Who you gonna call when audience wants a proper sequel?

I talked a lot about 2016’s Ghostbusters when it was relevant, so why break the streak?

News and trailer for Ghostbusters 3 dropped this week. It wasn’t a day late before the usual circus started around it. Forbes already had an opinion piece up from Scott Mendelson mostly concerning the supposed identity politics. The piece is really a piece of garbage, but there’s one bit that I need to pick up from there and why this post got made;

…we have only ourselves to blame. Studios aren’t charities and they tend to want movies that attract moviegoers and make money.

What he has to blame for himself over? The 2016 Ghostbusters was a financial and PR mistake. We can ignore all the political pushing, all the behind the scenes troubles that effectively doomed the piece even before it got off the ground thanks to executive meddling wanting to push certain ideologies and take the movie as is, it’s really a piece of trash. Market is not something where you can survive with an ideology driving your product. If you hire people based on whatever characteristic you want them to have on the surface, it’s going to pay you back in negatives when the time comes to make use what’s inside. You have to have people who are skilled in their field, whatever it might be. Acting, composing, writing, directing, craftsmanship…

Mendelson’s piece echoes the people who don’t care about the end quality of the product or how it might succeed. I’m sure he knows that nobody wanted to see a Ghostbusters reboot, especially not a one that was not done in good spirit. Being mad about the 2016 film’s failure can only be put on the people who didn’t go to watch it despite supporting it. The trailer still might be Youtube’s most disliked, while Ghostbuster 3‘s and its many mirrors have seen a positive reaction. Of course, this alone doesn’t tell anything if the movie’s going to be good or not, and the teaser trailer is very little to go by. Sidestepping the question about nepotism considering Jason Reitman, the trailer does have its mood more akin to the original. If this movie is argued to play on nostalgia, so tried the 2016 one with all the referential quips, locations and so on. Sequels and remakes always play on nostalgia and argument for or against them are largely moot. Except if you’re trying to make something completely new, then nostalgia shouldn’t come into play much if at all. If we believe 2016’s director Paul Feig, he was making something new in his own take, he failed and sank to the bottom like a rock. Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive interview with Reitman, and he has the usual complementary bullshit about the 2016 movie. I can’t blame them, corporate speech dictates you must have a positive view even on your failures and PR disasters in order to keep shit in line. In reality, the faster and harder we forget the 2016  movie exists, the better.

To get back to the original point after that tangent, nothing would’ve kept them from doing Ghostbusters 3 for 2016 outside executives effectively fucking it over. As mentioned so many times already, the 2009 Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Christ, it’s already been ten years?) was effectively considered to be officially unofficial Ghostbusters 3. It had the original cast returning to voice the characters, the writing was done by the same people and it was incredibly faithful to the original core of the movies, especially to the initial idea of Ghostbusters being dimension traveling ghost busting wizards. It was relatively popular game, especially with the fans who knew that this was probably the last time we’d see the group together or get a legit third installment that wasn’t a spin-off of some sort, like the Extreme Ghostbusters, though that series is underrated as hell. However, as said, we don’t really know anything about the movie at this point, so saying anything definitive about is far too early.

We Got This Covered has some possible outlines on the movie. Seeing we won’t be getting the Extreme way of passing the torch to a new team, the movie seemingly has a young boy and a girl as central characters. The boy sounds like what could be a young Raymond Stanz with a hint of 90’s conspiracy zeitgeist, while the girl is effectively described slightly more juvenile and socially retarded Egon Spengler. Then again, some other sources have said that the main characters are group of teenagers, so I guess they could become the new team and be related to the old cast. That would be a bit too convenient, and maybe having them be separate from the old cast. However, seeing it might  be concentrating on a small town, families and their connections to past and present, it doe sound like there are familial relations to go about. Then again, Ghostbusters could use a more grass root level story that doesn’t try to be grand in most ways. The first one was world-saving for sure, but the second one was not. It was more about saving one baby and keeping an insane monarch from returning to life and terrorizing the civilisation once more. A more concentrated story would do Ghostbusters some good now, to get back to the basics after all these years.

Personally, I’m not too eager to see where this movie goes to even by these leaks, or overall when the cultural situation is at. It has to hit home well with the market, and I’m not sure if Sony is up to it at this moment. However, the brand is still on the surface after the 2016 fiasco, so maybe hitting the iron after few new patches have been welded in would work. However, after Harold Ramis’ death, this film won’t be the same. Hopefully it handles his passing with class, probably might even incorporate it somehow into the film’s premise how and why Ecto-1’s in a barn. Hopefully a small town in somewhat rural setting would also keep the modern tech devices at minimum, because I’m more than sick of battery running out on our characters, despite nowadays that actually being a possibility. While it shouldn’t matter who makes the movie, at this point I have to pretty much say that Jason Reitman may not be the best possible choice due to his track record, and him being the first fan of the films can work both ways. Being a fan of something and getting to work on your loved franchise in official capacity can just screw things like no other. You might end up elongating things because of perfectionism, your view of the franchise might be coloured by strong personal feelings and taking it off from its core and you might just start introducing new characters that effectively make the old cast unnecessary.

We’ll probably see a lot of new both for and against the movie, but it might be best to ignore all of them outside what can be verified to some extent about the movie’s production itself. Despite political ideology forces some sections of the media to take a piss on consumers, these are ultimately empty posts that mostly to attract reactions. Getting people worked up and mad is easy and profitable as long you manage to balance it right, but only so far. Especially if you take only one point of view with an ideology attached to it, which might just end up burning your through very badly. The same applies to films, and if the 2016 Ghostbusters was to go anything by, it’s not very successful idea.

On the Golden Age of Gaming

This blog has touched a lot on the cultural and historical phenomena regarding video games and their design throughout the years. For some these have been posts of interest, while others seem to regard the late 1990’s as the pinnacle of video games, despite the same has already been said about the mid-2000’s and early 2010’s. Arguments fly about and you, my dear reader, probably have a take on the subject that might support one but not the other. Maybe you even consider the late 1980’s the pinnacle of electronic games, but that’s how it is. We all deep down know that the Golden Age of video games was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when computer, video and arcade games begun taking their modern shape.

The Golden Age of Arcades is established to be around the years 1978 and 1979, based on the release years of Space Invaders and Asteroids, which works just fine for them. The overall Golden Age of Games can be expanded from the the mid-1970’s to the 1983’s video game crash, as this was the period of rapid expansion consumer bases, genres, technology and popular cultural phenomena. This is contrasting the electronic gaming history to that of comic books’, where the Golden Age of Comic books, where most, if not all, classical archetypes and heroes were created, and the medium became a significant power in publishing.

The reason this contrast is made is due to the cultural phenomena usually work. These periods are of making the media into something that is able to stand on its own, establishing itself through various creators and enjoyed wide public attention, which naturally leads into impacting the culture in major ways. The very reason you still hear certain kind of sound effects in films and television when it comes to video games being depicted is because those bleeps and bloops are culturally associated with gaming as established by the Golden of Electronic Games. Be it the sound Atari games or the PC speakers made, certain sound is still associated with gaming by being handed down by the surrounding pop-culture. This era would fit the first two Console generations just fine, and majority of the early PC gaming as well, when people were turning their Dungeons and Dragons sessions into text adventures for their universities mainframes.

As a side note, you can pin point certain era of Famicom just by listening to the sound effects, as vast majority, if not all, developers used the same effects library in the early years.

But that side note throws a wrench into the whole Age discussion, as we must remember that all events weren’t global at that point in time. The 1983 crash had little to no effect outside the United States, as Europe was tightly grasping local micros at the time, and it wouldn’t be until the very late 1980’s and early 1990’s when console gaming had its breakthrough in Europe. This and IBM standard effectively killed multiple computer platforms, and Windows 95 cleaned the slate. Now we effectively have only three standards, four if we count Android, instead of each manufacturer having their own. The story’s completely different in Japan for many reasons, as Japanese computer history is a different beast altogether from its European and American cousins. If you’ve ever wondered why European developed games for the third and fourth generations felt so different and bit off, it’s because they were developed under a cultural paradigm that favoured platforms like the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga 1000. These games look and play in a particular fashion, something we might get to few years down the line.

How can we say that this specific era is this or that when it only touches certain parts of the globe? The answer is; because of history.

We can’t say what era we are living in currently. World War I was originally named as The Great War, the war to end all wars, but then Germany decided to slap Poland around a bit. As such, we have to look at what sort of massive expansion gaming overall had during that time in the US and Japan with arcades and how little they impacted Europe at the same time. It wouldn’t take but few years until European arcades would see the same titles, but the impact rarely was in the same ballpark. Culturally speaking, Europe didn’t produce much content that would impact the global gaming sub-culture, but if you lived during that in France and UK, you probably remember few regional names that pop into your head right away. Now, how many of those are as well remembered in the cultural background as Pac-Man and Space Invaders?

To follow the Ages of Comic Books, we naturally are lead into the Silver Age of Electronic Games that encompasses the fourth and fifth generations. The reason again is comparative to comics, where old heroes were rekindled into new forms. Best example of this would be Mario, where we go from single-screen titles like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. into fully-scrolling Super Mario Bros., re-imagining the games’ world as Mushroom Kingdom with kidnapped princesses and turtle kings.

While Famicom was released in 1983 in Japan, the starting point of the Silver Age must be set to 1985 with the American release. This is also a turning point in Japanese software development, where the quality of the titles began to ramp up. New competitors would establish themselves on the console market across the world, some spinning themselves off from the arcades like Sega (who already had a presence in Japan with their 1984 SG-1000) and Hudson hitting the market with NEC backing them up with the original PC-Engine in 1987. Atari still tried with the 7800, but couldn’t find a niche against the juggernaut that was the NES.

Despite all the above, what if I argued that the Golden Age would be from late 1970’s and up until the release of PlayStation in 1994? Despite the Crash of ’83, the third and fourth generations saw further expansion and cultural impact. The Super Mario Bros. and Sonic cartoons, comics, food stuff, everything that went into making electronic gaming into a global force didn’t happen just on few years. Modern electronic games are still a young medium, despite some having lived with them throughout their lives, they’re still younger than television, cinema, theater or literature. Maybe in a hundred years or so people will have enough perspective to view the changes in the game culture properly. Currently we are too close to these events with heavy bias to go by properly, and so much of it extremely well recorded. It would be extremely easy to dissect history into extremely small blocks, because we can do so. Those in the know would understand and acknowledge all those minute changes that had a ripple effect down the line.

Instead, maybe we should call the era from mid-1970’s to mid-1990’s the Classic Age of Gaming, where expansion was largely constant, new companies and hardware would pop up and die during the contest all the while others would grow strong and established. From there, we are now living through the Modern Age of Gaming, where we have seen the cross-pollination taking hold over the industry and the establishment of the Big Three with no real competition offered in the console market. Further mixing of genres and new impacting titles have been introduced, like Halo and Devil May Cry.

Even this might be somewhat arbitrary, but as mentioned, we’re too close in time to take back and see events as they are. How culture and industries move in the grander scale is hard if not almost impossible to surmise at they are going on, and perhaps the first mistake a young medium as comparing itself too much to other media and let those dictate too much what it should be.

Review: Myst 25th Anniversary Kickstarter packaging is shit

The very first thing your customer notices about a product, be it on the store shelves, online pictures or when receiving the item in mail, is the packaging. Ignore the quality of the packaging and you lose the customer. It’s extremely easy to make a terrible packaging by making few low-effort choices, like choosing weak cardboard because its cheaper, unfitting box size because that allows items to rattle and be damaged during transit (be it from the store or via mail) or have no support for the item within the box.

Package illustration and text are a whole another dimension that add to the mix. Cheap printing will automatically spell how much the producer cares about the producer cares about the product overall. Some fanzines have better printing that some mainline comics nowadays. The logos, the catchphrases, the descriptions, everything that reads of the package has to be both up to legal standards and to attract and convince the customer that this is the product worthy of their money.

A worthy packaging takes money, time and skill. A package designer is well worth the money he gets paid and is a field of design that nobody really thinks about. It’s a thankless job that you only remember exists when you face a terrible packaging.

Of course you could ignore most of that and just throw some discs in a sleeve and call it a day.

Oh for fuck’s sake Cyan

The reason why Cyan Inc (and Incorporated they are) did this is because the higher tier backers on Kickstarter get a custom build book that houses the games. This is all fine and dandy, until you realise that these poor bastards will get their games in the same cheap bargain bin sleeves. Let’s get to the root why this packaging is shit to the core and nobody should do this, unless they’re releasing cheap shit to the market at the lowest possible price.

First of all, there is no protective support. Sure, the sleeves themselves support from some of the damage that dust or such could do, but that goes out of the window the moment you realise that everything will get in from the open side. There’s no mechanism to keep any of that out.

While these sleeves are an age-old way to house a disc, it’s also one of the worst ways. Compact discs like these have a tendency to moving and spinning inside their sleeves, unlike LPs and LDs that have some weight in them to keep them in place during transit. This causes chafing that will cause smudges, and sometimes with low quality rough cardboard, leave a permanent mark on the disc’s surfaces.

Then you have the fact that the sleeves can’t take any physical damage. These were delivered as you see now, in a stack with no protective box around them in a vacuum sealed bag. You can see the first sleeve has already given in and creased itself against the disc inside. The sleeve is already damaged by sheer act of being shipped. If it’s put on the shelf, the pressure from whatever is around it will continue to press the sleeve against the disc, further creasing it. It’s unusable as a long-term storing device, necessitating the customer to come up something on their own, like buying jewel cases for the discs. You don’t see it on the photo, but all the sleeves are also scuffed up already from chafing against each other, especially on the back.

This photo is intentionally bad with that lamp light on the left, because it shows how scuffed and creased the the backs are already just from shipping and sitting on my desk untouched for a day. Every back is the same, with the nice . There are scratches that are directly from the production, handling and packaging.

Actually, some of the sleeves are already damaged from the production. Whatever company made these didn’t make sure that when the prints are separated, the cut would be clean. Instead you have those rip nubs, also slightly visible on the left of on the sleeve.

Let’s check the disc design and leave the sleeves for the time being.

The disc design in itself is nice, but far from what looks like what Myst should have. It’s effectively giant C and some low-effort text thrown in there. Apparently advertising Cyan Inc. was more important than creating a fitting look for each of the disc, or re-using the existing designs. Ubisoft’s Myst Collection beats 25th Anniversary collection in design and sleeves 1 to zero. Plastic sleeves at least protect the discs properly. Notice also that the print is ever so hazy on the disc, meaning this is once more one of those points where money was pinched out. The Big C is sharp, the text not so much. It’s far from the worst, but with minimalist design like this you don’t have any room to screw up a single element. Also how the platform text, Windows in my case, has a terrible positioning. It would have looked far better midway down the black Myst text and the legal text down there. That C is just too governing and taking too much room.

To be fair, the sleeves have a nice artwork on them, which each one of them having its own frame texture with a window. It’s not much, but at least it goes with the theme

Cyan Inc. never stated how or in what sort of packaging their physical goods would be delivered in. This is something that any backer should make a note of in the future Kickstarters they may back and demand that the packaging must be up to standards. This isn’t. This is far from being what is expected from almost three million dollar Kickstarter. I might’ve given the Muv-Luv Kickstarter packaging some shit, but that’s a winner with platinum medal level of quality compared to to what Cyan has delivered with these.

This is the lowest and cheapest way to produce and pack their game collection, and if anyone wants any longevity from these, they are required to go out and purchase some kind of jewel case or one of those multi-disc packages, and then print their own sleeve to go with it.

Frankly, it’s shit.

The smartphone market is changing

There has been a lot of news about Apple’s stock falling this week. Some celebrate that this spells the end of Apple and begins their downfall. Some are losing their hair over their stock value dropping like that. Some aren’t exactly caring about the whole deal, but find it interesting nevertheless. The thing is, when Apple became the first trillion dollar company, it got into a place where it shouldn’t been in the first place. Apple as a company isn’t exactly cutting edge.

The smartphone market is just like any other market out there. There will be market leaders with products that will be used more for a period of time before something else comes along and does things a little differently to cater to the new needs and wants of the consumer. The classic example of Facebook replacing MySpace is something that happens constantly, but the timescale with some products can be glacier. Sometimes the company that is replacing the product is doing it by themselves, like how Hasbro saw the falling sales of Transformers toys and relaunched the series with Beast Wars, which in all honestly saved the franchise. The reason why this worked was because from the mid 1980’s to late 1990’s the world experienced a kind of boom relating to land and sea animals. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was part of this green movement, where whales and dolphins got their share of newfound love. Seaquest DSV and the 1995 Flipper series hit this cultural consensus just the right way. The consumers wanted to have something different and there was need for innovation. Hasbro relaunched their money maker franchise and the rest is history.

Smartphone market is in a similar place at the moment. Apple beat Nokia by innovating the concept of the mobile phone by using existing ideas to make something new. Nokia had a chance to beat Apple, but they never launched the phone that would effectively been what the iPhone is, because the execs didn’t see a need to radically change their strategy. Execs tend to be rather rigid in their way of thinking in terms of products and the market, which is why the smartphone market currently sees very little to no innovation at the moment. Everything is incremental. The bezels are slightly thinner, screens are slightly larger (with a stupid notch there for whatever reason) and the usual tech advancements apply. Not many people are happy that the earphone jack, something that has been and still is a standard, has gone missing. In effect, there is really no reason to upgrade your phone if it’s not busted.

Apple’s innovation regarding iPhone has always been to stand on the shoulders of others. That’s completely normal for a tech company, though some would claim Apple didn’t exactly innovate while standing on those shoulders. Nevertheless, whatever Apple’s strategy is or was, it’s not working as intended. Falling sales can be directly related to the consumers being more or less full of Apple products and them not meeting the needs. Chinese competitors are producing phones that are simply better and have more style at a cheaper price, and don’t lock you to Apple’s own ecosystem, seem to have become more popular in Asia. Hell, in India Apple has only 1% market share, they just don’t jive with the wants of the consumers there.

The thing with Apple is that what they market first and most is lifestyle. This is somewhat ironic, as Steve Jobbs himself said something along the lines of When a company begins to market and stops innovating, it dies. That’s pretty much all Apple has going on for them at the moment. They are an alternative lifestyle company, offering inferior products to consumers who wish to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Apple’s device space is unbeatable currently, with all of their products existing in unison with each other, but outside that the hardware and software aren’t exactly the best possible. It’s sad to see the creative schools pushing for Macs, when the industries themselves use different system. Adobe works just as well on Windows as it does on Apple.

At some point Apple comes to a goal where they’ve reached their own market saturation and most people who can afford Apple  have entered the ecosystem. After that, sales will be harder to make and they have to make serious efforts to convince their customer to upgrade each device in the ecosystem. Hence, it’s not the best idea of put the blame of lack of sales and success on the consumer. Apple does offer some neat services and their personal security is top notch, but as said, the devices themselves haven’t exactly changed overall, and that applies to smartphones overall. At some point, the current paradigm is just driven to the ground and something else will come about. Apple has been toying with the watches and glasses, but they’re not what the consumers want.

That’s the crux of things really. A company can’t really blame on its consumers not wanting to upgrade if there is nothing new, no edge over the old stuff they already have. Innovation be damned, buzzword as it is, but none of these companies can ignore that the smartphone market is in a spot where things are becoming stagnant. What’ll be the next big thing is an open question, and very few people are even able to make an educated guess. Maybe we’ll get those flexible and bendable phones Nokia was talking about in 2008. Whatever it is, one can only hope it’ll be as massive paradigm shift that the smartphones were from their predecessors. Cleaning the slate does good at times.

Music of the Month; Awakening After 1000 Years

I hope you had a good change of year, and that your first dream of the year was pleasant.

As I’ve mentioned each month for the past year, maintaining the blog in its current pace has become more difficult as life has taken its toll on it.  Thus, I’ve made the unpleasant choice to change how often the blog gets an entry; from now on, weekend (Sunday) posts are the only I can guarantee staying where they are, though the time they go online will go online will most likely fluctuate. Wednesday posts will be there if there is time to type them down, if there is interesting enough topics and if I have energy for it. In exchange, I’ll be looking more into long form posts when a subject so demands. This means the commentary posts will probably be shorter, but perhaps at the same time more to the point. In best case scenario, this means more shorter posts in bursts while I’m working on something else, but don’t count on this to any extent. The work I do is taxing on both physical and mental facilities. There are other projects elsewhere that I must give more attention to as well, namely continuing scanning of materials for archival, both donated and old materials that have been on the backburner for a long time. I’ve been asked to do an entry on scanning, and I’ll probably do that sometime this year.

I will also begin listing blog entries on Minds. While Twitter’s all nice and that, I intend to start updating things into Minds that don’t make a good blog, and probably will see more personal takes on things rather than from the blogger persona I utilise here.

Speaking of this year, I’ve come up some plans what to cover, though take all of what stands here with extremely small grain of salt. tl;dr version would be The blog’s post schedule will become more erratic and update schedules are thrown out of the window.

A Comic Lemon People retrospective has been in my mind for some, with examples and concentration on its golden era of the early and mid 1980’s, before the content changed in terms of quality , and then how ultimately the changes in the 1990’s landscape didn’t have enough room for it any further. While we are talking about a magazine that was drawn pornography in most cases, the stories, settings and cultural zeitgeist the magazine represented had an incredible impact on the Japanese popular culture to the point that the contents of Lemon People seem almost quaint nowadays as even the most standard evening show or comic aimed at teenage audience has rougher and more explicit content. While I have physical examples to take advantage, they can be used to infer events only so far. Actual research will be slow and painful, as there are very little English sources, and the few I’ve read throughout the years, have more or less died out due lack of maintenance. This one will take some time to get even started, and in the end might end up being just a showcase of what sort of magazine was rather than its publication history and difficulties.

The Themes of Godzilla post will get expanded. I’ve missed many chances to add Shin Godzilla at the end, but considering that post in itself was made to celebrate its upcoming original theatrical, it’d be only natural that it would be missing from there.  However, I wish to expand on the later entries as well, and make the post more robust overall, covering the movies in slightly more depth and expanding each entry rather than relying on few sentences to carry out what I’m trying to say. Personally, I consider that post to be relatively important, especially when we consider how much the Showa era directors put themselves into these movies and their thematic motifs. Well, at least before the late 1970’s. Antuarlly, this requires me to rewatch all of the movies again, so this project will be long-term and probably won’t be finished for some time.

If there’s going to be anything âge related this year is completely up to them. I haven’t been able to do some of the Tactical Surface Fighters comparisons thanks to lacking image materials, which in truth I have but not in a handy format, but the planned final entries from the original /m/ threads will be carried out. As for the rest, hell if I know if I’m being blunt. âge has not really said anything out in public about anything, but it’s clear that they’re working on something. That Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake using Sayori of Nekopara fame as lead illustrator is coming up, which is something I have personally no interest in solely based on the style and visual design. It’ll be used as a comparison fodder down the line. However, considering âge has published nothing of worth for the last decade or so, with Total Eclipse enjoying marginal success at best and Schwarzesmarken being a total bombs with extreme lack of sales, it’s no surprise Avex managed to buy them from Acid and ixtl going through rebranding to become anchor. âge and ixtl have a history if mismanaging their projects, Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative being one of them, I’ve got little to no faith on whatever comes out.

âge held a poll aimed at the Japanese fans a month or two back, and it would seem that they are leaning on creating a new mobile game, which honestly doesn’t serve the franchise jack shit. The brand doesn’t lend itself well to the mobile game format, despite Strike Frontier attempting to solve the issue of every character in the BETAverse we cared about to a large extend being dead. A New Beginning from Exogularity magazines shows âge using clones to bring these characters back, which is a cop-out and shows how the staff is in a corner. All the new characters they’ve introduced in other works have been more or less unpopular, and as characters from side stories, they have no real base to stand on. While exploring the setting and expanding the history is all good and nice, it should have been clear that if they were to continue with the franchise, they should’ve continued onward with new characters in similar fashion how Muv-Luv continues off from Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, and how that continued off from Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu, by using the same setting and having some relation to the previous characters. Muv-Luv Alternative 2 could’ve showcased us a group that came after Valkyries, showcasing us  the impact their deed had, have certain major characters become a large part of the story in surprising ways and continue naturally from that. Bringing back Sumika, Meiya and the rest as clones or alternative universe selves is just bad form and lousy writing. Now, âge/anchor has lost their chances, the iron’s cold again. They need a popular animated series, a completely new entry into the franchise and shitloads of support to stay properly relevant. Be it as a VN corporation (which have gone down in numbers in recent years) or as a branch of Avex that push out Muv-Luv products to keep themselves from going the way of Hudson.

As the last thing, I’ve been interesting in seeing what makes the Senran Kagura series tick for me. While I still refuse to call myself a fan, you’ve seen the series pop in my Top 5 lists during these last few years, and considering I’ve been buying the games, I’m more and more interested to see for myself what it really is that keeps me with the franchise. No, it’s not the ninja tits. My first reaction to the game series was that it was nothing but titty service to the otaku masses, which it honestly is, but then somehow down the line the games’ play snatched me in. This Senran Kagura introspective will be small and relatively short, as I doubt people are interesting in reading what a personal view on the series is.

I’d also like to more controller reviews, but I haven’t come across many interesting ones as of late.

Enjoy your early year, by the time you’re reading this post I am already at work.

Top 5 games of 2018

This year’s Top 5 list will a bit different, mostly because it doesn’t consist of many older games overall. Why? Because when you’re a full-time working man, there’s not much time for games. That, and I forgot to start listing the games I bought this year into this post. Whoops.

The usual rules apply; any game from any year is applicable as long I’ve played it for the first time this year in physical form. Means if a game only has a digital release, it automatically gets disqualified. There is no top slot either, because that’s stupid.

 

A Certain Magical Virtual-On PlayStation4, PlayStation Vita, 2018

If you haven’t read my Cyber Troopers Virtual-On retrospective series, you can either start with the original entry or click Robot related materials on the top bar. The last entry covers this game and has a review on it, so I’m not going to repeat it. However, what I have to question whether or not this game stands now, almost a year later.

The game stands at a respectable three and a half stars on Amazon Japan, it got a serialised comic and the overall reception throughout the year has mixed. I mentioned how fans of the game series didn’t exactly like A Certain Magical Index being mixed in there, while Index fans took the opposite stance. This game turned me into and Index fan though, and seeing this cross over was overall fun and works within the setting. Sure, it’s a standalone spin-off that has nothing to do with either franchises in the end, but that doesn’t keep us from enjoying what we have now.

Sega pushed this game rather hard initially, and had few Voosters Cups, tournaments for the game. Some hardcore fans are still playing it non-stop, but the lack of local two-player was the death knell of the game for someone who doesn’t have PSN+ account. VO as a series certainly could work in the modern eSports environment, but it would require further presence and more events to be held. A popular IP tagged to it won’t do much alone.

Despite the lack of local multiplayer, and the Vita version being crippled thanks to being on Vita, I do come back to this game whenever I want to play Virtual-On. It’s still Virtual-On, and there really isn’t anything like it. Well, maybe Last Legion UX on the N64, but I’ll review that next year.

 

Rockman World V Game Boy, 1994, 3DS Virtual Console, 2014

That’s a terrible PV, but couldn’t find the original CM for now.

The big question was; would Mega Man 11 get a spot this year? The answer is No because I also bought the a boxed copy of Rockman World V.

This game everything an evolution of Mega Man should be. From the changing Mega Buster into a rocket punch and taking advantages such weapon allows, changing the bosses from Robot Masters to Stardroids for an entry and making a bait n’ Switch with the final boss, this game has it all. You can’t do something like this in a series ending game, but as a spin-off title on the Game Boy it had more freedom to do whatever it wanted.

Minakuchi Engineering did all but one GB Mega Man game, and with the fourth and this fifth entries they managed to make the series better than its NES originals. Everything from visual design to music and controls are spot on. What makes the GB’s Mega Man series stand out in most cases is that despite the smaller screen, everything plays well. This is mostly due to camera not centering on the player character, something so many games get wrong nowadays, even the Zero-series got this wrong, and the sheer design of the stages and enemy placement has to spot on.

I’ve seen some call it a nice little game, but it’s a grand Game Boy game that should not be missed. Cheaply available on your 3DS’ Virtual Console too.

 

Sonic Mania Plus PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Steam, 2018

When original Sonic Mania was released, it was great. Sonic Mania Plus is pretty much the same, just with some tweaked stuff in there and two more characters that we haven’t seen in ages. For someone who loved to play the first Sonic the Hedgehog as a itty bitty kiddy, Sonic Mania hits that nostalgia spot right on. That alone isn’t enough for a game to get on the list, and any version of Sonic mania is worth playing for the absolute brilliancy it shows in sheer realisation of the game. From sound and music to controls and stage design the game gets all of these spot on. It sounds like a Mega Drive Sonic, it plays like a Mega Drive Sonic and looks just a slightly bit better thanks to increased frames of animations here and there. While the Special Stages where you collect the Chaos Emeralds are infuriating. The original game’s dream-like mazes are still the most unique way the series has implemented these, but it would also seem that these stages aren’t exactly popular.

2D Sonic games are much like 2D Super Mario Bros. games. They both represent the best the series has to offer and are the most popular among fans and overall audiences. Despite few revivals here and there, the companies behind these two mascot giants have never really been able to re-create what made these 2D titles so great. They’ve lost the sight what makes their 2D juggernauts tick, but I’m glad to see some fans got their chance to showcase this to Sega. Hopefully any upcoming revival Sega does, especially with Streets of Rage 4, follows this one up. Whatever comes after Sonic Mania Plus in regards of the franchise also has to take things forwards away from the 16-bit graphics, unless they want to replicate the belly splat Mega Man 10 did. These retro-revivals are always dancing on a fine edge.

 

The Game Paradise Crusin’ Mix Special PlayStation 4, 2018

Or Game Tengoku if you so will.

Whenever there is a new shooting game coming out, it has a lot sub-systems and scoring mechanics stacked upon it. That, and the shooting game genre has effectively become mostly bullet hells. Finding a shooting game that doesn’t just throw truckloads of bullets at you nowadays means we need to look back at some of the older titles.

This slot could’ve gone to the Psikyo Collection Vol 1 and 2, but the reason why The Game Paradise gets to this spot is two-fold; shooting game pureness and humour.

The whole set up for the game is that a mad scientist Yamada, who wants to take control over arcades and thus all of Japan. To prevent this,  an arcade worker Yuki Ito employs (forces) some of Jaleco’s classic characters to go in and fight Yamada’s plans in a different set of arcade machines. Well, the first level takes place in an arcade, before whiskering the player into a Wonder Hunting UFO catcher. The playable characters are a celebration of Jaleco’s past games like Exerion and Momko 120%. This new version of the game also adds few new characters into the mix, like Clarice from City Connection (who makes it very clear that the blonde Clarice from Gunbare! The Game Paradise  2 is a damn dirty fake.) With DLC you’re able to throw Honou from Pro Yakyuu series into the mix (playing a shooting game with a baseball player is surprisingly fun) and as a surprise collaboration Yuki can hop into the spaceship from Tatsujin., making her a playable character for the time.

The game’s core play is fantastic 90’s shooting, as mentioned. The core scoring system consists of collecting items, which ramp up in value in short burst as a score meter rises temporarily. All the items you collected from your last death are recounted at the end to the stage. Dying also drops your weapon level by one notch, but unlike some games, losing a weapon level doesn’t turn the game impossible. There is a good balance. Of course there are Options to pick up, which are the other characters and their weapons added to your own arsenal. Enemy patterns are usually relatively straightforward and the bullet patterns are thankfully far away from screen filling bullshit. The enemy variety is of course rather nice, considering each stage has its set of unique enemies and none of the are recycled from other stages.

This version of the game has an updated version of the original arcade game with options to choose an updated soundtrack and the like, but also the Saturn port of the original game, as it has a full story mode, to which I admit laughing far more than warranted. In addition, there is a history mode that explain history and characters from past Jaleco games that are in The Game Paradise Cruisin’ Mix Special, covering such things as the games’ launch dates, game play and their overall success by using flyers and posters. Of course there is fun to be had, as with Momoko 120% reminds the other characters (and the player) that the home release of the game had an anime license attached to it. Best part of this license mess is that the arcade game still uses Lum’s Love song as its BGM.

 

Note that despite this being Japanese version, all the text is in English, meaning everything’s baked in from get go

It’s such a joy to see a game like this being remastered after so long, and definitely gets a slot on the list.

 

Glove on Fight PC, 2002

Developed by Watanabe Seisakujo, a doujin circle that’s been doing games since the 90’s and got renamed as Soft Circle French-Bread when they went more or less professional, Glove on Fight is a shining example of core pureness in a game without any bells and whistles. Much like The Game Paradise above, this is a straight up otaku game with full of references. Well, it is a doujinshi game, they wouldn’t be able to use Kanon or Fate characters otherwise. Music’s diverse, ranging from rap, eurobeat and fusion jazz, and all of it is damn good.

The game is, however, extremely small and focused. You have five characters to choose from, and you’re able to unlock three more. While this does lack variety, it makes every character unique in their approach and play style, especially considering how every move has been fine tuned to perfection. In this game, there is no wasted space, with sprite and backgrounds representing the characters in this super deformed look nicely. The looks all intentional, as you couldn’t have this sort of boxing game based on timing without having clear motions or limbs. Even Capcom realised that the characters in Street Fighter II need to have slightly exaggerated hands and feet in order to show where punches and kicks are.

Controls follow the same focus, consisting of a Weak Attack, Strong Attack and Dodge. You can dash and weave with double tapping to a direction, and it is essential to time your movements not just to avoid hits, but to get some in. There are numerous special and Super moves, but they need to be land first. There is no jumping either, that’s a special move. Because things are this simple, the game’s extremely easy to get into, but once you realise how much skill it takes to time everything you do, the game’s balance becomes like an open book. It’ll take some time to get good at this game, but due to lack of content and characters, the game doesn’t have much staying power. Well, this is a small homebrew release after all, but still a game worth coming back again and again. There’s also the sequel, but we’re gonna get to that next year.

An absolute marvel of a game, which I hope French-Bread will come back to at some point in the future. Also, Power of Love is one of the best boxing game stage songs out there.

 

Honourable Mentions for those who didn’t make the cut

 

Monster Hunter World PS4, Xbox One, Steam, 2018

Despite dropping a hundred hours or so into the game, the Monster Hunter World feels a step backwards with each step is has taken forwards. Each time I play the game, I wish some elements from older games were present. These range from the progression being all over the place that doesn’t build up challenge, in which the game is lacking, to items that aren’t present for whatever reason. While some still bitch that there isn’t G-Rank, they seem to forget that no Monster Hunter has G-Rank in their initial release, it’s only reserved for the upgraded titles.

Then you have the maps. While it’s nice to see the maps as one whole, the only map that makes itself feel natural and like a living environment is the fist one, Ancient Forest. The rest feel like they should be split into ready parts, just like the previous titles. It’s sad to see that as the game progresses, the areas become more and more simple and are not taken advantage of. Little things also pop in here to drop the overall challenge, as previously desert areas required to have Chill Drink in order to keep the characters gaining damage from overheating, and in night setting the maps required the use of Hot Drink to fight cold. Despite wanting to make a more realistic and living worlds, all the small things like this that existed previously that the player had to account and prepare for are completely missing.

Whatever Iceborne expansion brings in, it should also change some of the core elements of the game simply to give the player more responsibility of themselves rather than pamper. Harder monsters and more content isn’t a fix to the game’s core issues, but these issues won’t be fixed as they’re designed as they now are. Still, far from being the worst entry in the series, and going back from the World to older games will feel cumbersome.

Bayonetta 2 Wii U 2014, Switch 2018

I loved the original Bayonetta. One of the best action games around, with Platinum showcasing that games should be at their best on the hardest difficulty setting. However, Bayonetta 2 is more of the same and while that’s all good, the game feels like it’s not reaching to the excellence as the first one. Then again, no sequel could have the effect and marvel the first game’s gameplay and stages could offer, despite everything been tuned further here. A game worth getting anyway, one of the best games on either Wii U or Switch.

Mega Man 11 Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam, 2018

I’d recommend reading the review of the game instead having me to repeat everything here. If I had not got Rockman World 5 this year, it would have taken is spot. However, that Game Boy game is just so damn good, that MM11 doesn’t really hold candle to it. Let’s hope number twelve will be World 5 of the mainline classic series.

Senran Kagura BURST Re:Newal Playstation 4, 2018

Y’know, I really loved the series’ no-nonsense gameplay. You could get in fast, strike hard, and have a stage over in half a minute if you were good and knew what you were doing. Burst Re:Newal however screws with the core gameplay by introducing a counter system that makes the gameplay slower. Well, almost stops the action in order to simply counter.  It’s an easy system, but implementation is weak at best. You’re show an attack range the enemy is doing, and depending on the colour and animation on it, you’re able to parry and counter attack. The thin is, it’s only on ground. If your camera is anywhere else, you have to resort looking at the enemy movements, but unlike in most other action games, the enemies themselves don’t have proper signals. That isn’t really a problem in itself, but when you have to stop playing the game just to wait to parry, shit’s just stupid. The system also changed how you stagger enemies in order to encourage parrying, so whatever fun the system previously had is broken. Marvelous didn’t make it smoother, they didn’t fine tune the game play to any extent, they just slapped an unnecessary element in a very haphazard way that’s intrusive at best. The Western PlayStation 4 version is also censored, so get it on Steam or the Japanese PS4 box if you’re a fan. Removing a whole game mode is absolutely retarded.

Omega Boost PlayStation, 1999

A PlayStation classic for sure, Omega Boost is one of those games that managed to have stable 60fps with fast action when 30fps was bog standard with pretty much everything on the system. It’s a short game, filled with bursts of high-speed action with good music, but perhaps it suffers from being far too focused at times, but other times the better tactic is just to float and do homing attacks. For a mecha game aimed for action, that’s disappointing at best. A rail shooter like had a lot of contest back then, and if I had to pick up from my library to play on a whim, I’d pick either Panzer Dragoon Zwei or Orta over Omega Boost simply because they’re better titles within the genre.

Valve continues to ban titles despite guidelines

Hoo boy.

Sometimes I have to wonder what the hell Valve is thinking as a company. Back in September Valve opened up their rules and restriction regarding the games and allowed anything legal on the platform, that that was great. That was a large step forwards when it comes to the market. However, recently there has been multiple takedowns and bans regarding visual novels and few adventure games and there seems to be one unifying theme across the board; children, be it in a school or fantasy setting .

It would seem that Valve is using Washington state legislature  in order to cover their bases regarding obscene content, but as One Angry Gamer points out, Valve is technically already complying with the state law by usage of adult filter, preventing the general public from viewing the material. However, that’s not really the issue, is it?

Visual Novels and most products based on Japanese culture tend to follow the culture of cute. It’s not uncommon for some of the materials to, especially material directed at an adult audience, porn or not, to throw some sexiness into the mix. The whole concept of sexy and cute isn’t anything new, but we can see that Japan has the whole thing on another level. I’ve discussed Comic Lemon People (planning on a historical on that for next year), Iczer-1 and numerous other series and products that have their roots in lolicon culture to some extent, and that sub-culture does seem to be partially responsible to these bans and removals.

This clashes harshly with American mentality when it comes to character designs and settings. The aforementioned sub-culture does have sexually suggestive themes regardless of its settings or characters and also in terms of visual design. To most Westerners, the lolicon culture seem to depict child characters, which would be somewhat inaccurate. It is not just a genre and way to depict something, but a sub-culture movement that began in the mid-70’s and came together in the 80’s. However, all that is lost in the discussion about the topic with pretty much anyone.

So you’re saying cultural differences are the reason why Valve is banning titles with minor-looking characters in a school setting? Partially. Whether or not we follow Washington state laws or not, the overall consensus about characters is that they’re depicting people or reality to some extent. We naturally refer characters as she or he, rather than it; we anthropomorphise characters naturally and give them humanity by sheer nature of our brain. Characters seem real, and in some cases, we regard them as real. Nevertheless, your favourite fiction is just that, fiction. It’s all make believe, and no real people are hurt. We know that, of course, but at the same time we can’t disassociate with the fact that an action made in fictional setting towards a character seems real.

The question I am asking of myself while reading these news stories and finally writing about the subject is whether or not it’s lolicon content as understood in modern Western terms, rather than in its popular culture context, should be allowed freely on Steam? Within the writer personae the answer is yes. In principle, the market should be voting with their wallets. But in person, I understand and see all the troubles and arguments that can be made left and right. Even if there was no sexual depiction, the issue is muddy. Japanese design, in and out of lolicon culture, often clash with the Western designs overall. There’s no winning against design choices that seem to sexualise schoolgirls, especially if the style makes them extremely cute. At the same time, I do feel Valve, and Western values overall in this subject, are taken to an extreme rather than concentrating at the core of the matter.

The problem here is the following: the core is different based on who views it.

Fictional depiction is regarded on the same level as photography (or real things as a whole) in certain parts of the world, and that’s the angle we most often see. The rest doesn’t even count as far as most modern Western legal systems are counted. How far are things going with this? Dead or Alive Dimensions on the Nintendo 3Ds and comic named Love Hina was pulled from sales as they were deemed to sexually depict minors. That might be ‘just Sweden’, but this is the exact same mindset Valve is employing, though not across the board. There are numerous titles on Steam that would fulfill the criteria they’re using behind the curtains with titles like Nipleheim’s Hunter and The Key to Home. However, to what extent Valve’s staff are extending their rules is unknown, as it seems to be based on the personal views and issues of the person who makes the decision. Those, ultimately, can’t be swayed.

Is this censorship under the guise of law? Most likely, but at the same time I understand Valve not wanting to be blamed for supporting child abuse through fictional characters. After all, Vale is ultimately responsible what’s on Steam, for better or worse. None of us need to like it, but at the same time, we can’t really achieve that utopian goal with things being still banned. Or is the problem the characters and settings? Some would say there wouldn’t be any bans if people weren’t creating hurtful and mentally sick content like this. The core of the matter is always different with different views.

You know what? No, I have a habit of making clear statements with the blogger’s angle, so let’s wrap this post up with a little bow; Valve has set up its rules. If the developer follows them and their title directly does not break law to any extent, it should not be banned. Screw personal views, screw cultural contexts or whether or not people like seeing things that make them uncomfortable. If it’s not breaking the law, Valve’s employees should hold their fingers off from the ban button.