I get nervous every time I see an article about the decline of Japanese gaming. Every American web publication seems to have at least one obligatory "Japan sucks" article.
I have a bias, partly because of my Japanese-American heritage. I know I shouldn't get insulted, However, every game from Japan only fuels the contentious debate about the future of video games. On one hand, the American developers want richer graphics, guns, macho heroes, rock music and bloodshed. On the other hand, the Japanese developers want a return to a traditiional style of gaming, with unusual characters, effeminate heroes (Final Fantasy…ugh) and unusual gameplay styles.
As much as I enjoy watching games such as God of War, World of Warcraft and Halo, I just wish someone would consider all the recent breakthroughs in Japanese games. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Mega Man 9 and 10 proved that we still need nostalgic 2-D platformers, more than ever. Sin and Punishment 2 showed us how to turn an old shooter with bad controls into a magnificent journey with 60 fps action, hand-to-hand fighting sequences and one of the best final battle sequences ever. And don't get me started on the Metal Gear Solid games, which changed game control capabilities in so many different ways.
Of course, there are questionable games, such as Final Fantasy XIII and (groan) Metroid: Other M. However, even these games are willing to experiment with our perceptions of the perfect game. Sure not everyone can get into the agonizing fighting system of Virtua Fighter, but that's okay. Each game is willing to try things that we wouldn't expect.
I'm not saying that Japanese games are better than American games, because Japanese game developers are losing touch with the latest technology. I'm just saying that people should think twice when they say that Japanese games are dying out. People such as Keiji Inafune from Capcom are certainly trying as hard as they can, especially with their struggles against the current economic recession. I just hope that these companies survive, because the future doesn't look good for the Japanese game industry, to say the least.