of “famous person you’ve never heard of”.
Yet they do indeed draw a crowd. People, and advertisers still notice.
However these are not (yet) to the level that Bungie is talking with “Destiny”.
We’re still talking cult status here. And any occurences that these players create may or may not necessarily be designed into the game. They are either random and emergent, or scripted.
So it’s a bit hop-shod, for now, in terms of the kind of cohesive fame of mainstream acceptance.
To reach that, a person needs a story. And a persona to match.
If “Destiny” actually allows players to shape the world, it’s story, and “Become legend” as they say, we may indeed see a world where a player’s resume and social profiles don’t say a job title… but they say “Draden, Legend of Destiny, Conquerer of worlds, leader of a legion of 1 million players”.
And his story, along with the iconography he creates, will be remembered?
Possible? What do you think? Comment, or message me, if you choose.
As an anecdote, I personally don’t play mmo games. I will likely get my hands on destiny. Though it’s doubtful I will want (or be able) to sink a lot of time into it, I’m massively intrigued by the concept.