Japanese Games 'Just Suck' Target Has A Message For Phil Fish: Thank You

I didn't know what to say. I thought the mild-mannered Japanese man in glasses, perhaps, wanted to talk to me about a game he had made. But, no, it was about an article I wrote about him. His name was Makoto Goto. And Fez creator Phil Fish trashed Japanese games to his face. And what he said left me speechless.

"Are you Brian Ashcraft?" he asked as I was making small talk with a dev from Tango Gameworks.

"Yes," I replied.

"You wrote an article about me," he replied, pulling a binder from his bag. We were at this weekend's BitSummit indie game event in Kyoto, which was in the process of wrapping up. People were filing out of the room.

In a plastic sleeve was a Kotaku article. At the top, there was a photo of Phil Fish, sideburns, glasses and all. The title read, "Japanese Games 'Just Suck' Target Speaks Out".

"That's me," he said. "I'm Makoto Goto."

I write a lot of posts — usually over eight a day. I've been doing this for years now, so that adds up to thousands of posts. However, I immediately remembered that story. I remembered his name. I remembered what happened. How could you forget?

"I wanted to thank you for writing this," Goto said. "It really gave me courage." He told me that when his wife read the story she was so moved that she had cried.

Goto didn't go into great depth as to why. He didn't have to. It was the feeling that perhaps in the wake of having a bad experience in a foreign country, a foreigner could understand how he felt. And I was hardly unique — or alone — in that.

"That was rude, sure, but I really want to thank Phil Fish too for what he said," Goto added. What he said, if you don't remember, during a Game Developer Conference Q&A last year, was that Japanese games "suck". "I think his remark really motivated Japanese game creators to work harder," Goto, who is a programmer and a designer, said. "I know it has motivated me."

Phil Fish has apologised on numerous occasions for his remark, including to Goto. He's made amends. He doesn't hate Japan or Japanese games. He stuck his foot in his mouth. Happens to the best of us. But out of that inelegant statement, Goto didn't become bitter or spiteful.

There are many different kinds of strength. There is a variety of courage. Sometimes you need that ironclad will to do something dangerous. Sometimes, it's necessary to do things others would call mundane.

Goto asked me if I was going to this year's Game Developer Conference. He said he would be. I didn't know what else to say. The words couldn't quite form in my mouth, so I offered up the best that I could: Thank you, Makoto Goto.

The above text is from Goto's tweet in which he describes a couple hundred people looking at him and breaking out in an uncomfortable sweat after Fish's remark.


    Heh... He's a programmer and his name is "Goto"?

    I almost feel bad for Phil Fish, to have one small comment still talked about to this day. It wasn't exactly an isolated moment of dickery, though, and I still have no intention of buying Fez. I know that's kind of childish, but you have very few opportunities to get my attention and if you annoy me in the process I have better things to do with my money.

      Fez is one of the greatest platform adventure games ever made. You are really missing out.

        Agreed, and what's ironic is that its really,an homage to all the old NES games

          That's how good it is :)

        I enjoyed the art style and aesthetic of Fez, but I found myself bored after the first few hours. The environments are nice, but the collect-a-thon, near indecipherable map system and floaty jumps just frustrated me eventually. Not to mention the numerous bugs (though that's not exactly his fault, but more the fault of MS XBLA patching bullshit). I really don't see any reason to pick the game up again after having found everything and collecting all the achievements. A good game, but I hardly think its one of the greatest platformers ever, given the incredible amount of fantastic platformers out there.

          Like Fez. There's actually not that many true platformers anymore, that is why Fez & Super Meat Boy are such a breath of fresh air for me. Also, for 3D platforming there's really only the Mario Galaxy series, and the few on 3DS (I haven't had the chance to play the 3DS stuff yet!)

          N+ is great too!

          Last edited 14/03/13 5:00 pm

      Phil Fish seems to lacks any sort of filter. He doesn't (or didn't) consider PR or other people's feelings before he opens his big mouth. He's been a dick on multiple occasions. I generally agree with his sentiment on Japanese games, but not with how he said it. I'm also glad somebody said it so publicly though.

      I like Fez, and I'll buy it again when it comes out on Steam. Even for all his dickishness, I still like Fish, because he had the vision to make a good game, a game you can tell he put a huge amount of love into. That's hard to do and I respect and admire him for that.

        I think a lot of people, when considering Japanese games, just consider JRPGs or obvious anime heavy games.

        I think nearly everyone who says Japanese games suck are having a momentary lapse in memory, as they seem to forget about what Capcom has done in the past two decades (with the exception of what they've done "recently"). Not to mention Nintendo, although most people don't really see the attention to detail they place in their game design.

        People forget about Shadow of the Colossus, Devil May Cry, Megaman, Resident Evil, Super Smash Bros, Earthbound, Pikman, Zelda, Metriod, Castlevainia, F-Zero and Bayonetta. People just remember Final Fantasy.

          You're definitely right that people tend to only think of JRPGs when talking about Japanese games not progressing. But I do also consider other Japanese games when I personally think about them stagnating.

          Devil May Cry/ F-Zero/Smash Bros are all at 4+ games in series. Mega Man is up to at least 14 games. Metroid's up to 10+ and Zelda's sitting around 15 games, though the newer 3d games are so different from the ones before that they should count as seperate. Castlevania is at 25+ games in the series.

          Lots of those games are actually really good, and Nintendo is actually one of my favourite developers, even today. I really appreciate their game design, but even fans such as myself would agree that they're getting a bit tired by now with their continuous IP and design rehashing.

          Shadow of the Colossus is amazing, as was Ico and hopefully the Last Guardian will be too. Demon/Dark Souls is awesome. So it's not every game, just on average, across the board, Japanese games have stagnated.

          The easiest western game series I can think of that does a similar continuous rehashing is Call of Duty, which is at 10+ games now, and everybody rightfully gives them heaps of shit for being so formulaic and retreading the same ground.

          Last edited 12/03/13 3:05 pm

      Phil's problem is the same that a lot of one/two man development teams face, the fact that they are the sole face of the company. They don't have a PR team writing press releases, or a marketing team taking care of media for their press coverage. It's just them, and they are just people with their own feelings, opinions, and flaws, so when they say anything in any forum or any context, it gets taken as being representative of their company and their game.

      Jonothan Blow faces the same issues, often speaking his mind and getting critizised for it, but while we can argue that these people should be more mindful when speaking publicly about anything, the fact is they are still just people. People say dumb shit sometimes, we all do, but when these guys say dumb shit it gets recorded and tends to haunt them for a very long time after.

    Japan used to be the pinnacle in unique game development! They need to return to their roots next-gen. Japan needs to make Japanese games - stop trying to make Western games. The reason we love Japanese games is because Japan has a style & perspective unto themselves. A quirky yet deep understanding of legend, social structure and future technology. C'mon Japan. Advance :)

    Last edited 12/03/13 9:50 am

      I really don't think thats the problem at all. If anything, they are basically making the same style of game they always have - and people are tired of it. What I'm hoping is they can evolve while remaining distinctly Japanese.

      Last edited 12/03/13 10:04 am

        People are tired of Japanese games and not repetitive, drab brown and bloom shooters and reboots? How does that work?

          Because drab brown and bloom shooters aren't as ubiquitous to western games as people like to joke they are. Call of Duty still sells amazingly (though it is more of an online sport), but apart from that, many brown and bloom shooters have been failing recently.

          The west also makes shooters like Far Cry, Stalker, Halo, Dead Space, Bioshock, Deux Ex, Dinhonoured and others that don't fit into brown and bloom. The west also makes RPGs like Skyrim, the Witcher, Mass Effect, Fallout, KOTOR and Fable, all of which are RPGs but all with very different flavours and mechanics. The west makes games like Mincraft, Civilization, WoW, GTA, Amnesia, Batman Arkham Asylum and Assassins Creed. Not to mention the huge amount of innovative western indie games that have come out recently.

          They are all successful games in their own right, and although Call of Duty still dominates, it's not as big a part of western gaming as people like to joke. There is a huge variety of western games.

          In 2002, Japanese games made up about 50% of the global market, now it's less than 10%. Almost all the high selling Japanese games that are coming out are sequels, and I don't mean number 2 or 3, but sequels in the double digits. And they all play the same. That's why people are getting tired of Japanese games. (except for Dark Souls, I love Dark Souls!)

          I could have made heaps of errors in this post, so please feel free to find them and correct me! Seriously, I didn't fact check any of that!!! :D

          Last edited 12/03/13 10:43 am

            "Almost all the high selling Japanese games that are coming out are sequels, and I don't mean number 2 or 3, but sequels in the double digits."

            By "almost all the high selling Japanese games", you mean Final Fantasy. While I'm not really going to defend the quality of FF, the problem most people have with it is that they don't play the same as they used to.

            But, seriously, last time I checked, Team Ico are Japanese. So are Capcom. Annnnnnd Nintendo. Konami, too.

            Like I said in another comment, people forget about Shadow of the Colossus, Devil May Cry, Megaman, Resident Evil, Super Smash Bros, Earthbound, Pikman, Zelda, Monster Hunter, Metriod, Castlevainia, F-Zero and Bayonetta. People just remember Final Fantasy.

            The Japanese pay a lot of attention to game design and game theory, something I find the west kind of misses. Japan have a bad habit of fucking up story though, but to them it just doesn't seem like a priority, I mean, if you're looking past Final Fantasy and most JRPGs, of course.

            I love both the west and the east when it comes to video games. To be honest, I don't think it's a fair judge of quality if you compare regions; I think a better test of quality is comparing companies.

              I replied to your comment above more thoroughly, but many of those games you list are in the double digits in term of 'games in the series'. They do mostly play the same as they used to because that's how the Japanese market wants it, I'm guessing for nostalgia value.

              Final Fantasy is definitely the easy target. JRPGs are the worst offenders in terms of stagnation, but I don't actually play them myself - When I got my hands on Link to the Past I had trouble going back to turn based combat personally, so it's been a while since I've even enjoyed a JRPG.

              But so is Nintendo in many ways. Wii Sports was awesome! But what other Nintendo game can you name that doesn't play like it did on the NES? Pikmin comes to mind. Capcom's guilty of it too - Street Fighter plays the same as when it first came out - yes there are subtle design differences, but it's basically the same game. Resident Evil has stagnated for the past 7 years since BioHazard4 came out.

              I feel like in defending my points that I'm coming across as a Nipponaphobe, - that's not the case! I grew up with NES/SNES Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, Mega Man and Mario and Zelda and putting all my coins into Street Fighter 2 after school. I love(d) Japanese games, they have my heart, but I've mostly moved on now. (Though I still have Ni No Kuni ready to go when I get some spare time!).

              I think comparing regions is a valid way to look at the gaming landscape. Cultural differences have a huge impact on game design, and it's apparent to me at least that on average Japanese games haven't made the same progress as western games. I could say the same thing about Australian games too, but unlike Japanese games, Australian games don't have such an amazing heritage to fall from.

              Last edited 12/03/13 3:27 pm

        Yeah exactly, isn't that the main problem with Japanese games, that they're just doing what they've always done? Trying to make Western games is the only forward movement they've had in years, though I'm not saying that's the right direction for them to go in.

        Like a lot of people, I was brought up on Japanese games on the SNES. I didn't get into many epic JRPG's back then, but if I think back on every game I loved as a child, they were all Japanese. Now I usually prefer the direction that western developers take. Except for Dark Souls, that stuff is pure gaming bliss.

      That's not the problem. The problem in japan is they're all stuck in the past. People there are still using faxes. They've been slow to adopt new technologies, they've had to be pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Go to Japan, I did last year. It still feels like they're living in the 90's. It's comfortable for them to pretend they're still in their heydays, but that time has passed. They need to confront the present, where they're getting their asses handed to them buy western and korean competition. They can only stick their heads under the sand for so long.

        Yep, absolutely. People outside Japan see it as an engineering mecca that's years ahead- but unfortunately very little of that has filtered down to the general population, where the consumer electronics culture is an absolute joke. It's as surprising as it is disappointing. I've dealt with scores of university-age Japanese students and the vast majority of them have absolutely no clue of how to use a computer aside from maybe type an email (even after mandatory computer classes as part if their 4 year uni degrees!). Even my dad, an absolute luddite, knows more. It's really messed up.

    Nah. There's a distinct lack of detail and originality in a lot of Japans modern games, which is what I'm getting at. When games made in the 80s' and 90s' have more original detail and features than 21st century games, there's something going wrong. Final Fantasy is a good example - It is really not the same game anymore. Most of Japans 21st century games are not even close, design wise, to what was released in the 80s' and 90s!' Even if they cloned the games they used to make, Japan would be in a better position then they are now.

    Japanese games has more game in them, thats what i personally feel

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