Godzilla game goes nu­clear-free

The China Post - - LIFE - BY YURI KAGEYAMA

Godzillas galore, in­clud­ing last year’s Hol­ly­wood ver­sion, stomp on build­ings, thrash­ing about and breath­ing fire, in a video game go­ing on sale glob­ally mid- July. But don’t ex­pect any ref­er­ences to ra­di­a­tion, the mu­tant rep­tile’s trade­mark af­flic­tion.

Sim­ply named “Godzilla,” it’s the first video game de­voted to the ir­ra­di­ated crea­ture in a decade. It’s also the first such game for the Sony Corp. PlaySta­tion 4 home ma­chine, en­sur­ing daz­zling dig­i­tal graph­ics.

Shun­suke Fu­jita, the game’s pro­ducer, is flush with ex­cite­ment when he speaks about how he and his team are true Godzilla believ­ers, hav­ing grown up on the movies. They were very care­ful to ren­der what he calls its “to­tally cool” fe­roc­ity.

In the orig­i­nal 1954 movie, Toho Co. stu­dios con­cocted the gi­ant an­i­mal that arose as a mu­ta­tion from nu­clear testing in the Pa­cific. That had spe­cial res­o­nance in Ja­pan as the only na­tion to have been at­tacked with nu­clear weapons.

Gareth Ed­wards, the direc­tor of the 2014 Hol­ly­wood Godzilla, also made a point to in­clude back­drop ref­er­ences to atomic weapons and ra­di­a­tion.

But the game steers clear of the hor­ror of both top­ics and Fu­jita is re­luc­tant to ex­plain why. What sub­sti­tutes for ra­di­a­tion in the game is a ref­er­ence to “en­ergy,” which Godzilla sucks up to gain strength.

“We re­al­ize ra­di­a­tion is some­thing that can never be dis­as­so­ci­ated with Godzilla,” is all Fu­jita would say on the topic.

Nu­clear is­sues have be­come par­tic­u­larly con­tentious in Ja­pan af­ter the March 2011 tsunami set off three re­ac­tor melt­downs at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant and ir­ra­di­ated the sur­round­ing area, forc­ing thou­sands of res­i­dents to evac­u­ate.

Fukushima peo­ple face la­tent prej­u­dice in Ja­pan be­cause of fears, some un­founded, about ra­di­a­tion. Nu­clear ex­perts say the lev­els of ex­po­sure were not high or sus­tained enough to cause wide- spread health prob­lems but there are some risks, such as the thy­roid can­cer in young­sters, which is be­ing mon­i­tored.

Ja­pan’s 48 nu­clear power re­ac­tors are now off­line for a new regime of safety checks. The gov­ern­ment wants to restart them but faces op­po­si­tion from com­mu­ni­ties and oth­ers wor­ried about ra­di­a­tion.

“We aimed for some­thing that was as close to the orig­i­nal in­ter­pre­ta­tions as pos­si­ble,” said Fu­jita, 29, proudly show­ing how the 1980s Godzilla can be pit­ted against the Hol­ly­wood Godzilla in a demon­stra­tion ver­sion of the game.

The fas­ci­na­tion for the game de­vel­op­ers lay in an arty du­pli­ca­tion of the shapes and move­ments of the var­i­ous Godzillas, and in recre­at­ing the ri­val mon­sters in the films, such as the dragon- like King Ghi­dora, Mothra, which re­sem­bles a moth, and the ob­scure Jet Jaguar, ac­cord­ing to Fu­jita.

“Godzilla is not just a vil­lain, it’s also a hero ev­ery­one adores, and so this game al­lows the player to be Godzilla and con­trol Godzilla,” he said.

Toho Co. made 28 films in the Godzilla se­ries, start­ing from the 1954 clas­sic, un­til it pulled the plug in 2004. The new game al­lows play­ers to ma­nip­u­late the var­i­ous kinds of Godzillas, in­clud­ing the ro­botic Mechagodzilla, first fea­tured in the 1974 film.

Mean­while, a resur­gence of Godzilla wor­ship has been in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble in Ja­pan, thanks to the Hol­ly­wood film. A new ho­tel in down­town Tokyo with a Godzilla head perched on it, for in­stance, is grow­ing into a tourist at­trac­tion.

Man Izawa, 56, a sales clerk and Godzilla fan, who be­lieves Godzilla is “the big­gest star to come out of Ja­pan,” won­ders how the sen­si­tive themes will get ad­dressed when Toho re­leases a new Godzilla film next year.

“It will be the first Ja­panese Godzilla af­ter 3.11,” he said, us­ing the widely used term for the Fukushima dis­as­ter.

De­com­mis­sion­ing the Fukushima re­ac­tors is ex­pected to take about half a cen­tury, and scien- tists are only start­ing to ex­am­ine what state the melted cores might be in.

He doesn’t blame peo­ple want­ing to avoid con­tro­versy in a game, which could crimp sales, but he mar­vels at the courage of the first Godzilla film that wasn’t afraid to take a stand on nu­clear weapons, barely a decade af­ter the end of World War II and the atomic bomb­ings of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki.

“The ap­peal of Godzilla can’t be eas­ily ex­plained in words. It’s not just about be­ing scary and strong. It’s also about its am­bi­ence, its shape, its beauty, like be­ing in awe of a samu­rai cas­tle,” Izawa said.

Fu­jita is con­fi­dent the game will be a hit with fans.

“This is a game, made by peo­ple who love Godzilla, in which the love for Godzilla has gone wild. I know peo­ple who love Godzilla will feel that love,” he said.

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