East is east

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It wasn’t so long ago that the Ja­panese game industry’s sur­vival was be­ing pinned on its will­ing­ness to ab­sorb the ideas of western de­vel­op­ers. There’s still clear ev­i­dence of those lean­ings to­day, as seen in two of this month’s Hype en­tries. Dragon Quest Builders (p56) was re­vealed to a barely con­tained sense of dis­be­lief – the fact that Square Enix has joined the wave of In­fin­iminer- and Minecraft- in­spired block-build­ing games is al­most as sur­pris­ing as the fact that it chose the Dragon Quest se­ries as the plat­form on which to do it. In truth, Square Enix has crafted some­thing with its own clearly de­lin­eated ideas on player cre­ation, but the in­spi­ra­tion is clear.

And Um­brella Corps (p58), though in­spired by a love of bruise-in­duc­ing Air­soft ses­sions, looks to Rain­bow Six and Counter-Strike to ad­min­is­ter a shot in the Res­i­dent Evil jug­ger­naut’s in­creas­ing num­ber of arms. In it, me­thod­i­cal, cover-based team­play within choke­point-rid­dled en­vi­ron­ments clat­ters into swarms of the un­dead and, in­evitably, the op­pos­ing team’s bul­lets.

But there are just as many Ja­panese de­vel­op­ers dou­bling down on their re­gion’s dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics. Not least FromSoft­ware, which among other projects is work­ing on a new chap­ter for the no­tex­actly-un­pop­u­lar Blood­borne. The Old Hun­ters (p54) is a re­turn trip that prom­ises an even sterner dress­ing-down for cava­lier play­ers. Then there’s Xenoblade Chron­i­cles X (p46), which of­fers up big swords, even big­ger mechs, and a pop­u­la­tion of colos­sal in­dige­nous mon­sters.

Which­ever ap­proach a stu­dio chooses, it’s clear that Ja­pan’s game industry is still alive and kick­ing – and our re­port from this year’s Tokyo Game Show (p80) fur­ther un­der­scores that fact. But it’s telling that for all the fear­mon­ger­ing that ac­com­pa­nied grim pre­dic­tions of an industry in de­cline, and the in­sis­tence that western de­vel­op­ment ideas were Ja­pan’s only saviour, this is­sue’s most ex­cit­ing Ja­panese prospects, The Old Hun­ters and

Xenoblade Chron­i­cles X, choose to es­chew them.

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