When was the last time you dusted off your passport? You might think I am talking about the documents you use to explore, play, laugh and cry in foreign lands. You would be correct; only I am thinking of a passport to explore digital worlds made in foreign lands. I encourage you to play games made by foreign developers and explore digital lands made by people with different perspectives.
You might have already played games made by Japanese, North American and European developers, and I have as well. My passport, as it were, is both well-worn and stamped. To focus on Japan, I have, of course, played Nintendo and Sega games but not much else.
Then I started playing Okami and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. These are two beautiful Japanese games that I love. I started playing them because I had looked for titles I had not yet played on PlayStation 3. I was not looking for Japanese PlayStation 3 video games at the time. I was looking for great games because I had bought this console late in its existence and wanted to play the best this system could offer, even though new consoles had arrived. The art of these two games, which I saw in reviews and impressions, intrigued me and piqued my interest.
Okami is a beautiful game made by the now defunct Clover Studio in Japan. I think this Japanese team poured their heart and soul into this game, and you can see this in every stream and peaceful garden in this work. They made this beautiful world while also drawing on Japan’s rich stories to tell a tale about freeing the land from darkness. For example, Amaterasu, the main character, is named after the Shinto sun goddess. The game also features a world that looks like a moving Japanese painting. To save this world, players add to the beauty and paint a better day. I felt had much more to learn about Japanese history after playing, even though I had taken one course on the subject. That the game was beautiful was crystal clear.
Ni No Kuni, which I have not finished, is the second game. Level-5, also a Japanese video game developer, created it with help from famed Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli. The artwork, especially the varied landscapes of a dry desert, active lava-spewing Volcano and haunted trails worthy of a terrible nightmare, grabbed my attention. The adorable creatures begged me to keep playing. Then the game exceeded my expectations by sending me ascending toward the heavens on a dragon. Unlike Okami, I’m not aware if any of Japan’s central stories or myths are in this game. Yet Ni No Kuni features a Pokemon-like battle system and proudly sports Japanese in its title.
Okami and Ni No Kuni are both beautiful games, and I’m glad to have read about and then played them. I would encourage everyone to expand their gaming horizons: play video games made by developers in different countries. You might not learn anything about life in that country — I know I did not — but you could learn to appreciate different perspectives on making games. You might change the way you think about video games. You might even understand the world and people better than you did before. You might become a more open-minded person who has developed a sense of beauty and a love for humanity, not a love of mere discs.