Thursday, September 17, 2015

Twice As Thorough Thursdays : SATASUPE REmix

I missed last week's Thorough Thursday, so this week I'm giving you two!

Welcome back to the program.

During the commercial Barkley and I were talking with the audience about genres that are difficult to identify or more accurately, name. Since you can breakdown most genres into subgenres, it's funny when you find it difficult to pinpoint a genre at all. There are very few undefinable [or extremely difficult to define] genres but they're out there.

My next guest, who comes to us all the way from Japan, represents one such difficult to pinpoint genre.

While not a name known here in the United States, my next guest has been a star in the field of Japanese table-top RPGs since the late 1990s. Its revised edition, essentially it's second edition, came out in 2003 and remained popular all the way to its next revision in 2008. The 2008 version of the game is still being played and remains popular to this day.

Let's have a big round of applause for SATASUPE ReMix.

The Asian Punk RPG
1st Edition Cover

Prior to this post I have only tagged SATASUPE REmix, the Japanese 'Asian Punk' Role Playing Game produced by Adventure Planning Service, twice before. Both previous blog entries refer to a single game idea I would like to explore using SATASUPE but don't really discuss the game itself.

That's just wrong.

SATASUPE - the original edition depicted above - was one of the first Japanese table-top RPGs I ever played and it remains a favorite of mine for reasons I will go into in a bit.

First, a little in the way of introduction...

I am not entirely sure when the first edition of the game came out as I recall seeing ads for it in Japanese RPG magazines prior to 2000 but I can only confirm that Satasupe ReMix was published in 2003 and became the definitive version of the game until a new, even further revised edition came out in 2008.

As with many Japanese pop culture product titles, Satasupe is actually a play on English words. In this case, 'Saturday Night Special'.

The game was created by Touichirou Kawashima and as noted above, published by the game design studio and publisher known as Adventure Planning Service for book and game company Shinkigensha, Hobbybase.
The game is set on an alternate history Earth, where World War II and its aftermath went very differently. The default setting of the game is therefore a fictional version of Osaka that has been divided up by the numerous government superpowers that exist in the game's modern era. Among these are:

The District of Kinki - Under the control of the United Nations. Considered neutral territory.
Huogeshan - Controlled by the People's Republic of China.
Osten Schloss - Under the control of Nazi Germany.
The People's Democratic Republic of Japan - A pro-Soviet government in Northern Japan
The Republic of Japan - A pro-American government in Southern Japan.

(Personally I think those last two should have their names reversed but what the hay, right?).

Curiously, when I've played and/or run the game, I did not use the RPG's default setting and neither did my GM. We tended to set our games in an indeterminate Japanese city, not exactly Tokyo but not not-Tokyo either. Basically, we simply ignored the specifics of the story's location for ease of story telling. Likewise, the stories didn't take place on an alternate history Earth but rather a hidden in plain sight world of action, intrigue, and shadowy organizations akin to Men-In-Black, Harry Potter, or James Bond; a world wherein super-normal things occur but most people have no idea it exists. 

The game is relatively simple, using only a pool of six-sided dice. In some aspects, the mechanics remind me of the old World of Darkness by White Wolf, with a few differences.

Satasupe REmix Character Sheet
Translated into English

I wish I could recall all of the details. My memory is a little sketchy on the specific mechanics of the game, which were explained to me by a friend who spoke, read, and wrote Japanese but whose command of English left a little something to be desired. I will say that their English improved over the course of our friendship much more than my Japanese.

For the most part the game is a fairly traditional approach to die pool mechanics, reminiscent of both World of Darkness and West End Games' D6. Your character is largely defined by stats such as Crime, Life, Love, etc. Your Profession, which felt a bit like a class but more akin to a [LUG Star Trek] Character Temple, gave you your skills, starting equipment, and access to various abilities particular to your job [like special class features or feats only someone of your Profession would have].

Now that I think about it, the game may have Star Wars D6 and WoD as its ancestors, but it certainly has Fiasco and Apocalypse World as its descendants (not literally of course).

Anyway, the thing that makes this game special for me (aside from a few nifty mechanical bits) is that it covers a genre, or more accurately a related series of genres, that are rarely covered in Western RPGs.

The Japanese sometimes refer to it as 'Yarou', which translates roughly as 'bastard', 'tough guy', or occasionally 'macho'. The game itself is labelled the 'Asian Punk' RPG (a term coined by the game's creator).

The genre basically covers all those films, TV shows, and even Anime and Manga, in which the hero is just thoroughly badass. Examples include: Swallowtail, Ichi The Killer, the animated film, The Professional: Golgo 13, and animated series and manga Wild 7. At the same time, it certainly fits American films like The Warriors, Die Hard, Ocean's 11, and Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

Interestingly, if you look up the links for the American films, you'll see that they can't even decide what genre they are. Pulp Fiction is noted as a 'black comedy crime film'. Reservoir Dogs is a 'neo-noir crime thriller'. Warriors is listed merely as a thriller. A thriller? I guess. It's a lot more than that in my opinion.

Over the years, SATASUPE has expanded into other genres and subgenres, all the while maintaining the themes of action, suspense, crime, honor, tradition, rebellion, and a healthy dose of 1970s cool. Supplements for the game add John Woo style Gun-Fu, Rockers, Street Fighter style Martial Arts, Magic, Advanced Technology, and even the Undead (mainly Demons, Ghosts, Vampires, and Zombies).

Now here is the real kicker...

It could be argued that SATASUPE REmix is not a comedy game. That argument is silly of course. It isn't a comedy game. There is no need to argue that point at all.

At least, it's not really billed as such, nor is humor the key element of the game's premise or rules. Combat is cinematic but extremely deadly. Themes and subject matter are pretty mature. Yet, it is definitely funny in a darkly humorous way. The art, by popular Japanese table top RPG artist Hayami Rasenjin, contributes an oddly whimsical feel to the games otherwise dystopian atmosphere.

Without its sense of humor, SATASUPE would be a very depressing game and probably not nearly as popular as it has been. The vaguely comedic, quirky nature of the game it part of what makes it so unique, even if that isn't the main focus.

Barking Alien

No comments:

Post a Comment