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  • Shingro 4:55 pm on March 20, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide,   


    Hooooooly shit @_@ What did the squad think of the endings btw? I didn’t see much about it in the ME3 thread before it sunk away

    Also. as long as we’re talking links and Japanicide and such. I’d like to submit some evidence for why Japanese takes on american culture can be pretty rad and that judging their development only by the handful of things that are localized for us is not the whole story

    Xbox 1 game. now tell me you wouldn’t buy that.

  • RedSwirl 1:43 pm on March 17, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide, ,   

    Finishing up the JRPG squadcast now, and I think you guys pretty much said what needed to be said. I like how you guys didn’t crap all over the mechanical “antiquities” commonly called out in JRPG discussions.

    I feel like the main problem is just production. Most of those companies just can’t afford to make those games on the Xbox 360 and PS3. It’s like 480p assets are their limit from a money standpoint. It saddens me though that you guys haven’t tried more RPGs on the DS. Some of them are great games that feel like the games from the late SNES and PS1 days.

    I think production was the main problem with FFXIII too. If you read that game’s postmortem, they just couldn’t get a good design concept together until very late in the process. My problem wasn’t the linearity (FFX was equally linear), but the fact that you did nothing but battle. There was no world to interact with. It felt like Square couldn’t really produce a full game in any reasonable amount of time with assets of that level (FFXIII was their very first internally-developed PS3 game). Just look at how long Versus XIII is taking them.

    Other than that I guess it’s poor writing that we can now notice because we’ve been exposed to better. Just look at P4. Very Japanese, but excellent characters nonetheless.

  • RedSwirl 6:17 pm on March 9, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @angryjedi That’s part of the point I made in the post.

  • Pete Davison 3:36 pm on March 9, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @redswir1 The thing with all the Japanicide talk is that, well, it’s bollocks, frankly. Sure, we still get a bunch of relatively predictable JRPGs, but as you say, we get a bunch of relatively predictable shooters in the West every year. The key thing, however, is that it doesn’t stop with these relatively predictable titles.

    In the last year, in particular, we’ve seen Japanese devs leveraging the power of the Wii, of all consoles, to bring two of the best console RPG experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting through to everyone’s couch. Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story are both absolute triumphs, and, importantly for this whole debate, they are completely fucking different to each other, despite ostensibly being part of the same genre.

    Then we have awesome titles on PS3 and Xbox 360 like Catherine and Dark Souls which, while neither of which could be called universally appealing, show that this is a country that is not afraid to dip into subject matter typically shied away from in the mainstream (though independent/PC games in Japan delve into Catherine’s subject matter regularly) and/or to potentially alienate its players by kicking their asses so hard they won’t be able to sit down for a week.

    Then, as you say, we have awesome portable experiences to varying degrees — just recently, playing through Corpse Party on PSP showed that the sort of skin-crawling terror typically found in a Silent Hill game can absolutely work even when you’re using simple Chrono Trigger-style sprites.

    Even FFXIII and its sequel, for all the flak they get, are innovative in their own ways. The Final Fantasy series has never been afraid to try out new mechanics to see if they work. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. The key thing is that they try.

    Japan is far from complacent, having had something of a wake-up call with the Western shift in this current console generation. Comments such as those blurted out by Phil Fish only go to show how ignorant some people are.

    This doesn’t mean you have to like what Japan is coming out with on a personal level. But it certainly doesn’t mean that it sucks.

  • RedSwirl 3:20 pm on March 9, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: GDC, Japanicide   

    Still been trying with my wordpress page over at MultiPlatform. Just tried to do my own little take on GDC’s renewed Japanicide talk: http://noplatform.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/gdc-2012-and-japanicide/

  • RedSwirl 7:51 am on January 29, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Japanicide   

    @feenwager Y’know, I’m not even gonna pick it up either, despite liking a lot about the demo. It technically does clear up just about everything that was wrong with XIII mechanically, but something about the glitz and glamour and commanding presence of Final Fantasy isn’t quite there with XIII-2.

    On the subject, I started up XII again recently and yeah, it’s still the best modern Final Fantasy game. All I really want is just this game in high definition.

  • feenwager 3:18 am on January 29, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    Based on my experiences with the demo, and Jeremy Parrish’s apologetic review on 1up, Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be the first numbered FF I don’t even pick up.


  • Shingro 6:28 am on October 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    Addendum: Just be aware that those saucer-eyed lolis won’t ever go away, and if you can’t handle them, they WILL say sucrose laden and/or saucy things that will set your teeth agrindin, I personally think having a game genre that is basically immune to focus testing is worth it, but others might not have the same opinion =P Also: This is specificly for GUST games, not all JRPGs bring that sort of depth (Hyperdimension Neptunia for example, has basically nothing other then the saucer eyed lolis and busty nurses, and trades on them and gaming in-jokes to bring in people.)

    Also: sleeptime x___X

  • unmanneddrone 6:06 am on October 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide, , Taking 萌え Bullets For the Team   

    …and there you have it. @shingro bringing the goods. Strip away the window dressing and saucer-eyed lolis and you’ll more often than not have intricate mechanical systems beneath.

  • Shingro 5:58 am on October 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , Japanicide   

    @redswir1 Now, keep in mind that I can’t definitively speak to the modern Atelier games specifically, you might notice this is the one prior to the most recent one, so this is my reconnecting to this series. Now that the 3 stories of Ar Tonelico (one for each tower above the earth) are done it’s unlikely there will be any more ever. However, as any specialist I’m fairly well versed in much of the topic regardless, it just might not be comprehensive.

    To start with GUST makes probably the best crafting systems in all JRPGS, it’s a thing they really love and that love shows in the deep roots the crafting tends to put down in each of their games, the Mana Khemia games are literally “You are a student at a school for alchemy (harry potter style), pass your classes while normal JRPG plots are applying” and a large part of those classes are altering qualities of alchemy results, using certain alchemicial ingredients at certain qualities to amplify future item’s qualities or apply certain effects to items. With proper alchemical inheritance you can set effects like ‘attack up’ or on your small all heal items, with improper inheritance you might have a megaelixer that applies blind and -1 level to each stat.

    Further, In every game of theirs I’ve played so far, every single craft is accompanied by an interaction scene between the characters involved, if you make a person a new sword you get the scene of you showing it to them and their reaction which is often hilarious, (how much would you pay for the dialogue exchange of Cid’s reaction to Cloud handing him a mop to fight with?) if it’s a new piece of armor people will say it looks heavy, or silly they might comment on “hey, this thing is titanium, how did you make this with a bad hammer in a tent? WTF are you doing adding feathers? What’s the deal with the cat ears?” or “This is a component to a Reyvatail’s spinal column, you’re starting to worry me.” In fact, in the Ar Tonelico games there’s a scene for each girl depending on whose dive points you’re using to fuel the craft, and each of them will suggest a different name for the item. The scenes are often hilarious, occasionally fourth wall breaking, and always interesting

    I guess the point of all that is that GUST tends to make their games extremely EXTREMELY character dense, consider Ar Toneilco again, each Reyvatail has scenes and names for every craft, 9 levels of ‘dating-sim sub-worlds that are hosted in their subconcious and populated by characters that you’re familiar with, but act as the Reyvatail believes they think, which puts interesting shades in there occasionally, then from that there’s 3 Reyvatails per game so that giant pile of content that’s separate and parallel to the full multi-act game story? triple it. So, if you ask an otaku about that, say “hey, the parts you love, seeing these characters interact with each other constantly in somewhat normal circumstances, we’re going to give you tons of that. It’s not too hard to see why they’d be eager to sign up for that.

    Think of it like your favorite comic book, would you read a comic about Dr Strange, Bruce Banner and Captain America go to the bar and shoot the shit? Did you like seeing Tony Stark and Dr Reed talk tech shop at one or another disaster? Lets say that one of those fairly bland marvel legends games had say, 300 pages of various casual and not so casual interactions between the best of the marvel universe. Can you see how that would appeal? Well it’s exactly the same thing only a different theme. We just tend to love a different (often much grittier) paradigm. I notice that the Ultimates has been pretty successful. Other places in the world might venerate innocence, optimism and things like that, or at very least, be more willing to let it stand it’s simply a matter of what’s culturally palatable. I believe part of the idea behind morning musume was “These girls will be there with your morning coffee to cheer you through your day” something that was probably a welcome relief for people who clock 10+ hour days as “just a normal shift”

    and hey, frankly, the whole moe business isn’t some sort of hivemind over in japan either, plenty of people there think the whole moe type of trope is tired/creepy/bizzare/unfathomable or what have you. The thing is though that the moe line is very tied into love, and you don’t get any stronger a mental impetus then love. Consider that there’s three things that humans will regularly override their survival instinct for, something that should be unheard of in an organism. Love, Patriotism, and Religion, and honestly, the last two could easily be considered derivatives of the first. Surely with that as a base, getting a dude to take a body pillow with a character bedsheet out to dinner isn’t impossible, and that’s the people who invest the largest amount of emotions into the character, the most extreme of the bunch. For your more middle of the road otaku (such as myself) you just end up with a very compelling experience that can move you regardless of the often ridiculous overstories of the set. It’s tied up a lot in empathy I think, it’s not so much as someone wants to star as a twelve year old girl or a fresh faced lad off the farm (who narrowly avoided the burning of his village, natch) It’s more that they find what they imagine to be the emotions those characters feel a sort of ‘pure drinking water’ remembering a time where they themselves might have loved unconditionally and get in touch with a feeling they might not believe exists in the normal world.

    In a way it might be exploitative to some extent, remain alone long enough, and that sort of pitch is a really strong hook to get someone to be irrationally attached to a game, character, or setting. It’s a question of making something with extremely powerful intensity for a select few rather then a tolerable thing that can gain lukewarm favor over a larger population. Due to the absolutely insane game prices and population densities in japan, that’s been a totally viable business model over there, I suspect this is also why someone can afford to produce amazingly specific brands of porn (spider girls!) and find a small but dedicated consumer base to turn a profit over there. The internet might be considered a much more wide reaching example of the same thing, the internet has no problem reaching

    To be honest I don’t think japan should shy away from their particular cultural spin on things, better a unique honest flavor grown from home then aping someone else’s cultural outlook. I really can’t support the idea that Japan shouldn shy away from its own unique cultural flavor in order to better imitate the US for higher market share. Besides, like anyone trying to imitate a culture from afar…. it’s just not going to be genuine.

    So, we have mental hooks baited with a very dense sort of love applied to a set of amazingly lonely nerds…. aaaaand I’ve totally gone off on a completely unrelated tangent.

    Well, in short then, GUST tends to do the following things, Amazingly dense amounts of character interactions, most robust crafting in the industry, combat mechanics that keep you engaged in every fight, usually by tying drops to a level of performance, often tied to timed button presses (depends on the game, think of a defensive version of Legend of the Dragoon) Extremely strange and interesting worlds (Ar tonelico is about part human part robot girls who sing digital code on carrier waves built from emotional intensity to towers who hold the last shattered remnents of the earth’s crust over the exposed core of the planet ruined by the same supertechnology, you generate new code (songs) by entering their subconscious ‘server’ and interact via dream logic to solve psychological problems and traumas. If you can connect with something like that enough times most one sentence game premises seem somewhat bland and flat.

    Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not the thing for everyone, the character interactions are anime and often moe interactions, there’s guys being Tenchi Muyo level thick, there’s girls being irrationally adorable, reacting like no human ever would, there’s scenes that are obviously male-wish fufillment. It just comes with the territory, but if you can pass that sort of thing, or like what it offers enough it’s a type of game designed not in the vein of “The Least Objectionable Experience to The Largest Number of People” but “The Strongest Possible Targeted Appeal to You People Who Feel Lonely, Marginalized, Shunned.” It’s sort of them saying “Hey, WE love you” (or more likely SHE loves you) or in the case of non-dating games “There’s emotional connections here”

    It’s totally false of course

    However I can understand WHY even a story of a false love well crafted is better then no love at all.

    PS: this kinda went super far afield into the question of “WHY DATING SIMS 8|” but what can you do =P my poor derailed trains of thoughts… maybe you can extract some useful information from there

    Edit: Also, I’d like to note that I can only really speak from this side of the Atlantic, @unmanneddrone probably has more/better demographic data. certainly being able to hit the Lonely Boy nitch + legitimately interested lasses can’t be bad for sales. Also, high five for near simultaneous posting o/\o

    TL:DR, Come for the theme, stay for the Crafting, character interactions, combat and the feeling that they made a game just for you and only you

  • unmanneddrone 5:56 am on October 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Japanicide,   

    @redswirl I dunno, I personally think it has a lot to do with Japanese consumerism being predicated on serving niches. A lot of Japanese games have laser-focus on a particular consumer group or age bracket, the JRPG in particular. From what I hear, games like Atelier are really quite popular with young teen lasses, so it makes little sense to advance or “mature” a series when other franchises fill niches down the line. Japanese flexibility and willingness to boldly iterate or go out on development limbs isn’t what it used to be…

    Hasn’t there been a few adult/mature JRPGs this gen? Lost Odyssey and whatnot? Nier? It’s not my bag, so I’ve never kept up.

    In related news (ever so tenuously), if anyone in the Squad was squeezing the owl for a hoot or two, Romance of the Three Kingdoms 12 was announced a little while ago! Realtime battles…and it seems a PC exclusive! Pleased. Rather pleased. Now, all we need is another Nobunaga’s Ambition and we’re good to go. NO, that AND another Uncharted Waters. All we ask for, Koei.

  • RedSwirl 3:49 am on October 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Japanicide   

    @Shingro Okay what the hell is the appeal of Atelier? To me they seem like niche JRPG number seven behind Shin Megami Tensei, Disgaea, and what have you. Nevermind the lolicon character designs. I’m sorry, and I’m not calling out Atelier specifically for this, but part of the reason Japan is losing our demographic is because most of us don’t want to star as a 12-year-old girl.

  • RedSwirl 4:23 pm on September 4, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    Guys I’m sorry to cut in here like this, but maybe @unmanneddrone and @Shingro can help me out with this question:

    There is a word that Japanese game designers use to describe games that successfully create a strong connection to the control interface and I’m trying to remember what it was. It’s what a lot of western designers would probably call “visceral”.

  • RedSwirl 9:11 pm on March 17, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    Okay, cutting in here with one more say in the “Japanicide” issue. This article is usually a bitch to find but while I have it on my tabs I’m gonna link what I think is probably the best explanation ever written on the differences between Japanese and western game design mechanics, especially in RPGs:


    It was written back in 2007 but still rings true today.

    For instance, why Japanese games still have save points: Keiji Inafune explains the Japanese persepctive. “American designers do not view the save system as part of the gameplay experience. In Japan, the save system is viewed as part of the game. In previous generations, designers took what should have been a negative for the game due to technical limitations and turned it into a gameplay positive. For instance, in Resident Evil, part of what makes the game fun is knowing there might be a zombie between you and the save room. It adds tension to the encounters. If you could save anywhere in Resident Evil, it would not be the same game.

    “Manipulating the save system is one of the many details that Japanese designers take very seriously,” he adds. “For instance, with Dead Rising, Japanese gamers would be turned off by the save anywhere approach. They would feel that the game is not challenging, that it isn’t really a game. Knowing your status, what kind of weapon you have or how far away the restroom save point is integral to the tension and fun of Dead Rising. Some people understand this and enjoy it, others do not.”

  • bowlisimo 11:03 pm on February 13, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    Final Fantasy 12 is 98 hours long? What the fuck, Japan?

  • unmanneddrone 2:53 am on February 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Japanicide, , ,   

    @bowlisimo Yeah, I suppose it’ll be a PS3 nab for LA Noire. One thing I’m glad for is an Australian developer seemingly breaking the boom-bust or cheap contractor mire that is game development down under. One day, we’ll be able to sustain our own powerhouses without being supported as an arm of a big North American publisher/developer.

    And don’t feel you need to know something about Japanese mythology for Okami…seems like there’s this oft-romanticised exoticism about the folklore and fairytales of Japan that certain demographics of the West fawn over. Not to discount cultural currency, because every nation’s mythology is worth appreciating and can be rather telling about regional character, but you know what I mean. Personally, I found the Shinto mythology in Okami secondary to the loveletter to the imported Sumi-e art style – possibly the first form of expressionism and for an art style that emphasises transferring energy via impressionistic strokes, injecting life into polygons seems like the perfect fit.

    Have never been called for jury duty. I get romantic images of Twelve Angry Men. Doesn’t sound like you got lucky in terms of a media blitzed case. Next time, perhaps?

    On the topic of Japan…we’re a month away from Shogun 2: Total War. I haven’t touch the TW series since the original Shogun, and personally, I can’t wait! Few cultures can match the visual pageantry and pomp of Japanese warfare, circa 1300 – 1600AD – although that classic inflexibility certainly left tactical and strategic overhauls to outside influences. Let’s hope the AI problems that have allegedly plagued the prior titles have been fixed.

    As an aside, I live in the prefecture where the Portuguese washed up with their arquebuses and Christianity, changing warfare here forever. The Shimazu clan had been the ruling group since the 1100s and getting a few foreign boomsticks to reproduce in the mid 1500s made them an even greater force to be reckoned with, considering their numbers against incursions from Honshu always had them in an asymmetical position.

    Thus, really looking forward to playing as the Shimazu clan! And it looks gorgeous as hell.

  • Shingro 11:46 pm on January 14, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide,   

    @redswirl true enough, but the march of technologies is attempting to remedy that, MHU can be played worldwide with the Ad Hoc PS3 functionality, companies are still (perhaps unwisely) pushing shooters in japan. I think the markets diverging is just a functionality of each culture’s wish fulfillment and cultural norms. We like being the Hero, the single badass who saves the day, (which WILL get you killed in MH, and earn the ire of your companions) and at least in colleges it’s not too weird for someone to poke their head in your dorm if your door is open and they hear something interesting going on.

    Japan’s society allegedly puts a lot more focus on contributing to the whole, be it your company or your monster hunter team. Online isn’t big in japan and often missing from large releases, which is a market divergence, but many people have told me that this stems from the fact that many core components of the online functionality are considered extremely rude (I can’t recall if it was inviting someone else before they expressed interest, or it was rude to join ‘invite yourself in’ before you received an invitation spontaneously, or both.)

  • RedSwirl 11:10 pm on January 14, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Japanicide,   

    @Shingro Monster Hunter’s focus on co-op is exactly what’s holding back its chances in western territories. You just won’t find that many people with PSPs and copies of the game close enough to each other over here. This problem has infected a lot of PSP games, most notably Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker – the campaign of which was balanced mainly for co-op, making the single player a bit of a slog.

    Phantasy Star Portable 2 got the right idea by including infrastructure mode. Monster Hunter 3 Tri Just needed to be on another platform, but I just did a whole blog on certain games that seem misplaced on the Wii: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9068590

    I think the ultimate problem in this whole Japanicide thing is that the markets are diverging from one another. The most popular platforms for core gaming in Japan are the PSP and Wii – which are the least popular platforms for core gaming in North America, and vice-versa. North American and Europe are focusing on online gaming but core-focused portable gaming is getting less popular while the reverse is happening across the Pacific. Being pulled between two diverging markets that want two different things, I think it’s understandable if Japanese devs are having issues adjusting.

    Meanwhile, I’m still enjoying 999. Not sure about Lost in Shadow though.

  • unmanneddrone 1:46 am on January 13, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @shingro Indeed, there’s some interesting cultural undercurrents at play! Anyway, you look like the fellow to go to for JRPG enquiries, along with @RedSwirl, I’m way out of my depth with the minutiae of that subset.

  • Shingro 1:22 am on January 13, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @unmanneddrone Thanks for the info, it’s nice to have a pair of eyes abroad to reign in theorycrafting (however well ment) of the culture. It’s interesting that a culture so entrenched in protocol and convention (like many of the JRPG tropes) can simultaneously lead the world in creating incredibly unusual, niche and/or bizzare things that throw conventions out the window like The World Ends With You’s odd systems. Maybe once you get to the top of a major company you are allowed to make the rules instead of being subject to them.

  • Shingro 1:11 am on January 13, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    I can’t stooooooooop… seriously, it’s almost all out of my system I promise =P

    @Beige it’s unfortunate that episode was lost, I’d have loved to hear that very topic of conversation.

    It was one of the things I was really interested in commenting on when you did the japanicide podcast because one of the talking points is “do we need japanese development and why” and I believe it was you (might have been Pete) that brought up the fact that they have a lot of respect for people with expertise which influences character design and this also means that a developer head gets carte blanche to do whatever he likes and no one will tell him it’s a dumb idea, (kojima has no editor to speak of etc.)

    The bit I was shouting at my MP3 player was this is exactly why we NEED Japanese game development. we NEED the culture that lets the developer run with it. That’s why we NEED Swery to make some crazy ass game, to make the Deadly Premonitions of the world. “Sandbox horror” isn’t a ‘safe bet’ but we need those games to be made to push the medium forwards. It’s evolution right? You need the crazy eyed visionary to come out and go “I HAVE THE BEST IDEA FOR ZOMBIES MEET COOKING MAMA” to do some crazy ass thing so we get new blood. Sure, for every surprisingly wonderful thing you will get 8-10 bizarre terrible games that are weeded out natural selection style, but in the end I think the industry become stronger as a whole and profit from greater innovations which will make all games better.

    Squaresoft is the biggest example of this right? Many of my contemporaries cut their teeth on Final Fantasy 2(4) and 3(6) and Xenogears and such, good stuff. Chrono Trigger, tons of personality, coming from very strong personalities guiding the development cycle. Small teams, not a ton of money behind it, didn’t need to be focus tested into a bland pile of samey-ness

    “Hey! are people going to be okay with children petrifying themselves? What is PETA going to think of REDXIII?! Focus Group 7-9 feel overly sad that Telleh dies, maybe he should be sick or something instead.” Some of those were amazing moments that the game would be lesser for if they got taken out. As a kid trying everything from Elixers to Softs and realizing there was no undoing Palom and Porom’s choice was poignant even if not up to the best of literary media.

    Xenogears is another good example of this, the start of the second half where they go into “Story Time” (the black screen with the person in a chair narrating a good 7-8 game hours of story CLEARLY didn’t get focus tested. (budget constraints played a role too if I remember) but if I have to sit through that to get the crazy ass “Aaaaaa fuck, humans are eating each other and becoming some crazy hybrid mutated godbeast sin against nature wtfffff” part I’ll take it just so I can have That One Guy’s Vision honestly and completely.

    Some times, maybe most times it won’t grab you, but the one time it does it can be really powerful, the Persona 3 podcast’s point about someone coming of age with P3, maybe that theoretical teen who maybe has an alcoholic father really identifying with Junpei and having something the game says really hit home is an important cultural influence.

    So Steam is kinda what, the ‘printing press’ of video games? The innovation that makes being published cheap enough that single artists can get their vision out there and let history make of it what it will?

    I suspect that very few books that are held up as true classics had heavy editing to appeal to the widest market segment. No one was standing over Steinbeck’s shoulder going “I dunno man, that self-insert character is kinda lame” If games want to be accepted as art, they cannot be overly designed by committee, we NEED people like Tetsuya Nomura and Tatsuya Kando heading off to wrangle a small team together to chase their creativity make a The World Ends With You. That game won plenty of awards in 2008 and is widely accepted as one of the better DS RPGs. We NEED small developers making something like The Path to challenge how storytelling works. We NEED Pathologic to anger and frustrate and be utterly beat the player down with a horrible oppressive atmosphere if we’re going to have a medium that can say says “I’m with him” while standing next to a Schindler’s List.

    There’s strength in evolving the gameplay elements too, I’m playing Cross Edge right? Yes, it’s a game about “Ar Tonelico meets Darkstalkers meets Disgaea! Yes, it’s the very definition of a “weaboo” game and yes, it’s been panned by most western reviewers thereby, so I was fully prepared to find it a terrible experience made only tolerable by scratching my GUST/NIS fanboy itch. However, there are some brilliant things in there that I will mourn are not in other JRPGs, For example, if you tap L2, it will immediately skip any battle animation: Excellent, I didn’t really want to see the Goblin’s windup and swing animation for the 20th time and my 5-8 second super isn’t REALLY all that interesting the 300th time. If you’re in an area where a random battle may occur, you can tap L1 and it’ll say “Do you wish to enter battle” with the default cursor over yes, so instead of running my guy’s in a circle on the overworld for 6-8 seconds it instead becomes a 2 button push event.

    Ready for more strangeness? There’s actually a fairly deep combo system in the game, most akin to Xenogear’s Weak Medium Strong AP system and then certain weak moves in combination create larger combos, only the larger combos can be linked with certain moves to trigger stronger moves, making the game’s combat pretty engaging. Basic enemies all have supers many of which are deadly if you aren’t careful, normal combats can be very challenging or stupidly easy depending on how much you invest into figuring out the best methods and load outs to chain your damage up.

    Yes, the story Heavily Nonsense with “Souls being pulled into another world which itself is made up of stolen souls and is burning them, or maybe eating them I dunno then there are strong souls (Morrigan, Felicia, Etna, Prinny(?!)) that can resist it and are freeing the other souls and wordswordswords” but for all of Felicia chasing a mouse and knocking pot onto the main character’s head and knocking him out, pressing R1 to enter battle is a wonderful idea, skipping animation is a wonderful idea and *Squareenix* should take note of what *IdeaFactory* is doing.

    How’s that for a phrase you never thought you’d hear? =P

    (by the way, I’d still hesitate to give Cross Edge a recommendation for other human beings to buy, rent or netflix it or something, it’s worth looking at, but even for a total nerd like myself it’s hard to binge on. Familiarity and liking the characters is important like with any mashup game.)

    TL:DR. Strong personalities need to be able to follow their creative impulse without much pruning so that the medium as a whole can become more culturally relevant and new better ideas can enter the space. Too much focus testing kills the flavor as much as too many cooks spoil the broth. Cross Edge is better then many reviews make it out to be.

    Also while I’m throwing down walls of text, I’ll say I miss the old dispatch mission intro for missions. It had a very 1940s air force feel or something, like you’re going to go look for Amelia Erhart in a biplane. Also: what’s the next mission going to be? Was the lost episode the GK squadcast? If so is that mission skipped?

  • unmanneddrone 1:10 am on January 13, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @beige We had to take up the slack of J-talk whilst you were soaking it up, Charlie Wilson style.

    @shingro @RedSwirl Some great points made. And I really, really don’t want to come off like some horrid, ingratiating Brian Ashcraft-esque bastard. So, here’s what I reckon on your suppositions.

    Monster Hunter is the bread and butter of, in my observation, guys aged 13 – 30, and the reason for its popularity is probably akin to it filling the MMO void. Since PC gaming isn’t anything huge outside of enthusiast circles, I suspect the co-op aspect, the straightforward questing and deep crafting system works well to cover ground we see dominated by WoW elsewhere. The portability and idea of a pocket-sized world only helps to enhance the Japanese penchant for the minute and intricate – another reason for handheld popularity.

    And yeah, it’s true, the PSP is the surprise in terms of public gaming. Young kids all have DSs, only because they’re robust enough to keep tossed in the bottom of their bags, plastered in stickers and bright, tacky stylus lanyards. While the major metropolises have their geek-chic areas, where Monster Hunter groups gather for the monster mash, I’ve seen quite a lot of highschool students kick it at local shopping centre foodcourts with their machines. The other action-RPG co-op quester games like Phantasy Star Portable and God Eater seem to be good alternatives as well. Uni students are big into their co-op PSP games as well, so indeed, the Claw is very well represented!

    With the Dragon Quest thing, I suspect a lot of the commercial success comes from the permanent part-time フリーター “underemployed” – folks who are a perfect fit for portable gaming and portable games offering a lot of value for money. They’re not time-poor, but wages only stretch so far, so those in their late twenties, early thirties with memories of the Dragon Quest franchise are a surefire commercial target and have very effectively reacted as one.

    @shingro You raise a good point in escapism somewhat equalling grind. I think Adam Sessler said it best when he did a Sessler’s Soapbox on Borderlands. It’s that sense of progression, no matter how minimal. Japan seems no different to the rest of East Asia in that the catharsis seems to ebb to a large extent from “going through the motions”. A familiarity with the task, wherein the two-edged sword has the downside of breeding ruts and inflexibility and/or stagnation. Becoming accustomed to a particular system and sticking with it is not inherently Japanese, but there’s definitely an ease in identifying a Japanese system!

    @RedSwirl You know, I haven’t played Civ5, but if I were to compare what I know of the two franchises after spending quite a lot of time enjoying the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, it’d come down to where the emphasis lies with both games. The Civ games are ostensibly from the same vantage point, while ROTK games tend to swing back and forth between being provincial government and development simulators and character-centric officer SRPGs, if that makes any sense. ROTK XI was indeed released in the West (with an absolutely sterling PC port on Koei’s part!), but their expanded Power-Up Kit version – which added a lot more in the way of characters and buildings such as diplomacy centres – wasn’t. Big shame, only for the fact XI’s mid to late game descends in all combat.

    The ticket to enjoying ROTK XI is to enjoy the characters. The combat is dynamic if grid-based warfare is your bag, but the character-centric gameplay means it really comes into its own once you figure out who to assign to what duties and who will lead your particular armies. The difference between who’s governing your provincial centres (recruiting, keeping the peace, training troops, infrastructure etc.) and who’s leading your horsemen, crossbowmen etc. makes for a game that, strangely enough, echoes a lot of Paradox’s strategy titles rather than Firaxis’ work.

  • RedSwirl 6:39 pm on January 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @unmanneddrone I can definitely the see “games are for teens” aspect of the Japanese production cycle, specifically for JRPGs. Final Fantasy XIII producer Yoshinori Kitase admitted as much to Edge Magazine – specifically saying that he thinks it’s normal for people to grow out of Final Fantasy. That makes me wonder if the reason some of us are frustrated with that game isn’t because of a culture gap so much as an age gap.

    In terms of the stories, we may have simply grown out of that type of game. Compare that to the mainstream RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age that in North America probably have a higher proportion of 30-year-olds in their fanbases. Even Japanese developers have noticed this which is the entire reasoning behind why they changed Nier’s protagonist in the western release into an adult and a parent. I’d like to find out somewhere what the average age of the Japanese gamer is and compare it with the average age of the Western gamer which is estimated somewhere around 35.

    Like @Shingro, I’m also interested in your view on the popularity of Monster Hunter. There has got to be a reason why Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (the US name for Portable 2nd G) is the top selling PSP game ever just based off of Japan numbers. I’m also hearing firsthand reports of decidedly “average” working people busting out Monster Hunter all over the place.

    I played a little bit of Monster Hunter Tri and the only reason I couldn’t really get into it was because I didn’t have enough time. There’s very little wrong with the game concept itself in regards to appealing to the Western audience, just with how Capcom has chosen to deliver it to us. If they were to dig down deep and make a 360 and PS3 Monster Hunter with full online functionality, I think it could find an audience.

    Another little thing I wanna bring up is 1up’s recent report on “What Japanese Developers Really Think” – a two-parter displaying what 1up calls their honne – in this case where they think their industry should really be going. Reading this has only added to my suspicions that the Japanese gaming audience just wants something completely different from what the rest of the gaming world wants.

    Lastly, in regards to the adult strategy games and sims, I’d be interested in seeing a comparison between Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI (which to be fair did get localized) and Sid Meier’s Civilization V.

  • Shingro 4:34 pm on January 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: digital distribution, Japanicide   

    @unmanneddrone Very interesting post, lots of good information there and tons to dig into. I’ll admit that my information is definitely limited by what I can see. However while that is far less then what someone living there is, I also consume far more music/doujinshi/games then are localized. Hopefully my post had enough disclaimers that it didn’t induce too much hair pulling from someone actually living there. That being said, let me be the fi.. well, second to say thank you for bringing another angle to this, and dig into the business bit.

    Before that though I’d like to question how laughable it is for older people to be playing Dragon Quest, I seem to remember DQIX broke a Guiness records with its absurd amount of sales, 4.29 million by march? Nintendo tied the red DSi release to the release date too, presumably to raise the attach rate, (+150% sales seems to indicate success in that area.) Surely teenage girls are not the ones rolling out and dropping 200$ equivalent on a video game unless the Japanese tweens have way more buying power and passion then the Americas. I was under the impression (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that girls were far more into name brand stuff and fashion which got pretty expensive. Also if I remember right there was scuttlebutt about the “Draque Day Off” thing where people were taking off work to buy/play DQ. I seem to remember that working people taking release day off became such a problem that so many people were taking work off for DQ release dates that the DQ series started to change it’s release date to compensate. I mean, sure they might not be playing it on the subway, but there’s definitely an established contingent of older gamers.

    In other cultural elements, legend has it you see far more PSPs on the subway in japan because people are rolling out Monster Hunter, I’d be curious to hear your observations on who is playing that. (you can recognize them easily by The Claw) Again the numbers of 500,000 copies sold in a single day seems like it’d be way beyond the capability of the tween/teen market’s buying power and inclination. Along those lines, I’d also be surprised if tweens are saying “Oh boy I can’t wait to get Manners Training to better harmonize with my classmates and climb the social ladder.”

    I’ll avoid mention of the adult only part of the market with Eroge if only not to tar the Squad’s impression of me =P

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully prepared to believe the majority of people playing this are young, but not all by a long shot. It seems Japan would be the gamer milk and honey not because they have a majority of adult gamers, but because you can get a niche game released for you and seemingly only you as an adult gamer with very specific tastes and the company doesn’t immediately declare bankruptcy. I believe Vanadis is on their 4th sequel to their Mamono Musume to no Seikatsu (“Living with Monster Girl”) series and they’re doing just fine (….SHIT, I have blown my cover! ¬_¬)

    There’s a lot of interesting stuff to dig into. Porn-wise I’m guessing whatever seems forbidden will be desired more then stuff that is available, and that’ll go for pretty much every culture ever. Seems to just be human nature, but in japan presumably the reason you can cater to incredibly specific fetishes is the same reason arcades can still survive. Which I’m given to understand is because the population density is so high in certain areas that you can have a limited small scale release or single arcade location even if it’s only pulling a fragment of the pie chart of people there, that fragment is still large enough to recoup costs. In addition mass transit lets major locations service a far larger geographical area.

    In a way this is what happened to games. We had tons of mainstream same-y safe releases because you couldn’t afford to risk anything weird for a full US release, our niches are too spread out and to inconsistent to recoup your losses, Japanese game development produces vastly varied and sometimes very strange titles, (manners training?) because you can cater to a very specific gamer demographic slice and make your cash back.

    So, now we are starting to get digital distribution, XBLA creators club, PSN and stuff like that, which turns “The Entire Country” spread of retail stores and bargaining for space on shelves into a digital storefront that makes geography and shelf space unimportant. It creates an artificial population of “Everyone on this service” which is as dense as the install base, with even less distribution costs, mimicking Japan’s population density and “one corner shop services huge numbers.” Suddenly what do we see? The Void, The Path, Limbo, Amnesia: Dark Decent, and a host of other titles that are really creative and strange in their mechanics and clearly not a large committee driven team. I’m not saying correlation is causation but it definitely makes you think. Recettear broke 100,000 sold, RECETTEAR. Talk about a success story far beyond “This made it big on the Gamestop preorder list”

    Thinking on it later a few holes other holes in my hypothesis exist too, if it is an escapism element from a hard work day, why so much grind? You’d think something designed for the busy adult gamer would be a little lighter on the Perhaps it ties into the way you are usually seen to progress, you work hard and consistently and slowly climb the ladder. Dunno.

    Also, to your point, Nintendo organized a DQIX slumber party for 12 year old girls in the states, (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/104879-Nintendo-Holds-Pre-Teen-Slumber-Party-for-Dragon-Quest-IX) presumably because they hope they can create a market. It would only make sense for them to target that VERY SPECIFIC market if they saw an analogue market somewhere else. Likely, Japan.

    Frankly people are people, I mean, in America people still believe games are for kids, and that’s why we can’t have nudity and fox news flips their collective lid on mass effect and when we say “games are art” we get that tilted head confused look like when you change your dog’s food on him. Yet we’re all still here. The squad still exists. Adult gamers might not be a majority by a long stretch, but we contribute, we matter. =D

    TL:DR: population density lets niche stuff recoup their costs, japan has it naturally, America has to artificially create it with digital storefronts. Adult gamers exist everywhere, just easier to cater to in japan (pop density again)

    … probably!

    Oh, and as for American porn, we’re wusses. Our puritan forefathers still have a lingering hold on our culture. Europe is allowed to have T&A on commercials! Come on America, get with the program! People like tits, it’s okay, we don’t need to lose our collective minds over it. =P

  • unmanneddrone 1:48 pm on January 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @feenwager And fair enough, too. I’m no apologist. Dated and inflexible UI is dated and inflexible UI, no matter which way you cut it. Japan can definitely be held accountable for that, and in more ways than games! You gave it a damn good shot, more than I would do in the genre, that’s for sure! 😀

    Really looking forward to the next Squadcast now!

  • feenwager 1:02 pm on January 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @unmanneddrone I’m with you on all of the cultural analysis. Good work.

    My issues tend to be more mechanical, though. With Resonance Of Fate & Nier, I couldn’t even stomach playing them long enough to see if any of the cultural stuff would bother me.

    Things like having to push ‘A’ FOUR TIMES just to ‘CONTINUE GAME’ because of the archaic giant text status screens that come up, or the lack of voice acting in 90% of the game, or having to find save points, or bland graphics (to be fair, RoF looked really nice); these are the things I don’t have patience for in 2011. Or 2010, or 2009 for that matter.

  • sinfony 7:51 am on January 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @unmanneddrone Excellent post.

  • unmanneddrone 7:18 am on January 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide, Perception Firmware Update   

    Some great discussion going on at the moment. Well done, troops!

    But, while I hate to be THAT GUY, can I just make a few comments on the Japan perspective?

    Seriously, adult gamers here are not reaching for Eternal Sonata. They’re not reaching for RPGs. They’re not particularly interested in reliving the good ol’ days. The Squad itself, as much as we are at least well-grounded enthusiasts, are the metaphoric detail-obsessed, mechanic and narrative-driven otaku – given our ages, at least in comparison to where Twenty-something/thirty-something Japanese folks are concerned.

    Sure, there are similarities, but this notion of businessmen sitting on trains with their Dragonquest is laughable. They’re either nose-deep in their cell phones or snoozing. There’s the odd exception, but for the most part the idea that there’s this Japanese adult gamer contingent populating public transport with their RPG-laden DSs or their manga compendiums tucked in their briefcases is as factual as everyone in the US packing heat. Thing is, funnily enough, that stereotype of the US is probably the truer of the two.

    Eternal Sonata is primarily a game targeted at teenage girls. The majority of students I teach who were the RPG nuts were, yes, teen girls. Final Fantasy? Pretty much the realm of teen girls. They love the soppy stories, they accept the moe, they dig the fashion. Androgyny – something rootin’ tootin’ Western folks aren’t familiar with in terms of acceptable beauty – makes it easier to convey softer emotions, hence the lady-boy-esque tropes throughout. Business-wise, why cater to or change for anyone else!? It seems that we’re the ones champing at the bit for the medium to grow up and gain artistic legitimacy, Square-Enix and co. just want to get an easy-sell out the door, and they do so.

    The adult gamers on the other hand are the chain-smoking, weary salarymen parked in front of Pachinko machines. Hey hey, it’s a Lupin pachinko – even better. They’re the folks who enjoy kanji-based memory games. The train simulators, the bus simulators. They’re the folks sitting in front of Star Horse 2 – the ultimate in virtual horse racing. This concept of Japan being the land of milk and honey when it comes to adult gamers is largely a myth when it comes to games worth exporting. I did mention that back in my big posts when the SoS Japanicide podcast aired.

    North Americans – and I say this only because 98% of the Squad are from NA – have this entertaining romantic idea of the place, and not wholly unfounded. When put under the microscope, yeah, this country has some bizarre cogs in the machinery. But their apparently contorted and fetishistic sexuality portrayed in pornography is no more warped or bizarre than what already comes out in the West – and what’s more, it gets mistaken as being an indicator of Japanese sexuality on a whole, when the fact of the matter is Japanese production companies – much like every other company involved in the consumer and entertainment industry – can afford to cater to very small audiences. The West puts as much emphasis on “barely legal!!!” and other morally questionable lewdness as does Japan. While the Japanese might be able to get away with what’s conceived to be a younger fetish on account of their physiology not coming apart at the seams/visibly ageing quite so fast, Europe and the US are on equal footing to the Home Islands.

    Sure, Japanese folks work a lot, but so do a lot of other countries. Adultery is, per population, roughly the same as in other first-world Western nations. Suicide is a thorny issue, and as insensitive as it sounds, a society that – traditionally – counts ending one’s life as a legitimate, though not particularly encouraged, route to issue resolution is a society that will always have an edge in the statistics.

    I’ll halt it here, only for the fact I hate preachiness, but I really do think people need to stop reading so much into the direction of Japanese games when their exposure comes only from what gets localised. Which, quite frankly, is only the tip of the iceberg. The doujin scene is coming online for the West, and hopefully good things come of that. You won’t find better character-based historical grand strategy games than the ones from Japanese studios. There’s a thriving simulation scene, with that classic attention to detail only the Japanese do. Their non-localised wargames are pretty damn good, too.

    Let’s be frank, you take a snapshot of Western development, and it’s either all shooters or sports games. Is it the true picture? No.

  • iscariot83 5:01 am on January 12, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Charlotte Brontë, Japanicide   

    I kind of look at Japanese games the way you might look at Victorian novels, or expensive scotch. It’s nice to try and enjoy something challenging and out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Too much at once will make you miserable, and while it may not have the immediate payoff of what you’re used to, some sense of the appeal usually shines through. A lot of people will swear that it’s the best stuff around, even if you haven’t developed a taste for it….That said, nobody likes an alcoholic literary snob either.

  • Shingro 8:26 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @Bowlisimo Trouble is, if you have a lot of story you need to flesh out it’s going to look a lot like the short stories, and putting that sort of thing as a mandatory game element is going to anger plenty of people. Imagine if the dreams in Lost Odyssey were mandatory reading and I think you can understand why most of these things show up as optional collectibles for people who have been hooked by the story.

    @Beige I suspect a large portion of this comes down to cultural differences, although you can’t imagine being a 40 year old businessman hobnobbing over DQIX it does in fact happen.

    *Let me preface this next bit with the comment that this is ALL SUSPICION and I am NOT IN FACT JAPANESE and thus have VERY LITTLE OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE other then hearsay*

    I suspect that Japan has a sort of conceptual appreciation for innocence that far outstrips ours. Trying to make their concept of ‘moe’ fit in any other culture or even explain it with another language tends to lead to a lot of stuttering and confusion, it’s just not the sort of thing we put on a pedestal. Girls that look 12 years younger then their age looking up through hair tied in ribbons and making a noise like “hau hau” with tears in their eyes and sure, a certain amount of us will go “dawww, adorable” but most of us will kinda scratch their head and emote question marks. Wondering why this is so prevalent throughout the culture and language.

    In our culture it’s about being wizened, tough as nails, been around the block, Seen the Elephant… maybe we add a heart of gold or other trappings but that core remains the same. Our unique cultural axiom after all is the Western. You don’t get much more grizzled, dirty, doesn’t say much, ‘drifter covered with the dirt of the road’ then a Western. Could Steinbeck’s self-insert character in Of Mice and Men been taken seriously in japan? Maybe, but for different reasons then it would be appreciated here.

    I suspect it has to do with what we aspire to be, over in the states at least, people try to be older then they are, they want to be an adult already and work to afford all the awesome things, nice cars, big TVs, “bling” as it were. This probably has to do with how even in unskilled labor you can usually afford a big screen TV and a nice car and all sorts of other goodies with work. most people can work 6-8 hours and get by, no biggie. It’s the American Dream!

    In Japan though, I’m given to understand it’s not abnormal to work 10-14 hours, even their high school students are compressed under so much pressure that it’s a wonder the carbon in their bodies hasn’t become diamond. Student suicide rates imply this among other things. Legend has it, that it’s fairly normal to have a ‘sex friend’ not because ‘hey, peace and love wooo~” but because people’s days are so incredibly full that they have no time to maintain a real relationship but still have to get some release or catharsis through something. That need for catharsis is probably where the Very Unusual Japanese porn comes from to incedently

    Under such conditions I could easily see a powerful wistfulness for the past develop amoung your 20, 30, 40, 50 year olds “Hey, remember when we had no responsabilties as a kid? Remember when we had *hours* in the day free? Wouldn’t it have been awesome to have taken that time as a fresh faced lad to go out and explore the world? Had adventures and whatnot?

    Yeah, there’s a lot of assumptions made there, but I could see how the tale of a spiky haired kid wandering into the woods to fight slimes would get a lot more traction then being say, Marcus Fenix, ONE MAN ARMY OF WAR. For all of the types of characters that were in Persona, there was never a football player sized dude analogue was there?

    Conversely, most of America’s glory was in (far) past wars, it seems rational to refrence that when you ask “Why in the hell does american studios produce so many WWII shooters?!” Perhaps Japan’s high pressure society can be connected to the massive amount of “escapism journeys of the spiky haired?”

    I’m sure someone much smarter and well informed then me has actually done some study or another. Either way, it’s probably something we’d understand if we grew up there.

    TL:DR: West loves Wolverine and East loves rebecca miyamoto

  • RedSwirl 4:21 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @beige But even that stuff, even western RGS have this basic need for realistic-looking humans, dialogue, all in a place that resembles the real world enough for us to relate to it. Creed and Wake are just surreal takes on our world.

    Take that and compare it to, I don’t know, most anime, or even Japanese opera for that matter. Those things prefer to hang onto the real world by a thread – the human emotional side usually being the only real link. Hell, Persona 4, Metal Gear, and Resident Evil are about a realistic as Japanese games get, and they all probably involve more fantasy than Assassin’s Creed (and arguably Alan Wake) does.

    @feenwager And yet, Capcom has not been able to produce a better game since. It was also one of the two main inspirations for Gears. I don’t think you’re really gonna see Japan moving on in the console space simply because that market has never really had much of a reason TO move on from the PS2 era. This is the first console generation in decades that they didn’t initiate. Now they’re being asked to tailor to the tastes of western markets that they’ve been barely aware of for the past 20 years.

    Part of the problem is them having to sell to these different markets while keeping their fanbases satisfied. In messages and news stories you can see guys like Kojima, Suda 51, and SquareEnix president Yoichi Wada openly frustrated at how they can’t get their home Japanese audience to buy anything that isn’t, well, Japanese. A lot of these guys are actually fully aware of their situation and are even harder on themselves than you are, but they still have to sell to an audience that WANTS game design from fucking 1995 and won’t put up with anything where you don’t have save points or have to mess around with an actual camera system.

  • feenwager 4:11 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @redswir1 Of course I’ve played RE4. But that was years ago. It’s time for Japan to move on from there.

  • RedSwirl 4:05 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @feenwager I’m guessing you played Resident Evil 5 co-op right? Because otherwise it was a pretty painful experience. If you haven’t played Resident Evil 4 that’s just a shame. Defining game of the PS2 generation if you ask me.

    The controls are somewhat awkward but the game around them was perfectly balanced and paced for some of the most intense gameplay ever. Even the storyline manages to handle its camp with tongue firmly in-cheek.

    Is that really it? Damn.

  • feenwager 4:00 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @redswirl Hmmm….I’d have to say the last Japanese game I “enjoyed” was FFXIII, but I don’t think I really enjoyed it all that much in retrospect. But, I didn’t hate it while I was playing it.

    Beyond that? Resident Evil 5 comes to mind, even though I don’t really have strong feelings about that in hindsight either.

  • RedSwirl 3:52 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @beige Back on the Japanicide thing, I think one point we should all keep in mind is the Japanese preference for surrealism in pretty much ALL of their entertainment media. At least compared to the western preference for a certain extent of grit and real-world grounding. To some extent Japanese games are always going to come off as flamboyant compared to their western counterparts. In my opinion one distinct advantage to this that I’ve seen is that you almost never criticize a Japanese game for tumbling straight into the uncanny valley with it’s advanced new graphics engine.

    That said, @feenwager, other than Final Fantasy XII, what were the last Japanese games you actually liked (that weren’t made by Nintendo)?

    Other than Super Mario Galaxy 2 – which I like to simply call “Fun: The Game,” the only three Japanese home console releases I thoroughly enjoyed this year were Vanquish, Bayonetta, and Super Street Fighter IV. I’ve barely had a chance to play any of Yakuza 3 yet. The rest were handheld games.

    Even though Dragon Quest IX is my first encounter with that franchise, it’s actually one of my favorite JRPGs in a while because it DOESN’T bog me down with a ridiculous storyline. It sees fit to present me with just enough information on the setting to get me interested and encourage me to explore the game. Yes it’s grindy as shit, but I’d take that any day over being forced into 30-minute cut scenes, and I’d gladly take user-created characters over the emo shit we’ve gotten in the last few Final Fantasy games. DQIX is a JRPG that knows the virtue of moderation and succinctness in all its design. It files the whole formula down to just the parts of JRPGs that we all actually like.

    The other examples are also all RPGs with the exception of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The true sequel to MGS3, this game manages to maintain the more subdued and slightly less insane narrative tone of that game and the first MGS as opposed to 2 and 4. Oh, and it’s also the most content-rich game in the entire franchise.

  • RedSwirl 12:37 am on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide,   

    @scribl There’s a demo on both consoles.

    If that’s not enough for you, I guess I could just tell you that it’s an example of Japanese game engineering at its best. The story is just as ridiculous as any Resident Evil game (being from the same director), but the actual GAME is fast, fluid, and just extremely playable.

    It should be noted that this game came from the same man who directed Resident Evil 4 – the game that was one of the big influences on Gears. So this is kinda a further reciprocation between Japan and the west in the area of action games, and a very smart one.

  • RedSwirl 6:15 pm on January 10, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @feenwager I never said immune, just resistant.

    And yes I am aware that the worse case of a long tutorial of all time is probably Final Fantasy XIII – a game that tried to somewhat westernize itself with an extremely linear structure, regeneration HP at the end of battles, and the dissolution of the MP structure.

    Like I said I’d prefer not to spend the next 10 posts defending this position, picking out scant examples from cream-of-the-crop games.

  • feenwager 5:16 pm on January 10, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @redswirl In the case of Resonance of Fate, the fact that the entire beginning of the game is a huge (boring) tutorial is what turned me off.

    Let’s not say that Japanese games are immune to that issue.

  • unmanneddrone 10:27 am on January 10, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide,   

    @shingro Welcome, sir! Great post, too. You make some excellent points. I guess what it comes down to for me in the comparison is there are, more often than not, large sign postage in terms of direction with JRPGs. They might diverge, but at least in my experience, it’s all very planned and channelled divergence. Front Mission 3 was the first game I played back in the day that kinda slotted into the JRPG realm (well, for me, mechs will always beat out lah-dee-dah fantasy!) with a split story directed by player intent.

    When compared to something like Fallout or any of the other big open-world RPGs from the West, you could dally around for hours and hours without going near a mainline or spinal mission. I think that’s where I make the distinction. Sure, there are sidequests and dalliances in JRPGs, but it seems not the extent Euro or NA RPGs offer the player.

    That said, I still think the Japanese game scene has some of the best, most niche titles around. Koei were doing the PTO series long before Eidos Hungary brought us the Battlestation games, and even then, you’re still not getting the grand strategy of naval warfare in Battlestations Midway/Pacific. But that’s an extreme example. Lots of love for the Japanese game scene around here, and I think @feenwager deserves some props for making such a concerted effort to make his love/hate relationship with the JRPG subset work – even if it was all for nought.

    But again, welcome!

  • Shingro 7:40 am on January 10, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    Hi everyone, long time listener first time poster (this *is* where people discuss things right? ¬_¬) I have a lot more to say on past episodes but I did want to jump in here a bit early since this has been on my mind.

    I’d like to challenge the WRPG/JRPG nonlinear/linear divide. It’s hard to think of good examples and the way in which they vary is odd. Most RPGs and games in general make sure you see their content. (understandably) A bit like a stage magician “we spent a lot of time getting that rabbit into the left hat, so if you pick the right hat that’s the hat you ‘got rid of’ if you pick the left hat that’s the hat you picked.”

    What exactly is nonlinear anyway? Some games let you walk one path in different ways, others let you walk one of two paths in exactly the same way. Other’s don’t even care if you’re walking on a path or playing in the street. How many different lines must be drawn before you call it non linear? Games in the end are about a repeatable consistent experience, Given that, can any game be called nonlinear?

    Balder’s Gate style feels very open since dialogue and reactions change but the significant personalities and areas don’t. So you can have variable interaction with static personalities.

    Oblivion and Morrowind, though not as strong as games, are probably more nonlinear. The same things will be there to do in the same places, but there are absolutely no rails ensuring whether you’re there hour 2 or hour 20. So if you talk to someone their experience is likely very different from yours. Some people study to be mages, some wander off into the hills jumping every step, others immediately start killing people in hopes of becoming an assassin.

    Alternately, there are successful variable paths in JRPGs, Front Mission has a split from the word “go” and the game ends before the split does with entirely different everything.

    Ar Tonelico 1 and 2 have significant splits for double digit game hours depending on which Reyvetail you pick to go subconscious spelunking with.

    Chrono Trigger need not be mentioned. Tactics Ogre has what, 6-8 splits that alters everything? Odin Sphere has way more splits then I care to count, but it’s sort of a “bad/normal/true ending” anyway

    Star Ocean 2 you can pick which character you see the story through, but it’s largely the same story since they’re mostly together, but bears mentioning

    Also: Deadly premonition is the answer to the Japanicide episode. we need them to do the weird stuff.

    I dunno, it’s 2 am here, I’m no longer coherent, please forgive my rambling

  • unmanneddrone 5:12 am on January 10, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @RedSwirl Man, I dunno about that negative idea of Japanese games not being on rails. Especially given the comparison between East and West in regards to RPGs. JRPGs are the gold standard for relatively deviation-free role-playing, whereas a lot of WRPGs boot you into the landscape and you’re free to go-for-broke.

  • feenwager 4:07 am on January 10, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @impynickers I can say with pretty strong confidence that I will not play The Last Guardian.

    @redswirl I don’t buy that Japanese games haven’t fallen prey to the bad parts of today’s games. I also don’t agree that all of your points are negatives with regards to today’s games.

    It’s sad when I can tell you a game is Japanese in five minutes because the character models and menu screens look so terrible. That’s not ok.

  • bowlisimo 11:58 pm on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Japanicide   

    @redswirl I should probably make some time for FFXII then, I really, really dislike the structure of standard Final Fantasy games.

    Also, I just want to echo other people’s sentiment about Darksiders here, that game really is pretty badass. For all the work that went into it, it’s kind of shame people were writing Darksiders off as a generic Zelda clone. Edit: I mean…that’s what it is, but it’s a really good generic Zelda clone!

  • RedSwirl 10:34 pm on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    Final Fantasy XII was basically “Final Fantasy for people who don’t like Final Fantasy“. That’s probably why so many of the hardcore fans DIDN’T like it and Squre Enix backtracked for FFXIII. @feenwager, have you played Vanquish? Great application of Japanese craziness and sleekness onto western game design tropes.

    Really though, the problem is that today’s console gaming is such a decidedly Un-Japanese experience that Japanese software just looks awkward on it. Again, handhelds have become the fall-back zone here.

    One thing I will say about Japanese gaming though – it for the most part has not fallen prey to all the things that annoy the hell out of us in current console games. Most Japanese games haven’t gotten shorter than they were on the PS2, they don’t walk you down a rail like Call of Duty does, and they haven’t gotten as pitifully easy as a lot of western 360 and PS3 games have on normal difficulty.

  • impynickers 9:19 pm on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Japanicide   

    FFXII was very enjoyable. It was probably the first game in the series where I enjoyed the game parts nearly as much as the cutscenes. It was also the first modern FF game where I felt the characters weren’t forced on you, they had a lot more subtle roles in the overarching story. It was a refreshing change of pace.

    FFX however, completely different. It blew me away on release, quickly became one of my favourites, and then has since rotted away all of its personal appeal over time.

    Considering how dominated I was by Japanese games last generation, I definitely have noticed a 360 turn around (so to speak). For every Ico or Okami, there are a dozen more games that have lost their relevance.
    It may have been the early push for a cinematic movie-like experience that drew me to some games, but is this very thing that makes that style of game shatter in comparison to todays incredible productions.
    Of course the arena Japan currently dominates is the portable market. They seem to be the only ones that can cater to my portable tastes, and they are often quite inventive in this area.

  • feenwager 6:36 pm on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @angryjedi FFXII was the last JrPG I actually enjoyed, and that includes the fact that I finished XIII and Last Odyssey.

  • Pete Davison 3:40 pm on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , Japanicide   

    JRPG news: FFXII is awesome, and I’m sure Feen will back me up on this one. It’s an excellent experience, like playing an MMO with an actual story and other players who actually follow your instructions.

    Stupid costumes, yes (Vaan looks particularly homosexual with his tiny waistcoat and waxed chest) but, shhhh, I always quite liked FF’s bizarre fashions. Gameplay-wise, FFXII is the anti-JRPG, aside from the bewilderingly inexplicable-in-a-realistic-context License Grid system.

    On an unrelated note, I reacquired Reach for multiplayer purposes. Who’s in tonight?

  • bowlisimo 4:54 am on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Japanicide   

    I couldn’t get more than two hours into FFX, and then a lady with a skirt made of belts holding a pokemon joined my group, “that’s it, I’m out.”

    Also, on the subject of not doing things, I’m not going to get Dragon Age 2 on day one (screw you signature edition ultimatum), I’d like to play all this interesting DLC for once while I’m actually playing and caring about the main game.

  • unmanneddrone 4:51 am on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    @feenwager From what I gather, Resonance of Fate is all about the battle system and its intricacies – nothing much more. That’s one thing that can be said about JRPGs; regardless of what can be said about the subset in general, you won’t find a group of studios coming up with more varied combat or battle systems and mechanics than Japanese RPG studios. It’s never a simple lifting or integrating of D&D or what have you with them. It’s just a shame everything else comes with so many caveats.

    But I’ll be a pallbearer for this funeral as well. You sound beleaguered. What’s the Feenwager gaming comfort food?

  • feenwager 3:51 am on January 9, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: Japanicide   

    I can’t do it anymore.

    This is me saying publicly I’m done with all Japanese designed games. I liked 1999 as much as anyone, but that was a long time ago.

    Party over, oops out of time.

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