What was going on with Japanese PS2 games?

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Dom Cruise

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I wish I could remember the exact timeline, whether I played it before or after MGS2, since they came around the same time, but it was fall of 2001 and I played Ace Combat 4, the cover showed a US military plane and you had reason to believe it was just being to be a generic military jet combat game.

So imagine my surprise when I booted it up and hear "I was still a child when the stars fell from the sky" and saw these beautiful watercolor paintings telling the game's surprisingly deep and emotional story.

That's to say nothing of Silent Hill 2 and Metal Gear Solid 2 from the same fall season, then we have later games like Silent Hill 3, Drakengard, Haunting Ground and especially Rule of Rose, as well others like Ico and Shadow of The Colossus.

Rule of Rose is especially a strong example of this, I'll never forget the first time I saw a trailer for it, I was so totally blown away, it was unlike any game I had ever seen and to this day I've never seen another game quite like it, it's also a game about female characters with explicitly female themes in the story and it's great, proving that games can cover any subject matter about any type of people and it can be good and not Woke pandering bullshit.

These games were all in my opinion the most games have ever come to being actual art, they weren't pretentious indie games or pretentious Woke jerking off, they were made by actual publishers and developers and yet still managed to achieve such artistic heights.

But then the PS3 came along and all this wonderful stuff basically came to a stop, the only PS3 exclusive game like this I can think of that's like that is Folklore, which I've briefly played but never finished, the closest thing in recent years have been the Soulsborne From Software games and while yes, they are brilliant, there isn't much in the way of actual story, it's all atmosphere and lore, the actual story basically boils down to "you kill a bunch of things", they're game you play for the gameplay, art direction and atmosphere.

From Soft did make a game called Deracine which some vague thematic similarities to Rule of Rose, but it's PS4VR so of course I haven't played it.

There is also the Nier games, which sadly I've only played (but not finished) the second one, but those definitely have some of that same PS2 spirit being part of the lineage of Drakengard.

But this is what I find frustrating, From Soft has a huge following, Yoko Taro has a huge following, people are a lot more receptive to this type of game now than they were in the PS2 days, but it's too little too late for a lot of of the older talent like Team Silent or the Rule of Rose devs.

My question is what exactly allowed this stuff to flourish at the time, what brought it to an end (not hard to figure out though, money of course) and could we have another golden age in the future given the popularity of From Soft and Yoko Taro?

Also what games in that vibe am I not aware of? Either actual PS2 era or since?
 

Dom Cruise

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I forgot to mention that though they passed on publishing it in the US, Rule of Rose was funded by Sony.

And that's a perfect example of what I'm talking about, it wasn't an indie game, it was funded by freakin' Sony, a game that unique, once upon a time they gave us games like Rule of Rose, now they give us The Last of Us part II.
 

albert the programmer

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North America didn’t fully appreciate the pro-Japanese video games when they were trying to market it to them.

I say this as someone that remembers the .hack// series. Recently, I remember they did a list of the top RPGs for PS1 that were not named Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy:


Games like Grandia, Vagrant Story and Xenogears could be made today, but I don’t think they’ll have the same kind of impact that RPG fans of today would give it.
 

Dom Cruise

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North America didn’t fully appreciate the pro-Japanese video games when they were trying to market it to them.

I say this as someone that remembers the .hack// series. Recently, I remember they did a list of the top RPGs for PS1 that were not named Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy:


Games like Grandia, Vagrant Story and Xenogears could be made today, but I don’t think they’ll have the same kind of impact that RPG fans of today would give it.
Personally I have a lot more experience with the action and adventure games, but JRPGs of the era definitely fall under this umbrella as well.

Rule of Rose would've been an amazing book. As a game, I love the story and art direction, but holy shit that gameplay.
While I think there's nothing actually wrong with the gameplay of say Silent Hill 2 or Silent Hill 3, Rule of Rose is unfortunately a case where the combat can be genuinely frustrating for even seasoned vets of the genre, the silver lining is rarely do you have to actually fight, but then you get to the bosses and well...

It's a shame because the story and art direction is some of the best ever seen in gaming, but the actual gameplay does have some clear flaws.
 

4ZURE

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I don’t believe it really left. If anything, the push for more story based games has gotten stronger, especially with brands like PlayStation.

I think you are a little hard on the current generations. They have good stories to tell. Obviously Nier has been a huge series that has a certain magic in story-telling. I would also say Catherine is a big contender for a deeper narrative, which you seem to have left out. Barring the 2nd entry, The Last of Us was also a pretty big narrative heavy title.

This is all leaving out the weird indie titles. There is definitely a fondness for the vague narratives of the Journey team, with games like Abzu having quite a bit of spectacle.

I would also add the Arkham titles as being in the same field of what you desire as the atmosphere and stories are typically really strong. I am sure some would also highlight series like Bioshock for these categories, but I have not played to say.
 

Judge Dredd

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I think you've fallen into the revisionist history and collector trap. Rule of Rose (and The Haunting Grounds to a lesser degree) were considered mediocre games back in the day, with only horror fans considering them to be decent or good. It's only recently when they became rare collectors items that they were branded as the best games on the PS2. It's the same way games like MUSHA and Gotcha Force became "classics" when they started fetching high ebay prices.

To be clear, I'm not saying the games are bad. It's just that their importance and quality have been overstated since becoming collectors items.

It's a similar story with From Software games. Before Dark Soul's, most couldn't tell you who they were, and if they could they'd say "the Armoured Core guys". After Dark Souls, suddenly every other Souls fan was claiming they were big fans of Kings Field, Shadow Tower, and Echo Night back in the day. I call bullshit.

And that's a perfect example of what I'm talking about, it wasn't an indie game, it was funded by freakin' Sony, a game that unique, once upon a time they gave us games like Rule of Rose, now they give us The Last of Us part II.
As much as I hate to quote Jim Sterling, this is the result of publishers wanting all the money. "Some money" or even "lots of money" isn't good enough. Everything that to be a Call of Duty level hit or it's written off as an obscure failure. For all the shit Bethesda gets for re-releasing Skyrim, they're one of the few companies funding those kinds of games.

they weren't pretentious indie games or pretentious Woke jerking off,
Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Fahrenheit, and Nomad Soul got accused of that back in the day, albeit by a small minority. I guess half of those were vindicated by time.

Also what games in that vibe am I not aware of? Either actual PS2 era or since?
I haven't played most of these suggestions, but some suggestions off the top of my head. Spy Fiction was an experimental stealth game by SWERY before he made Deadly Premonition. Might be worth going back to check out. You might also want to look up the Simple 2000 series. Some got English releases under different names, but they were cheap budget games that relied on bizarre gimmicks.

For games known for their atmosphere. Okami was a Zelda clone with an art style people liked back then. The Shenmue and Yakuza games might fit the bill.
 

Dom Cruise

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To answer the question: Experimentation. There was ample opportunity for it considering how long the generation lasted.

RoR is a great example; others I can think of are games like Lifeline, Echo Night, and Kuon, two of which are From Software titles.
The PS2 was the sweetspot where technology was just advanced enough but still cheap enough to develop for that we got a golden age of experimentation.

Lifeline I skipped because the voice command mechanic was supposed to be utterly broken, Echo Night Beyond was one I played but never finished because of how obtuse the puzzles are.

Kuon is sadly the one that got away, never bought it before it skyrocketed in price, leaving emulation my easiest option.

I don’t believe it really left. If anything, the push for more story based games has gotten stronger, especially with brands like PlayStation.
The trouble is this push for more story based games goes hand in sweaty hand with the rise of Wike, so we get stuff like Life Strange, Last of Us II or Goodbye Volcano High, blech.

God of War 2018 had a good story, but Sony has pissed a lot of goodwill away for me with Last of Us II and it'll take a lot to bring me back.

I think you are a little hard on the current generations. They have good stories to tell. Obviously Nier has been a huge series that has a certain magic in story-telling. I would also say Catherine is a big contender for a deeper narrative, which you seem to have left out. Barring the 2nd entry, The Last of Us was also a pretty big narrative heavy title.
I don't meant to be too harsh, I mean it's great that people have new appreciation for this stuff, that Nier can do something like spawn a popular cosplay character.

I haven't played Catherine (not a big puzzle guy) but you're that was a rare one that kept the magic alive post PS2 era.

I love the first The Last of Us, it was one of the few games to really engross me as much in the story as something like Silent Hill 3 did, I had really hoped it would be the start of something good but we know what happened next.

This is all leaving out the weird indie titles. There is definitely a fondness for the vague narratives of the Journey team, with games like Abzu having quite a bit of spectacle.
Indie is a different beast though, I'm talking about the days when a dev didn't need to be indie to be artsy and experimental.

I would also add the Arkham titles as being in the same field of what you desire as the atmosphere and stories are typically really strong. I am sure some would also highlight series like Bioshock for these categories, but I have not played to say.
The Arkham game are some of my favorite games post PS2, but that's something very, very different than a game like Silent Hill 2 or Rule of Rose.

Bioshock is one of my all time fav games and something I would rank up there with the likes of Silent Hill 2, but Ken Levine flew too close with Bioshock Infinite and it wound up a mess and both him and the series have remained dormant in the almost ten years since.

Between Bioshock and Last of Us though it did seem like western devs were going to go through their own period of high creativity like Japan did, but it never quite reached that level.

I think you've fallen into the revisionist history and collector trap. Rule of Rose (and The Haunting Grounds to a lesser degree) were considered mediocre games back in the day, with only horror fans considering them to be decent or good. It's only recently when they became rare collectors items that they were branded as the best games on the PS2. It's the same way games like MUSHA and Gotcha Force became "classics" when they started fetching high ebay prices.
Yeah, they weren't hits with critics, but it should be noted that I was a fan of Haunting Ground from when it first came out and while I didn't get around to actually playing Rule of Rose until well after it's initial release, it was still before it way skyrocketed in price and was still I was interested in from early on.

However they were cult classics from when they first released, but you're right that they've gained a new reputation due to the rarity, but I'm glad people still remember these games.

To be clear, I'm not saying the games are bad. It's just that their importance and quality have been overstated since becoming collectors items.
It's a valid point, but Haunting Ground is just a great game with no major flaws that was unfairly underrated when it first released and though Rule of Rose has some flaws, it is one of the most unique games ever made, I don't think that's overstated.

It's a similar story with From Software games. Before Dark Soul's, most couldn't tell you who they were, and if they could they'd say "the Armoured Core guys". After Dark Souls, suddenly every other Souls fan was claiming they were big fans of Kings Field, Shadow Tower, and Echo Night back in the day. I call bullshit.
Like I said Echo Night Beyond was the only From Software I had played at the time, I remember when Dark Souls hit it big I thought "Oh yeah, the Echo Night guys"

But people are definitely blowing smoke when trying to say that King's Field or whatever had anywhere near the reputation or popularity something like Dark Souls has today.

As much as I hate to quote Jim Sterling, this is the result of publishers wanting all the money. "Some money" or even "lots of money" isn't good enough. Everything that to be a Call of Duty level hit or it's written off as an obscure failure. For all the shit Bethesda gets for re-releasing Skyrim, they're one of the few companies funding those kinds of games.
Yup, good old fashioned greed ruined it.

Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Fahrenheit, and Nomad Soul got accused of that back in the day, albeit by a small minority. I guess half of those were vindicated by time.
David Cage's wankery is at least a lot more fun than Woke wankery.

I haven't played most of these suggestions, but some suggestions off the top of my head. Spy Fiction was an experimental stealth game by SWERY before he made Deadly Premonition. Might be worth going back to check out. You might also want to look up the Simple 2000 series. Some got English releases under different names, but they were cheap budget games that relied on bizarre gimmicks.
Spy Fiction is one I've been curious about since I never played it before, I do remember hearing about the Simple 2000 series but never played them.

For games known for their atmosphere. Okami was a Zelda clone with an art style people liked back then. The Shenmue and Yakuza games might fit the bill.
Okami is a big one I've been meaning to play.

The Yakuza series is definitely one that falls under this umbrella since it originated on PS2, it's also another nice example of how people are more appreciative today of this sort of thing than in the past.
 

Slap47

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I don't know anything about the Sony PlayStation but with Nintendo it was an active decision. Miyamoto outright argued that investing in long and meaningful stories was waste of resources, especially with series like Mario and Zelda.

Games are about having fun but good stories are part of that. When some people say that games are about fun they're actually specifically arguing against games having stories and in favour of games just being about mechanics or even gimmicks.
 

4ZURE

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I don't meant to be too harsh, I mean it's great that people have new appreciation for this stuff, that Nier can do something like spawn a popular cosplay character.
I am just commenting as I feel you are not giving the 7th gen and beyond their dues. The 7th gen had tons of more experimental narrative driven games. Nier was an obvious one, and Catherine is also a pretty big one. Even expanding past that, Portal 2 was huge for more world-building/character driven content. Xenoblade Chronicles was another cult hit that very much expanded on the concepts of the PS2 Xenosaga. I would also throw FE Three Houses in for a modern experimental story game, while its writing can be bad in the main campaign, the character support dialogues are really good.

If you are in to more Pixar-like stories, I would say Ratchet and currently Sackboy have very good production value.

I guess I am trying to figure out what you want. Obviously, the stories of the 2000s are going to evolve and change. The 2000s was an edgy time period with a lot more crazy shit, whereas the 2010s seemed to scale things back. Nowadays you would be hard-pressed to find many narratives like say, a Twisted Metal, which had super dark killers given these strange narratives. Stuff like Uncharted is still likeable though, even if it is different from say Jak.

The trouble is this push for more story based games goes hand in sweaty hand with the rise of Wike, so we get stuff like Life Strange, Last of Us II or Goodbye Volcano High, blech.

God of War 2018 had a good story, but Sony has pissed a lot of goodwill away for me with Last of Us II and it'll take a lot to bring me back.
I know Sony has some issues, but it seems they are pretty hands-off with development. I can see you staying away from Naughty Dog, but most of their other studios seem fine. I have been fairly pleased with some of their recent outings with old IP. I know Ratchet is a big one, but Sackboy really deserves more recognition for being a stellar 3D platformer that really puts Mario 3D World to shame. Also Vex is unironically a top PlayStation villain, he has as much charisma as a Nefarious, and is a joy to watch.
 

Dom Cruise

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I am just commenting as I feel you are not giving the 7th gen and beyond their dues. The 7th gen had tons of more experimental narrative driven games. Nier was an obvious one, and Catherine is also a pretty big one. Even expanding past that, Portal 2 was huge for more world-building/character driven content. Xenoblade Chronicles was another cult hit that very much expanded on the concepts of the PS2 Xenosaga. I would also throw FE Three Houses in for a modern experimental story game, while its writing can be bad in the main campaign, the character support dialogues are really good.
7th gen had a little bit of it but not nearly as much as PS2 era.

The creator of Ico skipped that gen for one example.

And within the Playstation ecosystem is where it really dried up, Nier was multiplat and Xenoblade Chronicles was Wii.

I guess I am trying to figure out what you want. Obviously, the stories of the 2000s are going to evolve and change. The 2000s was an edgy time period with a lot more crazy shit, whereas the 2010s seemed to scale things back. Nowadays you would be hard-pressed to find many narratives like say, a Twisted Metal, which had super dark killers given these strange narratives. Stuff like Uncharted is still likeable though, even if it is different from say Jak.
For one thing I wish we had more classic survival horror, Rule of Rose was the very last one, there's literally not been a single game since that's followed exactly the old formula, some games have brought some of the old vibe back, but with modern concessions like third person camera, which changes the feel a lot, a huge part of what made those games what they were was the cinematic framing of the camera angles.

But also with something like Ace Combat 7, it was great for Namco to return to "Strangereal" and it was a good game, but still not nearly as good as 4.

And Kojima tried hard with Death Stranding but it was still overall not as good an experience MSG2 and MGS3.

I know Sony has some issues, but it seems they are pretty hands-off with development. I can see you staying away from Naughty Dog, but most of their other studios seem fine. I have been fairly pleased with some of their recent outings with old IP. I know Ratchet is a big one, but Sackboy really deserves more recognition for being a stellar 3D platformer that really puts Mario 3D World to shame. Also Vex is unironically a top PlayStation villain, he has as much charisma as a Nefarious, and is a joy to watch.
I mean, I'll probably play more Sony games in the future, but I am a little worried after TLOUII.
 

The Last Stand

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I don't know anything about the Sony PlayStation but with Nintendo it was an active decision. Miyamoto outright argued that investing in long and meaningful stories was waste of resources, especially with series like Mario and Zelda.

Games are about having fun but good stories are part of that. When some people say that games are about fun they're actually specifically arguing against games having stories and in favour of games just being about mechanics or even gimmicks.
Every PS2 Japanese developer was smoking some killer drugs.
 

4ZURE

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The creator of Ico skipped that gen for one example.
Not exactly. It was more like his game did not release. The Last Guardian was sort of a victim of development hell. It should have been 7th gen, but clearly some fuckery happened.

I mean, I'll probably play more Sony games in the future, but I am a little worried after TLOUII.
I used to be in the same camp, I could not stand Sony's story-driven direction throughout the PS4 as it felt like they had little to offer. Now, I am kinda changing my tune. Them bringing back Ratchet and Clank, along with LBP got me interested in them again. I kinda realized that Persona 5 was sort of a turning point for the PS4. It went from a console and company with little care to seemingly trying to resurrect Sony's long forgotten IP. Medievil and Shadow of The Colossus both got remakes, which is kinda hard to think about, especially in the case of Medievil. I should also mention that Parappa, Pokapon, and Loco Roco got remasters. Fat Princess also apparently got a new title? Now there are also tons of rumors about other IP returning. Twisted Metal and PlayStation All-Stars have been the two largest, which, please God let the leaks be real. It seems that Destruction All-Stars, that car combat Fortnite wannabe was just a testing ground for Sweet Tooth's return. For PS All-Stars, the leak for Nickelodeon and Multi Versus said there would be two more Smash clones coming to capitalize on Ultimate, the guesses are Disney and PlayStation. Along with that, I think Sly has continually been spoken about, which again, please Sony let it be real. I have some high hopes for PS5 to be the true successor of the PS2 and PS3 eras that I was hoping PS4 would be
 

Slap47

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I've always felt that the Japanese embraced that they were making video games and got really creative with it where as westerners were more focused on making interactive movies.

That's why as gaming got more popular in the west, everything became more tripe.

The Japanese also have a problem with this, especially with JRPGS and industry characters like Kojima.
 

BananaSplit

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I have some high hopes for PS5 to be the true successor of the PS2 and PS3 eras that I was hoping PS4 would be
Not that I want to rain down on your parade, but it should be time to accept that the Playstation/SIE of today isn't the same brand like it used to be two or three decades ago. Especially when it comes to japanese games.

Doesn't help that after all the successful attempts of the californian HQ to alienate the japanese game market, the PS5 is currently a big flop in Japan in its first year of existence (the most important year to build up an installbase). You might see a few high-profile AAA games from publishers such as Square-Enix, mainly things that were in development for years prior. But don't hold your breath on something like the huge and diverse library that was synonymous of past Playstation systems, including handhelds.

*inb4 Marissa Moira screeching*
 
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ProblematicUser420

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especially with JRPGS and industry characters like Kojima.

Kojima still made video games up until around 2008 even if he did try to give them a cinematic presentation. He really didn't go hog wild on making them pure movies until the west was firmly in the dominant position of game sales IMO, and I'd argue Kojima was always a weird outlier to the Japanese game development scene.

That being said, while I find his video game storylines to be kind of fucking stupid as I grow older, I'd say he's kept things pretty creative/out there compared to most AAA games today. I didn't play Death Stranding but I can't believe anyone wouldn't say it's like everything else out there.
 
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