Ero game overload – a rant on the state of the Japanese game industry

May 31, 2006

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Having been inspired by Digikerot’s comment on the Negima game I was blogging about a few days ago, I was considering the real enigma that’s bugging me about the Japanese game industry. Obviously, I don’t pretend to know the answer, so I would be very happy to hear people’s comments about this.

As everyone knows, Japan is the mother of all gaming – Most of the biggest gaming companies; for example, Sony and Nintendo, hail from that country and most of the games they have produced are now part of gaming legend. Japan not only gave rise to definig console, but also to defining game genres, such as the rise of the rhythm game in Parappa the rapper and later, Dance dance revolution. Not to mention the Role Playing game – Japan still managing to release benchmark games for the international market.

Even in 3D gaming Japan has been at the forefront. Although first person shooter type games such as Halflife and Doom were due to American developers, Japan dominated the 3D isometric platformer market with titles such as Super Mario 64.

Anyway, let me get to the point, through my inane (and no doubt inaccurate) rambling. If Japan can create such beautiful masterpieces of games such as Final Fantasy, how come the anime game industry is dominated by dating sims and ero-games??

Surely fans of anime are, if anything as likely to want to play as their favourite anime character in a 3D platformer, or RPG, for example, rather than a plain old visual novel, with very little actual gameplay – You might as well start releasing more manga ^_^. I know that the number one explanation for this is that “3D platformers and RPGs cost so much more to make than a dating sim with no moving pictures and text only”, and up till recently, I fully supported that view.

However, reading the blog of the Negima game changed my mind.

The Negima project is undoubtedly backed by huge amounts of money. Akamatsu is probably one of the most famous mangaka, not only in Japan, but all over the world, therefore the money backing this project must be stupendous. However, the second Negima game just takes the biscuit. If you have enough money to make a lame mini-game based fanservice beach game in 3D, then surely you have enough money to make a full 3D adventure? Even a short one would satisfy me. Or even a 3D battle game of some variety – I’m sure that wouldn’t have taken much development.

This rant comes even fuller force after reading about the doujin group (Tasogare Frontier and 07th Expansion) who produced the visual novel for Higurashi no naku koro ni (The anime of which I am greatly enjoying at the moment). As I read about recently, the same circle has recently released a demo for Higurashi daybreak.

Now if even a doujin circle not backed by hundreds of thousands of yen can make such a great looking game, then where does the Japanese game industry stand?

My second question is an obvious one: why is it that the Japanese anime industry and Japanese game industry have rarely joined forces to produce good games based on anime. The only games that come to mind are several based on Sailor Moon and other “vintage” anime (which were far from good), but recently, very very few at all. Have the anime and game industry fallen out for some reason?

All I can hope for is that some day, otaku like me will be able to purchase quality action and adventure games based on the anime we love.

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11 Responses to “Ero game overload – a rant on the state of the Japanese game industry”

  1. Vud Says:

    The anime and game industry have fallen quite low; one thumbnail to used seems to be that all anime based game suck, unless proven otherwise, which is very very rare.

  2. jpmeyer Says:

    I think it’s because at first, these games provided good margins, since all you really needed were people who could draw and people who could write. Not much different from making a doujinshi. But then infinity companies realized this and jumped on the bandwagon. I think that it still persists because of the long tail effect, where the companies try to make each game niche enough so that they’ll have a very specific audience.

    But I don’t have exact numbers or anything. And I have no explanation as to why people are capable of making doujin games that are higher quality than the professional ones.

  3. yuribou Says:

    There must be a huge market for the things, though, since thousands of them seem to be made each month…

    So otaku must be buying them in enough units that the companies aren’t seriously thinking about changing the way they produce the games.

    And I thought Japanese otaku were fussy in the quality of their games ^_^;; must be the tradition effect: Since they’ve always had ero-games and visual novels, they cant visualise anything better

  4. DiGiKerot Says:

    Firstly, I should probably point out that before Maidens doki-doki Beachside they did two previous Negima PS2 games, which were a combination of other genres and had rather less dubious content (can I do links here?).

    Generally speaking, the ero-games and visual novels aren’t actually anime games, as most of them were games first. Sure, there are plenty of exceptions (mostly Konami, bizzarely), but most the ones people probably think of go the other way around. Those which end up being visual novels tend to be those which have cross-over appeal with that market.

    Most games actually adapted from anime do tend to be action and adventure titles, though mostly awful. This is unsurprisingly because most anime games are based on big properties – you aren’t exactly going to do a Naruto dating sim, are you? (coincidently, a lot of the Naruto games are really, really good). If you look at the Full Metal Alchemist games, you got two RPGs on GBA, two 3D platform adventures on PS2 and a tag-team fighter on PS2 off the top of my head. If you want to go more niche, the RahXephon game was a surprisingly decent Zone of the Enders clone, whilst Gunslinger Girl games where (fairly basic) shooting gallery affairs. I’m having trouble thinking of some more recent examples outside of Gundam games because I’ve not been looking recently (maybe that Samurai Champloo game they released in the US recently?).

    In the case of why the Negima game turned out to be the bizzare affair it is, thats just the market for the title, unfortunately. Its the same deal with the My-HiME PS2 game, though the PSP efforts are truely, truely awful 3D fighting games.

  5. yuribou Says:

    I suppose it has the same “hit-and-miss” affair that’s associated with accelerated production that plagues all movie related games…

    I just thought that since the Japanese mentality was so much more perfectionist, why bring out an inferior game when you can bring out a much better one

    Also, it doesnt explain the absolute torrent of dating sims ^_^ I expect Japanese people just lap them up…thats why they keep being produced

  6. drmchsr0 Says:

    Well, it’s actually more of a “the men and women of Japan cannot get laid, so they turn to the next-best alternative” situation, in which case it’s the visual novels and dating sims. It’s the only reason why this industry exists.

    Over here, the industry cannot take root, if only because of the meddling of our glourious government. Forcing otherwise happy/lonely single people to embarrass themselves all to bolster our sagging birth rate.

    Also, remember that the Japanese mentality has been tainted over the years by the good ol’ West. Why bother for perfection when you can release inferior ones to make a quick buck? Which is why doujin games always seem to be a lot better by comparison.

    Of course, it does pay to know that the writing in these visual novels tend to be really good too. Just a heads up.

  7. yuribou Says:

    It is true, from what I have played ^_^…However, I can’t really bring myself to sift through untranslated games just for the CGs anymore. Its a shame that the Japanese are being tainted by the West… means I can’t just go “Oh yeah, its Japanese, it must be better” anymore.

    When you say “over here” which country do you mean? UK like me?

    And lol at Japanese not being able to get laid ^^;;

  8. the7k Says:

    Heh, I thought “hit-and-miss” like movie-based games in America too, yuribou.

    Although alot (ALOT) of anime based games flat-out suck, there are a few good ones. My favorite anime based game series is the Super Robot Wars/Taisen series. If you like Tactics Orge, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Nippon Ichi titles, you’ll like SRW. In fact, Super Robot anime is my least favorite type of anime and I still love SRW. That’s how you can tell if an anime-based game is good, if you aren’t even a fan of the source material and you still like it. Although a Super Robot War title is coming to America, it’s an original series title (i.e. no Gundam, Eva, Mazinger, Gowgaigar, etc.)

    Berserk for Dreamcast was a favorite game of mine before ever read the manga or watching the anime. It may not have been revolutionary, but I still enjoyed the hell out of the game.

    Hokuto no Ken/Fist of the North Star is getting a fighting game made for them by Arc System Works of Guilty Gear fame, one of the smartest moves I’ve seen for an anime game.

    Hopefully when the second series of Negima comes out (Hopefully it will be the REAL Negima series) and becomes popular (it damn well better…) they’ll have a decent game released for it. RPG/Action/Adventure/Fighter/whatever! I don’t care, as long as it’s a GOOD Negima game…

  9. the7k Says:

    Sorry for the double post, but I just realized that Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure for Playstation was a Capcom 2D Fighter that was quite good, and Jump Superstars! for DS was also a very fun Smash Bros. style fighter that has a few characters from almost all of Shonen Jump’s series, with more popular series getting more playable characters. With the massive amount of playable characters that are to be unlocked and the customizable character set-ups; lots of possiblities and replay value.

  10. yuribou Says:

    Thanks for the info 7k ^_^ and good luck with finding yuri manga…you just need to look in more alternative places…and be able to read Japanese >_


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