Unpredictable is a column from Caty McCarthy about recent games and other happenings bustling in the world of media. This week: the game Monument Valley 2 and the potential live-action adaptation of the anime Cowboy Bebop.
I'll never forget when Beyoncé surprise dropped her album on iTunes in 2013. It was in December, around 9 p.m. here on the west coast. I got a panicked text from a good friend of mine, "Oh my god, Beyoncé just dropped a new album!!!" I don't remember it verbatim, but it was definitely interlaced with swear words of sorts. (I lost that message long ago.) I immediately jumped into iTunes, bought the only album I've ever bought via iTunes, and listened to something glorious and unexpected: new Beyoncé baby.
It was a self-titled album, likely peddled as such in order simplify word of mouth around it: it was new Beyoncé and new Beyoncé alone. It released with no fan fare; no promotional singles; nada. Just a complete album, with a dazzling visual component as well. At the time, it was unheard of. Four years later, dozens of musicians have pulled the same trick, trying to capitalize on the shocking success. But no one has done it quite like Beyoncé.
Though, some games have tried. Among them, yesterday Ustwo Games' latest iOS game Monument Valley 2 surprise released during the Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference keynote. A game that wasn't even hinted at being in development prior.
The games that have done surprise drops are usually smaller titles; some indie, some technically not. At the Playstation Experience this past December, Grasshopper Manufacture's long-teased Let It Die finally released at the end of the conference's keynote. Let It Die happened to be a free-to-play game, meaning everyone had direct access to it on the Playstation Network. Right then, right there. Before players knew it, they were meeting the skateboarding grim reaper Uncle Death, and cackling at such a bizarre hack-and-slash game greeting their thumbs.
At Bethesda's E3 conference two years ago, the not-so-surprise announcement of Fallout 4 was coupled with a free spin-off game: Fallout Shelter. Fallout Shelter was playable almost right away, a mobile shelter-management simulator. It was light, very much a free-to-play mobile game, but it leveraged the Fallout brand to smartphones—and it brewed hype for the eventual open world title to be released later in the year.
But of course, Fallout Shelter was not Fallout 4. I've always been surprised that the majority of the games world hasn't really followed suit, even if the reasons it doesn't are more in the "well, they really can't" realm. In an alternate universe, we could have lived in a world where instead of a random, same-year announcement of Middle Earth: Shadow of War, we could've maybe experienced a same-day release.
Yet in games, those sorts of feats are trickier than the realm of internet-bound music stores, especially the bigger and more triple-A-leaning a game is. With physical copies, stores would inevitably leak a big surprise game, in one way or another. The fan hype that steadily grows as a game nears release would be shaved, in favor of hoping the shock of a surprise release would saturate it. Dastardly pre-orders would be, of course, irrelevant. Games frankly aren't surprise released as much as music because there are far more gateways obscuring it. Which, I suppose in a way, makes the surprises feel even more genuine. And, well, surprising.
Predictably, I immediately downloaded the new Monument Valley yesterday. I was a fan of the first game—mostly for its calming style rather than its non-intricate puzzles. From what I've played of the sequel thus far, it does feel like more of the same, with not much spicing up the logic of the first game. Yet I suppose that doesn't bother me. In a way, I'm playing right into the arms of another sort of hype: hype of the surprise variety. Where I'm playing a game I didn't expect to ever be playing, and am pleased about that. And honestly, before the chaos of E3 rolls in, I'm enjoying its tranquil puzzles as well.
This is the real folk blues.
I awoke today to alarming news. Cowboy Bebop, the legendary Shinichirō Watanabe-directed anime, is getting a live-action television series, as reported by Variety. Just seeing the headline, I could immediately imagine the surrounding outrage over it—people complaining on Twitter over its existence, fuming over potential whitewashed casting (I assure you, in a world where Scarlett Johansson is Motoko Kusanagi, it will probably happen), and what have you. Even my knee-jerk response was to Tweet about it with a sole emoji frown.
But the news story, notably relaxed on details, really revealed hardly anything worth getting mad over at all. This adaptation is in development. And it's coming out eventually, probably. It probably won't star Keanu Reeves, as was once rumored a million years ago about a film adaptation.
As a gal with the Swordfish II etched in ink on her arm, I'm a pretty big fan of the series. I don't hate the idea of a live-action adaptation, provided that it's good and done right. Of course, I have reservations like I said above, of whitewashing, among other qualms surrounding a show with amazing animation that hopped from planet to planet, following a bounty hunting space crew.
I'm resting easy for now. If Ghost in the Shell's poor live-action adaptation proved anything, it's that maybe it led more people to discover the original animated feature. Or alternatively, maybe filmmakers learned their lessons when developing a Japanese property that is so embedded in the country it was borne from. Ghost in the Shell, along with the long-rumored eventual Akira adaptation, are titles that are inherently Japanese to their core. But Cowboy Bebop, unlike them, plucks its influences from elsewhere.
Cowboy Bebop has strong western influences (c'mon, it has "cowboy" in the name, and features a soundtrack bursting with bebop jazz), and it's that clear difference, contrasted to other lackluster anime adapatations, that gives it the potential to have a strong adaptation in the West. It's the rare anime with an arguably better dub than sub (the only, in this fan's opinion). So I urge y'all: don't write it off yet. I have my money on hoping Lil Yachty remixing the whole score for it, after he rapped over a track from Yoko Kanno's amazing score on a mixtape. (Unless the cast ends up being all white. Then, uh, we have a problem.)