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Stage One

I'm not sure why, but I've always wanted to make a video game diorama that incorporated standing bamboo. And, when I think of scenes that reflect that, my first inclination tends to be Jubei Yagyu's homestead from SNK's Samurai Shodown, but that'd entail fabricating a heck of a lot of those plants, not to mention his house and water well, so I chose a simpler location from the first level of Sega's 1991 portable Game Gear version of Ninja Gaiden instead.

Speaking of which, it strikes me as more than a little odd that Sega would license Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden intellectual property when they already had their own successful ninja video game franchise, Shinobi. That'd be like Disney paying to use Warner Brothers' Daffy Duck cartoon character instead of just using their own iconic Donald Duck instead.

Anyway, on to the construction process: This is the layout I drew up for the geometry of the three-tiered foreground structure. It's a relatively-busy, 12-sided polygon, so I color-coded it and numbered all of the tabs, and the corresponding facets that they'll be glued onto, in order to make absolutely certain that I had everything orientated correctly prior to cutting it out and assembling the structure. If this looks too tricky, you can make fabricating a tiered object like this significantly easier by simply gluing together three progressively-smaller rectangular cubes, one on top of another, instead.

Rather than my usual approach of using the game's graphics for this type of art project, I made everything myself from scratch. That's mostly because I was (1) too cheap to pay a dollar a page for color print-outs and (2) too lazy to rip and edit the game's sprites/backgrounds in order to create the sheet of digital art assets that I'd be printing in the first place.

Pictured, the ground structure has been assembled and I've glued sand/dirt to all of the vertically-orientated planes, to give them an earth-like appearance (the resulting granular texture is also a bit pixel-like, appropriately enough), and I'm in the process of placing embroidery floss flocking (I minced the thread up into fine fluff using cuticle scissors) on the tops of the tiers to approximate dry grass/leaves.

Here are the sky and mountain background layers (assembled, but unpainted), the papier-mâché Ryu Hayabusa mini figurine (the protagonist of the game), the beginnings of the three thinner bamboo shafts, and the finished tiered foreground structure. Maybe I'm just hungry, but that thing kind of looks like chocolate cake garnished with browned, shredded coconut . . .

The bamboo presented a bit of a design conundrum. The source material is 2-dimensional, so the shaft in the foreground was rendered larger, and the ones in the background smaller, by the game's artist(s) to convey the illusion of depth. Therein lied my problem: Do I copy the game's approach (which is obviously what I ultimately chose to do) or make all of my 3-dimensional bamboo roughly the same size/diameter instead and trust in the real distance between the plants to give the same effect?

I wish I could say that I planned it that way from the beginning, but it was only a happy coincidence that the larger bamboo shaft in the foreground just happened to be the perfect place to mount the removable "floating" status bar. Initially, I was going to attach that particular element by hanging it from the front of a big rectangle that would have covered the entire top of the diorama and used all of the bamboo shafts as supports, but I feel that the small, single panel I finally decided on is much less obtrusive, and, even better, it keeps the environment open and allows light to freely enter, whereas my other idea would have created a big shadow over everything. Said status bar was the one thing that I really regretted not printing out, because painstakingly making all of those tiny letters and numbers by hand, using the tip of a small sewing needle as my "paintbrush", was not fun.

Oh, and if you're wondering, I didn't make Ryu any enemies to fight because the first level is populated with nothing but boring, gray-clad ninja opponents that really aren't much different than Ryu in appearance. With the exception of the monstrous, six-armed, third-form of the final boss, Siragane, the adversaries in this particular Ninja Gaiden game are all pretty dull and uninspired in my opinion, especially compared to Tecmo's products.

The finished diorama:

Cardboard from a cereal box, lined notebook paper, newsprint, brown paper from a grocery bag, white glue,
super glue, sand/dirt, embroidery floss, acrylic paint, ink, and transparent plastic sheeting (base for Ryu only).

6.1 cm (2.4") wide x 5.8 cm (2.3") deep x 5.4 cm (2.1") high.

Three days: September 5th-7th, 2015.

  •   Hardcore Gaming 101 Ninja Gaiden article.

  •   Ninja Gaiden Sega Game Gear video game.

  • « Return to my SEGA Video Game Fan Art Gallery Index Page

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    Any and all copyrighted imagery, terminology, etc., depicted on this page belongs to its respective holders/owners, namely Sega and Tecmo.

    The midi music playing is the Stage 2-1 theme from Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom.