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?
The Characters, the environments, the ultra violence, the cosmic scope, the super powers, the anime hair … All of it! Let’s begin the tour!
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.
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”
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…
…or roughneck Terry.
Are you a bad ass loner? Pick K (if you secretly have a heart of gold)…
…or Iori (if you really are a cruel bastard).
Are you plucky and spirited? Try Kensou.
Are you everyone’s little sister? Try Yuri.
Do you enjoy the finer things in life? Try Elizabeth.
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. With his sly confident demeanor and prediliction for gender bending he is the Bugs Bunny of the Fighting Game world.
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!
He attacks with lazy waves of his arms and throws fireballs by blowing a kiss.
He crouches like a delinquent taking a smoke break.
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 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).
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.
And it’s become a cliche to point out that almost every first person shooter stars a generic bald marine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Or a leather makeover.
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!
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)
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!
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
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:
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:
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):
And he even designed a shoe for Nike!
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:
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.
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.
They were astonishingly precise illustrations, drawn freehand with no underdrawing using just a black permanent marker.
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!
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).
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!
Additional Photos from the Show:
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: