Bandai Namco Games (creators of hit games like Tekken, Pac-Man and more recently, the Naruto Shippuden games) recently announced that they would be delving into the world of webcomics with their new venture: ShiftyLook.
The idea is simple, but bold: ShiftyLook will challenge comics creators to come up with new stories on old Bandai Namco arcade games. These stories would be posted online, and be available to read for free at shiftylook.com. They also plan to leverage these new stories into other ventures that may include "mobile games, web animation, hobby products and various forms of related merchandise."
This announcement was accompanied by the debut of their first title (of three that will debut when the site launches in March): Sky Kid, by Udon Entertainment vets and comics pros Jim Zub (Skullkickers, Makeshift Miracle) and Jeffrey 'Chamba' Cruz (Random Veus, Street Fighter). The ShiftyLook website has teaser images for two additional titles that will be unveiled on Friday, February 24 and Friday, March 2. Bandai Namco peeps have also been dropping lots of hints about what they have planned on their Facebook page and on their Twitter feed, @ShiftyLook.
Bandai Namco will be kicking off their promos for ShiftyLook at Wondercon 2012, at the Anaheim Convention Center with a panel on Saturday, March 17 at 2:30 - 3:30 pm in room 208AB. There's also a launch party planned later that night at 7:00 pm at the Hilton Anaheim Hotel in the Avalon A/B ballrooms. RSVP at the ShiftyLook Facebook page to be a part of this bash, and meet some of the comics creators who'll be working on ShiftyLook.
SHIFTYLOOK GIVES NEW LIFE TO OLD ARCADE GAMES
Haven't heard of Sky Kid before? Well, you're not alone -- it debuted in 1985! It enjoyed its heyday as an arcade game, and later as a Famicon and Game Boy game from the mid through late 1980's. Here's a description of Sky Kid's scenario, courtesy of Nintendo's Virtual Console site:
"Red Baron, from the freedom- and peace-loving nation of birds, Bird Land, faces off in the skies with his rival Blue Max in this side-scrolling shooting game. Defeat the many enemies that await you as you complete your mission, using moves like the loop-the-loop to shoot down enemies from behind. Fly low to pick up bombs placed in the stage and drop them on command posts, warships or other designated targets to destroy them. Then land safely at base to proceed to the next mission."
You can also see a video of the original Sky Kid game screens in action on the Nintendo site, and enjoy this retro game's graphics and music in all of its 8-bit glory.
Once you see the original game and the original artwork (posted here on the Sky Kid Wikipedia page) you can better appreciate the considerable artistic liberties that the new ShiftyLook version of these characters is taking -- and how much fun it looks like it will be when it is presented as a contemporary webcomics story.
A NEW, FREE WEBCOMICS OPTION FOR FANS WORLDWIDE?
You'll be able to read the webcomics on ShiftyLook for free. They will be available worldwide in English through web browsers for PC, Mac, iOS and Android computers and portable devices, although Bandai Namco's press release came with this disclaimer:
"Participation in the ShiftyLook community is exclusively through BANDAI NAMCO ID, the NAMCO BANDAI Group's official user ID system, which may or not be available in a particular region."
Hm. Okay, I'll definitely have to investigate further to see what that means for fans in various countries who might be interested in checking this out. More on that soon.
ShiftyLook is headed up by Rob Pereyda, Manager of Business Development at Bandai Namco Games Network Strategy Office, and former Vice President of Licensing at Crunchyroll. As Pereyda describes the rationale for this new venture:
"In developing the ShiftyLook project, we recognized the need for a strategic approach to IP cultivation that could be a nimble combination of both analytical and cool. We believe that what we have built will provide the community as well as the NAMCO BANDAI Group the opportunity to re-discover some really exciting properties."
WHICH TITLES WILL BECOME WEBCOMICS NEXT? IT'S UP TO YOU!
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this project is that ShiftyLook wants feedback from gamers and comics readers (like you!) to help choose the next classic Bandai Namco arcade game to get a chance to win the hearts of a new generation of fans. As their Facebook post says:
"ShiftyLook, through the unlimited power of the web, exists to excavate the buried treasures of the NAMCO BANDAI Group, bringing back to life characters once thought consigned to a lonely oblivion."
"No character is too obscure. No franchise is too dead. No husk is too decrepit. They can all be revived. Your voice will be heard."
Take a look at this list of Bandai Namco games and post on Shifty Look's Facebook wall with your faves. What's up for grabs? Well, how about Dig Dug or Galaga? Or what about games that were only released in Japan, like Wonder Momo or (tee hee) Tinkle Pit? It's up to you, so speak up and see what happens next!
Image credits: İNAMCO BANDAI Games Inc.