Ya know what’s funny, that guy just emailed you about the Phantasy Star games, and guess what? I own a PSP and own the Sega Genesis Mega Collection, a collection of old Sega Genesis games put on UMD (there’s other versions of it for different systems, though I don’t know if it’s for the Wii). This collection has a wide variety of games on it, including such titles as Golden Axe 1/2/3, Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2, Ecco the Dolphin 1 and 2 and Ecco Jr., Comix Zone, a Tetris-like game called Columns, several Shinobi games, Altered Beast, Gain Ground, Alex Kidd, Kid Chameleon, Vectorman 1 and 2, Phantasy Star 2, 3, and 4, and a bunch of other games including arcade game ports.
Contra was made by the Japanese but it doesn’t SEEM to be like a Japanese game. It looks and feels very American. You have these big muscled guys with machine guns pulverizing everything.
Life Force and other shooters were Japanese made. Yet, there was nothing in them that made them feel like they were from Japan. There was no anime in them or ‘characters’.
One very popular game at that time was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. You would have no idea it was made from a Japanese company.
Look at Donkey Kong. There was nothing in this game to suggest it was a Japanese game even though it was. Everyone thought of King Kong which was an American movie.
Look at Super Mario Brothers. Nothing Japanese comes out at you. Miyamoto said, and then denied after I highlighted that he said it, that Super Mario Brothers was influenced by Alice in Wonderland. You have mushrooms, you have the tiled floors of Mario 3, the beanstalks seem like something from Jack and the Beanstalk. There was nothing Japanese in the game.
I can go through example after example. Allow me one more. Look at Zelda. There is nothing in Zelda to suggest it was made outside America.
You might say, “Well Malstrom, this is because in the 8-bit generation there wasn’t enough computer power to express Japanese sensibilities. All games looked and felt similar.” But this was not true. EVERYONE knew Tetris came from Russia. It was saturated with Russian themes from Russian music to Russian backgrounds. The game that came before Double Dragon couldn’t be exported to the West because it was too Japanese. Many games were left in Japan because their ‘Japanese artwork/style’ wouldn’t work well in America or in other parts of the world.
When Final Fantasy II came out in America, we thought that was actually Final Fantasy II and not IV. It was only in the 16-bit generation did everyone become cognizant of Japan’s market and how many the games were Japanese. Most people had no idea in the 8-bit generation.
What I am seeing from Nintendo today is a very different attitude from the 1980s and 1990s. Instead of specifically making ‘internationally designed’ video games (which is a nice way of saying designing games for American tastes since American entertainment tends to be more global), we’re seeing Nintendo specifically design their games around Japanese themes and then shove them in our faces.
“Examples, Malstrom,” says the reader. “You talk and talk, but I need the proof.”
You need the proof? Here is the proof.
Metroid: Other M has its problems, but the biggest one is that it tries to be anime. No one cares about the damn baby! The game just screams ‘Japanese’. If you said it was made in America, no one would believe you unless you said it came from San Francisco or Seattle.
Was the problem Wind Waker’s art style or Wind Waker’s Japanese style? We don’t want Japanese culture in our games.
Nintendo Land just screams Japanese. What is with that logo? Is that *thing* sucking or blowing or whistling? Whatever it is, the game feels uncomfortable let alone the crappy mini-game substance. “But it is not mini-games,” chimes Nintendo on cue, “they have much more substance.” They’re mini-games…. in HD. Oooohhhh.
Take a look at Final Fantasy’s rise and fall. There was nothing ‘Japanese’ in Final Fantasy except for some of the more Eastern myths like airships.
God, I forgot how glorious that music was. Aside from the ‘too much chatter’ at the beginning, there is nothing to suggest this game has any connection to Japan. I still remember playing it for the first time and being blown away by how the game felt like a mythological fire hose shooting so much at you that you could only gulp as the water soaks your entire body.
Now, look at Final Fantasy 13.
In the golden days of Japanese gaming, they HID their Japanese eccentricities. But today in the Great Decline of Japanese Gaming, they place their Japanese eccentricities on a pedestal! Is this the result of those eccentricities being locked up in the attic for so long? Have they all come bursting out?
Nintendo wants Metroid and Zelda to become Japanese animes and Mario to be ‘adventures in 3d’. Yet, the market keeps rejecting them. Mario Kart, which by its nature cannot have a story or ‘character exploration’, sells much better. Wii Sports and Wii Fit, by their nature, were also scrubbed clean of the Japanese eccentricities.
Take the issue of Retro making a Zelda game. The reason why people want Retro to make a Zelda game is because of the pent up frustration people have for Zelda today. Zelda is too Japanese orientated, too anime, and plays like a crappy Japanese adventure game. In the past, Zelda used to be influenced by Western RPGs hence the non-linear nature of the early Zelda games. In the past, Nintendo said, “What do we learn from those Western games to make an even better game?” Today, Nintendo says, “Let’s purge all Western influences from our games” resulting in Nintendo games becoming extremely creepy. I think we’re at the point where parents will feel uncomfortable giving the game even to their child. It’s just too weird. And these parents today are those that grew up with Nintendo games.
I think there is another story going on here. Korean culture has more international presence today than Japanese culture. Korean culture in movies, music, and games has to be controversial in Japan. Is this all some nationalist venture? It made more sense to go Japan culture back in the 80s when Japan was on the ascendency. Today, Japan is a rapidly shrinking country especially with its aging population. What is to gain by making games that tilt so heavy to the Japanese tilt?
The reason why we want Retro to make a Zelda game is because we are sick and tired of the Japanese eccentricities in Zelda. “But Zelda is about story and puzzles,” says Miyamoto which is nonsense. We want Retro to make the game or any Nintendo game because we want a more cultural neutral game.
The reality is that Retro is actually a Japanese company that happens to be located in the United States. Nintendo doesn’t see Retro in the way how you or I see it. Nintendo’s relationship to Retro is for Nintendo to tell Retro the Way How It Is. Retro’s job is to soak it up. Retro is not allowed to go, “Hey! This is wacky Japanese stuff which is just crap. Here is how real game makers do it,” where Retro outdoes Nintendo on Metroid or on 2d platformers. A Retro Zelda sounds pretty damn good at this point. Miyamoto talking about how communication is needed for the puzzles and story is actually Miyamoto saying: “The soul of Zelda is Japanese.” But if we look at the classic Zelda games, we find the soul of Zelda is Western. Zelda is the combination of arcade gameplay with the Western Role Playing Game. Nintendo seems intent on crashing the Zelda franchise rather than admit that the Western RPG is the soul of classic Zelda gameplay.