Keiji Inafune optimistic about Japan for a change


Also slams Ubisoft-style design

Keiji Inafune isn’t one to pull punches. In recent years, the Mega Man co-creator has become one of the most outspoken critics of the Japanese video game industry, making remarks like “Japan is over.”

Recalling those “bold statements” in a recent interview withEurogamer, Inafune says many the same people he once shocked and offended have since accepted his views as the truth.

“The conversation has now turned to what we can do about it and how we can recover.”

It seems Inafune believes part of the rehabilitation calls for Japanese creators to collaborate with teams in the West. As evidence, his company Comcept is working alongside Texas-based Armature Studios, a group founded by Metroid Prime developers from Nintendo subsidiary Retro Studios.

Together, they’re makingReCore, an Xbox One exclusive announced at Microsoft’s E3 media event last month. But exactly how do teams on opposite ends of the planet collaborate? Well, it sounds like the Japanese is supplying the ideas and building the world, while the western teams, in the words of Armature game director Mark Pacini, “do our best to make it a reality.”

It’s an approach Inafune has taken before, back when he produced theDead Risingseries.

Western developers alone aren’t a silver bullet, though. While Inafune extols some facets of foreign design, he’s quite critical of others, saying “when it comes down to themes or core ideas, I feel like there is way too much of the same thing. There are small differences in sequels, but it never strays far from the core successful ideas.”

“When a particular game is a success, publishers tend to use it as a template to guarantee further success. So we end up with many studio games that follow this narrow path. If this continues, and investment continues to flow in that direction, we will never widen what games are and can be.

“You know,” he continues. “I think the true meaning of game design has been lost in recent years. If you’re an aspiring game designer and you join large team most likely you will be told: ‘Here’s our template. Your job is to make it more… splashy.’ That is not real game design!”

Inafune asserts the independent scene is better in that regard, and hopes the industry will continue supporting it — specifically those blazing trails, as“not everyone there is doing inventive work.”

That line really stands out in light of Comcept’s newest project,Red Ash, a successor to theMega Man Legendsseries and Inafune’s third tribute to the Blue Bomber in as many years.

Red Ashwas announced this past weekend as part of a Kickstarter campaign, something Inafune also views as a potential remedy for what ails Japanese development. Despite his well-known aspersions regarding eastern design and his desire for “a wider variety of games to play,” Inafune is keen on the crowdfunding platform, saying success stories likeShenmue 3,Bloodstained, and his ownMighty No. 9give Japanese developers confidence.

“There is a demand for our games,” he says. “We’re not dead.”

We’ve planted a seed and it’s growing. Now we need to deliver on our promises so that the plant can flourish. If we can achieve that, the long-term positive effects will be significant.”

Keiji Inafune: video gaming’s harshest critic[Eurogamer]