To be alive play­ing games be­neath cherry blos­soms

EDGE - - GAMES -

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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