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Thread: Why did Japanese developers do an amazing job on American Licensed games?

  1. #21
    Cherry (Level 1)
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    From what I understand, LJN's Uncanny X-Men/Marvel's X-Men (NES) -- which is arguably the most paradigmatic crappy licensed game* -- was indeed developed by a Japanese company, though it's not clear exactly who it was (whatever company developed the FDS game Topple Zip). That's a pretty funny irony.

    *Actually, it's more playable than people usually think, but...
    Last edited by goldenband; 10-07-2013 at 02:30 PM.

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    According to the book "The Ultimate History of Video Games", Nintendo insisted on keeping the quality level high since they felt that low-quality Atari 2600 games near the end of the 2600's life-span were one of the key contributing factors to its demise. They wanted to avoid making that mistake. The second thing that came up -- also having to do with Nintendo -- was that the company would find a way to make you remember your failures. So if your project really ended up sucking, they'd do something to make you think about that for awhile (i.e. embarrassment) and eventually they'd forgive you and give you another decent project.

    From that, it sounds like a bit of it is the culture. It seems that much of it has to do with the management (and whether or not you have an all-star on your development team).

    I think for American and UK developers, it has more to do with the front-line coders. If you have all-star talent working on the project, even a licensed title will probably be pretty good. One thing I've noticed though is that the really good programmer/designers usually try to avoid licenses like the plague.

    Lastly, maybe licenses are the jobs that most companies give to their junior employees.... Of course, there are examples of newbies pulling off amazing stuff (having to prove themselves and all that).

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    Insert Coin (Level 0) Doommaster1994's Avatar
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    That's true, those games CRV listed were in fact developed by Atlus. Back then, publishers had a contract with the developers not to put their name on the games, and I only know this from talking to the game designers themselves. The programmer of Terminator 2 NES told me LJN did not allow game credits, though I've seen them in a small amount of their NES games. Seems they were okay with it when they started making games for SNES. British developers aren't all that bad either. They've made some good stuff for NES (Prince Valiant by Ocean actually isn't that bad of a game, just really hard.) I believe the reason why the LJN games (and other games like it) were so bad was because the publishers (who controlled the amount of time to develop a game) gave the development team a very short time to make the game, thus, they usually ended up coming out like crap. Speaking of Bandai, I think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was the only NES game that Advance Communication Company put their name on (in the USA anyway). Sculptured Software made some good games too like the Super Star Wars SNES games. Though I notice both British and Japanese developers put stuff in movie-licensed games that you wouldn't expect to see in the actual movie. Makes me wonder what was going through their heads. Australian-based Beam Software got better in their later NES years, though one of the game designers told me their boss Alfred Milgrom always had them working on different projects at the same time.

    I think the main reason why Japanese companies do just a bit better (at least) than the western companies is because the consoles were first manufactured in Japan, therefore the Japanese companies got to experience it more first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    There's Interplay. They made Total Recall for the NES.
    Actually, that was Realtime Associates.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    Maybe it just comes down to the highest bidder at the end of the day. Licensed games in Japan have often been made by reputable companies known for making great original games too. They don't want to tarnish their reputation by going half-assed on a licensed game. In the US (and Europe, with Titus and the like), it was often shit developers that created almost nothing but licensed garbage that landed these licenses. Even with their terrible reputations, the games still sold well thanks to clueless parents and little kids, so they had the funds to pick up more licenses and continue the cycle.



    Eh, it's true that there are plenty of bad anime-based games and such, but I still think Japanese games based on Japanese licenses are better on the whole than American games based on American cartoons, movies, and the like.
    I completely agree, Badly-made western games seem to be a lot worse than badly mad Japanese games.

    Quote Originally Posted by j_factor View Post
    Well, isn't that the thing right there? LJN is a shitty developer.
    Quote Originally Posted by bb_hood View Post
    Yeah thats kinda what I was getting at. It kinda depends on the developer. Look at Bandai, they are Japanese and they did Dick Tracy, Dr Jekyl Mr Hyde, Toxic Crusaders, Gilligans Island. Nothing special here.
    LJN never developed a single game. All of their releases were outsourced to other developers like Atlus, Beam, and Software creations. Same with Bandai, nearly all of their output was crafted by TOSE Software.


    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    Couple things....Firstly there was almost nothing but crap from Western developers on the NES/SMS era of systems. Some of that was because most of them were developing for PC, and those games often didn't translate well to console. Also, remember that a ton of US-based developers went out of business in the crash, leaving the industry in shambles. They recovered in the 16-bit era I feel.
    I maybe wrong, but the way I've seen it, Western developers of the day were more interested in developing the kinds of unique game that were popular on PC and saw console-style games like Mario & Zelda as kiddy fair, but eventually realized that's where the money is and began developing similar games, but were usually of low quality due to not having the same levels of experience and talents of those Japanese designers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Low G Man View Post
    Actually, that was Realtime Associates.
    Are you sure? I've seen multiple sources say that it was Interplay, I'm not just going by the Wikipedia entry.

    http://nesguide.com/games/total-recall/
    http://www.honestgamers.com/9391/nes...ll/review.html
    http://www.swankworld.com/Games/retr...all/review.htm


    EDIT:

    I've looked up Realtime Associates' website, they list all of their video games that they produced. For NES they produced Maniac Mansion, Caesar's Palace, Rocketeer, and Dick Tracy. There's no mention of Total Recall. If they're still mentioning Rocketeer and Dick Tracy then I doubt they're editing out their bad games.

    http://www.rtassoc.com/pastprojects.html
    Last edited by Gameguy; 10-08-2013 at 04:48 PM.

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    Realtime Associates only did the sound on Total Recall.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gatucaman View Post
    No No No, First of all, LJN and Acclaim were quite the same thing, since LJN was just Acclaims brand that they used in order to bypass the limit Nintendo impose at the point, much like Konami did with the Ultra games subsidiary, and LJN was mostly a publisher, i heard that Karate Kid was developed by Atlus but i cant confirm that, but i know that most of the LJN published games were developed by Rare, yes, RARE.
    LJN was a toy company until it was bought by Acclaim in 1990 and gutted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neb6 View Post
    According to the book "The Ultimate History of Video Games", Nintendo insisted on keeping the quality level high .
    Didn't really work though, 3/4ers of the ~2000 Famicom/NES gaming library is crap.

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    Isn't that true of pretty much any successful console with a large game library?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    Are you sure? I've seen multiple sources say that it was Interplay, I'm not just going by the Wikipedia entry.

    http://nesguide.com/games/total-recall/
    http://www.honestgamers.com/9391/nes...ll/review.html
    http://www.swankworld.com/Games/retr...all/review.htm


    EDIT:

    I've looked up Realtime Associates' website, they list all of their video games that they produced. For NES they produced Maniac Mansion, Caesar's Palace, Rocketeer, and Dick Tracy. There's no mention of Total Recall. If they're still mentioning Rocketeer and Dick Tracy then I doubt they're editing out their bad games.

    http://www.rtassoc.com/pastprojects.html
    I believe only the music part of Total Recall was done by Realtime, as that was David Warhol (founder for Realtime) and George Sanger (musician for Realtime). Monster Truck Rally lists INTV Corporation which is actually an alias for Realtime Associates.

    Also, another reason why Western game developers may not be as good was because back then sometimes, only one person worked on the entire game. For example, Mark Cerny did the entire port of California Games for the Master System.
    Last edited by Doommaster1994; 10-09-2013 at 10:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    there was almost nothing but crap from Western developers on the NES/SMS era of systems.
    Pretty much, at least on the console front. (Completely different story on the computer side, though). That's not to say there are no exceptions, though.

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    Rose colored glasses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doommaster1994 View Post

    Also, another reason why Western game developers may not be as good was because back then sometimes, only one person worked on the entire game. For example, Mark Cerny did the entire port of California Games for the Master System.
    According to the reviews though, it looks like he still managed to make a solid game. Maybe he works well on his own? I haven't played that one, so I really can't say first-hand. Cerny is definitely a star programmer though.
    Last edited by Neb6; 10-10-2013 at 03:20 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neb6 View Post
    According to the reviews though, it looks like he still managed to make a solid game. Maybe he works well on his own? I haven't played that one, so I really can't say first-hand. Cerny is definitely a star programmer though.
    Some programmers are better experienced than others. The programmer of Spider-Man for the NES told me he had to learn 6502 assembly in a week. Then a programmer for Win Lose or Draw said something like the game was made in two weeks. I know those games were made by more than one person, though. I haven't really played California Games myself (though I do own a copy). I also have a strong suspicion that the people who worked on Bill & Ted are the same people that worked on The Mutant Virus. That game was made by (I think) 5 people and it's the same game developer.

    Haha, it's funny back then games had very short development teams, but now you have a large amount of people working on one game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doommaster1994
    Also, another reason why Western game developers may not be as good was because back then sometimes, only one person worked on the entire game. For example, Mark Cerny did the entire port of California Games for the Master System.
    He was the sole programmer but he didn't do the artwork (which looks notably Japanese in that version).

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    Ah. I wonder who did the graphics then? Or the music? I know the title screen music's a real song and the rest of the songs are taken from the computer versions, but I'm wondering who did the adaptation for Sega Master System.

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    I think there a great many reasons for this. One, I feel that the likes of Konami and Capcom developed games and then applied a license to them. The game came first, the licensed bits later. I think the inverse is/was true for US developers, which is to say that they built everything around the licensed property, with far less (if any) concern over whether or not a good game was to come of it.

    I'm also fairly certain that the quality of the game is indicative of the quality of the property it's based on. How many of the licensed games in question are really great and who owns the IP? I'd say only a handful and almost all are owned by Disney. Disney, like em or not, is known for producing good quality product (TV/film), so having a good game to go along with their IPs only makes sense. They don't need to cash-in on their films right away because their films have lasting power. A game can come out a year after the film's theatrical release and people will still care, versus something like Total Recall which is easily forgotten by most of the game's target audience.

    So crappy licensed game probably have less to do with the developer and more the movie and TV studios pushing to have a product ready at the same time as the film/TV show release so as to not miss their window of opportunity, and I'd like to think that Japanese developers were/are less likely to take on a rush project like that, since it would potentially tarnish their brand.

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    At least at the time, Disney cared more about quality control.
    I do remember reading an interview with the producer of DuckTales. Capcom certainly cared about game quality, but Disney almost had to threaten to pull the license if they didn't fix their Engrish, if I remember reading it.

    Though Toy Story I didn't like as much, but I don't think I've yet seen a Disney game that I could call abysmal, just below-average (High School Musical 3, which I only played some of for the sake of being one of the last licensed GBA games).

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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggyx View Post
    I think there a great many reasons for this. One, I feel that the likes of Konami and Capcom developed games and then applied a license to them. The game came first, the licensed bits later. I think the inverse is/was true for US developers, which is to say that they built everything around the licensed property, with far less (if any) concern over whether or not a good game was to come of it.

    I'm also fairly certain that the quality of the game is indicative of the quality of the property it's based on. How many of the licensed games in question are really great and who owns the IP? I'd say only a handful and almost all are owned by Disney. Disney, like em or not, is known for producing good quality product (TV/film), so having a good game to go along with their IPs only makes sense. They don't need to cash-in on their films right away because their films have lasting power. A game can come out a year after the film's theatrical release and people will still care, versus something like Total Recall which is easily forgotten by most of the game's target audience.

    So crappy licensed game probably have less to do with the developer and more the movie and TV studios pushing to have a product ready at the same time as the film/TV show release so as to not miss their window of opportunity, and I'd like to think that Japanese developers were/are less likely to take on a rush project like that, since it would potentially tarnish their brand.

    Good observations! The SG-1000 game Zoom 909 being turned into Buck Rogers is one example that comes to mind. Then there's TRON. The 1982 arcade game made more money than the movie.

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