In his guest appearance on Like a Dragon: Ishin, Kenny Omega tells us all about his passion for gaming.
Like a Dragon: Ishin will see you slicing through enemies, often literally, as a Sakamoto Ryoma intent on conquering the world. This installment will take the series formerly known as Yakuza in a new direction, giving us sword-focused action for the first time.
Helping us on our journey will be Soldier Cards, which will give us access to a range of unique abilities, and six of these cards will even introduce special guests. The names announced so far are two: the first is that of Rahul Kohli, star of iZombie and Midnight Mass, with the power of Firestorm Essence, which does exactly what one would expect from a firestorm; the second is AEW and NJPW wrestler Kenny Omega, who uses the One-Winged Angel Essence to unleash a powerful sword slash on all enemies in a circular area around Ryoma.
Omega has never made a secret of its love for video games. In January, he entered New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 17 with the theme song by Sephiroth and wearing the iconic Square Enix character trench coat. The Final Fantasy VII villain has always had a strong influence on Omega’s in-ring character, with his “One Winged Angel” finishing move being another clear reference to Sephiroth.
Kenny Omega, non solo Final Fantasy —
“His image was a big inspiration for the Cleaner character in New Japan,” Omega explains. “So, catching the references of that costume and its ‘dragged’ walk has always been a great inspiration from the beginning. But really playing Sephiroth… there wasn’t much else I could do to pay homage to my heroes and my gaming inspirations – well, I can’t call him a ‘hero’ because he’s done some pretty evil things, but we get the hang of it – he’s a really loud”.
But Omega has not only paid homage to Final Fantasy over the years. At Wrestle Kingdom 12 he entered the ring with a replica of the Vigilance Wing rifle from Destiny 2. He also made some Undertale-inspired entrances, performing a cosplay of Sans to the tune of Megalovania in a 2019 episode of AEW Dynamite and working with Toby Fox to create an animated short called “Kenny’s Quest” to build hype around his match at Wrestle Kingdom 13.
“Initially I wanted to do something simple and just show that video games are a passion of mine, so I tried to frame characters that people would definitely catch,” he says. “So, I used Ryu and Ken’s Hadouken [di Street Fighter], everyone knows what it is. Over time, I moved a little more underground”.
Why does it –
“It’s more a question of asking: what is a Kenny Omega extension? What do I really like as a person? So whether the fans get it or not, I just wanted to be true to myself. I’ve been doing stuff with the Undertale franchise, I wasn’t sure if people would care or not, but the response has been amazing, it’s been super positive in every way. When you take something that’s so out of touch with wrestling but makes a beautiful home for you and the fans, and somehow increases the enjoyment they get out of a match, it makes everything I do more fun and rewarding.”
Likewise, wrestling fans have never hidden their love for video games. Ever since spectators have been able to return to stadiums after the pandemic, they have increasingly seen them holding up placards with video game-inspired phrases and even very strong opinions on the subject.
Things like “Final Fantasy 8 is rubbish!” popped up on television, only to see another sign the following week stating that “Final Fantasy 8 is underrated!”, followed by another sign on another federation’s show saying “ they argue about Final Fantasy 8, we are for Final Fantasy Tactics!”. It all reached its climax when a fan exhibited a sign that read: “play Disco Elysium, weeb!”. It’s amazing how many things you can write on a piece of paper, isn’t it?
“The billboards? How wonderful” –
“I don’t even know how it happened, but sometimes I look at them and I think, ‘yeah…that’s true.’ Other times I look at them and I’m like, ‘okay guys, you’re trolling me now, don’t even try’,” laughs Omega. “It’s taken on a life of its own and it’s slipping into the realm of the ridiculous, but there were some good considerations for a while.”
“It’s good to see that it’s crept into our pro wrestling subculture, because it could have been anything – it could have been a football debate, it could have been basketball, the theme could have been anything, but somehow it was video games. to win and became a weekly thing through the billboards in the arenas. It’s really beautiful.”
One of Omega’s favorite genres is fighting games, having played in many events and tournaments over the years. With Like A Dragon’s Kazuma Kiryu making a perfect fit for the genre, we ask Omega which fighting game he’d like to see him in.
“Kiryu? That’s where I would see it well…” —
“Tekken has done so well with the characters it has housed, it would be really cool,” he replies. “But then there’s that part of me that would love to see a Kiryu Fatality. I think everyone would like to see someone do a Fatality, as grotesque as that sounds. It’s not so much that it would kill a person, it’s more – how ridiculous could they make it? How over the top and weird, and what easter egg could you add to your series? So I think it would be a lot of fun to use a cell phone and call in some hermit crabs or something like that.”
“It would fit so well into any fighting game, there isn’t a wrong answer. He has a little bit of that Street Fighter Urien style, he would be an aggressive fighter. Anyone would look good in Smash, but it would look good in Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive too – it would work anywhere. So since we’re on the tough questions, I’d really like to see it rendered in 2D to see how that would work.” So it seems that the wrestler’s definitive answer is: I would see Kiryu well in all fighting games.
Omega’s passion for the medium has always been evident in his work, but hearing him speak like this shows even more how perfect a choice he was for Like A Dragon. At this point, who knows we will soon see him in even more important roles in the gaming world.
Written by Ryan Woodrow for GLHF
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