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Land of the Rising Fun 78

I very patiently waited all week before linking to 1up's multi-part Land of the Rising Fun feature. It details several very good, very Japanese titles they've had the pleasure of playing lately. A lot of them are for the DS (no surprise), with Chulip, Odama, and Contact particularly appealing. From the piece: "I've loved Japanese games ever since Pac-Man rocked my childhood. Unfortunately, as the medium matures, its seems more and more Americans take issue with Japan's willingness to defy logic in the name of entertainment. Are the frequently goofy aesthetics of Japanese games a dangerous creative rut? Maybe not. Goofiness is making a comeback, thanks in no small part to the Nintendo DS, which is reaching new audiences with experiences that emphasize creativity above anything so mundane as mere realism."
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Land of the Rising Fun

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  • by Komarechka ( 967622 ) * on Friday April 14, 2006 @10:43PM (#15134155) Homepage
    Japan and North America are two different markets. Japan is a very interesting testing ground for new concepts and ideas. North America relies on a more tried-and-tested methodology. In the end this leaves North American and even European gamers is a stagnant rut of the same-old concepts continually rehashed and re-released.

    Japan is what is keeping creativity in the industry, because companies know that whatever they make will sell to some success over there as long as its not foreign. Foreign meaning Microsoft, mostly. In North America, we see games made for our market fail miserably (Mark Ecko's Getting Up, for example) when some new ideas and brought forth.

    It's not an end-all equation, but the people wearing suits in the game industry want to make money and Americans will buy the same thing repeatedly again and again. Sell them what sells, you'll do fine. Or will you? The American market is now so saturated with the same ideas that without any fresh ideas and concepts the market may crash. That's only speculation, though.

    Viva la Revolution.
    • From the Wikipedia entry for Pac-Man [wikipedia.org]:

      When first launched in Japan in 1980 by Namco, the game received a lukewarm response, as Space Invaders and other games of similar ilk were far more popular at the time.
      However, that same year, the game was picked up for manufacture in the U.S. by Bally division Midway, under the altered title Pac-Man. American audiences welcomed a breakaway from conventions set by Space Invaders, which resulted in unprecedented popularity and revenue that rivaled its successful pred

    • I'm in the USA and I enjoyed "Mark Ecko's Getting Up" but it is hardly a new idea. The plot is basically a rehash of "Turk 182!". The game mechanics are a little different but it's just a FPS with guns replaced by a can of spray paint.

      Personally, I like games to tell me a story with me playing the lead role. The game mechanics may not change much but the stories are what set them apart. That is why "Doom 3", "Quake 4", "F.E.A.R.", "Comdemned: Criminal Origins" and games like that will always rock my world.
    • Really, do you think that creativity is limited to Japanese game developers? It seems to me that there are a lot very good game developers developing solid, inovative concepts- Will Wright with the Sims and now Spore. Peter Molyneax with Black and White and the Movies, to name but a few off the top of my head.

      I'm absolutely certain that the top Japanese video games contain just as much innovation, or lack of it, as the North American ones do. I did a google search for japanese game charts and found
    • by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:24PM (#15134246) Homepage
      Well that's a biased opinion. And an incorrect one.

      One could just as easily argue that the Japanese arguilty of rehashing the same old ideas. How many platformers did we have in the 80s that completely copied Mario? How many dating sims are actually needed in the world? And just think how many sequels there are for popular Japanese franchises. How many Mega Man and Final Fantasy games are there? Is there a single American game series that has (if I'm counting right) over a dozen sequels each?

      I can think of a ton of original game concepts Americans have come up with. You're just not looking hard enough. Just the top of my head, I saw Will Wright's "Spore" demonstration the other day (use Google Video to find it). It's a simulator that starts you off as a bacteria and pulls the camera back farther and farther until you manage a creature, a society, a world, a galaxy and a universe. It includes procedural programming, incredible AI and a touch of the absurd. It's mindblowing in scope and the guy got a standing ovation at the end of the presentation.

      In short, your view is narrowminded and somewhat unjustified. Gaming is a business and as such all businesses crank out new ideas and then ride on them. Japanese, American or otherwise. To think every American video company is the stereotypical EA (which, ironically, will be publishing Spore) is just foolish.
      • Most of the EA sports titles are up around 10-12 sequels, at this point.

        And, to be fair, every single Final Fantasy game has had sigificant differences, albeit typically with connecting themes. Even X-2 had significant differences in system/style from FFX.
        • Most of the EA sports titles are up around 10-12 sequels, at this point.

          EA Sports games cater to a certain market -- the sports fan -- who wants the new version every year with the new rosters, rule changes, etc. There's nothing wrong with making sequels if that's what the market/genre demands. I've been buying their NHL game since the mid 90s, and I'll keep buying it every year for as long as I'm a hockey fan and a gamer. A sequel is not always a bad thing, especially in this case.

          • I buy a new NFL/NCAA football every 3 or 4 years, I'm with you on this. Sequels *aren't* a bad thing; more of the same, only slightly better, is good too, as long as it was good in the first place, and as long as you're also working on different things. Final Fantasy 25 may be just as good as Spore, if it's done well. We need the sequels too, not just the visionaries.

            We just need them not to suck.

            I'm looking at you, Lara Croft.
      • Other genres created by non-Japanese that I could think of include:

        RTS (WarCraft, C&C) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real-time_strategy#Th e_beginnings:_1983_--_1992 [wikipedia.org]
        Sim games (like SimCity, SimTower, etc)
        FPS (Wolfenstein 3D and Doom) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-person_shooter [wikipedia.org]

        These genres are still great heaps of fun, depending on how the gameplay actually turns out. Recent ones I agree Spore looks amazing. Civilization games are getting better for each release.
      • Although I Think Spore is in all likelihood a novel and original experience, your description makes it sound suspiciously like a rehash of "Katamari Damacy"



        just sayin', is all...

      • But there is a major difference in that while it is true that Japanese games often get turned into long franchises, there is still difference in the gameplay.

        There is a massive difference between SMBW and SM64, or FF3 and FFX. Japanese franchises reuse characters and basic genre elements (i.e. platformer, RPG, etc), but make drastically different games. In the US, a sequel is the difference between Madden 05 and Madden 06, games with little difference other than graphics and rosters. FPSs are becoming

        • There is a massive difference between SMBW and SM64, or FF3 and FFX. Japanese franchises reuse characters and basic genre elements (i.e. platformer, RPG, etc), but make drastically different games.

          What are you talking about? Final Fantasy has deviated little since FF1; I would know, having played every single game. The biggest change happened in FF2 (japanese numbering); where characters were plot driven, rather than user driven. The battle system is almost exactly the same, and while there are little
          • The parent post shows one of the biggest issues when discussing "innovation", it's not very well defined. As the old joke goes, ask 5 people to describe "innovation" and you're likely to get 6 different answers. The definition really depends on each individual.

            For example, the parent post says that all Final Fantasy games have, "Random battles, spells and bosses." Of course, so do many other games in the RPG genre, such as the old Wizardry games. How much change is needed before something is really inno
            • C'mon now, there's reasonable consensus about what innovation is and isn't.

              The Materia system and the Sphere Grid were merely new ways to get said spells You can hardly say that Square have avoided making a quick buck (FFX-2) or using the series' name to promote games seeming unrelated (FFXI). How long did it take for Square to drop the prerendering technique? Unless FFXII releases between the time I type this and the time I click submit, they haven't. That doesn't mean I won't play it sometime (genera
              • C'mon now, there's reasonable consensus about what innovation is and isn't.

                Not really. You obviously have what you feel is a good definition of innovation, but there are a lot of people that will disagree with you. If there's a solid definition for innovation, then why don't you share it with the rest of us?

                You can hardly say that Square...

                You seem to have a beef with Final Fantasy and Square that is affecting objectivity. Some of the points you bring up have very little to do with gameplay innovation ("
      • Is there a single American game series that has (if I'm counting right) over a dozen sequels each?

        Ah, a challenge.

        Your point stands that you can come up with many more Japanese examples than US examples, but the set of US examples is definitely not empty.

        Assuming you mean "sequels" in the sense that the "sequel" is at least in the same basic genre as the original, barring technology advances (i.e., Mario 64 is a sequel to Super Mario Brothers by a clear progression, but Super Mario Cart is not), I have:

        Alka
      • Is there a single American game series that has (if I'm counting right) over a dozen sequels each?

        Every single EA sports franchise? :-)

        Sequels aren't a bad thing per se. The bad thing is when stuff doesn't change between versions of a game. Look at Mario's Jump-N-Run games. There have never been more than two versions using the same game mechanics (Mario 1 and Mario: Lost Levels, and possible Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine), while most western FPS use the same engines and mechanics even in different franch

      • "One could just as easily argue that the Japanese arguilty of rehashing the same old ideas."

        I think his point is that the Japanese market is more receptive to quirky ideas than the American one.
      • I'm sorry, but the repeated sports titles in the US and European markets are far far worse than the repeated Final Fantasys and Megamans.

        Even though some of the megaman games are VERY similar, at least you get a truckload more levels. The Final Fantasy games are always similar, but compare the battle systems and plots and you'll see they are very different beasts.

        What's the difference between two versions of FIFA or Madden? New team sheets? Maybe a new type of pass? Certainly nothing that makes much differe

      • Sure, we have seen Japan release over a dozen Final Fantasy games, six plus Zelda games, five or so Metroid games, etc etc. That was your point, that its all being rehashed, right? How many of those are actually rehashes? Oh yeah, that's right, not many. The difference here is we may see twelve Final Fantasy game releases, but they are all so vastly DIFFERENT that I think it would even be a disservice to even call it a "rehash". Take a look at the Zelda games, or all the Mario ones. They are all ENTIRELY
      • >>you manage a creature, a society, a world, a galaxy and a universe.

        Its another Sim* game tweaking the old Populus formula [mobygames.com] from the 80s. Not exactly breaking new ground here.
      • I saw Will Wright's "Spore" demonstration the other day (use Google Video to find it). It's a simulator that starts you off as a bacteria and pulls the camera back farther and farther until you manage a creature, a society, a world, a galaxy and a universe.

        Actually, if you listen to his speech Will Wright states that "Spore" is really nothing more than 6 or so different pre-existing ideas rolled up into one big game using modern technology.

        How many platformers did we have in the 80s that completely copie

    • Japan and North America are two different markets. Japan is a very interesting testing ground for new concepts and ideas. North America relies on a more tried-and-tested methodology. In the end this leaves North American and even European gamers is a stagnant rut of the same-old concepts continually rehashed and re-released.

      If your tastes run to more experimental stuff, try poking around on the PC rather than the console. The barrier to entry in the PC market is much, much lower.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @10:52PM (#15134168)
    Goofy never died - just look at Warcraft. From the first game nearly every character/class/item/goal has been half joke, and it's turned into the biggest "fantasy" franchise (behind Final Fantasy?) out there these days. As long as you don't take fun too seriously, you'll have an audience.

  • Pokie Man (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    My kids watch a lot of Pokemon. The plots and humor are sometimes "odd" such they are not predictable, at least compared to what I am used to. Lack of predictability makes it kind of refreshing.

    Perhaps Japanese kids *will* find it predictable because it fits their culture. It appears the advantage of watching other nation's entertainment is more surprises. However, sometimes it does not make a lot of sense to the other group and it leaves you scratching your head a bit.
         
    • Re:Pokie Man (Score:3, Interesting)

      No, it's unpredictable to them, too. However, it is in keepin g with Japanese humor, which is based in large part around the idea of acting outside of normal expectations. In other words, they think it's funny.
  • by McFadden ( 809368 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:01PM (#15134187)
    that Japanese games companies are especially creative, or is it just that western companies have lost the ability to be so, under a deluge of sequels and licensed franchises?
    • I think that the people who hold the purse strings at western game publishing houses are too afraid to spend money on a new idea, however creative that idea may be.

      I think it's partly the consumer's fault- they'll rush right out and buy a million copies of ISS Pro, or Project Gotham Racing, but they won't lavish the same money on Oddworld:Stranger's wrath (I'm still reeling from playing that last summer), Forza Motorsport (which kick's Gran Turismo's simulation ass, and had play over xbox live) or Lumine
  • To think that sequels are an American trend is a mistake. Street Fighter, Megaman (Rockman there), Pokemon, Tekken, Mario, Sonic, and numerous RPG franchises (if you're willing to count them) are examples of major Japanese franchises that will never die.
    • Capcom wrote the book on sequels. Well, several books, actually. My personal favorite is Super Sequels Turbo Revenge X: III.
    • Street Fighter, Megaman (Rockman there), Pokemon, Tekken, Mario, Sonic, and numerous RPG franchises (if you're willing to count them) are examples of major Japanese franchises that will never die.

      Ooooooh yes they will.
    • Street Fighter, Megaman (Rockman there), Pokemon, Tekken, Mario, Sonic, and numerous RPG franchises (if you're willing to count them) are examples of major Japanese franchises that will never die.

      Street Fighter imploded on itself and never fully recovered. (SF3 is considered to be a failure compared to SF2's insane success.)
      Mega Man started declining early (around the 4th and 5th games) and actually resulting in a stronger resistance to simply milking the series. (The X games only was SUPPOSED to end at X

  • Chulip! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by benher ( 948132 )
    I personally played through Chulip all the way in Japanese and always lamented that it would likely never see the light of day in the US... I know it isn't the first time, but it's good to see the west finally wake up to what it's been missing (and what we here take for granted)
  • by Ogemaniac ( 841129 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @12:08AM (#15134328)
    If I had a nickle for every Japanese girl I have seen running around with a cutesy little keychain doll given to them for free by their cell-phone company attached to their $300 Louis Vuitton handbag, I could probably buy one myself.

    The Japanese sense of style is completely bizarre, and what little translates in the American does so more as a joke than literally.

    My girlfriend: That hat is not stylish. Why are you wearing it?

    Me: Because it is a warm hat, and it is very cold out today

    My girlfriend: but it is not stylish. Take it off!

    Me: Uhhh.....no

    My gloveless hatless skirt-wearing girlfriend (in Japanese): I'm cold...

    I will never understand Japanese...
  • by FornaxChemica ( 968594 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @04:09AM (#15134751) Homepage Journal
    There are several reasons why we don't have games like this in US or Europe, but the main ones I believe are the cultural difference and, yes, a lack of open-mindedness and imagination in the West, both from creators and consumers.

    The most popular games here are all the same, look at the UK charts, it's almost tragic: shooting, popular licences, sports, racing, always the same genres, always the most uncreative of the bunch. You serve them the same sport game every year and they buy it ! The public is not even curious towards different games, on the contrary, their difference is the best reason to dismiss them. It's almost an allergy to imagination and it's a feeling perceptible towards art in general too.

    There is, to some extent, the same thing happening in Japan, some genres perform better than some others and some licences are more popular than ever, but the major difference is that imagination always has a place in Japan; so once in a while you see an unsual game ranking high in the charts, because the Japanese gamers have the open-mindedness to look into it and sometimes accept its singularity. The other difference also, is that game makers in Japan are willing to take riskes, their approach to game making is, I suspect, radically different than here in the West.

    They have a passion for creating new games, even within established genres, like the shooting games that keep coming on Dreamcast. No one in the West would be brave enough support a dead console ! They don't think "how am I going to please the public ?", in the West that would be by giving them their fodder, thrill and violence, but they try fore and foremost to make interesting concepts come alive, concepts that they find appealing, amusing. They think as gamers, not as marketers.

    Shinji Mikami, from Capcom, once said the public is stupid. I'm quite sure the same thought must cross many minds in the industry. But in the West, even knowing this, we still give them what they want while in the East they fight to impose their ideas. It is the definition of an auteur, like in the film industry, and that's the key difference perhaps: in Japan they have many auteurs (which has nothing to do with being famous), here we only have a few.

    Japan anyway has always been a creative leading force in the world, from their traditional art which deeply influenced European art to the unique style of their animation; it's perhaps because they never completely forgot their past and traditions, which are still felt strongly in every aspect of their contemporary culture, as films like Chihiro and games like Okami suggest.
    • I agree with you about the UK sales chart. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only gamer in the UK who doesn't own a need for speed or FIFA game.There is some hope however, for example, Shadow of the Colossus was once top of the charts, http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index .php?story=8235 [gamasutra.com]. It was only for a week but it still shows that even mighty EA can be defeated once in a while.
    • Japan anyway has always been a creative leading force in the world,

      No, I dispute this. It's just that Japanese culture is currently trendy, and so whatever there that seems different from the rest of the world seems great to us.

      The Japanese are no more creative than any other culture. Indeed, it might be possible to make an arguement that their tremendously conforming social structures make them less individualistic -- though I will not claim that myself at this time.

      There are plenty of ingenious things t
      • Well, I dispute this as well. This has nothing to do with trend, it does evolve in a trend thereafter, but if it does so, it's because initially it's original and different. I don't say everything Japanese is creative of course, that would be erroneous and shallow, but there are countless proofs of Japanese creative influence. Take Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) for instance, every frame of the film is filled with creativity, things born from the mind, or sometimes borrowed and adapted from
        • Your examples are interesting because they each come from widely acknowledged masters of their forms. That, mixed with the overall differentness of Japanese culture from western, have given some of them a kind of superstar status. However, do not look down upon western creators in the process. I maintain that the U.S. is just as capable of producing, and has produced and is still producing, brilliant works, but in a way, you're too close to them to see.

          I'd give examples, but I gotta run at for now. Mayb
    • In Japan, an FPS, RTS, or open-ended RPG is considered out of the ordinary -- and they don't sell. The Metroid Prime series, for example, has not sold well in Japan.

      Seems to me that the "West" (or at least the U.S. and Canada) are more receptive of different games/genres than the Japanese are. Actually, the Koreans are pretty open minded too, IIRC.
  • by ErZo ( 852114 )
    Oh, I didn't see that Pun coming. Land of the Rising Sun, I mean Pun, err.. Fun! :P
  • How often do you see innovative titles like Nintendogs and Brain Train top the charts. In the US it's usually the FPSs and EA sports titles. That's not to say there's no innovation in the US, but it just doesn't sell as well. I wonder what Star Wars and Lord of the Rings games are in development.
  • Shamelessly copied from http://www.di.fm/edmguide/ [www.di.fm] when he is describing JPop.

    "Is anyone even surprised that this kind of stuff would come from Japan? That whole country is like Bizarro world. They do everything we do, just in a really strange way. It reminds me of that scene in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" where they go near Toontown, and you can see clouds of smoke and yelling and fighting and all sorts of haywire shit happening above the horizon to signify the complete and total lunacy of the place. Japan i

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