|Al_Kharn the Great
Posted on 12/27/14 @ 11:32 AM (updated 10/21/15
||Age of Empires II (2013): The Forgotten
Haiku of the Ronin
"Like a rotten log
half buried in the ground -
which has not flowered,
comes to this sad end."
- Minamoto Yorimasa (1106-1180)
Go on a journey to Edo period Japan in the straw sandals of a Ronin seeking a master. Discover kireji to write seven haiku. These seven poems will tell your story. Are your kireji sharper than your katana?
Play a poetic adventure with a branching story-line. The ending changes based on the story you write. Recommended two play-throughs.
Have you played Haiku of the Ronin before?
Then re-experience Soji's story in an improved and more immersive environment, taking advantage of the latest in scenario map design!
Disgrace is a kimono unstained with blood. Disgrace is a dry tanto blade. Disgrace is a ronin.
His master died seven years ago but the Ronin chose not to honor his master with a final act of obedience. His devotion was hollow, his honor was stained. In betraying the Bushido Shoshinshu, the Ronin condemned himself to that most empty life for a samurai: a life without a master.
So the Ronin wandered the land of the rising sun for seven years, adrift like a boat without a fisherman on Lake Biwa. His journey would bring him here to another kindred wanderer, the poet Matsuo Basho. On quiet rainy mornings in the garden of their secluded shrine. On sunny afternoons in the shade of the osakazuki maple. And on warm evenings in Basho's sukiya, place for poetic pursuits, over thick matcha tea, the two lonely spirits traded experiences and lines of poetry with the vigor of the shrewdest merchants of Nagasaki. It was Basho's spirited teachings that brought forth a new dawn out of the Ronin's winter sunset. It was Basho who taught the Ronin to see the poetry in life.
And so one day, as the songbird's melody rode a soft summer breeze, the Ronin emerged from his hermitage and set out again onto the world. He would regain his honor. He would find a master. He would write a new life.
Haiku noun: a poetic form of 17 on (syllables) which expresses much and suggests more in the fewest possible words; the essence of haiku is kiru (cutting): a juxtaposition of two images linked by a kireji (cutting word)
Ronin noun: a masterless samurai; a 'wave man'; a wandering man; a man adrift
According to the Bushido Shoshinshu (Code of the Samurai), a samurai must commit seppuku (ritual suicide) upon the death of his master. One who chose not to honor the code and consequently become a ronin, or 'wave man', would suffer great shame. Due to the shogunate's rigid class system and laws, the number of ronin greatly increased during the Edo period (1603-1867).
This period was characterized by strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) was the most famous poet of the period. He was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form. Although justifiably famous for his haiku, Basho himself believed his best work lay in leading and participating in renku, collaborative linked verse poetry. He is quoted as saying, "Many of my followers can write haiku as well as I can. Where I show who I really am is in linking haikai verses."
Basho made a living as a teacher but, renouncing the urban life, wandered throughout Japan to gain inspiration for his writing. His poetry was influenced by his firsthand experiences of the world around him, encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements.
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Haiku of the Ronin Redux is Al_Kharn the Great's revisit/revamp of a scenario of his bearing the same name in an attempt to improve the playing experience. Set during the Edo Period in Japan, the player follows the Ronin Soji in his quest for honor in serving the Daimyo of Honden. Throughout the process the player will complete numerous tasks, explore the region, and write his own haiku.
The scenario was perfectly bug-free and a pleasure to play. In a sense it functioned much like a puzzle scenario, and despite the relative lack of challenge the player still will find themselves fully engaged by an effective narrative style, beautiful map design, and creative and numerous objectives. Varied choices that impact the ending that the player will view contribute heavily to the replay value, and to boot the scenario makes one of the more effective usages of a taunt system that I've ever seen.
The only weakness of the playing experience, the balance rating of the scenario is hampered by the fact that it is simply too easy. The player never truly feels threatened with the prospect of defeat, and while it was primarily a puzzle scenario, the objectives were not very difficult to achieve. However, due to the nature of the scenario as a mix of puzzle and interactive cinematic, I feel it is suitable to consider the effective pacing of the cinematic and narrative portions, and award points for exemplary results in that sphere.
One of the strongest elements of the scenario, the creativity involved is such that the author has succeeded in creating something entirely new and novel. Numerous map design tricks and the overall style contribute to this score, but far more impressive were the gameplay and narrative styles, both of which utilize entirely untried (with the exception of the author's previous version of this scenario) elements that lend themselves to a top score. A particular highlight, in my opinion, was the dolphin hunt.
Map Design: 5
The author offers players a realistic and varied landscape that contributes greatly to the immersion effect of the scenario. The map is not just aesthetically pleasing, but is also suited well to the gameplay involved, and was nothing short of exceptional. Particularly enjoyable was the author's take on towns, settlements, and hovels, as well as impeccable use of the waterfall object in numerous cases.
The highlight of the scenario, the strength of the narrative resides in its accessibility, creative nature, and in a particularly skilled writing style that causes it to take root and grow inside the mind of the player. It would be difficult to not identify with the sentiments and actions of the character given the vivid imagery and effective nature in which the story was conveyed. Instructions were informative but not excessive or pedantic, and thus hit a happy medium where the player is informed but not overwhelmed. I would also be remiss if I did not comment on the quality of the poetry written by the author for the scenario, which is nothing short of exceptional and makes the player wonder whether the author is a professional poet or an avid hobbyist, considering the skill involved here.
A worthy update and a gripping scenario, Haiku of the Ronin Redux will not disappoint and is certainly worth a download. My hat goes off to the author for his skill in crafting an effective narrative and a scenario that is in many ways a paragon of creativity.