I’ve been trying to write an email to you regarding your use of the word anime to describe any form of media coming from Japan (especially videogames) is absolutely terrible and should not be allowed in the United States ever, and every single time I try to send an email to you about this, all that seems to come out of my head is nothing but pure fanboy rage because you attacked one of my favorite forms of entertainment.
This email I’m sending you, however, will not have a counter-argument, but a proposal for replacing that word with something else.
The reason why I say this is because there are a lot of good games that use the anime art style. For example, you had a blast playing Dragon Warrior, and the “art style” for the monsters and characters were drawn by Akira Toriyama, a manga author famous for the Dragonball series.
One of your music selections from your blog is Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack, where the anime art style from Akira Toriyama was more pronounced in the game’s packaging and marketing material when it was released in the United States. Since it was also on a 16-bit system, the Squaresoft was able to be more faithful to Toriyama’s art style for all of the character sprites.
Sonic the Hedgehog clearly had an anime art style going for it for the main characters, yet that didn’t stop it from becoming popular.
Megaman clearly had an anime art style to it as well, yet you also promote this game and point to it as an example of good game design. Well, the 2nd and third game, at least. The later series also aren’t afraid of staying true to their anime roots either.
Bomberman first started off with a serious art style, then went to the cute anime style which didn’t stop it from selling, and then tried going back to its dark original style as one of the first titles released for the Xbox 360, which absolutely failed so they went back to the cutesy anime art style.
Pokemon also uses an anime art style, yet it’s hard to deny that this is a very successful series that even has its own running anime and is still thriving in the era which you say isn’t Japan’s greatest.
Although it didn’t start off as a videogame, Yugioh generates the most revenue IN THE WORLD as far as collectible card games are concerned today, and it too uses an anime art style.
So not all games that use the anime art style is bad. If it was, then some of the recent cartoon shows broadcast in the United States within the past decade wouldn’t have adapted some of the techniques the Japanese use in their “art style,” so there is definitely something Japan did right that creative professionals in the West were clearly envious with, just like how Blizzard figured out that having cutesy things scattered around the game world would attract a wider audience into WoW.
So instead of using the term “anime” to describe why games like Other M are terrible because of something Japanese-related, I propose you use something else like “creative stupidity” instead. For example, Sakamoto deciding that Other M would have lots of cutscenes and linear paths to walk through for a Metroid game is a good example of creative stupidity because he ignored one of the most fundamental design decisions that need to be followed because most people expect certain things to be in a Metroid game, and whatever Sakamoto decided on was definitely not part of that list. Choosing a toon art style for Zelda, making the player solve lots of puzzle-based challenges, and having annoying NPCs like Tingle are more examples of creative stupidity because they didn’t help enhance the world the player was going to be in. Miyamoto placing more of his time and energy into making 3D Mario games while neglecting to put the same amount of care into his 2D platformers is creative insanity because he thinks that he might get a more positive result in sales if he ONLY adds more polish to his next 3D Mario game while making it sorta feel like a 2D platformer at the same time.
I’m not going to deny there’s creative stupidity in a lot of games that use an anime art style as the “hardcore” of Japan can be easily duped into buying a product simply because a popular person was involved with either voicing the characters or drawing the artwork, regardless of the overall quality of experiencing the complete package itself. That’s why there’s several “games” over there where the mechanics are nothing more than a overly glorified choose-your-own-adventure book with sex scenes, because if the choose-your-own-adventure book can become popular enough, it might get picked up for an animated adaptation (with a 90% chance of the sex scenes being removed since the plot can stand on its own without them), which means more exposure, which also means more money generated from merchandise.
But even though I bash visual novels, there are a few (I mean, like, in the single digits of a hand) that don’t suffer from creative stupidity. So I can’t even bash everything from this genre where having an anime art style is almost required.
When I say ‘anime’, everyone knows what I am referring. Outside of Japan, anime is our reference for anything that is Japanese centric in its pop culture since ‘anime’ is Japanese pop culture.
In the past, Japan used to make games for an international audience. You could not tell whether games from Japan were Japanese or not. Today, Japanese games are being made intentionally to highlight the Japanese eccentricities. Inside Nintendo, they actually think Wind Waker is an amazing art style. I’m sure it is if you are Japanese or fond of Japanese pop culture. But most people aren’t fond of Japanese pop culture.
Anime is a pedestal to many game developers in Japan. While in America, many game makers want to be ‘like Hollywood’, in Japan, they want to be ‘like anime’. The anime started off in small little cutscenes at the beginning of games around the Fifth Generation. The more and more Japan rejected international culture for their games, the more and more their games could not sell internationally. Japan is becoming more and more isolated. Nintendo was the outlier in the Seventh Generation, but in the Eighth Generation Nintendo is unable to sell to the West. The 3DS only sells in Japan. The Wii U might do the same.
Check out this intro. Pulstar is a shmup like R-type. What do we get in the intro? Anime. Is this really necessary for a shmup? Do we need or want anime in our games? While it is only short clip of a girl running, years later the anime becomes worse and worse.
I say ‘anime’ because IT IS ANIME. Game makers are no longer being inspired by it. Instead, they are inserting it into the games. Now, they are trying to make the entire game become a type of anime electronica. That is the future of Zelda and Metroid.
I’m not pointing to ‘creative stupidity’ or ‘bad mechanics’ (though, they exist as well). I am saying:
THE WEST IS NOT INTERESTED IN JAPANESE CULTURE.
It never has been. It never will. Sure, there is a niche of people in the West who may like Japanese culture. But Japanese culture is not, and never will be, mainstream in the United States of America or in Europe.
Further, I’ll add that the Golden Era of Japanese Gaming was due to the ABSENCE of traditional Japanese culture in their games. You cannot find Japanese culture in Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda, the Capcom classics, the Konami classics, or such. Remember that licensing was one of the most popular forms of sales during that time. Konami’s top selling NES games were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games.
Miyamoto made a video game based off of Popeye. That is Western content as Popeye is an American icon.
Donkey Kong reminded everyone of the American movie King Kong. Mario was an Italian plumber from New York in an Alice in Wonderland type wonderland. Link and Hyrule mimicked the western RPGs of the time. And Metroid resembled the movie Alien and other science fiction.
What were Capcom and Konami’s biggest games during that time period? Remember the Capcom Disney games? Games like Ducktales or Rescue Rangers? That is not Japanese culture. Games like Contra were like the movie Rambo. Many people didn’t even realize the games were made in Japan as they were so internationally blended.
Today, it seems like the games are trying to ram their Japanese culture down our throat. The weirdness in modern Zelda or Metroid: Other M is based on anime.
You say the issues are with the mechanics and ‘bad creativity’. I say the issues of the mechanics and ‘bad creativity’ are a result from the desire for the Japanese game maker to create anime from the video game.
If the desire to make anime wasn’t in the game developer, we wouldn’t have the crappy ass stories of fruity NPCs in Zelda. We wouldn’t have had the disaster of Metroid: Other M. And who knows? Maybe Final Fantasy might still be good.
Is there ANY example of a game being hugely popular in the West that heavily trends anime? I can’t think of any. Yet, Japanese developers keep making their games into ‘Japanese culture deposits’ which the West doesn’t want.