Changing Tastes

It’s strange to see how tastes in gaming and entertainment can change over a while. As a kid, I used to be hugely into JRPGs, Anime, Manga, J-Pop, etc. This was back around 99-2000 when Anime was just starting to kick off from being child-like cartoons (with Pokemon/Digimon primarily) to a respectable art form through avenues such as Toonami, Fox, etc. I grew up falling in love with Gundam Wing, Big O, Cowboy Bebop…heck I even caught the occasional episode of Sailor Moon.

Going into a Barnes and Noble in the 90’s, you would find maybe one copy of Volume 2 on a Manga that was released 10 years prior…now the shelves have more Manga than Domestic Graphic Novels. Also video stores have changed, if you wanted to watch Evangelion Episodes 1-3, you had to pocket out $59.99 for the DVD…now that’s the price for an entire series on Blu-Ray (Episodes 1-26). Also, back then if you wanted to watch anime on the computer, you had to go through various backdoors (this is the pre-torrent era) just to watch it. Now you have various legitimate online websites such as Hulu or Crunchroll that simulcast the same day the show airs.

Even gaming has changed, with Sony making their devices region-free, I’m able to play games months…even years before they come out to the States (if they even come out at all). This has definitely upped the pressure for me to learn a new language, much more so than it had back when I was in High School as a weird Otaku/Nerd dude.

So things have changed very fast, which probably explains why I lost interest for a while. There was admittedly some outside influence and negative comments regarding Japanese entertainment, so I stopped caring for a while, binned my figures, DVDs, etc. The anime genre at the same time started taking a weird change and I just couldn’t care that much about Naruto or Bleach; mangas were too many to keep up with; I started cringing at the JRPGs, with weird non-sensical stories and horrible dubbing. I ended up going along in favor of the mass favor of the XBox 360 with its US-based games, and didn’t even bother picking up a PS3 until only a couple of years ago just to have a separate console for my place in Everett while I was away from home. Little did I know back then that it would remain my console of choice…

Gamer’s reaction to the consoles throughout the years:2006: Sony don’t “get” gamers. XBox 360 FTW!
2013: Sony really understands gamers! BOO Microsoft!!!

Much has been written about the difference between Eastern and Western games. I think the PS3/360 split of last generation was a direct result of that (in fact, I would argue there’s a third split with console and PC gamers, with the latter focused more on strategy and indie games…but that’s a separate topic). You had one group of gamers who preferred more action-packed, pick-up and play multiplayer games (Madden, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Gears of War, etc…) and a set of gamers who preferred more cartoony elements, story-building, and simplified gameplay (Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Phoenix Wright, 999, etc…). Coincidentally, with drastically different sales figures between both East and West and growing differences between Japanese Developers and Western Developers brought about the split between the PS3 vs XBox 360. Where the Sony represented the older generation quirky Japanese titles that Western gamers were getting sick of, and Microsoft represented the next gen, graphics-focused action-packed and Indie games that Western developers were already extremely good at on the previous XBox and PC (which also started a new recent trend of focusing less on PC development and more on console development). Ironically this is exactly why Microsoft received so much initial backlash with the XBox One as they began to cater more towards the big Western publishers (EA, Ubisoft, etc…), implementing restrictive DRM schemes similar to the headaches PC gamers already endure, and Sony chose to stay with the less restrictive path of the previous generation.

Oh and Nintendo…well they did their own thing, ignored gamers altogether, sold an underwhelming console, still enact region-locking, poorly implemented multiplayer functionality and failed to grasp the attention of 3rd party developers for the Wii and now the WiiU, which is now biting them in the ass. But at least the 3DS is still getting great localized games, wish I could say the same for the Vita (at least Toukiden is coming out next month!)

Bravely Default comes out on the 3DS in a few weeks! Thank you Square Enix!
As for God Eater 2 for the VITA…still nothing from Namco-Bandai.

 As a gamer, I’ve played games from practically every genre. Despite the poor reviews from respectable Western outlets, I took Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk.2 for a try last year as the first JRPG that I’ve played in over four years. My first impressions were “Wow…this is bad!” I cringed at the English dub, couldn’t quite understand the story, the references, or the humor. My first thought was “With games like the Last of Us or the Walking Dead collecting dust, why on earth was I playing something like this?” I would have shelved the game if I had not turned on the original Japanese dubbing, looked up some of the references, and continued on with the game.

Hyperdimension Neptunia

I had a similar story with Dynasty Warriors, an import gamer friend of mine highly recommended the series, but my first impression was the poor dubbing and not understanding what the motivations behind these weird Chinese soldiers. I would ask: “Why is Cao Cao so focused on ambition…”, “Why is Liu Bei such a pansy…”, but the gameplay was interesting enough, and when the Japanese audio DLC came out my impressions changed drastically. I could finally feel the emotion at some of the character’s deaths, instead of listening to someone read a poorly translated script. I also really enjoyed the character design of most of the characters…instead of having over 60 identical Chinese warriors, I have a selection of male and female warriors with different manners of dress, expressions, etc. And reading the original story and seeing a face to these real-life warriors makes the game much more personal, and even more impressed knowing how accurate the game is to the real story (minus a few details added for effect).

Cai Wenji, historically kidnapped by a group of Nomads and rescued by Cao Cao. Proceeds to kill a bunch of generic warriors with her harp. That’s historical accuracy right there!

This, coinciding with my Japanese studies, has overwhelmingly put the preference on leaving it on the original Japanese dubbing. Some things simply do not cross well, especially with bad dubbing. Now that I’m importing more games and learning more vocab, I’m opting to skip waiting for Western localization altogether. I just imported Sengoku Basara 4, for example since Capcom has no intentions of releasing another Sengoku Basara title here in the States due to poor sales of the last game.

Western Gamers simply don’t like Samurai Games

My interest in anime is also starting to blossom again. I just recently finished the entire series of Steins;Gate and finished first season of Oreimo. I have Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan, amongst many other series on my queue. I also picked up a few Mangas on my tablet to read and enjoying them a lot, almost as much as I enjoy Western comics (because unlike most Western comics, there’s a beginning, and an end to each series, and no need to jump into a specific story arc).

Check out Kill la Kill!

What I find most impressive of all, is that for the first time in years, I’m not bored. I used to spend a majority of my time on my laptop looking for Steam sales and trying to get into stuff like League of Legends, DotA, Team Fortress 2, and a bunch of indie games that earned much acclaim from reviewers. Yet after spending a few hours downloading, I’d sit there, play the game for an hour or so, get bored…and then the game would start collecting “virtual” dust. I was always baffled “This was rated Game of the Year by “Random” Gaming Magazine…, so I should enjoy this…but I’m not?”

I would enjoy this a lot more if it wasn’t so depressing.

Perhaps the easiest explanation for this is that my tastes are changing, or rather they are returning back to my original tastes…what got me into Eastern gaming in the first place back when it was big in the PS1/PS2 era. That’s not to say I dislike Western games though, I really enjoy GTA V, Bioshock Infinite, Assassin’s Creed, and Saints Row IV for instance. I also still use my laptop to play FFXIV, World of Tanks/Warplanes, Farming/Rail Simulator, and Paradox’s grand strategy games. But my tastes are much more different than what most other people enjoy…so perhaps that’s why it’s hard to explain sometimes that while I am a gamer, I am not…well…typical from most gamers?

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