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It’s Okay To Play A Japanese Game

This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.

As a protector, you know that you have to install Grathnode crystals into your Reyvateil to increase her combat prowess. Much to your disappointment, your Reyvateil is emotionally closed and after much diving into her cosmosphere to gain her trust and learn how to better communicate with her, she has finally allowed you to install a Grathnode crystal inside of her. “Don’t put it in too fast” she whispers to you, “It’s my first time.” So you insert the crystal gently into her back, hoping not to give her any more trauma than what she has already experienced. As she winces in discomfort, she looks down to you and smiles. You feel relieved, since her distrust of humans was due to her previous protector having physically assaulted her, and you wanted to show her that you meant her no ill will. Perhaps you can, if you care for her, help her recover from years of abuse.

When it comes to marginalized sub cultures, few are looked upon as negatively as video gamers. While a lot of the negative stereotypes foisted upon gamers can be proven false if one takes the time to explore the hobby, there is a group even deeper within the pastime that hasn’t enjoyed that same level of respect. A frowned-upon sub culture within the already negatively viewed culture of video gaming that is ridiculed even by other gamers. A group of people frequently chided and singled out in the hobby’s forums to the point where many, including myself, have had to hide our allegiance to this disrespected area of gaming culture for fear of what our devotion to it will do to our standing within the peer group at large. This group is the Japanese game fan.

To be clear, I’m not speaking about mainstream Japanese-made games such as Super Mario Brothers or Metal Gear Solid. The games I speak of are rooted in the deepest part of Japanese culture and are as far from the mainstream as one can get. Games like Hyperdimension Neptunia, Senran Kagura, the Atelier series, Mugen Souls, Disgaea, and Fairy Fencer F. Games that often star young, high-voiced characters in colorful environments making off-color jokes while melodic music hums in the background. These titles are the polar opposite of the fire-and-lead shooters that dominate the market, and for that reason, they are often seen as childish.

For many, these kinds of Japanese video games are seen as puerile, unsophisticated and exploitative. Many criticize Neptunia’s large-breasted young female leads, or bring attention to the innuendo-laced dialog of Disgaea, or write hit pieces on gaming websites about the exploitative nature of Senran Kagura’s scantily clad protagonists. While I’ll admit a lot of these Japanese games tend to be a bit over-the-top in their art design, the reasons we play them have nothing to do with a desire for titillation or a tendency towards perversion. Instead, we play them to get away from the violent, drab, destructive world we see portrayed in the rest of the hobby.

I like a good game of Halo or Call of Duty just as much as anyone else but for me that’s just a very small part of my gaming experience. Most of my time is spent trying to escape reality, not relive the nightly newscast on my Playstation. When I want to relax and leave the darkness of reality behind, I look for the colorful and positive worlds that I find in Japanese games, most of which celebrate life instead of finding ways to destroy it.

Hyperdimension Neptunia, a Japanese roleplaying game that anthropomorphizes gaming consoles into young girls, is often used as an example when people try to prove that Japanese games are immature trash. The heavy innuendo, the scantily clad young women, and the over-the-top art design have been a lightning rod for the witch hunt in gaming lately, and the people criticizing these games don’t realize that isn’t why they are played. Sure, the cute girls are fun to look at and pleasing to the eye of both genders of gamers, but that’s only a very small part of the experience. With Neptunia, a lot of the allure comes from the adorable interactions between the characters and how they navigate their highly stylized, cartoony world. Where someone sees the large-breasted Compa wrapping a half-naked Neptunia in bandages after she gets hurt and thinks it’s perverted, fans of the game see a funny and cute moment that endears both characters to the player. I know of no one who uses the scene as an arousal aid, as some seem to imply, yet it doesn’t stop that lie from being circulated online by the genre’s detractors.

There are other famous examples of supposed Japanese gaming debauchery, such as the infamous “Horse penis” joke in Disgaea and the act of “inserting” crystals into your female party members to help them gain new powers in Ar Tonelico. All can be easily written into a hit piece and pointed at as being crude and sexist. At least, they can be if you refuse to talk to those who play them and find out what we think of it. If you did, you’d find out that to us, these are funny little in-jokes that are meant to make you laugh, not to make you aroused. Yet outsiders frequently misconstrue the context of these scenes and damn the whole game for their inclusion.

For a fan of Japanese games, it’s all about being made to laugh and enjoying a positive, colorful world. Take the Atelier series, for instance. Here you have a story surrounding a different young girl in each game who rises up from poverty or strife and becomes a powerful alchemist. Usually, the female protagonist finds love as well, meeting a man whom she slowly begins to trust more and more as the game goes on. Yes, there is a fair amount of innuendo in some of them, but it doesn’t change the fact that the stories always revolve around love and empowerment. Yet the Atelier games have had their very cute female leads censored out of the front cover box art in America for undisclosed reasons. There is no nudity, no sex scene, and nothing but purely innocent instances of teenage love, yet fans of the series are made to feel ashamed for liking them. Other gamers frequently refer to those who enjoy them as “sickos” or “fairies” or worse, yet they feel it’s perfectly fine to maul a few thousand people in a shooter like Call of Duty.

Which brings us to why Japanese games are so markedly different than American games. In America, violence is seen as acceptable, but anything even remotely sexual is frowned upon. In Japan, this is flip-flopped, and it is sex that is seen as acceptable and violence that is frowned upon. In Japanese culture, youth and vitality is valued above all, so their media often tells its stories through the eyes of young characters. With such a focus on youth and sexuality, it’s easy to see why so many people get the idea that Japanese games are sick and those who enjoy them are deviants. It’s untrue, but nonetheless easy to understand. For devotees of the Japanese game subgenre, the vivacity, openness, and humorous stories are what draws us in and keeps us coming back. At a time when death is celebrated in our culture and the true beauty of life and love are ignored, many very exhausted folks are turning to the colorfully designed and refreshingly positive worlds of Japanese games to soothe them. Calling these fans sexual deviants, perverted goons or fairies isn’t fair … and more than that, it’s flat out wrong.

Many of these games even address issues that American games refuse to. Look at the fourth Persona game for the Playstation, where sexual identity is explored in a very mature fashion. Not only do we see a sexually ambiguous young woman who chooses to live as a man to gain more respect, but we see a male character who is secretly homosexual and struggles to hide it through an overly macho attitude. Although the former isn’t addressed much in the main game, the latter is slowly examined throughout the entire course of the story. Kanji, the man in question, has his masculine façade slowly peeled away until he is forced to finally come face to face with who he is. Show me one western game that does the same.

There are other instances of such delicate topics being handled by these games, such as Digital Devil Saga dealing with God and the concept of sin, Tales of Vesperia addressing the negative repercussions of combating violence with violence, and Lunar exploring the idea that love trumps all other things. Though they may come packaged with a fair amount of innuendo and a vivacious young girl or two, the overall theme of many of these games is one of positivity and cheerfulness. Though some may tackle sensitive issues, they all do so without being the dark and gloomy, violence-filled gore fests many western games have now become.

My only wish is that before people write hit pieces on these games, or criticize those who enjoy them, that they first play a few and learn why they are more than just simple “titillation” fantasy. In truth, they are an escape for gamers tired of the darkness that reality chokes us with. Japanese games are our escape.

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About

Carl is both a JRPG fan and a CRPG'er who especially loves European PC games. Even with more than three decades of gaming under his belt, he feels the best of the hobby is yet to come.



116 comments
  1. Joshua
    Joshua
    January 2, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Thank you Niche Gamer.

  2. Loli-Nox-Tan
    Loli-Nox-Tan
    January 2, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Great read

  3. BeholdMyPower
    BeholdMyPower
    January 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    One of the most engaging reads NG has provided thus far.

  4. NuclearCherries
    NuclearCherries
    January 2, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Excellent article as always.

  5. JCTXS
    JCTXS
    January 2, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    What a great write-up! I also feel the same about numerous Japanese games, and a huge part of it was that I did grow up with some of these quirky games. Although there wasn’t as big a focus on “moe” stuff back then, they were still neat to see because of the artstyle change and the focus on creating unique worlds.
    I also don’t see why so many use the innuendos as a detriment to a game. People behave like that in real life all the time, using innuendos around certain groups of friends and or vulgar language around each other. Both are things pretty much everyone does in reality. I always believed it was done to convey to the gamer that such people are familiar with each other, or to express the speaker’s personality (hound-dog).
    So it confuses me when people keep seeing such things as deviant but they go and perform the same behavior among their own circle of friends.
    I kind of wonder if such people just like being two-faced or prefer to moonlight as something else?

    Anyway, sorry for digressing. Thanks for this article! ^^

  6. Narmy
    Narmy
    January 2, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I think the fact that I was listening to the soundtrack to Ar Tonelico as I read this article is a testament to how those games have more going for them than just fanservice.

  7. Jurgis Jurgis
    Jurgis Jurgis
    January 2, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    I love this website!

  8. Pete D
    Pete D
    January 2, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Don’t usually comment on any sites these days as shouting into the comments usually feels like an exercise in futility, but making an exception here: thank you so much for posting this. It echoes my own feelings about this particular subset of interactive entertainment exactly.

    I love this style of Japanese gaming. I feel a close, personal connection with it that is completely unlike anything else in the business. The essence of “moe” — a concept which is inextricably linked with developers and games such as those mentioned in this piece — is not sexual objectification or cheap thrills, but rather the creation of characters that inspire strong feelings of genuine affection in the viewer/player/whateverer.

    As you say, it’s very easy to dismiss these games if you’re not intimately familiar with them. But look at them on anything more than the most superficial level and you’ll find some of the most memorable, lovable, wonderful characters and experiences in all of gaming — and that’s why I continue to support the wonderful folks at companies like Xseed, Aksys, Idea Factory International and NIS America who continue to bring these great games to the West.

  9. DarkAngelRafael
    DarkAngelRafael
    January 2, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. it’s well written and I enjoyed reading it. I hope those that are against my favorite kind of pure Japanese games see this and consider your points. You don’t need to be a damn “Weeaboo” to enjoy niche games! ^,..,^

  10. Nonscpo
    Nonscpo
    January 2, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Great article Carl ;)

  11. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    January 2, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I wanted to say Carl knocked this one out of the park. It’s one of the reasons why I’m proud to have him on our staff :)

  12. pomfland
    pomfland
    January 2, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    GUST soundtracks are just too good, eh?

  13. Heat
    Heat
    January 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    As a gamer who enjoys the games you just mentioned, it feels good to see a piece like this that should help some people understand that it isn’t all fanservice. There are some very positive aspects to japanese games, I have gotten more drawn in by them then a lot of western games I have played though like Carl I enjoy games from both. This intolerance in mainstream gaming media really needs to stop.

  14. Firion Hope
    Firion Hope
    January 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    That was fantastic, thank you.

    Small note, part of why SOME people didn’t understand the crystal scene is because it was translated really poorly. There was a great piece on it by the guy who wrote the scene but I can’t find it. Not that hypocrites would understand it regardless.

    And it really is as you say, sexuality is seen as a normal everyday part of life there, not something to be hidden away. So even if something IS made for sexual titillation it’s not a bad thing.

  15. Michael Richardson
    Michael Richardson
    January 2, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I’m new to this site (was referred here through Siliconera), but am already impressed with the news coverage and write-ups!

    It’s nice to see a person who actually GETS why I love these sorts of games and writes about it so eloquently. I tire of the moral guardians of the gaming press crying about the perversity of Japanese games as they simultaneously tout the virtues of their grimdark triple-A murder simulators.

  16. Cy
    Cy
    January 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I’m one of those people that really doesn’t like the scantily clad, innuendo laden kind of games. They’re just not my thing and I’ve made fun of them pretty hard in the past. But I’ve never said they shouldn’t exist and I’ve never made fun of anyone for liking them, aside from some joking with my friends and boyfriend. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with JRPG’s for a lot of different reasons, but there’s just something about them that’s so unique and appealing that I get excited every time I hear about a new one. I get disappointed more often than not, but I’m always looking for that one in fifty Japanese game that grabs me like Nocturne or Soul Nomad or Suikoden 2, and it’s awesome to have a site run by people who actually get those kinds of games.

    And you’re right, there are a lot of things that Japanese games explore that western games never do, although homosexuality sadly seems to be one of the areas where they’re lagging behind. Kanji was bisexual at best and the game keeps him safe at the end by having the “guy” he was crushing on end up being a girl.

    Eh, I had a point when I started this, but I lost it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even someone like me who hates straight boy fan service can love Japanese games too, and I wish that gamers in general could come together because of the stuff they like, rather than because they wanna shit all over the stuff they hate.

  17. Obbliglol
    Obbliglol
    January 2, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Based Nichegamer. I’d grown used to seeing my past usual sites declaring Neptunia sexist trash, but I’ve always enjoyed them. As a female with a little sister, I always felt there was a softness and a love to the way certain characters interacted with younger characters (Neptune and Nepgear, and Vert with Nepgear). But yeah, I got sick of the “heh dem wacky Japanese, let’s just call them silly and be condescending all the time” attitude. Remember the DmC vs MGR debacle? And how it was heavily implied old DMC was “gay” by Ninja Theory themselves? Ugh. All in all, stay based Japan.

    Talking of Atelier, my brother has been on holiday in the states over New Year and he’s bought Atelier Ayesha for me as a late Xmas present, so I can’t wait for that!

  18. johnjohnson
    johnjohnson
    January 2, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Like the article and I mostly agree, but Japanese society doesn’t really see sex as acceptable. It’s still a very taboo subject, and people who play these games are seen as creeps and perverts over there too.

  19. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    January 2, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Did Ninja Theory say that as well? I remember that they mentioned Dante would be thrown out of a night club, because of how he dresses (whatever the hell that has to do with demon slaying).

  20. MaidKillua
    MaidKillua
    January 2, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    I play Japanese games pretty much exclusively (I find AAA’s incredibly tedious), though never anything fanservicey (not out of judgmental nature but simply because im repulsed by sexual content). People still assume im some kind of creepy basement dwelling hentai lover. Mostly idiots who think the only turn based RPG is Final Fantasy…

  21. Obbliglol
    Obbliglol
    January 2, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Everything you need to know – http://macreadyrj.tumblr.com/post/72771625377/dmc-devil-may-cry

    Follow the Famitsu link where they correlate old Dante directly with Brokeback Mountain. Of course, no one reported on this at the time, because it’s ok if you’re homophobic to the right people :^)

  22. Domhnall
    Domhnall
    January 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I never got the impression Kanji was gay, I just thought he was extremely insecure about his hobbies (which are typically seen as feminine), leading to his overly macho mannerisms to compensate.

    Likewise, his dealings with Naoto always seemed to me to be less of a, “I dig guys and I don’t know how to deal with it,” and more of a, “I don’t understand why I’m attracted to this guy.” As in, he wasn’t dealing with discomfort from being homosexual, he was dealing with discomfort in not knowing why he was attracted to this PARTICULAR “boy.” Hence his relief when it turns out Naoto is a girl.

    But I suppose that’s all up for interpretation. Anyway, good article.

  23. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    January 2, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    I think the issue here is that they use these games as a weapon to attack gamers who play them. All games have a right to exist. The puritans fail to realize that gamers are not idiots. If we want something to satisfy our libido we will simply go to porn/partner and not spend 20+ hours on a game.

    I myself don’t like many of the JRPG games, but I welcome niche Japanese games with an open mind. Why did I buy Monster Monpiece? Because I’m interested in card games. Why will I buy Akiba’s Trip? Because I’m interested in Japanese culture and gaming. I also bought Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus and Bon Apetit just to piss off the SJWs even though I don’t like fanservice-y games and guess what? I enjoyed both and I’ll be getting the next game in the franchise.

    Gaming is such a wonderful hobby and it is a shame to limit yourself to a certain type of game.

  24. Brad Peek
    Brad Peek
    January 2, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    The cool thing about Kanji is that he was executed really well REGUARDLESS of what his sexuality ended up being. He thought he might be gay, so he started hiding it through over-the-top masculinity. He didn’t know his crush was female, so of course it worried him. The good part, however, is that he faced his shadow and accepted himself BEFORE he knew this. He became comfortable with who and what he was, and became cool with being attracted to guys, so, even if she was actually a he, he could now deal with that outcome.

    It really felt to me like it dealt more with the struggle to figure out if you’re gay or not and accepting it if you were, rather than straight up being the struggle of being gay. It’s something a lot of young people in many countries (if not EVERY country) face, and showing that it’s not only okay but IMPORTANT to be what you are irreguardless of other factors was the main message (as it is in most every Persona game), but this time saying “even if that thing is homosexual”.

  25. Lucas Osse
    Lucas Osse
    January 2, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Would love to play more of this type of game if they actually came out in English. It’s too bad I’m a lazy idiot and can’t get off my ass to just learn Japanese on my own.

  26. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    January 2, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Those fucking fucks!

    Good thing I stopped following their stupidity at some point otherwise I would have blown a vein. This does it. No more Ninja Theory games for the rest of my life unless they send the game with Tameem’s head.

    I’m still butthurt over the whole fiasco since DMC3 is one of my favorite games of all time and I enjoyed 4 even though it had some problems. The franchise didn’t need a reboot. I feel kind of bad for enjoying the fact that DmC flopped, but this was fans voting with their wallets. Such blatant disrespect for the franchise, characters and players shouldn’t be left unpunished.
    /rant

  27. 2501
    2501
    January 2, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    You know you are playing a Japanese Game when you can play it with one hand.

    That’s quiet honestly my biggest gripe with Jrpgs.

  28. DynastyStar
    DynastyStar
    January 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    thank you for the great article :) I agree with you 100% Friggen LOVE Atelier Iris, and I wish I could get myself Ar Tonelico.

  29. DynastyStar
    DynastyStar
    January 2, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Not all Japanese games are only in English. For example, Atelier Iris 3 has both Japanese and English dubbed with English subtitles. Recettear, Chantelise, and Fortune Summoners(demos available for each) all have translated text(though because they’re a very indie company with a very indie localization studio, its not dubbed, but you can still understand the plot). Some people will play a Japanese game without even having it translated because they like what they’ve heard of the gameplay(but I imagine would require some research on how to play).

  30. Actii
    Actii
    January 2, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Awesome piece. I don’t have much to say besides thanks for “turning” our feelings into words. Keep up the awesome work. <3

  31. sanic
    sanic
    January 2, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Eh I couldn’t claim I don’t make snap decisions, I know what I like and what I don’t like, but if I don’t like something I usually just ignore it, special exceptions apply like when ninja theory made DmC and thumbed their nose in fans faces, or the gross amount of jackasses at gearbox.

  32. MusouTensei
    MusouTensei
    January 2, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Great read, thanks for writing.

  33. Lucas Osse
    Lucas Osse
    January 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    I do play a lot of them, just wished we had more niche stuff like Visual Novels (can’t really play those without understanding text now can ya?) in English. It’s getting better though, I’m happy to see Steins;Gate and Clannad getting official translations for instance, I just wished they weren’t so scared to localize the stuff.

    Like the Yakuza games for instance, most of them were done but there’s always that lingering feeling we might not get one of them (Kenzan is STILL japanese only). I just hope they’ll localise Zero too, as while the game is playable without knowing the language, there’s a lot missed if you don’t understand the story as they’re usually just as good as the gameplay.

  34. DynastyStar
    DynastyStar
    January 2, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    When I said play them without understanding text, I was mostly talking about [email protected] streams I’ve watched before. of course visual novels can’t be played without understanding the text, but visual novel is just a small portion of the Japanese game subculture.

  35. Mark H
    Mark H
    January 2, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    What I love most about Japanese games is that they still just try to be games. Unapologetically so. They don’t try and hide systems and menus to try and give us a “cinematic” experience, they show you all the tools and let you have fun figuring out the best way to use them. Even MGS which is often joked about for having too many lengthy cut-scenes, which only really applies to 4 but that’s the only one so many people have played I guess, but the gameplay itself is still incredibly open-ended. Also they don’t shy away fan service, i’m a fan so whats wrong with servicing me sometimes?

  36. Hydroninja9
    Hydroninja9
    January 2, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I think I have a nomination for best article of 2015 already.

  37. Landale
    Landale
    January 2, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    There is one other thing worth noting about DmC’s media handling. It was found on 8chan that Tameem was a contributor to Edge for around half a year between 2004 and 2005. Edge having multiple members in the GameJournoPros. They were very likely looking out for their own when attacking all people with complaints about DmC.

  38. Nin
    Nin
    January 2, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks for summarizing my feelings on why I tend to prefer Japanese games over Western games. I’ll admit that the fan service is nice once in a while, but it’s hardly the main reason on why I prefer them as a whole.

    And people think that the bandage scene in Neptunia was arousing? They have very particular bandage fetishes.

  39. Funchal99
    Funchal99
    January 2, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Sorry, I just had to comment. Of course, my opinion is going to be pretty unpopular, but I swear I don’t desire to offend anyone in particular.

    Before anyone uses the card of “you are an insensitive, judgemental gamer not used to the genre”, let me say the following: I love Japanese “anime/manga” pop culture. I trully do, most of deepest experiences I had through storytelling were Japanese. I dig up Visual Novels, I know the names and works of many anime directors, anything that faintly looks like a Japanese JRPG appeals to me. I am a niched Japanese fan.

    But let me say this: people looking down on Japanese games, or pop culture in general, is not completely without it’s faults. It’s not all judgemental prejudice.

    I am sorry, but Japanese pop culture is COMPLETELLY full of crap that’s engraved at it’s core, and there’s no going around it. Take this phrase for example:
    “Where someone sees the large-breasted Compa wrapping a half-naked Neptunia in bandages after she gets hurt and thinks it’s perverted, fans of the game see a funny and cute moment that endears both characters to the player.”
    I’m sorry, but at least in my opinion, that’s just the article’s writer beating around the bush and trying to look for some sort extra and deeper meaning to scene or a character design that’s simply pure and cheap fanservice. That’s the biggest problem with Japanese media in my personal opinion: it’s full of too much fap-fuel and yes, it is clearly made to be perverted. That scene in Neptunia is not about being cute. It’s not about developing the characters. It’s about showing cute girls half-naked, and you really need to grasp at straws to actually make something more of it. It is what it is.

    Now, I’m not saying Japanese games, or everything else related to their popculture are summed up by that, but pretty much most of it at least have traces of it. Of course, in my ideal world people should look past those antics and try to find the true gems to what I consider the country that managed to come up with the most clever premises or complex storylines. Problem is, a lot of the Japan market is based around extreme otaku and other people that actively enjoy simulating a date with cute girls, or that buy games because a character looks “moe”, people that build very vocal internet comunities to worship mostly female young characters and go nuts with it. It’s just not easy to look past that if you don’t feel particularly drawn to that stuff, much less when terms like “tsundere”, “moe”, “loli” and loads and loads of unnecessary sexual innuendo, screaming characters and other stuff are thrown into the mix.

    I say all this because I myself am a fan, and I know how awesome Japanese-centric games can be. But I also understand the barrier of entry and, quite honestly, I also understand why someone would make fun of Ar Tonelico. Yes, those jokes were meant to make you aroused. Perhaps you, as a western fan was not, but I assure you the producers of the game were counting on their Japanese buyers to be.

    Ar tonelico is pretty much an RPG/Visual Novel hybrid, and just the VN medium is a terrible example of this. I love the Visual Novel genre, but anyone that digs deeper into it can see that about 90% of the works listed in VNDB are straight-up porn games, because that’s what VNs were when they started. Sure they evolved and now we have quite many works that are not about the porn or don’t feature that kind of content at all, but still has A LOT of traces left by that past. Take Steins;Gate. Everyone loves it, right? Well, the producers were not confident enough on just telling a good story: they needed the classic setup of “a male protagonist that has 5 or 6 heroines revolving around him”. What does that tell you? That yes, popular no-ero VNs still capitalize on the same basic drive a cheap and basic dating-sim’s aim to offer: you’re a dude surrounded by cute girls, choose your favorite.

    As much as perhaps most of you don’t want to admit, Ar Tonelico operates by the same premise. It might be deeper than that, sure: but it actively sells itself this way. If you’re someone not familiar with this particular antic, this what Ar Tonelico and other Japanese games will look like: a harem of cute girls. Not because you’re a misinformed, judgemental prick. Because they WANT to sell themselves as being one.

    Hell, just now this very site featured a news page about some cheap erotic VN called “Eroge Shirogane×Supirittsu”, even featuring explicit hentai CGs. I mean, what do you expect the average consummer/gamer that finds his way to this site to assume? That this might be an obscure gem he didn’t know about and now wants to check out? Of course he/she’s going to generalize Japanese niche games are about being kinky. He/She just needs to take a look at Neptunia’s cover arts to at least be sure that his bet is a safe one.

    Sorry for the long post.
    To try to summarize: Japanese media is very clear about it’s tendencies to the kinky, especially stuff that was born from Visual Novels like Ar Tonelico. Sure a lot of stuff might actually go deeper than that, but it’s still trying to appeal to the harem, the sex, the cuteness. It is what it is, and you can’t blame others for not being particularly willing to look past all that. Japanese games don’t get all their bad rep from misinformed, judgemental mainstream people. A lot of times there’s a clear reason for that, and trying to interpret certain scenes or jokes as something more than that is just you unwillingness to accept that, yes, perhapas you kinda are into 2D busty girls that fall in love with you…but your entertainment can’t be that simple, right?

  40. ReaperX30
    ReaperX30
    January 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve seen so much mediocrity from gaming websites in the last years but this is one fine piece of writing that I really connect with. Finding this site last year was the best thing I ever did. Plus the community here is actually a damn fine one so that just makes this my new favorite gaming site.

  41. Sam Arbour
    Sam Arbour
    January 2, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    As someone who’s proudly asserted his love of the Hyperdimension Neptunia characters as more than just “tasteless weeb games”, I am incredibly happy to see you all sharing my opinion. It saddens me to see the stigma against games like that, as well as against the people who enjoy them because they looked past the negativity to find a diamond in the rough.

    I have never had so much fun as I have when I played Disgaea and Hyperdimension Neptunia for the first time, as they were games that didn’t have to be overly serious in order to be memorable; they were striving to be hilarious and were even a bit satirical at times, and I never could play them without cracking several smiles.

    And getting back to the whole seriousness thing, they didn’t force the message on you. It was always there, waiting for you to actually think about it and realize how well they were playing those kinds of issues, and once you did, that was the moment you truly began to appreciate the game for what it was.

    I am so, so glad I chose to follow this site. My respect for you all increases with each article.

  42. Tyrannikos
    Tyrannikos
    January 2, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Thanks for this article. It’s a good read.

    As a particularly picky JRPG enthusiast (If you know me, you know I regularly criticize Senran Kagura type stuff, overly-moe stuff and almost anything localized by NISA), I still get shit on left and right for my choices simply because of how the games look.

  43. ReaperX30
    ReaperX30
    January 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Some people looked at me weird cause I said I liked Seran Kagura Shinobi Versus. Sure it has bouncing breasts which to be honest I like but beyond that I’d rather play it and enjoy the character stories and the humor than an over violent game like another Mortal Kombat.

  44. n00bnetrum
    n00bnetrum
    January 2, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    > A group of people frequently chided and singled out in the hobby’s forums
    See, this is what you did wrong. You tried to use a traditional forum, with usernames, post counts, cliques and 12 year olds trying to look mature in front of their Internet friends. Use anonymous BBS (I recommend 8chan’s /v/) to discuss video games instead, they do not have these problems and one can talk about games (with some funposting on the side).

  45. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 2, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    You know you’re pretty wrong with Ar tonelico, right?
    Sure, you have multiple girls to choose from for endings, but the first and third game have one ending that is not tied to any particular girl. Plus, the girls that aren’t end up moving on and finding their own way in life that’s not emotionally or economically dependent on the protagonist, with proper conclusion in their character arcs, while generally non-chosen heroines tend to die or disappear completely from the plot from VNs once their routes have been ignored.
    Plus, Ar nosurge, the more recent game in the EXA_PICO series which Ar tonelico is part from completely schews route choice and makes players go for two sets of preselected pairs that already have a long story before the start of the game. So the harem elements don’t really fact in here.

    Plus, the more “sexual” jokes (the Installs and the Dives) usually have an in-world reason for them that refers to the fact that the protagonist is supposed to grow alongside the girl they protect, and the fact they must suffer along with her if they expect their relationship to grow deeper. Now, if we go to the CGs and the costumes, the games themselves usually don’t have beyond two or three “ecchi” level illustrations, and the game gives the player the option to not equip the Reyvateils with the more fanservicey costumes, especially due to the fact that the more revealing costumes usually have the worst stats. As for the Purge mechanic… well, I’ll just say I liked how the technical explanation serves for a nice tie-in with the game’s theme of connecting with the planet, but I also thing it went too far. The developers also thought the same and apologized for making it, though.

  46. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 2, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    A very well written article that shows the side of those that have gotten disparaged not only by other gamers, but also by the hypocritical elitist RPG players. I can only agree with the points made here.

    By the way, good reference with the Installs from Ar tonelico, though I’d like to add something: when a crystal is Installed, the Reyvateil is subject to such an intense pain that she ends up clinging to her partner, and grabs him or her so tightly that her nails might end up driving into partner’s skin and drawing blood. That’s how it is according to developer commentary, showing the act is supposed to make both sympathize from the suffering that act causes to them both, and grow through it.

  47. Zanard Bell
    Zanard Bell
    January 2, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    I wouldn’t consider touching Neptunia, for it shares the same traits that I’m actively hating in anime nowadays. (Moetrash, harem, tittilation.) But if the gameplay itself is ace, who really cares? (By the way, I ain’t the one to talk, considering I have Agarest in my Steam account, lol.)

  48. Siveon
    Siveon
    January 2, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    I fail to see anywhere in the article stating that RPG players were hypocritical or elitist. Granted, a good portion of them are, but I still don’t see where that idea came from.

  49. Siveon
    Siveon
    January 2, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I can’t really relate, since I haven’t really played any of those titled except those from the Shin Megami Tensei series (which includes Persona). Though I’m totally for the notion of letting people play what they like, not like I can stop them.

    Good article.

  50. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 2, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    I’m not saying that all of them are, but some of them are of the type that see a game has even a bit of fanservice and instantly call it crap that no one should ever touch, regardless of how the game’s other aspects are.

  51. Siveon
    Siveon
    January 2, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    Oh, well the same can be said for any type of gamer really.

  52. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 2, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Yeah, it’s true.

  53. Esura
    Esura
    January 3, 2015 at 12:33 am

    I really liked this write up and it’s probably one of my favorite pieces on this site as it really reflects a lot of my frustrations I have as a fan of Japanese games such as Neptunia and other games similar to it. That said, the one thing that threw me off in the article is the whole Kanji being homosexual bit. His whole struggle within his arc in Persona 4 (as well as Naoto) is about not conforming to typical gender roles society expects of them and to accept themselves for what they are. Kanji frustrations with the opposite sex came from him getting teased about his “feminine” hobbies by girls and him feeling the need to show out to prove his manhood, hence his appearance and the way he acts. I guess it could be perceived as some sort of latent homosexuality issue but I think that kinda simplifies everything imo.

    Anyways, great piece!

  54. Firion Hope
    Firion Hope
    January 3, 2015 at 1:26 am

    YES! That was exactly it. Thank you!

  55. Firion Hope
    Firion Hope
    January 3, 2015 at 1:30 am

    Pretty much this. Even among people who do like these games there’s still uptight elitists who crap on fanservice or moe and judge. It’s the same with anime too.

  56. Zombie_Barioth
    Zombie_Barioth
    January 3, 2015 at 6:05 am

    You know your post is the equivalent of saying “I’m not racist, I have a black friend”, right? In one ‘breath’ you say its not prejudice or judgemental, yet in the other you say Japanese pop-culture is full of crap while telling us we’re just fooling ourselves. That and you missed the point of the article.

    We’re fully aware of how much of Japanese media seems to others, but we’re also willing and able to look past the fan-service. We’re definitely nit afraid of it either.

    What you discribe is exactly where the prejudice and judgement comes from, and it IS prejudice and judgement. You may not realize it, but you’re doing the exact same thing. In-fact, lecturing actually people on it.

    Sorry for the down-vote by the way, I missed the damn reply button.>_>

  57. Daniel Pang
    Daniel Pang
    January 3, 2015 at 6:36 am

    What?

    B-but I play these for titillation and my own tendencies towards perversion!

    Kidding. To poke the big weeaboo group hug a bit, video games come from Japan. The western video game industry – namely the American one – drove itself into the ground once before, and may still do so again. As someone who doesn’t live in a western country, the entire debate about this is just insane.

    We weren’t mad that the western game industry rose back to dominance, or angry that the dudebro stereotype became the go-to encyclopedia entry when people looked up ‘gamer’. We were just mad because Western developers made shit games. Buggy software, broken patch-later mentality, early access, “indie” developers sponging off the success and nostalgia of other, greater games… it’s no small wonder that the PC market in Japan was for ages the territory of H-games. And those ran on toasters.

    And boy almighty, did we out east get frothing furious when Japanese developers all shit the bed running to try and capture what they thought was the ‘western audience’. Square-Enix shit the bed so hard they fell from definitive JRPG developer and industry titan to running joke we all laugh about to torture fans of Final Fantasy.

    I think we’ve recovered a bit. Japanese games are seeing an audience, and developers are waking up to the fact that people liked Japanese games just the way they were (millions of dollars in lost sales and tanking stock value later). And boy almighty, you’d better bet that all of Japan is watching the Clannad kickstarter’s explosive success like a hawk.

    There’s no need to separate “western” and “eastern” games anymore – the definitions are arbitrary as we grow closer and closer to a singularity of culture and international borders become nonexistent. If anything, we should just call games what they are, whether they’re mirror-sheen, razor-sharp and blisteringly intense shmup, or bloated, excessive, buggy, overbudgeted FPS games.

    Shit.

  58. Zombie_Barioth
    Zombie_Barioth
    January 3, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Great article, now this is exactly what I’ve come to Niche Gamer for.

    I haven’t really got into too many of the more fan-servicy games, but I definitely know how people typically view Japanese media. I’ll never understand the desire for anything one doesn’t like go away, and its astounding how people will even claim to be impartial or not interested, yet still want that. Its like it’s very existence bothers them.

    As for the games themselves, Carl hit the nail on the head. Thats exactly what drew me in, the bright, colorful outside and deceptively deep inside. Games like Tales of that can tell stories about racism or philosophical views without sacrificing artstyle or light-hearted fun. They don’t need to be all serious all the time.

  59. Sylveria Shini
    Sylveria Shini
    January 3, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Have to love that they’re making the DmC port for PS4 and all the things they’re promoting about it boil down to “We (Ninja Theory) fucked up, here’s classic Dante, and all our stupid combat ideas have been removed.” Just need to get rid off the “Trying too hard” dialogue and a narrative based on Tameem’s weird obsessive hatred of Bill O’Rielly (of whom I’m not a fan, but I wouldn’t make it part of a design document) and ripping off They Live.. and you’d have.. well you’d have DMC4.. which we’re also getting remade for PS4.

  60. Funchal99
    Funchal99
    January 3, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I’ll be frank in the fact that I don’t know much of the series Ar Tonelico comes from simply from the fact the games themselves never looked appealing to me in particular, but that’s just what I said: sure, it goes deeper than that, and it might not even be about the harem/sexual elements (at least in the case of Tonelico, the one I’m more familiar with, don’t know about the others), but it still wishes to capitalize on it at first glance to sell itself.
    It might be MUCH more than that, but the game doesn’t really advertise itself, with it’s propaganda, art-design or anything, as “play this for a GREAT, GRIPPING AND MEANINGFUL story!”. The advertisement for Ar Tonelico (and I ASSUME for the rest of the series, though I can’t be sure now) is “look, cute girls in the cover! Equip them with costumes! Each girl has an ending, which will you choose!?” In which case is an even bigger shame for me personally, because it’s perhaps a great game, with a great story and characters that’s just trying to sell itself and something else.

    So, in order to enjoy the game, I’ll have to look past some stuff I might not like, like unnecessary fanservice, too much sexual innuendo, etc, etc . Sure, I personally can do that, but not everyone is willing. The probem I have with the article is that it sort of pretends all those things I just mentioned don’t really exist and every fanservicey scene or innuendo actually has a greater purpose that nobody in mainstream can see due to prejudice.

  61. Funchal99
    Funchal99
    January 3, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Don’t worry, I don’t mind the down vote.
    I get whay you’re saying and perhaps you are right regarding my personal opinion/attitude, but I don’t think you really understood my point.
    For example, I don’t see how my post is equivalent to . I’m not saying you’re stupid or worse than other people for enjoying specific antics of Japanese games or media. It’s your life, and you have the right to enjoy whatever you like. I’m just “lecturing” people here to be more honest instead of actively trying to embelish their preferences in order to “be respected”.
    Quoting from another reply I gave: “My problem with this article is that it feels like it pretends that issues like those mentioned by me and you (fanservice, harem, too much innuendos, etc) don’t really exist, and that every fanservecey scene actually has a deeper meaning that the mainstream can’t get due to prejudice”.

    My point is: people thinking Japanese games are summed up by those particular antics might be due to prejudice, but being turned by the…um, “tendencies” of the art styles is not “lack of an open mind”, because Japanese products (at least nowadays) actually SELL themselves like this, so what do you people expect from the avarage consummer/gamer? They’ll obviously think it’s dumb, pervy or at the very least simply not for them. Sure you’re not afraid of fanservice, but others might find it unconfortable or, yes, laughable. Who exactly are you to demand respect when the very medium you enjoy doesn’t really respect itself and demands that almost any anime/manga-like product has at least a little bit of scantly clad lolis and busty girls?
    I mean, it’s the same thing with viral youtube videos about people singing very badly. People ARE going to laugh and ridicule you, no matter how much you have the right expose yourself like that.

    I’m not saying it is NOT okay to play Japanese games. It sure is, like anything else. I just don’t like when I feel people try to make it look more than it actually is for the sake of being able to say “see!? It’s not pervy at all! It’s so deep and mature!”. If anything, you’re not really sure yourself if it’s okay to play a Japanese game. You’re looking out to others so they can tell you it’s okay to.

    All I’m saying in the end is: just admit that your tastes, in the case Japanese media, also has a lot of stuff and specific antics that yes, are pervy and all that everyone says. I particularly think it’s a shame and wish VNs would just ditch those dating-sim antics so they could be more popular, but oh well.

  62. Mantiskilla
    Mantiskilla
    January 3, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    A great article for sure.

    Only issue i have with it honestly is that who on this site is going to disagree with what you wrote? I mean the target audience your trying to appease in this article are already here so of course they are all going to cosign to this being a “great piece” etc. Now as for myself I don’t play as many JRPG games as I used to but I do play some other niche games which is why I come to the site

    That being said to me an article like this needs to inform more of the “uninformed” (or what I hear a lot of the JRPG/Japanese gamer call them “Dudebros” so the stereotypes are not just one way),,,,not a crowd in which people who read it will give you lots of +1 in comments and all agree b/c they all have the same thoughts.

    I’m sure I’ll get some negative comments b/c frankly my opinion is different to what everyone else agrees with, but to me opinions like this on a site like this just doesn’t get the word across. It’s just another soapbox moment about the “no so charmed life” that niche gamers go through and that like minded fans will all just agree with.

  63. EvaUnitO2
    EvaUnitO2
    January 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I’d like to preface my rebut by saying I really appreciate this article. It’s insightful and speaks of a topic rarely brought up in any sort of meaningful way. Well done. My comment is in no way an indictment of the author or his opinion. It’s simply my perspective on the issue.

    I cringe at games like these. The first paragraph of this editorial sums it up pretty well. “Don’t put it in too fast, it’s my first time” is something far too common in these games. As a joke, it’s just crude. However, the delivery is usually so deadpan that it’s plain ol’ cringe-worthy.

    I think a big issue is that a lot of people have a difficult time seeing cute and sexy in the same way. Something is either cute or it is sexy. To them, it cannot be both. So, if tits are flying then, to these people, the scene cannot be cute. If you try to make it cute then you’ve made it perverted. You’ve sexualized something that depicts the traits of young girls…and honestly, I think that’s hard to argue.

    The article talks about how these games are the polar opposite of the military porn death fests of CoD and its ilk. It’s a great point. However, I find these over-the-top love/sexy/cutesy fests to be equally as abhorrent as the violence depicted in CoD. Stuffing glass in to the mouth of a bad guy and punching him in the jaw in the name of freedom and teary-eyed bald eagles? Not cool. Shoving what is clearly a dick analogue (for humor or otherwise) in to a big tittied chick who acts like she’s 8 years old? Not cool either.

    You see, this sort of thing *is* puerile. Escapism *is* puerile. Eventually, we learn to grow up and live within our world rather than escape to an idealized one. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have fantasy. Fantasy and fiction are great. It’s just when the fantasy is clearly being used to try to remedy something in the real world (such as to serve as an escape or to serve to justify one’s political leaning) is where it gets a bit distasteful.

    I grew up heavy in to Japanese nerd culture. Import games, anime, j-pop. It even colored my choice to take Japanese at uni. Now, I’m going to be a grump and say it was all better when I was a kid, heh. Stories had real passion and real import. Characters were really genuine and unique. Not like this garbage we have today!

    Of course, that’s not fair. Japanese games still have great stories and characters. Moreover, they often touch on subjects western games avoid. That’s what’s great about different cultures. You get different perspectives and can have a wider dialogue. However, I think the big problem for someone like me is that these games seem stuck in a rut. I’ve seen it all before. While there are some aspects that are really good, there are others that are clearly just pandering to a particular audience. It’s those elements that someone like me frowns upon artistically.

    Take your Persona 4 example. I actually just finished the Steamy Bathhouse dungeon last night (in Persona 4 Golden) so the Kanji scene is fresh in my mind. We’d never see something like that in a western game. It’s not even just the fact that the game brought up homosexuality. It was brought up as just another secret, just another hidden face one may have. It wasn’t super duper serious or even a heavy focal point. Kanji’s shadow didn’t define him, only a part of him that he wanted to keep hidden away…and not even entirely because he’s ashamed of the thoughts, rather because he wants to be accepted by someone. Anyone.

    That scene was delivered brilliantly. It was a secret important to Kanji yet still not a big deal. It was a demon he had to face and he faced it with folks who would be his pals. It’s definitely a fantastic scene that defines Japanese RPGs.

    However, the game also has the really awful, played out, and downright silly teen drama bullshit. The one girl who stands outside of the library literally says, “…but s-sometimes I don’t have the courage to go inside. S-senpai is in there…” Jesus Christ, stab me in the face. This bullshit is also something that defines Japanese RPGs. That level of character realization is right up there with literary dregs like Twilight.

    So, there are criticisms coming from two different audiences. There’s the western audience who can’t connect cute and sexy. Then, there’s the “anime” audience who’s tired of the teenage emotional schtick. Gundam Wing sent all of anime and gaming in to that tailspin, in my opinion =P I don’t have a solution to the first criticism. I think they have a point that’s at least worth discussing. However, the second point can be mitigated with more variety. This, unfortunately, fractures the community.

    Is it okay to like Japanese games? Sure. Absolutely. Anyone telling you otherwise is being unfair. However, I personally would like to see less teen drama and less moe. I would like to instead see more variety of stories, characters, and depictions. I think a Japanese perspective could be more impactful if it breaks out of the pattern of samey stories with samey characters.

  64. Fenrir7
    Fenrir7
    January 3, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    This is why Niche Gamer is my favourite gaming site :)

  65. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 3, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    And I ask: have you played the game the first paragraph is quoting? Because if the only thing you can see in there is a sex joke and a dick analogue, I’d have to question less the mentality of the players that are playing it, and more the mentality of the people who misconstrue it to be mere perversion. The same goes for moe in general: one can see things as cute and sexy without necessarily seeing them as perverted.

    Additionally, merely seeing the characters in the JRPGs as archetypes that have been done to death over and over carries an implicit risk of missing entirely their actual development and how they have qualities that actually break them off the mold. No better example are the Ar tonelico series due precisely to most of their characters being archetypes at first sight, but when the player actually comes to know them more either through the storyline or the series’ own Dive system, they notice how wrong it is to judge a book for its cover.

    As for the teen drama angle, I can’t really agree with it for two reasons: one is that developers usually have to stick with their base demographic because otherwise they’ll end up bankrupt, and second, because that still manages to get out some good stories due either to deconstructing the premise of the story itself or exploring them in other ways.

  66. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 3, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    The series has never tried to sell itself on merely fanservice or the multiple routes, as it’s never been advertised that way because it’s main selling points have always been on music, the interesting world and the Dive system as a way to get to know the characters better. And I personally don’t take in account NISA’s marketing for it because of how they blew out the fanservice in the script out of proportion in comparison to how it was in Japanese, making far cruder jokes, turning subtle lines into cringe-worthy ones, changing the character’s personalities in some cases, and even outright ruining the terminology for the game world.

    On the other hand, the marketing Tecmo-Koei did for Ar nosurge went in the other direction, promoting the world view, characters and the music, which are the elements the series is known for.

  67. EvaUnitO2
    EvaUnitO2
    January 3, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    A lot of people aren’t able to marry cute and sexy. Full stop. You can. Wonderful. That’s not enough to convince them, though. If you want acceptance, as this article argues for, then you need to explain why their view is misguided, not just state that it is.

    That Ar Tonelico bit in the first paragraph is *clearly* innuendo. To suggest anything less is being disingenuous. Here’s a clip for people to judge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoODv8LVib8 …and here’s the ESRB’s summary of their M rating for the third game: https://www.esrb.org/ratings/synopsis.jsp?Certificate=30514

    I’m not sure what your point is regarding archetypes. There are scads of games that fit the mold to the letter. Are there some that don’t? Of course. Are they worth playing? You bet. Does that mitigate the issue? Absolutely not.

    You’ve lost me with your disagreement about the teenage drama stories, I’m afraid. If you’re arguing that developers need to tread that same water game after game in order to stay in business then okay. Whatever. It doesn’t solve the problem. If you’re instead saying that they’re actually not the same teenage drama stories because they’re actually clever takes on the genre or turn the stereotype on its head then that’s wonderful. There are a few games that do that. I’m always game to hear of more.

  68. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 3, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    I’ll just say that the “innuendo” you say is completely mistaken, and bringing the video with the English dub that made it so infamous only demonstrates it, as the creator of the series had completely different thoughts in mind for that scene, which I’ve echoed countless times already, and I’ve even posted a link to them in a previous comment that can be read further below. In fact, here is the link to it: http://artonelico.wikia.com/wiki/ARM_Backup/Ar_Portal_translation/Firefly_Alley_Citizen%27s_BBS/Issue_16

    And then, I’d like to hear why my points on archetypes and storylines are so irrelevant to the discussion. You’re only saying that they don’t mitigate the issue at all, but I’m seeing the opposite: if they were actually all the same thing, as you’re suggesting, all stories would be carbon copies to each other and there we would actually have an actual variety crisis because there wouldn’t be anything different to play.

  69. Funchal99
    Funchal99
    January 3, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Huh, I never knew that. Good to know. Thank you.

  70. Truomae
    Truomae
    January 3, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    Got an account so that I could say how much this article means to me. As the resident JRPG collector in my area, I find myself explaining a little too often how anime style is not automatically equal to porn…

  71. Zombie_Barioth
    Zombie_Barioth
    January 4, 2015 at 12:10 am

    I know its no big deal, I just don’t typically down-vote anyone, that one was courtesy of my tablet.XD

    What I meant by it being equal to “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” was you started off talking about how big a fan of Japanese pop-culture you are before going on about the ‘truth’, as if its supposed to aid your credibility. Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better way of putting it without being overly blunt.

    Anyway, I don’t think anyone is trying to make it look like those things aren’t there. The problem is we’re arguing over different viewpoints. This is very much a violence vs. sexuality in media argument, where the latter is often seen as shameful or even taboo, which it shouldn’t be.

    The argument isn’t “no fan service/sexual innuendo here” its that its not the only reason to enjoy Japanese media, or even THE reason, and no, not all of it is “porn” like so many assume. If things ended at “not for me” it’d be nice, but it doesn’t, and thats where the prejudice begins.

  72. Funchal99
    Funchal99
    January 4, 2015 at 1:14 am

    “its that its not the only reason to enjoy Japanese media, or even THE reason, and no, not all of it is “porn” like so many assume.”
    But that’s exactly my point. the avarage consummer has this particular view of Japanese media not because he’s prejudicial, but because in general Japanese games are widely marketed around the fanservice and the possibility of a cute girl falling in love with you.

    To be a bit more blunt and concise, imagine the following situation:
    Your friend that knows nothing about japanese particular shenanigans walks into your room while you’re playing a Visual Novel, or a game that features many CGs, or whatever. On the TV, we see a very innocent-looking and VERY busty girl hugging the protagonist. Thee illustration is drawn in a way that emphasizes just how her huge boobs are pressing against our hero, who is obviously blushing.
    Your friend then says: Dude, what the hell is that? Her breasts are bigger than her head! You playing a hentai porn game or something?

    Now, there’s two kinds of answers you can give.

    #1: Yeah, too much on the kinky side of things, I know. But no, it’s not porn. Actually, despite having pictures like that, it actually has a pretty good story. The background drama for this booby-lady we see here is actually pretty cool, you know? She’s actually [insert plot explanation here];

    or

    #2: What!? You just assume I’m watching porn from ONE scene in the entire game? What’s wrong with you, this is not pervy at all, it’s art! It’s supposed to represent an intimate moment where the protagonist and the girl begin to love each other after he hears that sad story;. Her barely covered brests in turn represent just how much she’s opening up to us, like never before! How dare you, calling this beautyfull and deep moment a simple big-breasted fetish!

    Friend: So…it isn’t?

    You: Of course not! You just don’t know how Japanese games roll, man. Open your mind! Everything in this game has a deep purpose to be there. You’re just being a purist.

    Friend: I will proceed to make fun of you now after hearing that.

    You: What! That’s SO disrespectful. You judgemental prick that can’t appreciate media from somewhere else! And thus, I am the victim.

    See the big difference?

  73. dsadsada
    dsadsada
    January 4, 2015 at 4:05 am

    Funny thing about that scene. I didn’t give the innuendo in it any mind at all when I first played it.

    Everything leading up that scene was with regards to the main character getting too full of himself that his idea of protecting was getting too close to being a mere brute. That scene came later on when the guy got his act together and realized that protecting someone isn’t all about strength but also gentleness. Rather than seeing the innuendo, that scene tugs at my heart strings. Always has since the first time I saw it.

    And then later on I found out about NISA’s localization practices. Frankly, I’d sooner blame them for taking it too far unless someone tells me otherwise. I have at least heard that they changed up the sequel to have even more innuendo when it was intended to be a more serious game. So in that regard, the fault lies with the American localization company rather than with the Japanese producer.

  74. dsadsada
    dsadsada
    January 4, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Funny thing about Senran Kagura. I only tried out Shinovi Versus as my first game in the series because I heard the gameplay was good if you’re into hack and slash games. Now I just wish the camera was better and there was an arcade mode.

  75. Holyfox25
    Holyfox25
    January 4, 2015 at 5:31 am

    “See the big difference?”

    Yeah, the fact that your question is loaded to the point of absurdity.

    You imply that if we use scenario #1, the “friend” would accept that answer and will not make fun of you and everything would be hunky-dory.

    Problem is: we do that, (This article, for example) and we still get over-the-top articles and commenters stating the games so called sexism, the players are just perverts and other such nonsense. Sorry, but I don’t believe that if your “friend” asks an ignorant and stereotypical question, he is going to all of sudden turn a new leaf because you explained it nicely and stupid proofed it.

    Scenario #2 is just a nonsensical straw man.

  76. Zombie_Barioth
    Zombie_Barioth
    January 4, 2015 at 6:06 am

    The prejudice doesn’t come from the ‘misunderstanding’ if you will, it comes from the lack of experience and close-mindedness.

    Ever seen someone claim most anime is hentai while all they personally saw or can name only a handful of them? Or how about the usual arguments over any sort of sexuality or its censorship? The “killing the industry” stuff? Thats the sort of thing we’re talking about here.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen your second scenario play out though, not even in the sense that its “art”. It could be, but I think ‘misunderstood’ is more accurate. It could also be meant to be taken both ways, having both fan service/innuendo for whatever reason and actual worthwhile content.

    The bottom line though, is its not a bad thing either way. Like anything else proper discretion is important.

  77. Funchal99
    Funchal99
    January 4, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Sure, I do agree with that, my only argument is: yes, there’s a lot of purposefully kinky stuff on Japanese media. It is what it is. Sure a lot of times the game/anime/manga can have a great story, great characters and all that jazz, but the fanservice scenes are still just that: fanservice.

  78. Funchal99
    Funchal99
    January 4, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I was purposefully exagerated on this hypothetical situation to convey my point, but perhaps I went over the line.
    My only argument is the following: there’s a lot of purposefully kinky stuff in Japanese media. Sure, a lot of times the game/anime/manga has a great story/characters, but the fanservice scenes are still just that: fanservice.
    What I got from this article that I’m “rebutting” is that I see a lot of people trying to nerf meaning where sometimes…actually, a lot of times, there simply isn’t. Your Japanese game does not need to be a perfectly constructed and meaningfull piece of entertainment for you to not be “ashamed” of it. Yes, it can have half-naked girls and big boobs just…because.
    It might be just me, or wishful thinking on my part, but I just think trying to say a fanservice scene or design are meant to mean something deeper just makes it looks more silly to the general public than it might already be.

    That’s my whole premise, and I can’t be clearer than that. If you still see fault in this, we’ll just have to agree do disagree.

  79. Holyfox25
    Holyfox25
    January 4, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    You will get no argument from me about fanservice going over-board at times, but the problem is that is not really the point of the article; its point is to defend a sub culture of gamers because the rest of the media as jumped on the “sexist pervert” bandwagon, rather than being pro-consumer and defending gamers.

    Criticism of fanservice is fine, but I would not mind a couple of articles like this on mainstream websites instead on assuming doom and gloom and thinking your audience are perverts.

  80. BigHat FBW
    BigHat FBW
    January 4, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Personally, I wouldn’t push too hard the idea that otaku pandering isn’t meant to be erotic. A lot of it is and a lot of it isn’t really meant for kids. I’d focus on the idea that a lot of what makes people uncomfortable about this media is culture shock and that a lot of the more unreasonable criticism boils down to ignorance and intolerance.

  81. TheSegaMan
    TheSegaMan
    January 5, 2015 at 3:22 am

    Thank you so much for this article. I have never been to this site before and only stumbled across it because I was looking up stuff on Atelier Shallie (a game I am very excited for) and I am very glad I did.

  82. Kain Yusanagi
    Kain Yusanagi
    January 5, 2015 at 7:32 am

    GUST everything.

  83. Matt (82)
    Matt (82)
    January 5, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    “While Iu2019ll admit a lot of these Japanese games tend to be a bit over-the-top in their art design, the reasons we play them have nothing to do with a desire for titillation or a tendency towards perversion. Instead, we play them to get away from the violent, drab, destructive world we see portrayed in the rest of the hobby.”nnnWhy can’t they be that way without the sexualization of children then? Why aren’t you playing Rayman or Mario more? People are obviously interested in it for sexual reasons.nn”Which brings us to why Japanese games are so markedly different than American games. In America, violence is seen as acceptable, but anything even remotely sexual is frowned upon.”nnI don’t think that’s true. Most of the world’s porn is made in America.

  84. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 5, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    And here’s a perfect example of the reasons why the article was written: complete blindness toward the fact these games aren’t just mere sexual titillation, and the fact that some people seem to be completely unable to separate reality from fiction. Plus, I’d have to be very doubtful of a person if the only thing someone can see in them is “sexualization of children”.nnAnd it’s false: no matter how much porn is made in America, it does nothing to change the fact the general culture there is tremendously puritan and fearful of talking about anything even remotely related to sex (or that can be misconstrued to be like that) in comparison to places like Europe or Japan. Otherwise, how is it that America is the only place that actually raises stink about this?

  85. Matt (82)
    Matt (82)
    January 5, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I never said, not even remotely implied, that the only thing about these games is titillation. As far as America being the only place, most of the articles I can think of that have raised a stink come from non-Puritan places like the UK, such as at VG247. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is distaste in Japanese society too for such products – not necessarily a complete acceptance.

  86. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 5, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    How is it then that we can interpret “people are obviously interested in it for sexual reasons”? With that you’re saying that’s the only reason anyone could care about them.nnnAnd I’d have to see the articles in question first, but as far as I’ve seen, articles written in America tend to be the ones that give the hardest time to Japanese games just from the fanservice factor.nnnAnd for that last point, I’d have to say that’s not the case: reading from Japanese reviews and message boards, the most you get there is people laughing a little when some fanservice appears in these games, but not universal panning or mocking to those who like them as it happens here.

  87. Matt (82)
    Matt (82)
    January 5, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    No, saying people are interested in it for sexual reasons isn’t saying it’s the only reason, it’s just saying it’s one of the reasons. I mean, yesterday I was on the Gamefaqs Vita message board. I was reading some discussions about Hyperdimension Neptunia and if it was a good game or just about the girls. People have like 500 message long debates about this stuff. Some said it was a terrible game and it was just about the girls. Then others talked about their favorite “waifus.” nnnThen I went to another thread that was like, “If there is a PS Vita 2 will you buy it?” and the first response was, “Will there be waifus?”

  88. Holyfox25
    Holyfox25
    January 5, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    … Are you seriously arguing a GameFAQs thread is proof that all the game players are in it for sexual reasons? nnLet me tell you something, I’m a gamer. I play many types and genres of games: Action, WRPGs, Shooters, and yes, even niche JRPGS like Ar tonelico and Neptunia. (The only types of game I don’t really play are sports and I still have played some of them) I’m very passionate about this medium ever since I grew up on a Super Nintendo when I was five years old. I play many types of games because I believe restricting yourself is a disservice. There are many stories, characters, and game mechanics that come from many different artists and cultures. From the battle harden veterans of Call of Duty to the singing Reyvateils of Ar tonelico, all games are art and artists deserve to have their work looked at fairly; not judged on emotional knee jerk reactions and saying sensationalist exacerbating statements like “sexualization of children.”nnnDoes that give some perspective on why someone would want to play these games? Or are you going to say no matter what, I’m playing these games because I might be a closet pervert?

  89. Matt (82)
    Matt (82)
    January 5, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Just calling it like it is. Didn’t really mean much by it. Of course there are other reasons for liking the games as well, like the artistic qualities or the gameplay.

  90. Misogynerd
    Misogynerd
    January 6, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    I don’t see the games as perverted, but sometimes Japanese dialogue in games can be as Kefka put it: “You sound like lines from a self-help book!” or incredibly redundant. I know the games are mostly made for Japanese kids/teens but I’m sure they can get the message.nnnYes JRPGs, I know friendship is awesome, especially when the gameplay is all about teamwork and there are mechanics about characters working together to make a stronger or better power. You don’t need to tell me before the final boss that friendship is the shit.nnnStill it’s a different side from the coin from shitty western writing where I forget what the plot is in stuff like Darksiders, Crysis, and Dead Space 2.

  91. Phil F.
    Phil F.
    January 9, 2015 at 10:13 am

    “It’s okay to play a japanese game”nIt’s really not, most weeb games aren’t even games, they’re just lazy comic books with a bit of porn thrown in. You can call cod and the like anything you want, but at the very least they can objectively be called games.

  92. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Another good example of how gamer “culture” is on the ground right now, as some people can’t simply seem to grasp principles of life as simple as “don’t do to others what you don’t want to have done to you” and “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing”.nCan it be possible we someday can we enjoy the things we like without others attacking them and starting a stupid argument that goes to the point of everyone attacking each other even over the most ridiculous things?

  93. Obbliglol
    Obbliglol
    January 9, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I’m never going to buy DmC because 1) the developer made it plainly obvious about what I, as an older DMC fan, meant to them and what the series meant to them and 2) the characters and writing are beyond terrible. I’m definitely buying the DMC4 re-release. It will be very interesting seeing which one sells more.

  94. Phil F.
    Phil F.
    January 9, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    No, i will never grasp why someone wants yet another hugbox community, that just seems kind of retarded. Also, i would say the vast majority of niche jap titles not being on-par with junk like Depress quest and proteus isn’t ridiculous.

  95. Phil F.
    Phil F.
    January 9, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    “all games are art”nAnd that’s when you lost me, gg no re. nnOf course, what really exacerbates the problem is when a company that releases a game where a bunch of extremely young looking girls are sexualized, and all weebs can complain about is how they took out some of the creepy fan-service.

  96. Holyfox25
    Holyfox25
    January 9, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    “And that’s when you lost me, gg no re.”nnOh, I’m sorry, only your definition of art is true, my mistake.nnFrom your previous conversation with aquagon, you said that you don’t want a “community with a hug-box.” I don’t think you know what that means; thinking your audience is smart, can accept different opinions and assuming they are not perverts is not being a hug-box, it’s common freaking sense.nn”Of course, what really exacerbates the problem is when a company that releases a game where a bunch of extremely young looking girls are nsexualized, and all weebs can complain about is how they took out some of the creepy fan-service.”nnI assume you are talking about Mugen Souls? Yes, there were a group of people complaining about the censorship, however there was a bigger group that understood the situation and brought the game anyway. Hell, it sold enough to get the sequel here… So, “all of the weebs” complained? nnnnYeah, sorry, I stick by my previous post; You are sensationalizing and exacerbating this issue because you have a personal axe to grind. The fact you are using baiting terms like “weeb” doesn’t lead me to believe you are interested in rational debate either.

  97. aquagon
    aquagon
    January 9, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Cool story bro, with that you have demonstrated to me that there’s nothing to talk about with you, as you have a radical viewpoint that makes you an utter failure as a human being: close-minded and eager to attack anyone who enjoys what you doesn’t, and who doesn’t agree with your viewpoints.

  98. Phil F.
    Phil F.
    January 9, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    You say that as if you actually had something interesting to say.

  99. Phil F.
    Phil F.
    January 9, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    I like how you just jump to getting offended at that. No, all games aren’t art, in fact, there are many games that are essentially just shallow, mindless popcorn entertainment, or commercial vehicles for other products that just want you to take out your wallet and go buy stuff.nnnnAnywaysnOne: You can’t assume there was a “bigger group that understood the situation and [bought] the game anyway” just because it met NISA’s sales expectations. They seem to be pretty good at predicting the game’s demand and print accordingly. Even then, IIRC, there were still left with a decent sized surplus of the Limited Edition version of the game for awhile after release, which is odd.nn Two: when i say “all weebs can complain about”, i was not literally saying “‘all of the weebs’ complained”, just that the only real complaints were that the fanservice was taken out despite there being other reasons to dislike the game i was talking about[Criminal girls].nnnI have no reason to hold a grudge against NISA, or anything regarding niche gaming in general, if anything i haven’t really paid much attention to them, aside from seeing their name pop up in the occasional niche thread, and the tons of threads i’ve seen complaining about the censorship.

  100. Holyfox25
    Holyfox25
    January 10, 2015 at 12:51 am

    “No, all games aren’t art, in fact, there are many games that are essentially just shallow, mindless popcorn entertainment, or commercial vehicles for other products that just want you to take out your wallet and go buy stuff.”nnThat is your opinion, you don’t get to decide that. You are not the authority on games as art. Of course neither am I, but my logic and reasoning is a little better than “I personally don’t like this game genre.” nnRegarding your other points, you are right: I can’t assume that. On the flip side, you can’t assume that the reason of the surplus was due to censorship complaints. Maybe the game did not appeal to this audience?nnI do agree that their are plenty of reason to dislike a game like CG other than fan service, but that goes for any game.nn”I have no reason to hold a grudge against NISA, or anything regarding niche gaming in general if anything i haven’t really paid much attention to them”nnSeriously? Coming into this comment thread and saying “It is not okay to play a Japanese game, weeb games aren’t games, just porn, no better than depression quest” and calling the players weebs is not showing a grudge? For a genre of games that you have not paid attention to and have a of lack of experience playing, you sure have very strong opinions on them…

  101. Phil F.
    Phil F.
    January 10, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    That’s quite a leap of logic, to assume i don’t like a particular game because it’s not trying to be art. Are you saying that people DON’T enjoy mindless popcorn entertainment, because you’re absolutely wrong. Hell, even advertizement games can be pretty decent, when it’s not soulless design-by-committee type stuff.nn”Maybe the game did not appeal to this audience” nYou mean the audience that is actively complaining about receiving, in their eyes, an inferior version of the game, yeah what a coincidence. nnThe major problem with these games is that they are NOTHING but fanservice, so when you take the fanservice out, they nnYou keep bringing things from other threads to put words in my mouth. I did not say i ignored all weeb games, just NISA games. As far as i can tell, those porn games i was referring to don’t get brought over here by them, or anyone other than fan translators for a very good reason: they’re unsellable by conventional means.

  102. Phil F.
    Phil F.
    January 10, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    That’s quite a leap of logic, to assume i don’t like a particular game because it’s not trying to be art. Are you saying that people DON’T enjoy mindless popcorn entertainment, because you’re absolutely wrong. Hell, even ad games can be pretty decent, when it’s not soulless design-by-committee type stuff.nn”Maybe the game did not appeal to this audience” nYou mean the audience that is actively complaining about receiving, in their eyes, an inferior version of the game, yeah what a coincidence.nnYou keep bringing things from other threads to put words in my mouth. I did not say i ignored all weeb games, just NISA games. Even then, it’s not hard to tell which one is not going to be a game, all you have to look at is whether or not they keep calling a “visual novel”.nn As far as i can tell, those porn games i was referring to don’t get brought over here by them, or anyone other than fan translators for a very good reason: they’re unsellable by conventional means.

  103. Holyfox25
    Holyfox25
    January 10, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    “Are you saying that people DON’T enjoy mindless popcorn entertainment, because you’re absolutely wrong.” nn….when did I say that? Of course, people enjoy popcorn entertainment. I still say it is art though; a group of people came together to work on something for people to consume and enjoy. Now will it be timeless and remembered throughout the ages as a great piece of work that will be studied? Probably not, but that is art in general. Hell, Shakespeare’s plays were consider cheap entertainment for the masses back in his day; now we study it, so who can say what is going to be art or isn’t.nn”The major problem with these games is that they are NOTHING but fanservice”nnYou didn’t finish this statement (error on discuss’ part?), but let me ask this question: So, the games mechanics, characters, story, etc would not exist if you take out the fanservice? There are plenty of other reasons to enjoy a game.nn”You keep bringing things from other threads to put words in my mouth. I did not say i ignored all weeb games, just NISA games”nnI did not put words in your mouth; that is exactly what you have said. You said you do not pay attention to NISA AND niche gaming in general; NISA is not the only “weeb” game and niche publisher out there.

  104. forweg
    forweg
    January 11, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Good article and I agree with the general message, but the conflation of Japanese culture with otaku culture bothers me. Otaku culture is a very small subset of modern Japanese culture as a whole.

  105. Touma
    Touma
    January 14, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    coming into this late since i just found this site but i’d like to thank you for pointing out the comedy in the perversion. when someone complains about the anime cliche about falling and groping a chick on accident its always seen as perverted when in actuality the perverted situation is the joke. the joke just never gets old cause you’re first thought is “o shit, hes gonna get it now!” nnnyou’re supposed to laugh at it. same applies to the innuendo’s in video games. it irritates me when i’m told i’m only in it for the tits when if i wanted to do that i would go to a porn site and not waste 40-60 on fap material. admittedly the fanservice is always a bonus. i’m looking at your god eater :3.nnn i never read that when someone discusses this topic. even if they enjoy it themselves. so i’m glad someone finally brought it up.

  106. Derek
    Derek
    January 31, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Then what about Yakuza? If you want to talk about Japanese games think about the Yakuza and Kenka Bancho series. Unlike the games you mentioned. These games dont attract the same flak as the pandering crap Nisa gave us annually while Sega believed we dont deserve Yakuza

  107. Derek
    Derek
    January 31, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    The fact that you approve of neptunia while ignoring games like Yakuza is proof you dont realize quality Japanese exists

  108. Derek
    Derek
    January 31, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Sexualization frown upon, then why fuck is there so mich softcore in western games?

  109. Obbliglol
    Obbliglol
    February 1, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Not quite sure what you mean there. Yakuza was not brought up anywhere, which is why I didn’t mention it – still a fine series. I’m pretty sure I love some quality Japanese games m8.

  110. Ippiki Okami
    Ippiki Okami
    February 4, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Still one of the best articles I have read on this site and perfectly explains why I love Japanese games.

  111. ivanchu77
    ivanchu77
    March 17, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    What a fantastic article that was :D

  112. Uncle Heffy
    Uncle Heffy
    December 7, 2015 at 7:46 am

    But, Kanji isn’t gay. You seemed to have missed the whole point entirely. After a while, Naoto comes out to being a girl, and Kanji comes to like her. He like’s a girl, so he’s not gay. Maybe you should play the game again. (Or watch the anime)

  113. popehentai
    popehentai
    December 14, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    It could be from a bad translation or localization attempting to “clean things up” too. I’m honestly not that familiar with the games though.

  114. Xiron Arkanis
    Xiron Arkanis
    December 14, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    This is my first post here and with that I say: Thank you, based nichegame.
    I’m a JRPG lover and the AR Tonelico series has forever a place in my heart,

  115. Wonderkarp
    Wonderkarp
    December 15, 2015 at 9:44 am

    If I ever win the lottery, I would donate a few million to niche gamer.