When some people think of Japanese games, they automatically seem to think of how similar Devil May Cry 4 is to Devil May Cry 1 is and end up saying, “See? Look at how Japanese games don’t evolve and look at how they don’t bring anything new when western games are constantly bringing new stuff whether it be time travel or dinosaurs or demonic powers.” The biggest problem with this sentiment is that people are comparing Japanese franchises to Western IPs. If you’re gonna be comparing, let’s at least have a fair comparison. And even though you’d still be wrong for saying that something like Mass Effect bring more innovations to the industry than Devil May Cry 4, if we’re gonna be doing any comparison here and it has to be IP vs IP, not Franchise vs IP. So like the previous blog, let’s start off by listing some Western IPs and then compare that to the list of Japanese IPs. And by IPs, I mean games that doesn’t have sequels or spinoffs.
Mass effect, uncharted, warhawk, bioshock, timeshift, jericho, conan, beyond good and evil, portal, viva pinata, collin mcrae’s DIRT, starcraft, assassin’s creed, bully, gears of war, just cause, rock band, saint’s row, heavenly sword, kane and lynch, motorstorm, army of two, fable, mercenaries, resistance, freedom fighters, jade empire, indigo prophecy.
Patapon, puzzle quest, folklore, lost odyssey, zak and wiki, endless ocean, no more heroes, killer 7, eternal darkness, folklore, jeanne d’arc, rogue galaxy, picross, professor layton and the curious village, drawn to life, gitaroo man.
I do want to mention a whole lot more japanese ips like cooking mama, trauma center, and ninja gaiden but these have just recently got sequels and spinoffs and so doing so would be going against my own rules. But notice just how fast the japanese gaming market changes. there’s bunch and bunch of new ips every year and before your eyes could blink, they’re getting sequels and spinoffs. just look at the nintendogs and brain age series. they’re pretty recent IPs and yet! holy crap, there’s so many sequels and spinoffs it’s not even funny!
One very obvious thing you can notice between these two IPs is that western IPs are more of shooters and sandbox games whereas Japanese IPs seem to be more focused on the casual market, the rpgs, and the adventure genres. There are exceptions of course, like fable and killer 7 but nonetheless, this generalization seem to be fairly true.
Looking at the western IPs, there indeed is a bit of innovation here and there but not too significant. Just because you add time-controlling mechanics (timeshift) or demonic powers with role-switching abilities (jericho) doesn’t mean it strays all too far from the fps mechanics at all. These changes actually seem very minor in these IPs. They’re just a feature that’s thrown in there to convince people that the IP is fresh. New IPs also seem to be mixing genres to look like they’re an all-new genre e.g. uncharted, bioshock but it’s interesting to note that these blended genres usually involve shooting stuff when it comes to western IPs. There are new features brought in western IPs of course but bringing anything new to the table? that’s a bit doubtable.
If I was making this comparison last year, a lot of Japanese titles that are now franchises with numerous sequels would actually be brand new IPs. Take Trauma Center for example. There wasn’t a mission-based surgery simulation game like that before Trauma Center. So did it bring something new to the industry? Most definitely. But just a couple of months ago, the sequel was made on the Wii so that’s why I can’t bring that game into discussion. That’s why I can’t bring up Cooking Mama, Ninja Gaiden (it got a DS spinoff this year), nintendogs, etc.
But I can definitely bring up Endless Ocean and Patapon. And wow, talk about innovative and brining something new to the table with these two games. Even games that are a bit derivative like folklore or jeanne d’arc bring lots of new story ideas and mechanics ideas hardly seen in prior games. of course, something like viva pinata and assassin’s creed are way more innovative and are more influential to the gaming industry but if you look at just how rapidly Japanese IPs pop up and then quickly become franchises, I don’t it’ll be easy for you to say that Japanese IPs don’t bring anything new to the table. Just because some are too niche (e.g. zak and wiki, no more heroes) or too casual (e.g. patapon, endless ocean, wii sports) or too obscure (killer 7, eternal darkness) doesn’t mean they’re games you could just ignore.
Unlike the previous blog in which I stated that Japanese franchises evolve more than western franchises, I’m not going to argue here that Japanese IPs are more innovative and creative than western IPs. But I will say that if you look carefully, the claim that Japanese IPs are same old same old year after anoter is a claim that’s just ridiculous and false. In my opinion, it’s nothing more than a myth. Crazy weird titles and fresh innovations really come from Japanese developers. You wouldn’t see something like Katamaric Damacy or Wario Ware from western developers and I think that those kind of games are way, way more innovative than something like Portal where the only thing really “new” that is featured is the weapon you’re given (the portal gun).
Japanese IPs are innovative by completely changing the mood, the setting, the story, the feel, and even the mechanics of the game. If you play a Japanese IP, you can just know it’s Japanese without even having had to look at the name of the developer. Take Gitaroo Man or Drawn to Life for example. These games are so crazily unique and creative that the moment you play it, you just know that it’s a Japanese game. Just like how when you play Conan or Bioshock, you can immediately feel that it’s a western game.
So thus ends my two blogs on what I think about Japanese and western games. I don’t know if I got my points across as well as I wanted to or if I was coherent most of the time, but that’s what I think on that. I hope u guys liked reading these two blogs. Tomorrow, we’re gonna abandon this topic and talk about the dynamics between game developers and game reviewers.