My knowledge of the “past” is relatively limited to specific historical periods. I have it in Ancient Greek and Latin, so I can tell you all about Suetonius’ account of Claudius’ imperial reign in depth, although I’m not sure you want me to. . I know a lot about Tudors, because I went to school in England, and we were so obsessed with Henry VIII in England that you would think he was the 6th member of One Direction. and the inventor of Marmite. I could also tell you about the 90s, but only because I was there.
And that’s about it, really. The gaps in my historical knowledge, oddly enough, covered pretty much anything other than England, or the 16th and 17th centuries Italy, France and Germany. I only knew about the Revolution. United States through musicals. But there seems to be some sort of historic renaissance going on right now, and fortunately, this time, for once, It’s not just about medieval Europe.
I played Chronicles of the great lawyer Ace recently. I reviewed it in July 2021, of course, but never finished it – playing an entire two games for review with deadlines was impossible without sacrificing sleep and sanity – and I got it wrong in the end. The film is set in Japan’s Meiji era and Britain’s Victorian era, which I’m familiar with (Child labor! Industrial Revolution! Steamboats! Big skirts and high hats!) And the previous film here i have completely unaware of.
It was exciting to experience not only the unspoiled, unyielding nature of Victorian England through the eyes of lawyer (and Phoenix Wright forerunner) Ryunosuke Naruhodo, but also learn something about Japanese history. Version through him. Unlike previous Ace Attorney games, Chronicles has pretty solid roots in reality. No Magatama magic or superpower bracelets; everything is more or less exactly with time. That means no fingerprints, no DNA and no luminescence – instead, cases must be solved the old-fashioned way, by piecing everything together from evidence and testimony. .
(Admittedly, Herlock Sholmes and Iris Watson, his sidekick, have plenty of ludicrous gadgets to help you solve crimes – like a blood gun, or a gun that makes cats slap your butt – but their evidence is barely admissible in court.)
Although Chronicles is set in Victorian England, the film is about the experiences of Japanese native Ryunosuke, his assistant Susato, and his friends Kazuma and novelist Soseki Natsume (apart from the novelist Soseki Natsume). real life!). The story is told from their point of view as strangers in England, unfamiliar with the customs, and constantly struggling because Victorian British culture is hard to understand strict and oppressive about things like etiquette and manners, and most British characters are condescending, racist and patronizing towards anyone they consider “inferior”. than”, ie – perverts – most people.
With Britain at the time leading the world in industrial invention, Japan is catching up – and the game’s artists have communicated the distinction with complicated machines and watches that leave Ryunosuke and his entourage he must be amazed. When we switch to scenes set in Japan, things seem more rural; less metal and more wood. It has a pleasant ministry to it, especially in contrast to Victorian England’s haste in inventing global warming.
The game is probably a completely different experience for Japanese players who will understand Ryu’s references, Soseki’s quotes and all the Japanese puns that are difficult to translate into English. , but as English-speaking players, we’re instead much more closely aligned with characters and societies that are supposed to have a sense of alienation – so Ryu and friends seem even like space travelers.
At the same time, however, English-speaking (non-Japanese) players are sometimes left behind by all the references and citations, and it all starts to feel like a joke you don’t know. must be yourself. I can understand why it took Capcom so long to bring it to the West, because building the bridge between the Japanese version and the English players must have been an arduous task.
However, I feel like I’ve slowly learned a lot about Japan’s Meiji period just by playing the game. Actually, that’s good, because that’s roughly when Pokémon Legend: Arceus is also set – albeit a fictitious version, since Pokémon aren’t actually real, to my great chagrin. The Meiji Era was an era I know nothing about before the Ace Lawyers Chronicle, and now we have two games on Switch talk about it.
I don’t know much about Pokémon Legends: Arceus yet (it only came out last week!) But the limitations and freedoms of the Meiji era were fascinating.
What I love most about historical fantasy is how it can strip away all the periphery of the modern era – cars, phones, social networks, space travel, etc – leaving plenty of space. to explore human relationships, stress, politics, and societies. After all, simpler times do not mean simpler interpersonal conflicts.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is enriched and softened by its historical setting, in part because it has removed the weight of all the bells and whistles from the main series. Smaller towns, more self-contained maps, and the wilderness is indeed a dangerous place, rather than a conspiratorial route between two cities. But the historical setting also makes the game feel new, because the past is a mystery to us – and even more so when it’s a past you’re not familiar with.
The most interesting thing for me was to explore Japanese history as an outsider, a tourist, and not be forced into swordplay. Many games set in Japan’s past are about samurai, ninja, or both – that’s fine, but not for me. There are still dangers in the world of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but they’re seen in a different light: One is to solve the problem, not destroy it. Pokémon Legends tasks you with taming and befriending an angry animal instead of just killing it and using that experience to learn.
There’s so much history Are not involves stabbing people or cutting them in half, and if it weren’t for games like Ace Attorney Chronicles, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruinset in feudal Japan and focused on agriculture, then I would probably never get to experience it.
We’ve seen a lot of games that treat European and even North American history with reverence. For example, the entire Assassin’s Creed series – perhaps the most historically-obsessed, outside of the entire turn-based strategy genre – shows us history unfolding through Greece, Italy, France and London , but rarely does it delve into history outside of the western world.
But there’s a dark side to every historical story, and the Meiji Restoration is one of colonialism and indigenous assimilation in Japan – which I don’t really know much about, and something Pokémon Legends and Ace Attorney don’t want to tell you much, though both talk about the main Japanese characters being transported to lands, cultures, and even times that are foreign to them, which This seems to be an obvious metaphor for the themes of colonialism and assimilation.
Yes suggest of this colonial story in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. The Weoping-shaped chimneys on the Galaxy HQ, particularly reminiscent of Galarian Wessing’s design, draw parallels between the UK’s rapidly expanding colonial empire and Hisui newcomers, who are completing into a lot of colonial stories about outsiders becoming saviors.
Likewise, the native Pearl and Diamond clans wear traditional costumes, and live in small settlements in tents, living happily alongside Pokémon; but the members of Team Galaxy – who constantly update their fashion – are more interested in pinning Pokémon down and studying them, while also bringing them from their natural habitats to figure out how to use them. use them to improve their own lives. Reminds you of anything?
It’s like having a giant elephant in the room that Japanese players will probably notice, which adds deeper, richer context to the story, but players like me are completely unaware of. (If you want to know more, Ricardo Contreras review of the game on VICE going into more detail – I recommend looking at it as a review that tackles some historical context along with the mechanics and aesthetics of the game.)
Still, I’m glad that video games can explore history in new ways, as it can only improve our knowledge base. If Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles are heralds of a new age of old age in video games – a game that celebrates and critiques aspects of the game. history isn’t western-focused or battle-focused – then I’m all for it.
After all, Japanese history is not all about katana and shuriken, nor is European history all about swords and cannons. Everyone in the past wasn’t all warriors, and the past wasn’t just war either, even if video games would lead you to believe otherwise. If we define our history as a civilization at a time of fierce disagreement, our legacy is blood and strife – and much more to the world.