Newport City is rocked by a large explosion that has torn through the Megatech Body Corporation's main building. Numerous injuries have been reported. An outfit calling itself the Human Liberation Front, has claimed responsibility. Investigation is under way. And you, rookie, are at the center of intense fire as Public Security Section 9 closes in on the perps, uncover the conspiracy, and bring the guilty parties to justice without destroying the city. Released in 1997, by way of Exact studios, and Production IG, one of my fondest memories of being a fan of both the manga and film was this third person shooter which fulfilled many personal desires for an atmospheric, and fun cyberpunk action game.
First, I'm going to start by stating that I am by no means a game reviewer. I'm not even much of a game fan save for the occasional diversion. For me, GiTS PSX is one of the more successful expansions of an already established universe. While Oshii's film took on a life largely all the director's own, the game hews much closer in tone and comedic edge to the original Masamune Shirow work. In the game, the player is the Rookie, a faceless new recruit to Section 9 as they handle what could be their most challenging mission to date. As the Rookie, we are at the helm of what animated GiTS had up until this point not properly introduced; the inimitable Fuchikoma. Intelligent, yet childlike one-person tanks capable of walking up and down walls, and rappelling surprise amounts of distance due to the ability to launch grappling wires. These cute, four-legged machines are solely used by Section 9 to tackle some of the more grueling field action work, but are often chastised for being almost bottomless in their curiosity. As the Rookie, you are tasked with piloting your Fuchikoma, navigating through twelve missions of running, leaping, rappelling, and shooting until the case is closed. This includes Explosive Ordinates Disposal and even a boat chase! Sure, it is a rudimentary run and shoot experience with a mostly low difficulty level, but it also evokes the very best, and more inherently playable anime to game conversions ever achieved.
This is made all the more evocative and charming by way of animated briefings directed by one of the 1990s great minds in animated comedy, Hiroyuki Kitakubo (Black Magic M-66, Golden Boy, Roujin-Z, and Blood). As you are informed on what's new in the investigation, your higher ups in Chief Aramaki, Major Motoko Kusanagi, Batou, and even Togusa, and Ishikawa, grant us expanding plot details. All the more refreshing, the designs for the game are by Shirow himself, with the help of none other than Toshihiro Kawamoto, of Cowboy Bebop fame. Utilizing a then wholly advanced 2D/3D computer and cel animation melange, the game is granted a more vibrant, airbrush heavy vision of the Ghost universe. Despite the expected use of tech jargon, and political intrigue, the feel of these scenes is a throwback to the more lackadaisical, fun-loving, yet hard working state servants of the original manga. Kusanagi, remains a tough but even presence. Togusa, ever cautious. Batou, bellyaches about training troubles and lack of sleep. The chief (AKA- Ol' Apeface) is far more stressed and pointed than ever. There are even moments of incredulity on the part of the Fuchikomas regarding the goings on at HQ. Needless to say further that this GiTS, isn't afraid to just roll with the original premise, just delivering on the kind of action that the comic often only hinted at with it's occasionally tricky framing.
But for me, the real legacy of the Ghost In The Shell Playstation game, was the incredible soundtrack produced by the legendary Takkyu Ishino. Under the title, Megatech Body, this collection was both a perfect snapshot of where electronic dance music had been going over the course of the decade, but a (for me) pitch perfect window into the world of Shirow's Newport City. featuring Mijk Van Dijk, Hardfloor, and Dave Angel. Each track immersive in their grooves as well as their feel for the dystopian. There is a desolation to the sound that implies hidden cultures between the lines of civil and underground life. An outright feel for the streets, abandoned facilities, rain washed harbors, not to mention the digital surrealism of cyberspace itself. Two discs of music, and something my at the time already electronic dance music drowned mind found refreshing and exhilarating. It became impossible to think of the entire phenomenon of Ghost In The Shell without it.
So yes, gone are the introspection and utterly eerie chill of the cinematic rendition, and here to stay is the neon hazed pop action video games of the time were capable of presenting. This voyage into a cyberized future Japan, wasn't quite so willing to pierce the surface, and was more than ready to provide the expected pyrotechnics. But it in itself possesses a charm and sense of breezy fun that many of the best arcade games (Wow..this has been a while!) were still shelling out. For my money, Ghost In The Shell, is at its most exciting when its exploring the world, and finding both the humor and wisdom from what some might consider to be a fearful political and technological environment. It's pretty much why I don't mind diverging approaches with a franchise like this. Although, I can wholly admit that I wouldn't at all balk at a full anime series, OVA or television of this incarnation of the cast. An increasingly blurred, politically muddy landscape seems to beg for explorations like these.
If you can find copies of this sucker, it's a simple, yet welcome alternate peek into a comic universe that seems to show no signs of fading.