By BisonHero 44 Comments
For whatever reason, I can think of at least a few examples of Japanese video game series that started in the 1980s that were heavily influenced by American pop culture of the time. Donkey Kong had some pretty obvious similarities to King Kong. Metal Gear borrowed character designs from The Terminator, Escape from New York, and featured a story similar to Cold War action movies of the day. Yoshio Sakamoto has gone on record as saying that Alien was a huge influence on Metroid, and he famously named Ridley after director Ridley Scott.
But when I think of the games coming out of Japan recently, they seem to be getting more insular, and drawing more inspiration from the visual styles, tropes, and characterizations of Japanese manga and anime, and doing less of a reinterpretation/pastiche of Western pop culture. I think this is part of the reason that American gamers (and to an extent, the editors of Giant Bomb) have less interest in Japanese games of the last decade, as there is even less common ground to start from. I'm not saying that Japanese developers should be forced to include things that are familiar to Western gamers, but as a general observation, there seem to be less situations like the one where Sakamoto genuinely thought Alien was pretty cool and wanted to make a game with a similar atmosphere. I'm not sure why that is.
One of the only recent counterexamples that comes to mind is Suda 51, who takes it so far that he seems to almost have a fetish for American pop culture. His recent games have equal parts satirized and embraced the ridiculous violence and bloodshed that is popular in American video games, and if you go a little further back, Killer7 is surprisingly focused on political/cultural relations between the U.S. and Japan. Kingdom Hearts is another example, though it's less an interpretation of American pop culture as it is an awkward branding mashup of the naïve optimism of anime/manga protagonists with the naïve optimism of Disney protagonists. Binary Domain is probably a better example, in that it borrows a lot of ideas from famous Western sci-fi novels and film, but isn't a direct adaptation of any of them.
Are there any other examples of recent Japanese games that have drawn considerable inspiration from Western sources?