Published on May 4th, 2012 | by Sgt. Mettool1
Opinions: In Defense of Compile Heart
You know, it’s okay to pick on the big guy when justice is due. Especially when we have bullies like EA and Activision floating around the industry, beating up everyone else and curbstomping them into submission. You know; big companies that stand for greed, exploitation, and shady business practices.
What I’m not okay with, though, is picking on the little guy when they’re just trying to make a few bucks here and there. And one of the most hated little guys in the industry, Compile Heart, deserves some appreciation once in a while.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Compile Heart is a Japanese developer that specializes in role-playing games and dungeon crawlers. It is a subsidiary of Idea Factory. Their most notable works (by US/EU standards) consist of Record of Agarest War and Hyperdimension Neptunia.
Unfortunately, they seem to be a punching bag among JRPG fans for their games’ iffy quality and occasional blatant fanservice. They have a rather bad rep; so much that people tend to associate their games with these aspects alone.
While it is true that they do tend to cross the line (NSFW) a little bit, the reality is that this only really constitutes about 1% of the game, particularly in Agarest War’s case. Yet people are fixated on this blatant sex appeal because it tends to stand out more than any other apsect of the game. And when people are fixated on sex, it is nearly impossible for them to focus on any other apsect of the game, even if they’ve never played it before. Ideas like “This game is only about sex appeal” eventually evolves into bigger, more generalized thoughts, such as “All of Compile Heart’s games are about sex appeal.” And combined with the lower production budgets of many of their titles, it eventually becomes “All of Compile Heart’s games are crap and are about sex appeal.”
These ideas not only affect the community, but the press as well. Hyperdimension Neptunia, for example, granted a devastating 3.0 out of 10 on Gamespot, citing that “[The] characters are disturbingly sexualized caricatures of young girls”, referring most likely to the Sailor Moon-like transformation sequences that occur during battle. This, however, is not the purpose of the game, and amounts to probably less than 2% of the game’s overall content. Had it not had those sequences, Neptunia might have had a much more positive impact on Gamespot and other such websites. But because we, as Americans, are so fixated on the topics of sex and decency, this small factor sabotaged Neptunia’s ratings in the US. It was an otherwise decent game.
Decent, of course, by the standards of which it was developed. Compile Heart is not a big company by any means. They are a rather small developer. And you have to remember that not every company has the time and money to pump out AAA-quality graphics and revolutionary gameplay. They are simply trying to stay afloat and contribute to the industry in their own little way. On the spectrum between Indie and Blockbuster, they are very much veering far left. You have to go into their games with realistic expectations; setting them too high is just setting yourself up for disappointment. You have to appreciate their games for what they are and what the limits of the company can attain.
Another factor that works against the company overseas is their tendency to focus on traditional Japanese RPGs. The genre is, of course, frowned upon in our modern industry of brown and grey shooters. But somebody has to keep the spirit of the RPG alive, damn it. And I will gladly take a mediocre, low-budget RPG over some zombie-themed game that scored 9.5 on IGN. There is still room for the turn-based RPG in today’s market, and i’m sure there are thousands who would agree with me. It’s just quite unfortunate that this niche market also tends to have to have of the most hyper-critical communities in the industry. And going out of your way to bash companies like Compile Heart is simply going to hurt the market further.
I do not claim to be a fanboy of Compile Heart or even an expert on business practices and standards. But I do implore you to consider all of the factors before you label companies like these as invalids. Don’t pick on the little guy trying to build his first sand castle. If you can, help them find their place, and make yourself realize that there’s enough room in the sandbox for everyone.