To be alive playing games beneath cherry blossoms
When we laid out every cover in Edge’s history for issue 300, even we were surprised to see the extent to which Japanese games, technology and people have dominated our attention over the years. Partly that’s because in recent times we’ve seen Japan’s place on videogaming’s worldwide stage diminish, and our expectations have lowered all round. Even the mighty Nintendo’s lustre feels a bit tarnished nowadays.
But Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune was wrong in 2009 when he said that Japan’s game industry was “finished”. It has shifted, but it’s been a process of fading, not crashing. Wii U limped out of the gate and never recovered, but PS4 emerged as a steamroller, crushing a Microsoft that suddenly looked completely unlike the company that had just bossed a console generation with Xbox 360. The sales charts this Christmas may be dominated by console games made in the west, but the majority of them will be played on technology from Japan. The biggest-selling VR hardware will have a Sony badge, too, despite PSVR being later to the party than its western-designed competitors. Japanese consumers may no longer care so much for traditional console gaming, but we haven’t fallen out of love yet.
Even if it was willing to try, Japan may not be able to produce something to stand alongside genre behemoths such as Overwatch or Battlefield 1, which have gobbled up so much playtime in 2016, but that’s OK. It has always been distinguished by its game creators’ appetite for risks – and the availability of publishers unafraid of bankrolling them. Sometimes these risks are mechanical innovations, but equally we look to Japan for themes, characters and stories we haven’t seen anywhere else – as with this issue’s cover game, which follows on from the intimately human Nier with a yarn centred on a female-gendered android named 2B and her robotic allies. Naturally, it’s a project directed by a man who insists on wearing a grinning, mad-eyed mask during press interviews. We meet Taro Yoko and his team for a tour of Nier: Automata on p56.
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