Japanese games just aren't what they used to be - at least that's what we're led to believe. To be fair, whilst that is a rather sweeping statement, it is true for the most part.
It's difficult to argue that Japanese developers haven't been left behind by their Western counterparts over the last ten years or so. I'm not about to wade in on the debate though, as I have an altogether different axe to grind.
Japan may not be at the forefront of video-game development anymore, but there are plenty of games worth playing from the East. There's one Japanese studio who've been as good as anyone in the world over the last couple of years, whom I hold in the highest possible regard. I'm talking about Platinum Games.
The developers, founded by Shinji Mikami, Atsushi Inaba and Hideki Kamiya, the former key members of Capcom's Clover Studio, have produced some of Japan's best exports over the last few years. The studio's first game for Xbox 360 and PS3, Bayonetta, is one of the best action games this gen, offering spectacular battles, a ludicrous plot and some the most blatant sexism you'll ever see. It is Japanese after all. It wasn't to everyone's tastes but I for one loved every second.
Next up from Shinji Mikami - who served as Director on Resident Evil 4 - came, Vanquish, a third-person sci-fi shooter which serves as an antidote to the slew of cover based shooters that have completely infested the market since Marcus Phoenix burst onto the scene in Gears of War. It's a game that encourages you to fly round the levels with boosters attached to your legs, inflicting complete and utter carnage on your foes. Yes it's short, but it's also fun, really fun.
The studio are currently hard at work on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, after the series creator, Hideo Kojima, felt his own team were making unsatisfactory progress on the Metal Gear Solid spin-off, and handed development duties over to Platinum Games. It speaks volumes about Platinum's credentials when Kojima would hand over his most prized asset to an external studio-even, if it is a spin-off.
You see what I like about Platinum is that their games feel like a throwback to the olden days of gaming, where gameplay came first. Story seems to take a back-seat in Platinum's games, to the point where it may even seem like it's been lazily done. I like to think that Platinum have an acute sense of humour, and what may come across as generic is actually Platinum poking fun at how generic the top-tier of gaming has become.
Their latest game, Anarchy Reigns, or Max Anarchy as it is known in Japan, seems to fit the Platinum mould of gameplay over story. For those who don't know, Anarchy Reigns is a Massive Multiplayer Online beat-em-up. It's undoubtedly Platinum's most ambitious and riskiest game to date.
While Anarchy Reigns may have had its doubters, I've always had faith in it, because I have complete faith in the talents Platinum Games possess.
I was eagerly awaiting its release this summer, but the game's publisher, Sega dropped a bombshell in May. The game was to be released in Japan on July 7th, but the Europe and North America release was 'to be confirmed.' Last month Sega announced that we would need to wait until March 2013. Ouch.
Speaking to fans on Twitter, Platinum Games boss Atsushi Inaba confirmed development on the game is actually finished.
"First of all, we are done with all international versions of Anarchy Reigns," he said. "The delay is not due to further development on the game."
"Also, even though the release dates will be different, the content of both the Japanese and Western versions will be 100% the same. Today's Q1 2013 release news was the first we'd heard of it. Even if we wanted to, we can't comment as we're (still) in the dark officially."
Whilst officially Platinum said this is the first they'd heard of the delay, it appears as though they saw it coming. The Japanese version is fully localised in English and region free, so if you're willing to fork out £60 for an import you can play it now. As much as I love Platinum's work, I'm not willing to pay that price.
Like many others unless I want to fork out that kind of cash it seems I'm going to have to wait it out. Unfortunately, I have my doubts as to whether Anarchy Reigns will ever see the light of day over here.
Whilst we don't know the exact reason for the delay, it's safe to assume it has something to do with its sales potential. It doesn't look as though Sega had much faith in the game, from a sales perspective. If that's the case, then they were probably spot-on. The game failed to light up the charts in Japan, with the PS3 version selling just 21,199 copies, while its 360 counterpart managing a measly 4,170 sales in its first week.
If a Japanese game bombs in its homeland then it's unlikely it will sell by the bucket-load in the West. Sega probably saw this coming, and wanted to see just how well the game was received before throwing more money at a European and North American release. It seems highly unlikely that this niche title will sell well over here, further hindering its chances of securing a European and North American release.
Much like Clover Studio, Platinum has developed a habit for releasing critically acclaimed games that bomb at retail, and that could prove to be their ultimate downfall. It's such a travesty that such brilliant games should go largely un-noticed by the gaming public, and there's only so long a studio can keep doing this.
Gamers cry for innovation, yet when it comes they ignore it. Platinum have released five games since they were founded, all of them new IP's and all of them produced to a high standard.
I'm seriously concerned for Platinum's future in an industry where a studio's existence can hinge on one project. Sadly, I can only see history repeating itself.
Article written by Kenny Lomas