Japan got Video games started as a world market. Sony, Nintendo, and Sega would go on to become major names in the industry. Sadly, the market is not as it was. Here, I will take a look at the current industry.
Sadly, the Japanese companies have written themselves into a mess. They keep putting out the same story into everything. I can only hear about ancient demons having hybrid children who must save the world by collecting (noun) so often before it gets old. There are some games that do it right, like most of the Castlevania series (My present favorite franchise). However Japanese companies started re-writing the same story again, and again. How many Castlevania games are there that involve breaking into the castle to rescue a girl? And then there are the stereotypes. Every commercialized storyteller is guilty of using stereotypes. Hybrids, Demons, Mary Sues, and Gods are just a few among them. Why is the goal always to get stronger? Shouldn't it be to get better? But, let's take a look at the companies on the stage right now.
Sony broke onto the scene with the Playstation, the only successful 32-bit system. They followed it up with the PS2, and both systems were awesome. The PSP came out, and now you could take the awesomeness on the go. All three systems are great and well worth their price. The current system, however, is abysmal. The PS3 has less than one half the games of the other systems, and of the few games that are available, only a few are system-specific. Even Final Fantasy is defecting to another system. There are too many versions of the same machine with too many differences, such as the earlier versions being able to play PS2 and PS1 games but the current model is barely able to play its specific software. The blu-ray is not much of an improvement over DVD, and the DVD player only works well with later DVD's. The system itself suffers from critical failures, including melting down, burning out, and even the Y2K bug made an appearance in the last month, wiping every save file and trophy on the system. I've known 7 people who bought PS3 units; of those, 5 burnt out in a year, and one burnt out in five minutes after turning it on for the first time. Sony has done great things with its past systems, and I believe it can do so again. I'm just waiting now.
Microsoft is a name that causes most to shiver in fear. But their Xbox consoles have become market mainstays. The first was a decent arrival with some okay games, but nothing too extraordinary. The 360 would become both amazing and a frustrating at the same time. While its graphics are astounding, and the library vast, it is somewhat dedicated. The hardcore online multiplayer games go onto this system and leave little for those who like single-player campaigns. The hardware failures are still a huge problem with the "Red Ring of Death" being a common term now. With all the funds at their disposal, I was expecting better quality hardware. The games are either really good or really bad, depending on who you talked to, and the controllers seem to drain their batteries fairly quickly. Overall, the system was okay, but it was fair to expect better.
I can remember when Konami put out one instant classic after another. The Mystical Ninja series, Castlevania, they were all good. Then something happened. Somewhere along the line they began recycling too much and taking their franchises off in bizarre directions. Mystical Ninja is a series based on satire and comedy, yet somehow became a pseudo-dark and pathetic attempt at a dramatic tragedy. Castlevania became defined by the stereotypes of Japanese cartoons with storylines that made no sense, the worst being Dawn of Sorrow (okay game, but the story just made me cringe). Then they released a fighting game and, I kid you not, An arcade rail-shooter in the style of Sega's House of the Dead. That is desperate. Konami needs some new blood (pardon the Drac pun) and I think it can pull itself out of this.
Capcom created one of my favorite franchises of all time: Resident Evil. For a long time they kept it alive and we were even willing to overlook the plotholes they shoddily filled. But Resident Evil 4 came out, and you knew it wouldn't be the same. Survival Horror is about puzzles, and the monsters factor into those puzzles. RE4 was nothing but fighting with no thought process. RE5 was the same thing, but with less content. And they're doing the same to all their franchises:Mega Man, Darkstalkers, games that should be great. Capcom, I'm very disappointed.
I should also point out that Resident Evil also copies House of the Dead, but worse.
Nintendo. The word alone conjures fond memories of classic video games. For decades, the Nintendo line brought one epic and instant classic games into the home. The NES, SNES, and N64 would pass into legend as three of the greatest video games consoles of all time. Every game was either good or flatout Epic. Until the Gamecube. This was when we knew something was wrong. Nintendo simply wasn't trying, anymore. The few Mario games released were gimmicky and didn't know what they wanted to be. The only reason to buy the system was because the old Resident Evil games and RE0 would be released on it. It was understandable to have hopes for the Wii, but alas. The main games consisted of watered-down party games and confusing moderate games. The only real reason to buy one is the old games on Virtual Console, and new ones on Wii Ware. Nintendo doesn't even try to use their Motion controls in any decent way, but strangely, most of the third party developers do. Then there are the two worst failures in home console history: The Virtual Boy, and 64DD. Both were so bad and overpriced that only 40 games came out for the VB and only 9 for the DD. Both these systems were actually outperformed by the Philips CD-i; now THAT is sad! Nintendo even came out and said they give up making quality games, and will instead focus on party games. Their recent titles are proof of that. Zelda has never really lived up to Ocarina of Time, and Mario has been on Lifesupport since the 64. It came to a head with Super MArio Galaxy. Too many meaningless characters, a plot that made me weep for the industry, and such little content. I beat this game in less that three days; That is NOT worth 20 bucks. Starfox has been doing okay, though declining rapidly in quality from each game to the next. The worst was Command. It had a convoluted story, more new characters than Sonic game, and everyone was nothing but flaws and thus thoroughly unlikable.
Sega once defined itself as cool, which immediately raised problems when "Cool" changed. Sega floudered with the Saturn and killed it with a horribly-constructed marketing campaign. The Dreamcast was revolutionary and created the concept of online console gaming, but sadly it too was killed by Sega's mismanagement. For the next 10 years they would release a number of games, a few good, but most mediocre at best. The hardest hit was Sonic. Mario could make the transition to full 3D easily, since the game was always about simple platforming. Sonic, on the other hand, had the speed gimmick. Making a full 3D platforming game fast is difficult beyond all belief. The games struggled for passing scores, with Sonic 2006 being the lowest ever. Countless stereotypical characters would join the cast, each with less character than the last. The handhelds toed the line with the classics, while the consoles tried to get the 3D thing right. Finally Unleashed and Black Knight came out. While neither one of these games was perfect, they did fix a number of problems with the older titles: better control, camera, voice acting, smaller cast, fewer new characters, these were a step in the right direction. But again, Sega tried something out of nowhere that hurt the games more than helped. The concepts alone were ridiculous, and the Night stages of Unleashed were just annoying. And the Hedgewolf (I refuse to say Werehog) only raised angry eyebrows. House of the Dead Overkill, was much better, being written in the Western style which has not yet killed itself with commercialization. The writing was superb, the art direction was new, the (little) story was intriguing. Even the characters were interesting. I'm curious to see what Sega will do next, though I'm not holding my breath. I do not count the All-Stars games as real games, I might add; they are only party games.
The Video Game industry looks bleak. Giants are falling and everything is becoming cookie-cutter. Eventually the world will tire of Japan, then what? Who will take Video games then? I say either Europe or The Americas, though all of them are quickly commercializing as well.
Listening to: Lordi "Blood Red Sandman"
Reading: H.P. Lovecraft
Watching: Call of Cthulhu
Playing: Orphan Feast
Drinking: The blood of the Sinners...okay, coke.