Sunday, March 2, 2014

Waiting for The Last Guardian

The English translation
I want too take this opportunity to talk about a book I finished reading just recently.  It's called Ico: Castle in the Mist, and it's an adaptation of the 2001 PS2 game Ico.  If you've never heard of this video game I suggest you look it up.  It's one of the best 3D puzzle platformers ever created.

As far as novelizations of video games go Ico: Castle in the Myst is one of the better ones out there.  The author, Miyuki Miyabe, is an acclaimed Japanese writer, penning books on a variety of genres.  Her prose are oftentimes poetic, which is saying a lot when you consider that this is a translated work.  What sounds good in Japanese can very easily turn into something obscured or bizarre in English, but thanks to the capable translator Alexander O. Smith the text flows very naturally.

In terms of story Ms. Miyabe takes some creative liberties with the source material.  Fair warning; there will be minor spoilers ahead.  The novel is divided into five parts.  The first act is a prologue to events in the game.  Readers get to learn about the horned-boy protagonist, Ico, his foster parents, best friend and the village they all live in, as well as a few details about the surrounding lands.  The second and forth sections roughly correspond to the events shown in the game while the third part serves as a lengthy flashback by Yorda (the girl in white).  Here it's relieved what life was like in the castle before it became a haunted ruin.  This peak into the past has a very Arthurian vibe to it, but ends unresolved.  Only in fifth and final chapter do prior events become clear.

The new Japanese cover
Overall, the storytelling on display here feels like an organic growth of themes and ideas established in the game.  Most of the changes fans might notice are necessitated by the shift in medium.  Video games are great for interactive experiences, films work well for visual ones, radio dramas excel at dialogue, and novels have their own strengths which need to be played to in order to succeed.  That said, there is a kind of simplistic beauty to the original game (a boy and a girl trapped together in a vast unsympathetic environment) which is lost to a degree in the book.  This might be the reason why the development team gave the author their blessings to write the story she wanted to tell while at the same time declining to canonize her version of events.

In concision, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Ico: Castle in the Mist to anyone who's a fan of Ico the game, or its spiritual sequel Shadow of the Colossus (since there are a few subtle nods to that game as well).  Technically speaking I guess you could call this novel a fanfic, but in its defense the quality of writing is on par with other well regarded examples of genre fiction.  Plus, it gives gamers like me a chance to revisit long cherished world while waiting for news on the ever delayed ending to this trilogy, The Last Guardian.

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