Prior to the release of the Detective Pikachu movie, a lot of videogame fans were excited at the initial trailers and hope that a videogame-based movie may finally turn out to be good. After its release, two things were confirmed. First, is that Detective Pikachu is actually good and quite well-liked and may be the highest grossing videogame-based movie of all time. Second, is that it still struggled in getting good critical scores, even if it avoided getting slammed as much as other game-based movies.
This disparity inspired me to write about videogame movie adaptations in general, and about how the differences between the mediums make it difficult to do justice to both at the same time. Community bloggers would notice that this also inspired by the excellent Band of Bloggers prompt of this month, so check out the writing of other CBloggers on the topic below.
Back to Detective Pikachu for a second, the first question to ask is: Is it a good adaptation of the videogame?
After seeing the movie and listening to the reactions of many fans of the series, I think we can equivocally say that it is in fact, an excellent adaptation of the game. In both creature design and lore establishment, the movie does incredible justice to the central element of the Pokémon franchise, and that is the Pokémon creatures themselves. While the “realistic” design was a worry for some at first, I think the majority decision is that they are depicted with great faithfulness to the original design, but in a way that makes sense in the “real” world of the movie. That is compounded in the design of the city itself, in which the Pokémon are again given central stage in how unique it is, as you can see them doing their own things in the background to create an interesting and believable space.
One thing for sure is the movie nailed the cuteness of Pikachu
The second question we now ask is: Is this good adaptation of the videogame a good movie?
The answer to this question is going to be different from many people, but I think few would argue it is a very good movie. At best, it is a good movie with some significant shortcomings. However, when we answer this question, we need to ask a follow-up: Are the movie’s weaknesses related to it being a videogame adaptation?
In this case, I think the answer is emphatically no. The movie’s weakness is not due to the Pokémon but due to plot issues and weakness that are almost universal in kid’s movies. This is a case where the same movie, without the videogame connection, would be considered a mediocre one.
To conclude on our Detective Pikachu analysis, this is a mediocre to good movie that is actually a great adaptation of the videogame. Its weaknesses are not related to the videogame part, but rather the shortcomings of the writing and the plot itself, which could have been made better to make an overall very good movie and videogame adaptation. It is fitting that the other videogame-based movie that hits the same notes is the current most successful videogame adaptation; Tomb Raider.
In the other end of the spectrum, we have many movies that are both bad on their own right as movies, and also a bad adaptation of the videogames they are based on. Starting from the original Super Mario Bros. movie and running through such forgettable messes as Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Alone in the Dark, Prince of Persia, and Assassin’s Creed.
That's Uwe Boll in the background, lurking to destroy yet another videogame-based movie
When analyzing those movies, the answer to both questions above is a no. Other than poor usage of characters and the established lore, those movies do not typically feel like a good adaptation of the games they are based on. As such, they are often B-Level movies with over-exposition and little cohesive storytelling.
I think that one of the reasons this often happens is that movies and videogames are widely different mediums, and shoehorning one into the other is bound to backfire. In storytelling, they have a completely different focus, different pacing, and different time limitations. As such, attempting to faithfully adapt a videogame may actually be the reason for the movie being bad. Lore and characters that are explored over many hours cannot be effectively condensed into a two-hour movie. Gameplay that is inherent to the franchise may not be easily translatable in movie format (Mario’s jumping for instance).
Perhaps only with the Naughty Dog games can you make a seamless transition, as those are already paced like movies but with gameplay inserted in between the cut scenes.
One of the best examples of shoehorning a game’s themes hurting the overall product is actually in an Anime, rather than a movie. If you ever heard about Gungrave then you would have probably heard that it is one of the best videogame Anime adaptations, and that’s correct. Yet, it’s best features are in spite of the videogame it is based on, and not because of it.
For two-thirds of the anime, where the background of the characters and the conflict is explored, the show is really good. There is very few (if any) Anime shows that showcases Mafia stories, and Gungrave’s story about the rise of two beat-up kids to the high ranks of a Mafia organization is gripping and well-told.
However, this was an adaptation of an admittedly cheesy action game. As such, when that adaptation kicks in in the final third, and the Anime show suddenly becomes a full-fledged videogame adaptation, filled with tedious peon fights and even a chopper boss fight, the Anime starts falling flat.
Honestly, the show’s final episodes, where it turns from a gripping and personal Mafia story to a full-on Boss-fight gauntlet is extremely disappointing.
In this case, we were in the cusp of getting a good show, but not a really good adaptation of the game. On trying to be more faithful to the game, the story and the show suffered as a result.
Gungrave was at its best when being an original anime and at its worst when closely adapting the videogame's style and structure
Ultimately, I think answering both questions is often a separate issue. Is the focus in providing a good movie, or a good adaptation to attract fans of the original property? In Detective Pikachu’s case, the story was not harmed because of the adaptation, and we could imagine a scenario in which we have both a good movie and a good adaptation. In others, the process of adaptation effectively harmed the movie, or the movie had little to do with the game, gaining little interest from the fans (and mostly being bad movies as well).
What do you think should be the balance between answering those two questions?
*- I enjoyed reading Osc's blogs where he is self-learning to develop a simple videogame. In reading this blog, I understand how Osc made an entire turn in his life, and is working hard in supporting himself, his family, and pursuing his dream in game-development. Here is hoping for the best.
*- This is an excellent look at another gaming culture that is not unique among third world countries but is quite different in Brazil's case. Nior takes use through the past of the "Locadora" parlors, a kind of communal gaming centers (somewhat similar to internet cafes) that is part of a never-returning past.
*- Virtua Kazama is not a stranger to the Topsauce section, and that's because his quality deep dives into fighting games are always good to read. His latest blog covers the little-known but highly respected Samurai Shodown series which has a new game that is going to be released in June. Maybe the future is really now.
*- If you played the famous Catherine puzzle/visual novel game, then you will understand how PressTheWhyButton found something to relate to as he was about to embark into married life for the first time. Congratulations and good luck.
It sure capture the look, and uh, "plot" of the games
A- In a very ambitious blog, Haklen57 goes over some platformer games spanning generations, talking about how excellent level design is an important factor that is especially evident when taking the next step in proficiency in each game and attempting some speedruns.
A- Portable gaming has been an important part of many gamer's life, such as it was for Gamemaniac3434 who goes into detail regarding his earliest portable gaming experiences, which naturally gravitated towards Nintendo portables.
A- Gamemaniac3434 continues his blog on portable gaming by exploring the latest portable devices, from the rise of the DS and eventual morphing into the Switch, as well as the parallel rise and fall of the Sony portables, including his beloved Vita.
A- With the PS5 on the horizon, it is time to have our unrealistic wishlists about what Sony should do next, and Sharukurusu is one step ahead with this wishlist blog, which is cool because it wants Wild Arms back (among other forgotten IPs).
S- I (Lord Spencer) am very close to finalizing my Wii REVIEWS series, with the latest review featuring Battalion Wars 2, a game from the Advance Wars franchise but with a very unique genre description (3rd Person Action + Real Time Squad Tactical Strategy).
S- Back to Lord Spencer's Saturn REVIEWS series, check out this review of Deep Fear, a game that is inspired by the first Resident Evil game but does not reach the same height due to some glaring gameplay design issues.
S- With another month gone, we expect another of Shoggoth2588's gaming journal entries. In April, he played and enjoyed Morrowind, played ane enjoyed Grim Fandango and Nioh, and played but did not enjoy Metal Gear V.
To be fair the Resident Evil movies, they are good adaptations of Resident Evil 6
S- I am sorry that Rounobi is suffering from some health and life issues, but I am glad that he has the perspective to face things head on, and I hope we support him through reading his blogs and providing a space for him here.
S- Similarly, SpielerDad shares with us some of his anxieties, but in a way that shows awareness of the situation and a willingness to live and accept himself. Let's continue making Dtoid such a welcoming place.
S- Another longtime Dtoider, Batthink, is announcing his return to the blogging scene, and I am looking forward to reading these blogs. Please note to always be respectful with your comments and recognize that bloggers may make mistakes sometimes.
Is this movie making or cosplay?
T- In a nostalgic blog, Sharukurusu shares his thoughts about the excellent level design of Wolfenstein 3D and other early FPS games that somehow managed to do so much with very little graphical capabilities.
T- If you are a fan of DOOM or horror FPS games, then you will appreciate DiVISIVE Shinobi's thoughts on DOOM III, which is more horror-oriented than other games in the series at the expense of some action.
D- This is some really detailed description of a Super Smash Bros. wishlist character by ABowlOfCereal. Honestly, the addition of "Black Mage" from the Final Fantasy series would be really cool (better than Cloud IMO), and it probably would be great if it is even half as good as the detailed move list described in this blog.
M- Here is another round of PhilsPhinding blogs, where he scours the internet to find tunes that are similar, or may even have inspired, famous videogame tracks:
The Assassin's Creed movie was bogged down by trying to explain the lore of the games
F- The Detective Pikachu movie was released with a lot of fanfare from the gaming community. Finally, we thought a video game-based movie that's good. As noted by Retrofraction, the movie is good, but not quite as good as it could have been.
S- Iacobus Magnus continues building this video game collection with the addition of some quality games like Super Smash Bros. Wii U and Dead Space 3. Wait a minute, that last one is simply to round up the Dead Space collection.
L- This is a brilliant series by Dr Mel, who is scouring old magazines and checking the gaming advertisements included within:
All eyes are on you now Sonic
The month of May saw a substantial increase in the number of blogs compared to April. Specifically, there were 73 vs. 58 blogs. One trend I noticed is that the Band of Bloggers prompt has inspired many writers this month, but the blogs were only released at the end.
Regardless of the number of blogs, your continued readership is important in keeping the Cblog community thriving, so go ahead and read and comment on as many blogs that you can. I am positive that many of these blogs are an interesting read to anyone who is interested enough in videogames to be a Dtoid member.
To celebrate the recap of the entire month, give a hand to the following bloggers:
Comments of the Week and Band of Bloggers Team of this Month:
Blog Count: 73