When I remembered the Dreamcast anniversary and looked back on some of the pieces I’ve done in the past, I came to a startling revelation. As I watched the unlockable anime opening for Tech Romancer, I realized that the Dreamcast could have been the last major console with a distinctly Japanese flair to it. By that, I mean that the cultural shift we are experiencing now with Japanese games attempting to feel more Western and many gamers and developers expressing concern for the potential loss of the Japanese “look and feel” it’s had for decades may have shifted following the demise of the Dreamcast.
Some of the quirkiest, most truly Japanese games I know of were on the Dreamcast. I mentioned Tech Romancer, which is a homage to a cavalcade of anime robots over the years, and it’s a prime example of what I mean. Would Capcom dream of resurrecting this franchise in their current form? I highly doubt it. With a lot of money going into outside development of their established franchises to make them more Western (DmC, anyone?), there isn’t much room in the budget for an internally focused game so in tune with their culture. Rival Schools, another heavily anime influenced game that plays around with school tropes set in a manga-like environment, hasn’t seen the light for years (in fact, the last one was Project Justice, Capcom’s last game for the …you guessed it – Dreamcast!) beyond the occasional cameo (Batsu in Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom was the most recent, and appropriate, considering Tatsunoko’s anime roots). Power Stone, too, was very influenced by the look of anime, altering some familiar styles for the game’s rich cast. And, again, Power Stone has disappeared from Capcom’s radar as of late. Some of Capcom’s purest games made for Japanese gamers came out on this lovely system, and I just don’t know if we’re going to see that side of them anymore.
Sega themselves had a bevy of Japanese oriented games come out. Jet Set Radio was a hugely stylized game that really let its culture influence it, with a cel-shaded look to mimic anime, a large selection of Japanese rock and techno to jam to, and relished its stereotypes to the extreme. Skies of Arcadia tinkered with Japanese RPG concepts, turning a lot of them on the head but maintaining much of what made them truly Japanese. The character designs were also heavily manga inspired. Shenmue meticulously recreating a small piece of Yokosuka, Japan, and allowing players of all cultures to enter that world. I could go on and on with how Sega emphasized their home country in their games for their last console.
My point is, could the pounding of “Western = Money” philosophy begun with the premature end of the Dreamcast? I would say that it’s conceivable. Smash hits from Japanese devs are shrinking in recent years – Demon’s Souls is one of the big surprises this current gen, for example. I look at the rest of my PS3 library thus far and it’s full of Western-developed games – Portal 2, Red Dead Redemption, Dead Space, inFamous, and LittleBigPlanet. I do have RE5: Gold Edition, which Capcom made internally, but that one too aimed for Western markets with its action flick story and dialogue. Pac Man: Champion Edition is the only Japanese-made game not necessarily intended to target western tastes, and I find that a little sad. Of course, I have much work to do in building up my PS3 library, and if I were to compare my Wii lineup to the PS3, I’d find many more Japanese-developed titles in a greater ratio to Western ones (A Boy & His Blob, Deadly Creatures, Dead Space Extraction, and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories are the western ones I have out of the 18 games I own). But it’s something to ponder.