Way of the Samurai – Second Opinion

To illustrate his experience with Way Of The Samurai, Chi compared the game to John Woo films, specifically Hard-Boiled. The film is used to indicate his feelings that there are underlying themes of loyalty, morality and honor. I also thought of an influential filmmaker and film while playing this game. Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing was always on my mind. However, the reason goes deeper than the Afro Samurai Don and an angry rant about stereotypes. More subtle and impalpable are the issues at which this game hints—of perspective, of the misunderstandings and growing fermentation when perspectives clash, and finally, the eruption of violence that was more or less unavoidable.

Do The Right Thing's setting is a small neighborhood like Way Of The Samurai's Rokkotsu Pass. There is growing suspicion and agitation in both communities. In the film, it is between racial groups. In the game, it is between two families with different political agendas. There are other correlations to be made between the two works, but the main difference lies in the role of the audience. As the audience to Lee's uncompromising story, we are able to see the different perspectives of the conflict, and we understand how the growing agitation within the community was the catalyst for the violence at the end of the film. Films can do this because they are telling us a story, and Lee asks us to empathize with the characters. Way Of The Samurai is inherently different because it is a videogame, and the audience is an active participant in the story being told. However, the manner in which this game story is told elevates this game to what Chi describes as a "higher pedestal worthy of discussion and comparison."

Let us consider an early scene among of many possible scenarios in the game. You had just saved a cute girl from a kidnapping, and you accept her invitation for lunch. Shiretoko, swordsman and advisor for the Kurou family, struts into the restaurant during your lunch. His cronies trash the place, but not before threatening the inhabitants to leave. More than likely, you will come across this scenario your first time through the game, and you will see Shiretoko and the Kurou family as a people without scruples, especially after you hear the explanation from the girl that they've been bullied to leave for little reason. But what if you were to choose a different scenario the next time around? What if you joined the Kurou family instead? Witnessing the actions of their leader, and seeing Shiretoko again when he's not all business, will reveal that the Kurou are not, in fact, contemptuous of honor and morals. The same goes for the Akadama Clan.

The game's narrative structure is often compared to the "choose your adventure" books of yesteryear. Read the story until some decisions are presented. Make your decision, then turn to the page indicated and continue until the story ends somehow. However, because we are talking about a game, the nature of games as youthful things consequentially bring about ease in seeing the narrative as similar and simplistic. The game isn't that simple though. This game features six different endings, including an ideal one. To reach that ideal goal, you have to use what you've learned through trial-and-error. As you play, you realize through various events that it doesn't occur to these people what is being done to them, how a huge invisible force is playing their hands. Only you, as the player, have the ability to see all sides of the conflict, and using your new eyes, you can bring about the ideal situation for everyone, which inevitably erupts into violence against the previously masked evil of the Meiji government.

On the technical side of things, Chi had already discussed all the aspects of the gameplay itself, and there is not much say but agree that the fighting system is effective for the most part. But the spinning camera makes it difficult to perform moves when your sense of direction is disoriented. I also agree that the punishment of losing a sword, one that you may have worked hours on, is unnecessarily frustrating. In addition, the translation is lazy and shoddy, occasionally ignoring logic, coherence and even the sex of the main character.

Way Of The Samurai does not touch on things as complex as race. Ironically, the conflict and issues in the game are much more black and white than in Do The Right Thing, a penetrating piece of work about racism, a huge invisible force playing our hands, like some masked evil. But videogames now have the faculties for artistic expression about things like race, war, class struggles and the human element. Way Of The Samurai has shown me that potential with its perspective-based storytelling. Life isn't as simple as a game, where we can deftly play one side against the other until everyone responsible for our troubles is dead. But we can still be challenged to ask ourselves some difficult questions. What if I was to be in another's shoes? How would they see themselves? Can something be done?

Chi was also on the money to see the game's themes of loyalty and honor. "The ills of mankind are largely the consequence of disloyalty rather than wrong-headed loyalty," said American theologian Josiah Royce. Living in a postmodern world, Royce is criticized for the single-mindedness of that philosophy. Disloyalty arises because our will is free, and that not everything are inevitable consequences of preceding sufficient causes. In the context of the game, we can distinguish between competing loyalties and we have the ability to act on that distinction if we want to. That is what it truly means to have a "choice." Granting us that sense of freedom of choice, Way Of The Samurai lashes out against the determinism that restricts videogames, a medium usually understood to be determined by rules. And, hopefully by consequence, more games in the future will recognize that our will is free, and the rules aren't always black and white. Rating: 9.5 out of 10