The older I got, the more I seemed to neglect and avoid the typical Anime styled Japanese video games and media. Regardless of how good the they were said to be, if the artwork was mainly based around a Manga and Anime theme I would tend to completely disregard it. I can’t really put my finger on what it was I didn’t like and growing up I loved Pokemon and Dragonball. I played nothing but Nintendo and loved countless Japanese Video Games. Maybe it was the big doe eyed characters, crazy hairstyles, drawing style, goofy mannerisms or the cutesy expressions that put me off or maybe it was an age thing? Whatever it may have been, It just didn’t jive well with me at all.
Typical Japanese art style that is featured across Anime, Manga and Video Games
The ‘User Interface’ design of most old Japanese games are something that I just couldn’t abide by either, the UI just wasn’t as appealing as most western games, although they do hold up well or in fact suffice most western games in user experience. Personally, I feel you can usually tell where most games originated from due to their UI.
Eastern and Western style games differ greatly in this area and most still do to this day. It didn’t help much that I actually went on to become a UI design so maybe the gripe stemmed from wanting to always improve the cosmetics of the interface.
An example of eastern User Interface design.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love LOVE Japan. It’s my favourite country. The rich history it holds, the culture, language, food, traditions, values etc. All amazing. I’m even planning a trip to tour the place come 2016 if everything goes accordingly. The one thing I just couldn’t get away with was Animie, Manga and that traditional video game art style from games such as Persona, Valkyria Chronicles, Dragon Quest and many more.
But, until I sat down and thought about it, I never realised how much of a fan of Japanese video games I actually am. Going way back to the ripe, young, age of 4. Super Mario on the SNES was the first game I ever played. This was a series that stuck with me for the rest of my life. I was brought up on Nintendo; Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, Star Fox, Street Fighter and loads more. Each one sharing a common trait – They were all created in Japan. At that age you don’t care much for who made the game or where they originate. The game itself is what draws you in – the colours, graphics, game play, music etc.
The Playstation 1 came at the perfect time and appealed to a more mature audience. Although the transition from Nintendo was made, I was still a huge fan of both companies.
Growing up my transition from Nintendo to PlayStation came about when the PS1 first launched, along with getting my hands on the new console I also picked up titles such as SoulBlade, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Gran Turismo along the way. Again usually oblivious to where these games and their creators came from. As I got older and started to appreciate games as more of an art form, rather than just a form of entertainment, I took an even bigger step away from these Manga styled games.
Stupidly, I continued to judge books by their cover or in this case, video games by their art style. I’d turn away from story, characters, gameplay, everything, and all because of this unique and distinctive art style. It wasn’t until I realised how many Video games I played that were created in Japan that I decided to re-consider my actions.
I’m a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, with Hideo Kojima becoming my all time favourite Video Games Designer. I love Street Fighter, Tekken, Pokemon, Animal Crossing, Final Fantasy etc I was brought up on Nintendo and PlayStation and have continued to buy products, both hardware and software, from both companies. This led me to thinking, surely if I love all of these games that were created in Japan, there’s got to be something there, something behind the art style that was putting me off? So many people can’t be wrong, can they?
Metal Gear Solid 1 was an unforgettable experience and a game that introduced me to my favourite series of all time.
So I decided to look towards my Vita as a starting point – I’d heard so much about Persona 4, a game that was highly influenced by the traditional Japanese Manga style. I also knew about its rising popularity with the Japanese audience, it’s something I’d wanted to like for a while but couldn’t seem to ever get past the art style.
Anyway, I threw caution to the wind and picked it up.. I think it’s safe to say I did not regret my choice. As soon as I started it up I already found myself sucked in to the story, the characters, the gameplay, the voice acting – I began to love absolutely everything about the game. The weirdest thing was, I appreciated the art style the most. Did I miraculously change overnight? Have I lived in denial all this time? Persona 4 quickly became one of my favourite games and I can’t wait for the fifth instalment to be rereleased.
Persona 4 Golden; A game I avoided for so long, after finally giving it a shot, I couldn’t believe just what I’d been missing. Definitely a must for any PS Vita owner.
This then brought me to thinking, if I like Persona then why not give other games with this style ago. I picked up Ni No Kuni and was absolutely astonished at how good it was. It also had one of the best UI and UX I’ve ever experienced within a video game. The Art Style was beautiful and the animations were flawless. From this I began to dig a little deeper, stumbling across the name ‘Studio Ghibli’. Loving the art style of Ni No Kuni, I decided to give them a shot.
Ni No Kuni; A beautiful art style that will definitely appeal to JRPG fans. Shares similarities to Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda.
I recognised the name of one of the films straight away, which is one I’d watched as a small child and loved – ‘My Neighbour Totoro. Not knowing the studio behind it at the time, but now becoming intrigued to find out more about them, I looked into other films they’d created. An extensive back catalogue of deep, rich and meaningful stories with jaw dropping animation lay await and I instantly fell in love with the work of Hayao Miyazaki.
The next step was Anime. This was a whole new scene I barely knew anything about. I wasn’t a fan of Manga styled video games, never mind the Anime that ran alongside it. I didn’t have a clue where to start, but ‘Attack on Titan’ and ‘Sword Art Online’ were ones that seemed quite prominent when I searched – Wow, was I in for a shock. I took the art style with a pinch of salt and within a few episodes of each I’d already become hooked and ravelled up in the story.
Attack on Titan; Such a gripping story which has left me hooked and wanting more.
It made me realise that all this time I was turning away from amazing experiences all because I was judging books by their cover. Not only did I realise a valuable life lesson, but also I’ve opened up to all kinds of Japanese style video games, Manga and Anime.
For those of you have gotten through this post, first of all thank you and secondly, I’d greatly appreciate it if those who have a lot more knowledge than I do, based within the different mediums I’ve listed, to recommend as many Japanese video games, anime and Manga that I shouldn’t miss, new or old. And remember; don’t judge a book by its cover. You won’t know what’s inside, until you look.