Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Godfather: The Game - An Entirely Accurate Lesson in History and Culture

I’ve never seen any of the films in the Godfather trilogy, so my knowledge of the franchise is limited to cliché “offer you can’t refuse” imitations of the late Marlin Brando and cheap allusions to the series in the cartoons of my youth: The Godpigeon from Animaniacs comes to mind, as well as the fact that calling him “Godfeather” would have been so much more witty. Furthermore, I don’t know much about Italian culture aside from what the 1989 Super Mario Bros. cartoon taught me, including the crucial fact that every Italian is preoccupied with spaghetti, pizza, meatballs and ravioli to the point of obsession.

So obviously, The Godfather: The Game, Electronic Art’s awkwardly-named sandbox title for Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, PS3 and Wii, was the perfect choice for my newest gaming excursion – as well as a much-needed lesson in Italian culture.

In The Godfather: The Game, your goal is to change your name to Donald. Currently, there is only one man named Donald: Vito Corleone, often shortened to “Don Corleone.” People are always nice to Donald Corleone because he has a lot of money, kind of like Donald Trump, who must be really good at The Godfather: The Game. Also, the Donald is allowed to talk with his mouth full, which he seems to do at every given opportunity because it’s pretty hard to understand him sometimes. About three quarters through the game, Donald Vito Corleone is tired of being Donald and wants to play with his grandchildren or something – it’s not explained too well – and suddenly, your character has a chance to be the one and only Donald, the Donald of New York City (often just called “The Don of NYC”). I’m not sure how they know that no one else in New York has named their child Donald, but the game is pretty sure there’s only one Donald available at any given time, so who am I to argue?

The only way you can become Donald is through punching and choking a bunch of bakers, bartenders and hotel owners until they give you money, presumably because a prerequisite to being the Donald is to be rich. To do this, you maneuver your character into an establishment that is otherwise peaceful and you find the person who runs the joint. It’s pretty easy to find them because they all wear the same black and white hat that floats three feet above their heads. Also, the layout of every bakery, bar and nightclub is basically the same, because during the Great Depression, around the time when this game is set, people didn’t have enough money to buy different businesses. Instead, they all pooled their money, bought one building, and made illegal copies of it though Napster.

Anyway, when you find the owner, you punch him or her. A lot. The manual calls this part of the game “Blackhand,” but my character’s hands are clearly Caucasian, so I call it “The Lady Punching Part” or just “Dad” for short. After stopping the evil bakers and whatnot, they donate to your Donald fund. Thanks to what I’ve learned about Italian culture so far from the Godfather game, I can only assume that in addition to troths full of pasta sauce and crazed bouts of binging thousands of meatballs, Italian family reunions include patrolling the neighboring streets looking for palette-swapped businesspeople to terrorize, then eat pizza with.

Your enemies, aside from prostitutes and flower shop owners, are other mobsters. The mobsters dressed like normal people yell things like “please don’t kill me” when you attack them and are the wimpiest enemies in the game, but the other mobsters, the ones dressed in blue, green, yellow and red, usually put up more of a fight.

Battling the other mobsters is no easy task, but the real challenge is taking care of all the people who betray you. There are some truly unbelievable double and triple crosses that will have you yelling, “No way!” Or as Super Mario would say, “That’s un-pasta-ble!”

Also, “It’sa me, Mario! Let’sa go!”

In addition to the excellent gameplay, The Godfather: The Game: The Soundtrack is wonderful. The Godfather theme sounds just like it does on my copy of “Mob Hits Vol. 1,” a series of albums aimed at Italians which is not offensive in the least. My only complaint about the soundtrack is that the cops, all of whom are Irish, don’t have their own appropriate theme songs involving the color green. Incidentally, I like store my copy of Mob Hits next to my album of whimsical drinking songs about leprechauns and potato farming called “Lazy Drunken Red-headed Hits.”

Before I end this review, I’d like to thank Electronic Arts and The Godfather: The Game for teaching me all there is to know about Italian culture without resorting to insulting stereotypes or grossly misrepresenting 99 percent of the Italian populous. Thanks EA; you’ve done just as much for Italian culture in the 2000s as the Super Mario cartoon did in the 1980s.

Next week on Wordsmith VG: I learn all there is to know about African American culture by playing DJ Boy on Sega Genesis, studying Barrett from Final Fantasy VII and watching the first season of Goodtimes over and over again. DY-NO-MITE!

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