Movies and games. They’ve had a very long love and hate relationship, especially in mid 90’s when Hollywood discovered they could make cheap movies based on our favourite games

Movies Like Super Mario, Street Fighter and Double Dragon got adaptations off on the wrong foot, while movies like Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil attempted to regain some respectability in the genre, and recently Sonic and Detective Pikachu hit it right out of the park.

But its not just Hollywood who makes these adaptations, Japanese filmmakers and few Chinese ones, have had a go at it too! With some mixed success.

And in this two-part series, we are going to take a look as these movies. Check out the video below, or read on to find out more about the first batch of movies we will discuss in this series

Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney)

Director Takashi Miike
Starring Hiroki Narimiya, Takumi Saito
Alternative Names 逆転裁判

First up, and not because we are going this in alphabetical order, but because this could one of the most mainstream and recognisable titles in this video, is the Takashi Miike directed Gyakuten Saiban, or better known as Ace Attorney.

That’s right, the director of such classics like Ichi The Killer, Audition and 13 Assassins is also the director of this game to movie adaptation. But don’t worry, this is not the only Miike movie in this list!

Made back in 2012 and receiving a limited international release, this movie is currently available for you to watch on several digital streaming platforms with English subtitles!

Based on the second and fourth cases of the first Nintendo DS release, Ace Attorney is set in a world of a speedy court trial system where the prosecutor and defence lawyer have 3 days to battle it off against each other and win over the judges verdict.

If you’ve played any of the games, the premise of the movie will be very familiar.

In this movie, like the first game, we follow Phoenix Wright, a novice lawyer who goes up against Miles Edgeworth, a formidable foe who has never lost a case.

Featuring the classic catch-cry of “OBJECTION” from the game, Miike and the rest of the crew have done a remarkable job of creating the look and feel of the game, as absurd as the game can be at times.

All the characters you know have been recreated fairly faithfully, including Maya and her sister Mia, Larry, Gumshoe, Manfred von Karma and the aloof Judge.

At over 2 hours long, there is quite a lot packed into this small package, and with fairly respectable user review scores, this is definitely one game to movie adaptation that shouldn’t be missed.

Ryu Ga Gotoku (Like A Dragon AKA Yakuza)

Director Takashi Miike
Starring Kazuki Kitamura, Goro Kishitani
Alternative Names 龍が如く 劇場版

I said there was 2 Miike movies in this video, and this is the second one: a live action adaptation of Sega’s massive gangster-game series Yakuza, called Ryu Ga Gotoku or Like A Dragon.

Unlike what happens when western filmmakers take a game property and dull it down, Miike has done the opposite with this and has ensured he has turned up the crazy dial to 11.

That’s not to say its good though. And this one is definitely for fans of the series only.

Based on the storyline of the second game in the series, we are introduced to our protagonist Kiryu being released from prison and heading to Kamurocho, the game’s equivalent of the real life Kabukicho in Tokyo, to look for the mother of a young girl he is protecting. That girl is series favourite Haruka.

If you are familiar with the game, then you are familiar with the story. We have Goro Majima and Detective Date, the boys from club Stardust, the information merchant and the Korean assassin. There is also a cameo from Kiryu’s yakuza father and of course Mizuki and Jingsu. But if you’re not a fan of the game, these names means nothing to you.

And that is the problem with this movie – it expects you to know who everyone is and their importance in the story, because for some characters like Mizuki, you only see her for 20 seconds.

Those familiar with the game will appreciate the locations being recreated: the batting centre, Stardust, Club Serena, Poppo and the theatre square are all here, with the Don Quixote chain given a slightly different name, although still very recognisable. The only real disappointing element is that Kiryu doesn’t visit a Sega game centre or eat in one of the many restaurants!

In fact, the Sega logo only appears once and very briefly in this scene only.

Other more obvious issues with the movie are probably only more of an issue for fans of the game. Personally, while I thought a lot of attention was given to recreating the look of Kiryu, Majima and Haruka – ultimately they feel like b-grade movie versions of their original characters. Specifically the crazy high pitched voice of Majima has been replaced with a more gruff tone.

But most of the craziness of the game is here. There are the finishing blows and the heat moves, and Kiryu even drinks a Staminan power drink during a fight to recover his health and heat power. And Majima is as crazy as you would expect.

But this one is strictly for the fans only.

Onechanbara

Director Yôhei Fukuda (pt1), Tsuyoshi Shôji (pt2)
Starring Eri Otoguro, Chise Nakamura (pt1), Yu Tejima, Kumi Imura (pt2)
Alternative Names お姉チャンバラ THE MOVIEお姉チャンバラ THE MOVIE vorteX

Courtesy of Jolly Roger, who were well known for producing some quite “out-there” films before they went bankrupt, there are actually two movies in the Onechanbara series. The original from 2008 and a follow up called Vortex in 2009.

If you don’t know anything about the game, it goes something like this: a scantily clad girl called Aya, who also wears a scarf and has a katana as a weapon goes around levels chopping up zombies. As her weapon gets covered in blood, her attacks become less effective, meaning she needs to keep her blade clean. In the game it is mentioned that these aren’t normal zombies, but supernatural creatures that look like humans.

So yeah, a typical game kind of plot.

The trouble with the two movies was that it was unable to keep the same cast, so if you’re a fan of Eri Otoguro, the same girl who played the monster in Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, and yes that’s a real movie, then you wont be happy to see her replaced in the sequel.

The first one was actually released into Japanese cinema and received a limited international release, and of the two films it is the one thats better overall with the production values. It feels more cinematic, has the better effects and will even satisfy any T&A desires you might have, whereas the sequel definitely has that more “made for video” vibe with lower quality acting, locations and cheaper looking visual effects.

These movies aren’t going win any awards, but they’re a good little time waster if you are a fan of the games. And check out the second movie for the Bayonetta-inspired costumed character who fights alongside Aya and her crew.

The Legend of the Ancient Sword

Director Renny Harlin
Starring Leehom Wang, Song Qian
Alternative Names 古剑奇谭之流月昭明

Released back in 2018 with a fairly big budget is this Chinese feature based on the 2013 PC-only Chinese Role Playing game called GuJian 2, a pretty but rather poorly optimised game that centres around our main character in ancient China doing missions to repair heaven.

Yeah, I am not really sure about the game plot, but this movie adaptation tells the story of Yue Wuyi, who meets up with a group of adventurers to defeat a big bad guy called Shen Ye and save the world.

Fans of the game will appreciate the characters, enemies and locations being rather faithfully recreated in this film. And it has some decent pedigree behind it. Finnish director Renny Harlin, best known for action hits like Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, as well as other favourites like Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and Adventures of Ford Fairlane, was brought in and to be honest he hasn’t done a bad job, but I can’t imagine communication would have been too easy on set.

Legend of the Ancient Sword premiered in Cinemas during the Chinese National Day holiday on October 1 2018, which should have assured it some success. But instead it was an utter commercial failure, making the equivalent of just over $1 Million US dollars, and at the time it was competing against two juggernauts in Chinese cinema with the highly acclaimed Shadow and Project Gutenberg released the day before it and stealing audience attention.

Or perhaps it was the casting of a Taiwanese singer in the leader role, a foreign director and the rather niche source material which turned people off. It didn’t really bring anything new to an overcrowded fantasy action genre other than being based on a popular computer game, but its not a bad film and definitely worth the watch if you are after something different that you’ve never heard of before. And its not Japanese, that’s something different!

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry/Shrill Cries of Summer)

Director Ataru Oikawa
Starring Goki Maeda, Rin Asuka
Alternative Names ひぐらしのなく頃にひぐらしのなく頃に 誓

Here is a title that will probably have very little mainstream appeal unless you are very familiar with the source material. And this is quite a popular series of Japanese visual novels, which were turned into a variety of different media including Drama CDs, mangas, light novels, anime series, TV series and 2 movies – which is what we are going to briefly look at.

Higurashi no naku koro ni – or as they known internationally as “When They Cry” has two movies. The original released in 2008 and the sequel Reshuffle released a year later in 2009.

In this movie adaptation we follow Keiichi, a young boy who just moved into a small village. He makes friends with a group of girls in his high school and everything seems to be going well until he hears about a series of murders that occur every summer time and starts to suspect his new friends might not be as friendly as they appear.

His suspicion takes a turn for the worst when things start happening to him – things that appear to be someone, or something, trying to kill him.

I remember first watching this film back in 2012 and not knowing it was a movie adaptation of a game and enjoying it for what it was: a typical Japanese high school horror movie. Not being a fan, or even familiar with the source material, I can’t judge how accurate or faithful it is, but both films have rather decent user ratings.

The first movie was released in cinemas on May 10 2008 and went to gross over 200 million yen at the box office, so a sequel, which was also released theatrically, made sense.

With the same writers and directors, as well as most of the cast, this movie seems like an easy recommendation for fans. But chances are, if you are a fan of the games, then you’ve already seen both of these films.

Dynasty Warriors

Director Roy Chow Hin-Yeung
Starring Louis Koo, Nick Wang, Lam Suet
Alternative Names 真·三国无双

At this stage we don’t know too much about this Hong Kong version of the popular Japanese video game based on the famous Chinese stories. How’s that for a complicated scenario!

With only one trailer being released so far, this live action adaptation of the popular Romance of the Three Kingdoms novels turned massive video game franchise stars some very popular and well known Hong Kong actors including Mr Cool Louis Koo, the awesome Justin Cheung (and if you want to see him in something cool I would recommend Buddha Palm Technique), the legendary Carina Lau, and more Hong Kong favourites Eddie Cheung, Lam Suet and Philip Keung – who all mostly work along Louis Koo in a lot of his films, and most of them are also starring in the upcoming sci-fi blockbuster Warriors of Future

As of mid-2020, this movie has finished its filming and has moved into post-production, with an estimated release date of 2022 in Hong Kong, so it will be a while before we see anything more to do with this one, but if the photos and trailer tells us anything, it seems it will be rather accurate to the games the movie is based on.

And it’s got Louis Koo, so it can’t be bad. At all.

This is part 1 of our Movies About Games video. In Part 2 we will take a look at a lot of horror movies based on a few well known games, and a crazy little mobile game turned into a cute little Japanese comedy about collecting cats! And everyone loves cats, right?