When You Say Japanese Games "Just Suck"

When You Say Japanese Games "Just Suck"

Remember a decade ago? Heck, remember six or seven years ago? I do. I remember telling Japanese gamers that Western games were great and seeing the wry smiles. I remember hearing that the Xbox didn’t have any games on it Japanese people wanted to play — a polite way of saying Western games stink. How things have changed, no? Just ask Phil Fish.

The mastermind behind upcoming platformer Fez, Phil Fish is known for being brash, opinionated, and wearing his heart on his sleeve. In short, Phil Fish is known for being Phil Fish.

During a recent Q&A session after documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which features Fish and his game Fez, a Japanese game developer noted that so many indie game seemed inspired by old Japanese games and asked what Fish (and the other panel members) for an opinion on the country’s modern games.

According to website Develop, Fish replied, “Your games just suck”. Here’s Develop‘s description how that was receieved (please read the whole article for context):

Others looked on awkwardly as the Japanese developer was then subjected to a string criticisms about game design flaws in his native country. The developer nevertheless thanked the panel for their response and returned to his seat.

I contacted Fish about the comment. “My delivery could have been more tactful,” Fish replied via email, “but I do think most modern Japanese games are god-damn awful.” Fish was clear that he does not hate all Japanese games, but did add that he felt as though many Japanese games are stuck in the past.

Fish is entitled to his opinion. If he thinks modern Japanese games stink, that’s fine. He obviously loves the Japanese games he grew up with, and maybe today’s Japanese games are just not for him.

But the words “modern Japanese games” are loaded at best. For example, if you like fighting games, well, you bet your arse you like modern Japanese games. Ditto for if you are into shoot’em up games. And what if you like dating simulators? Or racing simulators? Or you simple enjoy hunting monsters? Or what if you like music games? And what about, you know, Nintendo? “Modern Japanese games” is so nebulous.

Fish’s remarks were quickly translated into Japanese and became online forum fodder, with Japanese netizens arguing whether or not Japanese video games “just suck”. According to one forum member, all Japanese games suck save for Nintendo and Capcom. While another begged to differ, adding that Capcom sucked. From Software of Dark Souls was brought up as a Japanese game company doing interesting stuff.

“Has Canada ever had a famous game or game maker?” wrote a 2ch commenter.

Elsewhere in the thread, one said that Western games lacked originality; another pointed out that Fez wasn’t even a retail game, but a downloadable game — as if to discredit it. While other stated that Fish’s remarks were “cruel”, writing it off to Western elitism.

In the past few years, Japan and Japanese games have become a whipping boy in the West — an easy target to criticise. Yet, in Japan, Western developed games are increasingly becoming popular, with gamers excited to play titles like Skyrim. But are Western games really better than Japanese games? Or is Western game development tech simply more advanced, resulting in better looking games with bigger budgets? Or do Japanese games “just suck”?

“But from long ago, the majority of games suck,” pointed out one 2ch commenter. You know, I agree. Look at the majority of video games released. The majority of them, in the West and in Japan, stink.

“This whole thing is being taken out of context and blown way out of proportion,” Fish told Kotaku. It might be, but remarks like that are bound to be translated into Japanese and bandied about the internet. Even if Fish wasn’t slamming the entire nation of Japan (I don’t think he was), it will come off that way. What Fish intended, but didn’t exactly do tactfully, is lost further in translation. According to Fish, “The whole thing is unfortunate.” It is.

I do think that Fish should be allowed to say what he thinks — even if he ruffles feathers. He also must deal with the consequences of doing that. That being said, I feel bad for the Japanese game developer who asked the question. I don’t know what his reaction was, how he felt, or what his name even was. The answer might have felt like a smack to the face — or he might have agreed with it wholeheartedly.

I do know what it’s like to be in another place with people speaking another language and hearing them deride things your country does or makes, unintentionally making you wonder if they just don’t like where you’re from. Not everyone is like that, of course. And over time, you learn to brush off those remarks. There are always those with strong opinions, who don’t think twice about sharing them. Sometimes they use tact. Sometimes they forget. Just ask Phil Fish.


    • Exactly. He should have been more tactful in his response and maybe given a better explanation. There are many Japanese games and just like western games some of them suck and some of them are great.

      Also, call me conspiratory, but I think this might just be a way for him to advertise his game. His statements have certainly got people talking.

      • Yeah, I think you’re right. Dude sounds like a total jerk.

        I’ve personally had enough of shooters, and the last good western game I played was Rayman Origins. I think there’s some terrible JRPG’s out there, but there’s also a lot of awesome ones like Persona 4.

        Hey, why doesn’t this nooby Fez dude just release his damn game already, so people can realise that a rotating 3D platformer is more confusing than fun…

    • Exactly. You’re allowed to make an opinion, but it helps if you present that opinion without being a total douche.

  • Good point. I guess westerners just don’t like Tentacle-rape-dance-beat ’em up-dating-RPGs…. who would have thought?

  • He’s a dick.

    ““Has Canada ever had a famous game or game maker?” wrote a 2ch commenter.”
    -Mass Effect

    • There’s plenty of belief about “western elitism” in Asia, even Japan, though. That’s one of the reasons Japan won’t change to face its challenges (eg declining economy)- they think things are fine, and if the outside world (ie the west) tries to advise, it gets knocked back with “you don’t understand, you’re not Japanese”. Japan’s view of the world is very much us vs them compared to other countries which are forced to intermingle (eg europe).

  • I would rather crawl on my belly over a mile of broken glass to hear Shigeru Miyamoto fart through a walkie talkie than pay for Mr Fish’s vaporware.

  • I mean, I look at my PS2 collection, and its all Japanese games. I own literally no non-nintendo japanese games from this gen. Can’t help but think something has gone awry.

    Guy could have been more tactful though.

  • I can agree with Fish’s sentiment to some extent (though his lack of tact was disgraceful), as I see many games from Japan (including big name games) that are very much diminished by their imitative and iterative design. However, there are still magnificent games coming from Japan, and using a catch-all phrase like ‘modern Japanese games’ is merely inflammatory.

  • My problem with Japanese games is that many of them refuse to evolve. We’re still getting games released today with control schemes, button layouts and stiff movement that were left behind a decade ago.

  • I see where he’s going with his comment…he just didn’t think it out. What I think hes trying to say (and what I believe) is that “Japanese” games have lost their edge.
    In saying that, there have been heaps of enjoyable games from Japan over the last few years imo

    • And its absolutely nothing to do with tech, its a lack of genuine creativity (or at least the opportunity to use it) and what seems to be sheer unwillingness to learn from what both developers and players have been doing for the last decade.

  • Heh, I knew that comment would sting Brian’s Japanophilia.

    But on the subject of Japan not like western games, it honestly surprises me whenever I encounter Japanese people on Gears of War or Halo. They’re just so Western and I see these people playing and I think “well, that’s neat”.

    Such thoughts stem from the generalisations that Japan is a rather xenophobic country. Maybe that’s not the right word, but I hope you see where I’m getting at.

  • Fish needs to take a look at games like Binary Domain, its a TPS that has the potential to destroy some of the western TPS hands down if it manages to make more in its series.

    I get the impression that as long as Japanese developers don’t learn how to make western style games that Fish may have a point, BUT if they do learn how to then western developers with our fairly shallow approach to storytelling and narrow focus on multiplayer FPS’s will get our asses kicked by the usually superior storytelling, variety, ideas, and mechanics japanese developers are known for.

    Too often now western games are pretty buggy in comparison to japanese titles. Japanese developers have a degree of discipline and attention to detail that are often lacking in western titles.

    I think “Western Exceptionalism” not unlike “American Exceptionalism” better get its head out of its ass.

    In fact i think that Japanese developer is going to go home to Japan now, research more into western games and will eventually develop games that are going to blow our socks off now the gauntlet has been thrown. At least thats my fervent hope. My favourite series are mostly Japanese in origin so i say bring it on! And thanks Fish for being the dick that made it happen!!

  • Big difference between voicing your opinion and being an offensive disrespectful fuckwit.
    Phil Fish does not know that difference.

    • This, definitely this. Have an opinion, yes, share it, yes. Share it respectfully in the context of supporting circumstances and evidence: A MUST.

  • I personally don’t think highly of Western developed games, but geez, saying something outright sucks because he doesn’t like it is a bit much.

  • Stupid generalisation is stupid. There loads and loads of awful, unoriginal indie games too, but nobody runs around saying ‘indie games just suck’.

    Japanese companies haven’t been able to work out the FPS genre, I’ve never heard anyone say any of those were anything better than ‘mediocre’. Their hack n’ slash is hit and miss. They don’t really do sandbox games like GTA either. They’ve been losing ground on the RPG market, but JRPGs are still largely high-quality, polished and popular and even the ones people claim to hate still sell a million copies. I don’t think the technical prowess with graphics even counts – nobody cares about the graphics if the game is awesome.

    It’s all genre preference. If you like FPS games, western-style RPGs, and sandbox-style games, Japanese games of course ‘just suck’. If you like rhythm games or fighting games, western games suck. The only difference is that the FPS market is the bigger (louder) audience.

  • “western elitism” seems an odd concept for a nation which long considered any game made elsewhere to be “Kusoge”.

    Seems like this has been blown out of proportions. it probably would not had taken off this way had Jaffe said that, it would just have been some dick acting dickish..

  • A VERY generalised remark from this dude. Though Japans’ quality has went downhill in the last 5 or so years, they seem to be picking up. A good exampleof the problem would be Asura’s Wrath – Absolutely EPIC only-in-Japan story and battle sequences, problem, not real-time! Bayonetta. Thats how you do epic-real-time battles! They just need to go all-out like they used too. None of this try-to-be-western bullshit, give us that unique Japanese flavour that we still see in Anime. We like their games Because they aren’t western… and Final Fantasy 13-2 – what were they thinking!

  • Also, I can’t stand the JRPG going into realtime territory – turn-based is supposed to be about thought and strategy, not pressing A A A A… sometimes you may take 30seconds per turn. Sometimes you may take 5 minutes if your in an high level battle. Turn-based is about giving you time to think!

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