Digimon Design Evolution

What’s this? No Aaltomies? No! A guest post by some random internet dweeb. The name is A9 and I sometimes work behind the shadows to read some posts over from Aaltomies before they are published. A while ago he asked me to write my own thing, and after postponing it for a long time (sorry Aalt!) I finally wrote this down. I have probably forgotten a few elements, so please bear with me.

So, how did the design of Digimon evolve over the years? For that, let’s look at the very first one created, the famous Agumon (and also a little at the often overshadowed Tryannomon).

As is often the case with any project: it changes over time. Kenji Watanabe, the longtime designer of the Digimon franchise revealed a lot about the series roots in a recent interview. Just like how Pokémon was more a dinosaur catching game called Capsule Monsters, the Digimon franchise started as a dinosaur themed tamagotchi aimed at younger boys (first named Otokotchi and then Capsule Zaurus). However, since these names would infringe on other companies’ products the name was changed to Digital Monster, which was then shortened to Digimon. This also marked the shift from just dinosaurs to the literal digital monsters, a real genre shift. There was a bit of a hurdle to overcome though: Pokémon had really kicked off and they would really have to differentiate themselves. A lot of designs, mainly of cute creatures with elemental colourings had to go due to this and this caused to have Watanabe free reign over the new designs. His inspiration: American comics such as Spawn.

Since these were the first designs, they were fully drawn, converted to pixel art, and then the drawings were tweaked again. In the future releases, the pixel art would come first.

As an example, let’s start with Agumon, since he’s undoubtedly one of the most famous of our Digital Pets. In essence, it’s a tiny dinosaur with oversized claws.

Quite the different look than we’re used to and very close to the pixel art look. This makes sense as the sprites were used on a very small screen, so making it too detailed would give you a pix elated mess. Something that was important though, was that even if some Digimon were cute, they had to have an element of fearsomeness to it. Otherwise it would just be cute critters beating each other up, which felt a bit sad to the development team.

The Virtual Pet proved to be quite successful, as they made five series of these between 1997 and 1998. Because of this, it sprouted two mangas and eventually an anime.

The series first had a one-shot in the 1997 summer issue of Akamaru Jump as C’mon Digimon: The capering monster BUN, featuring the still-popular Greymon, but also two Digimon who made their debuts. Now, even though these two haven’t been seen again since, they were both important building blocks for other Digimon.

Comparison Digimon
Design elements from Deathmon can be found in Evilmon and Gran Kuwagamon.

Let’s start with Deathmon, looking kind of different than the Agumon we’ve seen before. Deathmon, well, his design just screams ‘super evil’. In all honesty, it reminds me of a Super Sentai villain.  Deathmon can be seen back in Evilmon when you compare their mouths and general head structure, plus some nice spiky hair. The body, but mostly the arms and claws can be found back in Gran Kuwagamon. Obviously, it’s possible that this is a coincidence (since there are many, many different Digimon) but even if that is the case, it shows that some designs stick with the series.

Bun
Bun the special baby.

The other new Digimon is Bun, a small character with baby features (huge eyes and head), weird antennae and a weird dinosaur shaped torso with tail. According to its designer it was supposed to look a little bit like a very weird dog. But where does his design return? The serialisation of a manga.

That manga being Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01, a creation by the aforementioned Watanabe and the artist Tenya Yabuno. Although a lot of Digimon were already made for the Virtual Pet series, this manga introduced new Digimon as well through the joint effort of Watanabe and Yabuno. For example, the V-dramon line which stemmed from Bun.

Zeromaru
Zeromaru the V-dramon. The cutest fat fuck in the whole universe.

Now, I can’t lie, this manga made me appreciate V-dramon to such an extent it’s my personal favourite at this point. As its designer, Yabuno explains:

I did design [V-dramon] using C’mon Digimon as a base, so the keyword ‘pet dog’ still stuck with me. […] The Digimon Kenji-san (Watanabe) designs usually sport solid-looking legs, but I designed V-dramon with the image of a small, carnivorous dinosaur in mind. I had initially wanted to design it like a fluffy dog as well.

At the time, most Digimon could digivolve to quite different forms regardless of initial form (Agumon to Devimon for example). During the run of the manga, many more Digimon were created such as Angemon and HolyAngemon. This kind of changed how some forms would really resemble the Digimon from it’s previous level.

While the manga was being serialized, the anime got the OK sign (Digimon Adventure) and was starting preproduction, just like its first video game for the PlayStation 1 (Digimon World). These media really needed references, final designs to base itself on.

Three pretty different forms. Two new versions with their own sets of restrictions. Digimon World was a PlayStation 1 game, so the amount of polygons was severely limited. It’s still quite close to the official art, except for the colour which I’ve always found very strange. Now, for the anime there is obviously a lot less detail as is usually the case. This did cause this version to have less muscle and veins, so it appears a lot cuter than the original design: much smoother and more flat.

So when the game released on January 28 1999 and the anime started airing on March 7 of the same year, merch started to be pumped out. Figures, plushes, a trading card game, you name it.

The TCG and most of the toys are based on the official Bandai art. As a kid this always surprised me, as I got interested into the franchise thanks to the anime. Nevertheless, I have always thought that the cards especially were very striking.

At this point, there are already a ton of Digimon – but Bandai won’t stop, oh no. Even with its quite low budget, the anime was a good hit, and a sequel was made. I’m thankful I don’t have to discuss Digimon Adventure 02.

Let’s start with Veemon, the first critter above. He is in many ways a redesign of Bun from the one-shot manga and designed by working back from V-dramon and creating a more cute version. Heresy I say, V-dramon is cute enough.

One of the main themes of Digimon Adventure 02 was that Rookie Digimon could not digivolve thanks to the evil Digimon Emperor. Enter armor-digivolving, which give the Digimon.. armor. Usually very literally. Let’s not call it mecha, lets call it ‘tacking on random pieces on lengthened Digimon’. Wait, that’s the usual digivolve process now, isn’t it? Take a few pieces of the Rookie, put them on the adult, put it into the blender and presto.

All joking aside (mostly) the armor-digivolve process gave a different feel to the show, even if the show itself wasn’t all that great. Later in the show, everyone can normal digivovle again and Veemon can turn into.. oh, it’s XV-mon. No, no, that’s fine. Sure. Take away the stumpy legs and the big belly. Another redesign of sorts, more cool, more muscle. More importantly, more slim, no fatso’s allowed.

Moving over to the movies with unique visuals, the originally named Digimon Adventure (1999) and Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! (2000).

Both deviate from the main anime in their own way. As can be seen in these screenshots, the first Agumon is a bit bigger than in the anime (and for reference, that’s a baby so he’s not huge) and generally has a more scary, feral look by using more linework for detail in his arms, chest and neck. This is the case for all Rookie level or above Digimon in this movie. Our War Game takes a different approach, as they go for a lighter colour palette with an orange outline.

Now, a rather famous (or infamous) aspect of Digimon is born, the waifumon. Some would argue it would start with Renamon, but they’re a bunch of furries and I don’t want to talk about no damn furries.

Shutumon

Remember how Angemon and Angewoman were humanoids in Digimon Adventure? Yeah, now almost everyone is a pseudo-human. Thanks Digimon Frontier (2002)! Humans changing into Digimon! Bi-pedal, two arms, two legs, some very mild animal features and some element worked through in their design. Oh, and if its a woman, they have big tits. This trend will sadly continue for a while. I’m sure someone made a neat list of them, sorted by breast size.

Omegamon 3D

Another unique look, here is Digital Monster X-evolution released in 2005. Fully 3D, keeping true to designs but very, very far away from the American influence from where they were born. Not that I can blame them, it is more difficult to keep that style in a 3D environment. Also, I doubt that most people at Toei even like that style.

Talking about X-evolution also means talking about redesigns. In the extensive lore of the Digimon world, at one point there were too many Digimon so God decided to kill 99% of them with a virus. Certain Digimon managed to resist though, through the X-antibody, causing them to change appearance and power up significantly.

Take a look at these Metal Garurumon. The original design stems from 1999 and the redesign was made in 2003. And what a difference! It was important to really set the X-antibody line apart from the originals and give them a more unique look. In my opinion, they really succeeded with this one causing it to feel a bit more gritty. Overall, dinosaurs look more like dinosaurs, robots look more like robots, beasts look more like beasts. I don’t want to call it more realistic, but they are definitely set apart from the rest.

Shoutmon X3

Honest acknowledgement: I never watched this series, I just really didn’t feel like it looked like Digimon. Did someone mentioned Gundam yet? No? Good, cause Xros Wars (2010) looks like Gundam. Whole lotta robots, man-shaped machines, bug-shaped machines, but Digimon. Look, I like me some Gundam as much as the next guy, but I’ve lost the Digimon aspect here.

Agumon had many forms, in many games. Usually they look like.. well, a normal Agumon. Either more styled towards the anime, or the Bandai design. But sometimes.. sometimes it just goes wrong. Enter the PSP title Digimon Re:Digitised (2012).

Agumon (Re:Digitize)
“Please kill me.”

I like the shading and it looks like the original design. But why, do tell me, WHY is he slouching like this? Bad posture! Bad! Dragging his claws across the floor. He poses no danger at all, he’s a slouch. A sloth. Sloth Agumon to the rescue. Good thing the game is pretty decent.

Agumon Tri

Did someone say another redesign? Because Digimon Tri (2015) brought us another redesign and a very welcome one I have to say. More faded colours than the original Adventure, more scrawny arms but bigger claws. Not quite as bulky as the original Bandai design, but closer than before. A faithful remake, but I wouldn’t mind him looking a bit less friendly. Still, I cannot deny that I just love that cute little dinosaur.

Updated on 20-01-2018 to add the Gran Kuwagamon similarity to Deathmon (thanks Casp) and a small bit about the X-antibody Digimon that I forgot.

Advertisements

20 out of 40

Sometimes I just have to sit down and look at my game library and think how many of these games I can play as they are without bothering with online connectivity, updating or needing to consider whether or not I want a character to have a five dollar add-on to power up. Most of my games are complete packages, sold as they were finished. No product is ever truly finished, there are always things that should be tweaked, fixed, added or so on. Perhaps it betrays my stance on how games should be sold as (or rather, anything) where options can be bolted on, but are not necessary as such.

A discussion with a younger friend noted that this line of thought is exactly what I should consider DLC as. The core software is purchased, and it can be enjoyed as is. If I want to get the nice bells and whistles, then I can throw some money at it to add those optional components on. Otherwise, I can always just ignore the content and concentrate on enjoying what is on the table in front of me.

I had to argue against this, of course. While my comparison did turn against me, I had to note to him that modern DLC is not just about trinkets that would serve as optional, like costumes in Dead or Alive  games or Oblivion‘s horse armour. No, modern DLC has changed from being additional content to the game and have become more like expansion packs that exist from the get-go. Even that comparison is rather weak, as expansion packs were new content that added to the game rather than being designed to be part of the main package. It’s like if you would need to buy Red Alert: Aftermath to gain access to the units and maps in the game proper. Or as it was in case of Mass Effect 3, the game’s real ending was part of DLC.

While it is true that the production costs have risen in the game industry, they have not risen the way the big names overall want to paint it as. It has been largely chosen by these developers to push technological and graphical elements to the limits while employing celebrities and writers to work on their games. This is weird, considering games with less emphasize on these things tend to succeed just as well, if not better in some cases. Look at the latest Super Mario game and consider its resource expends compared to whatever was EA’s latest big Tripple A title. While graphics do make an impact on the sales, the industry forgets that this is an element of computer game culture, much less part of console gaming, where visual design over graphical fidelity matters more.

Perhaps thanks to Capcom, fighting  games and their DLC are not in favourable light, overall. With Street Fighter X Tekken, all the DLC characters were found on-disc, and the purchase was just to unlock them from disc. Calling this DLC was a stretch at best. Similarly, Marvel VS Capcom Infinity had all of its most interesting cast members in the DLC section as well most work put into them. It didn’t help that these characters were present in the game otherwise, telling that pretty much the same deal had happened. Street Fighter V was made to be a platform that Capcom tweaked and expanded upon with Seasons, and they dropped new characters unto it as time went by. Maybe this was a way to keep the players interested on the long term without releasing a completely new title, but it hurt the sales quite a lot. It didn’t help that SFV wasn’t received all that well on the game play department either, which really just made people to wait Capcom to release further versions of the game, like they all always do. Well, Arcade Edition is coming out, but still has the seasonal bullshit welded to it,

Arc Systems Works have been more transparent with their practices to a point, where they’ve recently announced intentions to make additional characters for Dragon Ball Fighters Z DLC, as well as adding DLC characters into BlazBlue‘s and Guilty Gear Xrd‘s later iterations, making it largely unnecessary to purchase them, if you’re willing to wait.

However, ArcSys has dropped the ball with BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, as they announced that half of the cast will be DLC. 20 characters out of 40 will be treated as additional content for you to download. Sure, buy the collector’s box the get download code for All-in-One pack, but if you’re a lowly peasant, be prepared to dish out the dough for twenty characters if you want a complete package. I am using the term “complete” here as it is clear that everything’s planned beforehand and intended as the core package. Certainly it is cheaper and easier to develop DLC as the game’s proper development goes toward the end, which betrays the mentality in which game development nowadays aims to maximise profits at the expense of the consumer. It’s like buying a chicken sandwich, and then hearing that the second half of the chicken needs to be purchased separately, though it is cut from the same piece of meat.

Despite the transparency, this sort of approach really drains the juices. There are consumers who have already stated that they will skip the Dragon Ball Fighters Z just to wait its second version, which will fix bugs, make balance better, add new characters and moves, because that’s how things seem to work. I am glad to see that no other fighting game has gone Street Fighter V‘s platform approach, where you purchase a very weak base, unto which everything else needs to buy bought for. Though free versions of full price games with limited characters and content have been a thing with DoA and Tekken.

The big question is, especially with fighting games, at which point we will cease from seeing complete, fully realised releases in favour of each element being sold as a separate, “optional” addition. At that point, we’re probably pretty screwed, and so would be the industry.

“Should any actions be disallowed within the seemingly consequence-free context of a video game? “

The question in the title of this post was pitched by Simon Parkin in his Gamasutra post Where next for the video game power fantasy? The answer to this, from the point of view of this blog, is Yes.

Video games are not reality. While it does affect us, like any other form of entertainment (or anything, if we get down to it), games are not art. Well, as much as mountain climbing racing, playing blackjack or children’s play is. Parkin starts with an assertion that games are art first and foremost, which is where his questions tumble around. Yes, no subject should be off-limits to art, if we are to keep art as a form of free expression. If we are to consider video games as art, the same rules apply. Then if we don’t, then there are subject off-limits from games? No, free market is to decide on that. Just like with the role-playing games you have in the bed, certain games are meant for adults only, and should have the freedom to touch on any subject the creator/s wish. They just need to present in a marketable form and offer good gameplay.

Without a doubt the paper Parkin refers to in the article, where Madary and Metsinger suggest a code for ethical conduct, has some relevance to how VR is handled. The human mind, and brain overall, are rather plastic and can be moulded in surprising ways. The nurture of environment is significant, though nature affects as well. Both sides play a significant part in who we become and how we change throughout our lifetime. Playing a game sure does affect us, be it enhancing out eye-hand coordination or something else. VR, as both Madary and Metzinger suggest with an assertion from Parkin, is not physical. While VR users “experience” the Virtual World, the fact it’s just a headset on your head doesn’t go away. Whatever level of graphics and whatnot you have, only certain kind of people who lose themselves into these software and mix them with reality.

Virtual Reality, as it is now, does not introduce any sort of emotions that could not be introduced outside other means of entertainment. Certainly, putting the user in the first-person experience of a horrible murder or becoming the murderer in a game has its effect, yet it still be audiovisual stimulation. VR is not at the level where it would be able to give full-body feedback or be used without the goggles.

The whole discussion about VR possibly having content that is not suited for everyone. Your standard information what a sofware or game includes and what is its target audience is enough. A consumer must be informed of the content type, and of his own condition. In case of parents, they should be able to follow their child’s growth and estimate what sort of material they should be able to consume at what age. Certain children may be to handle harder and more serious materials earlier on, while with others it may take a while longer.

This form of discussion whether or not VR software particular should have limitations for their content is the same discussion we’ve had about tabletop games causing kids to become devil worshipers or certain kind of music being bad for the youth, be it Rock or Heavy Metal. The terms and words have been changed around to sound more convincing and suitable, but in the end the discussion still ends up being This thing may be harmful for some, it must be banned for all.

Parkin quotes Scott Stephen about how VR users are careful not to collide with other scale models of humans, and this somehow shows the gaps being closer with brain, body and motor-skill. While I don’t want to stick with this point, it really sounds more like the players are have the same level of immersion than with First-person games overall. Any FPS has some sort of model of self, which has a hurtbox that interacts with the environment. Of course people who play VR game would be aware of their virtual avatar and try to avoid collision with others, just like they would do otherwise in a game. Collision with other characters usually slows you down, or in case of some games, hurt the character (or you, the player.)

I’m just going to slide Parkin’s comment on virtual crimes, because there is no such thing, because any crime committed would be a real crime.

I contest his assertion, and by that extend, Robo Recall‘s designer Shawn Patton’s definition, of power fantasy of something people wouldn’t have no means or ability to do in real life. If that would be the case, each and every daydream we have or similar would be counted as a power fantasy, making it far too broad and lacking in definition. In reality, what he describes is escapism, or people being able to do whatever they want without putting the everyday’s hard work into it. By Patton’s definition, Harvest Moon would be power fantasy, because so many people do not have the power or means to farm in real life. Hell, even Tetris can be fitted to this mould by saying it gives the players god-like control over falling blocks and sweep them into non-existence.

Parkin suggesting that developers should begin to implement punishment to people who would act in an unapproved ways is inane. If games, and VR software in particular, affect us in such major ways as Parkin suggested earlier, and now is suggesting developers would use that power to essentially influence the consumers’ behaviour to some, socially more acceptable direction shows that there is an agenda underneath here. To boil it down, games should steer away from the icky and serious stuff and slap your hand if you oogle a character’s ass too long. Give me a goddamn break.

And the coup de grâce of for Parkin’s post him comparing reading a book to a video game. He finds it weird that people talk about beating games, but not about beating Moby Dick. This comparison is like saying it’s weird how people always speak about watching a movie rather than reading it, or watching music rather then beating it. Games are meant to be defeated, ie. completed (or in case of earlier arcade games, to gain as high Score as possible) and it does not limit the medium. Parkin’s approach in this is that games are akin to literary works, not literal games. A video game, any  video game, has closer ties to soccer than Moby Dick. Here is why his take games as art fails, because he does not understand that games are not related to literary works or art as a whole. His inability to see that a fail state in a game is loss on the player’s part, and if you really want to get down to the whole story thing in games, there are buttloads of games that touch on failure, death, loss and pain. Hell, just look at how Metal Gear Solid 3 through V and Nier Automata handle serious topics. If we want to get on the meta-commentary train, failing in a game and gaining a Game Over screen or the like is real-time commentary on the failure of the player’s skills and inabilities to overcome a challenge.

The whole disempowerment fantasy is laugahble at best. Games where the system is gimped against you are not uncommon, and if realised unsuccessfully, just drag the experience and often seem to put the message and literary narrative over the gameplay and the narrative the player creates through action. Hell, the way Ian Bogost describes them sounds like they’re taking the game out of video games. They’re nothing new, but the way Parkin emphasizes their special place looks almost masochistic. I’ll leave it up to you if it tells about certain people’s want to lift helplessness and inability to take control of things to a high status.

The rest of the post really is going the points again with some paint slabbed on to it. I can’t help but admire how actions taken in a video game are compared to trafficking women or child slaves (apparently, trafficking men and adult salves is A-OK.) VR alone doesn’t have the question of psychological impact. Any form of media has to ask this, but in the end, it is the user who determines what he is willing to consume. Making a general sweep like this, assuming that an intended emotional reaction will affect people as expected, is outright stupidity. I’m sure Parkin intended something else than comedy with his Moby Dick comparison earlier on. Claiming that VR somehow is the first thing to put people in the middle of something as themselves echoes empty. VR tricks us to believe something is real as much as any movie or non-real entertainment. It’s called immersion. To reiterate what I said earlier; only people with mental problems would not be able to differentiate reality from fiction. VR boom has already passed, and we’re setting at its low-tide. Just like how 3D screens went.

The whole blockbuster comparison though is pretty spot on. The market decides what’s successful and what is not, and though in the more recent history of video games we’ve seen far less copying game elements from other successful titles and more sequels based on long-running franchises. And no, it’s not problematic to “flatter players through power fantasies.” If anything is the problem here, it’s the fact that people are trying to limit designers and developers from doing what they want all the while wanting to push their own influence through the same channels they criticise.

Virtual-On Historical: Operation Moongate

Virtual-On is one of Sega’s hallmark game franchises, developed by Sega’s AM3 department. It had everything the arcades required in 1996; 3D graphics that you wouldn’t see at home, unique controls, flashy graphics and fast paced gameplay. When most of the 3D mecha combat games on the market aimed for slow and emphasized on realistic simulation, like Shattered Metal or Mech Warrior 2, Virtual-On hit the arcades with sharp, colourful 3D models in fast paced third-person action with (relatively) easy controls. This is perhaps the best example of East VS. West mentality when it comes to giant robots. Even in arcades, among other blooming 3D games, Virtual-On stood apart with its excellent presentation and unrelenting game play.

 

Continue reading “Virtual-On Historical: Operation Moongate”

A Sequel of its own

With the upcoming Toaru Majutsu no Virtual On and whatever writeups I’ll end up doing on the VO series, I had to stop for a moment and consider how I should approach this whole deal. This is because of the major preconception about Marz and Force that are about, especially in the core fandom that refuse to play the games without a Twin Stick. I haven’t had a chance to ever play Force, something that should change relatively soon, but the memories what I have of Marz have been coloured by time and other sources. That isn’t good, and would keep me form properly viewing the series as a whole while still trying to view the games as individuals.

That led me to the question What is a good game sequel?  There are probably as many answers to this as there are people, and I recall making a post about this very subject years back. I tried to look it up (in terror) but found nothing. Either my search-fu is too weak, or I’m remembering things wrong.

I can pick up the usual example I use about a good sequel and a bad sequel for the same game; Super Mario Bros. The Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is known as The Lost Levels in the West, and for a good reason; it’s a terrible sequel. It doesn’t change the formula one bit or makes additional tweaks to make the game play smoother. It simply is more stages, just loads harder for those who found the first the game too easy. Titles like this would become expansions down the line, additional bits bolted to make further use of the core game while keeping from expanding in any significant way.

The good example, as you might’ve already guessed it, is Super Mario Bros 2, or USA if you’re a moonlander. Sure, it’s a graphics swap of Doki Doki Panic, and whatever fake outrage the Internet may have about it, it really shows how Nintendo made good use of the game. As said, the Japanese SMB2 isn’t anything special, and didn’t push the envelope. The Western SMB2 on the other hand did, upgrading the engine, additional playable characters with different properties,  new usable skills, vast large new world with all new enemies to jump on. It’s a terrific sequel, albeit a bit too long at times. Its music is still memorable, with remixes of it still appearing in modern titles alongside Birdo.

The emphasize for the world up there is important, because SMB3 further expanded on everything, and we got to see the world outside Mushroom Kingdom. No Mario game has felt this grand, not even Galaxy.

The NES Mario Trilogy has three games, all of which stand alone as fine examples of 2D action games, while as a whole they showcase the evolution of the NES games throughout the system’s age. I tend to gravitate towards this example, because it would seem the best way for a sequel to strike through is to follow this example. A sequel needs to keep the core game play idea intact without compromising in expanding them as well as expanding the rest of the game. This doesn’t necessarily translate into larger game per se, or into bigger story, but rather into a game that doesn’t just stick new content unto old base directly.

How would this thinking fit something like Virtual On? Super Mario Bros. 2 can’t be directly used as a comparison point, but Street Fighter series can be, and they’ve stuck to these principles pretty much all the way through, for better or worse. With pretty much the whole series at our hands, with video footage, reviews and most of the games easily available in a way or another, we should be able to make proper heads and tails how the series has progressed, what has gone wrong and what are sort of value each game in the series has. Value in this context would mean both perceived value and proper value, which often gets mucked down by the fact that we’re subjective. As said, we can always aim for the ideal objectivity.

And this is why I won’t hold my breath doing this short series, an entry per game. Without a doubt these entries will become reviews on their own, because that’s the kind of thing that just naturally happens when you’re trying to make a relatively complete overview on a series of games. However, they need to be reviews from two angles; a review from the angle of the game being a standalone, and one from a series perspective. This is essentially long form to say that I’m giving the benefit of the doubt and straying away from preconceptions. Though I can’t really deny my intuition (which is why I’m not paying 50€ for a used copy of VO Force when I can grab it for a thousand yen.)

Virtual On‘s gameplay and design doesn’t really allow too much leeway to muck with its formula, so it’s not surprise that the game play would be polished and tweaked to high levels relatively soon. Then again, a straight-up arcade game rarely survives this day and age on home systems, especially if its a full-fledged entry with high production values rather than another pixel-based indie throwback.

Perhaps this approach is a wrong, but I hope to see the forest from the trees and vice versa. Maybe it’s been coloured by personal views a bit too much, but I’d rather try to look a mediating middle ground of things when it comes to games rather than judging stuff outright. You can’t judge a book by its cover (though sometimes, you damn well can), and the same applies to games. Even then, entertainment pieces tend to gain their fame for good reasons. Which is funny, because whenever you hear someone mentioning Virtual On, you mostly hear only about Oratorio Tangram, the second game in the series, and the first one kind of left in its shadow despite having surprisingly hefty underground fanbase within the overall VO fandom.

Just like certain 80’s series still have a small but strong fandom going on.

 

Music of the Month; Radio Allergy

Welcome to 2018. I hope you’ll have fun. All things considered, last year wasn’t all that bad.

Looking down the year, and how I failed miserably to keep up a theme during last twelve months, I won’t be doing a monthly themed posts for now. Partially because single posts seem to do so much better when they’re not tied to anything. However, the usual stuff will return in more or less the same shape; Muv-Luv‘s TSF comparisons I’ve yet to cover (there are still few of them on the table), Guilty Gear character design comparisons (those always seem to do rather well) and the occasional mecha design thing, which will have no running theme or the like. Unless someone just pops in and gives me twelve points per theme to talk about. These aren’t New Year’s resolutions, I made none this year, but these are something you can look forwards.

However, looking at the reviews I’ve done, with some feedback from a poll I did a month back or so, it would seem that there is some demand for game reviews. However, these won’t be taking any precedence over other stuff (I still aim to do weird peripheral or other reviews if I can),  but I will review the more esoteric titles that may not see Western releases, like the upcoming A Certain Magical Virtual On. I actually got into the A Certain Magical Index/ Scientific Railgun series because of this upcoming Virtual On crossover, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised on its quality. I had a chance to try and observe how I went from not giving a single damn about the license to actively looking forward how things get combined. That’s a post on its own.

You may have noticed that the Top 5 of 2017 was filled with modern games as opposed to NES or SNES games, and I kinda expect this sort of trend to continue, at least for the first half of the year. There are numerous games coming out this year that I am interested in, and that new VO title really is the one I’m looking for the most. It should give me some material to discuss the differences in the series overall, as I aim to gain the PS2 SEGA Ages release of the first game as well as Virtual On Force. I guess that’s a series of posts on itself, and now that I think about it, I should start writing this series this month, so I can write about A Certain Magical Virtual On right after Oratorio Tangram, as that seems to be the most popular and well-known title in the series. Marz is pretty terrible, but just how terrible? Well, we’ll see.

Which leads to something I’ve been considering doing for a while now; moving slightly away from the writer persona while doing these posts and aiming to do few more personal things… like what I just said about the A Certain X series. That is not to say it’s being abandoned, but long time readers know how I’ve lamented the fact that me and the writer persona have become more or less the same thing. I probably will add a new tag to denote which post has been written from which point of view, but they should be clear. For example, if I were to write how hardback books are superior to paperbacks, that’s a completely subjective view and lacks the writer persona’s view. Whether or not this will cause the quality of the blog drop is another thing entirely, but it’s not like this blog has high standards to begin with, right? Not that these would become the main thing on the blog. Knowing me, I won’t even go through with this at all, but at least its out there.

As for the Digimon design evolution post that was supposed to come up last year, A9Doc hasn’t gotten around finishing it yet, probably due to sheer amount of examples and other stuff that he needs to go over and double-check. I should do one of these as well at some point, the subject is what I should decide on. The Metal Gear  posts are a great example of this sort of thing, so something similar that has a single running object being updated would be great. Something like the design evolution of Pikachu, if it wasn’t something bigger fans have already covered.

As for Muv-Luv, well, there really isn’t anything to go by. With ixtl taking charge of the Kickstarter, backers and fans can only cross their fingers and hope that nothing gets screwed up. I haven’t found enough good sources to comment on whether or not avex pictures acquiring ixtl/âge will be a good thing on the long run, but I’d argue we’ve already seen large shifts within ixtl, with things being rather silent, Kickstarter being taken over (I keep using taken over, because I guarantee you a company like Degica didn’t want to see others meddling in their affairs, even when ixtl is the rights owner) and the lacking news and such. Not that I can blame anyone in charge of these, Japanese corporate politics are such horseshit at times.

As for personal things that might matter for the blog, in some two to three months I’ll be finalising my career change, if all things go as they should. Due to me and my personal life not actually mattering jack shit, all I’ll be saying that depending on the workload and hours I’ll be putting into it, posts may decrease or increase. I keep saying variations of this, because things haven’t been exactly stable for me for number of years now, but maybe this year I’ll be able to have a job that doesn’t require me to screw with the timetables

All that said, have a good one and enjoy your day.

Top 5 Games of 2017

It’s time for the last post of the year. As per tradition, time to go over the Top 5 games of the past year I’ve played, with additional five games that for multiple reasons didn’t get the spot, but I still played them more than I should’ve had.

Classic rules still apply; game can be from any year and I must have played the game for the first time this year in physical form, even if I had played the game previously otherwise. Digital-only games don’t need to apply, and I’m being strict on this rule this time around. Sadly, this also means Sonic Mania isn’t on this list, but it really should be. This year the amount of contenders were less than previously, so for once we have more mainstream titles from current year on the list. This also counts as the month’s review. The games aren’t in any specific order, but as usual, I’ve reserved the 4th and 5th spots for more special titles.

Continue reading “Top 5 Games of 2017”