Gravity Rush Creator Was Concerned Kat Was "Too Japanese"

By Spencer . August 21, 2012 . 1:10pm

asaIs being Japan-like negative? Gravity Rush producer Makato Isomine and writer Naoko Sato thought about this while designing the PlayStation Vita game (which was actually planned as a PS3 title).


During a CEDEC presentation, Sato said having a female protagonist, a fictional city with a made up language, and a toon graphic style were generally negative points for overseas games. A project member from France also asked why do Japanese games have boys and girls as the main character.


Sato explained that Japanese people regard youth and childlike nature as something sacred, while overseas people think a young protagonist would probably die due to their lack of experience. While Japanese games tend to have boys and girls as protagonists, games made in the west tend to have realistic heroes with adults fighting a world crisis. Sato decided to balance the two ideas by using traditional Japanese character design and capturing the feeling of reality to broaden the market for the game.


Some changes were made to Gravity Rush as it was being prepared for a worldwide release. A gag where Kat was supposed to kick Syd in the face was modified.


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Sato ended the talk saying at first she thought "too Japanese" was a negative, but now she has a new appreciation for the term.

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  • Eh I dunno I see a lot of young leads and female leads in entertainment, especially in young adult fiction.
    Its cartoon art direction is also one of the key factors people caught attention of the game in the first place.
    Japanese developers should be a little less self-conscience about this stuff.  For all we know the studies they looked at probably barely scratched the surface of what people would play.  It really depends on the game and the marketing.  Even a title that would appeal entirely to the West could flop.

    • Kris

      Yeah, just look at stuff like Binary Domain. While it was awesome, it looked like it was tailor-made to Western tastes, and it flopped. I mean, I don’t think the PR was great for the game (or the awful cover art), but I think a bit more confidence in Japanese design wouldn’t hurt!

    • puchinri

      I think female leads exist, and there’s a nice group of them, but in comparison to how many male leads they are – or if the female lead shares her space at all with a male lead – is a different story; and also whether or not she can remain the lead and not have to be fanservice bait of some sort or suffer some kind of pandering or stereotypes.

      Interestingly enough, I think more creators do aim female leads at younger audiences more often, which pleases me greatly because at least the younger gens will grow up with that in their minds.

      It would be nice if Japanese devs had more comfort and confidence in their art, but I can see how it’s easy to doubt yourself. When the Western media openly attacks you (the vocal supposed minority that’s always being obnoxious, at least) and some other Japanese devs are lambasting JP titles and praising the West, it’s hard to feel comfortable. But I think if more fans, devs and media outlets are more vocal of their support, love and appreciation that’ll probably help quite a bit (especially from the Western side, I suppose).

  • Palmer Nyako

    i’d be surprised if we got a Japanese game like the last story or final fantasy with a main black protagonist that wasn’t portrayed like the typical black sub-characters in Japanese games.
    Then again, it would be easier to have a character catered to the main demographic.
    I’d be impressed if it happened tho.

    • Andrew Strozier

      That’d be really nice. I haven’t seen a JRPG where the black person isn’t a side kick or 1.5 dimensional character so far. The closest thing I can think of in recent memory is one of the main characters in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, but the game goes so out of its way to be a “western” game that it hardly counts in this context.

      There’s also Drebin and Sigint from the MGS series. But again, not a JRPG or anything close to it.

      • Yamaneko22

         Reddas from FFXII

      • Barrylocke89

        The most recent Black character I can think of having seen in a JRPG that I’ve played was Gore in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, but even his role in the overall game was pretty small. Strange Journey did also have Jimenez (who I believe was Hispanic) though, and he was one of the more important supporting cast members.

    • Herok♞

       Honestly I would love to see more Black main characters in any genre, being Black myself.

      • cj_iwakura

        Killer7 is a great example.

    • OathkeeperSoraXIII

      Although he’s not the real main character, but is still very important. I thought of Sazh from FFXIII, he never really came across as a stereotypical black guy. not to me atleast xD

      • puchinri

        He definitely has some overly stereotyped traits to him (in both versions of the game), but he also sounds to be incredibly well-developed and isn’t such an overt, intimidating stereotype, so that’s quite refreshing.

        • CirnoLakes

          Yeah, that’s true. Sazh was in some ways painfully stereotypical and they didn’t have to do that. But there’s a difference between a little bit stereotypical and an embarrassing stereotype meant for little other than exploitation or humor. Sazh is a little stereotypical and not perfect and not how I would have handled a black character personally.

          But Sazh is a likeable character who you can look past that of because he’s well developed and relatable. Aside from a few stereotypical traits, he’s a realistic character who is on the whole, not that bad.

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      In JRPGs and western all we get are  Stereotypical black guys that ether uses guns or a fake Bruce lee want-to-be. Truly sad 

    • Rentekabond

      Well, I’d say Kat fits as a solid black character, so there’s that. But I definitely agree, it’d be nice to have more presence.

    • puchinri

      Good point, lol. I was actually curious when I first saw Kat as to whether she was possibly Black or Latina –  or techincally identified as such, given fictional setting (which would be awesome).

      As far as FF goes, Kiros is the only character I can think of that comes out looking pretty good. And it’s rare in general to see that from any media sadly, western or eastern. 

      I am waiting for the day though~.

      • Rentekabond

        Well, considering this is a fictional universe, there’s not really anyway to identify herself as black or latina because they don’t technically exist. Really, it just comes down to the fact that she has a skin colour that isn’t the “white” that white/asian characters have yet is still treated like a proper character, which is always good.

        • puchinri

           Yeah, that’s why I had to add the technically. But yes, that definitely counts for a lot and is a main point to me~.

      • CirnoLakes

        Wow, how did we get onto the subject of race from this?

        Yeah, as far as non-stereotypical portrays of black people in video games and particularly Final Fantasy, I’m going to have to give it to Kiros. Though he’s not exactly effeminate(well, maybe aside from his face) and I didn’t like the way some of his jabs toward Laguna went, he’s far from any “ghetto” or hypermasculine stereotype.

        If Square ever make a game with a black main character, I wouldn’t mind one a bit like Kiros.

  • *sigh* Will they ever learn? 

  • Domii

    I haven’t had the chance to play Gravity Rush yet. With that being said, I think she looks pretty good for this game. Plus out of all the reviews I read about the game, not once did I see a reviewer mention anything negative about her personality. Which is what really turns me off in most of today’s jrpgs, the melodrama that comes with today’s young characters. Enough ranting though, I’ve must of mentioned this around here over a million times already.

  • Haven’t they ever watched anime? no one looks Japenese in them and no one cares

    • puchinri

      Well, techincally. . . ah, I won’t bring that up. vuv;

  • I think the biggest problem they have, along with everyone else in the industry, is that they have become too concerned about pleasing everyone. What happened to thinking about how to be innovative and true to your creative vision?

     All of my favorite games this generation weren’t made by people who were worried about making a “one size fits all” kind of game. I assume things are only going to get worse, since as the industry grew it become more and more run by suits who only think about statistics and sales figures.

    • PoweredByHentai

      That’s why you have people like Keiichiro Toyama who don’t care about what other people think and just go with what they feel is a good idea (he made the Silent Hill series and directed Gravity Rush’s development).

    •  Reminds me of Suda51’s “punk” philosophy to gaming.  Just make whatever you want and hope for the best.

  • Gravity Rush grabbed my attention better because most western third person shooters look the same and also the game looks like an anime unlike X-Blades.

  • pgover

    Personally, I feel the Cartoon/Anime aesthetic and female protagonist
    are Gravity Rush’s strongest points and what drew me to the game to
    begin with. Those points make Gravity Rush stand out among it’s fell games. The overall design and aesthetic is beautiful and a more realistic look would probably take away from the appeal.

    Kat herself is such a great and lovable character who truly stands out
    among other gaming protagonists because of how different she is. She’s
    probably one of the best example of a female main protagonist I can
    think of and has become one of my favorite game characters of all time.

    I really think game developers shouldn’t worry about what’s popular or whether something
    is too Japanese or too western. Developers should simply be worrying about
    making a fun, enjoyable and memorable experience for people to play.

    • puchinri

      I don’t know if I’ll ever play the game (due to lack of opportunity mostly), but if I do, it’ll definitely be in part because she seems to be an interesting and well-designed and developed character. Her outfit may not cover her entirely, but it doesn’t feel or look like it’s fanservice or handled in such a way, and she seems like a cool character overall.

      And totes agreed on that final sentiment~. 

  • I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed about, nor a “negative point”. It’s simply just the style the developer chose to go with. Of course, if the publisher or developer want to sell a bit more and wanted to cater to popular preferences more, then it’s their choice; it may make the work a bit less unique, but if they knowingly made the trade, that’s a consequence they can’t avoid.

  • Silver Citizen

    Thank god they changed that scene. I just can’t handle violent females in those scenarios. 

  • I wish the Japanese media would ask western developers why all their games have to have blood and buff bald men. 

    • Rentekabond

      I wish the Western media would ask japanese developers why all their games have to have moe and vapid girly boys. 
      See, it’s not nice to generalize.

      Edit: OOOHHH! I see what you were getting at. You’re right, the west does always seem to be the one insisting that JP needs to reevaulate themselves but no one ever calls out the west for their “failings”.

      •  Did u read the article…someone did :L

      • puchinri

        I think you missed the point of the comment. ^u^;

        • Rentekabond

          Actually, I went back to read it again and I understand now. I feel kind of like a dunce right now, haha.

          • puchinri

             Lol, as long as you see it now~.
            Arla’s comment definitely needed saying after all.

  • Valtiel Ikari

    Seriously, if any japanese game developer some how sees this, stop trying to be more western, we have enough buzzcut constipated steroid consuming mains already, don’t take away the (only) diversity (we have left). Just do your thing, and let western developers do their thing, it’s like what the Ninja Gaiden guy said, don’t make a hamburguer, we already have those here, make us some good sushi!

    I’m glad that they decided to preserv the art for Gravity Rush, that’s where moust of it charm is (apart of gameplay, ofcourse), and extra points for not including the cliche tsundere (yuck, tsunderes, the worst thing to ever happen to anime and japanese industry apart from moe) scene!

  • Oltheros

    Developers should just make the game they want to make, there will always be people, both East and West, that can appreciate them. Of course, another question is sales…which is I guess the biggest factor here.

  • Paradox me

    Honestly, I would love to see more Japanese games with older, more mature protagonists (no, not beefy marine bros or whatever you think all Western characters are), but changing established characters for certain markets is not the way to go about it IMO.

    Nier sort of makes me a hypocrite though, since I’m infinitely grateful that we got the older, fatherly Nier in the Western release.

    •  Tidus was not a little kid and nor was any of the main characters of FFX. why the hell did they after that star adding little kids!!!

      in the last 10 years the Japanese have gone more full retard and change culturally in video games than America and Europe

      before MILLIONS of people enjoyed JRPGs, everyone loved them but as time went on they became more and more strange.

      NOT A SINGLE JRPG today resembles games like the early FF which led the groundwork for JRPGS in the west!!!

      • M’iau M’iaut

        Sir you were asked to stop making hate-filled posts earlier, and in fact specifically the ‘full retard’ mention. 

        Pure anger, name calling and epithets have no place on Siliconera. If you can’t find other ways to express yourself, take these posts elsewhere.

        Final warning.

      • Roa Valdamjong

         seiken no densetsu ? (secret of mana) little kid and we’re in 90

      • FlameEmperor

        There are good JRPG’s out today but you probably set your standards so high that you hate them because they don’t meet it. 

      • Luna Kazemaru

        >the japanese have gone full retard

        You must want me to….never i got more class then that.

      • Paradox me

        There were plenty of kids in older Japanese games, they just tended to have less dialogue, no voice acting, were more mature/capable, etc. Children (and women, to an extent) in modern Japanese games seem less like honest attempts at creating interesting, believable characters and more like walking sources of cuteness, comic relief and, in the case of women, fanservice.

        Frankly, I believe that the genre is in shambles; a very sorry state of affairs where pandering is the name of the game. So few developers seem hungry anymore. They don’t seem to care to tell the great stories or build the expansive worlds and populate them with interesting character or cram them full of secrets to uncover. They either can’t afford or simply won’t risk HD console development, and so rarely have we seen any significant steps forward.

        That said, there have been a handful of truly great RPGs from Japan this generation that, while not necessarily mimicking the form of classics, approach or meet their level of quality.

        Games like Lost Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, Radiant Historia, Tales of Vesperia, Blue Dragon, Demon’s Souls, The Last Remnant, etc. These games go a long way in reminding me why I fell in love with RPGs in the first place.

      • Nemesis_Dawn

        “More full retard”

        I see. I don’t even have to say anything else.

    • CirnoLakes

      I don’t think that all Western protagonists are “beefy marine bros”, I just think that those or other brand of ‘macho man’ are too much a staple of the Western industry and I’d hate to see Japanese developers bow to that in order to sell to the West.

      “but changing established characters for certain markets is not the way to go about it IMO.”
      I’m glad that you feel that way.

  • sandra10

    Gravity Rush is unabashedly Japanese without being one big trope fest. That fact coupled with some other stuff make it the most refreshing Japanese game I’ve played since Nier. Loved it.

    • Axelstream

      This. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about Gravity Rush having a female lead or a cartoon artstyle or a… a fictional language? The only element that bothers me in Japanese games is how many of them use terrible, cringe-inducing writing to try to push their uninspired stories. Overused, uneffective tropes are a big part of that — I’m glad they got rid of that thing where Kat kicks Syd, because it’s a tired and unfunny comic gag which shows up all over the place in Japanese anime and games and never works for me. Why put your characters into those kinds of boxes?

      But Gravity Rush isn’t like that. It’s got a lead with a charming, go-getter attitude without falling into any mundane personality extremes.
      And it’s story has an incredibly valuable aspect which not many other game stories have: intrigue. It’s inspired and attractive and it draws you in instead of trying to force its characters and story upon you.

      • PoweredByHentai

        I think that a lot of what made Gravity Rush great was Toyama’s personal tastes.  I mean, the art and settings are entirely reminiscent of the French comic book artist Moebius and a lot of what we see and appreciate Kat for basically came from Toyama’s imagination of Kat as a well-meaning super heroine who has very human qualities like anxiety, stress, happiness, having a crush on someone, etc.

        I don’t recall if Toyama also took inspiration from Spiderman or not because a number of the day-to-day affairs seem to be stuff that you would find and relate with Spiderman.

  • Being “Japanese” and “toon styled” here is what made Gravity Rush stand out to me in the first place.  I’ve no interest in the generic look and feel of most modern gaming.  I grew up on the SNES, when everything was wildly stylized, and I miss that feeling in games to such an extent that I don’t even know how to put it into words.

    Developers, eastern or otherwise: please don’t shy away from fantastic worlds and artistic vision!  It’s what captured me as a child, and it’s still what holds me today. Gravity Rush embodies that feeling fairly well.

    • puchinri

      The sad part is, many mentalities now have boiled down to “toon styled” (ie  bright, colorful, probably Japanese) or realistic [dark or desaturated colors, hardened features that aren’t entirely realistic anyway, stereotypically western (U.S.)]; this also becomes hardcore versus softcore, and I think the way our gaming media (and our comics) handle this shows a strong, obvious bias that only helps fuel this and hurts what should be a more diverse gaming market and one that is more open-minded. A lot of devs don’t help either, but everything becomes a vicious cycle. 

      Fortunately, I also think that we have plenty of people that are consistent and/or rail against that and do what they want and are good at it (Nintendo, Level-5, Kim Swift, etc). It also helps that these people and their titles get pretty good support and/or fanbases, meaning there’s a space where that stuff thrives and grows.

      Hopefully, we’ll see more people willing to accept and value the “toon styles” and such and help them make a strong comeback.

    • miyamoto

      Very well put, Zaron

  • No matter what ethnicity she is, I will still always love Kat <3 =^_^=

  • Code

    rar, it’s a shame creators feel like this T___T’ Because it’s definitely a big factor that makes the game so special u w u; I’m really glad Gravity Rush went the direction it did though, gave me mean nostalgia for early PS1/PS2 games which had a similar flavor, but even more so it’s just not the type of game you see as often now a days, it was a nice breath of fresh air~ 

  • puchinri

    I’m glad Sato feels that way in the end~.

    Also, I think at times, cultural mentalities/differences are blown too out of proportion, but I partially agree with how western (especially US) culture versus Japan views the age of characters and such. And to a point, the female protag (that is not focused on sexuality, especially) as well as made up city with a mde up language are points I feel are put into an interesting perspective here.

    However, I also feel that’s because of how our media and pop culture have shifted, and it isn’t entirely positive or healthy here (especially with how many people view and judge these things).

    While I’m not too interested in Gravity Rush/Daze, that was an interesting, little read, and I much appreciate the team, their work and their ideas.

  • Wish he didn’t think of it that way. Gravity Rush is the only original game (The other game being P4G which is a remake of course) I want a Vita for. And I dont want the Vita if that is going to be the only game I get for it.

    • Solomon_Kano

      “Sato ended the talk saying at first she thought “too Japanese” was a negative, but now she has a new appreciation for the term.”

  • DarthSithZero

    Who cares if the game looks japanese, im only concern is well Gravity Rush 2 will be available I would like to play as Raven or Kat or even better COOP game

  • heartless141

    well if you guys live in japan, the japanese culture has its own negative points, i think that’s what Sato didn’t want  on Kat.
    but then again she turned out well :)

  • miyamoto

    Gravity Rush wins as one of the Most Original New Game  of all time. There is no other game like it.

    • Agreed, it is actually one of the best new games I’ve played in a long time.

  • $733987

    I just watched the Nights into Dreams video and decided to come back here. Why? Because I disagree with the sentiment that characters should be changed to suit the market’s expectations.

    Just because the game doesn’t have a grand and epic story doesn’t mean the main character has to be a child. Likewise, a scenario that revolves around the protagonist solving a world crisis, while experiencing death or sacrifices, doesn’t automatically mean the protagonist has to be an adult. I believe that the kind of message that you want to convey through your story should be the determining factor in your character’s background, whether it be age, ethnicity, gender etc.

    To be more specific on my stance, let’s look at the changes stated about the gag above. The original have the girl kicking the guy when she realised he was peeping (?? unsure since it’s out of context), while the revised version have her giving him a stern warning while raising her fist in a threatening posture. The deciding factor for the changes ,as stated on in the last picture, is, “Is it fine for a girl to beat up a guy?”. But what about the other questions? Like, is Kat a “shoot-before-asking-questions” kind of person? Or, would the change be consistent with her personality established so far? Are we really sure we want to limit a character’s action based on what the players expect of them? Is that why we sometimes get h-scenes that makes absolutely no sense in ero-games, all just for the sake of making it an ero-game, so that people who likes ero-game would buy it without regards for the story?

    Wouldn’t it be more amusing if the gag above was more natural, and determined by the TPO (Time, Place, Occasion)? Maybe it’s just me, but in the original gag, I would be amused by the guy’s reaction at getting kicked (my sense of humor is crazy). But in the revised version, I really hate that expression on the guy’s face, for some reason. Also, how is it a gag? The only one laughing is the guy, seeing as how he’s getting away scot-free.

    Do developers really believe or assume that western players prefer to have their protagonists be an adult, or at the very least, older? That’s funny, because in Nights into Dreams, the two children were 15 years old in the Japanese version, but they were both listed as 14 years of age in the English version, which was obviously changed for the western market. Perhaps you would argue that for a game where the story/graphic was obviously marketed towards children, it would be wiser to have the protagonist’s age mirror that of the target audience of both genders. In that case, what about some recent games? Limbo featured a young boy, and the game can be described as morbid, with one interpretation of the ending being that both the boy and his sister were dead all along. On the other hand, Mario was a plumber who was definitely not a kid, in a story where he saves the princess from the evil turtle.

    In conclusion, all I really want to say is that I cannot get behind the idea of changing a character for the sake of appealing to the target audience, which now that I think about it, have absolutely nothing to do with Gravity Rush’s changes, seeing as how the developer did not sacrificed the character’s original background or design. Which makes this whole rant I just went on pretty pointless. Oh well.

    Good job, Sato-san! :D

    • Rentekabond

      Well, perhaps he changed the scene because he figured many people, myself included, are tired of seeing relatively unjustified female-on-male abuse happening for the sake of comedy that’s prevalent in global society as a whole. You stated that while you don’t know the context, you assumed it’s because he was peeping. You assume this because this is an extremely cliched anime trope that you are used to, which is another possible reason for him omitting the scene, if that was the original context.

      • $733987

        That’s exactly what I thought. Especially since she (Naoko Sato) has mentioned that she compromised by making the setting much more grounded in reality. What I took from that statement was that she wrote a scenario which was more realistic, which aside from the story and settings, probably also applies to the characters’ personality.

        A little experience of my own here. I once spanked a girl on the butt with a metal bar, playfully and lightly, if I might add. Her reaction? She turned around, while I backed away defensively with a smirk on my face. But all she said was “here, you deal with these”, and promptly returned to her own table. I was expecting her to reprimand me or hit me. I guess that’s the difference between reality and fantasy? Or maybe, secretly, I’m a masochist?

      • puchinri

        The probably with that example is, on the flip side, the male characters are always allowed to get away with a lot (quite intentionally) and also for the sake of comedy (and fanservice). I don’t approve of the female on male abuse (or an abuse, really, no matter the type, target, etc) but I think the context to these situations says a lot.

        The problem is, if it was indeed that trope and that’s the reason it was omitted, it reflects terribly on both characters (although not too badly at all on Kat if he was peeping and she kicked him). Honestly, the man only comes off looking sleazy or like a douche, so it makes me question the context more and if her reaction could be all that bad.

        The larger issue to me isn’t that people set up male characters as butt-monkeys to be abused by females (I hate that female characters are used that way though as well), but that they set up male characters to be perverts or put in that situation at all, which means A) guys being guys, lol (the stereotype of males as horndogs and pigs) plus B) female character being demeaned for the sake of pandering to a cliche and humor. To me, there isn’t really a great way to handle that.

    • puchinri

       That. Was. Lovely. I think you put that quite eloquently and hit a number of nails on the head.

      I’d say your rant was still quite on point and probably fairly needed. When you talk about the gag especially and how people pander (like in H-games for instance) says a lot as well. Even if it isn’t just as simple as fanservice pandering, there is plenty of pandering (whether it’s in language, how other characters react to/treat another character, etc) and it’s not for any benefit.

      That was all quite well put~.

      • Rentekabond

        I think getting mad at H-Games for pandering isn’t really the same as getting mad at a non H-game for pandering. Making porn that doesn’t appeal to your audience, especially something as tedious as animation, is a waste of time, money, and effort. 

        This isn’t really the same thing as pandering in a non H-game by putting in extremely unnecessary and overt ecchi elements, like gratuitous panty shots, moe, etc etc in order to mask a bad game/experience.

        For example, Bayonetta had a decent bit of fanservice in it (though not too much, imo, as Bayonetta’s own mature sexual energy kind of puts it on a more…how do I put it…It’s part of who she is), but it also had extremely good gameplay, allowing these elements to take a backseat and not necessarily be the entire game’s focus.

        Contrast that with a game like Hyperdimension (Specifically the first one), which is nigh unplayable as a game. How do the developers get you in? The very first scene is a cat fight where the various moe goddesses argue over breast size and then, about 5 minutes later, the main girl, who is arguable a loli, is put in a highly suggestive scenario solely for the sake of fanservice. The problem with this is that neither the story nor the gameplay are good enough to detract from this, making it seem all the more desparate on the Devs parts.

        I’m sure there are worse games (Ar Tonelico 3 is really bad about it, but it has awesome Music), but I chose HN because of my own distaste for the game.

        • puchinri

          It is the same, and I think the thing here is, you’re reading pandering as only of the erotic/pornographic variety (much like how most fanservice is of that variety and usually translated as such into conversations). The pandering can be as bad as, “well, we have a loli, so we must put her in (x) scenario! Even if it does not match anything we have set up or established for this character.” It’s like when people give their characters 180’s in personality after an event in the story or something, but it doesn’t match how the character would react.

          Bayonetta had a ton of fanservice, and having a sexual and/or mature nature does not diminsh that or how exploitative that was. I did appreciate that she was at least more in control of her situations most of the time (aside from being written to do certain things ie. pole dancing), but I still can enjoy the game because of the characterization and gameplay. There was some sexual pandering in there, but it did not diminish the gameplay, and at the least, her’s wasn’t so out of context.

          I can’t say I care much for Neptune either. It is a lot of heavy, sexual fanservice and pandering. At the least, it’s overt and open about it. I do not like it and cannot appreciate it, but they don’t lie to people’s face about it. And, sadly, some of those situations might make sense for the characters. However, if those goddesses are supposedly mature, not hung on their looks, etc then that scene was most definitely pandering and shoe-horned for the sake of pleasing the fanbase.

          • Rentekabond

            I completely agree with you and I thought that what you said in your first paragraph was what I was trying to say in mine, though I still think that pornographic pandering is different because it’s supposed to be purely entertainment. At the end of the day, Most people probably won’t care what your story is supposed to be about and just want to get in and get out. Obviously, there are exceptions such as this Katawa Shoujo I keep hearing about and such.

            My statement about Bayonetta was mainly to point out how fanservice can be used properly to develop a character without degrading them. Bayonetta is a very sexualized character, but she’s also sexual by nature, which translates smoothly between gameplay, cutscenes, and character, and she’s written in a way that feels like she’s in charge of those aspects so it doesn’t feel exploitative, as you put it. She’s very much a female Dante, who was a very sexual character as well (at least in 3 and 4).

            The scene in the beginning of Neptune can ONLY be described as either blatant fan-pandering, or bad writing, as this was essentially their main motivation for trying to kill Neptune in the beginning of the game. They had to choose one of the goddesses to kill for some reason I can’t recall and they boiled it down to who had a certain breast size? No, that’s dumb.

      • $733987

        Thanks for the kind words! I was beginning to think no one cared enough about this topic to give me any feedback, be it positive or negative, either of which is better than feeling like I’m the minority in this extremely big group of gamers. Now I know I’m not over-sensitive about these things, so thanks for the peace of mind. Now I’m motivated! On to the next topic! Whoo~~

        • puchinri

           Anytime~! I much appreciated and agreed with what you had to say. Haha, onward!

  • z_merquise

    a female protagonist, a fictional city with a made up language, and a toon graphic style were generally negative points for overseas games

    Does having a female protagonist really a bad thing? Personally, I really prefer female protagonists more. Of course a good design and characterization are important too.

    And I thought this is another article about Japanese developers becoming too negative on their style of design. It’s good that it actually isn’t.

    A female protagonist, the cartoony art-style and an imaginative fantasy settings are what made me interested in this game and I’m happy that the people at Sony Japan made a game like this.

    • Morricane

       I prefer looking at female protagonists more! :D

    • puchinri

       It’s not that it should be a bad thing, but female characters are usually used for fanservice, and some people even complain if she is a fully fleshed out, developed character (or worse yet, not fleshed out enough physically). Look at what happened with Faith from Mirror’s Edge. A ton of people appreciated her (which was awesome), but there was also the shop of her with a fuller figure.

      There’s also a larger number of male characters (leads and in general) because male is the default, and a lot of people thus believe it’s safer to make a male character and try to avoid a female lead (and at times, sadly, believe that a female character needs to be treated like some magical, different entity rather than, you know, a character).

      I somewhat prefer female protags more as well, though I have plenty of male protags I like and don’t mind seeing one (usually).

      Lets hope that more people are willing to make more female protags (and characters in general) and also be mindful of good design and characterization (regardless of the characters gender or anything).
       > I also hope that more devs will be open and happy to using the cartoony art style and the fantasy settings.

  • Kat is a giant sweetie! 

  • Hinataharem

    I wonder how Japanese is a bad thing. Like saying too Swedish or too Antarctican. Makes no sense.

  • Alphabet Soup

    Games from any culture get boring if they rely too heavily on the same old things.  But I am glad Sato got over the “too Japanese” issue.  I’ve heard that thrown around on occasion when someone didn’t like a Japanese game, but rather than sitting down to think about what they didn’t like, they think “it’s too Japanese for my Western sensibilities” is a valid explanation for calling something a bad product.  I don’t know, it just rubs me the wrong way.  …sorry, my old fart moment is over.

  • CirnoLakes

    Sato said having a female protagonist, a fictional city with a made up
    language, and a toon graphic style were generally negative points for
    overseas games.

    A project member from France also asked why do Japanese games have boys and girls as the main character.
    This is depressing to read.

    Are you now, West? You’re always gloating about how much less sexist you are than East Asia(even though you have a long way to go in terms of gender equality, yourselves). Right now Japan is making you look sexist. Maybe not about the workforce(though there are arguably even some areas, believe it or not, where Japan is more gender forward in the workforce than the United States), but about video game tastes, yes. True or not, West, how do you feel about being labeled less comfortable with female protagonists in video games than Japan?

    … Why am I addressing the West in third person? My family immigrated to the United States in the 1600s, my family has been here for centuries! In any case, this is downright embarrassing and painful for me to read, as an American.

    • Is it that bad a thing to say? I don’t think there are as many big lead female characters in cartoons and video games in the West as their are in the East. Atleast that’s how I took it.

      • CirnoLakes

        I don’t know how bad or untrue it is, but it certainly makes us look bad. If it’s true, it’s certainly embarrassing and the tendency in any country to favor male protagonists over female ones is sexist.

        • Morricane

           …even though it’s far more natural for a male writer to create a male character than a female and vice versa. Okay, that applies more to novels which focus on inner monologue, but still…no idea why this should be sexist here. Gender (or rather sex, I assume) equality blablabla can be taken over the top, really. I’d rather be worried if all women are being characterized in the same way. You know, like, diligent and weak and dependent and blahblah. That would be worrysome.

          That being said, I found it a bit strange…so the Japanese think Europeans and Americans consider female protagonists to be …what? Uninteresting? Uncool? I’m pretty sure there are games with female protagonists out there, even if I don’t follow the western gaming market AT ALL. (so enlighten me on that)

          • CirnoLakes

            Should the industry be dominated by male developers? No, it shouldn’t. And no, it’s not unnatural for someone to write about a different gender or sex or nationality or race or ethnicity or age at all. Many men write about primarily female characters, Hayao Miyazaki for instance. And many men write these characters better than many women(that’s not to say men should be the ones writing stories and that there shouldn’t be more female developers, it would be nice to see more female developers writing female stories.), for instance, Stephie Meyer of the Twilight Saga, in which is very gender negative in its portrayals. Sure, it can be more difficult to write about female characters depending on how accustomed you are to putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. But if you are a talented writer, you should have little difficulty doing that.

            And while bad portrayals of female characters is also problematic, it is not worse than their absence. It is sexist that the gaming industry favors male protagonists. There isn’t a thing “over the top” about that claim. And being worried about bad portrays of women or females in video games makes for a very bad justification for the lack of presence of women in the games and the gaming industry.

            As for why they would think that, and why that might exist in the first place if that is true. I do sadly see a history of things like Ninja Princess. Ninja Princess is a game from the early days of gaming, where the protagonist was literally changes from a female to a male when “localizing” for the West. And is also generally and rightly seen as a misogynist move. And that’s not the only case, there’s been a lot of box art where, when exporting to the West, female characters are displayed less prominently. I can see where many Japanese developers would think that is the case, despite games like Mirror’s Edge.

            If it is a reality, I think it is because Japan has, for a long time, had a much larger appreciation for the cute. Pink even is not even an uncommon colour in marketing for both boys and girls. At least more than in the United States. While in the United States, if you look at the advertising to young boys, it lauds hyperviolent, hypermasculinity, and has actually been getting worse for years(people assume that we have been moving forward in ever aspect of our gender culture with every year. But that’s not always the case, overall we are moving forward. But in some ways, we struggle to not move backward again). Boys are raised in a culture of hyperviolence and it starts with things like the gendering of their toys in ways that weren’t always the case. Even Lego toys are a lot more violent than they once were.

            You can see more about Legos and the hypermasculinizing of boys toys on this video which I think makes my case quite well.
            It’s not surprising, then, that a lot of games, originally mostly targeted to children as toys. Contains in the West, a lot of games obsessed with machismo, badassery, blood, and guns. And people say they’re not targeted towards teenagers with the M rating, but come on. And it’s also no surprise that there’s a lot of petulant, homophobic teenagers playing competitive shooters. The Western toy industry has practically raised this, and the Western video game industry does a lot to go along with this negative attitude. And if they don’t see a desire for and make a lot of female protagonists, it’s because of, by, well, their nature of not being a man, as “not manly enough” for a lot of Westerners. Who a lot of, have been raised to laud masculine hyperviolence and hate anything cute. Even I myself, imagine sadly a lot of teenagers in the West reacting to the idea of playing a female character as “ewww, that’s gay”.

            I’d like to think that this problem isn’t as rampant as possible and try to keep a positive outlook on, well, my country. I do think that we have far too much of this mentality, however. And it has a lot to do with the kind of marketing and values that are placed upon young boys in a culture that likes cuteness, far less than Japan.

          • Morricane

            Yes, you have a point there. Even though Miyazaki is kinda a bad example (his female characters are pretty much all the same stereotype – “the red haired Miyazaki girl”, based on his personal ideal picture of a woman; ie. as a writer, he’s a one-trick pony).
            Still, the main problem of japanese storytelling in games as a whole is that it is so closely related to (shônen) manga for the most part and thus rooted in certain stereotypes. Western games are rooted in their own set of stereotypes as well. (whenever I see one I usually can’t help but notice a certain semblance to Hollywood movies in the aesthetics)

            TBH, I can’t say anything about what you wrote about the US marketing and stuff. And I can’t understand ego-shooters. They completely miss my sensibilities and just are, well, not fun at all. When I find time to play games, I almost exclusively play RPGs, especially SRPGs. And I have no interest in sandbox games. So I have no choice than to play mainly japanese games (and mainly older ones, since I don’t own a current-gen system haha). So I’m a bit far out discussing games today, because I don’t play that much of them :/

            Anyway, It’s true that unfortunately, there still are certain “male” and “female” ideals being preached in modern society, no matter the cultural sphere (even though reality shows an increasing overlap in gender roles of both sexes in postindustrial societies) and we tend to think that’s how it’s “supposed to be”, and everything that is different is not normal.

            But well, so it’s gay to play as a girl :)
            Oh my, you only play a game where there is a girl, it’s not like you ARE the girl. And for that matter, isn’t it more gay to enjoy looking at a male body than at a female one (when you’re a guy?)…would be my reaction to that mindset, but well. That’s not the point here. And no offense here, that this is a joke should be obvious :)
            It’s just insecurity, reacting like that. Most 20-year-somethings I know still throw out these sentences when confronted with something they don’t understand or are just not used to. (you know how “gay” it is to stop drinking alcohol and then…even dare to order alcohol free beer instead! The reaction of most people is amusing, really!)

            …I hate so long posts :/

          • puchinri

             Wow. Wonderfully put. You really got all that covered.

          • puchinri

             It’s sexist because people think that your gender somehow means you can’t empathize with someone because of your genitals (or ethnicity, sexuality, etc) and it becomes an excuse for people to “write what they know”, which also forgets that many minority creators also default in writing as well (meaning, they male white, cis-gendered leads).

            It’s still bad if there’s a large bias of creating a certain gender more than the other for leads (or characters in general), and it’s just as bad if that smaller group is being characterized in the same ways 90% of the time (and worse because it’s usually stereotypes and cliches).

          • puchinri

             Lol, did you really just say that all of Miyazaki’s characters are the same? How many of his movies have you watched? x’D

            He has such a variety of personality, strengths, weaknesses and mindsets (and moralities at that) for all his character, male and female, I’m surprised you were able to say that. Would you really claim that Nausicaa, Ponyo and Chihiro are the same person? That Sheeta and San resemble Shizuku? Or that Ponyo is the same person as Kiki?

            While it also may be true that for a lot of devs, writing for their games may be closely linked to shounen manga, I actually would not say that goes for a majority of the industry. Even if it did, many people grew up with different shounen titles and take in different messages.For as many shounen series go the status quo, there’s a nice handful that break the mold and avert and/or subvert tropes and cliches.

            It feels like you’re missing the points that CirnoLakes is trying to make (or jsut failing to understand). CirnoLakes is pointing out the problems and issues, and saying why they exist and how pervasive they are.

          • Morricane

            All of them, actually, except I never got around to see Laputa…:/
            Plus having had seminars on Miyazaki in master course. There’s books full of essays he himself wrote about his thoughts on a lot of thing, from anime to the relationship of humanity towards nature. If you should happen to be fluent in Japanese and happen to be interested and have a chance to read them…

            Basically, yes, he is reusing the same characteristics over and over again for his female leads (who usually happen to have red hair), in the same way he is transporting the same messages over and over again, albeit with a shifted focus in every movie (there’s not so much of his confliciting attitude between the modern society and nature in, say, Kiki…than it is in Mononoke-hime, for example).

            Of course, some of his movies are more serious and some are more innocent. And that of course changes the details, but the overarching motifs of his work never change. You could say he always cooks up his menu with the same ingredients,
            just in a different combination so that it tastes a bit different. Usually, people call that a “signature”, or “style”.

            I also have to admit that wrapping your mind around several pages of text which strays from content-creation into sociological issues can be tiring at 8 in the morning after having had about 4 hours of sleep.
            Actually seriously contributing to this by writing up an equally elaborate reply would, in all honesty, take up a substantial amount of time, especially since it is not exactly my field of expertise. I don’t really am willing to spend that time though since I am more or less occupied by real life issues which require my attention.

    • I don’t think the female protagonist is really an issue in the US anyways.  Now a nonsexualized female protagonist is more risky in terms of sales (even Kat is a little bit)…  But I also don’t think that is a problem specific to the US either.

  • Zonic505

    “….toon graphic style were generally negative points for overseas games.”

    I remember Wind Waker doing really good, despite some of the complaints about the graphics. Simply put, not every game needs to look realistic.

    •  This game would have lost a LOT of it’s appeal if it wasn’t for the art style…

  • Clifford Pierre Louis

    There’s no such thing as too Japanese…Desu:P

  • Morricane

    Boy, girl protagonists vs. adults…
    I really wonder why the protagonists in japanese content media are always SO young. Like, 12, 14! (except of course they are catering to an intended target group for the product). Personally, I can’t enjoy stories featuring those indecisive, whining little kids that dominate the japanese media at all anymore (okay, NGE will always be the exception). And the chase-your-dreams shounen hero is also not that interesting as a character…

    But on the contrary, no one needs to have some 30-year something level-headed adult hero who found his place in life and blahblah.

    How about someone around 20?
    Being 20 still is an age where you struggle with finding your place in the world, usually. Most people at that age think they are an adult, which, in our society, they are, by law – but are more often than not far from being an adult in the sense of emotional maturity…and still struggling with finding their identity and place in society.
    Of course, compared to, say, 50 years ago, the amount of people who still live a dependent live and are still part of the education system instead of already being working has substantially increased, which is be one of the reasons that people nowadays just take more time to become “adults” in that sense.

    In short: standing right in the middle of the extremes. And hell, how many gamers are something like 18-25!? However, of course, this standard doesn’t apply to a character in a fictional(!) setting anyway, because they’d have a different life…which makes the whole “target group relating to the main character” point kinda…meh.

    …uhm, what exactly was my point now, anyway?

    • CirnoLakes

      Not every child character has to be “whiny”. There is a such trope as the “plucky” protagonist, which plays up the positives of youth and being a child at heart. There’s even a trope on TvTropes called the “Plucky Girl”, which I find to be a very positive trope about women as brave and capable. Though while maybe a bit of “whining” is overused currently, to make every character, child or adult, including main characters, incredibly brave and confident, would be unrealistic.
      I think this would be better than making a lot less children’s stories.

      I thought about trying to give reasons as to why I think this happens, but have decided to snip it, but well, it’s a lot of text and there’s a lot of controversial things to say about Japanese work and escapist life about why cuteness, androgyny, stories about children, and stories about youthfulness in looks or personality or actuality are very popular I’d rather save for another time.

      It’s a lot of text about adult escapism, a mainstream acceptance of cuteness, a lot of video games being targeted at children because children buy a lot of video games, romanticism of childhood, and the moe boom.

  • Go2hell66

    too japanese?
    if anything i thought kat was black

    or am i viewing this article completely wrong? :P

  • Well, being “too Japanese” was bad in this case, because the whole game carries a French-ish, foreign vibe that would make common Japanese comedy tropes like the “you-embarrassed-me-so-I-must-hit-you” kick seem out of place. He did the right thing.

    • puchinri

       That’s kind of a point, but there’s also a flip side to it. A better question would be, how is supposedly squicky behavior handled in Japan? If someone is peeping in on you, that’s not just as little or simple as “you embarrassed me.” That’s a gross invasion of privacy and says a lot about one’s character. In the US, sexual harassment is heavily downsized, but maybe because of how much more open EU is about sexuality, they see sexual harassment as more serious than us? In that case, that trope may not be all that out of place.

      • Well in this particular case (this scene in the game), it was a total accident. If it were as serious as you’re describing it, I’d agree with you.

        • puchinri

           Ah, that’s more understandable then. Reading into it, he doesn’t look apologetic and he looks kind of sleazy, so I wasn’t sure what side to lean toward.

  • Jas

    I do wish Kat kicked Syd’s ass. The scene referenced IMO was handled poorly. I know it was your typical anime scene but goddamn Syd felt like an a**hole the entire game and that bit just takes the cake.

    I wish that scene of Kat kicking him remained in, but wasn’t protrayed as anime but more like common sense.

  • IMO, being Japanese is one of the JAPANESE GAME charm, so I wouldn’t say its a bad thing. Plus, I always liked those manga-like graphic lk GR and EX Troopers.

  • XiaomuArisu

    Female Protagonist are good!
    Remember: If I have to stare at a ass for hours,why shouldnt it be a ass I like?

    • puchinri

       I like male and female ass (I do prefer the former though), but I think this comes down to people always trying to loving render a female ass more than a male ass (and for obvious, terrible reasons). I say all asses be lovingly rendered equally, and then we won’t have this problem~!

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        hahahah simply put

      • XiaomuArisu

        All asses need to be loved!
        But you know some male ass are nice rendered too.
        Like batmans ass in AC,solid snake etc…….cant believe im talking about assesXD

        • puchinri

           That’s true~! Snake always has a nice ass, and even Brawl emphasized it. I really love and appreciate when devs bother to render male asses well. ♥
          lol, it’s a worthwhile topic~?

    • M’iau M’iaut

      Yup in PSO I could have spent 1000+ hours looking at a FOnewearl’s faux magical girl bottom or the metallic hiney of a HUcast.

      Not that hard a choice.

    • I keep telling myself that’s the reason why I only create female characters in Guild Wars and (soon) GW2.
      There’s way too few games with female leads, so I appreciate any of them, as long as they (games) ain’t rubbish.

  • Oh, so that hilarious scene was modified for the international release?! Glad I imported the Japanese version.
    I’m cool with modified international editions as long as they’re made after the Japanese version ships (e.g. Mugen Souls), not crippling the Japanese developers’ original visions in order to get it past ESRB.

  • Asuna Ilano

    “A project member from France also asked why do Japanese games have boys and girls as the main character.”

    ….what the hell do you want, a gay character? :/

    • Gay people are male and female… your comment doesn’t even make sense.

  • Just Tim

    Ugh, this talk again.  While it’s nice to know multiple perspectives, Japan needs to learn its very “Japanese-ness” is THE key selling point for a growing number of gamers who aren’t campers or necrophiliac for zombies.

    I grew up with Japanese games, which are more about game play, not testosterone poisoning, which is all too commonly seen on American AAA titles like CoD/Mass Effect.  >_>;

    (Yes, I know I sound harsh on this, but given at the rate of zombies’ popularity on the American gaming scene, don’t find it hard to believe if zombie games will experience a surge later this decade-2020s, in parallel to how Counter-Strike/DOOM/Wolfenstein/Halo combined did it from the 1990s until the 2000s for FPS).

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