Tag: video game adaptation


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation has covered BattleTech before, reviewing the animated series and seeing how the setting could be adapted. This time around, it’s a look at how the game’s mechanics can be adapted.

BattleTech, at its core, is a wargame featuring giant robots stomping across the battlefield. The BattleMech is the king of the battlefield, carrying a number of weapons capable of melting a light tank. The game’s draw is having these massive mecha battle each other across a map. To this end, the game comes with a number of pre-made BattleMechs, but there are rules for players to design their own.

The mechanics allow for a range of weapons, including three sizes of lasers, a particle projection cannon, two types of missiles – long and short range – which can come configured in different sizes of launchers. To deal with infantry, there is also machine guns and flamers. In the 31st century, war crimes happen. Each different weapon does a set amount of damage that whittles away the enemy ‘Mech’s armour. Once the armour is breached, the internal structure can be damaged, with components, like arm and leg actuators or weapons and ammo, can be destroyed. Destroying ammunition can potentially destroy the location it’s in. Destroy the head or centre torso of a ‘Mech and it is down for good.

Turns are broken down into phases. Whichever side wins initiative can decide who moves first. Each side then, by initiative, then moves a number of their ‘Mechs, trying to get into a good position. Once all the BattleMechs are done moving, the shooting phase starts. Shooting is considered to be simultaneous, so no ‘Mech takes the effects of weapons lost during the phase. After all the shooting has been done, if two ‘Mechs are close enough, they can try to punch or kick each other. Finally, all the effects of being hit can take effect, with piloting rolls to stay upright and heat management taken care of. If a ‘Mech runs too hot, it can shut down, and even lower amounts of heat can slow a ‘Mech down and make it harder to hit with weapons. The game continues until one side is eliminated, achieves a mission goal, or the players run out of time for the game.

There are tactics and strategies to be considered. Should a light ‘Mech be sent ahead to draw out enemy forces and risk destruction, or should the slower ‘Mechs walk up? Even choosing which BattleMechs to use can make a difference. Sure, there’s an UrbanMech variant, the SuburbanMech, that carries a PPC and is speedy for an Urbie, but it’s still slow and light compared to a Panther, which also carries a PPC but is faster.

With all the moving parts involved, automating it is a natural next step. There have been video games in the past, including the MechWarrior series, but they’ve been focused on putting the player into the cockpit of a BattleMech. Harebrained Schemes’ 2018 release, simply called BattleTech corrects that oversight. Headed up by Jordan Weisman, one of the original creators of the wargame, the video game allows a player to create a lance of ‘Mechs to then take into battle.

The video game has three different modes of game play. The first is the Campaign mode, where the player goes through a storyline involved the fall and restoration of House Amano in the Aurigan Coalition, a minor Periphery nation. The player starts with a mix of medium and light ‘Mechs and can take mercenary contracts while also doing missions for the head of House Amano to restore her rightful place. The second is Career, which is purely a mercenary campaign without the story related missions from the campiagn. The third is Skirmish, which allows a player to take on the AI or play against another player.

In all three modes, the core game play is lance versus lance BattleMech fights. Initiative is decided by Mech size and character piloting skills. In Campaign and Career modes, players can improve the piloting, gunenry, tactical, and guts skills of their unit. With Skirmish, players can choose from a roster of pilots with varying skills. Once the player’s lance has made contact with the enemy, whether AI or player, initiative determines who moves when. Faster ‘Mechs tend to move sooner than heavier, and the piloting skill can affect the score further.

Instead of separating move and shooting into separate phases, each pilot on his or her turn can move then shoot. Manoeuvring becomes key; a ‘Mech’s rear armour tends to be thinner than in front. Cover and movement help in not getting hit by enemy fire. Heat management is still important, and different types of worlds can affect how fast heat is dissipated.

The game comes with a wide range of BattleMechs with at least one variant per ‘Mech. It is also possible to modify ‘Mech, exchanging weapons to match a player’s preference. The only limit is the ‘Mech’s tonnage and, in Campaign and Career modes, available budget. A Locust with a PPC is, in theory, possible, but the trade-off may be having paper-thin armour. Not every published BattleMech is in the game. The designers started the storyline in 3025, well before the Clans invaded the Inner Sphere. ‘Mechs are being added with DLC that expands not just the choice of BattleMechs but adding to Campaign and Career modes.

The video game emulates the wargame well, even taking into account changes that the new format requires. The BattleMechs look like they do in the books and as miniatures. Urbies are appropriately slow, and assault ‘Mechs are an absolute monster to take on. The computer does the heavy lifting of tracking expendables and damage and calculating whether a shot hits. What could take a full evening to play with friends takes an hour or so. There is a challenge when playing against the AI, and there is a variety of battlefields to choose. In Campaign and Career modes, the option to change a unit’s colours appears as a desk with minis being painted.

The BattleTech video game achieves what it set out to do, emulate the tabletop wargame, taking care of all the fiddly parts while letting players enjoy stompy robot fun.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Earlier this year, Lost in Translation reviewed Cyberpunk 2077: Trauma Team, which followed a MedTech working for the emergency medical provider, Trauma Team. The comic was based on Cyberpunk 2077, the video game successor to the tabletop RPG Cyberpunk, both created by Mike Pondsmith. The games, both video and RPG, are set in a near future where corporations control the country and people are left to eke out lives either in the gilded cage of a corporate office or on the sidelines. Cyberpunk, the genre, is not a happy place to live, yet the only difference between cyberpunk and today is the lack of implanted augmentations. Maybe by 2077.

The other theme in cyberpunk and in Cyberpunk is that while it may not be possible to change the world, it is possible to change the world around you. The change doesn’t have to be for the better. In Neuromancer, Case leaves the world in a new situation, one that it has to adjust to, while his own life has changed greatly despite his efforts.

As a genre, cyberpunk began as literary but relies heavily on imagery that it was a natural to be picked up in more visual mediums. While Blade Runner didn’t start as cyberpunk, its film adaptation provided the visual esthetic that it’s part of the genre’s DNA. Moody, neon, gritty, and focused on the outsiders.

That brings us to Cyberpunk 2077: Where’s Johnny from Dark Horse Comics, written by Bartosz Sztybor, with art by Giannis Milogiannis, colours by Roman Titov, and letters by Aditya Bidikar. The plot follows Wallace, a reporter who is working to bring down the corporations, who is brought into a complex plot. The hook, a lead into who planted a nuclear bomb in Arasaka’s Night City HQ, the missing Rockerboy, Johnny Silverhand. Get proof, and Wallace has it made at his employer.

Naturally, things are never as they appear. Wallace is being played. Everyone wants to know where Johnny is, but Wallace finds out something else. A body allegedly recovered from the former Arasaka Tower, died not of radiation or being crushed but by having her throat slit. Wallace might not be able to bring down a corporation, but he can bring the woman’s killer to justice of sorts.

The graphic novel is definitely using elements from Cyberpunk 2077. Johnny Silverhand is a legacy character, showing up first in the Cyberpunk 2013 Night City supplement then in the Cyberpunk core rules as an established character before being portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the video game. Johnny has gone through a lot, including a few deaths; thanks to technology, it is possible to back up memories to be implanted in a clone if you can afford the medical insurance. Johnny’s trademark is a chromed cybernetic arm and hand; in 2020, he often treats it as a separate entity, a reflection of a loss of humanity due to its implantation.

The arrival of the Silverhands poser gang brings in an element that doesn’t really appear in the videogame. Poser gangs get cosmetic surgery to look like a celebrity or a group of celebrities. In 2020, sample poser gangs include the Gilligans, who look like the characters from Gilligan’s Island and the Bradies, based off The Brady Bunch. WHile most poser gangs are considered annoyances, especially by other types of gangs, they can be a problem. Witnesses giving a description after an organized snatch-and-grab are going to all describe Gilligan in different ways. The videogame didn’t include because of issues with permissions, though if the Silverhands appear after an update, they would fit in well.

In the end, not much changes by the end of Where’s Johnny. Corporations are still warring. People are still oppressed. But Wallace does get in justice for the dead woman in a way that could not have happened through regular channels. And this is at the heart of the game. Wallace is still the same, but he can live with himself at the end. It’s not the large change, but the series of small changes along the way that will improve life for people. Cyberpunk 2077: Where’s Johnny mixes up elements from tabletop and video game, mixes them up, and provides a story that fits in both.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Video game adaptations, especially from Hollywood, are given the side eye. Hollywood adaptations have a poor reputation, earned thanks to the likes of Double Dragon and Super Mario Bros. But, Hollywood persisted, because where there is a large enough number of people, studios will exploit. And in 1994, $studio exploited the names of actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, singer/actress Kylie Minogue, and actor Raul Julia along with the video game Street Fighter.

Street Fighter – The Movie did not do well with initial audiences. The tone of the film was not what anyone expected – Van Damme’s acting style was better suited for movies with more action and less acting, the film was almost four-colour at a time when the approach was to go darker and grittier, and the studio got too involved. However, on retrospection, Street Fighter – The Movie isn’t in the same league as the worst video game movies made.

The video game has backstory on who all the characters are, why they are fighting, and why they’re after M. Bison. The game play, though, is a fighting game. That’s the draw of the game, not the backstory. The backstory is there to give a reason for the player to beat up opponents but via the game manual. However, that backstory can be adapted, if loosely.

The movie had a few strikes against it on release. The rep of video game movies and the acting capabilities of the leads, with the exception of Raul Julia. The movie tried to include every character from the video game, even if it was for a brief appearance. The result could be a complete mess.

There are some bright sides that save the movie, beyond just Raul Julia. The supporting cast, which includes Ming-Na Wen, pulled their weight, though, carrying the film. The movie’s writing has a strong pedigree with Lorenzo Semple, Jr, handling the duties. Semple also wrote the 1980 Flash Gordon and was on the writing staff for the 1966 Batman TV series. The humour from Flash Gordon appears in Street Fighter, little things that come naturally in the situation without feeling forced. Watching the movie through the lens of an action comedy, the tone clicks. The four-colour approach works. Raul Julia knew exactly what sort of movie he was in and played M. Bison the same way Leslie Nielsen played Dr. Womack in Airplane!; straighter than straight to the point of being funny. His speech to Chun-Li about him not remembering invading her village is a great example of what he was doing.

Street Fighter – The Movie is a cult classic. Time has given audiences time to figure out what it is without marketing trying to set the genre in minds beforehand. The bright colours turn the film into something timeless, separated from grim and gritty. There are little things to noticed with every viewing, including the Armed Forces radio announcer, Adrian Cronauer, who was the inspiration for Good Morning, Vietnam. Yes, the movie parodied Good Morning, Vietnam with the real AFRS DJ. That’s going the extra step.

It’s such steps that elevate Street Fighter – The Movie. It may not be a great film, but it is a fun movie, well worth the watch.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

This review might be a little shallow. The Pokémon franchise is huge. Starting with the video game Pocket Monsters: Red and Green on the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996, there have been twenty-two games in the main series, easily more than that with spin-off games, mobile games for smartphones, a trading card game, an anime series with just under 1150 episodes, and several movies, including the live action Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Twenty-five years of Pokémon is a lot. Pokémon is the biggest media franchise.

The general idea of games in the Pokémon franchise is to become a Master Trainer, catching, training, and evolving Pokémon to use in fights against other Pokémon trainers. In the anime, Ash Ketchum is on a quest to do just that, starting in the Kanto region before going off into the world with his army of Pokémon, all trapped in Pokéballs except for Pikachu. The pika-style Pokémon doesn’t like being confined, but still travels with Ash and his friends as they confound Team Rocket.

The video game, Detective Pikachu introduces a new character, Tim Goodman, who arrives in a different city, Ryme City, to search for his missing father. The first being he meets in a Pikachu in a deerstalker hat. The Pokémon greets Tim, introducing himself as Detective Pikachu and Tim understands him. However, Tim is the only one who does. Tim also can only understand Pikachu. The first case they tackle, as a training mission for the player, is to track down an Aipom that has stolen a necklace from a little girl. As Tim and Detective Pikachu follow the trail left by the Aipom, they discover that something is amiss among the Pokémon.

While looking for Tim’s father the duo discover the existence of a drug called “R” that was meant to be a miracle drug. However, the creation of R involved genetic material from Mewtwo, not the Mew that was intended. The Mewtwo genetic material causes Pokémon to rampage. The investigation leads to the detective duo tracking down all of Mewtwo’s cells to return, finding the culprit responsible for R, and preventing the release of R from a large machine. Once done, Tim and Pikachu head off to continue to look for Tim’s father.

Naturally, something popular will be adapted as a movie. The live-action Detective Pikachu debuted in 2019, starring Ryan Reynolds as the title character, Justice Smith as Tim Goodman, Kathryn Norman as Lucy Stevens, Bill Nighy as Howard Clifford, Chris Geere as Roger Clifford, and Ikue Otani reprising her role as Pikachu when others need to hear the character. Detective Pikachu is Nintendo’s first live-action film since Super Mario Bros. This time around, Nintendo had, via The Pokémon Company, had more control over the film.

The movie starts similarly to the video game, with Tim travelling to Ryme City. When he was younger, Tim wanted to be a Pokémon trainer, but could never get one of his own. His dreams faded, and he became an insurance adjuster. News of his father’s death, though, hit him hard as he travelled. Tim’s first stop after visiting the police for details, where he finds out his father died after a car crash. He then heads to his father’s office where he finds a vial marked “R” which gets opened. Tim tosses the vial away after inhaling the gas. He continues to explore the office and sees motion. Being careful, Tim arms himself with a stapler and calls out the intruder. The intruder is a Pikachu wearing a deerstalker hat, who tells Tim to drop the stapler. It takes a bit of work to convince Tim that he isn’t hearing things, that Pikachu is talking to him. Pikachu is as amazed as no one has ever understood him before.

Outside, several Aipom are around where the vial lands. The Aipom begin a rampage and head up to the office. They break in, and chase Tim and Pikachu out of the office and up to the roof. The rampage doesn’t last long, but is long enough to force Pikachu and Tim to dive into a garbage chute to escape. However, a discussion afterwards between Tim and Pikachu leads Tim to believe that his father may still be alive, as Pikachu was also in the car crash.

The search for Tim’s father leads to meeting Lucy, an intern at GNN, and her Psyduck. While Lucy’s main duties are the network’s social media and puff pieces like, “Top Ten Cutest Pokémon”, she senses that there is a deeper story happening. She and Tim follow a few leads that point to a lab owned by Clifford Industries. The remains of the lab still have some of the Pokémon being experimented on.

The clues come together and the villain’s plot is revealed. The R gas will be released during Ryme City’s anniversary, fusing Pokémon and their partners together. Only Tim and Pikachu can stop the plot and finally find Tim’s father.

The Pokémon in the game are rendered to appear three dimensional while still resembling their original appearance. The opening credits show the Pokémon as being integral to the setting, with a herd of Bouffalant corralled in a farm and Pidgeot flying over fields. Pikachu is easily identified, as is Psyduck. Having Ikue Otani reprise her role as Pikachu’s voice is a nice touch.

The movie leans heavily on Pokémon lore. The “R” on the vials of R gas is the logo for Team Rocket, though they don’t appear. Mewtwo is specifically mentioned to have been retrieved from the Kanto region, the setting for the early seasons of the anime and for Pokémon The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. Pokémon Detective Pikachu is effectively a sequel of sorts to Mewtwo Strikes Back. However, Pokémon Detective Pikachu can stand alone; the movie explains things along the way for the Pokémon rookie.

Adapting mystery and horror works have their own tightrope to walk; the audience is there for the hidden. It is possible to adapt a mystery faithfully; Mystery on the Orient Express is a good example. Brannagh was faithful to Agatha Christie’s novel, but the novel is considered a classic. The Evil Dead remake used the same beats as the original, but threw in new twists to keep the movie fresh. Pokémon Detective Pikachu uses a similar method as Evil Dead; the elements are there, but with twists to keep anyone in the audience off-guard from knowing the ending during the opening credits.

Casting usually makes or breaks a film. The movie’s cast is solid. Ryan Reynolds is believable as Detective Pikachu, portraying the Pokémon as a determined, caffeine-addicted character. Justice Smith holds his own against Reynolds, showing his chops during the questioning of Mr. Mime. The two have chemistry despite Reynolds doing voice work as Pikachu.

Because it is a mystery, Pokémon Detective Pikachu isn’t an accurate adaptation of the video game. However, it does keep the beats from the game. The movie also uses the Pokémon franchise to both fit in and expand the setting. Unlike Super Mario Bros., Pokémon Detective Pikachu made an effort to reflect the original work, and the effort pays off.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

A new Sonic the Hedgehog trailer was released earlier this month and it corrected the biggest problem that the movie had. Sonic now looks like Sonic.

That may not mean much, but the original trailer had Sonic looking like a normal hedgehog mutated to be blue and big. Which could have been recoverable at the time, except Detective Pikachu had trailers showing various recognizable Pokémon interacting with live action as well with no sign of changes from the original designs.

What could Paramount Pictures do when faced with this hurdle? Delay the release and call in a fan, Tyson Hesse, who has worked for Archie Comics on their Sonic titles. The result, the new Sonic design which actually looks like Sonic. This is key. Video game adaptations have a poor reputation, thanks to such early releases as Double Dragon and Super Mario Bros. Adapting from games has been discussed here at Lost in Translation, but the biggest hurdle is translating gameplay into a narrative. It should be simple, but what works as a game – running around gathering rings to defeat the villain – doesn’t always translate well.

The studio’s decision to bring in a fan, though, shows that video games are being respected more. People do get annoyed when a favourite book gets mangled for the sake of a movie or TV series, the result being an audience that fails to show up. Video games, much like comic books, are now being given the same treatment; the fans have an expectation that the studio has to fulfill instead of the studio slapping a name on a project.

However, there’s another change in the newest trailer. Tone. The first trailer goes for the action feel, a fight against overwhelming odds. The latest turns the movie into more of a comedy. It could be that the movie is an action-comedy road trip, and that’s not a bad thing with the character. The change is noticeable, though, down to the choice of music. The new trailer introduces a sense of fun to the movie. That may be the film’s salvation. People are willing to forgive a movie for not being great if it’s at least fun to watch. Cleaning up the main problem – Sonic’s appearance – and adjusting audience expectations will go a long way to get an audience interested.

The biggest problem with the new trailer is that it almost tells the entire story on its own. While the goal of a trailer is to entice the audience, it’s possible that the only thing left untold is the ending, and there may be enough hints already to see how the end will happen. This isn’t a problem unique to Sonic. Far too many studios will use the key plot points in advertising to get attention without realizing what is being given away. Paramount may have gone too far in correcting the original trailer here.

Will Sonic the Hedgehog be a great movie? Probably not. But it’s not aiming for that level. It’s trying to be a fun movie, judging from the latest trailer. Audiences will get to decide for themselves in 2020.

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