Of all the issues we've touched on (Japan's economy, developer focus, publisherdeveloper relations) the only one we as gamers have direct control over is our ability to choose. Strangely enough, though, as I write this I know that when faced with the choice of spending $60 on something I trust to be good and $60 on something unfamiliar, I'll always go with the safe choice. This means that if I'm in a shop trying to choose between the latest Need for Speed and something like Katamari, I'll go with what I know. As a huge fan of racing games, you probably already know which I'll choose. I'm not alone on this, either.
How many potential buyers were reluctant to purchase Vanquish after learning there was no competitive online multiplayer component? Or how many times was Okami skipped over in favor of something less foreign? We could do this all day, listing perfectly worthy titles from developers from all over the globe who might not have received a fair shake because of our own unwillingness to take a risk.
One way to work around this may be to offer up smaller experiences at a more accessible price point, like what Capcom did for the release of Mega Man 9 and 10. Personally, I'd like to see Japanese developers go back to making the games that won them our praise in the first place. You or I might mock Nintendo for continuing to produce what seems like an endless stream of Mario games, re-hashes, and Wii Sports tie-ins, but there's something to be said for their success. I'm not saying developers should turn the dial back to 1985. They made some vital progress in the 90s. I'd kill for a game from Sega or Konami with today's aesthetics and gameplay principles from '94, for instance. I'm not alone either. Sega, I think, has just started to realize this, having released Sonic 4: Episode 1 late last year. There's still more to be done, though, as was evidenced by this unbelievably good fan-made demo.
Only time will tell as to whether or not our favorite Japanese developers will be able to correct their course. They've given us so much. It isn't just the sprites, scrolling backgrounds, and chiptunes played in our heads long after the consoles had gone cold that made those games important. It's the memories tied to them. It's finally unlocking Super Sonic, beating BattleToads, saving the princess, wasting time. Hopefully they'll be able to save themselves from us and get back to the business of making masterpieces.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*