Astro = No!

To continue.

Many comics have excellent elements for video games. The heroes have fantastic powers, ruthless (or at least “brightly costumed”) villains, and they’re constantly saving someone from something. However, many comics since the eighties have become popular with less action-packed story lines. No one wants to see a video game based on Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World (don’t let the cat-suit-mask fool you, she’s just kind of mod-girl crazy, not “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die! Muuhahahahahaaa!” crazy).

But let us leave aside the underground/indie/emo comics full of feelings, angst, and ennui. It’s too obvious that they would not make good games so there’s no point in talking about them.

Instead, let’s discuss a hero comic that should never see the digital game screens of the world.

Astro City.

The comic itself is masterful. Each story arc or one-shot are so well constructed that I have cried on at least two occassions while reading them. Not like bawling baby crying, but manful, single-tear-running-down-each-cheek crying. Like John Wayne would’ve done if the communists had ever taken over Texas.

On the surface it seems like any other hero book and that it could be made into a game without much trouble. Kurt Busiek and his artisitic co-horts play on all the major super-hero tropes. They examine the classic archtypes in new ways, mimicing the four-color super beings we know in order to tell stories the major labels wouldn’t be able to get away with. And I’m not talking about the ability to use curse words or extreme violence. The Astro City stories are about the character of the characters. The almost mundane humanity of fantastically powered heros. The redemption of a one-time two-bit crook. The problem of being a father when your nights are spent patrolling the city for super-powered threats.

With that thematic thread, making a video game based on Astro City suddenly becomes less of a viable prospect. The charm of the comic is in it’s dialogue, the motivations of its characters, and the sometimes ground-level view of the heroes who have climbed so high in their world’s esteem. Very little of that could be successfully married with an action/adventure game. You’d either lose the dramatic impact of the Astro City world or you’d sacrifice gameplay for cutscenes and movies. Neither makes for a terrific video game and so I stand by my assertion: Do not make an Astro City video game, please.

Not that anyone is planning on it.



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June 2008
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