Why are so many Japanese games score based?

I admit I probably haven’t played a Japanese game in years. Last one was Dark Souls 3 I think. There might have been some ranking or leaderboard thing in there somewhere I don’t recall.

For me, it’s basically been the Yakuza games, and Elden Ring/Dark Souls/Bloodborne. And that’s pretty much it?

Those are very different games. I haven’t played Yakuza, but Souls series is slow and methodical, and you can generally play them at your own pace. Completely different from the titles I listed. Sure you’re still limited by the consumables, but it’s very different from for example Ace Combat where I cannot even enjoy a good dogfight because I’m pressured by the timer, the score or kill quota or having to babysit the AI that explodes seemingly at random.

It’s just optimization, optimization and more optimization. Hell, I remember back in the day (before X-com revival) when Jagged Alliance fans were desperate for more squad level strategy games and people kept recommending this Japanese game that somehow also managed to cram in rank grading. I forgot what the name was, Valkyrie Chronicle or something. I ended up ditching it after a few missions because of this. And this same thing is why I still haven’t touched Resident Evil 2 remake, even though it’s supposed to be the bee’s knees. I’d much rather play a western horror game like Alien Isolation, rather than having the “haha, you suck because you didn’t find an optimal path and timing through the level” shoved into my face after every mission. Same for MGS 5, why bother with that when I can fire up any of the recent Ghost Recon games for a much more ‘natural’ experience.

I know what you mean. I’ve recently played Valkyria Chronicles. It’s fine game once you suffer through all the anime BS in it, but gameplay is irritating. All the good plays felt like exploits to me, like you’re supposed to move a unit several times. But the optimal play felt like the exploit of exploits. In the end of every mission, you get ranked, and the rank depends on the speed with which you complete the mission. It sounds like it makes sense but it really doesn’t.

Most missions simulate WW2-style squad combat and most often the goal is to capture enemy base. You have a limited amount of actions every turn, you can spend them on orders which are basically spells, or more often on moving units. You can move every unit several times, but every time they will have less stamina to move and they only replenish ammo between turns. So the optimal way to play is to use scouts - weak but fast units - and use special orders on them providing defense buffs. Then you run them through the map through the safest route to the enemy encampment where they throw grenades at the defense and capture the point.

It feels like this ranking system was added in a mod by someone who played this game for years and got tired of conventional winning so they added this optional immersion-breaking score on top of the game. It’s like you’re playing WW2 game as Germany and the game tells you “good job winning in 1942 but what you could actually do was move Panzer Elite unit through the gaps in the Soviet front and take Moscow in August 1941”. You think you have your own playstyle based on using Snipers and Engineers to create cool kill zones? Nah, this does allow you to very quickly destroy the enemy but the real goal was doing it all as quickly as possible, no matter the losses or enemy kills.

It’s like when you finish Silent Hill 2 - an emotional horror guilt trip - they give you a score based on how much damage you’ve suffered and stuff. It’s detrimental to the game. I understand how those systems can enhance your repeated playthroughs or give you a goalpost so that you understand what in general is possible in the game, but most of the time they just get in the way.

Wow I didn’t know rating / grade / high score systems bothered people that much.

We’re on the gaming forum talking about light entertainment while our lives are getting ruined. It’s all inconsequential and all deserve to be talked about at the same time.

Yeah, the Valkyria Chronicles ranking system is super dumb. It incentivises playing the game in the most boring, unnatural way possible, and is totally at odds with almost everything else about the game design. So I just ignore it. But then I don’t care about score chasing at all.

It’s not the ranking systems themselves, it’s what they inevitably bring with them, as @alekseivolchok so eloquently put.

Sadly, it is also at odds with the dropping of medals, which is totally random in the first game and the justification to the worst kind of grind: strategy gaming grind!

I would have preferred guaranteed drops based on the very idiotic rankings.

I wonder if some Japanese game developers actively practice Kaizen or whether the score chasing is intended to promote or reward this mindset. There could be a cultural conformism factor too, akin to the American “work ethic” bias. In other words, thinking along the lines of “If you aren’t working/optimizing/improving, you’re wasting time.” They might feel obligated to include such scoring even when it’s detrimental to the game experience.

Despite this difference in design mindset between Eastern and Western devs, I do appreciate that even the devs working on score based\skill based titles are starting to focus on accessibility. Just because a game is difficult by design doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be playable by as many folks as possible.

Is there really a fundamentally different approach to narrative in Japan, or is it a combination of poor translations and narrative conventions specific to certain genres and the anime-manga-videogame triangle westerners are usually exposed to?

In my admittedly limited experience with Japanese movies and books, stories are stories, they mostly work the same everywhere.

Pointsu da!

…which is awesome! Sign me up :-)

You haven’t lived until you’ve had your backside handed to you by a chainsmoking 20 something ten times in a row in a cloudy, multistory Tokyo arcade playing Virtua Fighter 2.

…they had these sit-down cabinets where you were facing your opponent, the screen inclined just to the degree where you could view your enemy’s underlit features.

The Japanese do what they call now “Super Translation” for translation works of major foreign titles, adapted to the way of thinking of Japan so they can be somewhat succesful there too.

It’s a much larger debate anyway. After all, most of the modern Bible translations in Western languages take away all the poetic background of its early wording out… and I’ll stop there because it’s the wrong forum.

Anyway, yes, the approach is fundamentally different in Japan, and it has been even more wildly changing in the recent years because of the drastic consequences the defeat of WW2 had on their language.

But I’m a pessimist: I think that ignoring the fundamental differences of logic amonst languages (not even as foreign: to take an example close to me, it’s always astonishing to me how misled Frecnh people are when they think they understand English culture because they have a grasp of the language) is an error of our recent openings to different cultures — I guess it’s still better than “good old” downright hate because of ignorance!

Scores don’t really interest me at all, and never did. Even when I was a kid playing games in an arcade, I was interested in the experience of playing, the sense of progress, and hoping to see the end. Then and now, the grading and “numbers go up” to be detrimental to my enjoyment.

Eh, wake me up when they finally start “Translation 64”.

I went to kindergarten in Japan (“yochien”).

They devoted large portions of the day to playing games; there were these hats you could turn inside out to signify whether you were on the “blue team” or the “red team”. It was ruthless (not a value judgement). Cooperation and competition were taught ‘by doing’ from a very young age. I just remember being in a sea of kids trying to throw these little hacky-sack red and blue colored balls into a very tall basket. Nothing at all like basketball.

My teacher was pretty kind.

Well I played through the entirely of Valkyria Chronicles on PS3 and I couldn’t really care less about any sort of ranking score at the end of any given mission.

I am still not convinced this is a problem at all. Like ever. In fact I see this as “old man yells at cloud after rivet counting” sort of shit.

Moreover it’s entire superfluous and never impacting my actual gameplay experience at all.

Like, are you sullen because they rated your “gameplay style” a D- or something? Some sort of qualified marker that you are in fact actually playing the game wrong!

They dare!


You have to grind less for money if you got high rank. Much less actually, each rank doubles the money you get or something.

But since you gotta grind stupidly to get the random medals which are necessary to progress in the game: indeed, one should shrug!

This is getting pretty off-topic, but I still don’t see “the approach is fundamentally different”.

Obviously, there are culturally specific things in fiction from different countries, and issues of translation that can make a story confusing to foreign audience, but I don’t know how Zatoichi or I Am a Cat (I’m looking for examples that might be representative of of Japanese fiction without being particularly western influenced. Feel free to suggest alternatives) are different in approach from western counterparts.

Compare that to very old stories from any language or culture. A medieval chivalric romance feels far more alien than almost any contemporary story from Japan or east Asia in general.