Bujingai: The Forsaken City - More Like The Forgotten City, Amirite?
Join Jon as he shares a trip down memory lane with this true definition of a hidden gem!
The sixth generation of consoles gave us some of the most prolific franchises in all of video gaming. It also gave us some of the most oddball, bizarre, and otherwise niche creations we’ve ever played. I remember signing the petition to bring Katamari Damashii overseas, all while begrudging the lack of anime fighters my Shonen Jump reading self would have adored. Outside of even those, there are the games that are buried and forgotten. Games that are so far out of the mainstream that they fail to reach even cult classic status. Allow me to introduce you to Bujingai: The Forsaken City — a game some of you may have heard of, that even fewer of you have played, and even fewer of you possibly remember.
Before we move on, I feel it’s essential for us to distinguish just what is a cult classic versus a hidden gem. A lot of people confuse the two. A cult classic is something that is revered by a niche audience. It’s outside the mainstream game playing public, but offers something unique and special, and has an audience big enough to generate sequels and remakes, or reboots. One of my favorite games, Gungrave, I would argue is a cult classic. It’s spawned numerous sequels and continues to be developed to this day. In the case of our subject today, Bujingai is truly an often forgotten, hidden gem of the PlayStation 2.
Developed as a joint venture between Taito and Red Entertainment — the same developers behind the original Gungrave, coincidentally — Bujingai was developed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Taito, the legendary developer behind such notable titles as Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble. Bujingai is a third-person action game, a popular genre in the sixth generation of consoles. It stars the protagonist Lau Wong, whose likeness is that of Japanese pop star Gackt, Who lent his voice to Lau, and was featured in various promotional materials and attended promotional events for the game.
The game’s director Hiroshi Aoki wanted Bujingai to stand out in the crowded action genre of the day. They took inspiration from Hong Kong action films, and wuxia wire fighting techniques seen in martial arts films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This direction made Bujingai stand out amongst its peers such as Ninja Gaiden, and Shinobi, with presentation and spectacle not unlike Devil May Cry — Albeit more aesthetically oriental, with homages to Chinese and Japanese architecture, iconography, and character design.
The game’s design embraces these unique aesthetic attributes spectacularly with commitment to the form. While most action games of the time focus on intensity with non-stop action and tight controls, Buningai feels floaty and wistful. There’s more of an effort put into the pageantry and spectacle of the combat, with less effort put into making you — or rather your character — feel like a badass ninja or demon hunter. Attacks are broad and choreographed, with clashes that dispense a rainbow of visual effects and color. It feels inherently rhythmic. While it's an empty platitude to call the game cinematic these days, Bujingai on the other hand feels more in line with stage production or martial arts exhibition than anything else.
The game’s story is standard of its era, meaning it’s nothing to write home about. about a post-apocalyptic event, giving the remaining population special powers, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. The game’s 8 stages are set in a variety of locations, including apocalyptic cities, bamboo forests, floating shrines and temples, with a final boss encounter set in an appropriately apocalyptic celestial demon dimension. You earn points and experience to level up your skills and abilities, and of course grant you more health, and attack and defense.
Looking at these elements by themselves, it feels much in line with any other run-of-the-millaction game of the PS2 generation. However, Bujingai is worth more than the sum of its parts. Its music, its commitment to stylized action, its exciting combat, and its niche ‘High School J-Pop Club’ level star power puts this game well into hidden gem territory. Check it out!
About the Author:
Jon Anderson is a gamer, illustrator, graphic designer, video and sound editor, broadcaster, photographer, videographer, voice actor, and even a 2D artist for a brief time in the gaming industry. He's brought his eclectic skillset to the Games with Jon & James Podcast!
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