As I was playing Shadows of the Damned the other day, it suddenly struck me: is this very distinct Japanese flair dying? In another decade, will it even exist at all?
It's not just about anime, which has always helped to define the Japanese video game market; a title like July's Catherine will never be as popular in the West. It goes well beyond that. As most veteran gamers know, there's a unique style and artistry that goes along with many Japanese productions. Sometimes, it's subtle and almost indefinable, but it's always there and it always lends the interactive production a recognizable aura. Shadows , for instance, walks that fine line between seriousness and comical tongue-and-cheek entertainment. It's gory and dark but that streak of Japanese influence is obvious and in this day and age, refreshing.
And as Western development studios continue to dominate and the Japanese designers desperately try to change their ways to suit Western tastes, that singular motif described above may disappear completely. Whether it's Resident Evil or Metal Gear Solid or Soul Calibur , all such franchises are very obviously Japanese, and that particular style is on the wane. And I don't count Mario , Zelda , and the other Nintendo franchises, as they've never really changed; they've also catered to a younger demographic. I'm referring more to dramatic, cutting-edge productions designed to compete with the Western big boys. There's just a certain attitude in Japanese titles and some people like that.
Even when Japanese designers attempt to emulate Western styles, it's never a complete transformation; there's always a small semblance of the Japanese culture that leaks through. So why deny it? Can it really be that nobody cares anymore? Will Japanese gamers be forced to adopt Western styles if they wish to continue playing games? Well, of course not. But maybe those titles won't be released over here…like, none of them.