The world of video games is an ever changing and growing industry and that’s clearly evident by a new venture started by Namco Bandai. The home of Pac-Man, Katamari Damacy, and the Soul Calibur franchise is branching out by not creating animes or movies but rather web comics based on some of their properties.
Most of us likely aren’t strangers to seeing a comic book based on a video game appear as major franchises such as Resistance, Halo, and even Army of Two have all received the comic book treatment thanks to major publishers such as DC and Marvel. But with their comic initiative Namco is digging deep into their vaults to give us something unexpected as nearly forgotten arcade classics are being updated with a modern twist.
Namco Bandai’s ShiftyLook is a place where franchises such as Xevious and Sky Kid have been brought back to life in a unique but unlikely way as a web comic. Unlike other comic book projects based on video games, these updates aren’t being done to serve as a marketing tool for a game but instead are merely Namco’s way of growing a property and in some ways presenting it to a generation of gamers for the first time. The ShiftyLook website already has several comics going up on a weekly basis such as Dirk Davies written by Ben McCool and the modern retelling of Xevious which transforms the game into a 1980s action movie involving aliens.
This past weekend at C2E2 in Chicago Namco Bandai unveiled two new Shifty Look projects, one of which would make for the perfect game and the other which is backed by a major comic book veteran. Launching next month on ShiftyLook is Wonder Momo, the comic adaptation of a game not many people may know about as it was released exclusively in Japan. Basically a cross between Wonder Woman and Ultraman, Wonder Momo is being re-envisioned by UDON artist Omar Dogan and written by Erik Ko and Jim Zub. The property itself may not illicit immediate hype as it doesn’t have a Pac-Man level following, but the concept of seeing a female protagonist decked out in Super Sentai style armor doing battle against aliens has the makings to be an awesome comic and more importantly could be an awesome game if Namco were to ever go in that direction.
Not much was shown of Wonder Momo at the C2E2 presentation besides a teaser image but that was enough to sell me on the project as it looked amazing. Gamers may be familiar with Omar Dogan’s work on Street Fighter projects helmed by UDON so just imagine something along the lines of Chun-Li but with a more anime look and decked out in red battle armor. The concept of the comic seems to be going in an area that almost seems fitting of a Suda 51 game (Japanese pop culture references to the max) so the unexpected return of Wonder Momo could be worth a read once it arrives next month.
After the Wonder Momo surprise reveal Namco also announced the return of Rolling Thunder. Now under the title of Rapid Thunder, the classic 1980s arcade game that was a simple brawler involving ninjas has been reimagined as a pulp spy tale written by none other than Jimmy Palmiotti (Wonder Girl, MK vs. DC). With art being handled by Juan Santacruz, Rapid Thunder boasts an obvious tongue-in-cheek vibe that will supposedly be a “crazier version of James Bond” as per Palmiotti. As a fan of spy yarns I think Rapid Thunder in itself could prove to be one of the better offerings provided on Shifty Look as anything involving spies, ninjas, and secret islands will probably be worth our time.
In general the approach Namco Bandai is taking with ShiftyLook and the properties they’re pulling from the vaults is interesting and almost seems like one of the best moves the company has done in years. Instead of standing idly by and either relying on sequels or Western studios to keep the company relevant, Namco is going in a unique direction that not many studios have explored, or at least in the sense that they’re not trying to create something that’s merely a promotional item. The ShiftyLook initiative also plays into the greater schemes of things as folks can read and access the site via their mobile platforms, whether it’s an iPad or an Android device.
The current offerings on ShiftyLook may not seem that relevant to those who merely know Namco for Pac-Man, but we may see more well-known games receive the Shifty Look treatment such as Galaga and perhaps the ever popular Pac-Man.