Japan's best should embrace the West
5th Oct 2010 | 16:50
Bobby Kotick. Console wars. Marketing execs chasing profit. DLC on the disc. It doesn't take much to spark the powder-keg fuse of most internet forums these days.
Look past the wonky grammar, multiple exclamation marks and CAPITAL LETTERS and you'll find some very real fury.
Well, here's another one to add to the list - Western developers taking over Japanese games.
Gasp! The horror! How dare they!
In the past, this wasn't a problem because the streams never crossed. There wasn't any danger of Hideo Kojima handing over Metal Gear Solid to Peter Molyneux, or Ed Boon announcing that he's been given the keys to the Street Fighter kingdom. It just didn't happen.
Yet with Japanese publishers keen for their games to grab Dollars and Euros, they've turned to Western developers in droves. Capcom has been leading the charge, most recently handing the keys to Devil May Cry over to Ninja Theory.
Internet forums were initially whooping with joy at a new Dante outing - but this quickly turned to angry keyboard-thumping when they realised that Ninja Theory was developing it. A Western developer in charge of an iconic Japanese series?
Granted, rage at the announcement was distorted by one of the most horrendous redesigns of an iconic character I can remember - with DmC's new Dante oozing cool and menace with about as much conviction as Harry Potter. (If they both threatened you in a darkened alley, you honestly wouldn't know which one you've have a better chance of beating up first.)
But very recent history shows that it doesn't have to be this way. When Dead Rising 2 was handed to Canadian developer Blue Castle, the internet put its head in its hands and looked through its fingers. Up to that point, Blue Castle's CV included baseball games The BIGS and MLB Front Office Manager. What the hell was Capcom thinking?
Dead Rising was a beloved darling of early Xbox 360 adopters. It threw an insanely steep learning curve at players - it's one of the few games we can recall where players actually had to die to progress - but its flaws were quickly rewritten to become part of its charm.
Amazingly, Dead Rising 2 isn't just as good - but actually improves on what Capcom achieved with the first game.
Its gameplay is still what can be patronisingly described as 'Japanese': It combines arcade accessibility with a real feeling of depth, while there's a treasure trove of secrets and bonuses about - the Borat man-kini outfit, the Psycho tribute when attacking with the chef knife, the Blanka nod with the electric mask, the broadsword in the stone and so on.
But it's also stuffed to the gills with US-style frat boy humour; from the cheeky massagers to the cheesy 'I saw what you did there' style one-liners. Moreover, the erratic survivor AI of the predecessor has been ironed out - and it makes for a slicker experience. Blue Castle has proven the naysayers wrong. No wonder Capcom bought them up.
But hang on, I hear you cry! If Capcom kept Dead Rising 2 in-house it would be even better!
Then allow me to nod you in the direction of Lost Planet 2 - a sequel that was kept fully in-house at Capcom and turned out to be... interesting. And we say 'interesting' in the same way we would if our girlfriend tried an ambitious meal, ballsed it up and we didn't really want to be dealing with tears for the next hour.
Lost Planet 2 doesn't know what it wants to be. It's a multiplayer affair that almost entirely disregards those playing on their own. It forces players to grind their way to equipment worth using. It offers bizarre customisation and then immediately limits it to newcomers. Worst of all, it doesn't have any consistent narrative, focus or point to it.
All the progress made in the first Lost Planet - bringing Eastern mech-appeal to the usually mech-resistant West by smuggling it in via a man-vs-monsters game - was completely lost in the sequel. No-one wanted it because no-one knew what it was. Sales suffered. Capcom cringed. Keiji Inafune was left tearing his hair out.
I'm not saying that Western developers are the only ones who should be trusted with Japanese game ideas. I'm not even saying that Japanese developers can't hog their own sequels and still get it spot on.
What I am saying is, in the grand scheme of things-about-gaming-to-get-angry-at, Western developers taking charge of Japanese games shouldn't register anywhere near Bobby Kotick's name on the Internet Meltdown scale.
And, in an amazing turn of events, I'm also saying that based on recent evidence, DmC has a chance of turning out to be much, much better than expected; as the talents of East and West collide once more.
Still. Dante's new hair eh? Awful.