Sega Makes PC Version of Sonic Mania Playable Offline After BacklashSonic Mania is the Long-Lost Sonic Game We’ve Always Wanted Stay on target I’m no patriot, especially these days. So I have no problem decrying the increasing influence of Western video game design values over the rest of the industry. So many bad gaming practices, from bland white guy protagonists to an overemphasis on getting shot by racist teenagers online to a very PC-centric unfinished release model, can trace their origins to American video games. And even bad trends from abroad, like free-to-play mechanics originating in Korean MMOs, only got worse once they blew up big in America.Contrast this to Japan. My thoughts on anime should convince you I’m no otaku, but surely anyone can recognize that countless amazing video games have come out of Japan. The country, specifically Nintendo, saved the entire console industry with the NES in 1983 after Western greed collapsed Atari. And ever since the region has produced games bursting with character, style, and intriguing mechanics. As Japan has declined the industry has been poorer for it. It’s no wonder the incredible gaming year we’ve already had so far has been chock full of major Japanese games.However, “Japan=Good, America=Bad” is a dumb, reductive way to look at the medium. Plenty of good and bad games come from both regions. And everyone has their own tastes. We shouldn’t focus on arbitrary borders. Just as we should embrace multiculturalism in life we should also embrace multiculturalism in video game development.There are times when Western developers getting their gritty, rusty, chain-wrapped hands on beloved Japanese franchises have resulted in disasters. Just asks fans of Resident Evil (Operation: Racoon City), Devil May Cry (the reboot), Castlevania (Lords of Shadow), Bomberman (Act Zero), and Bionic Commando (the other reboot). But other times a shot of American influence is just what some waning Japanese franchises needed, delivering the best of both worlds. It’s like how Avatar: The Last Airbender, made in the West, is objectively the best anime. These are some examples of Japanese games improved by Western developers.Sonic ManiaFinally, there’s a great Sonic the Hedgehog game that isn’t a Twitter feed. The classic Genesis Sonic games are fine and important for their time but as platformers they are slippery and imprecise, nowhere near their Super Mario counterparts. Meanwhile, the 3D Sonic “games” fluctuate between frustratingly close to something cool and complete trash heaps.Sonic Mania is the actual great 2D Sonic game you remember the earlier games being. And to bring this vision to life the game needed a team of true fans, not original Sega developers long-since burnt out on the series. After making waves in the Sonic community with his incredible, rebuilt classic Sonic ports, Christian Whitehead and his crack squad of Sonic maniacs have finally crafted the retro revival Sonic game you want.Metroid PrimeAfter perfecting an entire subgenre of nonlinear action-adventure-exploration with Super Metroid on the SNES, the first lady of Nintendo’s premier sci-fi franchise took a bit of a break. But when it was time for the series to return in the new millennium, fans were wary to learn that the team responsible would be Texas newcomers Retro Studios. Furthermore, the game would morph from a 2D sidescroller to a first-person shooter, a genre mostly ignored in Japan but beloved in America.The result was Metroid Prime for the Nintendo GameCube, a masterpiece. This leap to 3D did for Metroid what Ocarina of Time did for Zelda, translating all the core enduring gameplay concepts into a dazzling new form. And the use of 3D graphics isn’t just window dressing. The moody, dense, interconnected spaces you explore make use of 3D level design many games today still can’t approach. A radical new perspective is precisely what Metroid needed, and with Metroid Prime, the Americans at Retro Studios under Nintendo’s guiding hand delivered.Metal Gear SolidThere was a Metal Gear Solid game developed by a Western studio, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes by Silicon Knights. But that GameCube remake of the PS1 original is divisive and Denis Dyack is nuts. Instead, we want to acknowledge how Western influence in general has improved the series. Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima represents an almost perfect synthesis of East and West thanks to his adoration of Western action cinema and his irrepressible anime impulse. But by Metal Gear Solid 3 (an otherwise fantastic game and the best one in the series) the very Japanese control scheme was beginning to feel archaic.Say what you will about Metal Gear Solid 4. It’s the best one in the series. But on a sheer gameplay level the revamped controls for shooting and sneaking were much easier to handle, and part of that was due to Western contributor Ryan Payton. Years later, Metal Gear Solid V, the best one in the series, Westernized itself even further with modern controls and an incredible open-world format. Kojima’s next game, Death Stranding, even stars Western actors Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen, so he’s all in on making games inspired by the whole world.Ms. Pac-ManThe original 1980 Pac-Man is an arcade classic, a foundational video game work. But it’s not perfect. If you know what you’re doing, if you sell hot sauce and wear American flag ties while antagonizing family men, you can figure out the ghost patterns and virtually break the game. It kind of robs the kill screen of a lot of its luster.Along with being an early appreciated example of gender balance in gaming, Ms. Pac-Man released two years later in 1982 fixes these issues. It keeps the gameplay consistently fresh with new maps and enemy behavior. It’s a better game, and it began as a hacked mod put together by American developers and publisher Midway. This has caused some internal strife both legally and in terms of pride. At times Namco has held the unauthorized game somewhat at arm’s length. But they do own Ms. Pac-Man now and occasionally include the feminist gem in classic compilations.Contra 4Named after a military boondoggle involving America, sidescrolling run ‘n gun Contra is a Konami classic that isn’t a health spa. Its brutal difficulty is responsible for the world’s most famous cheat code. And it spawned a respectable franchise, with Contra III: The Alien Wars being one of my personal favorite pulls for the upcoming SNES Classic Edition.Perhaps an early sign of Konami’s increasing apathy for making its own games in Japan, Contra 4, the next numbered entry in the series released years later in 2007, got handed to the American developers at WayForward. Fortunately, WayForward are masters at delivering gorgeous, pixelated sidescrollers, especially on Nintendo hardware. Using the DS’s two screens as one huge vertical canvas, Contra 4 provides a new kind of Contra spectacle. And honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised Western devs were good at making a game starring gun-toting 1980s beefcakes.Punch-Out!!Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! series has always had a strong Western appeal. It stars a scrappy fictional boxer from New York beating up global stereotypes. And the final boss is real-life American boxer Mike Tyson. Plus, boxing is just the type of blood sport that Americans are into. At least with wrestling I understand why Japan responds to the potential for bizarre melodrama.The latest and arguably greatest Punch-Out!! game was developed for the Wii by Canadian studio Next Level Games in 2009. Instead of totally rebuilding the original they just smartly enhanced it with smoother controls, more expressive polygonal characters, and remixed modes. It’s no wonder Nintendo tapped them for the Luigi’s Mansion 3DS sequel.I considered putting Rare on this list for the British team’s reimagining of Nintendo classics like Donkey Kong and Star Fox. But despite how beloved as those games are, at this point Retro Studios and Next Level Games have just delivered more consistent work as Western studios tackling Nintendo’s very very very Japanese games.View as: One Page Slides1/61. Finally, there’s a good Sonic the Hedgehog game. It’s called Sonic Mania, and it was made by Western fans led by Christian Whitehead.2. Who would’ve guessed the unproven Texans at Retro Studios could successfully reinvent Metroid into a first-person shooter with Metroid Prime?3. The Metal Gear series became much more playable after embracing some Western gameplay and control standards.4. Ms. Pac-Man is a Western hack of the original, and a better game.5. In Contra 4, WayForward’s take on Konami’s seminal shooter, the second screen sky’s the limit.6. The Canadian developers at Next Level Games revitalized Nintendo’s boxing classic Punch-Out!! on the Wii.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.