Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Why do you keep treating the foreign games so unfair?!
As I've mentioned several times before, I like computer/video games. Most of the time I prefer to play games before watching tv and/or a crappy movie and this goes way back from the time me and my brother entertained ourselves with Jetpack for the Vic-20 our dad bought before the C-64 had it's big break. The main vehicle for games that I use is the PlayStation 3 (I have a Wii too, but the lack of good games is pretty painful and not very much fun unless you're a few people playing).
One of the things that annoy me to no end is how foreign games can be mistreated when introduced to the Japanese market. Going back quite far in time, Japanese made games taking place in the US or outside of Japan by tradition are voiced by English voice actors with Japanese subtitles. I believe that this has to do with the game developers aiming for a cinematic quality to the game and even though most movies are available in a dubbed version, the subtitled version is the one that most people watch. In the early days the voice acting was usually pretty crappy, but this has changed lately to at least semi-professional actors. This I feel is a good development and perfectly reasonable; if a game takes place outside Japan with an American protagonist, it's natural that the language spoken should be English. Please note that this route is the one taken by most Japanese games developed by Konami, Tecmo, Square Enix etc.
So far so good, but the problem that comes in here is that when buying a US developed game here in Japan there is no guarantee that the English voices are kept and not replaced with Japanese dubbing with no option to chose English audio... I find this pretty amazing since a blue-ray disc can store huge amounts of data and the English voice acting exist already and that a deliberate decision to not include English audio is just dumb.
I recently bought the latest "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" game here in Japan, released not too far behind the launch in the US and assumed that English audio would be available, but no... Not even an option to chose English even though it just sounds plain stupid to me to have the American soldiers speaking in Japanese to each other. But not only is that a source of annoyance, the Japanese dubbing is pretty bad and most of the characters sound like they are trying to speak in a "rough" voice which sounds disturbingly unnatural (a good example would be the dubbed voice of Jack Bauer in the tv series 24, listen here, it's a commercial but the voices are the correct ones).
If I would play the game with English voices, Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman would at least recognize some degree of cinematic coolness to the game, but now with the Japanese audio I instead have to endure comments like "what are you playing? It sounds so stupid". Not only is in Japanese, but they also mix in plenty of semi-American phrases with the Japanese that makes it even more cringe worthy (those of you who can read Japanese can image how painful it is to hear phrases as グッドショットソルジャー or ナイスキル).
To me, this strategy just doesn't make any sense at all and I strongly suspect that it's some form of tradebarrier to make sure that US games do not take too much share here in Japan...