It's Okay, Hutchinson, Just Admit You Made A Little Mistake
Really, we won't crucify you for what you said. Doing so would sort of prove your point, anyway, wouldn't it?
But you have to admit, you made an itsy-bitsy mistake there. We'll call it "itsy-bitsy" for the sake of remaining rational and objective; this isn't about a personal attack or a knee-jerk reaction due to personal opinion. This is just about observing another observation, and calling it into question. Nothing more. So let's all remain quite civil.
Now, the only way I see how the media can play favorites is through review scores. Editorials and op-eds are merely fan rants most of the time, and they rarely impact sales or even the general consensus concerning the quality of a game. Opinion pieces can get some negative juices flowing but they have to reach a fever pitch for them to reach the developers and publishers. No, we can only quantitatively assess any bias with the average review scores, as I see it...and as anyone can see, at Metacritic or GameRankings, Japanese games are most certainly not getting the benefit of the doubt. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The lone exception here might involve first-party Nintendo games, which somehow and beyond my comprehension just automatically receive nothing less than a 9 anywhere, and with little rationale to back up the score. But that's a very small part of the Japanese industry; the other part involves all the third-party games that come to all consoles. And last I checked, very few of those score exceedingly well. The mention of Bayonetta is interesting, because it did score very well, but not a single critic ever said it had a great narrative. So I'm not really sure why Hutchinson used that as an example of the media ignoring flaws in a game just because it's Japanese. That's just plain...bizarre.
If anything, Alex, the media, and especially critics, have held most Japanese productions to a higher standard and thus has resulted in lower scores and general disappointment all around. Or have you not noticed Final Fantasy this generation? Leaving the customary 9+ scores and adoring fans behind and replacing it with 7s and 8s and legions of fans who feel downright betrayed...? There is not a single Western-developed title or franchise that has received a fraction of the flak Final Fantasy has received this generation. And many are none too pleased with the direction Resident Evil has taken, either.
At the same time, I can't find anybody who doesn't sing the praises of the best Western-developed titles, like Uncharted, God of War, Gears of War, and of course, Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed. They are generally the highest-scoring, best-received, most popular, most beloved games out there. And oh, let's not forget that the single biggest name in video games today is Call of Duty, which has millions of gamers giving it a "free pass" on a whole lot. Japanese game makers haven't enjoyed a "free pass" in any sense of the term - unless your name is Nintendo between the years 2007 and 2010 - this entire generation, as far as I can see.
Perhaps what Hutchinson is referring to is nothing more than nostalgia, in that a great many journalists (myself included) have professed a desire to bring back some old gameplay mechanics that we've lost. But we're not stupid, Alex. We know the programmers wrote the dialogue for the old FFs back in the 16-bit days. We know the writing and voice acting even today is sub-par when compared to the more professional approaches seen in Western productions. We do know this. And because we know it, there's no chance in hell we're giving those devs who continually disappoint us a free pass. If anything, we just grow more and more bitter because they're not performing and not keeping up.
Lastly, in regards to story, I have to say- Although the storylines weren't as deep, the character portrayals and developments in older games, especially JRPGs, remains unparalleled. You can attack the narrative in FFVII all you wish; nobody is ever going to forget Cloud. But you know what? Alex said the narrative in Gears of War was pretty good (which it isn't, but whatever), and I'll give you every cent I have if the majority of gamers remember Marcus Fenix in 20 years with that same aura of respect and awe.
8/17/2012 11:42:32 AM Ben Dutka