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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    
 
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
 
Yeah, I don't know where this mentality comes from. I blame fratboys.

Most, if not all, of my favorite games this gen are from Eastern developers. My favorite genres are fighting games and RPGs, and I honestly can't think of an example from either genre from a Western dev that outdoes one from the Eastern end of Earth.

IMHO.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 20:27:42
I was thinking about that, too. Japanese devs are still better at the genres they were better at, and Western devs are still better at the genres THEY were better at. It may just be that the overall context has shifted, so that the West's competencies and priorities (FPS, online play) have a much greater importance in the current gaming scene than Japan's (RPGs, single-player modes).


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 20:32:44  - Edited by 
 on: 05/27/10, 20:40:31
How could anyone consider Japanese games irrelevant? It's like, I don't even know how to answer to such a ridiculous statement.

If some gamers want to thrive on western games exclusively, be my guest. I'll be playing any awesome-looking game I see, Japanese-developed or not.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 20:59:46
The reason people think this is because developers that made the best Western games in the past made them only on PC, so they weren't exposed to people who only play consoles. Now that they make games on consoles, these people think that Western developers have caught up, when they've really been right there alongside Japan all along.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 21:09:06
Japanese Devs are doing better this gen than ever. That is my opinion and I am sticking to it.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:08:20
I think a lot of it does have to do with the genres that are popular nowadays. Kojima, for instance, has been known to be in conversation with FPS developers. Mind you, it is tough to think of a whole lot of super impressive Japanese games from anyone outside of Nintendo nowadays.

Still, they tend to bring the quirk, which makes them more valuable to me than a million Western developers. Outside of indie games, there really isn't much coming from the Western that feels creative and imagination-inspiring to me.

@Jargon I'm curious, I know some PC people will murder me for this, but were there really PC games at the level of Super Mario Brothers 3, Super Metroid, Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, etc.?


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:14:24
@Zero

Yes.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:15:48
@Zero



This released the same year as Ocarina of Time, so there's one example. I've never been much of a PC gamer though, so that's all I can think of.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:18:32
I've heard a lot of praise for Grin Fandango, but I've never really heard anyone suggest it was the best game ever made as many, many people do with Ocarina of Time.

I kind of wonder if there is any real way to determine this though. It seems for the most part back then people were either PC or console gamers. Not enough overlap to get any real consensus.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:23:49
@Zero

I disagree. Not everyone is so obviously dismissive as you. Not sure why you'd even try to weigh in on it when you openly admit that you are not interested in PC games and have barely played any of them.

Trying to split hairs between Civilization and Ocarina of Time isn't really the point. The point is there are masterpieces on both sides. I played and continue to play both PC and console games thoroughly.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:27:45  - Edited by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:28:06
I'm not "dismissing" based on my own opinions, I'm dismissing based on the fact that whenever multi-platform sources make top 100 games of all-time lists, outside of maybe Civilization and Starcraft and a few others, the top 30 or so are usually 90% console games (and maybe 50% Mario and Zelda titles.) And then when people start talking the best developers ever, it's usually a bunch of console developers and... Will Wright.

It's true maybe PC games don't get the respect they deserve, which admittedly, is an argument I hear a lot.

If I WERE basing this on my own opinions, you'd dismiss them as subjective (and possibly biased) anyway, so what difference does it make? I mean, what would you even consider a valid way to have this discussion?


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:36:33
@Zero

I would say the sources you're citing are among those same people who I mentioned in my first post who weren't familiar with PC games. There's a reason classic PC games aren't as well known, it's because PCs were much less affordable and much less accessible than consoles. That's still the truth today, in fact, but not nearly to the same extent it once was. There's a reason the "Halo invented _____" meme exists. People honestly didn't know that PC games had paved the way. So will there ever be a consensus among the masses? No. However, amongst informed gamers of both platforms it is absolutely recognized that the pinnacles of PC gaming are just as essential as those of consoles.

My point about you not having played them was that most people who admittedly haven't played a platform wouldn't question whether the games are really that good. If you did play them and didn't like them, then you could at least espouse your personal views. However, it wouldn't change the fact that those classic PC games are recognized as such anymore than my dislike for Resident Evil 4 curtails it's status as a classic console game.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 22:55:18
Yeah but the "Halo invented the" thing doesn't really apply to these major game media places, mostly just Internet nerds (often teenagers) who are totally clueless. I mean, even I have heard of Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, Half Life, etc. For instance, IGN has Half Life 2 and Civ II in the top 10 of their top 100 games of all-time ('07 list, first I found online) but no Halo. They may or may not give the PC a totally fair shake, but they don't think Halo invented the FPS either.

BTW I wasn't questioning whether the PC games were deserving of the praise they get or not, but whether they were up with Nintendo's best (or if anyone ever really claims they are... I've never heard it claimed outside of PC-centric gamers). It's sort of a (mostly) accepted fact that Nintendo was a step above all other console developers for a very long time, at least, when comparing their top games to the top games of other developers (Nintendo titles make up 5 of the top 10 in the previously mentioned IGN list). So it wouldn't surprise me if they were a step above PC developers as well.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:05:09
@Zero

The thing is, though, when today you hear about how Western developers are finally measuring up with Japanese developers on consoles, it's not that Western devs used to be clueless and now they're good, it's that the best Western developers on consoles today are the best PC developers of yesterday.

Their output has always been great and consistent. It's just that you didn't hear about them before because you simply weren't as aware of the PC scene as the console scene.

Bungie had already made a name for itself on the Mac with the Marathon series and the Myth series, Bioware were already big way before Knight of the Old Republic ever hit the Xbox, Bethesda was known for its RPGs long before Oblivion, Epic was something before Gears of War, etc.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:17:39  - Edited by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:20:30
No I can agree with that, I'm just wondering if there was ever a point where they were consistently outputting at Nintendo level. I know it seems like a cliche thing for a huge Nintendo fan to say, but really... during the NES/SNES/N64 era Nintendo's top games were unmatched on consoles. Whether there were Western developers matching the rest of Japan isn't really even a question in my mind, I'm sure there were.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:21:41
@Zero

I think I could turn that around on you and say that you hang around mostly console-centric gamers. That's definitely the case on the IGN boards and to a lesser extent here. IGN as a site has always been console-centric itself.

I still agree Nintendo is the best developer, because of how prolific they are, but there are plenty of PC games, from a variety of developers, that rank up there with Nintendo's best. I can find Top 100 lists that espouse that view if you'd like, but I don't really see the point. Hell, even the list you post has Civilization 4 in the top 3 so there's a game that was up to Nintendo's level, even from IGN's console-centric (IMO) viewpoint. Quibbling between the #1 and #3 game of all time is not really an exercise worth doing.

All that said, I doubt you would personally like the best PC games as much as Nintendo games because, as you stated above, you prefer eastern games.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:22:24  - Edited by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:29:19
Nintendo is a publisher, the biggest in the business, you can't compare most of these devs directly to the entity that it "Nintendo", but I guess you could pit Intelligent Systems' games against Blizzard's, or something.

Plus, when people think of "Nintendo games" they will think of a surprisingly large number of Western-developed games: StarFox, Donkey Kong Country, Uniracers, etc.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:24:47
Alright maybe I meant EAD games, or in other words, the games that tend to top the "best games EVAR" lists. Super Mario Brothers 1/3/(World?), Super Mario 64 (perhaps Galaxy nowadays), Legend of Zelda, Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, etc. And thrown in Super Metroid even though it's not EAD, because it is usually considered one of the best games ever.

I'm definitely not saying I think there were no developers out there matching HAL or Intelligent Systems or other non-Miyamoto/EAD Nintendo developer's general level of games.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:40:06  - Edited by 
 on: 05/27/10, 23:45:45
I didn't hear about most PC games while growing up, because like others here, I was pretty much into console games. Pretty much all I knew were games that my dad enjoyed, like mainly turn-based strategy games such as Warlords and X-COM and such.

I still am mainly into console gaming, but I'm now more aware of PC games too. Not as much as some people I'm sure, but I'm no longer virtually oblivious to it, which I suppose is good



Anyways, the vast majority of games that I've played and enjoyed were Eastern-developed games, although this generation I have to admit that the gap is shrinking a little. There are still Eastern games I love such as Dead Rising, Deadly Premonition, No More Heroes, Valkyria Chronicles, etc., but there are also Western games I love too, like Mass Effect and... stuff.

EDIT: Oh yeah, I enjoyed Dead Space and Gears of War, though I wasn't too crazy about either.

EDIT2: And Crackdown is another game I had a lot of fun with.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 00:18:12  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/10, 00:20:01
PC games seem to be great if you are a fan of specific genres... RTS, FPS, Western/MMO RPG, etc...

There's just so much more variety on the consoles.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/10, 01:19:36
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