We may not be able to get into the worlds created by Studio Ghibli. However, we can play games that the developers created under the influence of her paintings. From Ni No Kuni, made in collaboration with Ghibli, to many indie projects, we have worlds worth diving into. At Polygon, as part of the week, Ghibli spoke with game developers who were inspired by the work of the most famous Japanese studio. Here are Ghibli-inspired games.
The girl and her Totoro
The original SNES game A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia looks more like Spielberg's Alien than Ghibli's My Neighbor Totoro. In it, a cheerful teenage boy set out on an adventure with an alien who loves jelly beans. Years later, indie studio WayForward obtained the rights to remake the game for a mid-2000s audience.
Mark Gomez, the project's art director, decided to rework the game, taking inspiration from Miyazaki in the direction of 2D hand-drawn animation.
“When creating Boy and his Blob, I thought a lot about 'My Neighbor Totoro' and the connections between Satsuki, Mei and Totoro. I wanted to capture as much of this wordless connection as possible, as well as the childhood miracle of exploring my own backyard, ”Gomez said.
There is practically no communication between characters in the game. The main character can shout "Come on!" to his friend, and he will answer with a cheerful jump in the right direction. While the original NES bloop looked like a bumpy snowman, the 2009 reimagining looks as nice and embracing as Totoro, albeit a lot smaller. The game even has a special hug button that allows the boy to hug his new friend.
According to Gomez, the visual style has become a new challenge for the team. The game was a big step that WayForward wanted to make in the direction of traditional animation. They did all the animation in pencil on paper. The result was a game with special visuals that were as vibrant as the imagery from Totoro.
“What I love about Miyazaki's films are the subtle details that you only see in the character because of his movements. Visual aesthetics are also aimed at a wider audience than just children, ”Gomez continued.
More than a decade later, Boy and his Blob is still a foundational example of how a game's visual design can create a mood.
Ori And The Forest Spirit
It was Christmas 2010 morning in Vienna, Austria. Thomas Mahler, who left Blizzard Entertainment earlier this year and co-founded the independent studio Moon Studios, is awake.
“Still in bed, I turned on the TV and, lo and behold, one of the channels was broadcasting Princess Mononoke.
And as the developer said: "this is the very day when the idea of creating Ori was born." It will be Ori and the Blind Forest, the critically acclaimed 2015 Moon Studios platformer, as well as its excellent 2020 sequel Ori and The Will of the Wisps. Also games inspired by Ghibli cartoons.
But in 2010, Mahler just lay there, spending his vacation with a great movie: “With no better option, I watched it. Then there was a scene where Prince Asitaka was helped to cross the forest by codes, by the little forest spirits, and I was fascinated. These moments eventually became key factors for Ori's design team. How the spirits, other inhabitants of the forest behave, the mystical feeling of all this ... and, of course, the visual effects. ”
Team Moon Studios even went as far as to put their protagonist, a little guardian spirit named Ori, into the world of Princess Mononoke as a design exercise.
“One of the very first tests we did for Ori and the Blind Forest was that we actually took one of Princess Mononoke's concept art and transferred it to our game engine to inject our character into this fabulous world. This in itself influenced what style we would use for Ori, as it became obvious that we wanted to create something that would match what Studio Ghibli does in their films. So it became clear that we had to carefully paint every detail, ”continued Mahler.
In terms of design and mechanics, Ori and the Blind Forest was influenced by Metroid and Super Meat Boy. but its visuals do justice to Princess Mononoke, in particular to how the film made its forest “like another character with a personality of his own. The forest in Princess Mononoke seems almost alive, but it is so lush and beautiful as if it were real.
Like Mark Gomez, Thomas Mahler has also admired the way Studio Ghibli's films resonate with a wider audience. “I have always been inspired by the way animation was perceived in Japan compared to the USA and Europe. Due to the strong influence of Disney in recent regions, I think the public opinion here is that animation is only for kids. This has never happened in Japan. There, it's just a different medium to tell stories. ”
Oftentimes, Studio Ghibli films portray something of a youthful growing up story, touching on something much darker. This is what the Moon Studios team focused on when creating Ori games.
“In terms of storytelling, we have also always been heavily influenced by Tomb of the Fireflies. This film shows very well the difference in the perception of animation in different cultures. Grave of the Fireflies is not a 'children's film' at all, it is a sharp and true portrayal of how children experienced personal tragedy during World War II, ”said Mehler.
Ori Games, like many Studio Ghibli films, tell a human story.
“Although we use fantasy creatures in the Ori series, this is all allegorical. The story is actually very solid and deals exclusively with human themes so that people can empathize with our characters, ”said Miller.
Battle Chef's Delivery Service
Ghibli films, from freshly baked golden bread at The Witch Delivery Service to the delicious food Chihiro's parents eat in Spirited Away, have depicted visually stunning feasts. Eric Huang, artistic director of the puzzle game Battle Chef Brigade 2017, cited these adorable looking animated delights as one of the roots of his design inspiration.
Kiki's Delivery Service was the main Ghibli movie that inspired me when I was working on game, but I was also influenced by Moving Castle and Spirited Away. From Kiki, I really liked the European setting, especially the bakery in which the heroine works. I made a similar storefront in our Battle Chef Brigade game.
Like Kiki's Delivery Service, Battle Chef Brigade is a mix of the ordinary and the unusual. In the game, chefs compete against each other in a culinary competition, but they have fantastic abilities. They will run to fight the monsters to get the strange ingredients they need to eat, and will also make sure to return to the kitchen to make sure their soups don't run away.
“The Ghibli films also have a real charm, which I think has driven us throughout the creation of Battle Chef. The presence of magic also affects me, even if it was more subtle and reflected in the general environment of our game. I should also point out that Miyazaki's amazing protagonists set the bar high for me to strive to create Mina Khan, ”the developer recalls.
Nausicaa of the Matuzion Valley
"Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," Miyazaki's early film that paved the way for Studio Ghibli, is set a thousand years after the apocalyptic war. 2019's Mutazione, a game from Danish indie studio Die Gute Fabrik, also follows a girl who travels a post-apocalyptic world. The game took some of its design cues from Nausicaa and other Studio Ghibli paintings, drawing parallels in terms of visuals, storytelling, and even sound design.
“I know that Nausicaa was the key reference point that [creative director] Nils Denecken and I discussed, especially in the early days of the project. In fact, when we finally finished the game last year, I gifted Niels a special vinyl anime soundtrack set I bought in Japan. I think that's pretty symbolic, "said game designer Douglas Wilson.
Wilson worked closely with Mutazione soundtrack creator Alessandro Coronas to make the game sound just as memorable like a Studio Ghibli movie.
When trying to figure out what each mood should look and sound like, Niels sometimes referred to scenes from Spirited Away, where Chihiro and her family walk through sunny grassy fields in an abandoned amusement park. I think a lot about the piano and strings parts that Hisaishi tends to use, ”the composer says, referring to the author of the soundtracks Ghibli.
Studio Head Hannah Nicklin, who worked as lead narrative designer for Mutazione, has provided some inspiring story ideas for the game, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to the entire soap opera genre.
“When writing Mutazione, I was given the soap opera genre as a starting point, which combines the mundane / domestic with the sublime / dramatic. Ghibli enjoys the little things at home in his films: cooking scenes, cleaning scenes, walking down the street. Kiki's Delivery Service, like Totoro, are my favorite examples in this context.
Science fiction is woven into everyday life as if it were natural. The feeling of a relaxed rhythm, a confident combination of the mundane and naturalistic with the wonderful fantastic backstory and work of Niels is certainly a comparison that you can confidently draw in my work and the worlds of Miyazaki. ”
Creative Director Niels Denecken echoed Niklin's point of view, writing: “I believe the mundane she describes is what makes Miyazaki's worlds so magical. I would call it down-to-earthness. The fact that characters are allowed to do mundane things in [Miyazaki's] films is also reflected in the environment. There are places that look as if they are being lived and used: kitchens, offices, bakeries, baths.
Wilson noted how often he hears up-and-coming game creators refer to Studio Ghibli as a common ground. As examples of these games show, many game designers still refer to Ghibli as influencing the art they create today, signaling that these films continue to spread across popular culture, and that ripples have only increased over the years. Even if you haven't seen Studio Ghibli's films, you've probably played a game or seen a work of art influenced by one of them.
The Topic of Article: Ghibli Inspired Games.