Hagane: The Final Conflict, Hudson Soft 1994
If you’ve never played Hagane before, it would be hard to fault you. Released late in the lifespan of the SNES and sold only at Blockbuster Video in North America (there’s some evidence out there that suggests it may have been sold at other retailers too, but just go with it), Hagane is not a title that reached mainstream success by any stretch. Finding a copy now will set you back quite a bit, which is a shame; this game deserves to be played. The basic premise is such, there are two waring ninja clans, the Fuma and the Koma, who are in charge of protecting the Holy Grail. As these things often go, one day the Koma snap, kill all of the Fuma clan except one, and steal the grail. The one Fuma left alive, Hagane, is brought back as a cyborg to take down the Koma and retrieve the grail. The storyline for the game isn’t given much attention beyond two cinematics, but it is a cool concept and sets the game up for some pretty sweet visuals. That isn’t to say this game is a visual powerhouse, it is not, but what is here is very cool. The overall art direction is creative and interesting with things that look unmistakably awesome. Backgrounds are dark but atmospheric. Bosses are detailed and varied. And the gameplay and controls, almost perfect. Like most games of the time, once you learn them, they become second nature. Which is good because Hagane is tough. There’s a lot going on and you need all of your skills to handle it. Overall Hagane is damn fine game that should be more popular than it is. Find a way to play, I promise it’s worth it.
Chocolate, Prachya Pinkaew: Sahamongkol Film International
If you’ve never seen Chocolate before, it would be hard to fault you. Here we have a movie that, like so many Martial Arts films, did not receive a stateside theatrical release apart from maybe a few art house places in big cities. And then there’s the name, not the most attention grabbing title for a Martial Arts movie. Which is a damn shame because what is here is pretty amazing. To start, the main character, Zen, is not only female but autistic as well. That fact alone makes this flick pretty special, even if they do play a little loose with what autism can do in this situation. The story is pretty standard Martial Arts fare with Zen needing to track down members of her mother’s former crime group that owe her money. The money is needed to be for chemotherapy treatments for Zen’s mom so her motivation is strong. The fight scenes themselves are quite spectacular as part of Zen’s ability is her capacity for mimicry. Other fighter’s signature stances and moves are noticeable and purposeful, with a pretty big nod to Bruce Lee towards the beginning. Overall this movie is one of the more original concepts to come from the genre and while it is not necessarily the most innovative film in terms of direction or storytelling, it is more than worth a watch as something starring a female lead with a disability who still kicks all kinds of ass.