If you’ve read previous entries on my blog, you’ll know that I like to think about how to adapt certain properties into video games. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to adapt something to video game format, you should represent the source material’s themes and “feel”, in the handling of the mechanics and story. If you’re not going to rightfully represent the source material, then why adapt it? Well, other than easy cash from brand recognition and fans of the adaptee. With this in mind, Ghost In The Shell: First Assault has caught my eye.
Ghost In The Shell is a franchise which began in Masamune Shirow’s original manga in 1989, and has spread out to encompass anime films and books, as well as a few video games which most people don’t remember. On the surface, it’s an awesome Cyberpunk vision of the future, following a counter-terrorist organisation in mid-21st century Japan. At its heart, though, it’s a series of stories which explore the meaning of what it is to be “alive”, or “human”. This is a world where cybernetics are commonplace; many body parts can be replaced and upgraded, to the point that a human consciousness can reside inside an entirely inorganic body (hence “Ghost In The Shell”). What does it mean to be alive when your mind lives in an inorganic body? What is identity when memories can be hacked and altered? What does it really mean to be human in an age where A.I. is advanced enough to have opinions and emotions? These are the questions at the core of GITS.
Now, let’s take a look at GITS: FA. To the game’s credit, it looks like a pretty fun multiplayer FPS. The visuals are characteristically slick and smooth, showing off the cyberpunk setting. The gadgets look like interesting modifications to the gunplay, which from what I can tell seems solid enough. I’m sure that GITS: FA could be an interesting diversion. It’s just that I can’t help but wish that we were getting a game more representative of the source material. In a GITS game I want intrigue, murky morality, subterfuge, investigation. I want subtlety. I can’t help but feel that a GITS game which is focusing mainly on action is shooting itself in the foot by using the GITS name.
I appreciate the power of brand recognition and fan loyalty, and perhaps a game in the context of a certain universe doesn’t necessarily have to match the themes and tone of the previous stories told in that universe. But at a certain point, an adaptation isn’t a successful adaptation, and is just using the name of an existing franchise to cash in on the name.