Several gaming websites are reporting on what happened in the Q&A session for Indie Game The Movie last night at GDC. A Japanese developer stood up and asked the panel what they thought of modern Japanese games seeing as the majority of indie titles coming out of the west are typically influence by retro Japanese games.
Phil Fish, creator of the upcoming and awesome looking game, Fez replied with a simple “You’re games just suck.”
Queue the shouting, debate and further clarification on the comments by Fish and others at the panel via twitter and reported email!
Eurogamer has a write up here.
Soon both sides started drawing lines in the sand with ignorant comments like the following on 2ch:
“Has Canada ever had a famous game or game maker?”
From the following Kotaku write up of all this.
Seemingly forgetting or not realising that Canada has one of the fastest growing game development sectors in the world. With hugely popular franchise like Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed being made there. This ignorance isn’t one sided though, with many in the west forgetting recent successes like Demon/Dark Souls and the ever present Japanese franchises that we all love (or at least acknowledge) like Resident Evil, Final Fantasy and in-house developed games from Nintendo.
Still it gave me some food for thought. I thought about the list of games I am looking forward to this year and there is only one being made in Japan and that’s Resident Evil 6. While there is Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO!!!!!) but that still hasn’t been confirmed for western release yet so for now it is just vapourware for me. Then there is Monster Hunter for the Vita which is being listed on Play.com but that is a purchase out of curiosity more than being excited for it. I have never really tried the Monster Hunter games and I want to see what all the fuss is about.
I think the big thing is that the Japanese games industry is currently going through a state of change. It is stuck in the awkward position of trying to keep its local customers happy while trying to get that valuable western market at the same time. So you see things like Dynasty Warriors which is iterated to death because Japanese gamers love it and if western gamers buy it then yay for Koei they get extra money. You also see situations like Sony with the Vita launch appearing. With arguably the only launch title that had appeal to the Japanese market being Everybody’s Golf, with all the other titles having a distinctive western feel. We are also seeing the growing trend of Japanese publishers farming out their IPs to western developers (Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City for example) or investing in western gaming (SquareEnix buying Eidos).
Fish’s comments come out of the viewpoint that Japanese games are very much copy and paste designs. Just look at series like the Tales of games. I have played a couple and each one is the same! All that changes is the story and characters. Every Mario game is the same as the last with a few changes here and there. The same goes for Zelda. etc. etc. The big difference is that Japanese developers and gamers are happy playing/making the same game and just changing the glue that holds it together. While in the west we have the trend of everything needing to innovate all the time lest it be labelled that dreaded word, derivative. Sure not all Japanese games are like that just look at the work of Team ICO or the odd leap Japanese franchises make from time to time like Resi 3 to 4 or Mario Sunshine to Mario Galaxy. It is just a lot of the Japanese industry is still looking inward rather than outward at the global market. They would rather make games that are hits on their home turf and be niche titles elsewhere. Which is perfectly fine in my book.
I’m not on one side in particular. Japanese centric games are interesting to me and they are the games I grew up with. They are fun and easy enough to playthrough most of the time. Not all of them appeal to me but when they do they are unique experiences because of the Japanese perspective on life. Western games are the games that made me think and change my perceptions of the world around me. They are the games that I played in my teenage years onwards, developing in complexity alongside me. Western games are the ones I resonate with best because they are more likely to be a reflection of my culture. It is as simple as that really.
And while a lot of crap does come out of Japan a lot more crap comes out of the west. America and the EU make so many shit games it is crazy!
What say you? Are Japanese games good or bad?