Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nine Video Games Starring Celebrities

Snoop Dogg’s video game is strange. Way of the Dogg looks like a fighting game, but plays like Elite Beat Agents, and features Mr. Dogg in a prominent role. It also has two letter g’s in the title where one would have been sufficient – just like the rapper’s name.

Games built around celebrities that are not based on movies are still somewhat rare. These are some of the games that have given it a shot in the past.

Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City – Michael Jordan (pictured above)

The weirdest thing about Chaos in the Windy City isn’t its plot of saving other all-star basketball players to attend a charity basketball game, or that Jordon has an endless supply of basketballs to fire at enemies. The weirdest thing about Chaos in the Windy City’s is that the lead designer was Amy Hennig. If you’re not familiar with Hennig, you might be familiar with another video game series she wrote: Uncharted.

Shaq-Fu – Shaquille O’Neil
I would love to have been present for this pitch meeting. I’ve always wondered if Shaquille O’Neal brought the idea to a developer, or a if a developer brought the idea to him. Very few people think of kung-fu when they think of Shaquille O’Neal, but one brave soul out there did, and the rest is fighting game history. 

Apocalypse – Bruce Willis
Beyond: Two Souls recently showed off its box art, where the names of starring actors of the game are prominently displayed like a movie poster. Apocalypse did it first however, proudly proclaiming that Apocalypse stared Bruce Willis. Ultimately, Willis did not contribute a lot to the game. His had his face scanned, and he speaks a few one liners, but that’s about it.

An interesting side-note: the engine created for this game was later re-purposed for Neversoft’s next game, which starred a different kind of celebrity: Tony Hawk.

Jet Li: Rise to Honor – Jet Li
Jet Li’s video game stars an amalgam of characters and scenes from his movies, all mashed together for a forgettable game. It was a third-person action game, which unlike the previous two examples makes a little more sense. These days, Li  is still involved in video games appearing in the end of Age of Wushu commercials promoting the game.

Jackie Chan Stuntmaster – Jackie Chan
Much like Li’s game, Stuntmaster takes Chan’s film characters and action sequences and shoehorns them into an action game. Chan was involved in the production of this one, lending his voice and motion capture to the game. This is pretty common now, but it wasn’t in 2000 when the game released.

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker – Michael Jackson
I chose not to include sports games featuring notable athletes or music games featuring notable musicians on this list, because those relationships make sense. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker featured Jackson’s music prominently, but it’s not a music game, which is why it belongs here. In the game, Jackson uses his dancing and singing abilities to defeat enemies and take on the evil Mr. Big, all set to a digitized version of some of Jackson’s greatest hits. It was strange.

Stranglehold – Chow Yun-Fat/John Woo
Nearly 15 years after the release of the popular action film, Hard Boiled, John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat decided to revisit the story and release a video game sequel to the film. I include both Woo and Yu-Fat as featured celebrities for this game because the game was really promoted by the involvement of both talents. Also, Woo has a cameo where he plays a bartender.

Mark Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure – Mark Ecko
I’m not sure if Mr. Ecko actually counts as a celebrity, because I had personally never heard of him before the release of this game. It casts Ecko, a notable graffiti artist (apparently), as a fictional graffiti artist who is also an adept fighter, fighting the oppressive government of New Radius.

Onimusha - Takeshi Kaneshiro/Jean Reno/ Yusaku Matsuda
This one might surprise you, unless you are familiar with Japanese cinema. Onimusha and its two direct sequel’s protagonists are all modeled after well-known actors. You probably recognize Jean Reno from Onimusha 3. He was actually cast because of his worldwide recognition from films like The Professional. Samanosuke Akechi from the first and third games is modeled after popular Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro. Jubei Yagyu from Onimusha 2 was modeled after actor Yusaku Matsuda, whose Wikipedia page calls him, “one of Japan's most important film actors.”

What do you think of celebrities not only appearing in video games, but starring in them? Is it just a marketing tool? Or is there room for interesting experiences with a talented celebrities like that of Shaq-Fu?

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