There's a fundamental difference between Japanese and Western gaming that starts at the very beginning of the creative process.
In the West, at the very onset of preproduction, many games involve teams of artists, sometimes a lot of them, plenty of whom are often contractors (or who move between studios frequently). While this gets the job done, series from Mass Effect to Assassin's Creed are still missing...something. A certain...trademark.
In Japan, on the other hand, many studios are smaller. And more importantly, you often have a single artist at the top of the food chain, responsible for overseeing the entire look and feel of a game (or even series).
It's why Metal Gear wouldn't be Metal Gear without Yoji Shinkawa. Why Tetsuya Nomura's fingerprints are all over many recent Final Fantasy games. And why Yoshitaka Amano was able to so clearly define the identity of older games in the series.
My favourite of these "overseers", though, is a man perhaps less well-known, but whose works are some of the best you'll see in the business, regardless of the market (or continent) you're talking about.
That man is Shigenori Soejima, art director at Atlus and the man responsible for the vibrant and distinctive look of not just the Persona series, but Catherine as well.
His clean, cartoonish lines and use of strong, bold colours makes his art leap off the screen, and even if you're not a fan of his games, you can spot his trademark style a mile away.
What's more, given the genres and platforms Atlus is usually working with, his art is often able to actually transfer directly into the game via dialogue screens and splash images, a luxury most Western artists have to live without.
I've included some of my favourite pieces/characters of his below. If you're a fan, and you don't already own it, I can't recommend his art book enough.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or, if they’re big enough, so you can save them as wallpaper), click on the “expand” button in the bottom-right corner.
Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you're in the business and have some concept, environment, promotional or character art you'd like to share, drop us a line!