A local question

Astro Boy, Gigantor and Eight Man are classic shows that have a place in American pop culture, even thou Eight Man is probably the most forgotten piece of the bunch. This was the 60’s, and a cartoon with robots flying in the sky, high-speed androids and robot boys fit the era fine. From what I’ve gathered from what people who grew up with these shows, nobody questioned their origin. They were entertaining shows on the telly and that’s all that mattered. I’d throw Speed Racer into the mix as well, thou it arrived just a tad later to the mix, but met with the same treatment.

Video and computer games have a similar history, all things considered. Nobody really cared where from arcade games came from, they just rocked the place. Not even the name Nintendo raised some eyebrows, it was just some exotic name cocked up in a meeting. Pretty much what Herb Powell did in The Simpsons.

Games had a shorter gestation period than robot cartoons when it comes to finding the source to some extent. US saw the mid-1970’s Shogun Warriors, a toyline that used wide variety of toys based on Toei’s show with some changed names to fit better the American market. The NES era is relatively infamous of its localised games, and much like how American reception of these Japanese cartoons ultimately was felt back in Japan, so was the localisations and changed made to games. Perhaps the best example of this would how Salamander became Life Force in its arcade re-release and effectively became its own spin-off from the base game.

This, of course, has been largely in America. Europe is a bit of a different thing, with France, Italy and Spain having their own imported animation culture to the point of Spain having a statue for Mazinger Z. I remember reading about a tennis comic that a French publisher continued after its end in Japan. This was done by hiring an illustrator who could replicate the original style and saw healthy sales for a time. Something that like probably could never happen in modern world, unless the original author has died and has made it clear that continuing his work is allowed. Somehow I can see titles like Mazinger  and Dragon Ball still gaining new entries to the franchise long after Go Nagai and Akira Toriyama have left for Mangahalla.

Sadly, I am not as well versed in pan-European phenomena when it comes to Japanese animation in the Old World, but there are numerous resources in both online and book format, often in native tongue. Perhaps worth investing time into for future entries.

While things like Robotech and Voltron made their names around the American landscape, the 1980’s saw a growing appreciation for the original, unaltered footage. This was the era of Laserdisc, and people were mail ordering cartoons solely based on the covers. Can’t blame them, LDs tend to have absolutely awesome covers. Whenever these shows were shown in a convention, a leaflet explaining the overall premise and the story would be spread among the visitors or a separate person would enter the stage and give a synopsis of the events on the screen. There were those who felt, and still feel, that localisation demeans the original work.

Similarly, game importing became a thing in the latter part of the 1980’s and in the early 1990’s with NES’ success, though it should be mentioned that Europe saw PC game importing across regions far more. The Nordic countries began importing NES games anywhere they could and specialised mail service stores popped up just to service this part of the population. It wasn’t uncommon to see Genesis and Mega Drive titles sold side by side in-game stores. Appreciation for the original game saw a rise, either because of it was simply cool to have shit in Japanese or from America, or because some level of censorship was present. However, more often it was because Europe was largely ignored when it came to releasing certain games. Importing unavailable games to a region is still relevant, perhaps even more so than previously now that companies are investing in English releases in Asian versions and region free consoles are becoming an industry standard.

The question I’ve been asking myself for a long time now, longer than I’ve been writing this blog, is that whether or not wholesome localisation like Space Battleship Yamato and Starblazers was a necessary evil of the time that we can be do without now, that we are grown culturally to accept the original work as a whole, or whether it’s just hubris of the people who are too close to their sub-culture and co-fans. A person who is tightly knit with music’s sub-culture doesn’t exactly understand the sub-culture of pinball or golf.

By that I mean that pop-culture in general doesn’t give jackshit whether or not panties are censored in a video game, it’s irrelevant in macro-scale. Even in a localised form a product can impact pop-culture in ways that the original couldn’t, the aforementioned Speed Racer and Robotech being highly impacting examples in American pop-culture. I guarantee that these shows would not have their impact without the localisation effort.

Is it a necessary evil then? Perhaps this is the subjective part with no answer. Those who value original, unaltered product without a doubt will always prefer the “purest” form of the product, whereas someone who doesn’t have the same priorities will most likely enjoy the localised version just as fine. It would be infantile to assume that people who don’t know better can’t appreciate the original piece or lack in intelligence somehow. It is merely a matter preference, and like assholes, everyone has one.

If it matters, I personally vouch for unaltered products whenever applicable for the sake of keeping the integrity of the product and the intentions of the creators intact. However, also see complete localisations having their valid place in e.g. children’s cartoons. While it would be nice to have two or more versions of everything for the sake of options, that’s not always an option for budgetary, marketing or some other reasons.

Perhaps that’s what could be argued; when it comes to Western culture, we are more acceptable to unlocalised products more than previously, but total localisations still have their place. Even without knowing much about the source, we can appreciate the intentions and look past the cultural difference.

Or at least we should be able to, and appreciate the differences and intentions without resorting to raising a hell for nothing.

Mecha design; made for production

Because I’m currently in a moment where I have no access to my books and most of my materials for a TSF comparison, I just have to pull this one out for now.

I have discussed mass production of mecha in some of the previous entries in the mecha tag posts, but never really touched upon the idea in itself and how it usually reflects back to designs. Usually in mecha stories, especially those from Japan, the prototype unit is usually stronger than its mass-produced counterpart for numerous reasons, be it higher output or better weapons. This, of course, makes little sense in real world to some extent. Often mass production models, or MPs from now on, are optimised versions of the prototypes. The cost of production has been taken down with material and design choices, unnecessary elements are removed due to them being too complex, or too complex elements have been streamlined for maintenance and production.

How this is reflected in design? Let’s take a look at RX-78-2 Gundam and its MP counterpart, RGM-79 GM.

The similarities between the two are instantly visible, outside the stance. The legs largely the same, with GM losing openings under its knees. The skirt armour is largely simplified due to the removal of front compartment and whatever those yellow squares were. The torso is largely the same, carrying that iconic shape with yellow vents on both sides of the cockpit. Shoulders are the same as are the arms. However, only one Beam Sabre is visible and the head has seen the largest overhaul in terms of the silhouette. GM lacks the V-fin and eyes have been replaced with a singular visor. There is no mouth guard or vents on the sides of the head either, so I’d assume it shows that GM has lower temperature inside its head than the Gundam. A lot of those little assumptions could be made on the GM based on the idea of streamlining a prototype.

Outside those, the dull gray and use of red is another cost saving measure, as there’s no need for white and blue, two colours that are iconic in Gundam design. White isn’t technically a colour, so take that as you will. For another example, that has more detail, let’s take a look at MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam and its MP variant, MSZ-013 Mass Production Type ZZ Gundam.

In terms of Gundam design, the ZZ follows basic Gundam design; vents on both sides of the cockpit, a V-Fin and the three-colour scheme with the eponymous Gundam face. The MP variant here is a bit more clear how ZZ’s complexities were trimmed down. It lacks the Core Block System and all the transformation functions, so it drops all those extra wings from those. While technically being a Gundam, it lacks the V-Fin and now resembles head of a Nemo to an extent. The cockpit seems to be better armoured and has an extra cannon installed above it. The side skirt has something that looks like a  missile pack and the shoulders’ Beam Cannons are straight from the base ZZ itself. You can see your run of the mill sabres on the right side of the skirt armour. The thrusters’ sizes in the legs have been adjusted and the knee things have been adjusted in size.

These two examples show two ways that mecha seems to deal with its MP units. GM is very stripped down Gundam with worse weapons. MP ZZ, while still stripped down, is a formidable unit with comparatively as heavy weaponry as the base ZZ, just with more finesse in the design and weaker generator output. While Core Fighter gimmick is something that still persist in Gundam, and for a good reason, its removal does make sense in-universe when wanting to make cost cutting procedures.

Most MP units share the base core with each other. If you start looking for GM variants, you’ll find out that all of them use the same base GM and bolt shit on top of it or change some of the geometry to fit a new element to fit a niche need. There is about eleven or twelve base variants, that all have further variants and redesigns. Zaku II has three times that amount.

As it has become apparent, the MP models are more or less stripped down versions of the originals, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ZZ is a nightmare to maintain due to its Core Top and Core Base forms, not to mention its G-Fortress formation, not to mention the wear and tear its far larger surfaces would cause to the unit. The MP variant probably costs significantly less than the base ZZ, especially considering Anaheim had to roll out Full Armour parts to maintain structural integrity, but the question is whether or not there is a need for this sort of Heavy Assault Mobile Suit in-universe.

Both are still thick in build and design, making them a bit of a large target. Then there’s the FA-010A FAZZ, but that’s another story altogether whenever I get to discuss mechanics of Gundam Sentinel.

This really plays back to the idea game in designing a mecha; the purpose and role. If you follow this overused trope and intend to use MP units as your main designs, thinking back at the background and the world overall would serve you well.

Mobile Police Patlabor is an interesting piece, where we never see the prototypes, just the mass-produced labors, mainly the Ingrams. However, the idea of further developed piece being more streamlined is turned upside down in the first Patlabor movie, where the AV-X0 Type X-0 prototype model is more streamlined than its predecessors with sleeker silhouette and smoother surfaces with less angles.

While we could say that the AV-98 on the left might be cheaper to produce, we can also assume that by the time Zero was rolling out, the technological evolution both in labor tech and its production is at the point that their benefits outweight the rising costs.

A wholesome mecha design takes into account the world setting as well. A reason why giant robots prevail over other options needs to be sensible. Another show where you can see technological advancements between prototypes and MP units, and gives rather interesting explanation why there are invisible mechas jumping around, is Full Metal Panic, but that’s another can-o-worms I’d like to open later down the line.

The Force was woken up, but it asked for fifteen more minutes

I’ve commended Disney for pushing out new Star Wars movies each year. That’s what people seem to want and consume. I can’t fault that. However, there is a downside in all this, and that is that Star Wars will become mundane and yet another franchise that will be run to the ground by a big corporation if Disney intends to keep this pace up. This post, in the end, is more about personal view rather than the blogger view I aim to employ otherwise. Why? Because Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a boring disappointment to yours truly.

I recommend reading my initial reactions to the movie here, as I that should give you a base on things. It’s essentially a post on its own right.

Star Wars as a franchise could be described to have four distinct eras. The Classic era, which lasts from Episode IV to Episode VI, the 1990’s Resurgence Era starting with The Trawn Trilogy, the 2000’s Prequel-era and all the side materials that brought with it, and the current Disney-era. I would argue, from a personal point of view, that the two first eras were the best of times for Star Wars. The franchise’s birth was a massive popular cultural shift that we still and see to this day in franchising and how Hollywood changed, and the Resurgence era expanded the lore immensely and took advantages of all the existing ideas and properties, which Timothy Zahn engineered, sort of.

The Prequel era on the other hand brought in people who couldn’t be critical of Star Wars, and it shows. Stories suffered from ideas that didn’t hold much water. Prequels themselves too suffer from this. Lore expansions saw further retcons in favour of these new ideas, like how The Force Unleashed games changed things as well as saw the use of some discarded concepts of the original Star Wars. You may be thinking that I’m harping on this using unused concepts too much, but it tells you how little anything truly new modern Star Wars has to it. Recycling the same story frames has become a common thing, not to mention the aforementioned concepts. Can Star Wars really exist just by doing this? If the money has to anything to say, yes.

This is why I have no interest in the new canon to any extent any more. Episode VII was recycled trash that made no sense and had numerous glaring faults. People who grew up adoring Star Wars are now running it, and it shows. To say that the new stories read out like expensive fanfiction that got an official status would be correct to an extent, as often in fanfiction the writer doesn’t realize what made the original piece tick. To use an example from Episode VII, no character has an arc of sorts. Kylo Ren barely has one, but we only see the end of it. Finn turns into a sidekick after the first few minutes, Poe has no arc to speak of and neither does Rey. Poe’s sold like a new Han Solo or Wedge Antilles, but lacks everything that made those characters interesting. Hell, Wedge had less screen time than Poe and still had more character to him.

Essentially, people who run Star Wars, but don’t exactly get why the original trilogy is so admired. They’re no better than George Lucas, and it shows. The fact is that Lucas experienced how Star Wars fans are absolutely impossible to please, but they also think how things should be. I don’t claim that, but as an observer I can see that people writing these new movies and shows does seem to think that. I doubt we will ever see a Star Wars product that will have a brand new story that is able to stand on its own two legs with its concepts and ideas before Star Wars becomes mundane with nothing but forgettable trite, like it did during the Prequel-era. Rogue One is yet another telling of how they stole the plans for the Death Star. We’ve seen, read and played it already, the story itself is not important for Episode IV. If fans want it, then by all means do it. It’ll make you some money, like always. Big Star Wars titles will always sell, no matter what the quality is.

Disney has all the chances to make Star Wars something better, but as it stands now, it’s simply cashing in. Then again, perhaps that’s what the franchise needs to do, as there are those who seem to enjoy the Disney-era products. Each to their own, I can afford to miss all movies’ theatrical runs and wager them on their own later down the line, just like how I did with Episode VII.

Mecha design; Artisanal mecha

Visual representation of giant robots widely vary, and they can’t be put into two or three distinct categories due to the amount of that very variety itself. Industrial design is very simple to grasp, just look at war industry. However, organic design is not as simple as I’ve previously showcased with Dunbine, because Dunbine, while more organic than a Scopedog, is not exactly organic per se. Sure, it smooth lines, but that doesn’t exactly make itself organic. It’s more like a handcrafted work, a unique piece that a master craftsman designed. Dunbine’s not the most stellar example of this, as it really mixes this artisanal and industrial in a nice combination, so let’s look at a design that’s more to the point.

escaflowne

Escaflowne is a mecha that is without a doubt one of the better examples of handcrafted, artisanal mecha design. It’s ornate, smooth and royal in its design. Certain level of excessiveness is in there, and it being artisanal does not exclude means of war in there. Unlike some Five Star Stories mechas, which in reality have no sense of function, Escaflowne works in a nice balance.

If we want to get into the whole mecha thing, the best way to think of them really is as knights. In the end, a super robot story is about a person in armour, just in a more technical one. Especially when it comes to Japanese media. Fantasy mechas tend to emphasize this, as with Escaflowne above, and this really applies to all guymelefs in the series. None of them are organic, but neither are they industrial. You could say that artisanal is in-between the two extremes.

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Nabbed this Scheherazade off from Pixiv. While not as ornate as Escaflowne, it is nonetheless an example of artisan craftsmanship in mecha, especially with its head. After all, knight armours, especially those of in high position, were designed to be visually striking, a tradition pretty much all mecha follow. An armoured knight has stuck to our global consciousness and many of these artisanal mechas derive their core designs from that idea

What then is the main difference between organic and artisanal in mecha? The main difference of course really is all about the nature of the beast. Iczer Robo and Iczer Sigma are grown in an artificial womb with mechanical built into them. They are, in essence, biomechanical from the get go and largely wear an armour, that may or may not be their outer skin. The jury’s out on the still. Artisanal on the other hand would be fully or at least mostly mechanical in its nature from the grounds up.

For Western mecha the artisanal approach rarely applies. They are made to be machines of war, and even when they are crafted carefully as unique pieces of craftsmanship, they tend to look militaristic and industrial as all hell. I remember someone telling me how Battletech’s mechs were unique pieces for each of the faction or family, which they keep in priced condition and such, much like Mortar Headds in Five Star Stories.

It is not the shape curve that determines what the style is. Industrial mechas can have bulbous, very round parts to the  and still be completely inudstrial. An organic on the other hand can have cutting straight lines to them just as well. It is the nature of the line and overall shape that ultimately determines the look. Think the difference between a bone claw and a metal claw. Artisanal claw would be somewhere between the two, and be more ornate.

Ornate is the keyword in all this. Mamoru Nagano’s design are perhaps most known for their elaborate designs and details.

led81

While LED Mirage could be thrown into industrial design if we were to use just two categories. However, it doesn’t fit there completely because of its multitude of angles and complex natural shapes thrown into the mix. LED Mirage has a lot of numerous smooth curves to it, accented with harsh and sharp angles in combination to flat and curved surfaces. All this combines a very unique look and style that can’t be copied very easily at all, unlike say a Gundam design that’s somewhat genius in its simplicity. LED Mirage’s artisanal side is especially evident on the close-ups, which reveal further detail that’s painted on the Mortar Headd.

led-face1

You can see above that the detail here is not present is not included in the above. Nagano went through many revisions, some of which surely are lost to time by now. You can read all that at Gears Online.

As mentioned, these three classifications I’ve proposed don’t exclude each other. Often you can find elements of at least two different styles in a design, like in how Metal Gear Ray combines organic and industrial design together very well, but is not artisanal. To contrast to that, all the rest of main canon Metal Gears are outright industrial in their looks. Evangelion units and Iczer Robos share the same base idea of organic beings wearing an armour, which doesn’t exactly strike industrial in looks at first, but they are supposed to be form-fitting after all. Industrial mechas sometimes include artisanal effects to them, but generally machines of war don’t tend to do that. The most ornate spot a Gundam has, for example, is its V-fin, and the most crafted V-fin out of them sits on none other than RX-121-3C Gundam TR-1 Hyzenthlay.

It's less elaborate in-magazine
It’s less elaborate in-magazine

In the end, I would recommend reading further on all three aforementioned styles outside the mecha genre and from actual design literature for a better view of this. There is a fourth wild-card classification that I would like to coin out there, but that’ll be another entry.

Monthly Three: Freedom fighters are awesome?

Kids can’t become Robocop, but kids can become John Rambo. What the hell is he saying, kids can become a war veteran with a severe PTSD? That’s pretty much what I’m saying, yes.

Robocop was easy to understand why and how it became a cartoon few times around and why it never reached that R-18 status again. For the Rambo franchise, it dibbled into the cartoon region and then never returned, becoming a hard R again with John Rambo, giving the franchise a satisfactory end. The cartoon on the other hand just went nowhere. But let’s start from the point why they even made Rambo: The Force of Freedom.

In 1982 First Blood became a box office hit, and despite it got a mixed reception from the reviewers, its success could not be underestimated. First Blood wasn’t exactly fresh on its material, as post-Vietnam War America and the treatment of soldiers had become somewhat overused theme in war movies. It was nevertheless an intelligent action movie, especially in its changes and with the new ending, which deviated from the original novel’s ending. It didn’t force the viewer to think itself too seriously, but it’s events required some thought.

Rambo: First Blood Part II hit the theatres in 1985, and used the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue as its backdrop. As an action movie, it’s a classic and without a doubt one of the best and is the most iconic film in the franchise. It’s been parodied and ripped off more than one can count, and hell, even the cartoon’s first episode replicates some of its scenes pace by pace, just with less violence. While the critical reception was less than favourable, First Blood Part II was an international box office success.

Meanwhile, Hasbro had renewed their G.I. Joe toyline with the help of Marvel. Before the televised series in 1985, G.I. Joe saw mini-series that were essentially just vehicles for toy advertisement, much like what pretty much all multimedia franchises’ televised parts would be named as. Rather than going deep into G.I. Joe’s history, I recommend you to check first part of SF Debris’ Transformers History, because the two are linked to a large degree.

G.I. Joe was big in the 1980’s and changed popular culture much like how the two first Rambo movie had. Despite Vietnam War had made war toys a big no-no, but 1980’s was pretty much the opposite. Hasbro didn’t just learn from G.I. Joe’s success when creating Transformers and their other franchises, like My Little Pony and Jem and the Holograms. Say what you will, Jem and the Holograms was fucking awesome with good music and I hate the fact that I only see bits and pieces of it when I was a kid.

It wasn’t just Hasbro that learned from the success, as the competing companies saw potential in replicating Hasbro’s multimedia franchise hit. Despite Rambo being an adult only movie series at that point with plenty of violence and themes that kid’s don’t really get, somebody thought he would make a great lead for a fighting force themed series.

I get the logic, I really do. Especially in the context of the cartoon. Rambo III suffered from the perception that Rambo had become a soldier who would be summoned to do operations for the military, as he was the only man who could do it. The usual super soldier trope you have in Escape from New York and Metal Gear series. The cartoon dropped all the hard issues First Blood had brought up and essentially made no references to PTSD or Vietnam War issues. The cartoon Rambo was character at its stereotypical, a one-man army.

It ran 65-episodes and was essentially made for syndication. It’s one of those rare shows that allowed to have realistic weaponry and vehicles, thou to push toys some of the vehicles were very cartoony. Outside that, it’s a very non-descriptive piece, not very high in entertainment value. It feels and reeks like a G.I. Joe clone, and that’s what it is, with the exception that the character cast was smaller. Some of the plots were stupid as hell too, like General Warhawk raising the battle ship Yamato from the bottom of the ocean to conquer a fictional country of Tierra Libre.

In the cartoon, Rambo could be something Robocop never could; a sort of role model or something to aspire kids to become; a hero to fight evil forces in the name your own country and whatever ideology it upholds. It’s not a bad one either, just very damn generic one.

Generic is also the term you could give all the villains in the series, as their dime in the dozen designs would fit any and all fighting force cartoon from the era, and some even fitting in with the likes of Hokuto no Ken. The music on the other hand was licensed from the two first Rambo movies, and they give the series far more oomph than what it should have.

Rambo III hit the theatres in 1988. A this point people were more or less tired of the character and overall everything of like it. It’s overbearing anti-Soviet themes and lacklustre plot has given it the spot of being worst movie in the franchise. For whatever reason, I remember this movie being the one kids would see the most often see after it came out. It lacks any and all finesse First Blood had, and replaced all that with even more action and death.

Rambo III suffered from mediocre acting and bad script, but at least it wasn’t forced to be kid friendly. Even with all the blood and violence the movie had in it, it was mostly a harmless, slightly backwards movie for the time.

(John) Rambo was an independent release in 2008, closing the franchise. Unlike the third movie, Stallone’s performance here is excellent and he didn’t shy away from the core roots of the character. There was no overly political connotations thrown around or pampering around issues. The character of Rambo has grown old, and is more in-tone with the original novel, and the movie mirrors this. The character also is given a solid closure.

Both Rambo and Robocop were at their weakest when they made compromises to make either franchises more family friendly. Both franchises had cartoons that had the original points removed and tailored them for general consumption. It can work, like with G.I. Joe, but a tool should always be used for its intended purpose.

They’re bringing the red cat ghost franchise here too

Youkai Watch has been stirring Japan for some time now, and I’ve been trying to keep my big yapper shut about it, but screw it. Jibanyan has been able to beat Pikachu in many fields for now, and the question is whether or not Game Freaks will tackle this challenger head on, or will they allow Pokémon franchise to grow old. The thing is, Pokémon was a great children’s franchise. Not so much anymore, where it’s a franchise modern parents remember from their childhood, or still follow strongly. The games have essentially stayed the same and the cartoon has more or less stagnated in many ways for some time already. Fans will of course argue that Natures and other little things have changed the game, but those barely make an impact to the now true and tested catch, train, get four attack slots and six monsters.

I’ll be frank; if Pokémon will not reinvent itself as a franchise this decade, it’ll end up in a sad state.

As I mentioned, Youkai watch has been successful in Japan. Immensely so. Youkai Watch 2 surpassed five million copies sold in Japan. Jibanyan has even replaced Pikachu’s central throne in the Next Generation World Hobby Fair. It’s safe to say that Youkai Watch has gained a strong position as one of the new main children’s franchises in Japan. A franchise that has not changed with the times in almost twenty years nor has reinvented itself at any point will have a hard time to stand against something new. New is not necessarily better, but when new challenges the old this hard (and topping it), the old is doing something wrong.

With Youkai Watch slated for Western release, the question that everybody asks if it can challenge Pokémon outside their native soil. After all, both of them have some Japanese culture in them, Youkai Watch is the one hard-rooted to the culture from the get go. In order for West to accept Youkai Watch in the same way Pokémon was, the localisation work needs to be spot on.

The otaku culture in West hates dubs, generally speaking. I’m not sure whether or not this is due to the stupidly purist nature at large, or because people simply regard Japanese better for their ears. Sure, there are differences in the quality of the dubbing, yet the arguments are from universal.

Dubbing is not destroying the original product or anything similar. Dubbing is expensive, costing about $10 000 per episode for a Saturday morning cartoon. Dubbing a movie can be even more expensive, and with each failed take the time ticks, spending more money. As such, dubbing historically has been done to series and movies that have been regarded high quality enough to get such treatment. Dubbing was and is still done to show respect towards the body of work, not the opposite. Dubbing also ensures that the largest possible audience will have an easy access to the product. While reading the subtitles has been in the local culture for a long time, this does not apply to other cultures.

The original Godzilla movie is an example where localisation did not only dub the product, but went their way to give it an extra localisation in form of Raymond Burr’s inclusion. This allowed wider spreading of the movie, but also lowered the bar for people to see the movie. The localised Godzilla movie is not a lesser product in any sense from the original Japanese production, but it is different enough to say that it is its own entity and a worthwhile entry. Unlike with some later dubs, it had both proper budget and approach to make justice to the film. Later in the line with Godzilla movies, budgets were cut and quality became a lesser concern. It wasn’t until later that purists and extreme fans began to regard the localised Godzilla as a lesser product, a thing that nobody though at the time, not even Toho. History has been rewritten by fans in this regard, and it is only rather recently that even the fandom has began to accept the localised version with the high regard it deserves.

Youkai Watch will be a show I will follow relatively closely in the beginning, because it requires similar approach as with the original Godzilla. The franchise is getting ready to be pushed by all fronts; Nintendo publishes the game, Hasbro manages the toys and Viz will push out the cartoon and comics. Whoever is/are in charge of the core translation have rather large responsibility to bring in a good translation. Not necessarily accurate to the word, but something that will go well with the Western audience. Youkai Watch is facing an uphill battle already, and doing a half-assed localisation will only yield lacklustre success.

I have peculiar history with Pokémon myself. Cyber Solider Porygon was aired in Japan on December 16th, 1997. The same day the news broke out about the epileptic seizures it caused, and I remember watching the news that day and seeing the footage. I’m not sure why this caught to my mind then, but about two years later sometime in 1999 I recall reading a magazine in a hospital about the incident and how the series would be coming to local television. Pokémon began to be pushed in the local market around the same, games actually hitting the shelves and so on. I find it weird to get interested in a series because a news piece on television stuck to my head.

After Pokémon hit the television and games became widespread, I too got swept by the mania and for a good reason. Pokémon was a big damn hit with long lasting effect, and proved to be a franchise that impacted the cultural mind. Pokémon was sort of last of its kind, a game that wasn’t a hit with the hardcore gamers and stayed in the Red Ocean. One thing that the series is being constantly criticised of is its unwillingness to change any of the core mechanics or implement all the changes from preceding games to the new ones. For example, the Generation 3 lacked the Day-Night cycle introduced in Generation 2. Then again, Game Freak’s staff is barely able to optimise Pokémon games for the 3D on the 3DS for stable framerate, a thing multiple third parties are able to do just fine.

I want to see Youkai Watch become a successful franchise in the West, to become a new Pokémon to in Pokémon’s place. Much like how I have grown too complacent with the shit I write, so has Game Freak and Nintendo become too complacent with Pokémon as a whole. I can’t fault them really, as the franchise has been able to bring in stable revenues. Digimon has been regarded as the only strong contender against the Yellow mouse machine, but even then Digimon has been mismanaged to large extend, and actually the Digimon movie is an example where the source material was not treated with respect during the localisation. I’m sure Youkai Watch was a surprise to Nintendo, even if it is a game that ensured software sales for their system. This may be a good enough reason for Game Freak and Nintendo to sit back and do their stuff and allow Youkai Watch to become the top dog, but then we can always ask if that is enough from them. Companies should want to keep their top dogs where they belong. It’s easy to do so when there’s no competition, but whenever a challenger appears, one should be willing to tackle this challenger to the fullest extent of their abilities.

In other news, Discotek Media has licensed Giant Gorg.

Mega Man Legends 3 is not the game we need, but I sure hell would like to have it

Whenever I hear somebody saying that we need something in our lives, I question whether or not we truly need it, especially something that is not vital for our lives. Games are not important to our lives, despite electronic games being one of the biggest industries out there. The chances of a single game being something we’d need is very low. One could argue that a game like Super Mario Bros., Pacman, Space Invaders and any of its brethrens in cultural impact are the games that we, are the needed bodies of works.

This post is a response to Matthew Jessup’s entry in Nintendolee.com. The bold claim that Mega Man Legends 3 is a needed title stems from loving fandom, a thing I share towards this somewhat dead game franchise. However, I will be playing devil’s advocate here and balance with further issues.

While I’d like to concentrate on Legends 3, Mega Man Universe is mentioned first. It’s one of those titles nobody expected and nobody wanted, and Jessup is right in that it would have been the Little Big Planet of Mega Man, which in itself is already something to worry about. Little Big Planet became a franchise of its own and hosted multiple different themes, which made it work so well. While Mega Man has seen its own genre shifts, they have been kept logically separate and allowed to exist on their own terms, Mega Man Battle Network being the best example. MMUniverse would have ridden on the fame of the Mega Man name, which alone should raise some eyebrows. CAPCOM has a strong line of franchises to utilise rather than stick with only Mega Man. This of course raises another question; Why concentrate only on Mega Man when you already had confirmed visiting characters and variations of iconic characters? The game could have been called CAPCOM universe and could’ve contained multiple different franchises across the board as well as allow multitude of different tactics to tackle stages. Then again, comparing it to Mega Man 2 seems to be fishing fan credits. For better or worse, Mega Man Universe was cancelled, and for all the good reasons. Using a 26-years old game as your main advertising point only works once, after which it’s time to move onwards.

Also, we got to play as the Bad Box Art Mega Man in SFxT, which only very few individuals found likeable, and CAPCOM really went overboard with this particular meme in the turn of 2010’s anyways. It was apparent that they were trying to pull in the old guard, the thirty-something gamers rather than doing expansion like most previous instalments.

This wasn't even a cameo, but a full fledged entry
This wasn’t even a cameo, but a full fledged entry

Unlike Duke Nukem Forever, Mega Man Legends 3 was not in making for 11 years. Duke Nukem was in development hell for 15 damn years, while Legends 3 merely sat in the minds of the devs. I bring this comparison up because Duke had no relevancy in gaming anymore when Forever finally came out. The game was out of its time, despite all the modern systems bolted unto it. Fans of the Legends franchise have built their own expectations on the game, and it would be insanely hard to meet these expectations.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Legends 3 saw such a huge backslash from the fandom, as they finally got their hands on actual designing of the game with the Dev Room. Unlike how Jessup makes it look, the DevRoom wasn’t anything revolutionary. BETA access is nothing new and Mega Man has been known to run Boss Character contests. Then you have all the customer driven early access titles, which are similar how the end-consumer could affect the final product. DevRoom was far more transparent, but that transparency wasn’t necessarily all that positive. For one, it required the team to handle a lot of PR with the DevRoom as well as keep the contests running as well as post concepts that may not even end up in the final product. It’s a lot more hassle than one would initially think. These models, enemy designs, concept art etc. would have ended in our laps nevertheless as per artbooks and other documentation.

The DevRoom could have been a good idea when Legends 3 was approaching its final deadline after the actual, final greenlight. In modern development cycle, games may be scrapped or drastically changed in the middle of production for various reasons, and there are more games cancelled that eventually get out. DevRoom never took into account that Legends 3 could be cancelled, and I have no doubts one reason DevRoom even existed was to keep the consumers aware of it in hope that CAPCOM would keep it under active production. Whether or not Legends 3 was cancelled due to Inafune leaving is an open discussion I do not take part in, but it would have been probable that his levity in CAPCOM would have kept Legends 3 in production.

DevRoom ultimately is the only controversy surrounding Legends 3, which is that a game that was promised by certain person within the company was ultimately cancelled. DevRoom game the customer a glimpse to the functions of game industry, where even people who worked with the game with great anticipation saw the product cancelled. Well, there’s the CAPCOM Europe claiming the fans didn’t want the game bad enough, but that’s not a comment made by the DevRoom. It still reflected badly to CAPCOM overall.

Jusspe uses DevRoom as one of the points why Legends 3 needed to be later on by using his pre-established arguments. As much as DevRoom showed some of the development done on the game, it ultimately was a facade in itself. We knew of this one team working on the game, whereas there was most likely a lot happening behind the scenes than what we ever saw with DevRoom. Sargon of Akkad has a long discussion with a electronic game concept artist, who opens the doors of generic game development more than GameDev could even hope to show. It’s an interview anyone interested in game development wants to listen to.

Understanding that stories can have multiple kinds of endings seem to escape a lot of people. Jussep suggests that we are in need for an ending, a closure, for the Legends series. Whether or not Legends series was ever to be intended to be a trilogy should be questioned, as I’ve found no valid proof of this assertion. The Internet does not yield any relevant interviews and source books have nothing to say about this. Then again, Legends series is already a trilogy on the home consoles when you consider the Misadventures of Tron Bonne is considered as the third entry in the series even by CAPCOM themselves as evident by Rockman Perfect Memories sourcebook.

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Was Legends 2 ending planned Legends 3 in mind? Probably it was, but it’s also an ending in of itself. It may be an unfulfilling ending to many, seeing Rock is on Elysium, and Roll and Tron are building a rocket to go pick him up. It’s an ending western world has some tough time to swallow without chewing it some. Open endings can go either way, but it is nevertheless an ending. Games should be able to stand own their own feet in every regard, and if Legends 3 would require people to know the Legends 2 ending in order to be introduced to the gameworld, it’s not very well designed game. Metal Gear Solid went full stupid with this. The closure the fans need is not necessarily the game in of itself. CAPCOM could just employ some light novel writer to make a small book how the story would have its closure. There’s nothing to prevent this from happening and it would be much cost effective rather than developing a fully fledged game.

Second point made is how Legends 3 would have been a system seller. This would not have been the case. A game called Mega Man Legends 3 makes anyone question where is Legends 1 and 2. Another thing would have been that the player would have began playing as Barrel rather than as Mega Man, the titular hero. For a fan this would’ve been a system seller for sure, but to the majority of game market it would have been a curiosity. Jussep is right in that 3DS has no real system seller of its own, but by that definition Legends 3 couldn’t be one either as a sequel to a PSOne game. The author does admit openly that it would have been a system seller to him personally, and I completely agree with him. People have bought game systems for worse games anyways.

Jussep remarks how 3DS has gone the way of the GameCube, which went the way of the N64, and marks how 3DS is in need for high value third party games to ensure success. I agree with him, but note that Nintendo itself has not put too many high grade games on the system that are original. Legends 3, as it was shown in its early stage, would not have been truly original either. It’s status as a sequel already denies it that merit, but also the fact that Inafune developed Lost Planet’s game engine in plans of using it in Legends 3. If you’ve played Lost Planet games, especially EX Trooper, you’ve already played how Legends 3 would have played like, overall speaking. It’s also very apparent that assets from Legends 3’s development cycle ended up in Gaist Crusher, which seemed to be successful enough to warrant that sequel I need to get around at some point.

Was Legends 3 the end of Mega Man? No, Mega Man was finished before Legends 3 even set into production. All these productions that were cancelled were like unsung swansongs. As I mentioned earlier, you can only advertise yourself with a 26 years old game once. Mega Man 9 was a nice shot of nostalgia, but after that CAPCOM should have picked it up and develop a proper sequel rather than Mega Man 10. I would put more emphasize on the lacklustre design and success of MM10 on how the series ended. It wasn’t a big bang, it wasn’t even a damn whimper. It was a blocky retro sequel.

Jussep’s final argument is that Mega Man is CAPCOM. This argument was valid in 1980’s and 90’s and first half of 00’s with Battle Network’s Mega Man.EXE. The author makes extremely good point how Mega Man is, by all means, an ageless character that can stand the test of time as long as he is treated properly.

That is exactly why CAPCOM has been franchising Mega Man lately in any other form but games for a long time now. The Archie Comic indeed is one of the best thing that has happened to the Blue Bomber, but I’m afraid the dropped the ball with Mega Man X. Let’s not kid with ourselves; Mega Man games saw a dip in quality from 2002 onwards, from which they never quite recovered. Starforce saw very low sales for a reason.

Legends 3 would not have been an entry point to a new generation. The Mega Man Jussep refers to is the Classic Mega Man, not the Legends’ Volnut/Trigger. Battle Network is a good example how to introduce a Mega Man to a new generation by creating a new generation game for them. Some could argue that Mega Man X followed this idea as well. I agree with Jussep that Legends series carries bright and chunky visuals, as it is very clear how Legends is modelled after morning cartoons. All you need is a clock on the top corner. Gameplay is divisive, and while I enjoyed the Legends1, 2 and the Misadventures of Trone Bonne gameplays myself.

So, against Jussep’s conclusion, I would argue that we do not need Mega Man Legends 3. We need a Mega Man game that would introduce the franchise to the new generation without shackling it to the old, but allowing expansion to multiple directions. Not only that, but the game would need to be something unique in its own rights and make itself stand against the almost thirty years of Mega Man we now have. The notion that any company should make a game for loss, especially nowadays, has not gone through enough thinking. Any and all products out there are made to make money, even when it’s recognized it would be a niche product. It is very true that Legends fans had their hearts with this game, but it’s also undeniable that Legends series never had as high profile reputation as its fellow series within the franchises.

Jussep’s last few sentences are something we all should remember; games are about fun. Not politics, agendas or ideologies. I agree with him that Legends 3 would have been fun to play, if the games using Lost Planet engine and its derivatives are anything to signify. However, playing Legends 3 on the 3DS may have been awkward, much like Monster Hunter without the Slide-Pad Pro.

In a perfect world, everybody would get what they want, but even in the game industry when it comes to the the customers the needs of the many out weight the needs of the few.


I admit; I know the lyrics of this song by heart, almost as well as Makenai Ai Ga Kitto Aru.

Reconstructing history

This week has been a busy one, so this will most likely be the only update for the week, but perhaps that’s good. The last few days have been rather busy and awful overall, but then I just had to hear about yet another small, but camel’s back breaking, news about the Swedish national television and radio censoring the 1969 Pippi Longstocking television series. You may be asking what in the world would such a body of work have to censor, and the answer would be nothing, unless you’re uncultured.

In the original version Pippi speaks of his father as the negro king and plays Chinese by pulling her eyes back. There’s nothing wrong with these as they are, as the series is a window to its time. There is no hatred or malice behind these scenes, words or deeds. They simply are there and to extent one could argue that they are essential part in portraying the time. These two scenes have been more or less hacked now, as Pippi just speaks of his father as king and the whole playing Chinese scene is removed.

This isn’t just censorship for no good reason, this is also historical reconstruction in order to portray bodies of works in more political correct manner for the modern day. It would seem that the people spearheading this sort of thing think they’re driving understanding and tolerance, but this is essentially the very opposite of those. This is akin to hiding the black sheep from the flock under a sheet and acting like it doesn’t exist, which does not promote understanding or tolerance. It promotes censorship above all else.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn had the exact same thing done to them. All the instances of words injun and nigger were replaced with something less offensive. One needs to realize that both Lingdren and Twain use the terms as they were used in their time. It doesn’t take a genius how these elements can and should be explained to anyone. The people with power grossly underestimate children in this case, as time after time I’ve seen with my own eyes how simply explaining the differences in times and how things were is more than enough. Children do have understanding of passage of time, and under five years old don’t even recognize the terms properly. Even then the parents should do their damn jobs and raise the kids properly to realize this sort of things my themselves.

However, I’m afraid this is just another event in modern Sweden. The country has infamy regarding their immigration and how their own culture has changed. It’s no wonder the Swedish national television and radio personal would be afraid, because hurting some people’s feelings is far more horrible than staying true to the work and the time it was produced in. People should grow tougher skin and practice tolerance.

This isn’t even the first time Pippi Longstocking has seen issues with racial depiction. Pippi Longstocking theme part used to sell old curtains depicting her with her negro king father and few black kids waving leaves over her head. Rather than taking the curtain pattern with the understanding in which time the illustration was made, as well as noting that this would be very normal for a king and his family, a Swedish mother basically rioted how the curtain pattern depicted racist colonialism, where the children are Pippi’s slaves. Context check here; Pippi’s father, the Captain Ephraim Longstocking, is no colonist. He was lost at sea, found ashore in South Sea island Kurrekurredutt Isle, where he was made a fat white chief by the natives. The reason is never given, but seeing how Pippi is the world’s strongest girl and inherited her strength from the Captain, it’s safe to say that Ephraim did something remarkable enough to warrant his place. Of course, one could analyze this in many ways and I assume many people will start poking at the racist elements in there where there aren’t any. There’s a story where Pippi takes a travel to the Kurrekurredutt Isle with her friends, where she is admitted to be Princess Pippilotta, but not straight away. Her friends don’t really gain any position. With this context, the illustration becomes far less racist. One can argue, that despite the time and context, the illustration is still racist. I can’t fully agree with that notion, as there is no malice behind it. Changing Ephraim status from negro king to just king doesn’t change the fact that he is the chosen to be a king by the natives.

The outrage the Swedish mother had showed her own ignorance and intolerance. Because of her, the production of the curtains has ceased.

Hell, German theologian found Pippi Longstocking books racist. I’m not going to pull out the Nazi card here, but seeing how Tintin is called a Catholic hero but the Vatican, I see no basis to call Pippi anything but normal children’s book, that is a bit out of its time.

However, I do understand the reasons both sides had for pulling out these bits from Pippi’s history. Nevertheless, they’re driving forces are in wrong in both cases. All that said, Astrig Lidngren herself didn’t really oppose changing her works to fit the times, but seeing how many times Pippi has been refilmed and animated, there’s no reason to touch the past works anymore. If one doesn’t want the references for negro kings and Pippi playing Chinese, the more modern cartoons would fit the bill better.

Political correctness and overprotection has gone far too overboard within the last decade. It’s far too common to see people analysing events, scenes, objects and things. Often these things are driven by an agenda and profit, much like how the whole GamerGate has shown how certain sites and journalists are willing to use minorities in order to create clickbait articles and content berading matters. One example of this when Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2’s scene, where weak Dracula attacks a family to regain his strength, was judged as rape by usgamer. The accusation is still baseless and highly biased. First, vampires have always been depicted rather violent creatures without remorse, and secondly there’s no traces of rape. Just a fictional supernatural being sucking blood from his victims. Yes, there is a level of eroticism in there as with any neck licking stuff, but it’s far from being a sexual assault or trivializing it. It’s just how the writer wanted to take it,  because the topic would bring in clicks and revenue.Much like how the censorship with Pippi Longstocking, the scene was overly analysed with an intention to drive an agenda.

It’s not really enough people to grow thicker skin. Tolerance goes both ways, and if you’re being intolerant and unwilling to understand or even research behind why something is done or said they way they were, you’re doing the exact same thing you accuse opposition for doing. In equal world, the same requirements would apply to everybody in equal amounts. If you would demand me to understand your position, the same applies just as much to you. Censorship promotes the very opposition of this, and that is horrible. Tampering with history is very dangerous and often can end in disastrous results. When that censored and suppressed history gets out, and it will eventually get out, things will blow up. Gorbachev can testify on that.

 


This, racist? Nah, all I see is a mid-1900’s kid explaining Chinese people to her friends. It’s stereotypical for sure, but that’s all it is. Nothing more, nothing less

Better late than never, right?

With the latest news of MLA Total Eclipse being pushed all the way back to September, it made me wonder what things we as consumer are able to let be late. When it comes to basic planning, the deadline should be set in stone and everything should have their own place in the schedule. A good planner usually leaves some room in the schedule as well as overlap certain issues with each other. Of course, the earlier the project is finalised, the better.

As we’ve discussed, no product ever is finalised. Often finalising is cleaning the rough stuff off and hide all the worst flaws from the viewing eyes and using hands. Before the ‘net became as widespread as it is, even digital products had to be made to a point where they’re finished, polished and ready to used and enjoyed. Yes, using a well made product is nothing but joy. The 80’s Second Game Industry Crash was caused because the people developing the games at the time, be it the code monkeys or the big brass, didn’t care about the product that was put out. All that mattered that something was put out. Nowadays the same thing is happening to an extent with Steam Greenlight and other games that are, by all means, sold as they are. The difference at this time is that the users don’t realize that they’re paying for product that is far from finished and are actually defending their position as “early buyers” or some other bullshit. There has been some arguments that this sort of early-pay-early-access model supports the developer and allows them to put more effort and money into production.

This is, of course, a lot of bullshit.

There is no other industry that’s selling unfinished products to their users. A restaurant can’t sell you a meal that’s half cooked you to eat in promise for a proper one later on. A car dealer won’t sell you an unassembled car with a promise that they’ll assemble it later on. A musician won’t sell you a song that will be finished later. The comparisons may not be wholly accurate, but they still stand at their core; paying for an unfinished product is stupid, especially if the provider is able to take your money and unfulfil their part of the deal.

Which comes all around to release dates, in the end. A restaurant has a definitive deadline when it comes to meals, a car dealer has to deliver the car as promised (most cases instantly) and musician works according to agreements.

There’s very few industries that allow prolonged deadline pushbacks. The electronics game industry is a prime example of why this is a bad idea on all fronts. The rule of thumb is The longer the development time is, the worse the product will be. There is the other extreme as well, where there’s no use of pushing a product out too early.

âge is notorious on working on their products overtime, sometimes years to no end. Well, their products are all story after all. That doesn’t really excuse any of their pushbacks. Muv-Luv Alternative was supposed to be part of Muv-Luv as one of the routes, or the true route of you will, but things didn’t look all too good with the work they had for them. Alternative was released three years later as a sequel of sorts. âge really seems to love three years of nothingness.

From the perspective of consumer, there should have been no reason for the latest pushback. Total Eclipse has been written out in text form. It has an animation. Hell, they have released the VN on PS3 and X360 as well. What the PC version is, by all means, is the definitive release. It seems like they treat every iteration they do as some sort of blueprint for yet another version. After all, the console versions are the base where the PC version comes from, and the hard work has already been done. The PC version is merely a remixed version. Comparison the NES Super Mario and to All-Stars Super Mario isn’t all too inaccurate. Sure, this time we’re sort of promised an actual end and perhaps even some other things. I wouldn’t get my hopes up thou. To be honest, I’ve had a pre-order on Total Eclipse’s PC version from the time it was announced, but I’ve come to a conclusion that this sort of thing just doesn’t cut for me. I’ll wait until we’re closer to the actual release, that may end up being pushed sometime next year if things keep continue going like this.

Perhaps, in the end, it is the fan voice in us that keeps us putting money into products that we’re not going to have in our hands in some time. Pre-ordering is sort of normal and I can see its benefits as long as money does not exchange hands until the product is delivered as promised. With games, especially nowadays, there’s no reason to pre-order anything because of the quantity they have of each copy. There might some pre-order bonuses here and there, but these are worthless on the long run. You really can’t run out of a game if it doesn’t have a limited run, but even then the game will most likely get a digital release, which further undermines the value pre-ordering. The days when games were sold out the day they were released has been over for some time, and digital releases make sure that no new game is sold out as you can’t run out of digital copies, thou certain vendors might want you to think otherwise. Nobody is ever going to hunt a copy of a game for their children from another country for them to play on the same day. Long gone are the days when games could and would sell like Zelda II. The ‘net makes these things even easier, and you don’t even need to walk out from your lair nowadays.

That’s good thou, even if it comes with the double edged sword in the end.

Rockman Perfect Memories

000_00_cover

This is how I celebrate Mega Man; by scanning you guys a twelve year old sourcebook. Now that you have access to it, you can always demand people for page and line if they’re quoting Rockman Perfect Memories. Enjoy.

 

At least CAPCOM can’t cancel the memories we already have.