The Humans Are Dead, Long Live the Beast

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Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -

One way or the other, Tokyo Jungle was destined for success.

It would have earned fans based on its premise alone, in which players control animals released into a post-human apocalypse, and fight for dominance on the streets of Tokyo. But few would have predicted Tokyo Jungle as one of better playing games this year. With its tight, interconnected survival systems and fair but brutal learning curve, Tokyo Jungle is equal parts good and goofy. Read my review for more details on what all that means. In short: it's rad.

Such balance is found everywhere in the game, including its ability to make positively savage confrontations between groups of animals (like a tiny but vicious Pomeranian "attacking" a velociraptor) something you can laugh at, too.

Tokyo Jungle requires careful calculation on the part of the player, with every risky remove having a potential reward...and a potentially swift death.

“We needed to represent sweetness and the harsh realities at the same time,” said game director Yohei Kataoka, who prefers to play his game as a pack of predatory chickens, in an email interview.

And though Tokyo Jungle seemingly came out of nowhere here in the United States, it was a quiet three-year collaboration between external developer Crispy’s through PlayStation C.A.M.P. (Creator Audition Mash Up Project). In C.A.M.P., everyday Japanese citizens were allowed to pitch projects to Sony. Tokyo Jungle was one of them, and while 26 developers worked on the game at the height of its development, it started with humbler beginnings: two people.

Tokyo Jungle and Resident Evil 6 were released around the same time in September, and the contrast between the two stuck out like a sore thumb. Resident Evil 6 came across as a game made for all people, aimed at pleasing a worldwide audience, and, thus, lacked a distinct vision. Tokyo Jungle was the opposite. It knew what it was.

“It’s not that we developed this game for Japanese users, but we focused on developing a game that ‘we’ genuinely think is interesting and fun,” said Kataoka. “I believe that this mind-set led to the positive feedback we received from Japan as well as overseas. From the beginning of development, at least at Crispy's, we were never that conscious about the marketing. Of course, we develop games based on what the Japanese users would find fun, so the game may appear more as a novelty for the overseas users, like how the Ukiyo-e [Japanese woodblock paintings] were a long time ago.”

Though Tokyo Jungle was released in Japan on a Blu-ray disc at retail, it started life as a PlayStation Network exclusive, which is how it was eventually released in the rest of the world. Conceived as a downloadable game, however, the game’s scope was understandably limited, which is what originally lead the game to be side-scrolling in nature. That earlier version of Tokyo Jungle was shown at Tokyo Game Show 2010, and got a huge reaction.

“As we did not have much budget allocated for this project, we tried to develop a 2D scrolling action game to keep the budget under control, but the replayable gameplay did not work so well,” said Kataoka.

Tokyo Jungle is an example of a game where the reaction shifted the game design. Positive responses from players and media exposed to Tokyo Jungle (I remember 8-4 Play really getting behind it early) prompted Sony to appropriate a bigger budget to it, and Kataoka’s team was able to build a fully 3D space for players and animals to run around in.

Coming to grips with Tokyo Jungle’s first few hours can be brutal. It’s not an easy game, but it’s one that rewards players who patiently learn its systems. Even then, success is not guaranteed. Kataoka cited a surprising influence on Tokyo Jungle: Capcom’s Steel Battalion. The original one, mind you, not the abomination made for Kinect.

“This game utilizes more than 40 buttons to operate a vertical tank to battle and when you fail to push the escape button when trying to escape the tank, all your save data gets deleted,” he said. “I was very impressed with its concept of going above and beyond the traditional life-and-death perspective in video games. Now that I think about it, I believe this concept of ‘death equals the end’ contributed to the game characteristic of Tokyo Jungle.”

(I had to ask Kataoka about the game’s ending, so prepare for spoilers, Tokyo Jungle newcomers.)

Even though it ruins some of the surprise, I’ve felt compelled to inform people Tokyo Jungle has a narrative justification for its madness, including why dinosaurs are running around. Though survival mode is where the meat of the game is, there’s a story mode unlocked by picking up collectibles. Tokyo Jungle's current lack of men and women involves time manipulation, mass discrepancies across time and space, and stupid, stupid humans.

Crispy’s didn’t start developing the explanation until after the game’s systems were in place, but it’s a piece of the Tokyo Jungle puzzle, one that weaves a dark tale, and Kataoka clearly took it seriously.

In this ending, you've chosen to let humanity rot in another time period, and the animals reign.

There are two possible endings in Tokyo Jungle. Upon learning humanity has abandoned the current time period, robotic dogs left by the humans are tasked with bringing them back. You don’t have to. If you choose to bring the humans back (the “bad” ending), the game fades to black. If you choose to leave them stranded in another time, it’s unclear what happens to the humans, and animals are Earth's master. It’s not really evident what happens, and Kataoka didn’t exactly jump at the chance to make it clearer.

“We decided to not leave a specific message and focused on natural providence,” he said. “If the population keeps increasing at the current pace, we imagined that it will be impossible for everyone to have a prosperous life with the current civilization level, in the First World countries. In both endings, we depicted our imagination of the future into the game.”

He did speculate on what might have happened to the stranded humans in the “good” ending, though.

“Hmmm,” he said. “I'm not sure. However, I will imagine that if they survive, they will live on making mistakes.”

Dark.

And what about a sequel, you ask? It hasn't been ruled out, but it's too early to say.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -

One way or the other, Tokyo Jungle was destined for success.

It would have earned fans based on its premise alone, in which players control animals released into a post-human apocalypse, and fight for dominance on the streets of Tokyo. But few would have predicted Tokyo Jungle as one of better playing games this year. With its tight, interconnected survival systems and fair but brutal learning curve, Tokyo Jungle is equal parts good and goofy. Read my review for more details on what all that means. In short: it's rad.

Such balance is found everywhere in the game, including its ability to make positively savage confrontations between groups of animals (like a tiny but vicious Pomeranian "attacking" a velociraptor) something you can laugh at, too.

Tokyo Jungle requires careful calculation on the part of the player, with every risky remove having a potential reward...and a potentially swift death.

“We needed to represent sweetness and the harsh realities at the same time,” said game director Yohei Kataoka, who prefers to play his game as a pack of predatory chickens, in an email interview.

And though Tokyo Jungle seemingly came out of nowhere here in the United States, it was a quiet three-year collaboration between external developer Crispy’s through PlayStation C.A.M.P. (Creator Audition Mash Up Project). In C.A.M.P., everyday Japanese citizens were allowed to pitch projects to Sony. Tokyo Jungle was one of them, and while 26 developers worked on the game at the height of its development, it started with humbler beginnings: two people.

Tokyo Jungle and Resident Evil 6 were released around the same time in September, and the contrast between the two stuck out like a sore thumb. Resident Evil 6 came across as a game made for all people, aimed at pleasing a worldwide audience, and, thus, lacked a distinct vision. Tokyo Jungle was the opposite. It knew what it was.

“It’s not that we developed this game for Japanese users, but we focused on developing a game that ‘we’ genuinely think is interesting and fun,” said Kataoka. “I believe that this mind-set led to the positive feedback we received from Japan as well as overseas. From the beginning of development, at least at Crispy's, we were never that conscious about the marketing. Of course, we develop games based on what the Japanese users would find fun, so the game may appear more as a novelty for the overseas users, like how the Ukiyo-e [Japanese woodblock paintings] were a long time ago.”

Though Tokyo Jungle was released in Japan on a Blu-ray disc at retail, it started life as a PlayStation Network exclusive, which is how it was eventually released in the rest of the world. Conceived as a downloadable game, however, the game’s scope was understandably limited, which is what originally lead the game to be side-scrolling in nature. That earlier version of Tokyo Jungle was shown at Tokyo Game Show 2010, and got a huge reaction.

“As we did not have much budget allocated for this project, we tried to develop a 2D scrolling action game to keep the budget under control, but the replayable gameplay did not work so well,” said Kataoka.

Tokyo Jungle is an example of a game where the reaction shifted the game design. Positive responses from players and media exposed to Tokyo Jungle (I remember 8-4 Play really getting behind it early) prompted Sony to appropriate a bigger budget to it, and Kataoka’s team was able to build a fully 3D space for players and animals to run around in.

Coming to grips with Tokyo Jungle’s first few hours can be brutal. It’s not an easy game, but it’s one that rewards players who patiently learn its systems. Even then, success is not guaranteed. Kataoka cited a surprising influence on Tokyo Jungle: Capcom’s Steel Battalion. The original one, mind you, not the abomination made for Kinect.

“This game utilizes more than 40 buttons to operate a vertical tank to battle and when you fail to push the escape button when trying to escape the tank, all your save data gets deleted,” he said. “I was very impressed with its concept of going above and beyond the traditional life-and-death perspective in video games. Now that I think about it, I believe this concept of ‘death equals the end’ contributed to the game characteristic of Tokyo Jungle.”

(I had to ask Kataoka about the game’s ending, so prepare for spoilers, Tokyo Jungle newcomers.)

Even though it ruins some of the surprise, I’ve felt compelled to inform people Tokyo Jungle has a narrative justification for its madness, including why dinosaurs are running around. Though survival mode is where the meat of the game is, there’s a story mode unlocked by picking up collectibles. Tokyo Jungle's current lack of men and women involves time manipulation, mass discrepancies across time and space, and stupid, stupid humans.

Crispy’s didn’t start developing the explanation until after the game’s systems were in place, but it’s a piece of the Tokyo Jungle puzzle, one that weaves a dark tale, and Kataoka clearly took it seriously.

In this ending, you've chosen to let humanity rot in another time period, and the animals reign.

There are two possible endings in Tokyo Jungle. Upon learning humanity has abandoned the current time period, robotic dogs left by the humans are tasked with bringing them back. You don’t have to. If you choose to bring the humans back (the “bad” ending), the game fades to black. If you choose to leave them stranded in another time, it’s unclear what happens to the humans, and animals are Earth's master. It’s not really evident what happens, and Kataoka didn’t exactly jump at the chance to make it clearer.

“We decided to not leave a specific message and focused on natural providence,” he said. “If the population keeps increasing at the current pace, we imagined that it will be impossible for everyone to have a prosperous life with the current civilization level, in the First World countries. In both endings, we depicted our imagination of the future into the game.”

He did speculate on what might have happened to the stranded humans in the “good” ending, though.

“Hmmm,” he said. “I'm not sure. However, I will imagine that if they survive, they will live on making mistakes.”

Dark.

And what about a sequel, you ask? It hasn't been ruled out, but it's too early to say.

#2 Edited by MarekkPie (73 posts) -

I need to play Toyko Jungle.

#3 Posted by Atwa (628 posts) -

its a jungle alright 

#4 Posted by MooseyMcMan (11453 posts) -

Nice article.

#5 Edited by Vegetable_Side_Dish (1732 posts) -

Thanks for the article!
 
@patrickklepek Kataoka mentioned back in the summer that the game is partly inspired by a photobook called Tokyo Nobody by Masataka Nakano. It's a gorgeous set of pictures of Tokyo's streets with zero people on them (most pictures are taken early in the morning). I highly recommend it. 

#6 Posted by Vlaphor (197 posts) -

Except for the huge spoiler at the end, nice article.

#7 Posted by Coldman (61 posts) -

"risky remove"

As one of my favourites this year, and a fantastic return to PSX era weirdness- seriously, this game feels like it came on a disk from PSM with a Rival Schools demo and a bunch of Net Yaroze games- this article is much appreciated. Thanks Scoops :)

#8 Posted by ripsteakface (11 posts) -
#9 Posted by Shaanyboi (1335 posts) -

@Vlaphor said:

Except for the huge spoiler at the end, nice article.

There's a spoiler warning right in the text...

#10 Posted by Draxyle (1888 posts) -

That ending to Tokyo Jungle was surprisingly profound to me. Especially leading up to it, what you discover when you go to pick up that very last piece of intel during survival mode. That was pretty chilling.

I couldn't believe the game actually had a proper end boss fight on top of it either, in the traditional sense that is. Most of the story is kinda just there, but the last two chapters are certainly worth seeing.

#11 Posted by natedawg_kz (235 posts) -

I still haven't played it yet, i can't make up my mind whether to get Tokyo Jungle or Unfinished Swan, two completely different games???

#12 Posted by bybeach (4977 posts) -

I can't seem to like this game from anymore than from a distance. I'm not offended though by the humans being stuck somewhere else as the good ending, as I am convinced they will probably continue to make 'mistakes' also.

it seems to have basis in real-time and in my reality.

#13 Posted by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -
@Vegetable_Side_Dish said:
Thanks for the article!
 
@patrickklepek Kataoka mentioned back in the summer that the game is partly inspired by a photobook called Tokyo Nobody by Masataka Nakano. It's a gorgeous set of pictures of Tokyo's streets with zero people on them (most pictures are taken early in the morning). I highly recommend it. 
Wow, there are some pretty awesome pictures in there:

#14 Posted by SomeJerk (3362 posts) -

ZombiU bundles were sold out, Tokyo Jungle helps me cope. Thanks for yet another piece of actual gaming journalism work Patrick, by god do I appreciate it!

#15 Posted by beepmachine (618 posts) -

"Resident Evil 6 came across as a game made for all people, aimed at pleasing a worldwide audience, and, thus, lacked a distinct vision."

This sounds off to me. Being made for all people is not why the game would have no vision. What's wrong with trying to make a game appeal to everyone? Does the Uncharted series not have a distinct vision?

#16 Edited by MarkWahlberg (4606 posts) -

@Shaanyboi said:

@Vlaphor said:

Except for the huge spoiler at the end, nice article.

There's a spoiler warning right in the text...

Yeah. BUT it is a little weird that he mentioned it at all though, because he could easily have just included Kataoka's response without directly explaining what he was referring to. If you've played the game, it explains why it turned out the way it did, but if you don't, it still lets you know what the creators were aiming for - which is kind of the point of the article. The spoiler itself is warned of ahead of time, so you can't really complain, but the need for it is somewhat dubious.

#17 Posted by krossmojination (17 posts) -

I'd love to play this on a Vita.

#18 Posted by WilliamHenry (1206 posts) -

@dennisthemennis said:

"Resident Evil 6 came across as a game made for all people, aimed at pleasing a worldwide audience, and, thus, lacked a distinct vision."

This sounds off to me. Being made for all people is not why the game would have no vision. What's wrong with trying to make a game appeal to everyone? Does the Uncharted series not have a distinct vision?

When you try to be all things to all people, you sometimes end up being nothing to anyone. You spread yourself so thin trying to appease everyone that it makes a muddy end product that is ultimately flawed.

#19 Posted by pbhawks45 (736 posts) -

@WilliamHenry said:

@dennisthemennis said:

"Resident Evil 6 came across as a game made for all people, aimed at pleasing a worldwide audience, and, thus, lacked a distinct vision."

This sounds off to me. Being made for all people is not why the game would have no vision. What's wrong with trying to make a game appeal to everyone? Does the Uncharted series not have a distinct vision?

When you try to be all things to all people, you sometimes end up being nothing to anyone. You spread yourself so thin trying to appease everyone that it makes a muddy end product that is ultimately flawed.

I've been really meaning to write about this. I see where you are coming from, but I respectfully disagree. I think RE6's idea for multiple campaigns is freaking brilliant, and outside of a few cases, inherently unique. Where RE6 faulted was not making enough distinct differentiations between the campaigns. Leon's feels more like older RE games, and Chris's is definitely more action oriented, but neither go far enough in that direction for the campaigns to truly feel different.

#20 Posted by bushpusherr (829 posts) -

The distant future, the year 2000.

#21 Posted by beard_of_zeus (1705 posts) -

@MikeGosot: Wow, those photos are really striking! Thanks for posting a couple. I can definitely see the inspiration there.

And thanks for the article, Patrick! Anything more I can find out about this game makes me happy. It's cool to hear that all the positive buzz affected the game in a good way, letting them make the game they really wanted with the bigger budget.

#22 Posted by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -
@beard_of_zeus: I would post more but i was afraid this would be considered spam or something, because seriously, the images are fucking beautiful. I could post them all day long.
#23 Posted by BillyTheKid (486 posts) -

Good Article I have not played the game at all but it really interests me. Seems like my kind of game.

#24 Posted by Pepsiman (2488 posts) -

@Vegetable_Side_Dish said:

Thanks for the article!

@patrickklepek Kataoka mentioned back in the summer that the game is partly inspired by a photobook called Tokyo Nobody by Masataka Nakano. It's a gorgeous set of pictures of Tokyo's streets with zero people on them (most pictures are taken early in the morning). I highly recommend it.

Oh wow, I wasn't aware of that inspiration at all, but I definitely wanna go track down a copy of now. My favorite sites in Japan tend to be exactly that sort of urban area that's on the brink of liveliness and abandonment, of which there's plenty to find. When I was living over there, they easily constituted the majority of photos I took since those areas are just so endlessly fascinating to look at on an aesthetic level, so to see them done by a profession in a book sounds like a real treat. Thanks for the info!

#25 Posted by tourgen (4542 posts) -

this game needs FMV cutscenes and a disk release! not joking. I'd buy it

#26 Edited by happymeowmeow (211 posts) -

(warning, spoilers)

I'm curious about what he'd have to say about the packs of cave men once you get past year 100. Why they exist and why they are inedible. My theory was they are the game's version of penicillin around the petri dish, keep people (or i should say, animals) from getting too far past the game's parameters. Didn't keep those people with the insane 999 years survived on the leader boards down, though.

#27 Posted by MjHealy (1866 posts) -

Never finished Tokyo Jungle, only got a couple hours in, Probably should get on that.

#28 Edited by Paindamnation (818 posts) -

@natedawg_kz said:

I still haven't played it yet, i can't make up my mind whether to get Tokyo Jungle or Unfinished Swan, two completely different games???

Pick up Tokyo Jungle and DONT YOU DARE LOOK BACK!

@Shaanyboi said:

@Vlaphor said:

Except for the huge spoiler at the end, nice article.

There's a spoiler warning right in the text...

It's the internet, I just assume people are dumb. Plus the game is great. But it's a GRINNNND.

#29 Posted by R3DT1D3 (198 posts) -

@bushpusherr: The world is very different ever since the robot uprising of the mid 90's.

Online
#30 Posted by VisariLoyalist (2998 posts) -
#31 Posted by BigD145 (219 posts) -

One of the few reasons to own a PS3.

#32 Posted by villainy (587 posts) -

@Pepsiman said:

@Vegetable_Side_Dish said:

Thanks for the article!

@patrickklepek Kataoka mentioned back in the summer that the game is partly inspired by a photobook called Tokyo Nobody by Masataka Nakano. It's a gorgeous set of pictures of Tokyo's streets with zero people on them (most pictures are taken early in the morning). I highly recommend it.

Oh wow, I wasn't aware of that inspiration at all, but I definitely wanna go track down a copy of now. My favorite sites in Japan tend to be exactly that sort of urban area that's on the brink of liveliness and abandonment, of which there's plenty to find. When I was living over there, they easily constituted the majority of photos I took since those areas are just so endlessly fascinating to look at on an aesthetic level, so to see them done by a profession in a book sounds like a real treat. Thanks for the info!

Tested posted something similar by Ross Ching. Time lapse video of San Francisco edited to remove all people/cars. Very cool stuff. I wasn't aware of Tokyo Nobody but I'm going to have to find it now!

Online
#33 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3908 posts) -

@VisariLoyalist said:

damn, beat me to it

#34 Posted by jman220 (7 posts) -

I can vouch for this game. Where else can you kill a T-Rex while playing as a pomeranian? Exactly.

#35 Posted by themangalist (1742 posts) -

@MikeGosot said:

@Vegetable_Side_Dish said:
Thanks for the article!

@patrickklepek Kataoka mentioned back in the summer that the game is partly inspired by a photobook called Tokyo Nobody by Masataka Nakano. It's a gorgeous set of pictures of Tokyo's streets with zero people on them (most pictures are taken early in the morning). I highly recommend it.
Wow, there are some pretty awesome pictures in there:

I went to Japan for a month and it really does happen. Nobody on the streets. Freaked me out the first time seeing no one on a lazy Saterday morning..

#36 Edited by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -
@themangalist: I want to see that happen in Hong Kong. I've never been in Hong Kong(sadly), but from what i hear, it's crowded as fuck.
#37 Posted by JackSukeru (5949 posts) -

Cool game, solid concept and game design, I should finish it sometime.

#38 Posted by themangalist (1742 posts) -

@MikeGosot said:

@themangalist: I want to see that happen in Hong Kong. I've never been in Hong Kong(sadly), but from what i hear, it's crowded as fuck.

I don't think "nobody on the streets in the morning" will ever happen in HK. Elders tend to wake up at 5 and start doing their exercise routines in parks or streets for one.

#39 Posted by Lind_L_Taylor (3966 posts) -

Sounds awful!

#40 Posted by mynthon (53 posts) -

Kill the Beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!

#41 Posted by WMWA (1162 posts) -

Right on. Such an awesome game

#42 Posted by DeF (4957 posts) -

@mynthon said:

Kill the Beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!

Who holds the conch now!

:D

#43 Posted by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -
@themangalist said:

@MikeGosot said:

@themangalist: I want to see that happen in Hong Kong. I've never been in Hong Kong(sadly), but from what i hear, it's crowded as fuck.

I don't think "nobody on the streets in the morning" will ever happen in HK. Elders tend to wake up at 5 and start doing their exercise routines in parks or streets for one.

Daaaaaaaamn... At 5? Holy shit.
#44 Posted by joey8bit (8 posts) -

Did they ever decide if they were going to release the DLC where you play as humans outside of Japan?

#45 Posted by Darkelement17 (12 posts) -

This game looks truly interesting.

#46 Edited by DoctorFaust (14 posts) -

@happymeowmeow said:

(warning, spoilers)

I'm curious about what he'd have to say about the packs of cave men once you get past year 100. Why they exist and why they are inedible. My theory was they are the game's version of penicillin around the petri dish, keep people (or i should say, animals) from getting too far past the game's parameters. Didn't keep those people with the insane 999 years survived on the leader boards down, though.

I think the packs of cavemen serve a gameplay and a story purpose. They're certainly meant to give the message "Alright, it's time to stop playing" since they start showing up in MASSIVE numbers and all you can do is drink water at that point, anyway. Without implementing tool use or fire, the game still tries to convey that humans are the top of the food chain. However, they're also what provides the real duality of the ending. Do you bring back the population from the future who has proven they are unfit to survive, or (if you believe in evolution) do you give homo erectus another chance to not totally ruin the world with their carelessness? Of course, these are technically the same cavemen who evolved into that present-day population, so it's another one of those time-travelling tautologies.

#47 Posted by ambience07 (5 posts) -

I really wish this would come out on PC.

#48 Posted by loudgeekjr (20 posts) -

Is that a fox?! Boy, since when did Japanese games get weird. Amarite, guys? huh-huh-huh

#49 Posted by SMTDante89 (2613 posts) -

@joey8bit: It's been out for nearly two weeks now in the US, not sure about anywhere else though.

#50 Posted by finotti94 (6 posts) -

Looks like interesting.

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