Much has been made, and rightly so, of the involvement of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli with Level-5's PS3 RPG Ni No Kuni (out this week in Japan). It's helped the game look amazing. While it's a welcome partnership, though, it's not the first time the animation legend, or his studio, have turned up in a video game.
That honour goes to 1983 arcade game Cliff Hanger.
Cliff Hanger was a Laserdisc-based title developed by pinball legends Stern, and given the format has a lot in common with competing games like Dragon's Lair, in that it was a crude affair in which the player simply interacted with pre-recorded animations by selecting paths and pressing buttons.
It was a chop-shop job of sorts. Though billed to feature original characters like Cliff and Clarissa, and an original plot involving Cliff rescuing Clarissa, all the footage from the game was actually taken directly from two existing animated films: 1978's Mystery of Mamo and 1979's The Castle of Cagliostro.
Both Cagliostro and Mamo were based on the popular manga character Lupin III, meaning "Cliff" wasn't really Cliff at all. He was more popularly-known as Arsène Lupin III , while "Clarissa" was actually Lady Clarisse d'Cagliostro.
Which is where Miyazaki comes in! Having worked on the franchise's animated series earlier in the decade, Cagliostro (which he also co-wrote) was Miyazaki's first directing gig, and ended up being a huge success, propelling him on the road to helming movies like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind before founding Studio Ghibli and going to even greater success with films like Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
He may not have had anything to do with his work turning up in a video game - or worked on the game in any capacity whatsoever - but some of his movie's most iconic scenes feature in Cliff Hanger regardless, including Cagliostro's famous car chase sequence.
Taking liberally from two quite different projects, the game's story was thus a crude cannibalisation of footage from both movies, made worse by the fact in some sequences the voices had been dubbed just for the game, while in others the original talent from the films had been left in.
So, yeah, the game sucked. When you then throw in two awful adaptations of Miyazaki's Nausicaä, one for the NEC PC-6001 and one for the NEC PC-8801, it's no wonder by the mid-80s he'd had his fill of the medium, and refused any more video game adaptations of his films, a mandate that remains today.
Still, despite the fact the world never got a Mononoke game (and that Miyazaki's involvement in Ni No Kuni has been almost non-existent), just seeing the Ghibli name back in the video game business is good enough for me.
FUN FACT: Cliff Hanger makes an awesome cameo in the opening to The Goonies, as it's the arcade game Chunk is playing as the car chase whizzes past. It also turns up in an episode of the original Macross series!