Thanks to the likes of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, as well as certain films - Chinatown and Blade Runner in particular - every action game/film is practically required to feature a Chinatown. It’s not usually the Chinatown you see in real-life - a thriving community and marketplace built upon a delightful hybrid of Chinese and Western culture – no, it’s all neon signs and gangsters, dragon statues and tile roofs. A lot of tile roofs. And it's usually in the future or something.
Above: Blade Runner, influencing everything remotely sci-fi, dystopian and neonoir since 1982
I don’t mean to imply that the real thing is devoid of any of that – it just isn't necessarily the essence of "Chinatown." But, to welcome the release of GTA: Chinatown Wars, we're taking a look at these cultural microcosms through the lens of videogame fantasy - and possibly offending the majority of the world's population in the process. Herah!
Revenge of Shinobi
This Genesis (and now Wii Virtual Console) classic is well-known for its stellar soundtrack and general absurdity (including an appearance by Hattori Hanzo himself, Sonny Chiba!). You are Joe Musashi, and by Round 6 you've battled samurai, ninjas, soldiers, and attack dogs - now it's time to take on the gangs of Chinatown.
Above: Chinatown: it's full of red signs that say "China."
Everything's going great. There are lots of red signs and canopies (which, if you've seen any kung fu movie, you know are great for catching you when you fall from tall buildings)...
And then this happens:
Above: WTF Batman?
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare DLC
CoD 4's downloadable map pack contains a recreation of San Francisco's Chinatown - uncharacteristic for a game primarily set in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the map does a decent job of capturing the feel of SF's famous district, if not the exact layout.
Above: CoD's interpretation isn't quite glowy enough, but it's not bad. Not sure why a bunch of soldiers are teabagging each other in downtown San Francisco though. (Photo by liangjinjian - Flickr)
Dead to Rights
Dead to Rights is like Max Payne in pretty much every way, excepting that Max Payne didn't have enough Chinatown to be a proper noir crime drama. After a rather nasty car wreck, our gruff hero heads to Chinatown to stock up on weapons (because Chinatown is naturally full of weapons - not just the lame replicas in souvenir shops). Check out the sweet dialog:
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