From Mickey Mouse to Jesus, This Dragon’s Crown Trailer is Full of Epic Homages

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Watching the latest Dragon’s Crown trailer I was delighted by the density of historical and pop cultural references they managed to sprinkle into every shot. Dragon’s Crown is the latest game from Vanillaware, best known for Odin Sphere and Oboro Muramasa. Vanillaware is staffed by many ex-Capcom employees who worked on some of the best arcade games from back in the day, including Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara (my favorite beat-em-up next to Capcom’s Aliens vs Predator). Dragon’s Crown is very much a spiritual successor to these games, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast array of influences at work in this title. Here’s the trailer.

Now let’s go through shot by shot …

Walt Disney Presents … The trailer opens up with a glowing fairy flying by the Atlus logo. This is an homage to the iconic Disney introduction where Tinkerbell flies by and sprinkles pixie dust on the Disney logo. This is the first of many Disney tributes to follow.

Atlus Logo vs Walt Disney Presents I believe this animation was originally made for Disney’s first regular TV series, Disneyland which premiered in 1954 (predating the unveiling of the theme park of the same name which opened in 1955).

Disney has been using new variations on this animation ever since.

The Landscapes of Pieter Bruegel
Next up the Vanillaware Logo is overlaid on top of a backdrop that recalls the landscapes of Flemish Renaissance painter, Pieter Bruegel.  The castle reminded me of Bruegel’s famous depictions of the Tower of Babel, which have provided inspiration to countless artists through the years.  It’s not a direct analog to Bruegel’s Babel, however there is another castle at the very end of the trailer that is.

A similar spiraling tower also appears in Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, a game which George Kamitani, director of Dragon’s Crown worked on.

While The Tower of Babel is very epic in scope, much of Bruegel’s work was very warm and focused on the mundane aspects of peasant life which was very unusual for a European painter of his time. This tendency was carried on by his eldest son who also became an accomplished painter. The work of the Bruegels provide a great launch pad for any artist aspiring to depict a medieval village. Much of Vanillaware’s background art is reminiscent of the paintings of the Bruegels.

Vanillaware art is always full of subtle authentic details

Greek Statuary
As the trailer continues the viewer is shown a dark corridor lined with Greek style statues of women. One of the figures recalls the statue of a wounded Amazon at The Met in New York.

The trailer continues with panning shots of more statues with strong Greek features.

Greek and Roman statues tend to have very strong nose bridges that go straight into the forehead

The shots of the crumbling corridor full of Greek style statues implies that parts of the game will involve exploring the ruins of even older civilizations.  Intriguing!

Renaissance Portraits of the Rich and Famous
The trailer continues with a shot of a wealthy couple opulently dressed in Renaissance style garb.  Each of them are brandishing a blue diamond, which could be an indication of royalty. The woman is holding a book, indicating a high level of education and refinement for the period. They look to be inside a castle overlooking a beautiful city. I am guessing that they will be your patrons on an important quest.

A good picture is worth a thousand words. There isn’t a single arbitrary design decision in this whole image; everything is in place to convey the emotional state, personality, culture, social status and worldliness of the subjects.

Medieval Knights and Longswords
Next up is one of my favorite images from the trailer, a ghostly knight brandishing a scroll.

Note: The Bottom Right photo belongs to Holly Hayes. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sacred_destinations/2076001419/sizes/o/in/photostream/

He has been run through with a longsword wrapped in parchment with the message: HONESTA MORS TURPI VITA POTIOR. Translated from Latin, this means: An Honorable Death Is Better Than A Vile Life. His cape pin has a spade insignia (the strongest suite) and his helmet has a crown, both indicating royalty. As with almost everything in Dragon’s Crown, the ghostly knight’s proportions are hyper stylized, but the execution and details are very authentic. The style of longsword depicted here was first developed in England in the 1300s and primarily used by knights during the early days of the 100 Years War.  By the 1500s it had fallen out of use on the battlefield, but continued to be popular as a weapon of sport and knightly duels. Perhaps this is the spirit of a great knight or even a king felled during a time of war.

Angels, Pomegranates and The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The supernatural imagery continues with a putto (a babyish angel or Cupid often mistakenly referred to as a “cherub” in modern times) holding a heart descending upon a desiccated corpse laid upon an altar draped in a funerary shroud.


The supine figure strongly recalls the beautiful Rococo sculpture The Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino after a design by Antonio Corradini (who was initially commissioned for the piece but did not live to see its completion). This is one of the great works of western art and depicts the lifeless body of Jesus detailed with incredible sensitivity. The angel is holding a heart, perhaps recalling the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic devotion that originated in the middle ages.  My friend and scholar Melvin originally mistook the heart for a pomegranate, a Christian symbol of resurrection. There are many classical paintings of The Christ Child holding pomegranates, symbolizing his future resurrection and the promise of eternal life.  I’m willing to bet that this imagery is not lost on the folks at Vanillaware and this image will somehow tie into how you resurrect your characters in Dragon’s Crown should they die.

Franciscan Friars
Continuing with the Christian imagery, the next character introduced is a man who is dressed very similarly to a Franciscan Friar, an order of monks founded in the 13th century.  He looks to be holding a bible and has a statue of a figure that strongly resembles the Virgin Mary tied around his neck.

The Crusades
The Christian references continue with the next character, a hulking knight dressed like a medieval Christian Crusader. His chest is emblazoned with a lion in the “rampant” pose, the most aggressive posture of the traditional European heraldry signs. I wonder if he was based off of the knight at the end of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade? Their faces are very similar.

Conan The Barbarian
If you love Fantasy books and movies, then this next character needs no introduction. This mountain of a man is the spitting image of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakout role as Conan The Barbarian!

Trivia: the original script for the film Conan The Barbarian had Conan fighting mutant animal human hybrids, not unlike the classic pig-faced orcs lying defeated in the background of this image.

Conan the Barbarian put Arnold on the map and kicked off the Sword and Sorcery craze of the 80s leaving an incredibly deep impression on the young medium of videogames.  The first Conan film is legitimately great. Penned and directed by John Milius (who also wrote the “all time great” film Apocalypse Now), it is one of the most iconic films out there–one of my absolute favorites. It was based on a series of short stories by Robert E Howard.  The books are awesome and I enthusiastically recommend them to any fan of Fantasy or Literature (with a capital L!) in general.  They may surprise you.  Conan is one of the smartest characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction.

Frazetta Style Sorceress
You can’t have Swords and Sorcery without a buxom sorceress! This next character looks very much like a classic Frank Frazetta vixen.

*** Update: 5/13/2013 ***
Thanks to Hayato for pointing out that Frank Frazetta’s Sorceress was painted in 1994

She is dressed very similarly to Princess Teegra from the 1983 film, Fire and Ice, a collaboration between Frank Frazetta and Ralph Bakshi, a luminary of alternative American animation.  Her pose and demeanor are much more fierce though, and recall Frazetta’s paintings of femme fatale sorceresses.

Mickey Mouse!
This is flat out one of my favorite homages in anything I’ve ever seen.  This enthusiastic little fellow is a tribute to Mickey Mouse from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment of Disney’s Fantasia.

They’re both wearing the same iconic, pointy wizard’s cap and the warmly lit stairwell in the back is an especially nice touch.

Nike of Samothrace
Next we’re treated to another great icon of Western Art, The Nike of Samothrace (also called “The Winged Victory).

It’s speculated that this statue was originally made to commemorate a great naval victory.

The Films of Ray Harryhausen
The trailer continues with a collage of monsters straight out of the films of Ray Harryhausen, a titan in the world of special effects.  As a child, Harryhausen saw King Kong (1933) and instantly fell in love with the “model animation” techniques used to bring its fantastic creatures to life.  From that point on, Harryhausen dedicated his life to creating stop motion films that brought creatures and worlds only that only previously existed in imagination into the material world of film.

Harryhausen was very inspired by the burgeoning field of Science Fiction literature and was actually a close lifelong friend of another cultural titan, Ray Bradbury.  Try to imagine a time when the terms “Visual Effects,” “Stop Motion” and “Sci-Fi” where not part of the vernacular. The work of Ray Harryhausen was crucial in bringing those concepts to a wide audience. From the 1940s through the 1990s Ray Harryhausen was responsible for some of the most fantastic and iconic creatures ever to grace a silver screen. These monsters left an indelible mark on film and surely inspired generations of game artists and developers as well.  Mr Harryhausen, Vanillaware salutes you!

Skeleton Warriors

 

First up is that most humble of videogame foes, the killer skeleton.  It’s absolutely ubiquitous today, but in 1958 when The 7th Voyage of Sinbad hit theaters in the US it was a totally novel concept.

Sinbad would go on to become a sleeper hit (it’s score by famous Hitchcock collaborator, Bernard Herman, is considered one of the best in film history and also undoubtedly influenced many early videogame sound tracks), but the skeleton warrior would make a huge splash several years later when it reappeared (and multiplied!) in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), one of Harryhausen’s more critically and commercially successful films and his personal favorite of the bunch.

The scene where Jason fights the group of skeletons, with its intricate, near seamless interaction of live action and animation elements, is considered a defining moment in the history of VFX.


(this clip does not contain the original audio track, but it sure is cool)

Talos, the Bronze Giant
The next Harryhausen creature to appear is Talos, a giant animated bronze statue that also appears in Jason and the Argonauts.

Dragons Crown homage to Talos the greek bronze statue from Ray Harryhausen's 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts

In Greek mythology, Talos was a giant man made out of bronze who was created by Zeus to protect Europa, the first Queen of Crete (and his lover who he had stolen away while disguised as a white bull). Europe takes its name after her.

Harryhausen’s version of Talos was inspired by classical depictions of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

Engraving by Marten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)

Medussa
Medussa is another iconic monster that Ray Harryhausen helped to define in the global consciousness with his 1981 film Clash of the Titans.

Vanillaware Dragon's Crown homage to Ray Harryhausen's Medusa from his 1981 film Clash of the Titans

In Greek mythology, Medussa was a Gorgon, a monstrous female creature often depicted with sharp fangs and snakes for hair who could turn men to stone with her fierce gaze.

The earliest depictions of gorgons show them as women with scary faces, often adorning temples in order to protect them from harm.

Ancient Greeks depicted Gorgons and Medusa as women with fierce frightening faces that could turn people to stone

In AD 8, the Roman poet Ovid completed the epic, The Metamorphosis, which introduced the idea that Medusa had once been an incredibly beautiful maiden before being cursed and transformed into a horrible monster.  However artists had already been depicting Medusa with a classically beautiful face as early as the 4th or 5th Century BC.

The Medusa Rondanini. This is a roman copy of a Greek statue dating from either the 4th of 5th century that is considered to be the oldest known “beautiful gorgoneion.”

By the Renaissance onward this became the new norm for Medusa.

Ray Harryhausen returned Medusa to her roots depicting her as grotesque monster. As far as I know, it was Ray Harryhausen who first designed her with the lower body of a snake and other heightened reptilian features such as scaly skin and a rattler. Vanillaware plays off of this convention and even adds a striped pattern to her scales similar to that of a timber rattlesnake, though they’ve chosen to maintain the attractive face preferred by most classical painters.

The monsters called out in this trailer represent just a small fraction of Ray Harryhausen’s oeuvre.  Ray Harryhausen is one of the most important fantasy artists of the last century and his visual legacy lives on in countless films and videogames. To learn more about Ray Harryhausen please visit his official website here:

http://www.rayharryhausen.com/index.php

The Rosetta Stone
Amidst the montage of Harryhausen creatures, we get a brief glimpse at an ancient looking black tablet that recalls The Rosetta Stone, a fragment of an ancient Egyptian stele (an upright stone slab inscribed with important information) of incredible historical importance.  The Rosetta Stone was uncovered in 1799 by soldiers in Napoleon’s army who were digging the foundation for a fort in the port city of Rashid, Egypt, also known as Rosetta. The stone provided the key for researchers to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, a language which at the time had been dead for over a millenium.

The Rosetta Stone was unique because it was inscribed with a decree from King Ptolemy V in 3 separate scripts: Hieroglyphics (the language of the priests), Demotic (the language of every day life) and Greek (the language of government). Over a period of 2 decades, by comparing the hieroglyphics to the other scripts, which were better understood, researchers were finally able to crack the code of the ancient Egyptian script which adorned so many cultural treasures, but had been out of use since the fourth century AD.

The appearance of the Rosetta Stone look-alike in Dragon’s Crown is intriguing.  Although the game is set in the past, the arcane tablet looks to be some kind of relic of an even older mega civilization that’s long gone.  Much of the game will involve adventuring through ancient ruins looking for treasure.

Greater Demons and the Legacy of Princess Crown
Later in the trailer, the characters are shown battling a gigantic demon that looks like a buffed up version of the Greater Demon from Princess Crown, the progenitor of all Vanillaware games.

Princess Crown was directed by George Kamitani and was released for the Sega Saturn in 1997. The title of Dragon’s Crown is an homage to Princess Crown, a fantastic game that was much ahead of its time.

Princess Crown featured the lush puppet style animation pioneered by Vanillaware and currently popular in many indie games and Flash based games, yet it was made years before Adobe Flash even existed.  Princess Crown was ported to PSP in 2005, but unfortunately neither version of the game has ever received an official release outside of Japan.

The game had an incredibly progressive story, starring a young Queen named Gradriel who takes up the sword to protect her kingdom from supernatural evil, just as her mother, the legendary hero, had done years before.  The game (much like Odin Sphere) actually plays out as a series of books within the game. In this case it is being read by a grandmother to her granddaughter.

Recently there has been an outcry among gamers for a Zelda game starring Zelda. George Kamitani essentially made that game 16 years ago! This was the first story he ever penned when he was at the helm! But more on that in a future post!

Back to the Demon!


As you can see, the Greater Demon in Dragon’s Crown shares the same basic design as the one in Princess Crown.  Both have bleached bone skull heads on top of muscular, fleshy blue bodies with proportionally small wings and a bony tail.  The newer Greater Demon has a significantly more muscular build perhaps taking cues from another boss from Princess Crown, Evil Leon. He also has long horns and more pronounced tusks, much like the final boss of Princess Crown, the Dark God Larva.

*** Update: 5/13/2013 ***
My internet buddy Hayato has pointed out that this demon also makes an appearance in Grand Knights History, Vanillaware’s strategy RPG for PSP which also never saw an official release outside of Asia.

As you can see this version of the Greater Demon is much closer to the one found in Dragon’s Crown.  I guess this is a recurring character!

All these demons were also very likely influenced by the Dark Warrior, a boss character from Capcom’s 1993 arcade brawler Dungeon’s and Dragons: Tower of Doom, a game on which George Kamitani was a main designer.

The Greater Demon in both Dragon’s Crown and Princess Crown emerges from a summoning circle, also known as a pentacle.

This is a reference to The Lesser Key of Solomon, a 17th Century textbook of magic (also known as a grimoire) written from the perspective of King Solomon, which gave instructions on how to summon spirits through seals, incantations and other rituals.

Vanillaware built an entire game around this subject in their 2007 RTS game, Grimgrimoire.

That’s all for today, but there’s still much to cover in this trailer.  Keep your eyes peeled on for more updates from Art-Eater on Facebook and Twitter as we look deeper into the world of Dragon’s Crown.  Thanks for reading!

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Author: Richmond

I am a professional game artist who wants everyone to love art as much as I do!

104 thoughts on “From Mickey Mouse to Jesus, This Dragon’s Crown Trailer is Full of Epic Homages”

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  6. Just wanted to add a few I have noticed since playing the game. The Conan reference is spot on, his name is Roland which is the same as Arnold just rearranged letters. The micky mouse reference, the mouse is named Ricky! Also the Ghost ship level has a Goonies feel to it, when they go into the cave and see a ship in a cave… how often do you see that. Also there are Arabian looking assassins to go with the Flying Carpet thing.

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  8. Excellent article good sir! it’s horrific how this game has been labelled in a negative way without thought or reason simply because it might cause “sexual thought”.
    I haven’t played any of Mr Kamitani’s previous works but i shall sometime after i get my hands on Dragon’s Crown as soon as it arrives here in Europe.
    I know very little about art but i do know it can pull powerful emotions and deep thought out of the people who view it.
    http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/IMRC/course_website/slides03/repin005a_opt_tif.jpg

  9. Great article Shin!
    Spot on for the skeleton warriors from the Jason & the Argonauts, but you should have mentioned that some games such as Sega’s Golden Axe series (arcade and console games) had the same skeletons which assembled before combat and fell apart loose when defeated . In Dragon’s Crown there are even mushroom warriors!The latter probably came from AD&D lore, you can fight them -they appear as humanoid amanitae- in the forest stage in Golden Axe Revenge of the Death Adder (arcade)

    1. This game is also very reminiscent of Capcom’s KING OF DRAGON featuring 5 simultaneously playable square-y & extralarge cartoonesque characters: elf( an archer), wizard, cleric , fighter and dwarf. Although Capcom heavily ripped off AD&D , you can see the same elements in Dragon’s Crown, the character crew is very similar in its composition, I’m sure the consept artist from Vanillaware were great fans of King of Dragons and Golden Axe.

  10. Wonderful article. It is refreshing to see Vanillaware being given the credit they deserve, instead of people making an issue out of breast size.

    However, it is missing my absolute favorite references in the game, those being the ones to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, down to the forest hermit looking like Tim the Enchanter. On the other hand, I almost feel like revealing the biggest reference from that movie counts as a spoiler.

  11. Finally someone in the game-world that is educated and observant. Often too many times due to political correctness and the fear of sexuality in gaming, artwork and game-play like Dragon-Crown’s automatically receive bad raps because it’s a game that had breast. We have too many ignorant and liberal-feminist supporting driven “game reviewers” who have bashed games with content and charisma, without even an inch of research into why they were bashing the game first. It’s a political stump folks. Especially on a game that is HEAVILY references in norse mythology and artworks! Gamers and Reviewers alike, need to seriously grow up and stop listening to the liberal-right wings that have no clue what their talking about other than to advance their political agendas. There’s not a day that goes by without some silly feminist or their sympathizers whining about how the female antonomy in games is the ruination of the entire female race. These are NOT the true feminist which where the ones back in the day, who actually FOUGHT for the freedom of sexual expression FOR females. See this article below:

    http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20075651,00.html

    We have feminist like Anita riding off the coattails of the effort and work of past feminist by poisoning the true stance and freedom of feminist for monetary and political gain(over $5,000 dollars have been given to Anita alone, and she actively seeks to get spotlight for more potential investors). Too many game writers are all so eager to jump in the band-wagon by polluting the freedom waters with their political-correct articles. This isn’t about helping or protecting women. It’s about control and ownership, and that ownership residues when a liberal feminist states as if they have ownership over the entire female form in artwork and what may be and may not be expressed of that form.

    This article on both people and polygon point out America’s sadly reorientated FEAR of anything sexual or erotic in gaming. We however defiantly need MORE mature and college-educated people in the game world who realize sexuality is a part of human-nature, not all these 1960 retro fear-mongering types who have invaded gaming and held back sexuality like cripples. First starting off with the big corporations like Sony, Nintendo, etc. Article provided by polygon here:

    http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/8/8/4595050/adults-only-ao-games

    Whoever wrote this article is just plain awesome. Thank you, for once, standing up for art in it’s form instead of the thousands of others who disregard and denounce it. Mostly done out of hate-mongering mob mentality and being ill-informed with very little to no knowledge yet with renaissance and mythology art staring them right in the face. Except it’s in video-game form, and video-games are still considered not as art though clearly it takes artists to draw and make the concepts of the game itself.

    Gamers like Shin also sadly are another reason for the chilling effect in gaming, while thinking they are supporting feminist by bashing this game there has been undertones of biased attitude towards japanese-made games which are often more expressive and open to sexuality than the repressed and violent gore-infested made ones. We need more college-educated minded folks in the game world who have more open-mindedness in the liberal arts, not those who are fulfilling political agendas by feeding the masses their idealogy of what a game should have or be . It’s boggling to see this type of artwork referenced in museums with ease, yet as soon as it is in video-game form it is “poisonous” and “evil”.

  12. This article is a load of bullshit. Here’s why:

    The author is stretching it for most of the references, almost like the person dug them up trying to match things that the team drew. If they did use the references, I almost imagine it’s the usual artist motions of checking Google images for references and picking something from the first page. Probably explains why a bunch of unrelated shit from art history is in one game. Definitely not a “genius” team in my books.

    Also the “homages” to the Conan rip-off and Frazetta’s work don’t really stick. Reeks more of the traditional video game practice of plagiarism: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/tracing/tracing.htm

    And one last thing to note, this is completely incorrect:

    Quote:
    Princess Crown featured the lush puppet style animation pioneered by Vanillaware and currently popular in many indie games and Flash based games, yet it was made years before Adobe Flash even existed. Princess Crown was ported to PSP in 2005, but unfortunately neither version of the game has ever received an official release outside of Japan.

    No! They didn’t pioneer shit! Flash existed in 1997 and way before! Spumco already had a load of Flash cartoons on their website that very fucking year! Actually John K. had a lot of input in early Flash development starting around 1995. Even Flash didn’t pioneer shit. Mode 7 graphics already existed. Also the first Rayman is almost nothing but “tweened” animations. The author obviously didn’t even bother to do something as simple as check Wikipedia.

    1. You should get your anger issues checked. Most of the references and hommages the article talks about are very clear, and you’d have to be blind to NOT see it.

      I’m guessing you just came here to piss over Vanillaware’s work because you’re oh so offended by the Sorceress’ breasts.

      Please do us all a favor, and go away. Thanks.

    2. Hi Shin, thanks for taking the time to read, register and comment, even if you think I’m a crappy writer haha.
      The creator of the game, George Kamitani saw this article and approved of it, so I don’t know how much more validation I can get than that.
      As for the bit on Flash, I should have specified that I meant Adobe taking over Flash and making it much more widely accessible.
      I’m very familiar with the early days of Flash, I subscribed to Spumco’s mailing list from day 1. I even remember getting a Xmas card from them with Jimmy the Idiot boy learning how to French Kiss, great stuff!

      What John K pioneered in the early days of Flash is pretty different from what Vanillaware has been doing for years. John K was using it mostly for keyframes and a little squash and stretch in between to make things feel a little more alive, he wasn’t really doing the super complex puppet animations that Vanillaware was doing at the same time on Princess Crown.

      That game really was groundbreaking, and Vanillaware has been pioneering that style of animation ever since. Many modern object oriented animation games were inspired and influenced by Vanillaware (including of course the ones I’ve worked on myself).

      The predecessor to that style of animation is definitely multijointed sprites from the 8bit and 16bit era, and I very much appreciate you pointing that out. And even before that there’s a precedent for it with in the beautiful works of Yuriy Norshteyn (who I would bet money Norshteyn was an influence on Vanillaware–i’ll have to ask George Kamitani about that someday) and early paper cut out animations, and shadow puppets around the world long before film existed. It’s all really fascinating!

      Unfortunately I just didn’t include all that in the article. It’s something I’m trying to improve on as a writer, where to draw the line with all the random tangents that come when exploring something as nebulous as art.

      Anyway, thanks for the criticism. I’ll always strive to do better with each successive post.
      Cheers dude!

      1. this was a very professional response bravo.
        also some of the references are not to close but it is clear what you are pointing out so in that you got a job well done.

    3. Hi Shin!!

      I’m not willing to waste much time replying to such an obvious troll like you but I think someone should make clear a couple of things to you:

      1- There was life before the advent of Flash, you know. And if you don’t, you should check that Wikipedia you are so fond of. As Richmond suggested, try looking for Yuriy Norshteyn. Before him, there was a pionner of animation called Lotte Reinigerthat made the oldest surviving animation film (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) and, before him, there were Puppet Shows, such as Indonesian Wayang, that used similar techniques to narrate stories since 1st century AD. I’m pretty sure that those three names in bold will quench your thirst for knowledge and solve your severe case of ignorance.

      2- Differences between homage and plagiarism can sometimes be very blurry and difficult to discern, the last interpretation ultimately being in the mind of the viewer. Despite that, tracing (even rotoscope) has nothing to do with the graphical treatment techniques and resources that Kamitani uses to convey his ideas and bring his worlds to life: as the proportions of every character in the game are heavily stylized or exaggerated, even if you consider them an act of plagiarism, you should dismiss them as “caricatures” at most.

      3- If you intend on keeping this uninformed, offensive attitude towards this site’s owners and posters, you should think twice before posting again. You are rightly entitled to your feelings but you should inform yourself better by doing some research before spewing your nonsense, here or elsewhere. Take this as a protip to save yourself some wanton embarrasement in the future.

  13. Wow! I pride myself on being somewhat knowledgeable on classic art, but none of this hit me until reading this article. And not just that, I hear George Kamitani confirmed these homages himself to this very article. Awesome work, Richmond!

    I’d like to second Kenju’s comment regard the images in Greek Statuary; they really did give me a strong Hunchback of Notre Dame impression. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course; that’s my favorite Disney movie!

    Most likely Dragon’s Crown will be my first VanillaWare game to own, but I’ve been watching others play through GrimGrimoire and, more recently, Muramasa Rebirth; all the time I find myself adoring the artistic styles of these games, but only now is the sheer level of cultural depth really starting to dawn on me. I love it. I love when a game can go into the level of cultural depth and homages as Breath of Fire IV had, and even go beyond, and it’s looking like every one of the VW games is doing so. I really can’t wait to get my hands on one of them.

    Out of curiosity, Richmond, I happened to see your post on Kotaku which elaborated on the designs of the Sorceress, Dwarf, Amazon, and Elf. I really appreciated it – in fact, I’m beginning to warm up to the Sorceress’ and Amazon’s designs because of it (before that, I was saying it was impossible for me to take them seriously) – and I was wondering if you might share that information on this site as well. It’s the kind of info that deserves to be spread around, and I’m already sharing it with friends of mine who are also interested in the game. :)

    Much respect for George Kamitani!

  14. Here I come with some more possible references. Although you already covered the subject of the draped skeleton, I think you’d like to check those baroque paintings: The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb (1522) by Hans Holbein the Younger (who seems to be one of Kamitani’s main sources of inspiration, according to the amount of evidences you previously collected) and Philippe de Champaigne’s Le Christ mort couché sur son linceul (1654), a much darker rendition of the same trope (the colder color palette, and the head of Christ enshrouded in shadows gives the piece a much grittier mood, on par with Kamitani’s Defunctus portrait). Note the latin inscription written on the slab below the corpse: another veiled reference, perhaps?

  15. Very interesting article, it’s so nice to see the art of the game getting the appreciation it deserves. Lovely job finding the references, the work and artistry that has clearly gone into the game is stunning. : ) I was so disappointed to see so-called professional game journalists dismiss it without thought. While Kamitani often does draw ‘sexy’ female characters, if one looks at the way women are portrayed in Vanillaware games, they’re often strong, rounded characters who aren’t defined solely by their gender. Gwendolyn is a fantastic heroine, and if one looks at her storyline, it explicitly shows that robbing women of agency and treating them as property is very, very wrong. As a feminist and female gamer, I was impressed by the story and Gwen’s portrayal.

    1. Thanks for reading! It’s very unfortunate that George Kamitani has been branded a sexist by people who probably haven’t played any of Vanillaware’s previous games. If they did, they’d understand that his games are full of strong, capable women. And beyond that, they feel like real, fleshed out people with distinct personalities. Gwendolyn is one of my favorite characters in videogames. I hope people will give Dragon’s Crown a chance based on the strength of Vanillaware’s past work. It’s a beautiful, extremely unique, heartfelt, progressive body of work. We need more games like that in the world.

      1. This article was really well-done and informative. It put’s anything that Kotaku has ever done to shame. Only a lazy-journalist driven by a feminist agenda would focus so much attention on something as trivial as breast size. Your article has depth and educates, and has made me even more excited for Dragon’s Crown.

  16. Just WOOOW!! Thanks for opening my eyes dude!!! I was not seeing Dragon’s Crown at the way you did. Thanks!!!

  17. Might just be me, but the statues looking at the camera makes me thinking of a scene the prologue to Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    Or you know, those kind of statues could just be known for that kind of thing, I wouldn’t know.

  18. Great article. Nice to see someone who can appreciate art and actually understand it rather than just whine about the Sorceress’s chest. Here’s one I noticed that is more confined to video games, the amazon’s red and silver outfit is a reference to Tyris Flare from the Golden Axe series.

  19. Thanks so much for your analysis on the Dragons Crown characters, it was a glass of water in a desert of terrible and shallow video journalism.

  20. I signed up on Kotaku to make a comment about someone copy+pasting some of your article on the designs behind Dragon’s Crown, as well as some additional comments on the Sorceress you made. I wasn’t quite sure if you were following the comments for it, so I just wanted to re-post it to make sure my appreciation comes through. I’m afraid I gushed a bit, but I was thankful for some enlightenment, so take it as you will:

    I literally just signed up for this site so I could recommend this post. It is a bastion of careful consideration and analysis in an otherwise totally barren wasteland of mindless sensationalism (and I do NOT mean the comments of Kotaku). I didn’t even really care either which way about the supposed issue of sexism, but this just shows how very little research most people (and perhaps more importantly, journalists) do, and I include myself in that number.

    It’d really be nice if more people would, instead of making sweeping generalizations about designs being made by horny teenagers due to their exaggerations, look into if there’s actually a REASON for these designs being as they are. Instead of arguing endlessly on semantics of how clearly this shows why people don’t respect video games because they misogynistic and create frothing idiots and murderers, it’d be nice if people stepped back and actually examined the thought put into these depictions. I find it all very similar to some random passerby despairing at how a museum’s Picasso painting was slapped together by a preteen.

    If a lot of people consider video games artwork, this is why. And I honestly wouldn’t have even thought about, let alone realized the thought put into these designs myself without your post, so thank you.

  21. I noticed some of these, Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the Renaissance Portraits were the ones I noticed quickly. It is sad that all most people seem to see is the Sorceress breasts.

  22. Congrats for penning such an outstanding article, Nobi. That’s exactly the approach I like when reading art essays, and the one I suggested you to go for after reading your take on Asura’s Wrath: well thought, easy to comprehend and full of relevant sources and reference material. Really, really nice and enlightening…

    On a side note, “The Sorceress” (that Frazetta’s painting you left undated in your article) was drawn in 1994. According to ICON (one of the earliest Frazetta artbooks I know of), it featured as the cover for Verotik #3 a year later. Just in case you were curious…

  23. Great article.
    You forgot another possible Disney’s homage: the escape from lava on the magic carpet (at 1:24) is very similar to a scene in Aladdin.

    1. Thanks for the heads up. I didn’t forget! I just haven’t gotten to it yet! So much left to cover! (Capcom worked on the SNES version of Aladdin back in the day! I wonder if George Kamitani was already at Capcom at the time?)

  24. As usual a great article. One minor correction: the screenshot of that spiraling tower of the DnD beat’em up is Shadow Over Mystara, not Tower of Doom.

  25. impressive article,this game looks really promising,i look forward to an european relese or even importing the american version,i trust that atlus won’t region lock this game for some petty bullshit

  26. Yeah it’s killing me too! I know there’s another piece out there that echoes that illustration even more. But for the life of me I can’t remember. Something from the Baroque period maybe! Hehe nice connection between Castlevania and Romantic era European art. It’s amazing how much mood those games could convey with just 16 colors on screen at once!

  27. Excellent writeup! Like you I’ve been poring over the trailer from the beginning, and I’m honestly fretting over the draped skeleton. I think you’re right, it does reference the draped painting of Jesus, but for some reason I feel like I’m forgetting something that it very directly echoes. At the very least it’s also very similar to pre-19th century European (and pre-3d Castlevania) funerary art featuring skeletal figures with varying degrees of draping. I also thought at first that it referenced Manet’s ‘Dead Torreador’, but it turned out that I was remembering that painting incorrectly.

    Anyway, keep up the excellent writing!

    1. The draped skeleton somehow reminds me of Juan de Valdes Leal’s main works , “In Ictu Oculi” and “Finis Gloriae Mundi”

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