I love Japanese video games. Personally, I think they are absolutely mandatory to the industry to avoid stagnation. They allow for a completely different culture to throw out their own tropes so we don’t end up with nothing but Uncharteds, Halos, and Assassin’s Creeds. It used to be that almost every game worth playing came out of Japan, with only PC gaming really being western-dominated. But, let’s be honest, Japan, as the centre of gaming, is in a massive decline, to the point that it is quickly becoming irrelevant. Mobile gaming, something that is largely ridiculed in the west, is taking over, and Japanese developers just don’t have the money to keep up with western ones. TGS 2015 was a chance for Japan to show that the gaming world still needed to pay attention to them. Did they succeed? Yes, to an extent. No, in another way.
The Tokyo Game Show is one of the largest gaming events of the year. Presented after E3, and gamescom, it marks the end of the conference season. It is the last stop, and many Japanese developers hold back some of their bigger announcements in order to make it on home soil. However, TGS has been underwhelming as of late, with few major announcements. This year has been a bit better, which signals some potential for growth in the Japanese sector. Nowhere near the heights of the past, but definitely growth. The problem is that there are surrounding circumstances that put a dour light on the whole thing.
As far back as the PS2 generation, Square has been playing it safe, personally developing fewer and fewer games as it moved into the role of major publisher. Over the past five years or so, it’s gotten to the point where they have very little show other than from games they are publishing. This year, they had the wildly anticipated Final Fantasy XV to show off, which placated most. On top of this, however, they showed off a variety of Dragon Quest games, Star Ocean 5, Kingdom Hearts 2.8, and even announced something from their long-dormant SaGa series. Ever since the relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV, it seems that Square is willing to give people what they want, which is a good direction for a company the spit out two sequels to one of their less popular games in quick succession. TGS was an opportunity to continue this trend, and Square proved up to the task.
The same can be said with the rising studio FromSoftware, which revealed an expansion for the much-praised Bloodborne, as well as showed off their new Dark Souls 3. For those wishing that From would go back to their Armoured Core series, I’d say that this put a pin in any hopes. They seem totally focused on making Bloodborne and Souls games at this point, and who can blame them? These games have hit a cord with audiences and are some of the most exciting things coming out of Japan right now.
But things can’t all be so great. Altus announced that Persona 5 would not be making its long-trumpeted 2015 release date. Though this doesn’t seem too big of a deal for a game that is assuredly going to be good, it could be problematic. Persona 5 was built as a PS3 title and its simply being upscaled to the PS4. This wasn’t so noticeable at the beginning of the generation, but the longer it takes for it to be released, the more likely it is to underwhelm graphically. Though I’m certain of the game’s quality, Atlus may be shooting themselves in the foot by not putting the resources into the game in order to get it out this year.
The biggest problems from TGS came from the rapidly declining Capcom and Konami. Capcom announced Umbrella Corps. for Resident Evil’s 20th anniversary. This is a multiplayer shooter in a similar vein as Operation Racoon City. It is about as far from Resident Evil as can possibly be. Unfortunately, fans should come to expect this from Capcom, a company that seems to have lost all sense. It has abandoned the Mega Man property, despite rising success, rebooted Devil May Cry, much to fan outcry, and now it thinks that Resident Evil deserves a game that could not be further from its roots – for an anniversary no less! Capcom is a company to watch. They seem to be imploding, and TGS simply reconfirmed that. While Square is busy listening to its customers, and Nintendo cultivates such talent that they rarely have to, Capcom is in a tailspin of bad and unpopular ideas.
If Capcom is in a tailspin, Konami is already six feet under. Reports are now coming in that Konami, despite the success of Metal Gear Solid V, has ceased all AAA development except for a single soccer game. This means goodbye to Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania, Silent Hill, Suikoden, Contra, and various other Konami IPs. They won’t sell them either, since they can make a killing on branding pachinko machines with their popular series and pumping out horrible mobile games. It’s a disgusting turn of events for one of gaming’s classic developers. The best we can hope for at this point is that they’re willing to license out their IPs. We all know that FromSoftware would make an excellent Castevania game.
As for how Japan looks on the whole, it’s hard to say. Platinum Games and FromSoftware are the rising studios, and Square is re-establishing faith, but, other than that, there seems to a definite continuation to the slow down we’ve been seeing. Nintendo is having a hard time putting out enough games to remain relevant, and many long-time developers are running out of steam. This could lead to new companies rising, but there isn’t much evidence of this yet. Japan may crawl out of its slump/mobile obsession, but this TGS didn’t show that.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer