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.

 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 * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
So Macy's parade had that performance from "The Wiz" which made me realize I'd much rather have seen "The Wizard" where everyone is dancing around wearing power gloves. Come on Nintendo, THE TIME IS NOW!
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Happy #Darksiders2 day-I mean Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
Shinta avatarShinta
Transformers Devastation PS4 - $24. The Order 1886 $10. Digital flash sale on PSN. I think I'm going to have to bite on both these. And I hate digital if I can avoid it ...
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Remember folks, don't forget to smoke cigarettes in between courses during thanksgiving to help in digestion.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
For friends in UK that want a 3DS XL - 99.99 pounds [url][/url]
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Playing New Vegas again because reasons, it occurs to me that it'd be nice if Old World Blues gave me the option to move the Brotherhood of Steel to the Big MT instead of wiping them out for Mr. House.
ShadeOfLight avatarShadeOfLight
Near heart attack as for a minute it seemed like the A button of my 3DS was busted. It's fine now though, I think we'll live.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
There's now a £4/$5 Raspberry Pi. So cheap it's a cover extra on the latest Mag Pi. Based on the original chipset, it's single core but clocked at 1Ghz so it's quite a bit faster and oh so tiny. I can't wait to see what folks build with it.
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
After a lifetime of not spending a single cent on FTP games, I finally broke and dropped €1 in the Nintendo Badge Arcade. I just had to have all the Luigi badges asap. I feel dirty. Plus side, my 3ds will be covered in Luigi.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
The postman just brought me gifts i bought for myself ... [img][/img] [img][/img]
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Umm.. no Microsoft. Where is the 'go away' button? [img][/img]
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I tried driving as Uber last night to start supplementing my income and everyone so far has been super chill. Also, I started practicing in my sleepy small home city so the training wheels were still on. No big city bar hoppers just yet.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Just got my Gwent physical edition. I don't understand special abilities - for example, Arachas have an icon with two knights beneath the close combat icon. Avallac'h has an eye in that same spot. Help? (I'm no longer a squid btw)
KyWii avatarKyWii
Happy Thanksgiving all! Load up on carbs and then get back to playing Fallout 4.
Archelon avatarArchelon
New extended television spot for The Force Awakens! [youtube][/youtube]
TheKodu avatarTheKodu
I dunno if I just had a freak incident but I think Ubisoft may have just changed the Renown gain in Rainbow Six Siege to be less shit as in overnight they've patched it. If true, kinda good on them.
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
Does it mess with anyone else's head that when beating a SMBW level in Mario Maker the music doesn't do that little 'booowoo oop' at the end. [youtube][/youtube]
ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
I've developed a new hobby to indulge in while on Skype with friends: creating stupid Sonic OCs. I have so much fun making them for some weird reason, and once I have enough of them I might as well post a c-blog of them, am I right? Look out in the future
El Dango avatarEl Dango
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Boy howdy, does Divinity: Original Sin take a while to get going. But, it was worth it in the end. Probably the most hardcore RPG I've played. Stellar writing, at that! Combat's pretty amazing too. [img][/img]
more quickposts



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 -