Mar 312009

I’m a big fan of Shakespeare, I love reading his plays, I love seeing them being adapted even more, it’s how they were intended to be experienced. Part of the draw for me is to see how the source material has been adapted by the director; Shakespeare give precious little stage direction in his works outside of “exeunt” or “enters” , what descriptions of the set that are there are spoken by the characters so there’s a lot of leeway for an imaginative director to work with. Baz Luhrmann gave us a literal translation set in the late 90s with guns, drugs and disco (!), Julie Taymor worked in a modernesque Roman Empire in her version of Titus Andronicus, (Rent this for Anthony Hopkins’ performance alone) Phillip of Terrance and Phillip fame did a faithful literal adaption of Hamlet when he sought acting legitimacy. Shakespeare is a cultural touchstone because it’s themes are universal, and best of all, it’s a free to all public domain work.

Now I will have to admit that Shakespeare the playwright was a hack. There, I said it. Shakespeare had never in his entire career wrote anything even close to an original story. All of his plays have a traceable source material that he worked from and in this lack of originality the coders at Baby Eish Games can find common ground with one of the greatest, if not THE greatest writer in the English language. Their first game, Most Romantic Tales: Romeo & Juliet is a PC “video game” in the loosest sense of the word, in that you can interact with it.

I downloaded the demo from their website, and it’s bad, really bad. It consists of clicking the screen over and over to get the the characters speak their lines. What you get is two characters standing immobile while the poorly translated text appears atop the screen. A character speaks, you click for the next line of dialog. Occasionally it will give you to do something other than have two statues stare at you with lifeless eyes. In these instances, if your chosen action goes against the plot it doesn’t allow you to take the action until you finally chose the one that allows you to move the plot forward according to Shakespeare’s script.

Remember over ten years ago when you first were wowed by Final Fantasy VIII’s intro movie? If you don’t, here’s the link:

FF8 is ten years old, and the character models are rendered much better, and more lifelike than MRT: R&J. The character models used in the game are closer to Xavier: Renegade Angel from Adult Swim only without the irony. This is real amateur hour stuff, and I get the feeling that the staff at Baby Eish Games needs to spend more time tightening up the graphics up on level three. I would rather break my other collarbone than suffer through this again. The Vicodin induced post op haze I’ve been in the last week was clearly not enough to prepare me for this “game”. Wrecking my motorcycle clearly wasn’t the worst thing to happen to me this month.

Windows XP only. I use Vista (it came with the computer, sue me) and it crashed on me when I tried to start the game. Forcing compatibility down to XP solved the issue.

Usually this is reserved for japanophile pedants ranting about their favorite JRPG, but this is Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s language isn’t that hard to understand outside of a few words or references that have fallen out of use, and that’s what footnotes are for. MRT: R&J uses what they call “contemporary colloquial American English”. It’s often wrong, and entirely bad. There is no attempt to preserve the meter and verse that I can see, and the translation makes the characters come off as oafish to the point of being mentally handicapped.

This was a poor attempt at making a game, with a translation that was even poorer. Why even bother to translate the material to begin with? Why even bother to try and make a game that didn’t even make it to the half baked stage? If I have to read the text of the play as I go through the game, when the original text with footnotes is easily found on the internet for free? $12.99 for this garbage? I can rent every one of the Bard’s plays from Netflix for less and get infinitely more enjoyment out of it. I’ve seen high school productions of Macbeth that are better than this.

Going off the Reservation:
The writers of the game have included an alternate “happy ending” to the game if you can somehow get the characters do do something off script. I don’t know where they think they can get off writing a happy ending for one of the greatest tragedies ever written. The ending is the entire point otherwise it isn’t a tragedy! What exactly is the team that made this smoking, drinking or popping? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! I want to write a ten page thesis about why this game was a fool’s errand from the start, but I’m at a loss for words that this company has the gall to think that they can improve on one of the greatest tragedies ever written. The more I think about it, the more livid I get. The amount of hubris displayed by Baby Eish Games is palpable. There are a few ways that this could have been a real game that stayed inside the script and had honored the source material that could work, but that would have required a game engine.

Here’s a link to Ben’s preview of Dante’s Inferno:

There is no way that EA can make a game based on classic literature worse than Baby Eish Games. By simply allowing the player to move will be an improvement of leaps and bounds over MRT: R&J. Maybe I should take my idea of Super Canterbury Story Trip RPG to some developers in Japan.

Stay far, far away.
Not Recommended

[tags]Literature, Romeo & Juliet, Most Romantic Tales: Romeo & Juliet, Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare[/tags]

About Joe Smith

I’m patiently waiting for the future. I want to sail on the sea of stars, I want to get into a bar fight with a Cephelopod buddy fighting at my side. I want to believe in a good blaster by my side. I want to be just like Captain Harlock when I grow up. I might also be in the market for some rental time with Doc Brown’s DeLorean or any functional time machine, so if you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.

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