A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 1

 

By Richmond Lee
With additional help from Andy Lee

All Entries:
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 1 – Buddhist Cyborgs and the story of the Asura
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 2 – The Bishop’s Read the rest

 

By Richmond Lee
With additional help from Andy Lee

All Entries:
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 1 – Buddhist Cyborgs and the story of the Asura
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 2 – The Bishop’s Staff and Hungry Ghosts
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 3 – The Mighty Vajra!

Hello. My name is Richmond Lee Chaisiri. I am a professional game artist who grew up in a Buddhist household in Thailand, the most Buddhist nation on earth. I will be your tour guide through the wild, wonderful and very very well researched world of Asura’s Wrath. So what’s Buddhist about Asura’s Wrath?

Everything!

The Characters, the environments, the ultra violence, the cosmic scope, the super powers, the anime hair … All of it! Let’s begin the tour!

art-eater, asura's wrath, Buddhist God of War, Buddhism art, violence
Illustration by my good buddy Weigy, http://blog.weigy.com/

Exhibit 1 – The Story
Asura’s Wrath tells the tale of a bellicose god who is betrayed by his fellow deities, stripped of his powers and cast down from the heaven and swears bloody revenge. Does this sound like the plot of God of War 2? Sure! But it’s also the age old story of the Asura (also commonly spelled “Ashura”). According to Buddhist tradition, Asuras once lived alongside the Devas (their more benevolent cousins) in a city called Trayastrimsa on the peak of Sumeru, a holy mountain at the center of the universe where the earth joins with the heavens.

asura's wrath, Ashura, statue, Buddhist art, 阿修羅, Capcom, CyberConnect2, Mt Sumeru

The Asuras were quarrelsome beings who loved to pick fights. They finally crossed the line when they went on a drunken rampage after drinking a forbidden supernatural liquor called gandapāna, which Sakra (known in Hinduism as Indra), leader of the heavens, warned them not to imbibe. Continue reading “A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 1”

King of Characters

No fighting game is complete without great characters. If all we cared about was gameplay we’d probably be happy just playing endless rounds of just Ken vs Ken in Street Fighter. Think back to the first time you played a fighting game. Who did you pick? Or more to the point, why did you pick that character? There was something about them that spoke to you. Whether you related to their story or you just thought they looked cool, that character reflected upon your personality. A great fighting game, just like a great group of friends will have lots of different personalities to balance out the whole.

This is an area where King of Fighters absolutely shines.

Are you a straightforward, good natured kind of dude? Try straightarrow Kim…
King of Fighters XIII, Kim Kaphwan

…or roughneck Terry.
King of Fighters XIII Terry Bogard official art nona KOF 13 SNK

Are you a bad ass loner? Pick K (if you secretly have a heart of gold)…
King of Fighters XIII, KOF 13, K official art by Nona, SNK
…or Iori (if you really are a cruel bastard).
KOF 13, King of Fighters XIII, Iori Yagami official art by Nona for SNK

Are you plucky and spirited? Try Kensou.

KOF 13, King of Fighters XIII, Sie Kensou art by Nona for SNK

Are you everyone’s little sister? Try Yuri.
KOF XIII, King of Fighters 13, Yuri Sakazaki, Art of Fighting, official art by nona for SNK

Do you enjoy the finer things in life? Try Elizabeth.
KOF 13, King of Fighters XIII, Elisabeth Branctorche, official art by Nona for SNK

Are you a troll at heart? Then you must give Ash a shot. Yes, Ash Crimson, the foppish Frenchman who’s often mistaken for a woman.
KOF 13, King of Fighters XIII, Ash Crimson, official art by Nona for SNK With his sly confident demeanor and prediliction for gender bending he is the Bugs Bunny of the Fighting Game world.
Ash Crimson x Bugs Bunny

Just take a look at his in-game sprite! Almost every action he takes is meant to get a rise out of the other player.

When he stands, he’s not in an aggressive or defensive position, he’s just twiddling his hair!
KOF 13, King of Fighters XIII, Ash Crimson sprite
He attacks with lazy waves of his arms and throws fireballs by blowing a kiss.
KOF 13, KOF XIII, King of Fighters XIII Ash Crimson Sprite attack

He crouches like a delinquent taking a smoke break.
KOF XIII, KOF 13, ash crimson, sprite, crouching
Crouch long enough and he’ll gaze over, like he’s just waiting for you to wipe that sweet, condescending expression from his face.

And that’s the point!

ash crimson raiden big bear kof 13 XIII king of fighters sprites
Ash is a charge character! His entire move set is about biding your time, baiting the opponent and capitalizing on their mistakes (just like trolling people on the internet!).

This deep level of thought and synergy between design and gameplay is reflected in every character in the game’s roster.

The personality and play style of each character is also reflected in their body type. Every character has a build that suites their personality and play style. This may sound like a very obvious element of design, but it’s actually something that’s lacking in a great deal of top notch video games. Most games are very one note when it comes to phenotypes.

Everyone in Gears of War is built like a linebacker (friend and foe alike).

Gears of War character lineup
The game only has one look for @hri$tsake! Marcus? Augustus? Locust? They're all the same body! Doesn't anyone notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! (JK/LOL--I still love you Gears of War)

The Elder Scrolls series might let you pick from dozens of races, but whether you make a human, orc, elf, khajiit (cat person), Argonian (dragon person) or Red Guard (brown person), they’re all head swaps on the same basic body.

elderscrolls skyrim character creation lineup
And it’s become a cliche to point out that almost every first person shooter stars a generic bald marine.

all bald video game marines look the same
I did not create this image (but it sure is useful right now)

There’s a practical reason for this ubiquity of body types. Developers can save time and money by reusing the same rig and animations for different characters. If no one notices, it’s all good.

But King of Fighters goes the extra mile.

Behold! The human body in all it’s varied splendour!

This variety of body types is actually pretty new to the King of Fighters franchise itself. Back in the day when most fighting games starred burly, muscular martial artists, the original King of Fighters’ roster looked like a stable of fashion models (with a few weirdos here and there). Just as it’s a stereotype that Americans make games about bald marines, the last decade in gaming has produced the stereotype that Japanese games are exclusively full of beautiful well groomed men. King of Fighters spearheaded this trend as one of the first titles to bring high fashion sensibilities to video game character design.

King of Fighters 97, Mortal Kombat 3, Super Street Fighter II

Because of this, the majority of the men in previous King of Fighters titles had the same idealized physique. Even the big wrestlers like Goro, Ralph and Clark pretty much had the same build as everyone else.

King of Fighters 94, Ralf, Clark, Goro, Kim sprite lineup
Goro is a bit taller at least.

But that’s no longer the case.

Let’s compare the old Fatal Fury Team sprites with the new.

Joe no longer has a generic athletic build, he is now built very specifically like a Muay Thai fighter. He’s lean and wiry; super cut with almost no body fat.

KOF 94 KOF XIII, King of Fighters joe higashi sprite Kaoklai Kaennorsing
left: Joe in KOF 94, middle: Joe in KOF XIII, right: K-1 fighter Kaoklai Kaennorsing (far right), a legendary 170 lb kickboxer who took down legit heavyweights! See him in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TelQntPJUA0

Joe practices a real world martial art rather than a fictional one, so it makes sense to give him the physique of real world kick boxers who have bodies that look like they’re made out of coiled steel.

Terry has put on some muscle. He’s now stockier, with broad shoulders and a short neck, not unlike his Mark of the Wolves incarnation. Terry is a blue collar kind of dude (he’s a part-time truck driver/full-time freeter after all), so he should have more “go” muscles than “show” muscles.

terry bogard King of Fighters KOF 94, KOF 13, XIII, matt hughes
left: Terry in KOF 94, middle: Terry in KOF XIII, right: Terry has farm muscles like UFC legend Matt Hughes

Many of the great, aggressive fighters in combat sports share this square, compact brawler’s build. This works well with Terry’s special moves where he literally throws himself into each attack with wild abandon.

Andy on the other hand is the younger, prettier brother. Where Terry developed his own rough and tumble fighting style on the streets of South Town, Andy travelled abroad and learned ancient martial arts in Japan.

left: Andy in KOF 94, middle: Andy in KOF XIII, right: Genki Sudo, one of the coolest dudes ever to compete in the highest levels of MMA. Read about him here! http://www.cracked.com/funny-4284-genki-sudo/

Andy has a more refined fighting style than Terry, so he has a more refined, svelte build. Where Terry fights on brute strength and spirit, Andy attacks with precise controlled motions. His elegant fighting style is excentuated by his long slender fingers.

I could go on and on about each cast member (and I probably will in future posts)

I’m very impressed with SNK’s approach to rebooting a flagship series. It was a big risk finally putting the time and resources to bring this game into the HD era and lots of things could have gone awry. Most reboots involve taking iconic characters and making them grittier and more bad ass, losing their distinct personality in the process.

This often means giving the character a tattoo.

Guy Final Fight Streetwise Street Fighter Alpha Joker Batman Jim Lee redesign Dragon Tattoo
Left to Right: Guy from Street Fighter Alpha, Guy in Final Fight Streetwise, Joker from Batman the Animated Series, Jim Lee's Joker redesign

Or a leather makeover.
x-men, jim lee, movie, leather costumes

Harley quinn batman animated series vs arkham city

Thankfully SNK bucked this trend with King of Fighters XIII.

Rather than thinking “how can I make everyone edgier?” (and more generic), they took every character back to the drawing board and thought “Who is this person? What makes them distinct? How can we express their individuality even better?”

Many games today have long complex stories conveyed through slick cinematics and dialog. But very few games have so much personality built into the character designs and gameplay experience itself.

A game like this only comes around every decade or so (trust me I’ve been waiting!)

So if you feel any close personal connection to anything I’ve just described, don’t hesitate to reward SNK for their efforts by picking up a copy of King of Fighters XIII!

King of Fighters – Lucky Number XIII

To commemorate the release of King of Fighters XIII, I will be doing a series of blog posts on why I love the hell out of this game. Many other people, much more qualified than me have already written at length about KOF XIII’s tight and nuanced gameplay. I will focus on what I know best: Art. And there’s a lot to disuss about this game’s art.

King of Fighters XIII. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (links below)

1) Your awesome characters

2) Your lovely sprites (forthcoming)

3) Your gobsmacking color theory (coming soon)

Dragon’s Crown!

Vanillaware just announced their latest game, Dragon’s Crown, a beautiful, beautiful, bee-yoo-tee-ful hand painted, 2d, high fantasy action RPG. This game is a love letter delivered by cruise missile with its sites set square on my heartstrings. It’s as if … Read the rest

Vanillaware just announced their latest game, Dragon’s Crown, a beautiful, beautiful, bee-yoo-tee-ful hand painted, 2d, high fantasy action RPG. This game is a love letter delivered by cruise missile with its sites set square on my heartstrings. It’s as if the developers had asked me “hey man, I want to make your most favorite game ever. What do you want it be to like?” I’m giddy with delight! Haven’t felt this excited for a game in years!

Anyway, I got my hands on some ultra high rez art. Have at it!

If you dig this game, we probably have similar tastes, so you should check out my other articles!

Terra’s Black Marker

Terra's Black Marker
I recently got to meet one of my very favorite artists, Katsuya Terada at the opening of his art show, Terra’s Black Marker, at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon. Terada is a prolific artist known for his work in … Read the rest

Terra's Black Marker
I recently got to meet one of my very favorite artists, Katsuya Terada at the opening of his art show, Terra’s Black Marker, at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon. Terada is a prolific artist known for his work in video games, comics, animation and commercial illustration. If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work before even if you don’t recognize his name.

Katsuya Terada was the character designer for many video games including Sega’s ground breaking fighting game Virtua Fighter 2:

Katsuya Terada illustration for Virtua Fighter 2

He set the look for the short film Blood: The Last Vampire, a work so gorgeous it made James Cameron exclaim “The world will come to consider this work as the standard of top quality in digital animation.”

Terada has done illustrations for Marvel Comics:

Katsuya Terada cover for Wolverine Soul Taker no 3
Terada's take on everybody's favorite Canadian Mutant
Katsuya Terada's cover for Iron Man
I love how the striations in Iron Man's armor recall coiled steel (which is echoed in the rubble he's standing on)

He’s worked on live action films such as Hellboy, Godzilla Final Wars, Sucker Punch, Cutie Honey and Yatterman (which on a related note was totally awesome):

Movies that Katsuya Terada has worked on

And he even designed a shoe for Nike!

Katsuya Terada Nike White Dunks
Old school gamers and other hip cats might recognize his contributions to early issues of Nintendo Power including these evocative scenes from The Legend of Zelda:

Katsuya Terada Legend of Zelda Illustration for Nintendo Power Katsuya Terada Legend of Zelda Illustration for Nintendo Power Katsuya Terada Legend of Zelda Illustration for Nintendo Power Katsuya Terada Legend of Zelda Illustration for Nintendo Power

All the above is just a fraction of the full breadth of his work.

Terra‘s Black Marker was Katsuya Terada‘s second official art show in the US. The show mostly consisted of black and white drawings culled from his sketchbooks.

Katsuya Terada Bearbrick for Terra's Black Marker Show at the Compound Gallery
There was also a really sweet Bearbrick.
Katsuya Terada Terra's Black Marker Show at the Compound Gallery
Pencil sketches for the long running role playing game series Wizardry
Katsuya Terada for Terra's Black Marker Show at the Compound Gallery
These were probably original pieces created for the show.

The centerpiece of the show was a series of marker illustrations created just for this exhibit simply titled Spiral # 1 through 6.

Much of the artwork was completed on site, with the illustrations jumping out of the page, past the frames and into the wall of the gallery.

Katsuya Terada at work
Terada hard at work. This image is from Terada's blog: http://cacazan.blogspot.com/
Katsuya Terada's Spiral #1
Spiral # 1 - a rose for "The City of Roses"

Katsuya Terada Spiral Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery
Spiral # 2 (left) and Spiral # 1 (right)
Katsuya Terada's Spiral # 2 for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon
Detail of Spiral # 2

They were astonishingly precise illustrations, drawn freehand with no underdrawing using just a black permanent marker.

Katsuya Terada's Spiral No 5
Spiral # 5 - suggested listening: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi by Radiohead

These were fearless works of art with confidence in every stroke.  There’s a thrilling sense of performance to each illustration as your eye moves across the page, especially considering that there was no room for mistakes and back tracking.  There are so many interesting little detours throughout each composition, but they all flow into a coherent whole.  It must have been a thing to behold Terada drawing these!

Katsuya Terada Spiral No 5 Terra's black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon
Detail of Spiral # 5
Katsuya Terada's Spiral # 4 for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon
Spiral # 4
Katsuya Terada's Spiral # 4 for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon
Detail of Spiral # 4
Katsuya Terada's Spiral # 4 for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon
Detail of Spiral # 4

 

Meeting Terada was pretty dang cool.  I’m happy to report that the show was a great success.  I arrived about an hour after it opened and most of his pieces had already been sold by then.  Luckily I was able to snag 1 of each limited edition print from his spiral series.  I’ve heard anecdotally that the night before the show opened, the president of Nike purchased every original Spiral drawing for about $6000 a piece (which I think is a bargain). I don’t know if the buyer was really the president of Nike, but I do know that they were all sold out before the show opened. It makes me very happy to know that a world class artist like Terada is able to live comfortably from his work.

There were many other professional artists in attendance at the show, from local comic book artists to animators and concept artists who had flown in from Hollywood. They were easy to spot since they tended to be the people geeking out and asking Terada for his autograph and a picture (I am guilty as charged).

Katsuya Terada signing autographs at Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon

Usually that sorta thing is considered a big party foul, especially if you’re a professional in the same field, but Terada’s art has a way of bypassing people’s guards. It was very refreshing!  Terada took all this in stride.  He was very down to earth and had the relaxed demeanor of a man who is doing what he was born to do.  I joked that he should charge much more for his art (OK actually I was completely serious), and he just laughed and pointed at the walls and said these are just sketches.  They’re just for fun.

That really stuck with me.

For all his decades of experience, the tens of thousands of hours he’s poured into his craft, he’s still having fun.  And that fun is infectious. The best thing I can say about Katsuya Terada is that his artwork is so exuberant that it always makes me want to draw draw draw!  If you feel the same, I highly suggest you grab some paper, put the pen to the page and just see what happens!

Long live the Rakugaking!

Richmond Lee Tako No Ken
Some doodles I did after the show.

Additional Photos from the Show:

katsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregonkatsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregonkatsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregonkatsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon

katsuya terada illustration of Devilman for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon
Oil painting of Devilman!

katsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregonkatsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregonkatsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregonkatsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregonkatsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon

katsuya terada illustration for Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon

For more information on Terra’s Black Marker, please visit the Compound Gallery website, where you can see more work from the show and purchase original artwork and prints:

main website – http://compoundpdx.com/
Terra’s Black Marker show website – http://compoundpdx.com/Artist/currentshow.html
Browse and purchase artwork – http://compoundpdx.com/Artist/index.php?main_page=artist&cid=42

If you’re interested in learning more about Katsuya Terada, here are some great links:
Terada’s Personal Website –  http://cacazan.com/
Terada’s Blog – http://cacazan.blogspot.com/
A great retrospective of his work (in French) – http://www.catsuka.com/focuson.php?id=terada_katsuya&page=1

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