Anime Vice News

Game Developer: Japanese Games Need "Drastically Innovative Ideas"

How the mighty have told us that they've fallen

It might be hard for a younger reader, raised on the Xbox 360 and games like Halo and Uncharted, to appreciate how influential Japanese development has been on video games. Games may gotten their earliest start in the States, but Japan has been the game development force for more than 25 years, between their arcade games and their developed console hardware.
 Oh, and don't forget that New Super Mario Bros Wii crushed Western favorite Modern Warfare 2
 Oh, and don't forget that New Super Mario Bros Wii crushed Western favorite Modern Warfare 2

Which is why it's been totally BANANAS to see Japanese game producers come out and say that the country's development mindset needs to be completely overhauled. In an interview with Xbox World 360, Lost Planet 2 producer Jun Takeuchi says that Japanese game development needs to be overhauled, or else Japan doesn't have "a chance in hell" of competing with western developed games.  
 
Takeuchi's sentiments echo a similar story from the Tokyo Game Show last year, where famed game designer and Capcom producer Keiji Inafune (he CREATED Mega Man!) told the press that Japanese game development has drastically fallen behind the West, and if it didn't change, Japan was "done".
 
If I was a cold-blooded analyst interested in the financial bottom line, I could appreciate how major Japanese releases don't have the same retail power they once did, apart from the largest franchises. If I was a more jaded game player, I would agree that I was totally sick of Japanese design eccentricities and endlessly recycled anime tropes (who hasn't made the joke that every game from Japan features a spiky-haired protagonist saving the world?). 
 
On the other hand, this is the country that, in the past two years, gave us Persona 4, Valkyria Chronicles, Demon's Souls, and Monster Hunter Tri.  To count out Japan's capacity to deliver different, interesting, and fun games sells their games short. 
 
Where do you folks stand when it comes to Japanese games? Is your collection of games leaning more towards California or Tokyo?
 
Thanks to Kotaku for the story.
FLStyleon May 17, 2010 at 11:05 a.m.
Where do I stand? I stand in the video game articles are for Giant Bomb and not Anime Vice corner.
Eelcireon May 17, 2010 at 11:07 a.m.
My games would lean more Tokyo if the damn things were region free. As it stands, I can only play what happens to get localized. Overall I wish developers would stop trying to cater to a certain "market" and focus on making a game fun. It seems like every developer keeps trying to make AAA blockbuster interactive experiences, and they forget about what makes a game a game in the first place.
sickVisionz moderator on May 17, 2010 at 11:30 a.m.
I don't really mind that Japanese games tend to have their own distinctive feel.  I guess it would be cool if Lost Odyssey was identical to Fallout 3 but I like that it's completely different and that I can buy it AND Fallout 3 and get two totally unique experiences.  I guess it'd be cool if they took out the cutscenes and stealth of MGS4 and made it a cover-based third person shooter with steroid abusing protagonists or it'd be awesome if they took Bayonetta out of the game, removed all of the craziness threw in some super bulky muscle bound guy and made it a total rip of God of War like Dante's Inferno... nah I can't even tell that lie. 
 
Some of my favorite games this gen are from Japanese devs.  I don't want knock off versions of US games.  If I want a US game I'll buy a US game.  If I want a Japanese game, i'll buy a Japanese game. 
 
It should also be noted that Jun Takeuchi threw in way more western gameplay mechanics into Lost Planet 2 than Lost Planet one and it's reviewing terribly compared to the first one.  Maybe if he'd let westerners make western gamers and easteners (is this even a word?) make eastern games he would have cranked out a quality title.
DonChipotleon May 17, 2010 at 11:39 a.m.
For every 'unique' Japanese game released, there are five more that adhere to every stereotypical cliche that people make fun of. It is those games that seem to get all the focus. Either way, my game collection has a tip in the favor of Western though there's a hefty amount of Japanese games there as well.
ShadowKnight508 moderator on May 17, 2010 at 11:42 a.m.
I like Japanese-created games,,,,I could not imagine a world without Square Enix or Kojima Productions making games like Final Fantasy XIII, Kingdom Hearts I and II, or the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Halberdierv2on May 17, 2010 at 12:31 p.m.
Well, if companies like Nintendo want western help with ideas in their game, id be happy to oblige.
Oishi_47on May 17, 2010 at 12:34 p.m.
I'm about half and half. U.S. games can fall into ruts as well (albeit not usually for an entire decade) like how every big title is either a multilayer heavy FPS or is redesigned to fit the Gears profile. For example, Mass Effect, a third-person shooter/RPG designed by Bioware, and Splintercell, a third-person stealth game created by Ubisoft, are both made into third-person cover-based shooters with a heavier focus on action (though, it might just be a Canadian thing). These games were made into more accessible iterations of their respective franchises while JRPGs are still made for fans of JRPGs and no one else with a handful of exceptions. 
metalsnakezeroon May 17, 2010 at 12:56 p.m.
I feel really bother whenever a article is written about how Japanese games are dead when I seen some many over the past 2 years. What I hope does not happen is them borrowing ideas from western games and just slapping it on to their games like Lost Planet 2. For some Japanese Dev they do need to come up with some new ideas like how Zelda, while good, needs to changes some of its gameplay to be a true next gen game. With the new pokemon coming out with a lot of changes I do believe they can do it. 
Whiskeyjackon May 17, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.
 @Eelcire - PS3 Games are Region Free. Granted, that doesn't make them easier to read, but they are Region Free.

@sickVisionz - Lost Planet 2, from some reviewers is simply Monster Hunter squeezed into a Lost Planet skin.. and I'm still waiting for North Americans to decide they like Monster Hunter

The Japanese market is incredibly insular. They find something they like, and iterate on it to death. Arcades outside of Japan are a thing of the past. The Japanese still haven't figured out online gaming the way North America has. They're stagnant and no longer the leaders in the industry (mostly). It makes sense that they should look to the West for innovations that they can take and make their own. North American developers did the same thing, so why would it be so bad in reverse? The Japanese economy has been in the crapper as well for so long that the Japanese games that can be marketed in the West have an extra revenue stream coming in. Certainly this path is not for every game, nor is it always successful, but money is money.

If you skim through enough Giant Bomb reviews of games that are "mad Japanese", you will not find the term being used in a very positive light. The term becomes synonymous with stagnant last-gen systems and game mechanics that Western developers figured out how to do years ago. (This isn't always the case, sometimes I'm sure they're just referring to the charm of the game..) People will defend bad control schemes as part of the game's legacy. It's a load of BS.

I find it interesting that you cite those four games as "interesting and different". Persona 4 is the 4th sequel in a branch of another extremely long running RPG series, almost as storied as the Square's Final Fantasy. While they continue to tweak things there's plenty similar between P4 and P3 and back down the line. Valkyria Chronicles was a failure at least in the West until they dropped the price by 50%, and the sequel's only coming out on the PSP. Demon's Souls was received fondly for BEING old school in how punishing it was, and Monster Hunter Tri is just another iteration of Monster Hunter which they still can't sell on this side of the ocean.

When the Japanese do something extremely well, however, few can match it. I don't think we'll see a Western Nintendo for a while yet. We're finally getting to the point where certain developers are successful enough that they can release a game "when it's done" - both Valve and Blizzard are in this boat.

Looking at my own games collection, I'm about 50/50 on which side of the ocean my games are made. If a game's good, I'll play it.
Karkarovon May 18, 2010 at 6:06 a.m.
@Whiskeyjack said:
"Persona 4 is the 4th sequel in a branch of another extremely long running RPG series, almost as storied as the Square's Final Fantasy. While they continue to tweak things there's plenty similar between P4 and P3 and back down the line. Valkyria Chronicles was a failure at least in the West until they dropped the price by 50%, and the sequel's only coming out on the PSP. Demon's Souls was received fondly for BEING old school in how punishing it was, and Monster Hunter Tri is just another iteration of Monster Hunter which they still can't sell on this side of the ocean. "
Ok stop here a few things.
 
1: Persona 3 and 4 are drastically different from Persona 1 and 2 and other than the Shin Megami Tensei tag being slapped on and the various "easter eggs" hidden in the games have almost nothing in common with the rest of SMT.  So your comment about them being similar going back down the line really does not hold water on any level.  
 
2: Valkyria Chronicles is a good game but it is also just the most recent reinvention of games like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics that have been around since the 90's.  It wasn't anywhere near as fresh as I have seen fans call it and most of it's fans are also dyed in the wool japanophiles who love anime and buy every XSeed game.  In other words they are a very distinct minority in the western gaming market.  Most of us have gotten tired of this type of game by now, myself included.
 
3: Demon's Souls was not old school on any level beyond how hard it was.  In my opinion it was actually the most innovative game released in the last two years on a console and while it's "hard core gamer" rep might have caused alot of sales the game itself was excellent and that is why people love it and kept playing it.  It still has an active community online in japan now over a year later and the US players are still going along as well though not quite as strong.  By the way it also proved that the Moster Hunter bad controls arguement was a load of crap.
 
4: Ok your right about Monster Hunter.  They really really need to address the pure crap controls of this game especially if they plan to stay on consoles.
MsDivaon May 18, 2010 at 8:04 p.m.
Well, I don't mind Western games that have are creative and are interesting and immersive to play--hence the reason I love games like the Uncharted series, God of War series, and Assassin's Creed, to name a few--but I no doubt will say that a large part of my gaming life (over 20+ yrs) have seem to lean far toward the 'East', if anything else. Nintendo started my gaming like back 1987--w/ the NES--and Sony (and still a bit on Ninty, in terms of handhelds)keeps it occupied today--w/ my PS2, PSP, and PS3--both of which are Japan-based. Hell, I'd go so far to say that about 90% (if not more) of current game collection is developed/published by Japanese game companies. And some of my most favorites series/games are of Eastern influence: Tekken series, Gran Turismo series, MGS4, and in particular, as of recent, the Ryu ga Gotoku (Yakuza in the West) series. Out of the 6 games in that series alone, I have actually imported 3--and hope to do so w/ the last one released in JPN--and then turned around a gladly repurchased them when they were (finally) localized for the western market b/c I enjoy the unique way the story was told and the whole feel of the game.  
 
Is it possible they maybe could use some an injection of change? Maybe? But do I want them take too much  'inspiration' from the land of ModernHaloGear (aka the FPS-eccentric Western market)? Hell, no.  
 
It's nothing wrong w/ take ideas from the West if it helps rejuvenate some creative venues, but don't try to make yourselves something you're not.  
BrandonElliotton May 31, 2010 at 3:24 p.m.
I really don't care who or where the game is made. As long the game is GOOD and isn't a bad remake of an old game.

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