A topic that I regularly see brought up in the circles I follow is the idea of western game design versus Japanese design, what distinguishes them, and how Japanese game design is better. While it would be easy for me to say that I tend to prefer Japanese games, I’m the sort of person who likes to have data for things, and as such, I decided to go through every game I played from 2016 to now, and compile whether or not I have a preference towards Japanese games. What I found is that things are split fairly evenly between both fronts, as in that time I played 156 games, 53% of which were Japanese, and 47% of which were western.
This figure discards games that do not cleanly fit into this category, such as Russian, Egyptian, or western games that use assets ripped from Japanese games. Which is all well and good, but that does not answer the question of which I prefer, so I assigned each game a full numbered score out of 10 to represent how I would have scored them if I kept on using a scoring system, and the average score for both wound up being quite similar. 6.45 for Japanese games and 6.52 for western ones.
Oh, but it doesn’t quite end there. Something about this figure looked off to me, so I decided to break down how the number of games I attributed a score to based on nationality and computed the overall standard deviation. What I found was that the variation within this sample for Japanese games is far higher than it is for western games, 1.97 versus 1.54, and that I typically reserved more extreme scores like 9s and 3s for Japanese games. Or in other words, based on these statistics… I really like certain Japanese games more than I do western ones, but I tend to play them evenly, and have no significant preference to one over the other on average. …Damn, I guess I did learn something by reading all of those research papers for my accounting classes.
In October 2018 there was a report from the Japanese Wall Street Journal indicating that a new Nintendo Switch model was being developed and could release as early as the second half of 2019. Then Nikkei reported a similar story, this time claiming that this new model will emphasize portability, and be a sort of Switch Mini or Lite as people have hypothesized. However, the Wall Street Journal has busted down the door once more, declaring that “nah bro, there’s two of ‘em.” More specifically, they claimed that there will be a more powerful model aimed at avid fans, and be less powerful than a PS4 Pro, along with a cheaper model aimed at the casual audience that will have a different form factor compared to the PS Vita. Though both models will seemingly differ from what someone would usually expect, because Nintendo. Again, I’m not stoked on updated hardware coming out after I purchased it less than a year ago, but whatever. It’s not like I’d even appreciate the enhancements anyways.
Remember how back when Nintendo Directs first started and people wondered if Microsoft and Sony would jump on this idea with their own takes? Well, last year Microsoft started something similar by the name of Inside Xbox, which I have not even watched a single installment of due to how they promise such little news they rarely get reported on in a meaningful way. This left Sony as the only odd duck out, and having previously announced their decision to skip out on E3 this year, they were poised to do some sort of semi-regular information blowout, and they did just that with a 20 minute condensed advertisement named the State of Play.
More specifically, what they came up with reminds me of a fast-paced E3 conference with a brief cut away to the stage between each trailer, except the games and announcements are pretty low on the hype-o-meter, and the narration used in said interstitials and in some of the trailers is sterile, focused tested, awkward, and a bit patronizing. It strongly reminds me of the narration that plays when setting up Windows 10 and the automated directory that plays when calling a large corporation’s customer support line. The faux-humor and attempts at being cute or relatable just make the entire process come off as dehumanizing and weirdly desperate.
I should probably talk about the games now, but aside from a few smaller titles I was not too interested in, VR was the main showcase here, and I really still do not care for VR. I don’t like how VR looks to an outside observer, I do not like how it implements motion controls, I do not like the concept of wearing a headset to play a video game, and I cannot help but roll my eyes towards the claim that it makes games more immersive.
Following the announcement of Stadia last week, there was a lot of buzz about various corporations trying to get in on the lucrative looking video game subscription service pie, though I cannot say that I expected any of them to make an announcement so soon. I bring this up because Apple revealed the Apple Arcade, a subscription service for Apple TVs, phones, tablets, and personal computers that promises to offer over 100 new and exclusive titles devoid of any ads, microtransactions, or online requirements. A concept that makes a lot of sense given how much of a trash fire the mobile market has been for the past few years, with quality titles being hard to find amidst a collection of a few mobile giants that often push players towards microtransactions and a deluge of the rubbish that inevitably crops up when one creates an open marketplace.
Now, I swore off mobile gaming after I spent a year obsessively playing Fire Emblem Heroes, and I do not own any Apple devices, so this announcement really is not relevant to my interests. Though I will say that some of the games shown did strike me as interesting. Such as Beyond a Steel Sky, the sequel to the cult classic cyberpunk adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky, which I struggle to believe exists, let alone in a form that people seem to be generally excited by, partially because it is also due out on unspecified consoles and PC later this year.
Or Fantasian, the next game from Mistwalker that seems to offer a more traditional RPG experience and features environments made from real-life dioramas. While it was only announced for Apple devices, the new details here are promising enough to make me eager to see this game hit other platforms. At this point, I just want Hironobu Sakaguchi to at least try making one more game for consoles before he passes away.
Oh, and Shantae 5 was announced for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and the newly unveiled Apple Arcade. No details were provided, but this is a series near and dear to my heart, and I am glad to hear that it is continuing. Though, this does remind me that I have yet to complete the first Shantae game… I’ll pencil that in for some time after Monster World IV, as the Shantae series can in many ways be thought of as a spiritual successor to the Wonder Boy and Monster World games… well, before the actual successor was announced in the form of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Oh scheduling, you are such a pleasant process.
After being a very poorly kept secret for many years Gearbox Software has finally unveiled Borderlands 3. An announcement that I’m sure plenty of people are excited about, but it’s something I nearly skipped over when cultivating my discussion points for this week’s Rundown. I’ve given the series an honest shake over the years, having put in at least 100 hours between my full playthrough of the original release, which is also being re-released on PS4, Xbox One, and (for some reason) PC, and two incomplete playthroughs of the Borderlands 2. Both of which I found to be monotonous, not helped by their slow progression systems that frequently had 5+ hour gaps between significant upgrades.
The reveal trailer struck me as one made to evoke a sense of reminiscence in its audience, highlighting a number of characters from prior entries while offering a look at the four new playable characters and a number of the locales. All while the trailer made specific use of the term “worlds” implying that this game will be set on multiple planets, and an accompanying track that sounds like it is being murdered by the digitized ghost of dubstep. Overall, it looks to be more of the same. A looter-shooter that boasts a stylish art direction and character designs, along with an irreverent, albeit inconsistent, sense of humor. No platforms or release dates were given, with such details being reserved for April 3rd, as staggered announcements generate more headlines.
Speaking of which, Sega held their sorta annual festival of prosperity, splendor, and nostalgia, bringing with it a number of announcements. First off, the publisher obtained the license to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games and will be producing several titles accordingly. These include Mario & Sonic at the Tokyo Olympics, a title that boasts a return to the previously dormant series of sports-based mini-games that are only really worthwhile because of the fanservice, and will release as a Switch exclusive this winter. Tokyo 2020 Olympics: The Official Game, a seemingly more realistic take on the same concept, but what snippets were shown make the title look like more or less the same mini-games but slightly more grounded, and is set to release on the Switch and PS4 this summer. Along with Tokyo 2020 Sonic at the Olympic Games, a mobile title that is not due out until next year, and they don’t even have a finished logo for… splendid.
Yeah, it’s nice to see some Japanese games being made based on the upcoming Japanese olympics, but I couldn’t care less about actually playing these games, and would rather partake in a more distinctly Japanese affair, and there are few things as flagrantly Japanese as Sakura Wars. Seriously, the original titles used Japanese numerals for their script instead of European numerals. The only thing more Japanese than that is reminiscence of a bygone pre-war era, young romance, and giant robots. All of which are core tenets of Sakura Wars… I think. I know next to nothing about the series and only one game is officially translated, so I never gave it much through, but then Sega put out a trailer for the currently untitled entry in the series, and it looks really cool.
I have no idea what is actually meant to be happening here, but the art style, level of detail, and general character designs are all top notch. While the game proper involves gaudy looking mechs fighting dragons in a hyperbolic alternate history depiction of the 1940s, where cultures collide to create something so gosh danged beautiful that it manages to leave me hyped, despite having only a slim idea of what the underlying gameplay is like. Though based on the write-up I linked and gameplay footage of prior titles, it will likely tickle my fancy. Anyways, the title will indeed be brought to the west in spring 2020 for PS4.
Alright, that about cover it for this fiscal year. See ya in the next quarter. Peace!
Header image comes from the anime The Pet Girl of Sakurasou.