Thursday, June 22, 2017

8-Bit Shugei - Dragon Quest Shadowbox Fun



Do you know about 8-bit shugei? Meaning literally "8-bit handicraft", it's retro-gaming themed DIY art encompassing any number of formats such as perler beading, cross stitch, papercraft, sculpture etc. This has been going on long before there was a word for it of course; before I learned the term earlier this year, I made one for my brother as a handmade Christmas gift.

I was never an RPG kid (I'm not an RPG adult, either) but the one game me and my older brother could always agree on was Dragon Warrior 4 for NES. I really can't articulate what a big impression the game left on 7-year-old me; the huge enemy sprites had so much personality and character. The story captured my imagination like Mario Bros. couldn't (the cliffhanger ending of chapter 2 when Princess Alena returned home to find her castle completely deserted was downright haunting) and the world-spanning plot with multiple playable characters left me feeling like they were my friends.

Anyway, in recent years my extended family has adopted a tradition of hand made "secret santa" gifts so that people can get personalized presents and we don't have to spend 2K Moneys buying shit for everyone. When I drew my brother's name this past Christmas I had a good idea!


Okay, I didn't have a good idea until the last minute. But this isn't bad for a night's work!

Real 90's Kids know that this shadowbox mimics the battle screen from classic Dragon Quest games. I believe there's a technological reason for the black backgrounds in these games--maybe enemy sprites were actually displayed on the NES' background sprites layer to cram more huge graphics onscreen than would normally be allowed? My ignorance is showing; by all means let me know if you have an answer.


For my project I used three of my favorite enemy designs: Mad Clown, Babble, and the OG monster, Slime. All the graphics were drawn in Photoshop, printed onto photo paper and mounted on stacked foamcore of varying heights.

When you don't want ugly white edges on cut out paper things--carefully run a black marker along the edges.

More black foamcore for the background!

everybody in the pool

To finish it off I took some brown craft paper and using my girlfriend's linocutting materials I carved out some cute little stamps for the wrapping:


My brother liked it; and bizarrely enough, the day before I even gave it to him he bought me a copy of Dragon Warrior 4, filling an important gap in my NES collection!

If you're interested in seeing some 8-bit shugei from other people check the Twitter tag I linked up at the top, or look at this excellent spotlight by my friend Oliver on Minus World.

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