19 years later, a forgotten Hideo Kojima game has found an unlikely second life

More than a decade before pokemon go, Hideo Kojima wanted the kids to go out and sunbathe.

“I was always a kid who loved to sit outside and play portable games – it was like the best of both worlds. I have wonderful memories of sitting in my grandmother’s garden, playing Boktailose track of time and get sunburned,” says Ixoran, a member of the small but dedicated community that still exists around the cult Game Boy Advance series.

Like many in the group, Ixoran is a speedrunner. Dedicated to finding tips and techniques to complete games as quickly as possible, speedrunners often form the core of communities dedicated to older games. (In speedrunning communities like these, many people prefer to use their screen names, so we’ll refer to them as such throughout.)

When Ixoran first considered getting into speedrunning, he said, “Everyone I spoke to suggested [starting with] a game that I really loved.

For him, it was in 2003 Boktai: the sun is in your handsa forgotten role-playing game from the iconoclastic creator of the Metal Gear series and Death Stranding. But more than the games themselves, the welcoming community keeps it coming back.

“It’s small and based around the world,” says Ixoran Reverse“but everyone is pretty nice and helpful.”

chasing daylight

The main gimmick of Boktai is a solar-powered gun used to fight zombies.Konami

The main gimmick of Boktai is that you use a solar-powered gun to fight zombies, which the player must charge while playing in direct sunlight. (Apparently Kojima wanted to add another mechanic that detected if you had garlic breath, but other Konami staff talked him out of it.) It’s hard to say how many people have played the series, which ultimately lasted four games, although the last one dropped. the solar collector thing.

Ixoran says it didn’t seem like a lot of people were interested in Boktai when he started playing. But that has gradually changed in recent years, thanks to the speedrunning community and in particular the efforts of one of the managers of the Boktai group, xDrHellx. He started speedrunning Boktai for fun, starting with the third in the series, Sabata’s Counterattack. In 2015, xDrHellx realized that these games had become “almost unknown”. He wanted to change that.

Boktai.Konami

“I wanted to make the Boktai series popular again,” says xDrHellx. “I wanted the show to shine.”

Soon, a plan emerged.

“It seemed like people remembered the first game the most, so I thought focusing on that would be a good start,” he said. The speedrunning leaderboard for the game was “really empty”, so xDrHellx started working on creating a speedrunning route with another runner that goes through Hurimaru.

“It really is a game about portion each other when the world is end.”

For three years, xDrHellx held the world record for beating the game in just one hour and 41 minutes, using a combination of UV lights. In January 2022, it was overtaken by another runner known as CasinoCoin.

For an occasional player, the Boktai games take around 15-20 hours to beat, but speedrunners have plenty of tricks to reduce that number. First, they usually remove the sunshine requirement, using a few tricks that are excluded from ranking. This allows them to have a reliable charge on their gun, ensuring they never have to go out of their way to find a charging station hidden in a level – let alone wait for the sun to come up. survey.

The first trailer for Boktai: The sun is in your hand, which debuted at E3 2003.

One such technique is to use a “sunlight patch”, or modification that removes the sunlight requirement entirely.

“I started with the solar zone and it’s still where I do most of my training,” says Ixoran. “It’s much more convenient to play that way, even if it’s not quite the intended way.”

But Ixoran always wanted to speed up the game because it was really meant to be played: outdoors. “It’s been a goal for me for so long to have a race that truly represents the game, all of its weird quirks included,” he explains.

Getting all the gear he needed to play the game and stream in direct sunlight wasn’t easy. “Even when you have all the gear, you still have to battle the weather!”

“We’ve had people who haven’t raced suggest changes to routes, and those changes have actually proven to save time.”Konami

Finally, in September 2021, he succeeded – just in time for the game’s 18th anniversary. Ixoran played The sun is in your hand for just over four hours, surrounded by plants, with a monitor showing the weather and temperature.

“Some would say it was the first truly legitimate race [of Boktai]says xDrHellx.

Now Ixoran wants to do more. “Eventually, I would like to have a good outdoor speedrun course,” he says. “I’ll try to do some shopping this summer, and I’ll try to do some casual shopping for Boktai 2 and 3 also.”

As is often the case with speedrunning, the age of games hasn’t stopped people from learning new tricks and techniques to complete a run faster. The growth of this community, centered on the Taiyoh network Discord often helps, although some new members aren’t speedrunners at all.

“A lot of times we’ve had people who haven’t raced suggest changes to routes,” says xDrHellx, “and those changes have actually proven to save time.”

“It’s really a game of helping each other out when the world ends.”Konami

The community is open to everyone and experienced runners are eager to join people who want to try for the first time. They share tools that keep things accessible to newcomers, like sunlight patches and save states that let you practice individual levels without having to beat the whole game.

“It took a long time, but when I look at how the community is today, I’m happy,” says xDrHellx. “It’s really rewarding to have been able to build a community where everyone helps each other.”

This open kindness of the community fits well with the central themes of Boktai.

“It’s really a game of helping each other when the world is coming to an end,” says Ixoran.

Threads of future themes

Kojima at one Solid Metal Gear 3 event in 2005.J. Quinton/WireImage/Getty Images

Boktai’s themes also provide a fascinating connection to some of Kojima’s best-known works. His hit of 2019 Death Stranding follows this same bond-building theme and relies heavily on stealth as an alternative to combat.

It’s possible that Kojima even took direct inspiration from Boktai when developing his most recent game. The sun is in your handsees protagonist Django travel to the City of Death, where different times and places overlap, foreshadowing the limbo of Death Stranding‘s Beach.

Boktai’The Game Boy Advance world evolves in real time, based on the Game Boy Advance clock settings. Death StrandingThe shattered world also changes over time thanks to the game’s asynchronous multiplayer “strand” mechanic, which allows structures built by other players to seep into your own single-player experience.

Despite these similarities, it’s unclear exactly how directly Kojima was involved in the Boktai series, despite his producer credit on all four games.

“Even when you have all the equipment, you still have to fight the weather!”

“The more we look at it, the more it seems like it was only part of the idea phase and the initial designs,” says Ixoran, “but we’ll probably never know the full story. He got little involved in the sequels, we’re sure.

But Kojima certainly never forgot Boktai, That is. There are references to this in his later games like Solid metal gear 4which includes a version of the Solar Gun, modeled after the version that appears in Lunar Knights, a sequel derived from Boktai Games. Boktai also shares one of the central stealth mechanics of the Metal Gear series: banging on walls to attract enemy attention. And Kojima recently said he always wants to make games that “connect man-made systems and real life”, using Boktaisunlight sensor for example.

Thanks to the community, this early part of Kojima’s work is still alive and well. It is even still played as planned: under a hot summer sun.

Original drawing by Max Fleishman.Reverse/Getty

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