Super Mario Maker, Localization Thoughts, and Happy Home Designer Worries

I’ve been going back and forth on writing this article for various reasons, but as it’s a topic that has been bothering me all week, I figured I’d start. But before we get to the main point, I do want to bring up the recent Super Mario Maker overview trailer:

I’m genuinely pretty excited (I mean, every Amiibo being usable except Mii fighters and most of the Animal Crossing cards is pretty awesome–did not expect the Pokemon ones considering Woolly World), but there is one aspect of this overview that really bums me out–having to wait 9-10 days to get everything. With everything shown and even getting to try the game at E3, I know I’ve certainly had ideas that are now going to be on hold for more than a week after the game comes out. I can only imagine what others had in mind too.

Artificially lengthening a game that is specifically focused on creation is a bad decision because when it comes down to it, most people who just want to focus on the creating are not going to bother. I know it doesn’t seem long in the long run (and 5 minutes a day is going to probably be just me opening it and leaving it there and shutting it off until I’ve unlocked everything honestly. The fact that I can’t even earn those 5 minutes just by playing the game and have to be in the creation screen stinks because I have no interest in even starting up a level until I unlocked everything), but nearly any game with a huge creation aspect has things about sharing saves for someone who is willing to unlock everything for those who want to focus on that one part.

And while yes, Super Mario Maker does have a non-creation part in actually playing levels you and others created, the underlying factor is still all about creation. LittleBigPlanet is another game about creation and while it had its own story mode and other things and thus, creation was just a part of it (although, a big part), it didn’t bother me as much considering there was still a whole story and “normal” Gameplay mode. Even though all parts that were used could be gotten in the game, there is a difference between earning them versus sitting around waiting and not being able to do much. Like if I could play 5 minutes or so of user levels and unlock new parts rather than having to wait on the creation screen for 5 minutes, I’d be significantly less frustrated. But while LBP always felt like a bonus to me, Super Mario Maker forcing this wait feels more like a chore.

I’ve heard similar arguments about Happy Home Designer, but while Happy Home Designer does have a large focus on creativity, the main focus really is helping make Villagers their dream homes. You can revisit at anytime, you unlock a lot of items relating to their theme, and when you get the few that you wanted to add that weren’t there, nothing is stopping you from returning. In fact, it’s actually encouraged–the only way to get bigger rooms for each villager is by doing this a number of times. This gives motivation to it versus just being stuck waiting on a creation screen. If I make a level in Super Mario Maker, chances are I’m not going to go back and re-do it–I’ll just make a new level. That’s not really how things work in Happy Home Designer though.

HHD isn’t perfect, of course. One of the biggest “issues” with the game, in my opinion, is the fact that you can only do one house a day. Whether it be cards or a villager outside, it’s always just one. Even if you choose to remake someone’s house to just add one item, it’ll suddenly be night and you will need to “write about your work” to save. And that’s kind of awful. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do more than one Villager a day (especially if more than one of your favorites are outside). Similarly, you can only do one lesson a day–each which unlock various items. While revisiting is a large part of the game, I feel there are plenty of reasons to do that (such as unlocking more items from other villagers) without forced expansion of the game. At the very least, the game is not real time so you can easily do multiple in-game days in a day (and hopefully the same Villagers will still be there)–it’s mostly just a minor nitpick.

Of course, while I do have my frustrations with that, it’s not really what my worries are about. To get to that, I want to bring up a simple question: What makes a game too Japanese?
According to a recent interview, a game being “very Japanese” can lead to a large reason of it not even being attempted/it can’t come over. And while I can understand how some games can fit the bill easily like Nikki’s Travel Game which is essentially trivia about Japan, I feel a lot of games don’t fit under the bill as much as they are said to.

And then there are ones that I feel easily do, but somehow have managed to make it over. For example, I often heard of Earthbound being considered to be a “very Japanese game” due to its quirkiness. While some of it was changed for the US, it’s still mostly the same and the game has a fairly dedicated fanbase. Tomodachi Life is another game where it probably fits in the “very Japanese” category–I mean, it literally has a Japanese word right in the name and while the game received an overhaul with a few things (I do still wish we could’ve had that Japanese Folk songs in the concert honestly…)–the food especially, we still received the main core game play. Splatoon is another game that can easily come off as “too Japanese”–Squids are definitely more popular for characters in Japan over America and Inkopolis is strongly based off Shibuya–a popular district in Tokyo, Japan. Despite that, it has done really well and we even received the Squid Girl Outfit which is pretty awesome. And Splatoon isn’t the only game to use Shibuya–The World Ends with You is another game that is filled with several references to Japanese culture around Shibuya and also has quite a dedicated fanbase.

But that brings me to Happy Home Designer which features a number of pretty awesome “very Japanese” items–many of which have been excluded from normal access in the main games overseas since Wild World. I’ve mentioned before how much it has always disappointed me considering the Hinaningyo (雛人形) in the original Animal Crossing game is what started my interest in Japanese culture–an item that I suppose would also be under “very Japanese”, and yet I’m so thankful for.

We rarely hear about a game being “too American” and yet, overseas seems so closed off about having games that may be “too much” in the opposite. Even with games that have plenty, if not all, English dialogue and/or voice acting. “The setting is too Japanese”. “The clothing is too Japanese”. “The attitude is too Japanese”. “Ramen is too Japanese” (I’m looking at you, Ace Attorney). And if you include everything else, but feel the need to change the location, I can’t help but ask “Why?”. (And yes, I am aware that not every game makes it over to Japan, but I feel for a lot of those it’s more based on budget or the game isn’t region locked anyway)

New Leaf even translated every single foreign event. All Japanese items had English names. Everything was possible to get if you knew people with those region games and it makes me wonder why they couldn’t have all been included in the first place. And this makes me worry that we’ll be left out on items in Happy Home Designer too. Will themes change? Will items be completely excluded? Will we get a theme that makes no sense with the items we get due to a change? All because it’s “too Japanese”?

And the thing to keep in mind with New Leaf is not everyone could meet people with other regions of the game. Contrary to belief, not everyone can freely use the Internet. Similarly, some parents can be pretty strict. My family was always very opened to me talking to people and making friends all over the world as long as I kept them up to date, but most people didn’t have that kind of experience. When it comes down to it though, these shouldn’t even be worries. It should be a way to learn about things because it’s so small. And yet these small changes are constantly changed for who knows why considering what comes over as is.

And that brings over the issue of popularity/how many people may want it. Some games do really well, others not so much. That doesn’t make something a bad game. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. Would it be more worthwhile/money incentive if it was digital only? If people really want the game, they would probably be okay with that. It’s so incredibly hard to see games being given up on. I loved the original Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times and while the second one seemed absolutely amazing, we never got it. Most people never heard of the first game as it wasn’t marketed well here. Treasure World is another game that did some really awesome things that was made by a company that normally just does ports. And yet also didn’t receive another title due to never being heard of.

I know I’m still waiting on any information for the third Style Savvy game–the first two did well–not amazing, but well, and yet there’s still been nothing and I’m not going to lie–I’m definitely scared we may not get it at all. If we don’t hear anything by mid-October, I’ll probably give up hope. But is that game suddenly too Japanese now with all the changes? I mean, they took out an entire shop in the last game…

I just wish “Very Japanese” or “Too Japanese” stopped being an excuse. Use it as a way to let people learn about other cultures. It’s not going to be an end-all for a game. Make it become the norm. Games come from all different cultures and places and they should be an experience to learn, not an excuse to give up on it.