Berserk is the greatest comic book series ever made. It’s better than any superhero comic, better than any slice of life or coming of age comic, better than any surreal artsy comic. Berserk is the greatest of anything in the medium and it’s been consistently phenomenal for almost its entirety.
When I read the first volume of Berserk I thought it was some Fist of the North Star ripoff with some extra grimdark thrown in. Some huge muscle guy wanders around, kills dudes, is a total prick to everyone for no reason? Lame. But for some reason I kept reading. Something compelled me to stick with it. And I’m glad I did, because by the time it got to the Golden Age arc (the extended flashback from volumes 3-14) it changed dramatically for the better. It retained the ultraviolence, but it became a detailed character study about a man who would do anything–literally anything–for his dream, and a follower of his who had the balls to say “screw destiny” (one of my favorite themes in any article of media) when faced with certain death and prophecies of doom. Both were characters I could admire after a fashion.
Not only that, but Kentaro Mirua’s art belongs in museums. It doesn’t annoy me that he takes like three months to put out 16 pages (Are they still on Namek!?) because the end result is always astonishing. The art in the first couple volumes of Berserk was kind of wonky, but when the aptly-named Golden Age started, Berserk‘s visuals and writing became significantly better. And he’s improved even more in the 20 years since.
Berserk can be inspiring, but it’s also deliberately revolting and open in its portrayals of the most repulsive aspects of humanity. Children, the squeamish, and even some those who think themselves desensitized to depravity are strongly discouraged from reading it. I wrote a book about a child soldier who gets tortured in horrible ways before turning on his oppressors, and the level of violence in Berserk is still enough to disturb me. I understand if that would completely turn some people off; not everyone enjoys watching Schindler’s List, either, though it remains just as effective because of its horrifying imagery.
Don’t worry, I’ll get to video games now.
Large objects in art usually exist to stand out visually and convey a clear sense of importance. So it makes sense that video game dudes have weapons the size of third world nations. But the only game I’ve ever played in which my character held a gigantic sword that felt like it actually carried weight was Dark Souls… oh, and the two Berserk games for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. I always thought that the existing Berserk games were decent enough hack-n-slashers (and I admired the PS2 game’s cutscenes’ faithfulness to the comic), but they didn’t live up to the potential they had to be as great as their source material. After playing Dark Souls, things clicked in my brain like a SaGa Frontier character getting a spinning light bulb over her head when learning a new skill. This is my dream game now.
Not only does is bleak atmosphere of Dark Souls a pea in the same pod as Berserk (and its creator admits to using the latter as an inspiration) but–more importantly–Dark Souls does everything you’d look for in a Berserk game, and it does it with incredible expertise. Over-the-shoulder view of a guy hacking up grotesque monsters with a sword? Check. Creatively vile creature designs and gorgeously dark landscapes? Check. A constant terrifying oppressive feeling that you’re a tiny insect in a world full of incomprehensible horrors, yet you should fight against them anyway because you’re not going to let some inhuman monstrosity control your fate? Check. Weird esoteric mystical crap? You got it.
The creators could go through the whole plot of the manga series, dividing it into multiple games if necessary. This wouldn’t be some non-canonical side story with throwaway characters but (like the PlayStation 2 game) would let you control the most determined man in any media in his quest for revenge against the monsters who took everything from him. If two attack buttons isn’t enough to cover the myriad of ways Guts should hack up the behemoths that he faces, “Berserk Souls” could increase the player’s options for a great variety of methods for attack. Make it six-button like the Street Fighter games; go nuts. Have different fighting styles for each weapon to make up for the lack of weapons.
And every victory would feel well-earned. There would be no easy fights in the game; that would go against the spirit of Berserk and Dark Souls alike. Maybe they could eschew the RPG level-up/get-loot elements and force you to use whatever tools Guts has at that point in the story. This would limit the player’s options but would also ensure that there are no workarounds to the massive difficulty. You have whatever the game gives you and you have to make it work, even if it means brawling through the hordes of hell with nothing but a broken-off piece of demon horn. You could gain an incredible leap when wearing the cursed Berserker Armor or playing as Serpico.
And the variety of types of battles would be fantastic. Fight in an army during the siege of Doldrey then fight Adon Coborlwitz in a duel as Casca. Rip through the seemingly weak Black Dog Knights before the challenge ramps up significantly against the brutal monster (and one of the more fascinating villains in the series) Wyald, soon followed by the hopeless Eclipse. If the story of the game went on long enough, you could fight against the Baphomet demon, trolls, ogres, Ganishka and his army of aberrant mutants, and the astronomically large Sea God.
But it wouldn’t have to be linear and straightforward. I wouldn’t rule out leveling and upgrading stuff. It’s true that it’s stated that the Dragon Slayer sword grows stronger because of all the otherworldly monsters it kills, which could easily be incorporated into a video game. Use the crossbow, throwing knives, arm cannon, and the spike bomb thingies as long-ranged weapons to deal with enemies you don’t want to get close to. Make every swing of that giant slab of iron feel like a great achievements. Reward intelligent blocking, countering, and striking within a complex battle system. Build upon the existing games and create something better. If you could secure the rights, all the tools necessary are right before you, dear From Software. Just be sure to remove Puck from the game, OK?