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 moderators, 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

IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
I get to work to stock and STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STREET DATE SEPT 4 OMG STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STREET DATE SEPT 4 STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS WHY ISN'T IT SEPT 4?
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Still waiting by the mailbox. Tranq'd a jogger and stuffed them into a locker just for fun. I keep throwing rocks to get the attention of the neighbors and then hiding in tall grass. They look noticeably upset. Probably because I kept them up all night.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Metal Gear or Mad Max? The choice is obvious. [IMG]http://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b321/Felth/obvious%20choice.jpg~original[/IMG]
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Quickpostmortem My wife┬┤s dog died yesterday . Rest in peace Diamond Dog . [img]http://i.imgur.com/uVT3HlF.jpg[/img] Here's to you, Malu Rest forever here in our hearts The last and final moment is yours That agony is your triumph
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Xbone journey continues! I thought I would like Dead Rising 3 well enough as a huge fan of 1/2, but I must say I find it's emphasis on hard drama laughable and the game fundamentally disingenuine. Guess I'm moving on to Forza Horizon 2.
TheDefenestrator avatarTheDefenestrator
I dig the feature in Until Dawn where, if you have the Playstation camera, it will record you briefly during jump scares for you to watch later. It's a really neat use of an underused peripheral. Too bad I'm dead inside and never react to them.
Shinta avatarShinta
[img]http://i.imgur.com/oZ7CQJa.jpg[/img]
nanashi avatarnanashi
Fallout Shelter: Impossible to Learn, Easy to Master.
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Not saying this is the case, but Kojima has gone on record as being a huge Mad Max: Fury Road fan. Konami decided to release MGSV on the same day as Mad Max TVG. They're trying piss on Kojima's lawn, man.
ooktar avatarooktar
Downloading Phantom Pain. ETA, 16 hours. Just in time for lunch tomorrow.
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
OH WOW. Talk about a complete about face. After slogging through the horrid beginning and slow ass swap sequence this game picked up exponentially. So far, I'm enjoying the hell out of it now. All if forgiven. Thank you based Kojima.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
Oh, joyful night. [youtube]https://youtu.be/6EfhAFA2yFE[/youtube]
techsupport avatartechsupport
After a summer of on-and-off casual play, I've finally reached lv. 34 in Destiny :')
nanashi avatarnanashi
also Fallout Shelter just made me utter this: "I have to get these pregnancies done.." life is trivial in this game!
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
Let it be known that Metal Gear 2 for MXS has aged horribly and is no fun to play. In the midst of a MGS marathon, looks like I'm skipping ahead to MGS.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
"Available: 31 August - This game will unlock in approximately 2 hours" HOLY SHIET! [youtube]https://youtu.be/9jK-NcRmVcw[/youtube]
nanashi avatarnanashi
-nudge nudge- hey Sony, discount Ys: I and II Chronicles and Ys: Seven on the PSP :D
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Just out of curiosity, does anybody here still play Mario Kart 8 at all frequently?
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Neighbors ended up calling the cops. I hid under a cardboard box. Police officers were perplexed but went back to their patrol routes after a minute or so.
techsupport avatartechsupport
!a new MGS: Ground Zeroes update file auto dl'd and installed..the day prior to MGSV... hmm.. coincidence? OR... coincidence?
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 -