Stuck in (crowdfunding) eternity

So, the guys at âge are intending to put up another crowdfunding to remake Kimi ga Nozomu Eien: Latest Edition to current Windows, and probably consoles down the line. This is a fully standalone fare and has nothing to do with the Muv-Luv Kickstarter. As such, we need to take a deep breath of this fresh air and consider whether or not there are any reason to back it.

At first glance, the plan seems to be solid, but very one-sided. As it stands, the crowdfunding will be for Japanese version development only. An English version might have another round of crowdfunding. It is only a possibility, so if you are an English speaking fan with no Japanese language skills, your incentive to support the first round of crowdfunding would be for the merch âge might put down, and for the possibility of another crowdfunding for the English version. This very unfair for Western fans, especially now that the economy is tanking hard worldwide and everything is getting more expensive each day.

While I can’t say anything solid, my guess why âge would want to proceed with this sort of path, for now, is that the Muv-Luv Kickstarter ended up being a net monetary loss overall for all. The production of goods cost more than initially anticipated and shipping stuff out took longer than expected, which in most cases leads to extra storage costs. Seeing how âge wants to approach this Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake crowdfunding, they probably want to play it close to home. Crowdfunding is full of potholes a first-time runner won’t know about, and the amount of stuff people could get as backers was somewhat insane in hindsight. Kouki has been going on and off about the Kickstarter and the staff in a backhanded way in his vids, and while he hasn’t named any names, seems to carry ill will towards some of them. If I’m being frank, his ego is showing in a negative way, and its apparent how âge has approached KGNE remake’s crowdfunding.

Another issue is that due to market reasons and nuances, this remake will be all-ages. No R18 material will be included or patched. There are a few ways to describe it. Seems like the Japanese side tends to use PS2-version as the main descriptor, some use All-Ages like yours truly, and then there’s the straight up and blatant censorship. I get why all three have their reasons. Though I admit I will call this case censorship as well, as Latest Edition has erotica, and its Remake won’t. I stand by my old argument that these scenes are important to the story and characterization, as they reveal important weaknesses and strengths with each character. Some are rather in your face for sure, but some really are a crux. Losing them lessens the story itself. You can dance around them and depict their effects in different ways, like what the how the TV anime adaptation did, but more often than not, that’s less effective.

Kouki himself has begrudged the attitude difference between the domestic and the Overseas fans. Apparently, the Japanese fans are more understanding and see the little nuances that prevent these scenes from being included, while the Overseas fans are more ready to drop criticism and ask demand full R18 version to be made.

Of course, the market is the thing that is cited to be reason why Latest Edition’s remake will be All-Ages. You won’t get on Steam if your game has porn in it, the reason why indie developer Shimenawan is also pulling the plug Lorena and the land of Ruins’ adult content in Japan as well. While there are other platforms that would freely allow fully adult versions of games being sold, and with someone like Mangagamer a physical copy in form a USB drive would be possible too, âge has no real incentive do develop another version. In principle, they might see more sales from fans who double dip in both ponds, but considering how omnipresent Valve seems to be in the digital PC games market, someone during the approval process might pull brake the process to halt if there’s another version that has “questionable content.”

Things get a bit more complex when take into notion that âge hasn’t been in charge of the ship since Avex came into the picture. It’s a bit of a mess how the companies are connected. Let me correct one thing that I constantly say but don’t really intent; âge wasn’t in charge of the Muv-Luv crowdfunding. Degica licensed Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative from ixtl, which was an entity that managed ACID’s copyrights and did development too, but was replaced with aNCHOR after Avex bought ixtl. âge’s just one of the brand names ACID owns, but any of the works produced by âge until 2020 are owned by aNCHOR, which is owned by Avex. âge, in effect is now jointly ran by both ACID and aNCHOR. I wonder why Kouki has tried to establish the distinction between the companies and projects recently.

While this upcoming Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Remake crowdfunding is ACID’s plan, they are allowed to do it with the permission from aNCHOR, and ultimately with Avex’s blessing. âge, or rather ACID, is no longer in position to freely develop and create products like those that they did before ixtl was established in 2011.

We can make a not-too farfetched guess that it’s not just the market forces that would prevent a full R18 version of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake from being made, but also corporate pressure from above. All the works that carries âge branding have become increasingly more cleaned up for general consumption. While I’m glad to see the more people enjoying Muv-Luv, I must admit that the necessary changes the developers and publishers have made to the IP has been a disappointment all around. Muv-Luv has changed, and so have the people in charge and the fans themselves.

I feel the franchise left me. Don’t mind that most of the post-Muv-Luv Alternative productions have been largely low quality or just generic garbage, but with all the changes and in-fighting, I’m still holding my original VNs and other pieces and wondering what really went wrong. While I can always say that, everything that goes mainstream is always ruined and trying to cater to the mainstream audience ruined the franchise, that’s not cutting it or even properly true. There’s been a more fundamental change, with Kouki having the dream of seeing Muv-Luv animated as the driving force. Has all the changes and projects been all about making that final deal with the devil?

I dropped the MLA after the first episode, and haven’t picked it back up since. From what I’ve heard, the show’s polarizing to a rather extreme extent.

So, I’m stuck. I’m not interested in a clean-up version of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Visual Novel that lacks content its previous version had, which makes Latest Edition the de-facto most complete edition of the work. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Reboot is still under the wraps and is a wholly different product, in which I have no interest. Make something new instead, a new Kimi ga VN for example. Muv-Luv Alternative sequels are in the works and coming, alongside all those side projects, so there are plenty of pieces to visit and see, but ultimately, it doesn’t work for me.

Is that all âge brand is now? Remaking and rebooting, making sequels and spin-offs? It’s all so terribly dull. With the KGNE Remake crowdfunding, intending to produce for Japanese market only in its first round, it’s as if there’s an underlying hostility towards the Overseas audiences. This seems to extend to the translators they employ roundabout ways too, if those streams are hearsays are anything to go by.

In all honesty, I do think remaking Latest Edition is a mistake, especially through a crowdfunding. That may be their only way to get it funded, but budget should never be an issue thrown at your fans like this. When the Muv-Luv Kickstarter was finished and rumours about Kimi ga Nozomu Eien being the next thing, people expected more or less a straight updated engine with a translation and nothing more. They could’ve gotten translation for that easily and cheaply at the time, but now things aren’t as rosy anymore. I hate corporate politics and what they do to people.

I have no incentive to support this crowdfunding. All I really ever wanted from âge, or ACID or whatever company owns the rights this Friday, to put Kimi ga Nozomu Eien out in English without any cuts made. So, at least during the first round of things, why bother putting down any money? I don’t like funding possibilities in this sort of economy. All this is out of my hands in every regard, so I’m not sweating over it. It can’t be helped.

There’s a large amount of new fans out there too. It’s a joy to see people loving something and being passionate about. If the franchise, and the people heading the franchise, had to change to ensure the longevity of the whole shebang, then that’s the nature of the beast I guess. The original works aren’t going anywhere from my shelf, and I can always dig deeper into them and further explore what makes them tick. Nowadays there are so many options to use AI and auto-translation tools that weren’t available before, making things a bit easier too. Seeing how fans have changed throughout these years does make me feel like an âgeing relic.

Modding Sega Saturn Virtual-On Twin Stick for PC, PS4 and more

With all the Twin Sticks out there, the cheapest and most available one happens to be the Sega Saturn Twin Stick. While it’s not as desirable as the Dreamcast stick due to cheaper parts, it’s not as desirable as the Hori controllers, and it’s not nearly as expensive as the Tanita stick. What it is then? It’s an easy target for modifications, since it offers a solid base where you can either scratch-build Twin Sticks or just mod the existing innards to function on PC or PS4. Why these two? Because the PS3 emulator RPCS3 now supports all ports of Sega Model 2 games, including Virtua Fighter 2, and their online functions. The easiest and best way for you to access the arcade-accurate port of the original Cyber Trooper Virtual-On, and get your friends to try the series out (either because they’re cheap or don’t own a PS4.) PS4 is also the other target machine, as it has the Masterpiece collection, offering you the best legal way to access the three main Virtual-On games with no compatibility issues whatsoever. Sadly, this will not work on A Certain Magical Virtual-On, because it has no proper controller option to enable compatibility. The only Twin Stick that works on the game is Tanita’s.

The principle of this modification is as follows: Using Brook’s Universal Fighting Board we are able to use the Twin Sick on multiple platforms. We ditch the Saturn controller PCB for dead-simplicity. We could accommodate both PCBs and have a switch that retains the original Saturn compatibility, but we don’t. By wiring the controller’s cables to the right positions, we have a ready controller dedicated to Virtual-On as the games offer multiple controller setups, one of which uses the face buttons as Right Stick.

I’ve tried to make this as down-to-earth and simple as possible. However, due to possible variations in the Saturn Twin Stick cabling, I strongly recommend using a multimeter to check out what cable does what.

What you need for this mod is;

The setup shown here is a mess and should not be used as a direct reference. Please try out your own setup how you put down the Brook PCB and how you get each wire to its proper place.

Where to connect the Twin Stick’s wires, here’s a clear picture of the PCB from Brook’s own site.

Note that due to the Pin/Connectors being installed, L3 and R3 spots are covered.

Some preparations need to be done before starting with the wiring, however. Detach the original Saturn controller PCB from the casing, and cut the wires from the connectors, so you have the maximum length of wire from the stick bottoms. You can either discard the PCB and the Saturn cable or save them for a later project. You can use the existing Start buttonhole for a button, or glue it shut. Create some kind of base for the PCB, so it doesn’t touch the metal plate.

Wires from the right side stick on the photo go to the following slots on the PCB;

  • The five wires next to each other (Equals to L-Stick directions)
    • Red to Left
    • Orange to Right
    • Brown to Up
    • Black to Down
    • Yellow to Ground
  • The three wires coming from the bottom side of the right stick (These are the wires for the buttons on the Stick)
    • Red to P3
    • Brown to 4K
    • Black to Ground

Wires from the left side of the photo go to the following slots on the PCB;

  • The five wires next to each other (Equals to the Action buttons)
    • Red to 4P
    • Orange to 2K
    • Brown to 2P
    • Black to 1K
    • Yellow to Ground
  • The three wires coming from the bottom of the left stick
    • Red to 4P
    • Brown to 3K
    • Black to Ground

You need to drill holes for the extra buttons on the controller case. I’ve chosen the top for aesthetics, and because I didn’t want to drill the steel plate the sticks sit in. Try what place works best for you. I’ve used four momentary switches with 12mm installation diameter for each. I’ve lined the buttons in a similar fashion as they appear on a PS4 controller. From Right to Left, they’re Start, Touch Panel, Select, and L3. I need to add two more for Home and R3 at some point. In the above photo of the insides, they’re of course reversed. Each of the buttons has its own place on the PCB.

However, L3 and R3 are the spots where you need to use those Jumper cables or the 4-button harness. This is why you need the Pin/Connector version, so you’ll avoid soldering. The rest of the buttons need those cables, like the linked Sanwa harness for easy installation. Use the legend below to check properly to which point to attach the jumper cables/ 4-pin harness.

See L3 and R3 there? Use the Jumper cables with these, or if you can, solder.

Using the harness with its clip heads makes it easier to attach the cables to the buttons, but you need to find the proper buttons for that. You can use one common Ground for these buttons. If you look at the photo, I’ve daisy-chained them together.

When attaching the USB cable, be sure to loop it properly via the existing cable slot. Use some extra material to pad the hole, as the bottom metal plate may begin to chafe on the cable in the long run. Having some extra material around the cable here helps with this.

After you’ve finished with the wires and managed to test that all buttons work in your PC’s USB controller test suite, it’s time to boot up Cyber Trooper Virtual-On on either your PS3 or RPCS3 and set it up there. If you’re testing this on the emulator, change the controller setting as follows; Input Start, Select, and L3 as normal. For your left-hand stick, set it up as a normal L-Stick. The right-hand stick on the other has to be set up as follows; Up is Triangle, Left is Square, Down is Cross and Right is Circle. You can also assign it R-Stick. As for the triggers and thumb buttons; Right Trigger is R2, Left Trigger is L2, the Right thumb button is R1, and the Left thumb button is L1.

Whether or not you are running the game on real consoles or on an emulator, you need to change the control options as follows in the games’ menus for Twin Stick Type B. Here’s pictures for all three games and their setups for reference.

For Operation Moon Gate;

Twin Stick Type B. It allows using both Sticks and Face Buttons as directional inputs. L2 is Left Weapon, R2 is Right Weapon Button, L1 and R1 are Dashes.

For Oratorio Tangram;

The Touch Pad is used as Special in Oratorio Tangram, which only applies to Fei-Yen players. Using the Special button at the start of the round will cost you about 2/3 of your Energy meter, but you’ll kick straight into Hyper Mode

For FORCE, the controls need to be set up while in Practice mode or in Arcade mode, pause the game and access controls there;

The L3 and R3 buttons are needed for FORCE, as you can map Rescue Button and Friendly Instructions for them. These aren’t much needed, if you’re just letting the AI whatever the hell it wants to manage to go online to play 2v2 battles. 

Because the Brook PCB recognizes on what platform it is being used, it puts itself directly into PS3 or PS4 controller mode when used with those consoles. No need to worry whether or not the PCB goes into the right controller mode.

You can further modify your controller by taking the sticks apart and changing the actuators at the bottom for a pair of new arcade stick bases while using the existing shaft. You can also modify the thumb sticks to use tactile switches, but that would require a bit of soldering. In hindsight, you can modify the controller wholly with Brook’s own harness, but I had already started doing everything by soldering and cutting wires, so in my haste, I missed that point altogether. I’ll try to see if I can pick up a new Twin Stick down the line in some years and make a Version 2 with said harnesses.

The mod isn’t difficult, just takes a bit of time and is fiddly. You can also keep the Saturn side functioning, but that would require attaching switches that would change the ground and where the power in the system would be flowing. To keep things simple, I’ve decided to sidestep that altogether and make this a fully PC/PS3/PS4 compatible controller. You can also attach the expansion Brook offers to make it PS5 compatible.

Top 5 games of 2022

Another year goes by, and another review in games. If I’m completely honest, it feels like there are fewer games that I want to buy nowadays. The games I’d like to pick up have gone up in price. That’s the collectors’ and speculators’ market for you. I’m not fond of that, as it is an open secret how a small group of people effectively run them for profit. Thank God some companies are putting up re-releases of games.

The usual rules apply; the game must have been on a physical media to count, 2022 must have been the year I’ve first time have had a copy of the said game, and the year of production doesn’t matter. As usual, these are not in any sorted order; the first listed game doesn’t mean it is better than the four after it. If it ain’t physical, it won’t get on the Top 5.


Makai Toshi SaGa 1989, Game Boy, 2002, Wonderswan Color, 2007, i-Mode, EZweb, 2008 SoftBank 3G, 2020 Nintendo Switch, 2021, Andoid, iOS, Steam

For a good, long while now I’ve been looking for a classical console RPG that would have an interesting mechanic to it, something that would make it more interesting than your standard Dragon Quest vibe without going too far to the other end like we usually have with the modern RPGs. Not much has come from the big houses in this regard, just rereleases and such. Picking up Makai Toshi SaGa, specifically, its Wonderswan remake was a shot into the deep end for me. I don’t have many good memories of trying to play its localization, The Final Fantasy Legend, at a friend’s house way back when. Spending some money just to see if I could get into the game as an elderly person is never a good idea. Secondly, it would give me a reason to practice moonrunes a bit more. I’ve neglected that skill long enough.

SaGa hits the right spot though. On the surface, it looks just like any other RPG Square put out at the time, but its mechanics and the more open world make it refreshing. It’s not as free as something like Fallout mind you, but you’re given much more freedom to roam around without being instantly killed by fifteen levels higher monsters if you move a block too far on the map. Much like how in Metal Max you can move freely and hunt down Wanted characters at your pace, SaGa allows you to puzzle the world together piece by piece rather than stringing you along. The first game is the most linear for sure, but this is the starting point for the series. It’s rather refreshing after all these open-world RPGs that I’ve lately given a small go.

The game mechanics, however, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Generally speaking, all races have their own preferences and ways to properly level up. Humans can carry lots of equipment, but don’t learn any Skills as a result. They don’t get any experience points in battles either, which means you have to use Stat-raising potions to buff them up. Espers increase their stats randomly after battles and have four Skill slots. Saving often with Espers is a must, as these Skills are gained at random as well, sometimes giving you massively overpowered Skills and sometimes replacing that powerful Skill with a lousy one. Both Humans and Espers have two genders to choose from, which affects the stats to a minor extent. Monsters gain new forms as you eat Meat found after battles. This isn’t a random thing though, as there’s some kind of underlying system that you have no idea of which determines what a monster evolves, or devolves, into as you consume the enemy Monster’s meat. You can always resort to using a chart, but that’s no fun.

Experimentation might not be the game’s strength, but you can still find interesting team compositions. Death is more or less a permanent fixture, and you can replace dead team members with some cash. This can lead to a playthrough, where you’ve replaced your starting characters a few times over. It adds something special, as you’re not locked to the starting roster nor are you required to grind dozens of hours for Job Points. Rudimentary for sure, but it is something that works the best on a handheld.

The Wonderswan remake fixes tons of bugs, makes the game look much prettier and you’re not blocked from advancing the game if you don’t have a full roster. Key items are put into a separate bag from consumables, preventing you from fucking yourself over after discarding an item you thought you didn’t need. Some IP infringing names have been changed, like Beholder becoming Death Eye and Mobile Suits becoming Mobile Machines. There’s also a bestiary for all the Monsters you’ve managed to open via Meat consumption, making it much easier to figure you in-game what Meat does what. The sound got an upgrade too, though the Wonderswan has probably the tinniest and simplest sound of all handhelds. That said, it does sound marginally better than the GameBoy original and should be your to-go version. It also served as the basis for all the mobile phone ports. The recent SaGa collections have the Game Boy originals, and outside a new translation, there’s no reason to play the Wonderswan remake over them. There’s an unofficial translation you can boot up and enjoy instead.

It’s just an enjoyable game, something that has the best combination of being simple and yet has just enough complexity to have some depth with no time wasted on extraneous bullshit. A game at its finest really.


Not exactly what I’d like to have here, but can’t find if commercial or trailer for the Wonderswan release, so have a trailer for the game collection that I recommended skipping


Mushihimesama 2004, Arcade, 2005, PlayStation 2, 2011, iOS, 2012, Xbox 360, 2015, Steam, 2021, Nintendo Switch

Mushihimesama is great. If the words Cave, shooting and vertical make any familiar sense to you, you should already know what to expect. A tiny princess riding on a giant bug while shooting other big bugs is an interesting setting, but Cave did a small miracle by making this one of their better games. The game got tons of attention some fifteen years ago when a video showcasing its boss went viral, and the modern mindset towards danmaku shooting games was born. The game is about as stupidly insane as it looks on the harder difficulties, but of course, the latest versions offer different versions of the game with infinite credits and all that, so beating the boss even if you’re trash at these games like me won’t be an issue. All that is mostly bullshit thought. Mushihimesama is Cave going back to its roots in terms of bullet patterns and density. While it certainly is more about avoiding the bullets, it has specific Toaplan genes in it, where the player is encouraged to be more aggressive. This doesn’t make it exactly any easier per se, but the taste in approach is mildly different. Reaching the True Last Boss takes a bit trying unless you’re enabling modes that enable you to get there anyway.

The game is just pure joy, there’s not else that I can say about a vertical shooting game. Mushihime is a bright and colorful game with a happy-sounding soundtrack that has some seriously great beats going on. Sure, the standard shooting game scoring of dodging, killing enemies in a chain, not using your bombs, and collecting gems and medals are all here. The Standard game mode is pretty much this, and it balances itself out pretty well. A good half an hour or so in this mode just brings a smile. The alternative mode, Maniac or Ultra depending on the release, has Counter banking. This scoring is dependent on the player shooting or not shooting, and on counters that are on enemies. By tapping Shoot, you increase the parent counter but decrease its child counter. This means you gotta have enemies on the screen to balance the two counters, but also defeat the enemies strategically early to net the most points out of ’em. This risk and reward system requires tons of practice and finding points where you can farm enemies, but also balancing Auto shot and Manual shot buttons.

Is Mushihimesama the best Cave has to offer? Probably not, but it is one of the more unique titles in their library. It’s a good change of pace from all the spaceships the genre has to offer. Just make sure you don’t go looking for the PS2 port, as that’s rather terrible. The iOS port was a really good one for the time, but the modern ports have both beaten ’em by tons.


If you’re a fan of Japanese shooting games, the 360 was your platform. So many rare and obscure titles that never left Japan are on it. The Switch sorta has taken its place as the to-go console though


Windjammers 2 2022, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Luna, Steam, PlayStation 4, Stadia, Xbox One

The original Windjammers wouldn’t have been in the Top 5 for me. While the game is a masterclass in how to upgrade Pong to something completely different and unique, it is nevertheless every so slightly clunky, and actions can’t be canceled for mad-dash speed action. Windjammers 2 is effectively a perfect sequel in this sense. It doesn’t touch the core mechanics but makes everything smoother and faster.

Pong with flying discs, or frisbees, is a nice concept, but adding character stat differences, different skills, and field hazards elevate the concept. Rather than PV or trailer, I’ll just throw a full Arcade playthrough at the bottom. Some games are easy to grasp from the description, and some seem like a madman’s rambling.

There’s really nothing else to say. It’s a perfect upgrade to the original arcade game. Well, almost. The addition of a Super Meter has been splitting opinions. Its existence removes instant and equal skills and reactions from the players. Now it’s almost always better to wait for the opponent to use their Super first and then counter with your own. Understandably it’s there to add hype, but the game would have a much better flow without it. DotEMU also has effectively dropped support for the game already, so the issues with online play will always be there in the future. The game could still become massively successful if dropped in price and online would be polished, but there’s no chance in hell that’ll happen. The game also lacks a variety of modes, so online play seems to be where you were intended to spend your time on.

Nevertheless, the improved play can’t be denied. The best sports game of the year bar none. Get some friends over and have a good ol’ gaming party and you’re golden. Just remember to share the beer properly.


The player isn’t exactly the best in the world, but you get the gist. Better players make things go swoosh faster


Star Wars: X-Wing Collector Series 1998, Windows

Star Wars: X-Wing and TIE Fighter are classics for good damn many reasons, some of which I don’t share sentiments about. For their time, both of the games are rare complex simulations of flying both Rebel and Imperial fighters in their setting. TIE Fighter is often cited as the best game in the series, though many would give that to the third main entry in the series, X-Wing Alliance. I can’t really give an exhaustive view of the games, but the Internet has tons of retrospectives and people talking about these games still.

The pack here is specifically for this release, as it was something I remember looking at a bookstore back in 98′ and wishing I had a PC that could run the games. I was still playing on an Atari 780ST, so most then-modern PC games were out of my league. While the modern GOG releases are your way to go, this particular edition can be made to run on modern systems with some stupid amount of fiddlenacking.

The two games still stand largely as unique entries in Star Wars games library. Simulation died down pretty fast when Rogue Squadron hit the scene with the N64, though I’d argue both would’ve had place. The Starfighter series didn’t really get much wind under their wings, and perhaps there’s a reason why they are largely discussed in the smallest of niches. The Star Wars flight simulators just nailed the controls and the atmosphere required for both titles. For the Rebels, there’s always this small feeling of being overpowered against a larger enemy force. For the Empire, TIE Fighters break when you throw a rock at them. Both of the games’ campaigns get that atmosphere right, with Imperials having vastly more militaristic views on things and the player is expected to work properly, in-universe. TIE Fighter was more ambitious with its setting as well, telling an original story in a medium that had not yet seen Star Wars expanded all that much. X-Wing is great but doesn’t veer too much off from the pre-established beaten path.

Is there a learning curve? Yes, and even if you pick up the 1995 updated versions (which this pack has) you’ll have some fiddling to do to get the controls to your liking. Both games are largely moddable, with XWVM aiming to rebuild the game for the modern PC. However, if you’re familiar with the X-Wing Alliance, there is a total conversion mod to turn XWA into TIE Fighter. That might be the easiest path to get the most modern experience.

Just remember to bring your joystick with you. Both the keyboard and gamepad controls won’t cut it. Purists also want the ’95 version over this ’98 Windows release.


I know I was concentrating a bit too much on TIE Fighter, but it is the better game out of the two

Avenging Spirit 1991, Arcade, 1992 Game Boy, 2010, iOS, 2011, Nintendo 3DS, 2022, GameBoy, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Evercade

Jaleco went to town with this cult classic. Retro-Bit made sure to re-release the game on GameBoy with an glow-in-the-dark cartridge when all the other versions hit the street. The game’s concept is simple; you’re dead. To save your girlfriend, her father has given you a mission to possess evildoers to save her from the mysterious crime syndicate, which employs mobsters, dragons, monks, vampires, and other strange things.

The story is just there to set up the play mechanic, which is the aforementioned possession. The player ghost has an Energy meter, which constantly drains if you’re not inside anyone. When possessing someone, there’s a Life that functions as that body’s Life. Spend too much time outside a body, and to Heaven, you go. The enemy variety is large because of this, as you are able to use every character’s specialty when possessing them. Some shoot, some kick. Some launch missiles and some send bats to attack. The same goes for things like jumping height and movement. While the initial roster seems small, this gets expanded as new enemies show up in later stages.

The game’s not long, just some thirty minutes with some try put into it. A six-stage game for the GameBoy sounds about right and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The pace is intentionally slow, which makes the game feel easy early on, but the stages and enemy patterns do show their claws later on. Much like with tons of other GameBoy games, it seems easy at first but offers a nice challenge down the line. I haven’t yet confirmed if the new games offer the Japanese-exclusive Expert Ending, which means as of now, only the Japanese GameBoy version titled Phantasm offers you the third ending.

The game is overhyped on the Internet quite a bit, but much like with SaGa, it hits that right sweet spot if simplicity with some depth. It’s a perfect little game for the GameBoy, and that’s something we just don’t get anymore.


This playthrough has the Best ending the Western versions have. No Expert ending in sight here

Honourable Mentions for those who didn’t make the cut


Bakugeki Wondehoー★ 2022, DLSite

You can replace any game up there with this one. The only reason it isn’t counted in the Top 5 is that it doesn’t have a physical release. You can get it on DLSite, and you should. Best game of the year, hands down. Also, note that the game contains smut, so be sure to be at least 18 years old. It’s just a goddamn fine 2D game that doesn’t mess around too much. Sure, there are a few spots that feel like bullshit, but much like the rest of the creator’s games, there’s a definitive fast flow with the game.

The game plays similarly to Super Metroid, except the game’s split into linear levels that challenge you to blaze through them. Controls are tight and easy to learn, something that’s a must in a game that just wants to challenge you for a fair and tough fight down the line. If you’ve ever played Tifa-Tan X2 from the maker (I assume some of you have, it was a viral game at some point), then you can expect a similar level of polish in gameplay terms. The game is definitely far from bloated and doesn’t waste your time. A personal favourite game of the year.


Star Wars: Dark Forces 1995, DOS, MAC, PlayStation, 2009, Steam, 2015, GOG

Now one Star Wars game going to hit the top list, and one would this lower list. Both titles are absolute marvels, and the Jedi engine Dark Forces runs on is a small miracle among Doom clones. The game is fast, furious and one of the few First Person Shooting games that I don’t avoid, but instead look for. It’s a damn nice game that is easy to get into and get out of. However, there’s one stage that drops the game’s quality wholesale, and it’s the goddamn sewers. Out of fourteen well-paced and carefully planned stages that are a joy move around and explore, the third stage takes place in a goddamn sewer and grinds the game to a halt.

This is a massive deal-breaking fault with the game. Civvie did the game much better justice, so might as well link you there. A few years back there was a fan that wanted to recreate Dark Forces in Unreal Engine 4, but it would be a completely different game. However, we can always rely on The Force Engine, a source port that makes the game run natively on modern systems. Highly recommended. Makes the sewers suck a little less.


Sega Marine Fishing 1999, Sega Naomi, Sega Dreamcast, Windows

There is certain calmness with fishing games. That lax feeling when you just wait for the fish to nab the bait, and the momentary shock and panic when you try to reel the bastard in. Sega Marine Fishing is almost all that hype the best way an arcade game can be.

This is Sega at its arcade finest, again. You’ve got different ocean environments to choose from, with different fish of varying values to catch. Choosing the right lure for the right fish in the right environment and casting it into the water is where the calm ends. The game is constant beat after beat from that moment on. Moving the lure under the water should be calm, but the way the fish move fast and furious makes your heart that bit more. Hell, you can even customise your character to a small extent.

The biggest issue with the PC version is that you don’t have that proper Sega fishing rod controller the Dreamcast version had. Without that, there’s just something lacking despite all the hype the game’s visuals and soundtrack create. Still, a superb game.


Halo: Combat Evolved 2001, Xbox, 2003, Windows, Mac OS X, 2007, Xbox 360

I’ve avoided Halo for good two decades now, and surprisingly, is the second FPS on this list. After finally making the decision to take a deep dive into the franchise and get myself the Bungie-developed games, I started with the first game on the original Xbox.

I’m not sure how much I should, or have need, to explain anything about the game. Most people are far more knowledgeable about it. Everything from its gameplay meta to best-speedrunning routes, the game’s more or less blown wide open. I came into the series with a fresh and open mind, looking for something to wash Marathon out of my mouth. Finished that trilogy early this year, and can’t say I really liked it. Extremely janky in so many places. I like the game, but even back when it was new I wouldn’t have been blown by it. Halo  feels like a game that came from a hard development cycle from a different platform. A lot of things just seem to lack polish. However, as someone who dislikes twin-stick controls modern console FPS games utilise as a standard, I appreciate the semi-locking on aiming the game offers. The two-weapons-only mechanic doesn’t feel limiting here, as the game has been designed around it. It’s rather a small marvel how often I find myself ditching a gun just so I could get one with more ammo. It also encourages to get better with each weapon faster and builds the world better. There’s a definitive delicate balance in this, something most games that copied it just don’t get this right. I’d say the first Halo didn’t get it right either, but it is damn close.

The whole large field aspect of the game seems to be somewhat constricted though. When I first got to the Halo structure, I was rather marveled at how well the old Xbox managed to run things without too many hitches. You have a point and few missions, and it is your thing to find out how to deal with the map. I was rather sorely disappointed how the first big field ended up with a driving sequence in black-as-hell tunnels, which killed the mood fast. The pacing is kinda all over the place, but it is helped that the game is split into distinct chapters. Perhaps Halo 2 will get to be a top dog next year, I’ve heard people calling it the best in the series.

New Pokémon Snap 2021, Nintendo Switch

The idea is simple; you’re on a track that never stops moving, but you can 360 degrees around to snap photos of pocket monsters. Your photos are graded and they bring in points (money really) to improve the campaign and open new maps and such.

This game is so late for the party. Everyone and their mothers already wanted this for the 3DS early on. People had made the game’s mechanics work on the Wii on a conceptual level to a great degree as well. The good thing about the game is that it is more of the same as the original 1999 Pokémon Snap, except this time you’re forced to go through a tutorial rather than the game dropping you onto a rail and test things out yourself. You’re also constantly held by your hand, with the game commenting something every time you take a decent snap. The rating has tons of animations across the screen, leaving the main thing, the photo rating, to feel like it’s the secondary thing in the game. Too much flourishing in places where there were none needed. It’s nice that you can now edit photos after stages with Re-Snap feature, but this feels more like a built-in soft-cheating method. The game overall feels like it tries too hard. Yes, we interact with photography in a different way than we did in 1999, but considering we are nature photographers in the game and not TikTok sluts, the game’s themes collide negatively with each other. Ultimately, whenever I just wanted to go and take those photos, I felt I had to go through a long-winded routine. Remember to turn those voices off, because there’s exactly one recorded line for everything, and it gets grating the third time you hear them. The game sure is expansive and takes more time to 100% than the original, but at the same time a lot of it just overstays its welcome. Played in short bursts, stage or two at a time, is the way to go.

Virtual-On Retrospective: Twin Stick Controls

Previous: A Certain Magical Virtual-On

A thing that made Virtual-On in the arcades eye-catching was its setup of two sticks. This setup, named Twin Stick, is what defined Virtual-On‘s uniqueness even among arcade games. On the home front, you’ve most often had the option of using whatever standard control pad you had, or buying a Twin Stick controller. The difference between the two can not be overstated. A gamepad, even with the two thumbsticks, is not comparable to the intuitive and direct control the Twin Stick gives you. It’s extremely intuitive and easy on the surface how you control your Virtuaroid, as using Twin Stick resembles your standard tank controls. However, the moment the controls’ depth clicks and how much direct control you have, the tank-ness of things vanishes and you find yourself with one of the fastest and most furious of games in your hands. The skill ceiling is staggeringly high, as Virtual-On games have tons of techniques a beginner can only grasp. From how to approach your opponent to all the weapons firing differently depending on how you are moving and what position the sticks are in, the games offer nearly endless depth. Oratorio Tangram, the second game in the series, is still the most played and most popular, as it also happens to be the fastest game in the series.

The controls require some explanation, despite the basics being easy to grasp after a minute or two. Talking about the Twin Sticks themselves makes little sense if you don’t know why they are so integral.

The basic controls are as follows;

  • Pushing either lever in a direction while the other lever is at neutral, your Virtuaroid will walk in that direction
  • Pushing both levers in a direction, your Virtuaroid will run in that direction
  • Pushing the levers in opposite forwards/backward, your Virtuaroid will turn clockwise or counter-clockwise
  • Pushing the levers at opposite left/right outwards, your Virtuaroid will jump
  • Pushing the levers towards each other will make your Virtuaroid Guard

Attacking and Dashing are done by the buttons on the sticks;

  • Right Weapon is fired with the Right lever’s trigger. By standard, it is a kind of projectile
  • Left Weapon is by the Right lever’s trigger. By standard, it is some kind of explosive or a bomb
  • The Center weapon is fired when the triggers are pressed together. It is usually a strong, but a slow weapon.
  • When at a close range, Long-range weapons are changed to close-combat weapons
  • The Thumb button with a Lever direction will make your Virtuaroid dash in that direction.
  • In the original game, both Thumb buttons are required to be pressed down for the dash. Oratorio Tangram requires only one. FORCE requires the other thumb stick to be used in changing targets, as the game is 2 versus 2

Here’s an edited version of Oratorio Tangram‘s attract mode, with only the How To Play segments present

As mentioned, each of the three weapons has multiple modes of fire depending on what action you are in and in what direction. This changes the weapons’ properties and strengths. For example, one direction makes your Virtuaroid shoot out five smaller shots, while the opposite shoots three larger, more powerful shots. Furthermore, some Virtuaroids have secret attacks they can enact and require special input. Numerous attacks can be canceled or half-canceled into other actions, while Dashing attacks can’t. Movement options are also far more abundant than they first appear. For example, you can increase your Virtuaroid’s falling speed by making them Guard. Quickstep is another useful move, which includes releasing the Dash the very moment you input a direction. The Dash is canceled and your Virtuaroid has taken a fast step instead.

There are numerous systems that aren’t clear at first and most players won’t notice. These include things like how movement speed is relative to the distance between the Virtuaroids, and speed decreases the closer they are together. This can be tracked as the game has a distance counter in the lock-on reticle. Certain attacks gain more power as they travel across the stage, while others effectively lose all of their hitting power. The damage dealt over time also increases and carries over to subsequent rounds. The damage maxes out at +10% at one minute mark.

There is no traditional lock-in in Virtual-On, which throws numerous people off. Virtual-On has an unorthodox automatic lock-on when Jumping or Dashing, which rotates the screen and the Virtuaroid towards the opponent as well. Advanced players tend to use Air Dash Cancel and Quickstep instead, as both of these require Jump and Dashing respectively, but are much faster. This system is cumbersome at first, but at the same time, it promotes the discovery and learning of tons of techniques and methods when and how to cancel movements and options. Being aware of your surroundings becomes important as well for the sake of your own positioning in the stage geometry. Mizuumi Wiki has a page with a rather complete breakdown of the controls for Oratorio Tangram, and I would recommend giving it a look if you find yourself interested. It’s not completely applicable to the other games in the series, but the core basics are the same. There is an exhaustive Japanese wiki for Oratorio Tangram, Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Unofficial Anniversary Site, if that scratches your interest.

That is a long and infodump way to say that Virtual-On‘s Twin Sticks are very much the heart and soul of how the game plays out. The series is often counted as a Fighting game due to similarities in generic strategies of pressuring the opponent with neutral and low commitment attacks while closing in and punishing mistakes the opponent may make. The only games that are similar in direct comparison are Senko no Ronde and Acceleration of Suguri, which are best described as Virtual-On in 2D plane. Nevertheless, because the controls require much skill and dedication to be fully taken advantage of, the standard control pads don’t cut it. There is certain immediacy that Twin Stick offers and there are no extra buttons or even shapes to deal with. The game has been purpose-built with these two levers, and anything else comes short. When A Certain Magical Virtual-On changes its controls to fully accommodate the gamepad, large amounts of intricacies and techniques were lost. It is the best Virtual-On for a gamepad, but after spending some with a Twin Stick with other entries in the series, it becomes a much hollower game. You could always dish out money for a limited-run Twin Stick, but that option is out of reach for many.

Let’s take a look at what kind of Twin Sticks the series has been using throughout the years. While we will touch on some of the arcade controls, this is in no fashion and exhaustive look due to all the manufacturing and repair variations there are.

From left to right; Japanese cabinet, US P1 and US P2

There are a few types of cabinets the Twin Sticks first appeared in. The original Japanese cabinet from 1995 has more visual flavour to it and could be found as a twin unit. The European and American releases had the same, less flourished designed to them, but were often a set. A divider would be between the player’s views, with the American having a different design to the Japanese cabinet. There was also a Versus City cabinet, which was two Astro City units merged into back-to-back. Versus City cabinets were extensively used by Capcom as well and were used in fighting game tournaments. Each cabinet could be revised with a new game and hardware, and some titles would support game-specific messages at the top digital display too. Marvel VS Capcom was one of the games that used a Versus City cabinet, and from personal experience, I can attest Street Fighter IV did too. The two cabinet styles had different sticks, probably because a lot of used Virtual-On control panels that are found in the wild are sold as broken. Sega would revise these sticks. While images for the Virtual-On Versus City cabinets are rare, we do have images of the control panels for the first game and Oratorio Tangram. Sega made sure the cabinets were universal by designing a modular control panel, where operators could quickly switch the top out if a new game needed different controls.

There are some control panels sold on eBay, from which we can see that these are either European or American controls. The left one, Master Site, was often colored blue and was effectively Player One. Player Two was pink and got the name Slave Site. They are, however, more or less the same. There are only a few visual key differences, like the panel to the right, but otherwise even the control explanations are the same. The Operation decal is extremely to the point and showcases how deceptively easy the controls seem a first. These sticks were also very robustly built, partially why the Versus City cabinets probably used Sanwa parts rather than what we see below.

On the left, we have what was found in the Japanese Virtual-On cabinet, and on the right, we have what’s in a European cabinet. The difference is that the Japanese use Sanwa parts and have a square gate, while the European sticks have much more heft to them and have a round gate. There’s really no reason to assume the American market didn’t share the same build as the European stick.

These robust sticks were made to withstand thousands of clicks, though the switches themselves are more or less the same stock as you’d find in any contemporary arcade stick. The arcade cabinet is using a square gate form here, meaning you’d feel a round shape when twirling the levers around. These sticks would have stickers on the black steel housing, with some being labeled as Model 2B. This is a reference to the hardware revision used, as Virtual-On ran on Sega 2B CRX. These sticks would get tons of abuse, from people hitting them in anger, and food and drink being spilled on top of them. Looking at used sticks sold at auction sites, you often find them rusty.

Image courtesy of VOTwinstick

The joystick itself is probably the least interesting in the whole build, as it is a two-halve plastic housing with a standard trigger and a thumb push button. The parts of the course are of “arcade quality,” meaning the components used are standard for the industry and should withstand tens of thousands of activations. In principle, making your very own Twin Stick is stupidly easy nowadays, as long as you don’t cinch on the components. It might look a bit like an old Quickshot joystick, but far sturdier and it has a better feel to it. Note that while all the Thumb buttons shown in this post are round, the original Virtual-On cabinet in the US used square buttons, often seen in Happ-styled flight sticks. Also note that before Sega unified the sticks themselves, the original sticks were far thicker. If these hardware differences interest you, you might want to check out what Oratorio Tangram‘s arcade Twin Sticks look like when disassembled.

The original Virtual-On could be converted to function like an Oratorio Tangram cabinet, and there have been Oratorio Tangram cabinets that were converted to play FORCE. The levers have changed slightly throughout the years, with Sega at some point apparently abandoning this original hefty built in favor of the lighter models used in Versus City cabinets. Arcade.Tokyo has a short post about his experience with one of these slimmer candy cabinets, where the aesthetics are very much on the lighter side.

All this means that after Sega decided to use these shorter build sticks for Versus City, the Twin Sticks would be built based on Sanwa arcade stick parts over the original unbranded ones. As Oratorio Tangram could be converted into FORCE cabinets, there weren’t any changes to the sticks themselves. As per Sega’s standardization, these control panels could be switched in and out from their generic cabinets. This would also mean that outside the original Virtual-On cabinet, the controls would make a square shape when moved around, not a circle, as that’s the standard restrictor plate found in generic arcade machines. It is the most commonly used restrictor plate to this day.

All in all, the hardware for the Twin Stick is not exactly groundbreaking. It’s very much in line with existing parts and products that were put to good use. Much like how arcade games always had to be downsized for the home market, so were numerous control methods and even controllers themselves. It took some time for common accessories like steering wheels and pedals to step up their game and match the quality of their arcade counterparts. That is not to say that all these are uniform. For whatever reason, there are tons of variations in how the arcade Twin Stick controls were built. Very few of these appear on the surface, but things like some controls have fewer structural support parts, and some sticks inside are squared off instead of being round rods. Without a doubt, some of these variations are results of operators fixing the controls, while some probably are just manufacturing changes for numerous reasons, like easier assembly with fewer components or finding cost-friendlier parts. This is why it would be effectively impossible to do an exhaustive and complete view on all the variations on Twin Stick controls in the arcades, hence this overall glance at them and their insides has to suffice.

The first home release of Cyber Trooper Virtual-On also delivered us the first Twin Stick controller for the Sega Saturn. This was slated to be released in the US at some point but never did. In the end, no Twin Stick controller would ever be released in the US or Europe, leaving arcades the only place where you could play the game with Twin Stick, or import one from Japan.

Released Dec. 03rd, 1996

The HSS-0154 SEGA SATURN TWIN-STICK controller promises to recreate the excitement of the arcade experience, but in reality, it really doesn’t. The Saturn Twin Stick uses the same overall housing as the Saturn HSS-0136 Virtua Stick, an Astro City arcade cabinet-themed arcade stick. The only difference is the top plate, which houses the graphics and the levers themselves, and the lack of multiple switches at the top front. While the Virtua Stick has two versions, one with ASCII switches and one with Seimitsu’s parts. The difference between these two is that Seimitsu is of higher quality and should last longer. With the Twin Stick being a later controller model, all variants seem to use the same ASCII parts as the levers’ actuators. However, the weak spot of the Saturn Twin Stick comes with its use of ASCII’s parts. While ASCII did manufacture decent controllers and parts in the mid-1990s, they are very much of lower quality compared to Sanwa or Seimitsu’s parts. Its sticks also have a tendency to rotate slightly, something that’s up to opinion whether or not that’s a good thing. Some find the twisting more comfortable, as the hands then to find a more natural position and angle, while others want stiff sticks like in the arcades.

Released in 1999 (9th of Dec.), the DC Twin Stick is still a popular version of the controller

While ASCII parts may not be arcade-quality per se, they are nevertheless acceptable for home use and do rank well into the medium-consumer grade. Arcade-quality is a more or less commonly used marketing tactic, something loads of enthusiasts like to mimic. While you will find some of these sticks in a bad overall shape, even mediocre condition sticks work remarkably well. A stock purchase from eBay can yield a controller that plays almost as well when it was new. ASCII parts may be maligned when it comes to the Saturn Virtua Stick, which has a healthy modding community behind it due to its aesthetics, the Saturn Twin Stick doesn’t suffer the same bad rep. In fact, between this and the more desired Dreamcast Twin Stick, the Saturn version has been reported to withstand more abuse and longer sessions than the Dreamcast version. offers a view on a modified Dreamcast Twin Stick, but sadly it does not list who manufactured what. Sega has recycled the sticks themselves from the Saturn version of the controller, so the overall feeling might be similar, and the orange/greys aesthetics might fit some better, but longevity is not the Dreamcast’s side.

The issue with Dreamcast Twin Stick lies in the initial run use of a worse quality spring, which returns a lever to its neutral position. This yellow-colored spring would apparently simply break. The later production run of the controller would change this to a sturdier green spring. While there are no true indicators of what parts were used to make the sticks, they are very close to Seimitsu’s LS-56-01 stick, though the stock spring from Seimitsu is a few millimeters shorter than what Sega put inside the Dreamcast Twin Stick. It’s a crapshoot what parts you get in the secondhand market if the seller is not willing to open their controller.

However, modifying these two controllers is rather easy, as all you really need to do is change actuators and use the longer shaft. You might not want to lose the decal that’s on the Saturn stick, as the screws holding the sticks in place are under it, but using denatured alcohol to loosen the adhesive’s bond is an easy to way to remove it. Alternatively, simply remove the decal and buy a new one from the Internet by using some printing service.

Certainly, the Saturn Twin Stick is a budget release in many ways. Objectively speaking, it has the lowest cost parts out of all the Twin Sticks and was designed for children’s hands. For example, the distance between the sticks is shorter in the Saturn Twin Stick than in any other. That’s probably partially because of budget and partially because it is using the same plastic housing as the Virtua Stick. Realistically speaking, the Saturn would be the last console children would play Virtual-On on.

With the slow death of the arcades, Virtual-On moved to the PlayStation 2 with MARS. For this fourth game, Sega did not manufacture a Twin Stick for the game. Instead, the player could choose between a standard controller-specific setup, or using the two thumb sticks to emulate Twin Stick controls. Using the thumb sticks takes time to learn, as you’re expected to use the shoulder buttons for the rest of the controls. The Trigger and thumb buttons are relegated to the Dualshock’s shoulder buttons, which get rather awkward, but will ultimately offer superior controls.

With the Xbox 360 getting Virtual-On MARS and Oratorio Tangram, and PlayStation 3 seeing a direct port of the first game to the PlayStation 3, HORI would step up and manufacture extremely limited amounts of Twin Sticks for the consoles for 2010. The two controllers are exactly the same, just with console-specific bells and whistles attached. There was even a version specifically made for FORCE, which amounts to having an extra decal on the controller.

The issue with either of these controllers for the customers has been their price. HORI fetched a premium sum for these controllers, about 30 000 yen, and aftermarket sellers often ask for even higher prices. Aesthetically they are the most mature, but the least fitting for the franchise. These replicate the original arcade setup with the Start button in the middle, but for the first time, all the face action buttons on the standard controller have been added at the top front. Previously console Twin Sticks have managed to achieve the controls by using combinations of buttons to initiate an action, but with these HORI controllers, the levers are effectively the thumb sticks with shoulder buttons on them. These Twin Sticks had a small surge in demand after it was confirmed they’d work with the Masterpiece collection on the PlayStation 4. These controllers have been reported to be solid, and if HORI’s track record with their controllers since the 1980s is anything to go by, they probably are worth the money. It’s probable they were built on HORI’s expertise from their arcade stick side of the business and decided to use the more high-end consumer range parts.

A Twitter user, apply named VOTwinstick, posted a fully disassembled view of the lever assembly, which should be more or less the same as what the games have been using ever since Versus City cabinets adopted the Sanwa parts. The photo may be lacking the main PCB itself with the switches, but the parts that make up the rest of the stick are easily visible. Japanese blog Haphazard Blog (the author uses a temporary name of Alan Smithee) also contains a post about modifying HORI’s EX Twin Stick with Semitsu LSX-57 lever. The photos are tiny, but the overall setup hasn’t changed since the first consumer Twin Stick for the Saturn.

The Masterpiece collection hitting the PlayStation 4 was a piece of massive news for the fans. A Certain Magical Virtual-On had resorted to completely redesigning the controls for the DualShock, and with that tons of intricacies and tactics were lost. This is due to the revised controls themselves being a modern interpretation of the Twin Stick controls and everything that comes with assisted controlling. Tons of tactics and methods were simply locked out. Hori didn’t produce Twin Sticks for this round, but a lesser-known gaming peripheral company named Tanita did. They’ve promoted themselves as a company for healthier gaming, and their first big project was the Tanita Twin Stick.

Rather than track the original home controllers’ designs, Tanita chose to invoke the wider design of the arcade panels

The VDC-18-c 18 Type Control Device “Twin Stick” was first revealed at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. The prototype controller wasn’t all that attractive and its levers were of lower stock quality. However, the finalized limited production controller rolled out in 2020 (that you could order through Sanwadenshi official shop for 60 500 yen) ditches the previous iterations’ aesthetics and conventions. Now much wider and wholly made out of metal, the Tanita Twin Stick has made waves among the fans on how good the controller has been. It’s a Sanwa product at heart, using Sanwa sticks and buttons. Tanita could afford to manufacture two editions of this stick. The first was a crowdfunded version, which was sent to initial backers first. The second edition was a limited mass-production version, in which Tanita had managed to streamline some of the processes. However, it still ended up costing more than the crowdfunded version, hence the 60k yen price tag. This stick is currently the only way to play A Certain Magical Virtual-On under a Twin Stick setup, unless you want to use the thumb sticks as the Twin Sticks. This 440€ controller is currently the most expensive Twin Stick, and most likely one of the last iterations Twin Stick will see commercially.

The Twin Stick makes and breaks Virtual-On. However, due to all the variations in how Twin Sticks have been built throughout the years, be it in the arcades or at home, there is no one true setup. Some of these have been built light and moving the levers happens quickly and responds well to twitchy movements. At the opposite end, you have the European/American arcade controls, which are built like tank controls. To many whatever the arcades provide is the best, the only option. For others, they can make do with whatever they find more preferable for a variety of reasons, and we can always build better than what has been in the arcades. There still is a healthy albeit small scene of people enthusiastically building their own Twin Stick controllers by using whatever applicable flight yokes they might find to their liking and hacking the controller together from various cheap gamepads and whatnot. Nowadays, it’s become ever easier to make yourself one with little to no knowledge of things like soldering or electronics in general, and thus having yourself a relatively cheap but equally functional Twin Stick, with some caveats, is well within your grasp.

Next; A guide to making a PS4 and PC compatible Twin Stick

Towards the digital-only future you’ve chosen

If you’re one to go around video and computer games media, you’ve probably already a few things that are happening with digital media. First is that Sony’s announced that after the 31st of August, users will be unable to access Studio Canal properties in Germany and Austria, 314 and 137 titles respectively. Sony cites evolving license agreements as the reason, which means altogether nothing. It can mean Sony doesn’t want to pay for Studio Canal’s license fees, or that their license agreement just came to an end and nobody in Sony was eager to continue. Hard to say, but license issues are like this; the consumer will get shafted. According to Sony themselves, they’ll be removing these items from the user’s libraries. A Variety article points out that Sony was to allow access to these titles via on-demand, but the whole removing them from the libraries seems to be the overriding thing now. As for refunds or anything of that nature, of course, there won’t be any. As anti-consumer groups want to tote, you don’t buy to own when it comes to digital; you purchase a license to lease that item and the provider can take that license away from you any time for any reason they wish to.

The second thing is how Ubisoft managed to piss people off again by announcing Decommissioning of online services. This means killing off a number of titles’ online functionalities, ranging from patches, multiplayer, and DLC. This has happened before and will keep happening as long as the games-as-service model exists and functions are tied to being online. They also managed to stumble harshly with Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD on Steam, where they had the game -75% discount, and announced they’d be pulling it off after they made the sales. The language on the Steam store page makes it appear as if the game would be completely unavailable for the platform, but Ubisoft called their PR people to convince the people who had already “purchased” the game would still be able to access the title, but not its online components. The whole shebang comes from Ubisoft wanting to close down uPlay on certain platforms. It was a massive PR failure on Ubisoft’s part, but things were as expected.

The third bit is how last year’s news about Apple being sued for terminating his Apple ID has made some rounds as a result of the two previous bits. The plaintiff Matthew Price had spent almost 25k dollars on content attached to his Apple ID. Of course, when Apple closed his account, citing violations of terms and conditions, he lost access to all of it. Price says his account was terminated without notice, explanation, policy, or process, nor does the claim itself state what were the alleged violations. He wasn’t the only one who found themselves losing access to content he paid for. David Andino is the leading plaintiff in a class-action suit against Apple over the deceptive use of “rent” and “buy.” ArsTechnica had an article on it, and it covers all the basic bases just as well. Be it Valve, Sony, Apple or Netflix, they have the same unvoiced thing when you sign in and give them your money. The only difference here is that Apple voiced it as an argument in this case; “no reasonable consumer would believe” that content purchased through iTunes would be available on the platform indefinitely. US District Court Judge John Mendez rejected this, and Apple’s motion to dismiss the case. Amazon’s in the same pickle jar, having to defend themselves from consumers who have lost their digital libraries.

Back in 2019, the French court ruled that Valve should allow users to sell the goods they’ve bought on Steam. Valva argued that they were a subscription-based service, but the court disagreed, as the games were sold in perpetuity. This led Valve to change its terms and services as well as revise the language used across Steam. Steam still geoblocks titles and has differences in pricing, as well as preventing resales of games you’ve “bought.”

The whole issue stems from the languages these companies use. The terms buy and purchase give the idea of gaining ownership over an item. Digitally, ownership has been drastically eradicated from the equation. Without reading the Terms of Service, you wouldn’t probably know that you’re more or less buying a license for an item, which the corporation has any and all power over. If they wish to take away that license from you for any reason they wish to, they will. Physical media may be going the way of the dodo slowly (though it was first supposed to be dead in 2006, then 2012, then by 2020…), but ownership should not. Not only Valve’s practices with Steam have eradicated almost a generation’s worth of idea of what owning something and carrying the responsibility for it means, but we’re also taught that owning nothing means we’re going to be happier. Leasing and renting are being pushed as the future, yet that kind of future is looking grimmer and darker with every new iteration. Ownership means responsibility, which is being taken away from you, willing or not. If you carry no true responsibility for your actions and items you have, there is no reason to care or put effort. However, you’ll also be prevented from modifying, working, or doing anything to the same items, as they are not yours. It will lead your life being led into a box, where these companies are able to fully dictate how you act and what you consume. All because you’re dependent on their products, and even a small violation can lead to contract termination, effectively losing your way of living.

This may sound like a dystopia. Mostly because it’s all the little things that are piling on top of each other, but also because there are worldly political and economical factions that are gunning for it at your expense. Losing ownership is going backward in the overall progression of western civilization. One of the reasons companies like John Deere have had a hard time striking through the African heartland is that outside the major farmers, the land is owned by community leaders, not farmers themselves. At any moment, their land can be seized from them and given to anyone else. There is no incentive to put the effort into nurturing the farmland, which Africa has about nine of every ten farmable acres in the world, because the moment you make it work, it all can just vanish. All the modern and big equipment you might need to run a successful farm, alongside the workfoce, just isn’t worth investing in. Not to mention sabotaging these people putting the effort in isn’t uncommon, be it via damaging crops or just outright breaking the equipment. So, it becomes easier just to go with the minimum effort so you could keep the small bits that you don’t even own. This sort of lack of ownership isn’t uncommon in world history, and every time people get to own their land and their equipment, they start to care and put the effort into it. The exact same applies to the ownership of common good items and digital entertainment media. When the customer is given the responsibility of the product, be it what they produce or buy, there is care given. When it comes to working, things like giving the worker more responsibility and ways to properly do their work are highly important. For example, putting effort to develop new methods to make the work more effective and easier is rewarding in itself, and employers should take note of this. Sadly, the modern work environment is very stuck to certain ways and methods, and any sort of development that doesn’t come from the middle management tends to be shot down.

Funny that, ownership is very much individual freedom, something that you can express yourself through. That too is part of personal responsibility, something that is being slowly but surely eroded away from you.

So, the future of digital property will be the lack of it at this pace. You’ll put your money into subscription services and never consider it a loss, although, in the long run, you’re the losing party. All this can be changed if the customers will it. Everything runs on money, and you yourself know the best whether or not corporations and their products are worth it. When it comes to digital goods, be it on Steam or a sub to Netflix, take a few moments to consider whether it’s really worth it. You probably already have tons of games and movies around in one way or another. Don’t follow the new dangled shiny things in front of you, but put more time into the things you still have unfinished. It’s never going to go away; it’s digital after all. It’ll never truly vanish, not even when licensing agreements are to expire.

Unless it is a games-as-service model. Then you can just ignore it all and wish some hacker manages to make the online work via custom servers and hacks. Even better if you take up the mantle and become that hero yourself.

Capcom Fighting Collection’s success will pave way for more collections

Devilotte with her underlings and you probably will never get to play as her in Capcom Fighting Collection

Capcom Fighting Collection is almost upon us, with the usual marketing heads and Internet influencers having early access codes to showcase and market the title for you. In effect, you’d get the same experience from watching captured footage from a CPS2 arcade board, or just random Fightcade streams. There’s no reason to assume the Collection won’t have equally as competent emulation as what you have access to now. This makes the Fighting Collection a nice collection for arcade purists for sure, and online for some of the games is nice, but the reality of competition is that you can already play all the games in this collection in the aforementioned Fightcade, or FC for short. Sure, it’s illegal to download ROM files and all that, but again, not many really give a damn. As these are direct ports of the arcade games, Capcom is fighting their own shadow here. Not all games have online in the Fighting Collection, something FC provides, and if they’re raw arcade ports, they lack options and additions some titles got with their home ports. For example, Cyberbots had three additional playable characters, Chiyomaru Kagura, Princess Devilotte de Deathsatan IX (a fan favourite), and SHADE, that weren’t accessible in the arcade original. They also added full-voiced dialogues to the game. If you’d be going with the Saturn port of the game, you’d get a nearly arcade-perfect port, something Capcom had a knack for doing for the Saturn. Few cut frames of animation here or there because the hardware is a fair trade in exchange for more content and voices. We may disagree on this, but seeing Capcom already has done all this work for the previous port, there should be no reason to have their subcontractor do any less than their best to match up against these older ports. Of course, arcade perfection will be used as an excuse and some will buy it. Capcom has already made their money on these arcade games though. CPS2 encryption wasn’t broken until the millennium had changed, and at that point, Capcom had moved on from the system and wasn’t making profits off of them.


Shuhei Matsumoto had an interview with John Carson of Gameinformer about Capcom Fighting Collection, which of course serves more as a PR fluff than anything else. Though not just for the customer, but also for the industry as well. While fans have seen this collection more as a Darkstalkers collection with some other games thrown in, the reality seems to be that KOBUTA and MUUMUU, long-time programmers at Capcom, finally wanted Warzard/Red Earth ported to home consoles. Matsumoto confirms that the versions will be arcade ports and specifies that they’ll be versions used in tournaments. While it is nice to see these titles preserved for modern consoles, the fact that emulation and gaming archiving scenes have already done that. All these versions, and many others of these titles, have already been preserved for future generations. It may be through emulation, that has been more of a necessity than anything else. Game companies themselves have been notoriously bad at archiving their own code and artwork, something that Sega is infamously bad at; they’ve lost all the masters and source codes for Saturn games. This is why all Saturn games’ ports, like Princess Crown on the PSP, are running through Saturn emulation. Emulation which isn’t exactly accurate still. Saturn’s architecture wasn’t exactly orthodox and is a challenge to tackle properly. While we can discuss whether or not emulation is a proper contender against an official product, the question of how these have been ported to modern systems does make it relevant. If these are running on an emulator, then the comparisons should be completely relevant. If they’re proper ports made to run on modern hardware, then we should give them all the support we want. I’m guessing all the games in Fighting Collection will run through emulation, so in practice, there shouldn’t be any difference in you choosing between Fighcade and Fighting Collection; you’re getting the same shit anyway, except FC can update its emulators for even more accurate results.


Matsumoto: I genuinely want these titles to be played once again on current gen consoles. I also want people who may have seen them but never had the chance to play them to get this opportunity. That said, we do not think that this will necessarily increase the possibility of these series being revived.

This quote also damns the whole Capcom Test, an old thing they’ve done and which I discussed two posts ago. Matsumoto lays it down nice and flat, something that game companies don’t really like to do. Transparency is a positive thing and grows trust with the customer, but that also means competition sees what you’re doing. Take the quote as it is; game series will not see a revival from you buying Collections. This will, at best, see Capcom putting out more collections. A few years ago I went through Capcom’s Investors report, which mentioned the revival old of IPs. This is the route they’re going with it, packaging old ROMs with emulators. Things like Mega Man 11 and Street Fighter IV were only possible due to these games having an internal champion that took it upon themselves to see pitch the title and take all the heavy glory. These games may make or break them. The future of old Capcom IPs is a zombie state in collections of all sorts, repackaged lovingly with bare-bones ports with bells and whistles added to them via picture galleries (of artwork you can track down on the Internet in higher quality thanks to scanners [I doubt there’s going to be much new content in this regard]) and online play (which is already provided by emulators that are probably more accurate than what Capcom is packing in.)

Old fans and customers had hoped for new entries in long-sleeping IPs, but ‘lo, just pay for ROMs and emulators.

This isn’t bashing Capcom or telling you not to buy the collection. This is more about whether or not Capcom is giving you any better options than what is currently available for all, piracy or not. Capcom could take some actions if they wished to do so, but that might sour the relationship with the hardcore fighting game fanatics that play these games all day around. This barebones collection is for the people who want to play certain titles online in an official capacity, Capcom enthusiasts, and new fans who just can’t be arsed to track down the proper ROM file and an emulator. Capcom’s fighting an uphill battle against an enemy of their own making of sorts, and with the promise of this Collection not affecting any future game developments and being just the raw arcade ROMs with their usual unrealistically high expectations for sales numbers, all this is so goddamn awkward. The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, while admirable in scope in most cases, suffered from games stuttering, game dropping inputs, input delays, bad online code, the game volume having issues, and stuff like that. There’s no promise of Capcom, or their subcontractor, making things any better, except for online play. That’s what the talking heads and PR always seem to go towards nowadays and how online play has to be 10/10. There’s never a moment given that the games themselves need to be more than what’s already out there, especially when you can go for a better online play for all these titles now with FC and other alternatives.

What is the supposed reason for this Collection to even be? Maybe people will buy it and play and for an hour or two, then move onwards to something else, because that’s how things just seem to work nowadays. Hardcore fighting game players probably will throw in the money and never even touch the game because Fighcade exists. I’ll probably buy it just to get a legitimate version of Red Earth to play at home. That’s as good a reason as any. Putting this kind of thing together probably is relatively cheap, and can give support for future Collections as well as bring in some cash into Capcom’s coffer. If this Collection’s core reason to exist is to celebrate Capcom’s fighting game history, it’s not doing so well. While I’d like to see Capcom doing collections of games that haven’t seen wider ports from the original arcade and one-console-ports, that might not be the most sensible in terms of marketing and sales. Bolting all these one-time titles with Darkstalkers is a good move, something they probably could replicate by using the clout Rival Schools has among Capcom fans and throwing in Star Gladiator games and Kikaioh to form a theoretical Capcom 3D Fighting Collection. Power Stone has its own collection on the PSP already, which honestly is superior to the original games in many ways. It having an anime and all other stuff might just make the Capcom executive veterans nostalgic enough to try to put it out as a digital-only upscale for Steam. I’m eager to see what’s it gonna be when the game launches tomorrow, and despite all the perceived negativity I have here, there’s always a slimmer of hope its (hopeful) success just might give Capcom some ideas to try out something else that isn’t Street Fighter when it comes to fighting games. That’s a one-in-a-million chance though, so don’t rely on it.

A Citizen’s view: Finland applying for NATO and historical relations with Russia

While this blog has always been intended to comment on things of design of pop-culture on the side of the customer, I do feel a personal need to comment on the current world situation with Finland, Russia and NATO from a personal perspective. While at this point it is rather a moot point to guess whether or not Finland will join NATO, as the process has begun and Turkey’s Erdogan is using it as leverage to try to root Kurds and his political targets with a genocidal passion. If you want the answer to the question Should Finland join NATO? the answer would be We should’ve joined NATO twenty years ago. Naturally, the issue is somewhat complicated and directly saying joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is very much populist politics, even though it most likely would raise the probability of keeping Russia from trying to invade Finland yet again.

Now, I feel a need to pre-emptively mention that while I speak of Russia in this post, the meaning is for its government or the entity known as Russia. A person can not choose the country they are born in, and I don’t have anything against the common Russian people. Above all, in matters like this, I hope their government would treat them better and improve their nation. The 20 million Russians living below the poverty line should their priority.

Finland’s history is that of three countries, roughly speaking. Finland did exist in its own form when Finno-Ugric tribes extended their power from what is currently Sweden to the Ural mountains. During the early eleventh century, there were few crusades to Finland, but while Dane’s attempt was lacklustre, the Swedish crusades over a few centuries managed to quell down the opposition, and ultimately Finland became part of the Swedish Kingdom. The treatment of course was what you would expect, as the Finish people were treated more or less as uneducated peasants while the Swedes were the higher class people. Nevertheless, the Swedish Empire was a strong contender on the stage of world politics for a long time. While this improved the Finnish living standards as well, it was also at the expense of the culture. Even nowadays there is a class divide between Finnish and Swedish, and Swedish is the second national language.

The Great Northern War saw Sweden and Russia waging war over the Baltic. The Russian forces had taken over the Finnish landscape in 1713, but the occupation never saw proper attempts at taking the Swedish coast. The occupation was brutal and harsh, and the time between 1713-1721 is known as the Great Wrath; Russians plundered and raped all the while demanding the peasants to pay contributions for the occupation. Lutheran churches were looted and Russians used scorched earth tactics to keep the Swedish from reoccupying. Enslaved Finnish counted in the hundreds of thousands. Massacres were common, with Hailuoto Island being one of the worst examples, where cossacks hacked 800 people with axes. Poorer people led to the forests to escape the occupational forces, something that would stick to the cultural mind and would bite the Russians back during the Second World War. Not that the Swedes were any gentler. The atrocities were at their worst when Gustaf Otto Douglas, a defected Swedish count, was leading the occupational forces. However, it wouldn’t be until the Finnish War in the early 1800s that Alexander I would take Finland away from Sweden and establish the Grand Duchy of Finland under Russian rule.

If for a moment you saw some similarity with the actions Russians have taken in Ukraine above, that is because Russian methods of waging war and destroying others haven’t changed ever since the Mongols invaded Kievan Rus in the thirteenth century. This invasion effectively created the basis, where all future Russian nations would find a cultural scar in. Without this invasion, Kievan Rus might’ve developed into a more benign entity, but what is left of it in modern Russian culture is a heavy distrust towards other nations out of fear of being invaded, systematic corruption through all possible means, and trust in one true leader who would protect the people with his inner circle. There are tons, but there are just to name a few and maybe the most relevant.

Even as a grand duchy, Finland’s independence varied, but at least the peasants’ situation was always better than the Russian serfs’. While the old Swedish laws were upheld, the czar was the ruler without a peer. This era, before Finnish independence, would be the basis where the Finnish would find their place as the in-between country and gain cultural skills on how to handle Russians. Part of this was based on the Swedish population’s rouse toward the Finnish language and independence, though even then it was more about returning to glory than giving Finland its own autonomy from other nations. The national literature revolution in the 1830s would kick up the Fennoman movement, which would drive Finnish independence and identity up until our declaration of independence in 1917. Because of the tensions between three nationalities, the Swedes in Finland, the Finnish and the Russians, the population of Finland were more educated than their contemporaries in the Baltics, the Finns were able to manoeuvre through the Russification that tzars Alexander III and Nicholas II were driving from 1881 up until 1917.

Russification of Finland, known as Times of Oppression locally, stemmed from Russia seeing Finland as a conquered territory, full of lesser people that Russia must assimilate and eradicate Finnish national identity in order to protect that part of their nation from Western influences. This attitude has never really changed. An example of this would be A.S. Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman, where the Finnish are described as poor people of nature, who should forget their old hatred against Russians as only Russians can save these wretched beings. Finland itself is no more than a place to threaten Swedes and cities are built for that end. This belittling of Finland and its population is part of the Russian cultural heritage.

Following the February Revolution in Russia, the Finnish politicians would beeline toward independence. In hindsight, it’s rather comedic that Russians had to put up a second revolution to wash their hands off the first one, but October Revolution was ultimately the one that allowed Finland to full detach itself from Russian rule as the Bolsheviks declared a general right of self-determination for the people of Russia. This was more or less allowed for the Finnish people, as the Bolsheviks fully expected the Socialist revolution to take the world by wildfire and Finland to join the Soviets soon enough. They tried to expedite this by supporting the Reds in the Finnish Civil War. Russia would continue to have its fingers in the internal and global Finnish politics well up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Much is said about Finland allying with Germany during the Second World War. However, it was a situation to ally with someone who could help, or be occupied by the Soviet forces and lose independence. Russia would invade Finland in November 1939, using the Shelling of Mainila as an excuse. The shelling was a false-flag operation, where Soviet forces shelled their own nation and claimed Finland as the perpetrator. In reality, no Finnish artillery could’ve had hit the town, as it was out of range. This sort of false flag operation is Russian standard when they want something. In this case, Finland had denied their demands to have Russian military bases on Finnish soil. The Baltic states had accepted this demand, and were fully occupied in 1940, losing their independence. Stalin had high expectations for the campaign and had already established the Finnish Democratic Republic to govern soon to be occupied neighbour. While Finland lost 9% of its land to Russia, the defensive war was a success, and a momentary peace was gained with the Moscow Peace Treaty in 1940. Russia was kicked out of the League of Nations as a result of the war.

The Finnish forces were in dire need to help at that point, and no other nation was willing to offer help but Germany. Continuation War would start in June 1941 as Germany began its invasion of Russia. It wouldn’t be until the 1944’s battles the Finnish troops managed to gain decisive victories against the Soviet invaders. The Vyborg-Petrozavodzk offensive might’ve ended in a stalemate, but Russians had already seen too many of their own soldiers go down. Compared to the other nations within the Soviet sphere of influence, Finland had managed to keep its democratic independence and never allowed the Soviets to occupy the Finnish soil. The Moscow Armistice restored the 1940 treaty, leading Finnish forces to expulse German forces from the nation, which led to numerous conflicts and at least one burned city. Finland did have to cede new parts to the Soviets and pay reparation for the war Russian themselves had started, legalize the Communist Party of Finland as well as ban all parties the Soviets deemed fascist. Russian meddling in Finnish politics would continue. The Communist Party was never declared illegal, despite its still driving agenda that is very much against the interests of the nation.

Finnish neutrality during the Cold War following the Second World War is grossly exaggerated. The Soviet diplomats and politics continued to harass and influence whatever decision Finland was making internally or in regard to foreign policies. While officially the government was neutral, the interests always were to move toward the West and protect the nation from future Russian invasion. This led to the military adopting the phrase The threat comes from the East during military practices, as Finland is not viably threatened by any other nation than Russia. In recent months, both politicians and generals have used this phrase with Russia instead of East in public statements. Despite the friendly ties Finland has had with the Russians, it’s been a delicate act to keep their unwanted influence from Finnish soil for some four hundred years now. This is why the Finno-Soviet treaty of 1948, or the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, was signed to keep the Soviets happy but at bay. Numerous voices siding with Russia have declared the Finnish intent to join NATO breaks this agreement, but they never seem to remember the treaty of 1992 with the Russian Federation made the 1948 treaty effectively null.

All this is to say that in the view of Russian culture, President Putin’s words about the good ol’ days of the Russian empire make sense. Ever since the Mongols invaded the Kievan Rus, the cultural mind has been deathly afraid of being invaded again. The unnecessarily cruel nature of Russian warfare stems from these Mongols and has never left their military doctrine. How Russia is waging war in Ukraine is a direct descendant of how Russia has waged war since the thirteenth century. No matter how much the tzars have brought European influences and cultural aspects to Russian soil, Russia is deeply an Asian country. In reality, Europe doesn’t end with the Ural Mountains, it ends where the Russian border is drawn. The culture is Asian, not Western. The Western World has accepted individuals’ right to self govern for better or worse a long time ago and has built trust among its peers. Russia’s cultural landscape does not admit to this. For them, it is their God-given right to fight and protect their own culture at the expense of all others, self-governance be damned. Strategic truth, as in lying, is extensively used to deceive in order to reach personal goals. Everything else can be expended for the Russian state and its people. In this equation, Finland is the buffer zone Russia has used against the Western World. When Finland began talking about joining NATO more openly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s actions flared up; Russia cuts gas lines to Finland, diplomats put pressure on Finnish parliament members, sly talks about the Russian empire taking what was theirs and all that. It’s Russia talking down to the Finnish people again.

Back when I was in university, I discussed the relationship between Finland and modern Russia with a Russian exchange student. His view was quite telling; Finland is a poor place. It doesn’t even have its own culture or history.

To return to the question if Finland should join NATO for a moment, the question is absurd to me. The population of Finland has been under the threat of Russian invasion ever since Sweden got beaten during the Great Northern War. Russian proverb of The border of Russia is secure only when Russian soldiers occupy both sides of the border is a direct threat. Finland has every right to join whatever alliances they wish if that means securing the sanctity of their nation. To Russians, that often has meant a pre-emptive strike to make the enemy unable to attack. For a more civilized nation that means having a good enough defence to fight such an invader. It is no exaggeration to say Russia only considers itself safe when all possible opposition is crushed. This is, at best, medieval thinking and should have no place in the modern world. Russian propaganda will aim to convince people that Finland and Sweden joining NATO is the result of the Western world, especially the United States, tricking and deceiving Swedes and Finns into joining. The reality is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and continuing their tradition of brutal and unnecessarily cruel warfare is at fault.

To be more realistic, Russia has been treating Finland as a NATO country for a long time despite also treating the country as a buffer zone. This is due to Finland being a NATO-aligned country. This means cooperation in intelligence and global actions, which naturally Russia deems as a threat. With Russia escalating its nature as a threat toward Europe, nations are justifiably worried about their safety. In a perfect world, Russia wouldn’t be afraid of being invaded and would find no need to invade countries that want to be independent. Russian propaganda and information warfare have a hundred-year history of mixing truths, half-truths and lies in their disinformation campaigns, and we’re seeing it in full action at this very moment. While it also tried to twist and turn the nation’s history toward a rosier view, they can’t really hide from the stripes on their fur.

In Russian, pravda does not mean truth as it would be in English. It’s not the opposite, but something that tries to find a balance and harmony between right and wrong, lie and truth. It’s closer to a white lie, a half-truth you use to get out of difficulties. You see this used far more often than the word istina, which stands for truth as it would in English. However, Russia has three words for lies; Vranjo, Lozh’ and nepravda. This gives a certain insight on the function of the language, and to some extent how people think. This is why foreign diplomats have difficulties in discerning what Russia says on the world stage. Be it Lenin, Stalin or Putin, they’ve all used this sort of strategic truth as a weapon, sometimes directly lying to misdirect their opponents. To put it simply, Russian culture doesn’t have a binary with lies and truths; everything is a mass of grey. Putin denying that it was his troops on the Ukrainian border is just an example of this. As much as we make comparisons of doublethink in modern parlance and its negative side effects, it is an everyday thing in Russian culture.

All that said, the generation that was born and raised under Putin does not exactly share all the sentiments made here. The one example of a fellow student voicing their displeasure towards Finland is against dozens of others doing the opposite. As it tends to be with these issues, a singular person or not the issue nor are the people per se. However, it is the culture and the leaders of that nation that perpetuate certain views and cultural trends through information warfare against their own citizens. When the government and everyone under them has their fingers in the system, the average citizen can’t really do anything but work with the system. Take a simple thing like nepotism. It’s rampant in Russian systems. Of course, you have to make sure your own family has the best positions and chances. Western systems abhor and have worked for ages to remove even the simplest forms of corruption. This is the opposite, as Russian culture has it baked in. This is one of the numerous reasons for Russia’s lack of success in its campaign in Ukraine, as the leaders have systematically siphoned resources away from equipment and training to their own pockets. This has its roots in the Mongol rule as one of the cultural scars. Not that the Mongols can be the sole perpetrator of this. The Russian people saw cruelty and terror under Stalin, second only to Mao’s China.  One of the biggest mistakes for many Western nations was to treat Russia as one of them, rather than as one of the Asian cultures.

If you’re interested in Russian historical culture and its direct influence on its modern-day actions, I’d recommend watching Martti Kari’s lecture on the subject. He’s an ex-intelligence officer, a lecturer nowadays, with a specialization in Russian history and culture under his belt. There’s a subtitled version for people who’d like to watch it, and if you can stomach autospeech, an English version. It covers a whole lot more than what I have here, but from a more objective view. It is highly recommended for anyone with even the slightest of interests.

Of course, the question of whether or not joining NATO would pose a threat to Russia should be entertained. For Russia, any foreign power strong enough to oppose it is a threat, especially with Russia’s historical disliking of the Western world, despite desperately wanting to be part of it. NATO is a defensive organization, only activated twice; once after 9/11 and the second time after the terror strikes on France. Whether or not you want to believe bad tongues about the alliance, out of the two options it does seem far better. To say Russia has always been a threat used to be politically incorrect, now it’s become a bit more media sexy in certain circles. Russia always had the capacity to invade its smaller neighbours, if it intended to do so. However, they never had a proper justification for it. Even when Russian forces are to protect Russian nationals even abroad, their attack on the Baltics or Finland would be hard to justify within the nation. Ukraine has been, and will always be, a special sore spot for Russia as long as they remember how modern Russia can be said to have started in Ukraine’s Kiev. Russia’s sad history shows they are not to be trusted to respect agreements or hold their end of bargains on the world stage, unless it benefits them. From a point of view of a citizen, in order to protect the sanctity of Finland’s borders and independence, we must find like-minded people who we can trust more so we can prepare for war. For war I hope will never again come. The argument that NATO had lost its relevance after USSR’s dissolution is largely ignoring how Russian Federation more or less continued the exact same path and methods as a direct continuation, just with less communism.

Nevertheless, whatever may come in the future, whether or not Finland manages to join NATO, there is one thing we must avert by all means necessary; the Third World War. Invasion of Ukraine, Finland Joining NATO and everything else has to be put aside for this issue. We can not afford to have a nuclear exchange between countries. We have only one world. Whatever it takes, the nuclear powers must never come into direct conflict with each other, less escalate it to a nuclear war. They are an awesome weapon to protect yourself from the possible enemy, yet they are something that must never be used. This is not an issue of political ideologies or world views, the matter of mutual annihilation touches everyone on the planet an equal amount. With the increase in amounts of tactical nuclear weapons, misreading situations for an actual strategic nuclear strike has become that much easier. A nuclear weapon must not be ever used, as the enemy might retaliate. While we are not near a nuclear exchange at the moment, all sides need to work together in some manner to ensure that the possibility is nil. We don’t need to lose our ways of living and sovereignty for that. We need dialogue and diplomacy for that. However, as we’ve seen this year, it is hard to do peace with someone who is willing to punch you down because they feel afraid for all the reasons you don’t threaten them with. The balance of power, as much as everyone hates it, is something that has always worked in human history. From having a better rock to a sharper knife, from having an iron sword over a bronze one to having rifled guns against smooth bores flintlocks, and to having a higher number of missiles with superior destructive capabilities. In the best-case scenario, which we’ve been in for some time now, the existence of a nuclear arsenal and the threat it poses has kept the stakes low. The lower they are, the less likely the enemy will have a need to resort to stronger retaliation. If we return our gaze back to Finland, even if we were to join NATO, the stakes would be kept low. Whatever government would allow foreign nuclear weaponry on Finnish soil would be letting their people down and spit in face of diplomacy. As long as NATO works as intended as a defensive organization, no power need to worry about it.

All this must seem like a rambling. Mostly because it is. The issue is not exactly easy and I am not too comfortable with these views or sharing them overall. However, we must face the danger that exists and admit that diplomacy has its limits. If we can’t trust a power, we must find allies somewhere else.

As an end note, why is that the featured image? There you see Russians dragging a boat along the river Volga, while at the far right you can see a German steamboat. Things haven’t changed.

The CAPCOM Test Collection

The Capcom Test is an old term dating back to the 1990s, though the practice probably dates well into the 1980s when Capcom was becoming an arcade powerhouse. Capcom used to rent yellow arcade boards to arcade operators for a time to test the game among consumers and to encourage the operator to make a full purchase of the arcade title. With consoles, this had to change, especially with the death of rental stores. Now the method is to put out a collection or a limited-budget production title, like the numerous Darkstalkers collections, to see if sales would be generated to ensure a new, higher-budget title. Often the sales number and the revenue these Test games have to make is unrealistically high, as Capcom moved towards a high budget, high-revenue model with their mainline games since the early 2000s. Personally, I would put the shift starting from the original Resident Evil to Devil May Cry 2. DMC2 was developed by an ex-arcade development team that was out of their depth in making a console game of this calibre. It is a lynchpin game, where Capcom would slowly, but surely, move their focus further on bigger-than-life titles with grandiose visuals. By all means, titles like Monster Hunter were part of this, as the franchise had grown bigger and bigger in terms of how grandiose it is despite the play part subdued. Hell, certain elements have been completely excised from Monster Hunter World. There has also been a further focus on the framing story sequences, which have slowed Capcom games down quite a lot. Mega Man is a good indicator of how Capcom sways. Aside from Mega Man 11, things have been very quiet, baiting with nostalgia via licensing.

The very recently announced Capcom Fighting Collection is, by all means, a Capcom Test. Social Media has people asking others to buy the game as it is seen as a Test for Darkstalkers series, a series that has already had more Tests than most other franchises. While yours truly is a fan of the series and would love to see a new entry, I also highly doubt this collection will yield any positive results for the fans. Capcom often has unreasonably high expectations of their titles, as any title is more or less expected to make Resident Evil or Monster Hunter tier revenue. That is not going to happen, as there is a finite amount of money the consumers can shell out and Capcom’s competition is harsh. Street Fighter 6, which got a teaser, too, did not exactly lit the audience. Simply displaying a fujoshi’s wet dream Ryu in RE Engine is not enough to make out what the game will be like. Sure, most people who have been in the arcades or given a glance at the fighting game scene know how a Street Fighter generally functions, but as usual, the core audience wants and needs to see and know more.

Would probably do good to showcase what’s been talked about

This Collection probably is not testing just Darkstalkers in a vacuum. While there is an obligatory Street Fighter II thrown in there, the rest of the titles are peculiar. Warzard/Red Earth is a CPS-3 system game that has not seen a homeport until now. Should’ve included all three Street Fighter III games while they were at it. Cyberbots is a cult game with little to no audience or live scene. Pocket Fighters is mostly a throwaway, it is not going to make any ends or means. What is peculiar about this collection is that it only has 2D fighting games. There is no Rival Schools, Star Gladiator, Power Stone or Tech Romancer. Not even a word is being whispered about Street Fighter EX titles in a collection, and I am sure Arika, as the developer of the games and owner of the series original originals, would be willing to cooperate. The reality probably is that this is a reasonable budget title for Capcom to test waters whether or not there is an audience for a new fighting game to go alongside Street Fighter but yet is distinctly different in visual and style. Darkstalkers still retains a very unique look, with the whole Western cartoon animation thing going on with its Universal Horror monster closet, while Cyberbots is strong mechanical mayhem to a tee. Red Earth is deeply rooted to its character growth system and will offer only a limited interest due to its low number of four playable characters. However, I believe this is the only way we would have ever got Red Earth ported; as a port of a collection.

Nevertheless, the styling is clear; a standard and safe Street Fighter II fair, a horror fighter, an SF mecha fighter, and a fantasy-themed fighter. All titles are going to use rollback netcode, so at least online play should be nice and nippy. If I were somebody at Capcom looking whether or not to greenlight a new project based on one of these games, I would have a line of code that would record how many hours each of the games are played to see what series, and what iteration in case of Darkstalkers, is the most popular and go with that. For better or worse, statistics still rule.

Maybe we’ll get at least a Capcom 3D Fighting Game Collection if this one sells reasonably to justify porting their 3D fighting games to modern platforms. I

The other side of the coin is that we are on Mega Man‘s 35th anniversary year as well. We have yet to see any kind of title being announced. Sure, it’s late February and there is a lot of year left, but there is not much Capcom can do in regards of collections. The latest Collections are not very old and are still in circulation, so putting out a new one wouldn’t be the best move to pull. Sure, something like Mega Man Legends collection would be nifty, but that’d also put the lens on the cancelled Mega Man Legends 3, and that’s something that probably salted the ground with Mega Man quite a lot. Mega Man is the other side of the coin due to how it depicts Capcom’s priorities. The best we can expect is a game during the Blue Bomber’s 40th anniversary. I honestly don’t expect a full-fledged Mega Man game on our shelves in the next five years.

There is no definitive way to say whether or not past Capcom Tests have been successful. When it comes to arcade games, we definitely can see how certain games floated to the top and became the cream of Capcom history. We can mostly point to Darkstalkers as a prime example of how the Capcom Test has flunked a series. I would say that the same can be appointed to the Mega Man series, which is now in the mobile game hell with Mega Man X DiVE. However, looking at a certain lack of titles that have come from Capcom’s collections as of late, chances are that even if the Fighting Game Collection sells, the hopes for new Darkstalkers should not be raised. Vote with your wallet and showcase the game, if you want to make your voice heard.

Though there’s always the question if modern Capcom can actually produce a new fighting game that isn’t a hyper-realistic million-dollar piece. All this sounds nice, but seeing how Capcom is doubling down on making the most Hollywood-like top-tier graphics experience with their RE Engine, the question that has to be asked is whether or not there is anyone who could head a cartoony horror fighter. Darkstalkers is very much a cartoony fighter with bright colours despite its motif. While Darkstalkers themselves are serious things. While the story hardly comes through the games themselves, their background is rich and gives all of the more than just that one shade of blood red. There’s whole mythology you can only see in sourcebooks. While the story and the result of these matches were equally as serious, the animations were always tightly knit to the Tom and Jerry kind of gag animation. You could cut your opponent open mid-fight, but he’d just flip back together and get up. It’s tons of fun, and in my older days, I’ve slowly come to appreciate the craftsmanship the series has in terms of animation over titles like Street Fighter III and King of Fighters XIII. If Capcom would be making a new entry, I hope it’ll be colourful fun, filled with cartoony gore. I hope my fears are crushed and Capcom can actually rip themselves off from sticking to either anime or hyper-realism.

The second bit is that Darkstalkers is known to be a hard as hell game to get into. While the first and the second game are relatively easy and simple, that’s only by comparison to modern mechanics in fighting games. Then you have Darkstalkers 3, or Vampire Saviour, a game that has people who want to get into it, and people who have played it for good two decades or so. There’s very little middle-ground when it comes to skill ceilings. The game’s speed is still unmatched, and the mostly polished mechanics make a game that’s very hard to get into. Sure, there are a few bullshit regulations and rules on how some of the mechanics work and Dark Force is utterly useless with some characters, but those mostly add to the meta-skills the player has to learn. It’s easy to say that Guilty Gear is a poster boy for having a gimmick with each character, but Darkstalkers did that first by having the first character to airdash. One character in the original game’s cast could airdash as we think it nowadays, the others couldn’t. Sure, Morrigan’s forward dash would actually lift her off from the ground, but that’s not the same in function. Other characters have long hops that force them into an aerial state. All this is to say that while the very core basic walking might’ve been shared with all characters, characters would also have different ways to do more advanced movements, like dashing forwards or hopping or just disappearing for a moment while sliding forwards. I take that back, actually. Guilty Gear is still the poster boy for gimmick characters, Darkstalkers has characters that are built around certain unique options only accessible to a single or limited number of characters.

In the modern environment, where eSports is a thing and has to drive sales, I can’t see Capcom putting an effort into making a game that has a high learning curve which is also further affected by each character in a heavier manner than in Street Fighter or King of Fighters. Guilty Gear mostly has bullshit single-character mechanics that might as well be a whole different genre. I can still hear Jack-O playing tower defense in my head. Heavily in-depth and complex fighting games don’t seem to make good sales or nice eSports titles, especially if the game’s emphasis is blitz-speed with no pause of any sort for Super Moves. The cartoony animation has to carry that wow factor. Perhaps it’d be better if Capcom would make a new Cyberbots instead. Their realistic approach could work very well for that game, and there has been a serious lack of quality robot fighting games as of late. Alternatively, a new Red Earth title could emphasize player-build characters through an easy interface with expanded RPG-like growth mechanics and elements thrown in, but that’d be effectively Soul Calibur. 

I’ll most likely be picking up this collection on launch day just to be able to play a legitimate copy of Red Earth without resorting to emulation. That’s a sticking point with some, seeing this collection moot because all the titles innit can be played through Fightcade. While an option, emulation doesn’t really showcase Capcom what the customers would like to have as it doesn’t show up in their revenue tape. In a sorted twisted sense, it can also show that people are completely fine playing the old games over and over again. All Capcom needs to do is to release a new collection every decade or so to test the waters. We’ve been through this a few times already. That’s kinda sad innit. Here we are, getting a collection of games we’ve played tons already throughout the years, just to test waters with if Capcom might want to make more money in making a new entry. 

Capcom fans are weird beings. On one hand, the fans want new entries for their old games. On another, there’s always a want for something new. It’s just Capcom wants to test first if there are enough existing fans to justify making a new entry. God only knows how the hell Capcom ever manages to produce new IPs, but they really need to get on that boat too in the near future.

Sony’s Bungie Jump

Sony buying Bungie is not a fast revenge-action to get back at Microsoft. Corporate buyouts take time, and unless Sony had info on Microsoft intending to obtain Activision Blizzard, they have something else in mind for Bungie. However, the grapevine has stated that Sony intends to obtain further game studios in the near future. This statement I would accept as a counter to MS buying ActiBlizzard, because it looks like appeasing the consumers and the stockholders.

Looking from the core game consumer standpoint it would be easy to argue that Sony buying Bungie is snapping at Microsoft, as the studio is still best known as the creator of Halo. Some praise Destiny while others dislike the title, but it has nevertheless has stayed afloat. We could assume that Sony now wants to make their Halo-killer, a lofty position that as given to numerous previous Sony-exclusive titles like Haze. Let us further assume that Microsoft does not continue multiplatform game contracts and ActiBlizzard titles will slowly but surely become Microsoft Xbox and Windows exclusive. Gaining a studio that would to American styled shooting games would be a decent counterforce. However, the two buyouts most likely were done for different reasons and probably did not have any direct relation.

Why Bungie though? Sega’s market value is about the same, so why not pick up them instead? In terms of raw franchising power, Sega would have been a better option. Capcom, Konami and even Square Enix might’ve cost a bit more, but they would have far more attractive franchises under their belts.

I think we need to look at Bungie closer. They are effectively a single-game company at the moment. Sony’s statement was that they will get knowhow on how to produce multiplatform titles and Bungie gets access to Sony’s media productions. At face value, Sony will be gaining further information and skills on developing and publishing games on other platforms other than their own, and Bungie can have their IP turned into a multimedia franchise under Sony’s wing. Destiny movie or television series is not wholly improbable, but still unlikely. It’s not the IP that Sony’s after here.

Destiny is a games-as-service type of deal and is wholly dependent on online servers and services. These titles make tons of money, which Sony will now be able to enjoy. Perhaps they want to make use of knowhow to develop a multimedia IP, driven by Bungie’s already successful model with Destiny. There is always ways to refine that model to become more profitable. I highly doubt Sony was after any Bungie’s IPs but rather their market potential in producing revenue and looking for a specific type of developer with specific set of knowhow. It just happened that Bungie probably was the easiest and the best option.

To be honest, there is very little to go on why Bungie would sell itself to Sony. However, we can be sure about the bottom line being about money. 3.6 billion dollars is not a small sum. Perhaps Bungie was hemorrhaging money somewhere and this is their way to obtain capital and production base they would not be able to secure otherwise. Bungie staying largely independent, at least for now, means Sony does not want to strangle whatever profits they are making. Hell, I would not really be surprised if they did not give a damn, what Bungie was making as long as the cash flow was coming in.

I cannot say whether Bungie is a ruined company like Blizzard is. They have not done much after Halo. Blizzard went to the shitter after World of Warcraft became a success. You could argue that there are few other corporations that changed after a significantly successful title. Post-Resident Evil Capcom might be one. Perhaps a certain turning point for Konami was the global success of Metal Gear Solid. Activision lost every resemblance of creativity for sure with their yearly Call of Duty releases.

This is more or less what we should have expected though. Sony has become more focused on the American market to the point of Japanese game consumers rejecting their modern direction. Perhaps it’s all part of Sony’s grander plan in making a cloud service and tying down a developer known for their games-as-service title. However, this is still game business as usual.

Microsoft is not gaining a monopoly in gaming

That’s an answer I’ve given few times when people have asked me about the whole shebang about MS buying Activision Blizzard. Sure, they gained applauded and popular IPs with and now can become the ultimate Western military shooting console with Bethesda’s RPGs and whatnot giving a countering balance. On the surface, it looks good for the Xbox in the future and most likely it’ll be a better platform for numerous games over both of Sony’s PlayStations in this regard. The Switch and whatever Nintendo’s cooking up next will be in its own ballpark again.

However, The Windows Company doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to company acquisitions. On the contrary, much like EA, Microsoft has more or less run their companies to the ground in one way or another. Rare is a perfect example. Banjo Nuts and Bolts is a mess and whatever the company did before is mostly remembered as a game Rare made rather than for their own merits. Battletoads looked exemplary in Killer Instinct and they allowed that modern, franchise-undermining soft-reboot to happen. Lionhead Studios had a strong start with Black and White and Fable, but thanks to The Movies failing Microsoft nabbed ‘em up just to produce more Fable with falling quality. We can discuss the merits FASA Studio had with their MechWarrior games, but MS ultimately decided to kill off the studio and license the studio’s games back to one of its original founders. Mojang is just a Minecraft studio, but the franchise’s growth has stalled significantly.

Bungie and Halo was a godsend gift to Microsoft and Xbox and is the sole reason why Microsoft is still kicking the brand around. However, Halo and perhaps a few other titles, everything Microsoft has done is just copying and following trends. Microsoft has not one creative decision under its belt that could be described as original. Nintendo at least has always been a follower as much as they have been a trendsetter. Sony is sort of falling between following and setting trends, but the trends they set have been more on accident rather than intentional. It’s more that Sony has tried to repeat business and technological successes rather gaming innovations. PlayStation 3 tried to create a new marketplace in a flash, similarly, how PlayStation 2 accidentally created a marketplace for DVDs in Japan the night it was released on. Both Microsoft and Sony catered their consoles as the media centers of your living room. In reality, they both kind suck at it.

If I have criticized that Sony lacks their own strong IPs that they could run with pride and prestige, Microsoft is, in all honesty, best known for Flight Simulator and Halo, and even here Bungie had been developing their game for a long time. Microsoft might have a want, or more likely a pressing need, to have their own IPs to contest Sony and Nintendo, but they have effectively failed in this core process. This shows a major weakness in Microsoft’s gaming business model and the lack of understanding of markets outside the US. It is out of weakness Microsoft has purchased Bethesda and Activision Blizzard, and we have yet to see anything solid from the Bethesda deal.

Gaming has not changed, though that is what numerous talking heads have voiced. This is normal business. Microsoft has obtained companies for their IPs so that their platforms would have a competitive edge against their two main rivals. All these IPs will most likely be fed to Microsoft’s game streaming service, of which I have yet to hear or read one positive thing about. I do not think a gaming streaming service will ever become truly mainstream unless games become shorter and more to the point. People do not have enough time to slog through tens or hundreds of hours of games. It works for music and movies just fine; they are something you do not actively engage in. Playing a game requires time and effort with concentration. Perhaps that is why game journalists are trying to push for the Skip-Game button. It is not that they could not learn the game well enough to beat, but they just do not have the time for them. People should not expect gaming to deliver similar passive media experiments. That would be just silly.  

Still, Microsoft is intending to make their Cloud services to be worthwhile, and it is highly possible that they intend to include numerous Activision Blizzard titles into their services. As much as Google was touted to become the Netflix of gaming, chances are that Microsoft is aiming for that role. Even then, people really would like to have community ran servers, as it seems most of Microsoft’s online games still suffer from servers being down and preventing online multiplayer. I really wish companies would include local multiplayer functions more these days.

Microsoft’s GamePass will, of course, be the main thing to benefit in terms of IPs, but on a grander scale, this is Microsoft wanting to include more content in their whole digital ecosystem. Honestly, MS picking up Activision Blizzard seems to be a pre-emptying move to keep some other tech giant, be it Amazon or Meta, from acquiring them first and including these IPs in their particular ecosystems. If Microsoft had their own strong IPs to back to, they never would have found the need to make this purchase. The whole metaverse can be ignored, for now, it has no real relevancy outside being the moment’s hot discussion topic.

Of course, the question of whether or not these IPs were worth it. Blizzard has managed to effectively screw up their ‘craft games and their remasters to the point of fans taking things into their own hands. Word of Warcraft is losing people to that latest Final Fantasy MMORPG. Diablo III is still a disappointment. The whole company and every aspect of their IPs have been falling in the eyes of the consumer for the potshots they have taken at ‘em too. Blizzcon fiascos, capitulating to the Chinese Communist Party by banning players voicing for independent Hong Kong outside their games all the while displaying an innocent plastic face while having harassment issues at their company. Looking at all the big hitters there, Blizzard has mismanaged all of them to the point of stopping at a wall.

As for Activision, they never really had a good reputation. They’ve effectively been a smaller EA in that they buy smaller studios and effectively fuck them over. Raven Software developed some great games by using Id’s engines, some better than Id’s own games. Neversoft will always be connected to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Spider-Man alongside Treyarch. Infinity Ward birthed the Call of Duty franchise, which Activision has been riding on ever since their acquisition while cutting down companies like Raven Software from their high position and relegated them as nothing more than CoD support team. Gray matter Interactive developed one of the best sequels in Return to Castle Wolfenstein but got thrown into Treyarch to work in the CoD support teams. RedOctane did Guitar Hero and Activision effectively killed the franchise.

Activision has a lot of good studios under them, but nobody really likes what Activision has done with them. There are so many former studios that it isn’t even funny. So many unused IPs that are completely dead in the water. Even CoD, while printing money, is far less popular now than it used to be. Much like so many of these IPs, it’s run to the ground. As a whole Activision Blizzard has made some seriously stupid and regressive decisions and has backpedaled many opportunities to push their IPs forward. Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon revivals were well received and sold well, all things considered. Despite this, the dev teams were thrown back to the Call of Duty mines to work in a supporting developer role.

Funny that Microsoft now owns numerous family-friendly franchises that originated from Nintendo and Sony platforms.

Now, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, the big dick running the Xbox brand, has stated that reviving old franchises, like Hexen and Guitar Hero, is on the table. While the consumers might see this as a great thing, a return to (their personal) glory days of gaming, stockholders don’t see it that way. These old IPs don’t really make the same amount of money. Thus, it could be possible that Microsoft might want to franchise or lease these newly gained IPs for other developers or whatnot to make a good buck on the side.

Another reason why Microsoft would have wanted Blizzard is to have a foothold in the Asian market. Xbox is still the rag dog that gets kicked around in the Orient, but with Blizzard, the Chinese market opens up that much more, especially with all the mobile phone games the Chinese and Koreans consume. The Japanese on the other hand most likely will still stay as an unsalvageable mess, unless Spencer really wants to change their methods. Spencer should follow what the Japanese have been doing but in reverse. Effectively, copy what Sucker Punch did with Ghost of Tsushima; take something Japanese, and make a somewhat Westernizer version of it to sell to the Japanese. The Japanese have been doing this as their main method of exportation, from cars to video games. Ghost of Tsushima showed that it works the other way too, as the Japanese audience loves the game. Credit where credit is due, Sony publishing the game was a good stroke and netted them some seriously needed credit amidst all the issues with their internal censorship that extends to the developers’ as well.

Microsoft has to respect existing contracts between Activision Blizzard and Sony. There will not be much exclusivity to be seen in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, I do wish Microsoft would simply cease putting any of their owned IPs on Sony’s consoles whenever they can just so Sony would be forced to think about their revenue streams first and foremost. However, Microsoft has to think through their growth and revenues now too, and expanding to Sony’s platform and making money on a PlayStation is win in their books. In the short term, we will not be seeing any sort of massive shift in gaming or change in content. If anything, it will take at least a few years until we see anything definitive coming from this deal, and even then, it might be extremely clashing due to the currently incompatible corporate structures and cultures between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard. Sorting that shit, and the whole lawsuit Activision Blizzard has to deal with, takes time.

Sony might be seen as Microsoft’s main rival (Microsoft has really just followed Sony’s path of grabbing up studios and probably will be making extensive limited-time exclusives in the future) but really, we could also see this as a move to counter how much power Tencent has. Tencent has its fingers in so many Western and Asian studios that it is not funny, and most likely few of your games carry their name somewhere on the label too. Honor of Kings or Arena of Valor as known under its international title is the most profitable electronic game in history. It alone has contributed over 13 billion dollars to Tencent’s revenues since 2015 and continues to contribute with its 80 million daily active users. With Activision Blizzard under their belt and the revenue stream possibilities they now have open, Microsoft is in a much better place to contest with Tencent. On the side, all the money Tencent is making is also money the Chinese government is making.

Gaming hasn’t changed suddenly with this purchase nor has Microsoft gained a monopoly. Like most things, the game market is constantly moving and shifting. Making sense out of it is just as hard as any business is. Consolidation of developers under a bigger banner has been happening constantly, but that doesn’t exclude people from putting up their own development studios and publishers. Even if Microsoft and Sony would prevent developers from having games on their platforms, there are tons of alternatives, including Nintendo’s. It might not have the exact same popularity or consumer base, but you have to start from somewhere. The best first step in becoming popular and mainstream is to first become a cult classic. Not every game can be Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter II.

The whole issue on the mainstream Internet media is far too US-centric. The IPs that are cited are most popular in the US, while European and Asian markets fluctuate how popular Microsoft’s games can be. Xbox itself may be more popular in the US, but it still has to fight tooth and nail in the European markets. We’ve covered Asian markets, so there’s that too. Looking at the global situation, this purchase seems to only benefit in the American and select European markets, with only droplets of Asian markets making a dent. Though even then I remember the news about Blizzard making quite the revenues in Asian mobile phone game markets, so that’s a bonus. There are no other home game console companies in the US, and the market is global. It’s not about an issue of Microsoft hogging all these companies and IPs to themselves when it comes to competition. The issue is what the competition is going to do in order to present their device as the superior option. The answer is as it has always been; have content that is able to compete with the opposition.

Personal opinion? I don’t really care for any of the IPs Microsoft acquired, but I do hope the purchase will go through fully and Microsoft will begin to consolidate all the IPs solely into their ecosystem to the point that its competitors have to find their own titles to counter. I wish to see the day when console libraries are vastly different and would be truly unique.