Whether you’ve been a gamer since the days of the Famicom or you’ve only recently picked up a console or gaming PC, I’m sure you can tell the difference between a game made in Japan and a game made elsewhere. Japanese games, no matter their subject matter, always seem to reflect their place of origin; game series like Persona and Yakuza are evidently Japanese with their art style and setting, but even less obvious games like Dark Souls and Devil May Cry feel uniquely Japanese with their HUD design and gameplay. This distinction given to games made in Japan is so widely understood that if I asked you to think of examples for an RPG and a JRPG, you’d be thinking of two different things.
But while Japanese games have managed to take the rest of the world by storm thanks to the tireless work of video game localizers, we rarely get to see or hear about what happens behind the scenes in the creation of these games. It’s so often the case that when we want to know more about a game’s director, composer, or even box art designer, we have to resort to fan-translated interviews, fan-subbed videos, or even just learning the language ourselves. All these stories and insights are locked behind a language barrier that prevents them from being accessible to fans outside of Japan. That’s where Archipel comes in.
Archipel is a YouTube channel that creates documentaries on Japanese creatives, with many of their videos focusing on well-known names in the Japanese video game industry. The channel, which also includes documentaries on mangaka, musicians, and filmmakers among others, provides subtitles in multiple languages in their videos, making them accessible to fans all over the world. On their channel, you’ll find videos on industry figures that we rarely get to see or hear about in English-language media. Even more niche creators like Yoko Taro (Nier & Drakengard), SWERY (Deadly Premonition), and Kazutaka Kodaka (Danganronpa) feature in some of Archipel’s documentaries.
Of course, the fact that their documentaries come with English subtitles is already a big deal in itself, but it’s also worth noting that these documentaries are beautifully shot and edited to complement the unique personalities of their subjects. It’s evident that these videos are being made by people who, like us, love video games, and want to share these insights with everyone else.
If you’ve got the time, Archipel’s documentaries are definitely worth a watch, and with Halloween just around the corner, you might want to start with Part 1 of their retrospective with Shinji Mikami, the father of the survival horror genre and creator of the Resident Evil series.
Aside from their YouTube channel, you can follow Archipel on their Twitter page and join their public Discord server for updates and creator AMAs. If you like what you see and you want to support their content, you can also become a patron of theirs on Patreon for as little as $1 (around ₱50 or less).
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