I wrote about Boktai last summer. I absolutely fell in love with it, but had to say goodbye to it – along with Mr Sun – when summer ended. Now, with the sun once again out I can get into Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django. Is it the innovative life experience Konami – and I – want it to be?

You might not know anything about Boktai – that’s okay, I won’t judge you for it. There’s an article about it here, or here’s a very short summary:

  • Boktai uses a solar sensor to detect how bright the sun is;
  • You use the sunlight to battle vampires, power weapons and interact with all kinds of other features.

As I write in my original Boktai article, the best thing about the solar sensor is the way it brings about a merging of the in and out-of-game settings and scenarios. By covering the solar sensor or running somewhere dark, you create shadows within the game you can use to hide.

Some rooms are windy when it’s sunny, making them treacherous to cross. What do you do? Run inside, out of the sun and wind, of course.

Boktai 2 takes this a few steps further by making the sun impact upon you as a player and character, not just your surroundings and enemies. Staying out in the strong sunlight for too long causes Django to faint from heat exhaustion. Although it might seem counter-productive for a game that relies on sunlight to discourage its players from staying outside, imbuing the character with these human qualities further strengthens the link between the actual and virtual.

All the healthy and safety notices and parental cries of “don’t stay in the sun too long or you’ll get sunburnt” to warn you are all well and good, but you’re playing a game – it’s important. If Django’s fine, you’re fine. However, if your character starts to have the same kind of needs as you, things begin to change. If your helper Otenko tells you to seek shade, you do it for Django’s sake.

Of course, forcing the player to get out of the sun does seem a little like conscientious interference, but I suppose a game like this has certain responsibilities. Besides, to me the very fact that you will run into the shade because a GameBoy sprite is too hot is incredible.

I haven’t got very far in Boktai 2 yet, but it still makes me smile, and now the sun is out – and I’m out of Uni – I’m looking forward to making some genuine headway. The even better news is that Konami are developing “Lunar Knights” for the DS, which seems to be a reimagining of the Boktai characters and situations, and will be able to suck in sunlight by inserting an original Boktai GBA game into the DS. Bring it on!