An Analysis Of Top Tier Famitsu Review Scores This Decade

By Spencer . December 10, 2009 . 1:38pm


Famitsu awarded more perfect scores in 2009 than any other year. You don’t need a graph to tell you that. To put that statistic in scope, we tracked the amount of top rated top rated games from 2000 to 2009. Games that had a total score of 36 or average of “9” were considered to be acclaimed by Famitsu and included in this report.


In 2000, Vagrant Story was the only game that got a 40 and seven other games were awarded a total score of 36 or higher. Dragon Quest VII, Tekken Tag Tournament, The Legend of Zelda; Majora’s Mask, Ridge Racer V, Final Fantasy IX, Phantasy Star Online, and Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer 2 were part of the elite group.


Compare that to 2009 where eighteen games have a composite score of 36. What’s interesting is the sharp rise in games rated 36, which appears to have started in 2002. Suddenly, there was a surge of “9s” which include Ikaruga, Onimusha 2, and World Soccer Winning Eleven 6, and Tekken 4. That group only went down in 2006, where eight titles received an average score of 36.


It’s true that the number of perfect scores went up sharply in the past two years, but the number of games in the 36 club is even more dramatic. Notice the slope of the trend lines for “9s” to “10s”.


Are games better now than ten years ago? Is Famitsu scoring games lighter? That’s for you to decide, because Famitsu reviews are just opinions with a number attached to them.

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  • They feel ‘bought’ in my and…really…quite a few people’s opinions that I’ve seen.

    Anymore they aren’t really looked upon as worth the time looking at. It’s interesting to see this here after seeing what Destructoid has up on their site right now about reviews. I’ve never really put a lot of stock into reviews because of two reasons: either they’re that ‘bought’ segment/theory or the people that come up with the ratings don’t necessarily have the same interests I do…and I don’t have to change my thoughts and opinions on what I want based on what I read.

    In fact, I’m actually one of those that gets a negative impact from hype and reviews and the oohs and aahs. I got hell for not liking TF2.

    • I commented on that post too. I just wanted to throw my two cents on Jim’s article, he’s gonna do what he wants and I really respect his views, but when Niero (founder, publisher) commented on not only supporting a universal rating system (Metacritic), but called out on others (not specifically) on that, I got a little worried.Of course, as with any article on that site…As with reviews, I see quite a few of them get “lighter”, but that’s always seems to be crutch to me even years back. Not that I have an issue with that, I’d hate to see reviewers getting geared up to slaughter a game. This is just interesting with Famitsu since I’ve always saw them as the bad dudes* of scoring a game. I don’t bank much on reviews too much either, but I don’t feel they or anyone else has been “bought”, there are few articles out there that might back that up in some cases. Maybe hyped or exaggerated, but nothing ridiculous like what happened with Driver 3. Those were just a couple bad apples in a basket of people who honestly love games. I completely share your second thought, though.As with anything else, I don’t stress over it and just wait till I’ll experience it myself.

      Edit: *as in the game, Bad Dudes, not that I think they’re an underground syndicate of writers bent on destruction in Metro City.

    • Ereek

      I’ve never really put a lot of stock into reviews because of two reasons: either they’re that ‘bought’ segment/theory or the people that come up with the ratings don’t necessarily have the same interests I do.I understand this completely, but I would like to add one of my own: Some sites blatantly haven’t played the game for more than a few hours. The Adventures to Go! review on IGN has information that is almost completely wrong in many ways.For me, I’d rather just read a Preview or a review without a number attached. I like how Siliconera does it. Sometimes when I’m bored I’ll end up reading reviews on sites and I always ask myself “Why?” later on because they don’t really end up influencing my opinion.

      • You and I are the same in this respect! I enjoy previews of games. Unless it’s a Siliconera review. They don’t completely dismiss a game after 30 minutes of playing it, no matter HOW terrible it may seem. I enjoy when someone tries to find a little good in a game even if it is bad. Chances are if it is in front of me and it works-I’ll play it and have fun somehow.

        Reviewers do tend to be terrible from a magazine to a website to an amateur youtuber. I don’t like a number system. That’s like rating a museum of paintings different scores. Not everyone thinks the same way. And, no people, I’m not trying to spark a “game = art” argument. I’m just making a point =)
        Last, I respect people’s opinions as long as they’re not completely one-sided. If someone doesn’t like a game, fine, but if they need to trash it constantly they can talk to someone else. Why is it so cool to trash games/systems nowadays anyway? When did this all turn into a sporting league… =P

        • Ereek

          I think what it comes down to is trying to find a site with a reviewer that generally shares your opinion on games. It’s a lot easier said than done though, since I’m not particularly picky and I may enjoy a game someone gives a 6 and dislike a game they give a 9 or higher. It’s rather obvious, but because it’s impossible to find someone who shares your opinions 100% of the time, the only opinion you can completely trust is your own. If someone is going to base their opinions off of one source, they probably weren’t that interested in the game in the first place. That’s like looking for information on buying a new car and only looking at that car’s official website.

          I’m not sure if you read about the recent “Destructoid AC2 controversy,” (Note that I’ve not played the game) but when I read some of the comments that say “I knew this game was terrible!”, it’s just so frustrating! I think the whole “bashing is cool!” trend that has come along recently is because of the rising popularity of the -chans. The chans were rather subdued about 3-4 years ago, but are completely different places now. This might be dismissed as completely wrong, but even 2ch has been able to influence developers to an extent (such as in the small things. Of course, I’m in no way saying that’s the only reason. Younger teens are starting to get their first taste of freedom online and it leads to some rather silly decisions.

          • Yeah, I really enjoy a lot of games people give 5’s and 6’s. We don’t need to have 100% the same opinions as long as someone gives us facts about a game and not their opinion of why it “sucks so hard.” Good analogy with the car too =)

            I didn’t read that controversy but I’ll have to check it out. One thing I’ve noticed about my tastes is that I’m very open to games. Hell, something I don’t like about a lot of reviews (sorry to keep venting..) is that they mention other games instead. For instance, back in the day I loved Puyo Puyo Da! and granted it wasn’t the best game ever, IGN (I think it was them) trashed it with a 2 or something low, saying you should play Space Channel 5 instead. Well, what if I’ve already loved SC5 1 & 2 to death and want something different for a day. Not everyone sticks to the best game in a genre and calls it quits.

            That 2ch Wizman thing still baffles me…I hope it doesn’t ruin anything in the game.

      • I like to read reviews more to see how a game personally affected people, rather than for scores. Unfortunately, not many sites approach reviews from that angle.

        Personally, I just can’t put numbers on a review or playtest…it’s so hard. What, with that number, are you describing? You can’t put a number on an “experience.” It’s like trying to describe it was like, walking to the shop to buy ice-cream, as opposed to driving to the shop to buy ice-cream. And sometimes, people get so caught up talking about the walk or drive, they forget about the ice-cream itself.

        Reviews are entirely subjective, so there really is no point of slapping that number on there. I think it discourages people from trying out different games, rather than spreading awareness. Flower, Sun & Rain got a what…5.5…from IGN? That’s utterly ridiculous because FSR is the one game I’m really, really glad I played this year.

        We’ve been experimenting within the framework of our playtests lately, which is something I intend to keep doing. Having a section on what makes a game unique, what its strengths are, what it’s trying to do etc. is important, I feel. It lets you know what the developers were trying to touch you and how well they managed that. The more discussion you generate with a review, the better informed people are.

    • MadMirko

      Reviews are mostly only good for the LOLs.

      An example: Despite the trend to give out perfect scores to any semi-decent game, Famitsu denied that to FFXIII. Internet boiled, MadMirko lol’ed.

  • Slashlen

    While I believe they’ve gotten more “generous” with scores, that chart may not be the best indicator, at least of how much. Did they review as many games in 2000 as in 2009? I’d be more interested in these scores as % of total reviewed, unless it turns out it hasn’t really changed in 9 years. I don’t know if it has or not.

    • This is something I wish I could have added as a comparison graph. I don’t have that data though. :(

      High scores are better archived and remembered than middle ground ones. If there is a full database of Famitsu scores (aside from owning every issue from 2000-2009) I’d like to post a revision.

  • I’m not going to get into the argument of whether or not they’re paid for good scores. I do think that they’ve gotten more generous with their reviews, though, especially for well-known franchises, in an effort to give the market a little boost.

    • Ishaan, buddy, pal. I’m totally in the same thought group as you. I don’t think Famitsu is _literally_ paid off. While TokyoGuy has mentioned that a company will definitely buy lots of add space (thanks for the info–Koei with 8 pages? haha), I still don’t think it means what people say: Big Papa Inc paying off review sites/magazines. If anything, Japan is seriousl flooded with games. As much as I’d love to buy everything there and/or here, I can barely afford half of what I want.

      • This might be reading into it a bit too much, but I think it says a lot that Bayonetta got a perfect score. It’s a new IP from a beloved creative team. I actually think that, at times, Famitsu’s heart is in the right place. They try to encourage people to try out more games.

        Unfortunately, like TokyoGuy said below, having a short paragraph with no elaboration whatsoever isn’t really useful.

        • I wish my “Like” button worked sometimes at work… because you and Ereek deserve some pushes for sure. =P I can’t say much more than, “I agree,” sir.

          • I just “liked” a comment from you and Ereek each if that makes you feel better. :P

          • Ereek

            Much love, haha.

            I think, as mentioned, Famitsu is best used as a source of release information. With 5 “main” systems, it’s very difficult to keep track of releases sometimes. I tell myself I want to watch a game, but then I don’t see it mentioned anywhere for about 3 months and end up not realizing it came out. That new game, Fighting Fantasy: Warlock Mountain is one example of this. Even though I like to consider myself good at keeping track of game releases, sometimes it’s just not possible with so many releases. While this may sound rather bad coming from an American, but I believe Western media outlets are rather inferior when it comes to release schedules. Small but great games like Atelier Annie are sometimes completely ignored in the larger outlets.

            And I don’t know about everyone else, but I look forward to Famitsu leaks every week.

  • holyPaladin

    Well imo Famitsu review better than some website review

  • Joanna

    I actually find reviews helpful. Not because of the scores, but because they give me a feel for the game. I read about good things and bad things and decide for myself whether I would be annoyed with what the reviewer didn’t like, or whether what the reviewer liked is something I like about games, ect. Of course, I also look at gameplay videos and try demos if they are available.
    I don’t have really high standards either, so I usually enjoy just about anything (of course excluding FPS and sport games, I don’t like those game genres at all).

  • well since game industry has been a lil’ down lately they must try their best as well (at maybe a little lying maybe?), but i think all games are great in a way, even if 100000000000000000000000 ppl hate a game, there is at least 1 that loves it

  • Tokyo Guy

    I really wouldn’t put too much stock in anything Famitsu says or does. The magazine is the Japanese equivalent of Gamepro, albeit with a much larger reader base. Famitsu is primarily used as a calendar for game releases (in terms of its comprehensive listings), and for a print-source for breaking news and scoops. The magazine is anything but an “intelligent” read, though to be fair there are times when it has some articles that took a lot of work and/or time to produce. As for the comments made about these perfect games being bought, well Enterbrain is hardly immune to advertising money. Consider that, at least a few years ago, every issue of Famitsu would have some 4-8 FULL pages of ads from Koei alone, one after the other. And their review system is as flawed and poorly contrived as the first decade of Electronic Gaming Monthly (which itself freely “borrowed” from Famitsu to begin with) in that you have 3-4 sentences of a “review” that is suppose to inform gamers what to buy. Please. It’s usually just fanboy gushing over the graphics (see the recent Final Fantasy XIII reviews) or else tells you NOTHING that can ever be used to make a purchasing decision. And the scores? Nintendogs got a perfect rating. Nintendogs. Realistically speaking, Famitsu is little than a marketing tool by which game publishers can spread word of their new products.

  • Aoshi00

    I don’t think they’re “bought” per se.. or if I trust Famitsu or share the same taste as the reviewers. Problem is I have never actually read one single Famitsu review of how the number score came to be. Like I read Ebert’s reviews on movies, because I found his taste to be similar to mine, but sometimes I would enjoy movies he rated 2 out of 4 stars because some certainly qualities might just make me enjoy a movie for what it is. Like Vagrant Story, it had a 40 score, but it’s a game that one either loves or hates, it all depends if you like that kind of game at all. So if I just look at the number score and don’t read about the breakdowns, then I would regret purchasing something. I liked the world setting and the characters, but I don’t care about the weapon customization and dungeon crawling, so that game was not for me at all. But I like many games that people scored poorly as well. Long story short, I need to read reviews by different people and decide for myself.

    Interesting FFXIII didn’t get a perfect 40 like XII though. Not that I totally dislike XII, but I know I would like XIII much more. Maybe they just didn’t want to start giving every flagship FF a perfect score.

    • Tokyo Guy

      Well, as I pointed out in my post, Famitsu doesn’t really substantiate the scores. In fact you never really find out anything about the games they “review” other than how good the graphics were or how the gameplay “is not good”. Seriously, how the magazine gets away with calling a 3-4 sentence opinion a game review is a joke. It’s sad that their previews contain more information and relevant content than the actual “evaluation”.

      You would really hope that a magazine with such a long, LONG history in the gaming industry would be able to give sufficient and intelligent opinions on the reviews and actually demonstrate their gaming knowledge. I’ve seen better “reviews” from the troll contributors to GameFAQs.

      • Aoshi00

        I see, that’s why I never read any actual reviews.. I thought many sites were just quoting a line or two but that IS their review.. I guess people just put stock in it because they’re a big publication. You’re right, as an info/release calendar it’s very helpful. I actually haven’t read any Jpn gaming mags (or anime mags for that matter) in years, I used to love gaming magazines since that was your only source before the advent of the internet.. I used to pick one up whenver I had a chance because of the pretty pictures (of course I didn’t have that much money when I was a kid..) Well, doesn’t matter what they say, I know I would like XIII, not just because of the pretty jaw-dropping graphics of course.When in doubt though, I always check out a wide range of reviews from gamefaqs and amazon (US & Jpn), I think they’re mighty helpful as reference.

        • It’s true. People put a lot of stock in IGN stateside, at least the mainstream. I see no reason why it would be any different for Famitsu. For the same reason as you I no longer get into gaming/anime magazines. The internet is there and easy to navigate. I try to support one or two, but that’s about it. I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t do anything more than toss around Famitsu scores for their own reviews or arguments. Other times it’s mentioned just as a sheer interest but I don’t think we all go out to buy a game just because Famitsu gave it a 39 or 40. We know how to make our own decisions. Maybe I’ll start buying some Famitsus again if they do their reviews as a haiku.

          Animal Crossing.
          Winter without “bells” is sad,
          Where are you my friends?

          • Aoshi00

            I haven’t visited IGN in a long time after reading several horrible reviews by some schmoes.. I go w/ Gametrailers these days, I think those guys are okay for the most part. I have subscribed to EGM for years, but it ran out a year or two ago and I never bothered to contine since I don’t have time to read them anyway as we have internet’s daily gaming news. Speaking of haiku, Hikari-chan on Jpn’s Inside Xbox always reads out “game senryuu” from fans, she always does it w/ a twist too. Such a cute and fun gal, she just turned 18, so you don’t need to feel like a pedophile lol.

          • We need to have Hard Gay game reviews in the future.

            Gametrailers is awesome. I think the reason their reviews work is because it’s video, and you can see what the narrator is talking about in realtime, and judge for yourself.

  • How much has the staff changed over the last decade at Famitsu. Could a number of the reviewers from decades past that were a lot stricter have been replaced with a new generation of more lenient ones as people moved on to different things over the years?

  • Tatsu

    They just need to start going to 11. Problem solved, mirite?

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