Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

East vs. West: How Japan stopped being Japan

7:30 PM on 08.15.2011 // Revuhlooshun

[Last week's Bloggers Wanted topic was East vs. West, where I asked you guys to choose a side and tell me who makes better games. For the next five days, I'll be promoting some of my favorite responses from this prompt, and you'll see great arguments from both sides of the debate. Our first promoted blog this week is from Revuhlooshun, who argues that the West is winning because the Japanese have lost a lot of their uniqueness and creativity in an attempt to, ironically, make games more Western. Want to see your own blog make it to the front page? Make sure you write something on this week's topic, Handhelds. -- JRo]

Japan's problem is not that it is not Western enough: Japan's problem is that it is not being Japanese enough. How is this possible? Look at the death of Japanese science fiction, which is intrinsically tied to the death of Japanese creativity in its pursuit and emulation of Western design and mass market appeal.

Japanese games and anime were once littered with these very cool, near-future types of environments and aesthetics that are, sadly, sort of a lost art today. It was very cyber-punkish, very Blade Runner, and usually unlike anything you'd ever seen. There were vast, modern, urban cities, filled with glowing neon light against the dark nightlife around you. This was Japan's greatest strength: Dreaming up and bringing into fruition ideas, environments, and things you had never experienced before, in contrast to the West's focus on hyper realism; on pulling the real into the virtual as much as possible.

I consider the PS1 era during the 90s to really be the pinnacle of Japanese RPG and Japanese game development, precisely for this reason. It was the age of games like Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Xenogears, Persona I and II, and the entire Front Mission franchise, along with non-RPGs like Armored Core, Resident Evil (especially 2 and 3), and Metal Gear Solid. These were not only fantastic and revolutionary games in their content, but also in that 90s, urban, Japanese sci-fi look. And we haven't seen these types of games since the turn of the millennium.

Ok, the games look different. So what?

The point is that this lost art style is a clue as to why Japan is now inferior to the West. To put it simply: Japan stopped dreaming. All those games mentioned above, whether you love them or hate them, were unlike much of what had been done before in both their art styles and the games themselves, with Parasite Eve really being the best example of the lot. They are unique games in how they look and play, offering a viable alternative to the aforementioned hyper-realism of the Western market.

Look at the really great games that have come out of Japan lately: Catherine, Demon's Souls, No More Heroes, Dead Rising, etc. What do these games have in common?

They are either unlike anything you have played before, or they take established genres and present them in new and undiscovered ways. They are different than anything the West is offering.

These games might not always sell well. I am not speaking in terms of commercial success, but rather critical success, because quite honestly: Japan will not overtake Activision. You can't out-West the West, especially in its native market. These companies, and the people that work for them, will always have a natural, innate advantage as to what will work in their respective markets because that is where they have spent their whole lives.

We must separate commercial from critical success, and Japan has to learn that it's not going to match the profits of Activision and EA: They're at a cultural disadvantage. Japan can rip off Gears of War and call it Quantum Theory and think they're going to change that, but why play a poor Japanese knockoff when you can just play Gears of War?

Games became commercialized. Japanese culture became commercialized. It's why we get games like Resident Evil 5, or Final Fantasy XIII, games which do nothing to innovate and inspire – they simply feast off the corpses of previous franchise entries, hoping to get in a few more bucks without having to do a lot of work.

I have made it a point to try to buy every Yakuza game the day it comes out. They're not very complex games, and some even call their mechanics dated (which, they're not too wrong about). Despite that, they're well made with a lot of content, they have that urban nightlife look I love, they're fun, and most importantly: they're different. They are unlike anything I can readily pick up, just like Xenogears was. I want to encourage and reward companies willing to take these kinds of risks.

We no longer have real alternatives to the Western market like we used to. We have Western games, and the Japanese imitations of those games, or Japanese games that have been disfigured and crammed into a hallway-shooter-like RPG to try to appeal to the Call of Duty gamer (You can really tell I was very disappointed with Final Fantasy XIII).

Has Yakuza 4 been a commercial blockbuster? Not really. Catherine probably won't sell as many copies as Final Fantasy XIII did (it's not fair to compare a fresh IPs with one of the most established franchises in the industry, but it's still a fact). People are still going to keep buying whatever Resident Evil game Capcom pumps out, even if they really are nowhere as good as they used to be.

With that said, Yakuza 4 will sell more copies than Quantum Theory ever will. Square may have made some money off Final Fantasy XIII this time, but they've severely hurt the brand of both the franchise and its company. Eventually, people are going to catch on and stop buying the shitty games they slap Final Fantasy titles onto, if these trends keep up.

Square may never pull in the money Activision does now. However, pulling in the money Square did in the 90s ain't exactly the worst thing in the world either. A game like Parasite Eve wouldn't be made today because it probably wouldn't pull in the money Battlefield would, but Parasite Eve still pulled in decent money. I guess that's just not good enough these days for Japan.

This is why the West sits on top right now. That, and it has home advantage in the most profitable game market. Japan can't win this fight commercially, but they can win it critically. They can win that fight in the hearts and minds of those who really game, who are willing to stick with companies and franchises they love, and still make lots of money.

But not until they start dreaming again.



Revuhlooshun,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
What I've gathered from the quick posts the last two days is that demons from SMT look like genitals.
SayWord avatarSayWord
Took awhile but it is finally here, oh how I missed playing with you Nep Nep. Though I still cannot decide if I should put that PS4 skin on...
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Rei is humbled by the fairly high number of faps you have given her Waifu Wars piece.
Parismio avatarParismio
The actual best SMT girl is here:
JohnSmith123 avatarJohnSmith123
So 1-10 of Destiny isn't so bad. Been having a bit of fun with it, though people don't talk much on PSN. Good? Bad? I will never talk smack about Destiny only because it has this dance in it.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
If you agree to let Harley Quinn tattoo you with her brand new tattoo gun, you deserve to live with the consequences of that incredibly poor life choice.
TheKodu avatarTheKodu
Not being from the US I have no horse in the US election race. But still I do like video games
WryGuy avatarWryGuy
OP and a playable character in Devil Survivor.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Nemissa is best SMT demon girl.
Scrustle avatarScrustle
Made to mid-A rank! Pretty hyped about it. Got knocked out of A- twice without winning a single match, but tonight I climbed al the way through with no trouble! The N-Zap is so good for Splat Zones.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
I want one.
Tom avatarTom
Heat avatarHeat
He's best friends with Arioch!
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
This thing finally arrived. Took forever!
SayWord avatarSayWord
Sorry guys and gals, this demon pussy is bestest.
ShadeOfLight avatarShadeOfLight
Just sayin'.
FakePlasticTree avatarFakePlasticTree
Best demon-girl, however, is obviously Shadow Labrys-cause shut up baby you know it!
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Also, Jonathan is best mainline SMT waifu. He can instill his Law within me anytime.
Serethyn avatarSerethyn
Anyone who doesn't like Pyro Jack?
Parismio avatarParismio
Please all your demons are dumb. They're dumb demons. Behold the magnificence of OSE!
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -