Saturday, December 09, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Karuchaa Gyappu

Karuchaa Gyappu (noun; from English) Culture gap.

Like the all-powerful Japanese phrase "shikata nai" (roughly, "Whaddya gonna do?"), karuchaa gyappu is a tempting way to shrug off some of Japan's harder-to-explain differences with the West.

A: What's the big deal about Koyuki? She looks like a man. She's like seven feet tall and she has a big chin. Why do so many people think she's pretty?

B: [Shrug] I dunno. Culture gap.

I am tempted to use the same phrase to explain the often sizeable rift between opinions put forth by Japanese and Western video game critics. Recently I shrugged and said, "culture gap" when I read Japanese and non-Japanese reviews of Tecmo's girlie vacation simulator Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 for the Xbox 360. The game (although to call it a "game" is to test the tensile strength of the word, since it's more like an interactive Russ Meyer film) deals with the intricate subtleties of all-girl, all-bikini beach frollicking and the Newtonian physics connected therewith. Despite its sparkling water and realistic "tanline" system, however, the game was viscously skeletonized by critics in the US:

Gerald Villoria for Gamespy:
"Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 just isn't as relaxing [as the original Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball], with its frustrating mini-games and flawed core game mechanics."
(Review score: 50%)

Compare that with the Japanese reviews which have been generally more appreciative of DOAX2's decidedly mammalian brand of entertainment (translated to the very best of my ability):

Munetatsu Matsui for Famitsu:
"[It's a tropical game that caters to DOA fans in every way.]"
(Review score: 90%)

Are North American reviewers being pretentiously critical of this game because they're insecure about looking like "nerds?" Are the Japanese reviewers who applaud the game exactly the nerds for whom the North American critics are afraid of being mistaken?

[Shrug] I dunno. Culture gap.

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