Pretentious title aside...
Being a gamer with that has a diverse taste, I feel that the Japanese are the only game developers that can give me something fresh and new each time. I've got nothing wrong with American developers, but I need something more than just shooting the Nazis or infiltrating the Zerg stronghold. That's where I can count on Japanese game developers to give me a completely different experience every time.
A story in a game is very important; it helps set the tone and further engages the player in this epic world that the game presents. In the hands of Japanese developers, they are able to spin yarns in games that the player will remember forever. In the Japanese story-telling spectrum, we have the serious and poetic stories by people like Team Ico and Square Enix to the more silly and off-beat like Grasshopper Manufacture. People like Fumito Ueda and Suda51 are masterful storytellers, creating worlds with interesting characters, enemies and settings that enhance the game, except Ueda tries to be poetic with his stories like in Shadow of the Colossus
, while Suda51 is facetious with the subject matter in his stories and has incongruous locales within his stories, especially in Killer7
Japanese games also delve into uncomfortable territory with some of their stories. The most recent example of this would be Catherine
by Atlus, which challenges the ideas of marriage and commitment. Killer7
, my favorite example, delves into the realms of terrorism, organ harvesting, child trafficking and rape. However, Suda's story is also very tongue-in-cheek, as you can fight Power Ranger
knockoffs and a crazy cult leader with an afro.
Where am I going with this? In comparison to, for sake of example, Call of Duty series
and Gears of War
, all these games usually focus on the futility of war and patriotism. Those themes are fine, but they don't add to already dull stories in both. However, the Japanese games help bring in the elements to create a memorable story experience. To put it bluntly, stories is Western games are like small, timid Chihuahuas and Eastern games are like 300 pound gorillas loose on the streets of Tokyo.
Japanese games are notorious for being difficult, challenging the skills and even the psyche of gamers. Games like Demon's Souls
love to challenge their audience to point of banging their heads against a wall, but to combat this, difficult Japanese games reward the players as they complete sections of the game, whether that be a new weapon like in Mega Man
or presenting progression to the plot like Catherine
. This helps reward the player without having to punish them, reaching the perfect balance of difficulty and payoff.
What's great about Japanese games is that they also present gameplay that hasn't been seen before. The aforementioned Catherine
has a gameplay mechanic where Vincent, the main character, must scale a large tower by moving blocks to create stairways. Games in that camp would also be Killer7
, Katamari Damacy
. Whether it be rolling a sticky ball gathering stuff or restoring plant life to the land with the Celestial Brush, these new gameplay innovations keep things fresh and new enough to make Japanese games more fun and challenging.
The biggest criticism of Western developed games is that they are either too easy or just feel the same every time. The majority of Western-developed games are shooters, and they all just recycle the same elements from the same genre. However, in Japanese games, the challenge comes from not only the difficulty level, but from the introduction of new gameplay to challenge the player as well.
It's So Beautiful!
Western developed games are also known as "gray games"; games that only use shades of brown and gray in its palette. Who can save us from the mindless menagerie of monotone? Why, the Japanese of course! The palette in most Japanese games are very bright, vibrant and appeal to your eyes. The atmosphere of Okami
makes it feel like a feudal Japanese painting has come to life. The world of Katamari Damacy
feels much more lively, even though some of its inhabitants would later be burnt up into a hydrogen ball. Even with Killer7
's mature subject matter, the locales are very bright and lively with color and personality.
Japanese games usually pride themselves on being a bit odd, having unconventional stories or unusual aesthetics. Like I said about the stories in Japanese games, the games' oddity helps make the game a memorable experience. Katamari Damacy
's quirkiness, the things that the King of All Cosmos says and an addictive soundtrack helps add to an already weird premise for a game. Killer7
's weirdness is astronomical; there are a lot of weird ghosts, who were your former assassination targets, giving you hints within the game, the most unusual is one wearing BDSM clothing. Bosses are also weird, ranging from an extravagant anime chick to the already mentioned Power Rangers look alikes.
Western developed games cannot even touch the level of weirdness in Japanese games. The only unusual thing that Western games can tout is introducing a monster with 8 tentacles and 6 eyes. YAWN!
You can't impress me because Japanese games have desensitized me to your tricks.
I could gush on for hours, talking about why I love Japanese games, but that would require more work.
Japanese developers create great games using interesting stories, great characters, unique gameplay and odd elements that Western developers can only dream of creating.
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