East Vs West: Seriously, Japan Hasn’t Lost it’s Touch

A few months ago, I wrote a blog that detailed my love for the Yakuza series. I titled it, “Japan Hasn’t Lost its Touch,” but never really went on to explain that idea. I really couldn’t think of a title at the time and the whole Japanophile setting of Yakuza just made me think of Japan.

Now, we come to this week’s topic and all of the community members are tasked with debating which side of the hemispheres makes better games, East or West. Well, considering that I love Yakuza and my other favorite series are Zelda and Street Fighter, which side do you think I’ll be leaning towards?

This current console generation has shown me one thing; the Japanese totally understand game design. My most memorable moments come from games such as “Yakuza 3,” “Zelda: Twilight Princess” and “Super Street Fighter IV.” Sure, I’ve had my share of Western games in the form of “Oblivion” and “Assassin’s Creed,” but those games borrow heavily from what the Japanese have started.

My life has been shaped by the likes of Link and Mario and I can’t imagine what kind of a person I’d be without them. Both characters are so defined and yet ambiguous enough that it’s easy to attach yourself to them and understand that they are different from you. Link never speaks, so you do the speaking for him. Mario wishes to save the princess, and that is symbolic of something you want to save in your own life.


I wouldn’t even dream of fucking around with this guy.

Yakuza has made Kiryu Kazuma one of the most bad-ass and ruthless characters around, but he also has a heart of gold. He cares for orphans on a beach in Okinawa, for Christ’s sake! He relaxes by shooting pool or darts, playing some rounds of bowling or golf, or even frequents hostess clubs. He’s just like any of us, but on a souped-up level.

Hell, Kiryu is so incredible that my friend/brother, Jim, actually bought an import copy of “Ryu Ga Gotoku: Kenzan!” We have no idea what the plot is or what we’re actually doing, but we can’t stop playing because of how charismatic and powerful Kiryu is.

One of my favorite console exclusives from this generation is “Demon’s Souls” on PS3. Surprise, surprise, the game is made by “From Software,” a Japanese developer based in Tokyo. Souls is a throwback to the classic days of gaming where guides were limited and enemies were deadly. Everything is such a damn challenge that overcoming a single enemy feels like conquering an entire game. It’s something only Japan could create.


Such a bad-ass that even “Ninja Gaiden 2” can’t keep him down.

Last generation saw me latch onto “Ninja Gaiden” instead of “God of War,” and the reason was clear: I liked the gameplay more. Gaiden was much less forgiving, and the sense of style, flair, and character was just more engaging and hilarious. While everything may have been tongue-in-cheek or less than serious, Ryu Hayabusa is just a complete and utter bad-ass. The hell with Kratos!

Another series that I love to death is “Metal Gear Solid.” Kojima is a master of his craft and his titles, save for MGS2 and Zone of the Enders, are all fantastic. He takes the shooting mechanics of Western games and spins them into a Japanese soap-opera. I can have solid gunfights and get engaging drama — that’s just a win-win!

My youth was punctuated with frequent Japanese developers, too. “Mega Man” is a series I love and, other than recent newer versions, is 100% Japanese. The Ninja Turtle games, while based on an American property, were developed by Konami and exhibit some of the very best design in beat-em-ups. Hell, even “Final Fight” is pure Capcom and Japanese.

Sonic the Hedgehog” was a favorite back in the day, as well. I always loved his speed and attitude. His games took the Mario formula and spun them on their head. You no longer needed pin-point precision to pass levels; instead you had to figure out paths through the labyrinthine level design. That series sparked my love for puzzle games.

I could keep listing games all night and day, but one thing is clear: Japan just knows how to attach their fan-base to their IPs. Sure, Western developers might know how to make shooters better or they may champion strategy games, but Japan is the one who keeps my love going. I’m sure that a few other readers would agree with me, too.


Love Japan or Domo will get you!

Aamaazing: Japan Hasn’t Lost it’s Touch

While gaming is my oldest past time and I’ve become very passionate about it, not many games have drawn me in during our current generation. I’m not sure if it’s the graphical prowess that’s off putting or the gritty, dark and brown worlds, but there are few games that have really gotten me exceptionally involved.

Cue in Sega and their localization of Yakuza 3 for the PS3. Gosh damn, did I feel like a child playing this game. I don’t think I’ve had as much fun with any game in the past 5 years, other than Street Fighter of course.

Takes parts of Shenmue, Streets of Rage, and Virtua Fighter and you’ve got the basic groundwork of the entire Yakuza series (known as Ryu Ga Gotoku in Japan). The basic setup goes cutscene, dialog, fist fight, cutscene and repeat until done.

My first experience with Yakuza 3 came from the demo on the Playstation Network last February. I was finally able to dig into my PS3 for once, so I figured I’d try something out and see how it went. I only tinkered around with the original Yakuza back in 2006, but I wasn’t really impressed with it.

Low and behold, when I was able to run down the street and drop kick some idiot in the face, I was sold. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it felt intense and immensely enjoyable. I immediately began talking about the game to my friends, though no one cared enough to listen.


A nice kick to the face might work.

That is except for my best friend/brother, Jim. Our argument essentially went like this:

“Buy Yakuza 3.
I don’t really know. What is the game?
Buy Yakuza 3.
No.
Buy Yakuza 3!
No!
Buy the game, dammit!
Alright!”

It’s a decision he didn’t regret. Even he was blown away by it. The HEAT action system is probably the best part of the combat. Once you build up a meter to the degree where your character is glowing in flame, you can press triangle and proceed to provide a gruesome beat down to your opponents.

Like this:

My favorite has to be when you’re drunk and you land a flying scissor spin on the opponent. What the fuck?!

Our favorite experience with this system was a battle near a small bridge in Okinawa. I asked my friend, “Can you throw that guy off the bridge?” Sure enough, we saw a body get lunged into the air and our laughter couldn’t be contained.

I, myself, didn’t play the game until this past February, however. I finally decided enough was enough and I moved my PS3 to a different room and borrowed the game from my friend. I was completely blown away by the proceedings.

I know story telling may be overly dramatic in Japan, but they certainly know how to build strong enemies and exceptional protagonists. Kazuma Kiryu is one of the coolest and most bad ass dudes in gaming and his villains are all kinds of scum.

The first boss, Goro Majima, is such an insane psycho that you can’t help but love him. He refers to you as Kazzy, his laugh is overdone and his eye patch is just ridiculous. It’s incredible when you battle him and the guy seems to be like a more rough and gruff version of the Joker.

The whole plot line with Kazuma’s orphanage even allows for great exposition to fill you in on Kazuma’s past. Most modern Western games don’t allow you to really engage with your character, either foregoing development in favor of more gameplay or simply giving a paper thin plot and allowing the mechanics to speak for themselves.

Yakuza has a few low points, but they truly amp you up for the amazing massacres you lay on people at the end. No man should have to see his orphanage in waste, but the feelings and emotions that the kids pour out really make you want to crack some heads.

Crack heads you will. Even when the game is repetitive (and believe me, it is), the awesome music and hugely cinematic battles make up for it. Kazuma literally smacks down around 100 people in one chapter and that’s before the boss battle.

All the while, I’m sitting there believing I’m 12 again. Games used to be ludicrous amounts of fun and work within their limits. Yeah, you don’t get an in-depth combo system or insanely overpowered enemies, but the pure visual aspect of combat makes up for it.

Hell, even all of the shitty extra minigames are hilarious time wasters. Just try playing Karaoke without laughing. You cannot. My sister and I were clapping along and crying in laughter when Kazuma belted out his cheers of, “Oi, Oi, Oi!”

Yakuza 3 is such a great game that I’ve beaten it twice now and wasted around 68 hours and I really don’t mind. This is exactly what I used to do as a child and I couldn’t be happier.

Also, for the record, I really don’t care that Sega cut content from the US release. Yakuza 4 has all the hostess clubs intact and they are ridiculously pointless in a videogame.