You may have heard about Ninja Theory's upcoming adventure Enslaved: Odyssey To The West coming from Namco for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. I don't know what it is about this title, but just about every interview, preview, or general coverage that I've read about it goes out of its way to emphasize that the story is based on the classic sixteenth century Chinese novel Journey to the West and that nobody has ever based a game on said Journey. That's always where my Spidey-sense starts to tingle because I know I've heard of other games based on Journey before. After all, why would it take so long for a developer to base a game on this thrilling plot?
The novel is a fictionalized account of the mythologized legends around the Buddhist monk Xuanzang's pilgrimage to India (known as the Western Regions) during the Tang dynasty in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts called sūtras. The Bodhisattva Guan Yin, on instruction from the Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism, gives this task to the monk and his three protectors in the form of disciples — namely Sūn Wùkōng, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing — together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuanzang's steed, a white horse. These four characters have agreed to help Xuanzang as an atonement for past sins.
Exciting stuff! Today after reading one poorly-researched piece of coverage too many I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery and compile a list of games based on the novel.
- China Gate: A 1988 arcade game by Technos Japan Corp., based on the original story and characters. The Japanese version is titled Saiyu Gōma Roku (西遊降魔録?, "Conquering Devil Journeys to the West")
- Ether Saga Online: An MMORPG based heavily on Journey to the West, developed by Beijing Perfect World.
- Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: A multi-platform game currently in the process of being developed by Ninja Theory based on a futuristic take on the fable.
- Fuun Gokuu Ninden: An action game for the PlayStation. The characters of the game are based on the characters of Journey to the West.
- Journey to the West: An unlicensed Famicom game by Taiwanese developer TXC Corp, 1994.
- Mega Man: The Wily Wars: An enhanced remake of the first three Mega Man games, featuring three new bosses based on the characters of Journey to the West.
- The Monkey King: The Legend Begins: A side scrolling shooting game on the Nintendo Wii made in 2007 by UFO Interactive Games Inc. The player will play as either Wùkōng or a girl named Mei Mei.
- Monkey Magic: A video game for the PlayStation console.
- Oriental Legend: Arcade action game by IGS in 1997, based on the novel. This game was only released in China and Korea.
- Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: A video game and multiseries in which the Pokémon creatures Chimchar, Monferno, and mainly Infernape are based on Sūn Wùkōng.
- Saiyuki: Journey West: A tactical role-playing game (RPG) video game for the PlayStation developed by Koei.
- Saiyūki World: A Japan-exclusive Family Computer game by Jaleco.
- SonSon: A video game and character of the same name created by Capcom whose title character is a caricature of Sūn Wùkōng. The granddaughter of SonSon (also named SonSon) appears in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
- SonSon 2: Japan-exclusive sequel to SonSon.
- Warriors Orochi 2: Sūn Wùkōng appears as a playable character in this game.
- Westward Journey: A massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).
- Whomp 'Em (known in Japan as Saiyūki World II): Sequel to Saiyūki World. An NES game whose Japanese version is based on the story (the American version features a Native American boy instead of Wùkōng).
- World Heroes Perfect: A fighting game created by ADK for the Neo-Geo and Sega Saturn. Goku, one of the playable characters introduced in the game, is based on Sūn Wùkōng.
- Yūyūki: A video game for the Famicom Disk System by Nintendo, based directly on the plot.
While most of these titles are comparatively obscure international releases, you know some of these games, and one would think that anyone writing about video games would as well. Mega Man and Pokémon are on the list, for cryin' out loud! I hope this puts the myth that Enslaved is the first game based on Journey to rest once and for all. It's a small issue, but it's been bugging me for weeks.