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Japanese developers have fallen far, far behind this generation
Editorial by 
Editor
May 27, 2010, 20:11:23
 
They have? Does anyone else feel some serious cognitive dissonance when they hear this mantra repeated over and over again? I'd attribute it to the biases of Western gamers towards Western genres and games (that may or may not be set in the Wild West), but now it seems that many big-name Japanese developers (Inafune, Kojima, Wada, etc.) are just as eager to talk trash about their own community (excluding their products, of course).

Obviously, all of this rhetoric conveniently ignores the enormous global success of Nintendo. Because they're Nintendo! (lol, waggle)

Maybe it's my own bias towards quirky games with fantastical (and actually interesting) settings, but most of the games that have piqued my interest (Valkyria Chronicles, Demon Souls, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Earth Defense Force, etc.) or tripped my trigger this gen still have Japanese origins. Western devs are very good at iterating and expanding upon (and fusing) existing concepts, but I find that most Western games (especially retail games) still lack that certain 'soul' that I find in the best Japanese games - the idiosyncrasy, the superb visual and aural design, the charm and polish and refinement.

Not ALL of them, mind you. I've enjoyed quite a few Western games this gen. But I call bullshit on Japan's impotency and irrelevancy. It might be irrelevant to fratboys, but not to me.

I don't want Capcom to make Gears of War. I want them to make Capcom games. Square - to be honest, I don't even care what they do. Enix usually follows their own prerogative (as long as said prerogative involves Dragon Quest in some way). Konami and Namco have become kind of a joke...

Hmm, maybe there IS something there. It seems that many of yesteryear's Eastern giants have lost their way, lost their identity. Their mad scramble to keep up with the Joneseseses (after a late start) has only caused them to fall farther behind. But companies like Atlus and Marvelous and Platinum (and From Software?) have continued to forge their own path without pandering to perceived market needs. It would be nice if they were always financially rewarded for that, but...

Anyway, the audience for Japanese games may indeed be shrinking, but I still maintain that there is still plenty of great shit coming out of Japan. Just from different places.

Oh, and from Nintendo. But they don't count. (You know, because they're Nintendo.)

(This is my second attempt at this thread. The first, which was lost to the inter-ether, was far more eloquent and coherent. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

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Posted: 05/27/10, 20:11:23  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 23:13:13    
 
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I just finished up Muramasa and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Why do we need HD with the plastic looking game characters when you can play a game that looks like that, I was moving on to play God of War 2 and 3 next week and after completing this I have a feeling I will be left sorely disappointed.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 01:49:42
warerare said:
I just finished up Muramasa and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Why do we need HD with the plastic looking game characters when you can play a game that looks like that, I was moving on to play God of War 2 and 3 next week and after completing this I have a feeling I will be left sorely disappointed.

Muramasa is great. Prettiest game I've ever played. I'm not a graphics whore by any means, but yeah.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 02:49:42
Muramasa is pretty jaw-dropping. Along with Okami, it's probably the prettiest game I've ever seen.

I used to play PC games a lot more. C64, PC, Mac, Atari ST... Some games were great, because they had depth that far surpassed that of a console game. In other areas, though, I've always generally preferred console gaming for that solid, arcade feel, which is a function of many factors (controller, TV, multiplayer, etc.). That's not to say that I don't have fond memories of many, many computer games, from Adventure Construction Set and Mail Order Monsters and Jumpman to Civ II and Alpha Centauri and Sim City to Doom and Unreal Tournament and No One Lives Forever and Marathon and Rogue Spear to Dungeon Master and Diablo II and Pool of Radiance, and so on. PC gaming always felt very 'different' to me. It didn't compete with my console time. It was an alternate form of gaming entertainment.

I really enjoyed the FPS genre at its inception, but I'm pretty tired of it now, and I've never really liked RPGs or RTSs, beyond the novelty of the first few I played, so the PC scene kind of lost me when it started focusing exclusively on those genres. These days, most console games have (superior, or whatever) PC versions, and there is a thriving indie scene, so it's a bit different. Still, installing and running and optimizing games was almost always a pain in the ass. From boot disks to driver updates to compatibility patches to messing around with settings to command line tweaks. Fuck that shit, seriously. I'm curious about the rare PC exclusive that I want to try (like Crysis), but not enough to dive back into that world of working to play a game. I am a lazy, lazy guy. I enjoy being able to play my game with the optimal settings as soon as the drive reads it.

That said, I need a new PC, because mine is seriously a beater (I usually wait until things die to replace them, but like my 1GB iPod, it just won't die! - And when it does, I manage to keep resurrecting it!), and I went to the store to investigate my options today. I wanted to build a desktop with a 3D graphics card and wireless monitor connection, so I could get a nice 3D TV and play stuff on it from the computer in the other room. It seems like that feature is restricted to a few laptops right now, though. And it seems like there's some lag. That was kind of disappointing.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 03:31:32  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 03:32:11
Well, comparing EAD games to PC games is a bit difficult because it's the very definition of apples and oranges. The best of the best in the PC bunch typically are far more involved, with much richer stories and are more heavy on choice and strategic thinking.

The best on consoles is about making simple fun with clever and tightly wound mechanics that feel polished to a glossy finish.

You aren't going to find life-consumingly complex games like X3 and Sins of a Solar Empire on consoles, not for a while at least. Some may be time consuming, but the complexity will most likely not be there, or it'll be simplified. Because console gamers are used to having things simpler. It's how they prefer their gameplay.

It's also why PC gamers and console gamers have been separate groups for so long. The game genres were completely different. You'd think that consoles had more "variety," but that's not really the case. They had plenty of genres, just genres that the consoles didn't have and some could technically be lumped up into general categories. But that's never fair, now is it?

But that gap is closing because developers are starting to see the PC as another console, since they design their games on PCs and all a lot of the time, it's very easy to make a PC version. Bada-bing, easy cash.

So now the PC easily has the greatest variety of games by a country mile. Some genres, like the JRPG, are still fairly weak on the system (Because JRPGs make most PC gamers vomit, I love them though.) - there's something for everyone. Far more so than any other console there's ever been. And that's because the PC takes games from every console while tossing on a bunch of its own.

I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who's missing out on PC gaming right now - because if you like any of the consoles, you'll find something you'll like on the PC - no exceptions.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 04:03:28
You really see this argument on the Xbox side of gaming, but that's probably because the other two consoles are owned and supported more by Japanese.

Going by just the Xbox perspective, Capcom and Square have been behind this generation. For whatever reason Capcom holds onto it's control scheme for action games. Resident Evil 5 and Lost Planet (1 & 2) both control like you are taking a tank out through a field of molasses. It might have worked with Resident Evil 4, but 5 jumped up the enemies and their aggressiveness and even gave them guns. It didn't work.

Square I'm not even sure where they are. They are behind the times but it's more like they just side-stepped time and went off on their own thing. Final Fantasy XIII is made on a system vastly more powerful than a PS2 with a much larger amount of disc space and was given years of development time yet they removed a vast junk of stuff and made the game follow a linear path to tell a story. I guess they spent the majority of that time working on the engine, I don't know.

I can't really think of anyone else who is "behind the times". Those are just the ones I see when lurking the 360GB.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 04:07:21
Simbabbad said:
@Pandareus

For 18 years I've been strictly a computer (CPC, Amiga, PC) gamer, never touched a console. And apart a very, very short list, computer games don't touch console games IMO.
Heh, I think the list of console games PC games don't touch is short itself. Grim Fandango mentionned above, for instance. Yes, I was playing that instead of OoT or MGS in 1998. And yes, I thought at the time it was a better game than either of those. I think I still do.

My stint with PC gaming was at the end of the 90s and I really can't complain about the games I loved. Fallout, Freespace, Alpha Centauri, etc. I absolutely think they compare favorably with the console games of that era.

My main problem with the Western devs who are dominating the consoles right now is that they are producing the content I didn't give a crap about on the PC, not the stuff I liked. Even Volition, now mainly a console developer, is making open world games instead of fantastic flight sims. I hear their games are pretty good, and I'm glad they're knowing some sort of success. But they're not making the games that made me root for them in the first place.

It's a shame.

@Xbob42

What would a Nintendo gamer (you know, someone into Metroid, Zelda, Mario, Starfox...) find?


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 04:28:00  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 04:34:36
Grim Fandango is... the funniest game I've ever played. It's one of those rare cases where the story of a video game is truly good, with laugh out loud dialogue.

That and, of course, the puzzles are excellent.

Would love to see Tim Schafer someday top it...


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 04:31:06
Pandareus said:


@Xbob42

What would a Nintendo gamer (you know, someone into Metroid, Zelda, Mario, Starfox...) find?

Oh, plenty! Some are also available on consoles, and some were later ported to consoles, but there's Gish, Cave Story (I'm sure you're all aware of that one!), Aquaria, The Maw, Psychonauts (PC version is by far the best.), a fully modded Oblivion can be very satisfying for Zelda fans, but basic, unmodded Oblivion to me is just a nightmare...

There's also a few flash games, like that Super Mario Cross-Over, that are amazingly high quality and free, and they're still PC games. :p

I could list more, but I don't remember the names of many right off the bat because I don't look for Nintendo-esque games when I'm PC gaming, I look for more "traditional," PC games. But there's plenty out there, if not in the same exact style, definitely in spirit and polish. Some are more polished than others, but that usually comes down to certain games being indie or simply having smaller budgets.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 05:11:52  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 05:12:43
Oblivion isn't even close to Zelda. It's like the opposite of Zelda.

And I'm playing Cave Story on Wii which is nice and all, but it's not really a replacement for Nintendo platformers either.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 06:15:33
Zero said:
Oblivion isn't even close to Zelda. It's like the opposite of Zelda.

And I'm playing Cave Story on Wii which is nice and all, but it's not really a replacement for Nintendo platformers either.

Oblivion and Zelda aren't all that different at all in many regards. But I didn't say Oblivion, I said a fully modded Oblivion, which is basically an entirely different game. Oblivion doesn't restrict you to linear dungeon after linear dungeon, but the spirit of the games is similar in a lot of ways. I'd explain it, but it would take all day and people probably wouldn't understand me. It's something you have to try out.

But as I said, it can be a very satisfying experience for Zelda fans who give it a real shot. It's not Zelda nor is it a Zelda clone, but - gah, it's like trying to explain why Monster Hunter Tri is so addicting to someone who posts about how it looks like a mindless collect-a-thon... It's tough! But my point isn't that you're guaranteed to like any of these games, you're not. But there's plenty out there to keep you entertained if you give them a fair shot and stop trying to compare them directly to Nintendo games, because good PC devs generally don't try to rip anyone off, they're out there to make their own experience.

Also, Oblivion on the 360 is like Zelda on the CD-i.

Cave Story isn't a platformer, it's more similar to Metroid/Castlevania.

Gish would be the platformer. Awesome, awesome game.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 06:49:10  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 06:54:40
Somehow I doubt the mod fixes the core gameplay, which is where Oblivion lacks. So much to do, pretty much all of it boring and unpolished.

I know what Cave Story is, I own it! I think I misread and thought you were using it as a Mario equivalent.

I guess it would be difficult to argue against your general point though, since pretty much every non-Wii game is on PC as well nowadays (as well as a couple of 3rd party Wii games and a lot of 3rd party WiiWare games).

On the other hand, Nintendo > everyone else combined. Yeah I said it.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 06:58:37
Zero said:
Somehow I doubt the mod fixes the core gameplay

And that's where you'd be wrong. :p Dedicated modders are some of the most devoted people I've ever seen.

Like I said, different game.

One of their 'fixes,' changes the game completely, for example. Monsters will no longer scale with your level, which was pretty much a unanimous "I HATE IT," feature of the original. I believe there's several that address monster frequency, combat mechanics, etc. All kinds of stuff. And so much new, re-added or fixed content. There's even one that turns the entire game into Morrowind, for those who preferred that game but want to play it in Oblivion's superior engine.

This is one of PC gaming's greatest strengths.

I love Nintendo to death, so I'm not going to argue about which dev I think is better or anything, all I'm saying is everyone should actively look for fun, instead of trying to avoid or dismiss it on brand loyalty alone!

Although if your back log is big enough, or you don't have much free time anymore, that brand loyalty can "protect," you from going game-crazy with things you'll never have a chance to play. :p


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 07:06:06
I don't want to split hairs, but I don't think any amount of modification can make Oblivion's core gameplay into Zelda-level core gameplay.

Anyway, I don't have any problem with PC gaming. I'm sure it has a lot of great games. I just have no interest in sitting in front of a PC to game. I spend way too damn much time in front of a PC between work, school, etc. as it is, I game to get away from that.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 07:47:03
So hook it up to your TV and play in front of that. My monitor is a 40 inch Samsung LED. :p


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 08:14:23
Hey Xbob, this is just out of curiosity, but are you aware of any Mass Effect mods that make the game's combat turn-based, or at least play less like a shooter? I was thinking such a thing would be unlikely to exist, but if someone/a group of people has actually done that, that would be great. My dad used to be pretty into computer gaming, but he never got into shooters or anything like that. I think he would really like Mass Effect's story, but the shooting gameplay would turn him off, so a mod like that could potentially be awesome.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 10:07:00
I don't know that Mass Effect has any mods, as I've never looked.

The thing is, to make mods, people usually need the Source Development Kit, which plenty of PC devs distribute with the game, or at least a mod tool - but games like Mass Effect, which are ported from consoles, typically don't have these things for any number of reasons. Meaning any game changes couldn't be too technical. Maybe a few texture swaps here or there, but rarely any mechanics actually changing. (In fact, changing the mechanics of any game is extremely difficult for modders and is almost never done, but it's happened here and there.)


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 10:17:20
@Xbob42 But how would you use keyboard and mouse in a lounqe chair!? And if you're not using keyboard and mouse and just playing the games with a controller, don't they kind of lose the PC advantage a bit? Anyway I can barely support the platforms I own already. My PS3 and PSP haven't been touched in awhile.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 18:45:48
You can get a little lap table. That's what I would do. That and a wireless 360 controller PC adapter.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 19:53:34
What I find interesting are the companies being setup by by former employees of the behemoths. Studios like Platinum Games, Level 5 and Sora (even though we've seen nothing of them yet), to me are the real future of the Japanese game industry.

The big guys - Konami, Square, Namco and even Nintendo to a certain extent, are too risk averse and set in their ways. They're so focused on their bottom line that it causes them to churn out sequel after sequel and not try anything in terms gameplay, genre or technology.

One of the big reasons western devs have progressed so quickly is because they have an entrepreneurial culture that Japan can't match. In japan talented guys hang around in big studios happily taking orders from higher ups for far to long, whereas in the U.S. their equivalents would jump ship and simply start their own studio. This is a generalization, but you see it so often in the U.S. where the truly talented guys see having their own studio where they can have complete creative control as their ultimate goal.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 21:55:46
I should also mention that Japan is technically behind the curve and largely unable to compete with PC-bred monsters like Epic. Companies like Squeenix and Capcom seem to have caught up, but Squeenix took a looooong time to make FFXIII.

But art design can go a long way towards covering up technical deficiencies.

@achhibbar
Yeah, that's a good observation. Level 5 is probably already bigger than some of those guys, though. More solvent, at least. Even within those mega-companies, some developers have created their own boutique groups. Kojima, Clover (pourin' out a 40)... Nomura seems to have some sort of weird dark contract with Squeenix. Maybe he has blackmail material on Wada.

It does seem like superstar devs have been influenced by the freedom and autonomy and financial rewards of the Western development world. Company employees just don't get that much money in Japan. I read that the CEO to average worker ratio is something like 9:1? Here, it's, like, 250:1. That's not always such a great thing, but...

I've always wondered how much Miyamoto makes. I'm guessing... $250,000-ish.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 22:12:08  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 22:28:00
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