The saddening of a nation

PlatinumGames ceo Tatsuya Minami has opened his heart via the company’s official site (via Videogamer) about the state of the current video game industry and how saddened he is by the lack of originality. He revealed that one of PlatinumGame’s founding ideas was to “delivery smiles and surprises around the world,” and after five years of dedication from his staff, the studio’s brand has “truly been recognised.” Even with the complete juxtaposition of mechanics, PlatinumGame’s previous big hitters, Bayonetta and Vanquish, are very much linked with their art style and frantic gameplay that have carved a neat little grove in the respective genres.

Minami went on to say how he and his team are following a new ethos, aiming to be the “Japanese standard bearer in the competitive global video game market,” as he’s one of the many voices who claim Japan as a video game originator is a shadow of its former self. To him, games exist to offer fresh surprises to those who play them, however “the current games business is struggling. The ‘fresh surprises’ I mention are becoming few and far between, especially in our home of Japan. Not so long ago, Japan lead the world’s games business, and it was not a stretch to call games a uniquely Japanese speciality; however, now it appears that Japanese games companies have lost their vigour.” Such a change hasn’t happened overnight with the decline in Japan’s influences spreading at least the last two generations. That being said, the games that truly count still have a foothold in the ideas of Japanese companies. Mario titles, more so the platformers, have almost always revolutionised the genre in their own special way, maybe not originating those ideas but certainly pioneering them. Like the eccentricities of Super Mario Galaxy for example.

But Minami is right, generally when you think of video games you think of Western developers and it’s more crushing when it’s for genres that Japan used to excel in. On a global scale, platformers tend to have been taken over by Indie developers adding all kinds of charm and wit to their games. As for RPGs, BioWare and Bethesda seem to almost have equal share in the future of role playing in a video game space with the term ‘JRPG’ reserved for titles riddled with cliche and tiresome grinding. One of the reasons for this is the frequency of sequels that simply don’t allow originality, “Games with new at their core are disappearing. Japanese games that garner worldwide acclaim are slipping away,” said Minami adding how PlatinumGames must adapt to reflect how they’re one of a few healthy Japanese game studios, delivering titles that now represent the country not just themselves.

I don’t think Minami should be quick to dismiss sequels altogether though. Some carry a great amount of change for the better, much like Mass Effect 2. While not drastically different from what came before, it changed enough fundamentals to be original in its own right. And right now, I’d kill for a Bayonetta 2. The first game was unashamedly Japanese and played like a crazy dream. Furthering its ideas in a second game shouldn’t be seen as unoriginal but simply extending an already brilliant concept. Though from Minami’s comments I doubt we’ll be seeing it anytime soon.

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