PC titles still largely fly under the radar in Japan, but the scene is evolving. Events like BitSummit are bringing PC indies further into the spotlight, and developers are beginning to realize there is a real market for their games, even if it isn’t in Japan.
“Steam is metamorphosing the PC environment for Japanese games and Japanese developers,” said Australian game designer Santana Mishara. The games have always been here, with Comiket and people making their own fan games. They’ve always been here, but there’s never been a way to get them out to people. That is changing.”
The influx of Western developers living and working in Japan and interacting with Japanese developers at game shows is another positive for an industry still growing and trying to carve out a place for itself.
“I think games like Crypts of the NecroDancer work very well in Japan,” says Japan-based developer Matthieu Guillemot of Little Big MMO, which is developing Gangs of Space. “It’s a pure Western game, but it comes to Japan, it has some success and it shows Japanese players and Japanese developers that you can do a very good game with just a few people. I think it will have an effect on new people who will become indie.”
Japanese Indie Games To Watch
Back In 1995 – Throw the warped code out
If you have a taste for retro games but are tired of pixel art, take a look at Back In 1995. The game is Takaaki Ichijo’s homage to 90’s PlayStation action titles. The build he showed off at BitSummit used a modern controller, but no action was mapped to the analog sticks because, “there were no analog sticks in 1995!” The game plays and mostly looks like the original Silent Hill (sans the fog), though it’s more action than survival horror.
JumpGun – TeamHiropon
You can’t jump (on your own at least) but everything else can in this puzzler from Japanese developers TeamHiropon. The goal is to get from one side of the map to the exit on the other side, by shooting obstacles to make them jump and running underneath. Vertical movement is achieved by shooting at a mirror and then shooting the bullet that ricochets back as the maps get more difficult.
Downwell – moppin
Downwell is a fun, simple, and challenging vertical shooter in which you spend most of the game falling and shooting the obstacles and enemies below you. There isn’t much beyond that, but it works.
Kappa Namooooon – SKT
Turning back an army of Kappas is a workout. At BitSummit, you slipped on a pair of gloves and thrust open-palmed at the screen to repel an army one of Japan’s most famous traditional yokai (monsters) in a game that was popular with the crowd.
Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden – CAVYHOUSE
The story helps make this title by doujin team CAVYHOUSE There’s not much in the way of pure action, but the premise is interesting. You are the proprietress of a special greenhouse and tasked with seeding, watering and maintaining a garden that sprouts human organs instead of plants. These organs are then harvested and sold to needing customers.