In May last year the manga artist Kentaro Miura, best-known for the long-running Berserk series, died at the age of 54. The news was unexpected and inspired an outpouring of tributes, particularly from the Japanese industry, where Berserk had been serialised from 1989 right up until Miura's death. The creator's influence can be seen across a wide range of Japanese-developed titles, but especially in the Souls games.
Ever since Demon's Souls fans have taken delight in picking out the enemy and environment designs that seem 'inspired' by Berserk, and a lot of FromSoftware's aesthetic work lifts pretty directly from the manga. This isn't just about things like swords: enemies large and small like the bonewheel skeletons, one of the series' most infamous challenges, come straight from Berserk. That's not even getting into the thematic parallels of betrayal, revenge, free will, and the arrogance of power.
Elden Ring was perhaps always meant to be this way, but there's an unmistakeable sense here that, following Miura's death, the Berserk tributes have become more overt than ever. The giant tree forever looming in the background is visually inspired by Berserk's World Spiral Tree, and a regular feature in the open world is seeing 'graveyards' of swords, with a giant greatsword in the middle that's unmistakeably Guts' dragon slayer. These are dotted around in multiple different configurations, and it's hard to shake the sense that this landscape is one giant memorial and tribute to Miura's work.
The game's own greatsword has been redesigned from its Dark Souls look to be even more like the dragon slayer, and its description now reads: "Though handling it requires the wielder to have surpassed the realm of the merely human, it is precisely for this reason that the weapon is used to slaughter even inhuman foes."
The only nutty thing I've done so far was find Guts sword. It's beautiful pic.twitter.com/bd5DumGs34February 25, 2022
Master Blacksmith Hewg is a bit like Berserk's blacksmith, Godot, but then so was Andre from Dark Souls. He has Guts' sword placed behind his workspace.
There's also some armour clearly inspired by Berserk, although it's found relatively late in the game.
The list of visual nods has been building since the game's first trailer, but some of them really are striking (as they always have been in the Souls games, to be fair).
FromSoft has always adopted elements of Miura's work, but this time it feels more overt than ever: something the studio wants players to notice, and something that might send someone off to read Berserk for the first time. Hey, it worked with me many years ago. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find Guts' greatsword, and slay some demigods.
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