Monday, August 22, 2011

EPISODE 56: "Setting Sun"

UPDATE: As of 9/13/11 this video can now be seen at THIS LINK

The Japanese games-industry is on the wane... but it's Western fans who're paying the price.

Lot of fun making this one, and as usual big ups to my brother Chris for doing a lot of shooting and playing the Ninjas.


Subtle said...

Holy Crap! I didn't know the Ace Attorney Investigation sequel wasn't coming here! That just... I don't even... GAH! WHY!?!?!?!?!?

Anyway, you are getting better at this story stuff Bob. I laughed a lot at the end, one of the first times I laughed on the outside as well as the inside. So we got Pyrothinker and Cryothinker, I'm liking it. Looking forward to the next episode.

Joe said...

I'm more likely to put a lot of the credit for introducing anime to Western audiences to all the poorly-dubbed anime that was passed off as Saturday morning cartoons (Star Blazers, Battle of the Planets, Voltron, etc.) and Carl Macek (whatever you think of him, he did a lot to bring anime into the North American consciousness).

That said, I really miss the palpable Japanese influence on gaming. Japanese culture is far more open to mash-ups of genres without concern for "grittiness" (and half the time can still make it gritty regardless). Photorealism in game graphics drives me batty. When it's clear consoles aren't good enough to bridge the uncanny, I would much rather see stylized and unique art styles than the same crappy attempts to make digital blow-up dolls. And Japanese devs seemed more willing to take crazy innovative risks that most Western devs wouldn't dare to.

TheDVDGrouch said...

Very thought provoking episode I especially enjoyed the stuff you did with internal monologue.

David (The Pants) said...

Much better story bits Bob! Probably since there's less mystery about PT and stuff. REally fun episode and WHAT NO LAYTON-ACE ATTORNEY CROSSOVER?? They bedda not!

Aiddon said...

in all honesty part of the reason CAPCOM has a serious case of self-xenophobia is due to Inafune whose hissy-fit departure was what killed Mega Man universe and Mega Man Legends 3. The guy turned into a bitter, whiny crybaby near the end of his tenure at CAPCOM, saying that nobody in Japan was making good games (a claim that is still wrong and shows how much of a moron he is).

Anyway, Japan has taken way too much crap over the past few years. What doesn't help is people saying they're going to support Japanese games like Child of Eden, Blazblue, Okamiden, El Shaddai, Shadows of the Damned, Ace Attorney, Muramasa, and so on but then end up chickening out while the same 6 arbitrary excuses to justify their cowardice. It's kinda hard for an industry to move forward when even its goddamned consumers don't have the guts to actually take a risk. My guess is that it's going to take the implosion of soulless games like CoD to help get Japan back in the competition.

Also, remember that ninjas are weaker when more are around

Adam said...

Yeah, I can feel it. Not very much about western style games appeal to me (and I'm not even a fan of Anime!), but these days it feels like I can only reliably turn to Nintendo for Mario, Zelda, and Metroid...and only M, Z, and M.

Which probably explains why I'm playing Metroid Prime again for the Nth time right now.

Stuart said...

I wouldn't say I really miss Japanese games that much. Really japanese games (Ie, beat em ups and Excel based stats "rpg" games) dont interest me anymore and the other japanese games I've played have generally been highly influenced by western themes, Resident Evil, Metal Gear solid, Dead rising (zombies, action films and zombies again)

Never cared about Final fantasy and it's ilk because the only actions I ever felt I was making were the tedious fights and having your character plod slowly along to the other animation sequence.

Although I'll be honest, I'm not including DS titles here which seem to be almost exclusively japanese, but let's be honest here. If japanese developers stopped shipping for DS titles, Adios Nintendo, hope you can make your billions as a japanese only company.

Cole said...

Bob, i'll say it now, and i'll say it again . I LOVE YOUR STORYLINES. They aren't up to the levels of say, Linkara, but it is interesting, i care about what happens, and the characters feel very fleshed out. Keep up the good work

Chazz said...

I totally called the name Cryothinker as soon as I saw the second ninja. Everytime you said one of the other names, I thought to myself "Say Cryothinker next, SAY CRYOTHINKER NEXT!" and I laughed when you actually did. Have to say, the story sections are getting better and better, and the rest is just as thought provoking as ever. Keep up the good work. The only question is, will there be MORE elemental ninjas....?

Saburo said...

Ever consider a crossover with the Angry Video Game Nerd?

Ralphael said...


you might think that was sarcasm since it was in all caps, but I seriously believe that pun delivery is a lost art form. Please do more puns.

Fantastic episode by the way

Djymn said...

Really great episode Bob! In particular the stuff about the relationship between games and the 90's anime boom. Not something I'd twigged in the past.

Always liked your story stuff (including the Anithinker) and you seem to be getting better and better when it comes to combining story and overthinking. Although to be honest it seemed to me you had the two married up pretty by "Zen of Grind."

Keep it up!

tumbleweed said...

The sameness you decry in american games exists in japanese games aswell.
Developers and publishers of RPGs and isometric startegy games are afraid of changing formula and you see clones and slightly updated sequels dominating japanese sales charts all the time. Final Fantasy got just as boring as Rush Hour, but decided to go on after that.

Another reason for the lack of sales might be the rise of indy-games. These are also niche, so gamers looking for something outside the norm are not picking up japanese games, but the cheaper indy titles.

Unknown said...

As an American living in Japan, I should also point out some things about what's going on culturally in Japan right now as part of the situation.

Those Japanese gamers who helped make Japanese games dominant in the 80s and 90s are now adults, and while gaming in the West is becoming more and more acceptable as a hobby for adults, that is not happening in Japan. Video games (and anime) in Japan face a much heavier Age Ghetto than they do in the West. Contrary to popular Western belief, Japan is not so much otaku Heaven as otaku HELL. Adult gamers in Japan are severely socially ostracized, and in a culture that places a HEAVY emphasis on groups and collective thinking over the individual (where do you think all those friendship speeches in anime and games come from?), that can cripple a person's self-worth here. Thus, you get the hikikomori, shut-ins who play games and watch TV all day and absolutely never leave their homes unless it is absolutely essential. It's become a more common thing lately, and sadly, it's the games and anime that are being blamed for this phenomenon.

Also, I'm getting the feeling that the older generation, who pretty much run the show in every respect here, feel that games and anime and the like are threatening to destroy the traditional culture of Japan that the older generation values quite highly, probably more than any Western country I can think of. So I am kind of noticing a push to get kids to do more of the traditional children's activities outside, such as bug catching, playing a traditional badminton-type game, and kite flying. There is also more of a push, much like in the West when I left, to just get kids up and moving and playing outside more. I don't really have an objection to any of that: it helps to build a healthy perspective on how to spend one's free time, keeps them physically fit, and prevents game addiction. But I have noticed that part of that push, that they're also extending to schools, is a stigmatization of gaming as a hobby in itself, almost like a "Just say NO" campaign similar to the anti-drug campaigns I grew up with. Kids aren't buying it, but parents are, and I could see that influencing game sales for children as well.

So it's not just external factors that are limiting Japanese influence on gaming, but also internal factors within Japan itself. Demand for Japanese games is not just dropping in the export market, but in the domestic Japanese market too, as games are becoming less and less socially acceptable as an adult's hobby and children are discouraged from playing games and heavily encouraged to take up more traditional cultural activities and play sports. Just thought I would throw that in there to keep in mind.

Zogbog said...

I know you’re American Bob so I can’t get angry that you’ve completely ignored the plight of Europe who get screwed over a hundred times worse than America when it comes to releases (and still get met with “At least you got Terranigma!”) for a multitude of reasons including translations (It’s double insulting that games translated into English don’t get an English release), distribution (The games Japan does release in England turn super rare super fast, try finding anything PS1 or PS2 Japanese RPG on E-Bay for a reasonable price) and such.
Game fans in England are forced to just get the dregs of American developers since Japan ignores us heavily and publishers tend to ignore England and the rest of Europe. It’s actually nice to see more games turn into downloadable titles since it means other countries get a chance to acquire them without having to fight to find a disk and import a console.
English games development has been very much neutered both by the government and by big named publishers who have forced English developers to seek employment abroad. While England does indeed have a number of high profile developers they depend on being small companies to stay afloat and hire from abroad far more often than they do England (might say something about England’s skill base) leaving many with talent again being force abroad into more competitive companies because England just doesn’t have the jobs.
Honestly, screw Japan. Very few Japanese companies care for the European market (Sega being one of the ones that does and as much shit as they get they are still a very good publisher) so unless a game comes out on DS or PSP most European fans of these kinds of games have to sit down and shut up unless they put in a lot of effort to import games (this can turn out cheaper in some cases like Australia). Atlus is especially bad for this, for a company that’s made a name for its self by providing America with an endless stream of great titles, they have decided to model them self’s after a pre-Sqnix Enix and just ignore Europe as hard as they can, leaving other publishers to pick up the slack with their obvious big sellers (check out Catherine, it’s got boobs on the box!).
America is also partly to blame for gaming in England right now because England is constantly denied any cultural identity in games. For as much shit as you give the Call of Duty franchise they at least put some focus on the SAS that most teens in England that have any idea about the military will idolise. One of the biggest hits out of England, Arkham Asylum is a Batman game. England already has a strong history of comic books but have been forgotten by a cultural invasion of American pop culture so now England can’t have nice games based off AD2000 comics (even if we won’t get them because Rebellion owns all the rights, a good company but often find them self’s producing subpar work now for whatever reasons) and even if we did, our children wouldn’t know who Judge Dredd is!

Mike said...

First, that white suit with blue t-shirt combo is a good look for you, you should rock it more often.

You are "very good" at your job. It is just that your job is to give people interesting insight on gaming and general nerd culture, not fight bad guys. Though I have to say that relating in the plot to the subject matter was a good move.

Well now I know that there was a Megaman game I missed out on. Just another case of ignorance was bliss.

Aiddon said...


Uh, the reason Atlus has a spotty record with Europe is because they don't have a European branch. That's why they have to rely on other, BIGGER publishers in order to get their stuff released. So that's not so much Atlus' fault as it is just the chance of whether or not some other company is interested in bringing their title over.

spork said...

Great episode, and I have to say, you're getting quite good at integrating the plot into the eps. Not too much at once, but more than enough to keep me eager to know what happens next. It really helped that you tied the subject matter into what was going on.

Oh, and the dancing ninjas at the end were hilarious!! At some point in time, you've got to have all the ninjas do the algorithm dance. :)

Ketsuban said...

So will the next one be Xylothinker or Brontothinker? Still enjoyed it when I managed to call Cryothinker ahead of time, that was well-executed.

It's more relevant to the episode on Operation Rainfall, but I agree to an extent with Zogbog in that I have too many memories of games not making the crossing to the UK, but more worrying is the lack of retranslation of the games we DO get. American English and British English are not the same, and while only a minority will get annoyed when a game doesn't put the U in the word FLAVOUR, there's vocabulary differences that can end up confusing the player because they just don't know what you're talking about.

My response to Operation Rainfall is essentially "sorry, this is payback". At this point I figure the US has lost the right to complain about not getting three mediocre games, because I'm sure if I looked around I could find thirty far more worthy games the US got that never reached the shores of Great Britain.

Pavel said...

Good episode but you lost me at your criticism of the West. Saying the only thing that gets made in the West is sports games and military shooters is beyond ignorant. Just because Madden and CoD sell well every year in NA doesn't mean there isn't anything else. It really is no different than Monster Hunter or Dragon Quest selling like crazy in Japan all the time.

Stagnation is not something only the West suffers from, the East does as well. Similarly both the East and West create unique and innovative titles.

fox said...

Ha! I knew there would be other elemental ninjas a la Megaman.

Bob, I hope you realize that the "overthinking" aspect of these episodes is slowly being tumped by the storyline aspect. Not only in lenght, but in quality. I don't mind this, I actually really like the storyline stuff and find the puns and references to be very funny. But some fans will keep feeling wronged by this.

I found the overthinking of this episode to be kinda weak. The subject matter is important, but you didn't go beyond painting a general picture of the whole situation... Other gaming sites have already done this. You should have spent more time building your case as to why the Japanese Industry should stick with the overseas market: THAT was the real meat of the episode and it was barely there.

The episode had no meat Bob
Where's the meat

Timzor said...

Nice episode, definitely one of your better ones since you started the whole "storyline" thing. I was very glad to see you mention the Mega Man games, especially Legends 3--I was hoping you would, ever since they got cancelled. Don't worry too much about the ninjas, though--the Law of Conservation of Ninjutsu states that the more of them there are in one place, the weaker they become. Try luring about five more to your current location, and you should be able to plow through them with ease.

assman said...

I've been very frustrated with your new format, but I'll say this: This is the first one of your "story" episodes that I didn't hate. If you keep the show focused on the commentary and have a clear separation between the cheesy story stuff and the commentary, I think I can deal with your new format.

John M Osborne said...

Bob - uh -

Hong Kong opened up because China took it over again in 1997. International stars had some bankability, so they attempted en masse to make a career in the States.

And that didn't work out, since most of them are coming back to work at the People's Republic.

Antonio Black said...

*Channeling Mark Wilkins from Resident Evil: Outbreak*


I was expecting Aquathinker myself...but that would just make things weird.
Great episode. But I have to ask...aside from the ninja theme of the episode, why is there so much footage of Bad Dudes? Is it a guilty pleasure for you to be "a bad enough dude to save the president"?

I Luv Vietnam said...

Seriously, when are you going to stop talking shit about the COD series? Especially considering that every single argument you could make as to why COD sucks, can also be made for every Nintendo/Nostalgic series.

On on another note, why are people bitching about the fact that MW3 looks like MW2? Personally, I'm glad that it looks like MW2, because that gives Infinity Ward time to focus on what's really important, the gameplay. And so far, from what I heard, I'm sure that it will definitely deliver in the gameplay category, and that's the really important. I think Bob would understand this more than anyone.

J.C. Hedges said...

I want my Monster Hunter 3 for PSP :(

imsmart said...

whatever buddy, believe what you want to.

Fawfulcopter said...

Look, I know I probably shouldn't be on your case about a simple misplaced fact or unreliable source, but as a self-proclaimed fan of Nintendo and all related things, I would expect you to know that the Ice Flower, or any Ice abilities of any kind, did not appear in Superstar Saga.
I am sure you meant Partners in Time, the sequel.

Smashmatt202 said...

"Pyrothinker" is still a dumb name. :/

Also, I don't care if you're going for an "obvious spoof" or whatever, those fight scenes are terrible.

Now, are doing this overthinkering after or during your bombardment?

Ninjas are overrated. Pirates FTW! Also, in Mario they're called "Ninjis".

HOLY SHIT! YOU USED A PAGE FROM ONE PIECE! In that stuff you were using to describe Japanese stuff, you showed a manga page, and the manga was One Piece! I FUCKING LOVE ONE PIECE! Do you like One Piece? PLEASE say you do!!!!

Anyway, you talking about Japan makes me wonder about what you said if you made a video game. It would have Western graphics and gameplay, but an Eastern story. Now, when you said that, I thought you mean in the likes of current Final Fantasy games, and I didn't really understand why you wanted to go that route. But maybe that's not exactly what you meant...

I thought the flower looked weird, but when I saw the colors, I immediately knew what was going on, even before being informed about what it was.

Okay, the pun was bad enough, but running into a tree? You're supposed to be the overthinker, i.e. SMART, right?! What the FUCK is this supposed to tell us about you! I don't care if you're trying to be funny, clever, ironic, or whatever, you're pissing me off!

Actually, this whole Japanese thing was a great follow-up to last month on Operation Rainfall, which is interesting because the fans choice that one. Funny how these things work out.

I heard the creator of Mega Man left Capcom, which may be why we didn't get Mega Man Universe, Mega Man Legends 3, or see Mega Man in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Are you saying that might not be the case?

No, no, no, KEEP daydreaming! Keep talking about how awesome Japan is and how they shouldn't give up on us! Don't go back to this stupid, pointless storyline that insults are intelligence by trying to pretend it's all really happening!

That "Ninjas... DAMN!" line isn't as cool as you made it out to be, in all honesty.

What is that, an ice ninja? I was expecting something more original, like a wind-powered ninja, or water-ninja or Earth-ninja. Hell, even a HEART Ninja. Ice Ninja? Really? I think I know what you were going for with this, but still, I'd like to be SOMEWHAT surprised in this pile of cliches.

"Kryothinker"? Bah... Still, SLIGHTLY cooler then the other names the Overthinker threw out. And why does he want to kill the Overthinker? Okay, apparently he's with the Pyrothinker... OH, I can tell that Pyro is Bob and Kryo is Bob's brother! Anyway, what's their story? Hate to say it but I'm actually curious.

Those guys... act like a bunch of idiots when no ones watching. Also, what do they plan to do with the Overthinker? Obviously, they don't want to kill him, otherwise they'd of smashed him into pieces right then and there. Or are you just following ANOTHER cliche, Bob?

Also, I was NOT surprised. At all. Good overthinking, as usual, though.

Foolish Fool said...

Wouldn't the "Inverse Law of Ninjas" make the two less dangerous? Wouldn't their opposing alchemical leanings describe an insurmountable ideological divide? Why would a Cryothinker not appear?

Either a)He's a lazy dude and just as 'cold' is absence and passive, this dude is content to watch the world go by b)someone is cranking out pallet swap ninjas c)something else I don't know. Hopefully "c" as I predicted the word "cryothinker" as soon as the foreshadowing of another ninja.

Sir Laguna said...

Excellent episode!!! I can say this is the first "storyline" episode that was ALL good.

Congratulations Bob, you're getting better at this.

Cole said...

problem with the inverse law of ninjas. The game Overthinker is nowhere near a ninja thus the law does not apply. the only way to get around that would be to take the inverse law of ninjas and make it the inverse law of thinkers

smile said...

More people need to see this. It's hard seeing "bro" culture dominate a past time that was once a sanctuary for the nerdy and outcast.

One of your best videos yet.

AdrianRK said...

I'm not american and I think I'm around two years younger then you but I have first been introduced to Anime way before getting into gaming.
When you say that anime visual style reminds you of games, I can only wander and scratch my head. To me they're completely different..
I saw my first anime around 16 or 15 years ago.. When was the anime culture introduced to the US?

David said...

Nice episode, Bob.

Although some of your biases get the best of you sometimes, it still was a good introspection.

Only one catch, though. I know that you do this out of simple inertia, but you should watch it a little bit better to not use the word "West" when you are talking about "America".

As Adrian up here has pointed out, the relationship with Japanese culture, specially manga, anime and video game, that you describe at the beginning of the video applies for America, but not for Europe.

Anime reached Europe before the US, and we started to grow fond of it starting from the freaking late 70s. And the big "boom" started in the late 80s, nontheless.

Also, the way Europeans have viewed Japan during the last generations are completely different. It varies from country to country of course, but the general view is quite huge.

For example, Germany makes 150 years of friendship with Japan this very same year. France have always had a good relationship with them. And let's not begin with the Netherlands, which is the country that has have an impecable relatiohship with the longest.

In some countries they almost came out of nowhere, like in my homeland, Spain. Before the late 70s, they were just a far, far away country that was only briefly mentioned in history books explaining Spanish colonialism in the 16th century (Basically, we brought Cristianity to them).

Here, manga, anime and video games boomed all at once in 1990. Although anime arrived to Spain right after Franco's death, in 1978. With "Mazinger Z", no less.

The Game Boy and the NES, along with "Dragon Ball" and "Captain Tsubasa" stated the beginning of a generation of Japan-loving Spaniards that still keeps up nicely.

Still, a really good episode. And I really, REALLY like the fact that you mention Japan's economic and social swift. It's a HUGE factor on this, and still, most video game analists seem to act as it wasn't there.

Kudos for that.

And good to see that you have fixed your perception on translation and localization from last episode.

And yeah, I also hope that Japanese games can make their comeback. But the economic crisis, specially after Tohoku's earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, still looks like is gonna take years or, god forbid, DECADES.

However, when it does, I believe it's gonna be with emerging companies.

I seriously thing that Japanese video game industry is going through a swift right now. Old big companies will drop their place for growing companies, and these will lead the industry in the coming years.

Companies like Square Enix and Konami are less and less relevant, while companies like Level 5 and Atlus are filling the void.

And I'm really looking forward to see what they do once they get hold of a high position in the global market as well.

Let us hope that it happens as soon as possible.

David said...

Man, did I make grammar and spelling mistakes in that last post...

Even if English is my second language, it's not excuse for some of them.

Sorry, guys. Has been a long day. >_<

William G. said...

Well Bob, sometimes miracles DO happen like Solatorobo coming to America:
So there's still some hope. Oh, and people should pre-order the game so that you can get a soundtrack too:

nejiblue12 said...

I feel dumber for watching this piece of shit. I know you worship japan, and think them a master race that only produces classic games, every single time, while everyone from the united states produces garbage, without exception, but really, this "paint with a broad brush" approach gets fucking old fast. I don't even LIKE madden or cod that much, but god, there are other games I do like, if not love(much of blizzard's stuff, mass effect). Likewise, there's plenty of garbage to come out of japan(final fantasy 7 onward, for example.) Whatever, keep preaching to your moronic sheep fans who would never question you.

yamato-0 said...

@David: since you bring up Square-Enix falling out of favor, I find it interesting to note that, lately, they seem to have been imitating America's sense of aesthetics when it comes to designing their games. I'd like to think that this is one of the things that's killing them right now, but since I've been kinda out of the Squenix loop for a while, I can't be sure that it actually is.

Mykayel said...

Actually, this trend only seems to have an effect on the Nintendo consoles for some reason. The PSP and PS3 keep getting Japanese games and by that I mean new J-RPGs that use (brace yourself) pixel graphics, on Bluray, not as Downloadable titles.

Mint Cream said...

Hey Bob. Long time viewer, first time poster. Liking the new storyline. I don't always agree with you but your position is always well articulated, and always provides food for thought. Anyway...

I've been poking around since this episode came out trying to find out more about those two older games that appeared early on in the episode- the Final Fight/Double Dragon style one with the ninjas and whatnot chucking fireballs around, and the Ikari Warriors style vertical scroller with the crazy boss fights. I've just discovered Donpachi, and I'd love to know more about these two (or one, if they're different levels of the same game). Can anyone tell me what they're called?