When it comes to game development, Japanese and Western games tend to have a few different design and product philosophies. Take for example how games typically tend to look from different developers across the globe, Western games favor a more realistic look, while Japanese titles tend to be more stylized—or take the difference between the types of protagonists found in titles, with Japan having an affinity towards younger male protagonists, and the West typically having middle-aged men and women. These are just some of the more obvious overarching trends when it comes to game design between regions, and of course, there are always plenty of exceptions. While they may not apply to every scenario, they still provide a useful insight into the different regions approach to game design and development and some of the quirks associated with their respected cultures. Typically these design decisions come down to taste, and rarely have an impact on one regions enjoyment of a game. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for Japan’s product philosophy, specifically, releasing recently released titles again with improvements.
To be precise, I am not talking about ports or remakes of older titles, those are a different beast entirely. What I am referencing is the act of releasing a title, and after a year or two has passed, releasing that title again but with some enhanced features. This trend is unique to Japanese game development that we never see with Western developers, and it’s becoming tiring.
The Monster Hunter series is perhaps the best example of, for lack of a better phrase, what enhanced re-releases look like. With the exception of the recently announced Monster Hunter World: Iceborne expansion, all modern Monster Hunter games have re-released an enhanced version of their game. Monster Hunter: Generations, known as Monster Hunter X (pronounced Cross) in Japan, released in Japan back in November 2015. Nearly a year and a half later, Capcom would release the enhanced re-released of the game, titled Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Monster Hunter XX in Japan, pronounced Double Cross), which featured new and harder monsters along with new combat styles and more. In essence, it was an enhanced version of the previously released game that served as a type of expansion but required you to purchase the entire games at full price to access the content.
Monster Hunter’s use of this product scheme is perhaps one of the best, outside of the new game price tag, the content being provided in the enhanced re-release is on top of what exists already. It doesn’t diminish the work players have put forth earlier, rather, it builds off of it, and in that respect, it respects the players time and progress. Sadly, the other major genre that uses this product release format doesn’t build on top of existing content, and instead, interweaves it into the original product in such a way that makes it just different enough, but still same overall. That being, RPGs.
Pokemon, during its second generation titles, sported two different versions, Gold and Silver. Both featured nearly identical storylines but contained one major difference in the Pokemon that they featured; Gold had a few Pokemon available that Silver didn’t and vice versa. A little after their release, Pokemon Crystal would be released and serve as the final title of Pokemon’s second generation titles. Unlike Gold and Silver, Crystal went a step further with its changes and story, featuring a playable girl character, slightly altered scenes, and some new content also included. Effectively, Pokemon Crystal served as an enhanced re-release of the other Pokemon titles of that generation.
This wouldn’t be the only time that Pokemon would do this, in fact, it has been done several times:
- Pokemon Emerald (Generation 3)
- Pokemon Platinum (Generation 4)
- Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon (Generation 7)
All of these serve as enhanced re-releases of their predecessors, featuring just enough changes to set them apart, but too few that they don’t respect a players time for new content. We see this same trend when it comes to other Japanese games as well, such as Final Fantasy XII. In the West, we never received the enhanced version of the original Final Fantasy XII that introduced the zodiac job system along with several enhancements to graphics and gameplay. No matter where you look in the JRPG realm, you are bound to run into this type of game development, and it can be disheartening, especially so when a series you love continually is the worst offender.
Enter the Persona series.
I am a little bit of a late bloomer in the Persona series, starting with Persona 4 Golden as my first, but truly finding my love for the series with Persona 5. It was a long, had an in-depth story, and a rollercoaster of emotions that took over nearly 120 hours of my life; it was worth it. But now my love for that series is being brought into question, with the recent announcement of Persona 5 Royal—an enhanced re-release of Persona 5. Little is known regarding the title, but it will feature a few new characters, an additional semester, and most likely a few more additions along the way, as we learn more. This enhanced re-release of a title doesn’t offer a way to build off of its original, instead, it asks the player to start anew and play through the game once more. A game that, for anyone one who played the original, has already sunk a literal 100 hours in, and that developer is now asking us to take the plunge once more?
I don’t believe I can.
I loved the game and enjoyed my experience with it, but I am not prepared to sink another 100 hours into a game that I have already played to access another 20, or even another 30 or 40; its too soon. I haven’t had a chance to forget the original game and long to play it again, and yet I am being asked so soon to play a large portion of the same game I just completed, to access additional content; that’s asking too much.
If your going to provide new content, do it in such a way that respects the time I have put in already. Don’t ask me to go through all once more, build on top of what is already existing, otherwise why not just wait? I understand the need to rerelease a game with new features, but to do it so soon and in a genre that prides itself on the amount of time you could invest in a title, is disrespectful.
Let it rest, there will be time to update it later, and by then fans will be ready to dive in once more. Otherwise, making these versions so soon tells us one thing, wait and don’t waste your time now.