Posted on April 21st, 2010 8 comments
The question of how susceptible to corruption Weekly Famitsu magazine is has come up in the news again after the publication gave Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (which publisher and ex-EIC Hirokazu Hamamura himself shows up in the advertising for) a perfect 40/40 score. There’s little doubt that the mag’s a bit freer with the 10 scores than it used to be, but is it any more or less corrupt than it’s ever been during its 24-year-old history?
To explore this, it’s time to go back to an interesting little 1999 interview, one of the few where Hamamura ever spoke very frankly about how his magazine evaluated and applied scores to games. This interview, conducted alongside indie developer Kenji Eno, was conducted by a manga artist named Miso Suzuki, who published a game-industry comic in Famitsu called Otona no Shikumi (おとなのしくみ, which I’ll loosely translate as ‘The Way Grown-Ups Work’) throughout the 1990s.
The context of this interview is as follows: In 1997, Famitsu reviewed Real Sound: Kaze no Regret, a Saturn adventure game that shows absolutely nothing onscreen and is instead controlled (and enjoyed) entirely through sound. The game garnered fairly average scores — 8/6/5/8 for a total of 27 points. Eno, annoyed at this, railed on Hamamura in an interview published in a 1997 edition of Otona no Shikumi, criticizing Famitsu’s capsule reviews and the extreme weight placed upon them by gamers. Hamamura didn’t really respond to Eno’s statements, and the two industry figures had an unsteady relationship until 1999, when Suzuki reunited them in the same room for an in-depth discussion into game ratings.
I’ve taken the liberty of translating the manga chapter that ensued from it, because it represents Hamamura’s official opinion on the “fairness” of Famitsu’s reviews back before the magazine had acquired a reputation for kowtowing to publishers with their scores. It’s also interesting to see how the magazine has shifted from the stance Hamamura laid out here — Eno would undoubtedly be happy with how lenient the modern Famitsu is with their 10’s nowadays, but chances are he’d have some more serious complaints about fairness.
Footnotes are below the images. I’m in a rush, so forgive any formatting ugliness.
This interview was published in April 1999, when Shenmue was in full development and facing a rapidly-slipping release date. Famitsu published a regular column devoted exclusively to Shenmue around this time.