What Fuwa Bansaku Found is a new piece at Sub-Q by the astonishingly prolific Chandler Groover. In it, the eponymous samurai must investigate a haunted shrine: the emperor has sent him there, but the emperor was certainly spurred to do so by Bansaku’s enemies at court. The piece draws on translations of Japanese poetry, plots from kabuki, and images from woodblock prints.
It is a parser game, but a relatively accessible one. As with quite a bit of Groover’s other parser work, Fuwa Bansaku tightens the list of needed verbs to a simpler subset of the usual library. It also gets rid of the standard compass directions and acknowledges ADVANCE and RETREAT instead. This serves the piece well: it’s quite short, and not having to worry about a possible complicated map frees the player to concentrate on other concerns. (Gun Mute also does this, but it’s a comparatively rare feature in parser IF.)
Then, too, a number of the responses specifically prompt what the player should do next:
These long grasses resemble hairs
growing from a courtesan’s skull.
They tower around Fuwa Bansaku.
He will search them.
Fuwa Bansaku pushes the long grass
aside with one hand at his katana.
In a different context, this kind of guidance might be exasperating. But Bansaku is extremely focused and brief.
These hints also serve as a reminder that the character of Fuwa Bansaku is not the player. He is someone specific and skilled, a man of culture and intrigue and warfare. In fact, he is based on a historical figure, though with considerable embellishment. What’s more, everything he encounters in this haunted shrine receives a short but evocative description. Every item seems to point back to the details of the experience that sent him here.
Even though the piece is quite short, there is room enough in Groover’s story for several surprises. A lovely, eerie meditation on what is truly monstrous.