Thursday, June 28, 2007

8 Bits of Brown!

This will be another one of my long posts, but it was so much fun to write that I just couldn't stop. ^__^

Little Brown Squares:
India As Represented in Early Video Game Culture
A Semi-Scholarly Paper
(No Bibliography)

By Blue

Let's start with the big one -- probably the worst thing Nintendo's done to "promote" India. To explain it requires a confession. Before I started planning my trip (nearly a year ago at this point), I didn't know much about Indian culture or history. I thought Nehru was a collar and Punjab was Daddy Warbucks' assistant. (If you want to know why so many people pronounce it "Poon-jab," blame John Huston. Or Albert Finney. Take your pick.)

But worst of all, I thought that rupees were a made-up currency used only in Hyrule.

Most video games call their money something generic, like "gold," "gil," or "GP." But the people who made The Legend of Zelda called it rupees. One has to wonder whether the good Japanese designers were aware of the existing currency, and whether it was meant as a homage... or whether they just liked the sound of the word.

The second worst thing? Turning Shiva into a hot chick with giant boobs.

See the animation here. That's one sexy, sexy avatar.

Many early video games were based upon a similar theme: one character has to go to many different lands to find XYZ (a crystal, a princess, a bunch of orbs). That was the extent of the storytelling -- beat a level, and someone would say "well, guess the thing's not here after all," and then the character would have to go somewhere else, conveniently filled with enemies which were harder to kill.

Some games, like Super Mario Brothers, just went ahead and called them Fire World and Water World and Pipe World (yes, I know, the drug imagery in that game is rampant). But several other games took the extra step and named each of the worlds after exotic, far-away locations. Ice World became Russia, Sand World became Egypt, and India? Obviously, sexy-sexy India was Fire World.

In Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon Another Story, for example, each character has to travel to a different country to look for a crystal. (They're always looking for crystals in these games.) Rei, the "hot" Sailor Scout, goes to India, where she learns the magical spell Burning Mandala. I have searched the web for a screenshot, but in vain (and yes, Shripriya, I tried Yahoo). Instead, I give you this description, from the RPG Classics Official Walkthrough:

Now at Kritayuga, Head north until you enter the building. Walk up all of the stairs and save once you see the Luna-P ball. If you are not at at least around Level 16, gain a few levels while you are in this building and then save once you are confident. To face Nergal, go up one more floor and talk to her. In an attempt to save Faregg, you will now face Nergal.
Yes, you read that correctly. Rei gets sent to Kritayuga. And Nergal, of course, is a giant snake-monster. Faregg is a generic brown-looking sprite with a turban. (Edit: Animated visuals can be found here. Brown sprite fun!)

When you go to India in video games, you always seem to fight guys in turbans. Go to 8 Eyes, play the India level (you can choose the level on the title screen), and see for yourself. The desis in 8 Eyes are wearing the classic turban-lungi combination. Oddly, when they die, they turn into very Christian-looking white crosses which float up and off of the screen. I guess all the desis in this game got converted by missionaries.

For another variation on the turban-lungi look, try Mendel's Palace.

From the other side of the pond (American game companies as opposed to Japanese) we get Disney's The Jungle Book, featuring a Mowgli who is not exactly brown but more of a sickly yellow color (wheatish moldy?).

But, perhaps to make up for it all, there's this guy. Watch the intro, and he'll appear. Brown skin, thick black hair, general Hrithik Roshan appearance... and he learns magic by jogging! (And Daniel, since his name's Jake, he's probably a Hinjew. ^__^ Everybody wins!)

The end, for now. Feel free to leave other examples in the comments!


Daniel said...

i mean, the classic example for me is dhalseem (sp?) in street fighter. he was into yoga and had long limbs and could kinda float. wtf was that?

Blue said...

Good question. I never played Street Fighter (I know, I know). I'll look into it. ^__^

ctrlalteredmind said...

lol, this post was awesome; Final Fantasy VIII and X have the Shiva character too, just couldn't play the games without the awkward thought of Shiva being a feminine character (who , nevertheless, can really kick some ass).

Blue said...

Crlalteredmind -- isn't Shiva in every FF game starting with IV? (Kind of like Cid?)

Or did they start leaving Shiva out? Are there no summons monsters in FFVI?

And... just 'cause I thought of it... wonder if there's any Shiva/Ifrit fanfic out there. Eew.

ctrlalteredmind said...

they do modify their characters a bit; I haven't experienced ('played' is a paltry word) the FFs before VIII, and the ones that followed made me feel VIII was quite in a different class. Shiva, Ifrit and Cid are in all the FFs. Summon styles have been changing. Only one character in the game can summon for example, in X. Sigh, with all this, I wish I had more time on my hands - XII is collecting dust on the shelf.

You might like this wiki if you haven't discovered it already!

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