The old saying in Japanese gamer circles used to go “Bei game wa Kuso game” (“Western games are sh&%ty games”), but the tables may have turned in a big way if this year’s Tokyo Game Show turnout is any indication.
Western publishers were out in spades this year. In fact, the very first thing attendees saw when entering the gates of this year’s TGS were a bunch of armed soldiers and (tastefully) military-garbed booth girls promoting the newest entry in the Battlefield series of online multiplayer military shooter games.
Just to the left of EA’s Battlefield booth – which, by the way, featured full-blown 16-on-16 network multiplayer (drool) – was a Mad Catz booth hawking the newest game pads for fighting games.
Just a tad further in and players came face-to-face with the newest in the Need for Speed franchise, complete with a sit-down, cockpit style game cabinet.
Lines were consistent for all these games. On the other hand, the Japanese showings could be called less than stellar: the show’s most talked-about Japanese game came courtesy of Capcom. The much-touted Deep Down had a great showing with impressive graphics and solid gameplay, yet it did nothing to assuage Japanese game detractors who have been shouting for years that Japanese games fail to innovate. Indeed, Deep Down, according to hands-on testimony, feels and plays eerily similar to the punishingly difficult Dark Souls from years prior.
Meanwhile, Square Enix, the legendary Japanese publisher responsible for – by way of assimilation of Enix – both the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest JRPG franchises, largely touted footage of the Western-developed Call of Duty: Ghosts at its surprisingly small booth.
Speaking of Japanese developers, Hideo Kojima himself, of Metal Gear Solid fame, was there to walk attendees through that series’ newest entry – which heavily incorporated the largely-Western mechanics of a so-called “Open World” game, which allows players total off-the-rails freedom to run amok amidst a fully-realized world map.
▼ Et Tu, Snake?
It wasn’t the only Open World game in attendance, though. Unsurprisingly, a Grand Theft Auto 5 hands-on booth boasted a three-hour wait despite the game technically already being available for purchase at retail.
And this undeniable Western game trend brings us to the undoubted star of the Tokyo Game Show: Titanfall. The first-person shooter, developed by ex-Call of Duty creators under the moniker of Respawn Entertainment, was perhaps the most innovative game of an established genre of the entire show. Multiple online players battled it out on foot and in giant, Pacific Rim-style mechs in this online shooter that incorporates parkour elements and breaks trend with futuristic, totally made-up weaponry. The game’s word of mouth popularity was easy to gauge, as average Day Two wait times to play the game spiked considerably over Day One.
▼ Titanfall is still in Beta, thus we were not allowed to take gameplay photos. So, you’ll just have to settle for this mechanical Titan and some girl.
There is an argument to be made that nearly all of the big western games shown at TGS were first person shooters (FPS), indicating that the West too has a problem with innovation, but the overall feel of the show was obvious: This year, western games reigned supreme.
This isn’t to say that the Japanese game industry is dead. Far from it; Gree, the mobile gaming company, had one of the largest booths of the entire show, and Sony had a number of Japanese games on show at their enormous corner, not the least of which would be the newest Gran Turismo, which occupied a considerable space and enjoyed out-the-door lines for a hands-on play.
Nevertheless, the writing is on the wall: Western games, in the eyes of Japanese gamers, are no longer sh&%ty games. On the contrary, the Japanese gaming public seems to be taking quite nicely to the latest round of North American and French-produced gaming.
What’s your take? Is Japanese gaming dead? Or could the West still learn a thing or two from the land of Nintendo (which barely had a showing at all at this year’s TGS)?
Photos via Ricardo Ochoa