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Tokyo Jungle studio not afraid to be Japanese Exclusive
 Tokyo Jungle  studio not afraid to be Japanese
October 30, 2012 | By Mike Rose

Are you still playing quirky Japanese hunt-em-up Tokyo Jungle? Released around a month ago in Western territories, the PSN title has proved quite the cult hit, with gamers keen to see just how long a dog, cat or deer can survive against an onslaught of tigers, crocodiles and stomping great elephants. Leigh Alexander recently wrapped up exactly what makes it so great.

While the game's concept is definitely a head-turner and gloriously different in a "shoot first, innovation later" industry, it was questionable that Western gamers would flock to it. After all, you don't often see Japanese survival games with roguelike elements hitting out shores often... or ever, for that matter.

And yet neither Crispy's and SCE Japan Studio, the dev teams behind the title, considered bringing Tokyo Jungle overseas a risk at all. Rather, they had a firm belief that they held the key to exactly what Western gamers are looking for in a Japanese-developed title.

"Although the scene is local in Tokyo, we felt that the 'animal survival concept in an abandoned world' would be a universal theme which would be accepted globally," explains Yohei Kataoka, game director at Crispy's.

Japan Studio producer Masaaki Yamagiwa adds, "We never thought that we were taking a risk in creating this game, as we believe the key in becoming successful overseas with a Japanese title is 'to develop a game embracing the Japanese uniqueness, not solely focusing on the Western market.'"

tokyo jungle 1.jpgIn fact, says Yamagiwa, he is often told by Tokyo Jungle's Western fans that they love the game for being so Japanese, rather than attempting to please Western culture -- and this is one of the issues that the Japanese video game industry is currently faltering with.

"It's not dying out," Kataoka says of his industry. "I think it is just it's not going well trying to mimic the Western titles.

"Users from other regions and Japanese users have different perspectives to begin with, so it's not surprising to see the gaps between what they think is fun versus what we think is fun. Japanese people should be 'Japanese' and simply create what they think is fun, and have other regions accept it as a novelty item."

Argues Kataoka, "It would be similar to acclaiming Japanese art, such as Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock paintings) and this type of relationship that Japan has had with other regions since ancient times. There is no need to keep consulting with the market overseas to create a great game."

The difference between critic reviews and how gamers have responded to the Fushigi no Dungeon (Mystery Dungeon) inspired game has been hugely polarizing. A 70+ Metacritic score would normally signal a game that is good but not great -- yet you wouldn't think that from the reaction to the title on social networks.

tokyo jungle 2.jpg"Perhaps this is due to the fact that critics review the title overall considering multiple elements from system, to volume (scale), music, graphic quality, and difficulty," suggests Yamagiwa, "but gamers mainly focus on the strong attributes of the title."

He notes that his company Crispy’s "had no past experience in game development" when it took part in the PlayStation C.A.M.P! event, and subsequently started work on Tokyo Jungle -- SCEJ picked up the group simply for having new and inspiring ideas.

"As we started off knowing our game was developed under a director that did not come from a gaming background, we were not aiming to create a game that can score 100 percent in every element," he adds, "but a game that can offer a unique experience."

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Fernando Fernandes
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I love this game. =^.^=

Alex Covic
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If they would be "really" bold, they would port this game for PC and release it on Steam? But Sony would not allow that?

As for "western" market and "western" fans - this is always shorthand for US & the English speaking world? There are at least equally "weird" and/or "quirky", "crazy" video games from Europe, starting with the C64, Sinclair & Amiga era.

I don't like this "Japan vs West" paradigm, which is so popular these days. It is not racist, but lacks of differentiation. Embrace things that are out of your XBOX-ian or WASP-ian cultural norm, or your publishers idea of the former?

Pedro Mancheno
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The game is co-developed by SCE Japan Studio and Published by Sony.

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My favorite game of the moment!

Maria Jayne
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"as we believe the key in becoming successful overseas with a Japanese title is 'to develop a game embracing the Japanese uniqueness, not solely focusing on the Western market.'"

I think this is it, those players that love Japanese games love them because of what they are. The culture and style appeals to those fans and they don't want those games looking or being more western.

This is obviously more of a publisher concept, another example of why some games are ruined. It's not about trying to appeal to everyone, it's about appealing to someone. Recognize your audience and give them what they want.

Personally I can't stand anime or asian style games, the appearance of avatars and the overly dramatic fakeness of the dialogue put me right off. I'm not looking to play them but I like that it's a theme they have and other people love anyway.

Michael Pianta
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Yes, I agree completely. As a fan of Japanese games/culture going back to the 80's, the last thing I would want to see is bunch talented Japanese devs trying to be "Western". Unfortunately I have seen that start to happen. I'm glad there are some studios that know better than to follow that futile path.

Keith Thomson
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I definitely agree with their sentiment. I have nothing against them looking at western games and cherry picking the ideas that work best with their own, but trying to adopt western style wholesale would make them cheap clones and sacrifice all that is unique in their games. Tokyo Jungle is a good example of a game that builds on lots of prior Japanese games, while adding quite a few new unique ideas into the mix.

Kasan Wright
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I just started downloading this less than 5 minutes ago. Amazed to see an article about it at the top of the page.


Justin Sawchuk
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What was the other weird puzzle game katherine. I think people will like it for a nice change of pace but they wouldnt like to play those type of games all the time. So the only reason it worked is because it was somewhat of an oddity, if all the Japanese developers started just making games for Japanese gamers then it wouldnt work.

Its like what happend with braid, limbo now indie dev is trying to make a platformer with a twist, very few are any good and its now over-saturated with platformers

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"...develop a game embracing the Japanese uniqueness, not solely focusing on the Western market."

"I think it is just it's not going well trying to mimic the Western titles."

"Japanese people should be 'Japanese' and simply create what they think is fun..."

This x100. There shouldn't be only one type of game or just one approach: the western one. If I want a western game, you know what? I'll goto a western game developer. I don't want some Japanese game abandoning everything that makes Japanese games fun and doing some poor attempt at a western game. Hell, even if it's a good game I'd still rather they make Japanese games... at least until Western games abandon everything western about them and seek to make Japanese games.

I like the two different approaches and don't want to see gaming become homogenized to the point where anything not western is labeled as bad by default and trashed.

Glad to see some developers not abandoning what makes them interesting and unique in order to try and fit in with what they think some foreign culture wants. Coexistence > Assimilation

Maurício Gomes
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When I want a US game, I buy from a US dev, when I want a French game, I buy from a French dev... When I want a japanese game, I buy from Japan!

So what the hell with people trying to copy someone else style just to sell more?

Yes, sometimes I see a US-dev making a Japanese style game, but this is because he likes it, not because he thinks he will sell boatloads in Japan.

So you european and asian devs: make european and asian titles please! I am missing those, and when I want a US-style title, I buy from a US-dev, not from you!

Daniel Campbell
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I loved the game but it really does show that this was their first attempt at making a game. There were a number of design decisions (some would call them mistakes) and seem outdated and easily rectified. No matter how you slice it though, Crispy turned out a solid title considering it's the studios first entry into game development.