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. Oratan.com 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

Sakura Wars for the World

When I wrote how the Sakura Wars had hard time landing in the Western world, I wasn’t sure if the series would still hit the Western shores with its soft reboot title. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love didn’t exactly perform well and had the usual NISA quality bug filtering. Wii version lacked the original language option altogether. Outside SEGA fans and importers, the series was mostly known for its animated entries. Interestingly, for a long time American and European Sakura Wars fans were overtaken by the people who were familiar with the franchise from these animations, not from their source material. I recommend reading how much an uphill battle Cherry Blossom Wars has in the West from the post linked earlier, I’d rather not repeat myself too much.

Well, at least it is hitting America on April 28th at a first glance. Despite this being cited as a world wide release date, none of my usual European sellers, not even local ones, are even listing it. At least the official SEGA of Europe is listing it for 28.04.2020 release. Though nothing can be pre-ordered yet, and the pre-order edition is very lacklustre; reversible box sleeve and a sticker set. For a high calibre game, one of SEGA’s most prestige titles, this seems rather lacklustre try. Where’s the music CD and other bells and whistles something like Yakuza gets? SEGA knows the game has an uphill battle. Old-school mecha fans will probably pick this up for it being a Sakura Wars game, franchise’s fans probably already imported the title from Japan and are buying it just to support the title, and the rest of the audience has to be convinced by the game’s play and visuals. It’s a tough battle for the PR department.

SEGA’s websites somehow never look all that exciting.

Sakura Wars has high production values, that much can be said. The models look decent enough, though they don’t exactly convey Tite Kubo’s character designs as well as they could, but there’s spirit in there. They’re as animated as you could expect from team that said they’ve taken lessons from the Yakuza games. From what we could see from the demo and numerous game play videos, many elements are very similar in execution, from how camera moves and characters interact. There are lots of interactive elements and small mini-game events that play out throughout the game. The game’s, the franchise’s, main delivery however is in its Dramatic storytelling. That’s where all the interactive mini-games are spread around, as the player is expected to decide via the LIPS system how to talk or act. Sometimes it’s to choose a simple answer, sometimes you have to limit how much you you want to peak on someone. The Yakuza series is very contemporary and managed to break some cultural walls, but in all earnest, it is an easier series to approach just from visual point of view.

Usual LIPS scene. You could think options as Right, Wrong and Joke, all resulting in a different reaction. Which option is which is never in the same place for different interactions. You could let let the timer run out too.

The demo’s emphasize is on the adventure and interaction portion of the game. You’re expected to be invested into the story and the characters enough for multiple playthroughs in order to see all the different outcomes. This is is effectively the dating simulation aspect of the game, but rather than the game waiting for you to give an answer, waiting around is an answer in itself. Whether or not this is to your liking, it is essentially the main course of the game. Sakura Wars’ action stages look nice, but sadly have the same floaty and weightless feeling to them as the Sonic games the engine was lifted from. Attacks carry no real impact and camera positioning is not exactly user-friendly. A game like this, especially from an experienced team and big name franchise, should have far more polish and engaging action. The American and European audiences have been less enthusiastic about relationship simulation games than the Japanese, and while they’ve gained more audience as the time has gone by, the action would still be the more attractive element for the general audiences.

Famitsu’s 33/40 might be a spot on review for the game in Japan, with French Jeuxvideos scoring it at 13/20. If these are anything to go by, with the addition that the game’s sales dropped from second place to fifteenth after one week (latest Pokémon held the top spot), the gut feeling I have is that this game will be relegated to a very niche audience, which is partially already built into the fandom. Minimising costs is sensible, albeit always gives off a feeling that the publishing company doesn’t exactly trust the product. No English voice acting is mostly a cost-cutting method, as recording all the needed voices would add a lot to the end total production costs. However, it would have expanded the possible audience in the English speaking countries. We can carefully assume that the review scores will reflect the the aforementioned all the while giving it a respectful effort marking.

Maybe SEGA hopes to replicate success of Yakuza by slowly introducing this new action oriented Sakura Wars to the rest of the world and polishing it with each entry. However, the franchise’s relaunch in Japan first has to be a success in itself and we’re far from the point where we can safely say anything concrete. The reason I wanted to draw attention to sellers not listing the game, and me even wondering if the game was coming out on the stated date, is because the PR has been lacklustre. My small inquiry to a store stated that they wouldn’t know if they’d stock it, that a new and untested franchise like this probably won’t sell too much at full price. It’s not all doom and gloom. The word on the street is pushing the game forwards and positive word of mouth is the best thing this game could have going for it. I hope that this won’t be one-time game, that SGEA will put effort to expand from the niche by not only introducing new elements to the play, perhaps expanding the action portions by re-introducing series’ tactical aspects back. A niche and cult audience is a great a place to start, especially you already have a basis to stand on, but all those have to made to be worth something. SEGA needs that general audience to make Sakura Wars a success, but whether or not they’ll keep striking the iron while it’s still hot has to be left open. Well, if all else fails, they always could do a series compilation and re-release the previous games that way.

Modifying Panzer Dragoon to attract modern players, they say

So Sega and Forever Entertainment are doing Panzer Dragoon: Remake. No, I haven’t heard of this Polish developer either, but apparently they’ve made some Teddy Floppy Ear games and that’s pretty great. Teddy’s pretty good children’s franchise. As usual, doesn’t really matter who makes what as long as the end result is fine and dandy, but reading the official announcement for the remake, I’m not entirely convinced. Their claim that The entire Panzer Dragoon series has been repeatedly remade and released on many platforms is dubious at best and completely incorrect at worst. The original Panzer Dragoon has been released and remade few times around, mostly based on its PC port, because Sega has lost all Saturn source codes. No, not just theirs, all of them. They wanted to house all of them and then lost them all when their company was moving offices, meaning no Saturn game can ever get a port without reverse engineering the machine and getting the data out from the published discs. This means all Saturn games’ ports that are around, like Princess Crown‘s PSP port, is running on emulation, and considering emulating the Saturn accurately is one helluva task that’s still a far cry form the original, they’re pretty bad ports. Xbox One being backwards compatible with Panzer Dragoon Orta is not it being re-released or should be considered as a franchise relaunch either. When your initial announcement for a remake is incorrect about the nature of the series like this, it makes you question whether or not they’re familiar with the series, or whether or not they have their priorities right. I asked Forever Entertainment about that lil’ detail just to see what they’d respond, but seeing I’m just a gnatshit small blogger among an ocean of others, I doubt I’ll get a response. [edit] They did respond, replying that they meant the series overall is available on multiple platforms with remakes because the first game has ports and that Sega Ages version. I always forget that single entry in a series makes the whole series available on a platform when it comes to things like this, rather than a single entry.

The new version of the game will be characterized by a completely new graphics compatible with today’s standards and several modifications of the game, making it more attractive to modern players, while remaining faithful to the original in terms of story. This is more than expected. As said, the original Saturn sourcecode are lost, so the PlayStation 2 Sega Ages release is most likely based on the PC version, with Orta having the PC version as one of its unlockables. Any sensible company would just do a straight up remake rather than try to being reverse engineering the original games, but this is where we hit the snag with that sentence, making it more attractive to modern players, while remaining faithful to the original in terms of story. Forever aren’t elaborating what modifications they’re making to the core gameplay. Considering Panzer Dragoon as a series stands on its own in regards of gameplay, the only true modification needed to make would be polishing the first game’s mechanics to match that of Zwei’s and Orta‘s. Panzer Dragoon games have an arcade heart at their core, which is a major factor in their charm and success. Certainly, Panzer Dragoon Saga is a role playing game, but it was devised as one from the get go rather than modifying an existing title. It’s useless to try and guess what this means at this point, but seeing most remakes of this kind and with this sentencing don’t have the best track record out there, it does raise some worries.

Especially when their main concern seems to be staying true to the story. Sure, Panzer Dragoon‘s post-apocalyptic setting with dragons as biological weapons and lost-world technology is pretty neat in all, but saying you want to stay true to the story is is like buying chocolate for wrapper rather than for the taste. Just like Virtual-On, the story’s incidental at best, an overall framing device for the great gameplay which still stands today. Staying true to the story is easy, but staying true to the gameplay and mechanics, especially considering the first one is sparser compared to Zwei and Orta, is far more challenging. With the lack of sourcecode the results can become very much a different beast, as we saw with the Crash Bandicoot remake collection, where applying the third game’s physics across the board made the first two games very different kind of games to play thanks to the stage geometry still being accurate to the originals. Jumps you used to be able to make easily now are now more challenging due to this, and can lead into easy deaths. Not that making extra lives in the game is hard or anything, but shows how little concern the developers ultimately had this these little things that majorly affect the games’ play.

All fans of the series, and long time players alike, are  probably asking the same thing in their heads; please stay true to the game’s play. The concern of remakes mangling and dumbing down the games’ play for modern players is relevant. It shows the lack of trust towards the customers, especially towards their ‘modern’ audience. Consumer born in this millennium were born and raised during a retro game boom and are far more than capable at handling games of their nature. Hell, despite so many of us who have been playing games for three decades or more, we’re still part of that modern player group. What is even the division between a modern and older player? Age certainly does not define it. This is a start of poor customer service experience I tell you.

Maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic. The announcement naturally can’t expand on anything because they’ve got jackshit to showcase. The announcement is standard PR speech aiming to appease different sections, but it seems wholly amateurish. These are the same concerns everyone has towards every remake that has been coming out, and truth to be told, remakes overall don’t tend to have all that great track record, especially when there are explicit changes to the game’s play. Granted, we don’t know what modifications there are going to be in Panzer Dragoon: Remake, but all we can hope is that they amount polishing the originals further without much additions or removals. A better name for the remake compilation would be nice as well, but I’m sure the current one is just a placeholder and they’ll come up something far more impressive that suits the series’ nature.

All we really can do is sit tight and wait for proper information to come forth. No use to speculate too much on nothing.

Sega’s Mania effect

So after couple of decades of failed starts, concepts thrown around and DMCA’d fan titles, Streets of Rage 4 is a thing that’s coming out. Finally, might I add. Sega and Streets of Rage fans, rejoice.

 

I have to say, these redesigns are pretty damn nice

There are three companies involved with the game, outside Sega as the licensee; Lizardcube, who were in charge of the recent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap; Guard Crush Games who have a history with beat-em-ups (or belt-scrolling action games if you’re Japanese) like Streets of Fury; Dotemu, who function as a publisher. Lizardcube is in charge of graphics, while Guard Crush Games handles the programming, though Dotemu has the handle on game design. This is pretty nice package, as Lizardcube has a pretty nice, French comics style that fits so many of these older titles’ revival, and Guard Crush Games seems to have a handle on programming just fine. Y’know, the hardest part of making a game.

I’m probably going to make a comparative post regarding the character designs, because both Axel and Blaze got a real nice new lick of paint.

There is exactly two things this game needs to do in order to be accepted by long time fans and be at least a relative hit with the general audience; faithfully replicate the Streets of Rage formula, and expand on it. This is effectively what Sonic Mania did, and it has been hailed as the best Sonic the Hedhehog game to date, which isn’t too hard to accept.

Which raises the question; did Sonic Mania‘s success kick this title off the ground? Both it and the new Wonder Boy were well received and raised new interest in certain section of older titles. Both of them function as data to further the idea putting the money and effort to realise a Streets of Rage title in its proper 2D mould rather than take the Final Fight route with Streetwise. After all, game genres don’t just die because new technology makes new genres possible with extra dimensions or additional gimmicks like VR. Despite how 90’s marketing wants you to believe, 2D hasn’t gone anywhere at any point. Sure, you the newfangled thing always gets pushed, but you can’t deny the customers the things they want. Just look at how well 2D Mario sells over 3D titles. That’s another dead horse I need to stop kicking.

All this data of revival games doing at least decently well is most probable reason Streets of Rage 4 got greenlit. Add Mega Man 11‘s upcoming release to the mix and we’re entering an interesting era, where old franchises are getting new releases in more budget range, but with none of the lacking elements. Hopefully more companies realise this; you don’t need AAA budget to make great damn games. Pretty much all of these classic franchises could be revived and developed at a fraction of the cost with modern tools. Easier to make profits. The only real problem is to deliver a wanted product, which didn’t really happen with the New SMB series after the first few entries. Once a franchise is revived, it needs to move forwards. Mega Man 10 failed in this term by simply being same thing again. We now have three Mega Man 2 games and that’s two too much.

Sega of course wouldn’t develop this themselves. They don’t care about the IP. Sega hasn’t given two shits about Streets of Rage since the mid-90’s, when they essentially gave the middle finger to the Western consumers. Eternal Champions used to be a big thing, but then Sega just neutered it. You can’t treat Japanese, American and European markets the same. Hell, you have to treat Europe as multiple market zones if you want to do it right. This was clear how Sega’s tactics with the Genesis in the US region only kicked off after the US branch pushed through their tactics of including a game with the console and marketing Sonic the Hedgehog their own way. If most of the data is to be believed, Sonic‘s been the most popular in the US. Sadly, Sega of Japan’s management killed all the motion their American and European sections had going on, effectively beginning their own downfall from grace. Westerners do classic Sega better than Sega themselves.

Streets of Rage 4 probably won’t be as large a success as Sonic Mania. If the game gets a physical release afterwards its initial digital showcase, we can deem it successful enough. If it gets a physical release from the very beginning, even if it was a Limited Run title, then the developers and publisher have boatloads of trust towards their targeted consumers. There are enough Sega fans that would purchase this title in an instant.

While Sonic Mania was clearly an international title, a game that didn’t have any specific region in mind, the same can’t be said about Streets of Rage 4. Both Guard Crush Games and Lizardcube are European companies, and that flavours oozes through in a very positive manner. Hell, even Dotemu is based on France. I hope they shower more than the average French. However, that probably will rub some people off, as Streets of Rage originally had a very American atmosphere to it, especially considering it was inspired partially by Streets of Fire. Hell, Blaze’s design is essentially Ellen Aim with more streetwise to her. The bits about Sega not giving a damn about the IP still stands, and their actions towards Western markets have been changing only during the last years. The Yakuza franchise is a good line to follow modern Sega in this. English dubbing usually drives sales, but there are titles where this isn’t case. Yakuza dropped this in favour of cheaper releases and simply because the fans didn’t like it. Despite Sega censoring and removing elements from some of the games, the audience kept growing. Despite this, none of the spin-offs outside the zombie romp got localised. Now that the Western audience has grown far greater, Sega’s taken the series’ position in the market into notion with better releases, and now is even considering publishing further remasters and spin-offs in the Overseas regions. Sega of Japan is slowly but surely taking a notion of Western markets.

If we’re going to go down this path, it’s relatively easy to see Sega considering the wants and needs of the Western markets to some extent. The IPs they’ve been giving up and ignoring still have a strong consumer base with nothing to fill that niche. A high quality title here and there goes long way in making profits and keeping your fans happy. I would say Altered Beast and Golden Axe could be next on the list of revivals, but seeing how terrible their last titles were, there’d be a lot of work to fix those damages in the eyes of Sega themselves.

Review of the Month; Yakuza 6 Whisky Glasses

Yakuza 6 is out and its After Hours Premium Edition came with whisky glasses. The Internet’s full of reviews of the box already and what’s inside, most of which is a disappointment, I tell you. The book was absolutely terrible in quality, bound too early, causing the papers to be wrinkled and even glued together due to wet ink. Not worth your time or money. Unless if you want whisky glasses, maybe.

This review will go through all three aspects of the set; the coasters, the rocks and the glasses.

The coasters are pretty terrible. They may have a cork bottom, but each layer that goes to the top has low-quality adhesive, which means they’ll peel off pretty soon if they’re in-use. It’d be almost better to allow them to peel off, then re-layer them back with some proper adhesive. You get what you see above, which is jack shit. With that done, let’s move unto the rocks.

The rocks are honestly the most interesting bit of this set, mostly because it allows me to go on a tangent a bit later on. Anyway, each facet is 20.25 mm in width and length (that’s 0.797 inches). These are, of course, quick measurements with a caliper, and you’d probably get slightly different results with your pieces due to tolerances.

The set comes with two pieces, one for each glass. The material is black soap stone, meaning the hardness is around Mohs 2  and up. Depending how soapstone is treated, it can go up to 6.5 at best, but without knowing what soapstone this is and from where, it’s impossible to say what’s the exact hardness. Nevertheless, these will scratch rather easy, so treat them right and with a careful touch. Hardness does not equal toughness, which is why we get laughable stuff like Mohs 15 shield in Destroyer Classes in Muv-Luv Alternative, which just means they’re really, really hard to scratch, but that does not mean they’re tough. Generally, the harder something is, the more fragile it is.

Before taking them into use, I’d recommend washing them with a neutral soap and rinsing them in as hot water as possible, then quickly wrap in a towel. Due to amount of talc and the structure of soapstone, the hot water will evaporate due to the stone’s hotness and its own heat, drying the soapstone in a second. Works with any soapstone item out there, give it a go.

Anyway, the stones don’t really work. They’re too small to actually make a proper difference. Soapstone is great at keeping temperature, which is why they generally make good heat or cold plates. They do keep chilled whisky chilled slightly longer than usual, but against room temperature whisky the stones do jack shit. Waste of stone. Even the sandblasting is just skin deep. Considering how large the glasses are, the stones should’ve been at least twice as large with twice as deep sandblasting. Surely the glasses will be the set saver, right?

Oh for fuck’s sake

The thing I expect from a box that says Premium on the label is premium. What I’m getting is two-dollar custom prints on a mid-grade glass with a printed surface instead of sandblasted.  Kiryu’s dragon should have been laser printed unto to the surface at least, but a print? That’s just lazy, and just like with the coasters, the print will wear off in use. In time for sure, but this is really a bad first impression.

Well, it doesn’t help that the two glasses are not of same quality. You’d expect these glasses to be relatively straight, but one of the two have slightly collapsed surface and has a slight wave-like pattern towards the bottom, meaning it’ll screw with the flow of spirit. Not much mind you, but at this point Sega’s quality control and whoever was in lead with this package has completely lost me. There’s nothing premium in this package. Deli, whatever company you are, you should’ve convinced Sega to put more effort in this.

That said, Yakuza 6‘s glasses can at least hold more spirit than the one I bought from Scotland years back, or the Monster Hunter one I got from the Netherlands. I’m not saying I’ve been drinking before writing this post, but I have before writing. Gotta test the glasses with more than one spirit, y’know. It’s pretty good size for a milk glass as well, and it’s not too fragile. Its still cheap glass, can’t get around that.

As you probably surmised, the whole After Hours edition of Yakuza 6 is not up to the usual premium standards. The game’s damn solid and worth your time, but going above the standard edition is not worth it.

Virtual-On Retrospective: MARZ

Previous: FORCE

In the early 2000’s, Sega’s plan was to deliver cheaper and more effective arcade hardware for the Japanese market, which of few would see worldwide releases. NAOMI 2 was given the emphasize over the Hikaru, which was phased out in 2002. NAOMI 2 would last to 2008, with Atomiswave, a Sammy developed NAOMI derivative, running by its side. Around the same time in 2001 Sega developed the Triforce with Nintendo and Namco, based on Nintendo’s GameCube. Two years later, Sega would release Chihiro to the arcades, based on Microsoft’s Xbox. All these arcade machines ran different games that Sega was directly involved and developed, like NAOMI 2’s Virtua Fighter 4 series, Triforce running AM2 developed F-Zero AX, Atomiswave running many fishing and fighting games Sega was part developer and publisher, and Chihiro most known for OutRun 2 and House of the Dead III due to their Xbox ports. Later in the 2000’s, Sega’s arcade hardware would be more or less completely home media derivative, based on normal PC architecture, making some of the modern games running on a modified Windows. However, there was no Virtual-On, on any of these systems.

With Virtual-On FORCE generally receiving lukewarm acceptance from the overall audience, regarding Oratorio Tangram the superior game, Hitmaker would develop a console-only sequel for the PlayStation 2; Virtual-On MARZ.

Continue reading “Virtual-On Retrospective: MARZ”

Virtual-On Retrospective: Oratorio Tangram

Previous: Operation Moongate

Virtual-On was a relative success for its time. It saw most of its popularity in Japan due to larger availability of arcades and the Saturn doing better there than anywhere else. For America however, the success was much more limited. Less arcade machines to go around and Saturn’s lukewarm success were the main reasons. The PC version, much like other Sega’s PC releases, was less emphasized over their own console’s port. This lesser success seemed to convince Sega’s European section not to release the Twin Stick controller in the region. Despite how the game is considered a sort of landmark for Sega and mecha games overall among fans, that’s all mostly in retrospect. Its impact didn’t exactly topple any towers, and ultimately met similar niche status as Sega’s other Saturn seller title, Panzer Dragoon.

The decline of arcades, and Sega’s mismanagement of their hardware side (especially during Mega Drive’s later years and Saturn overall) limited Sega’s business success overall, with Sony taking their place as Nintendo’s main rival with the PlayStation. That is not to say that Virtual-On ended up being some sort of sales catastrophe, as Japanese arcade goers took the series close to their hearts. This being Sega, they gave more emphasis on this fact rather than considering the franchise’s world wide success.

Despite Sega Model 2 being a success on its own rights, Sega was always pushing their arcade hardware further. If Nintendo has an obsession to introduce 3D to home hardware, then Sega had an obsession to push the 3D hardware at arcades. Hang-On, OutRun and Space Harrier are all examples of 80’s Sega finding ways around to introduce 3D-like effect to their games, and you could even argue that Sega’s teams became master of sprite scaling in this fashion.

Sega didn’t cut much corners with their arcade hardware, and Sega Model 3 supports this approach, as it was the most powerful arcade system board of its era. As Sega’s last piece produced by their partnership with Lockheed Martin, it contained graphical hardware designed by Real3D and Mitsubishi, which was a spin-off company from Lockheed Martin. However, Real3D only saw success with Sega, and their partnership with Intel and SGI ended up as market failure, and in the end was sold completely to Intel in 1999 due to changed arcade markets.

The reason why Mitsubishi was brought into the partnership was Real3D had a series of delays with their GPU. Originally, the Model 3 was supposed to be released in 1995, but had to be pushed back to 1996, with Yu Suzuki claiming it would deliver the best 3D graphics thus far.


Model 3, of course, ran the latest Virtua Fighter

Continue reading “Virtual-On Retrospective: Oratorio Tangram”

Virtual-On Retrospective: Operation Moongate

This post is first in a series of five. You can access all posts in Robot Related Section linked above, or move between sequential post at their beginning and end

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

 

Continue reading “Virtual-On Retrospective: Operation Moongate”

It’s the Mania

I’m sure some of you are already completely tired of hearing people telling you how good Sonic Mania is. Despite all its faults and recycled content from Mega Drive Sonic games, it still ends up being the best game in the franchise. It’s a sort of The Best of Sonic, if you will. It’s essentially a game the fans, and people at large, have been waiting for since Sonic 3 and Knuckles came out.

There have been pretty good 2D Sonic  games since then. Sonic Advance games were overall enjoyable games to play, although their stage design and some of the physics were off. Sonic Rush games on the other hand nothing but the speed, and this was evident in rather lacklustre stage design again with the speed Boost gimmick being the main culprit. Nevertheless, still pretty good time. Just not as good as the Mega Drive games. That’s where we always go back, because those three (or four, depends how you want to count) games were in many ways the pinnacle of the series in the eyes of fans, sales and cultural impact. Sonic made its name on the Mega Drive.

Sadly, the Sonic titles are one of the worst sufferers of creators wanting something new and grand, something that doesn’t meet the expectations of the paying consumer. Sonic Adventure had a heavy emphasize on the story, something that peaked with Sonic ’06. I’ll tell you how to weed out the bad Sonic games from the good ones; the bad ones put the story to the front of things. Sonic‘s gameplay is hard, if not impossible, to transfer to 3D. They’ve been trying to do it for some two decades now, and even Sonic Generations, a game that was hailed as the first good Sonic game in a long time, felt off with everything done in 3D. Sonic 4 was just terrible.

The franchise really is a case study of creators losing sight what made their product wanted and revered. One could even go far enough to say that Sonic Team and Sega as a whole can’t do classic Sonic anymore, and have had no intention of replicating the Mega Drive games in any fashion. Sonic Generations could’ve been one, but physics clearly weren’t replicated accurately.

It’s not much of a surprise to see Sega hiring  fans to create a 25th anniversary game then. Fans, who have showcased themselves as capable in replicated the mould that made the Sonic franchise what it used to be. To say that the fans knew better than Sega would not be exaggeration. However, Sega did screw up the game by not giving it a proper physical release, and even the limited edition package comes with a digital download code only. I’m guessing they’re banking on Sonic Forces, which will probably end up lesser of the two games. The simple fact that its colour palette is dry and consists of black, red and beige is a harsh contrast to Sonic Mania‘s bright blue red and yellow.

Sonic the Hedgehog as a brand suffers from Sega overusing nostalgia mixed with whatever hell they’re trying to do in their latest games. Much like how Super Mario can exist in two different iterations at the same time, modern 3D Sonic could exist with classic 2D games. The biggest misstep of Sonic Mania is that it adhered to old stages, albeit remixing them with new areas and secrets. Sega’s no stranger to this, as their obsession of pushing out the Western teams at the end of Mega Drive’s era.

Nintendo is a stark contrast to this. While Nintendo has given some of their most significant IPs to outside companies to work with, like Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime, their attitude towards them and their fans is cold at best. Metroid Other M supposedly removed the Prime series from the canon, though why that should matter isn’t the point. The point is that Sakamoto himself didn’t deem the Prime series good enough. Other M and the upcoming Metroid II remake are the worst entries in the series and all that is on Sakamoto.

Nintendo is also infamous for their Cease and Desist letters to fans, like with the Another Metroid 2 Remake. Nintendo has had hard time celebrating their fans works or even allowed legally sound fan-products to be made. While they are required to protect their intellectual properties, this has never been good PR for them. Of course, you don’t want to have the same situation Paramount/CBS had with Star Trek Axanar, though it’s no secret Axanar challenged the official Trek stuff, and the team behind Axanar essentially broke the rules by making money off of their piece. There’s always the question why wouldn’t you want to make something original and new if you’re able to design and code a whole new game.

Sonic Mania is essentially the New Super Mario Bros. of the franchise. Much like with 2D Mario, classic Sonic is something people have been wanting for ages. However, whether or not this is just a one-hit-wonder or if Sega sees some sense and continues on developing and releasing more of these classic games is still open. However, they should learn from the failures of NSMB series and improve upon the concept and allow the games to stand up more and give them full fledged release status. Nostalgia is a delicate thing, and as said, Sega’s been overusing it already. Pushing the stage designs and sprite graphics to Saturn level next while still keeping with the style of Sonic Mania might be a natural step. Sonic Mania, as an anniversary game, does things right and manages to squeeze in twists that you’d never see in an equivalent Nintendo game.

A game of Puyo Po– I mean Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine as a Boss Battle in Chemical Plant Zone? This is the right stuff right there

Sega could do right with the rest of their franchises and seek out the right people to work on them in a similar manner. There are development houses that would love to give, for example, Streets of Rage a similar best-of treatment. The iron is now red hot, it’s time for Sega to hammer it.

A delicate piece of hardware

Much like with other modern technology, we’ve managed to squeeze more into smaller space. The laptops or pads we have nowadays are engineered to a point that barely anyone can open up their cases and fix them without further studying on the subject. Game consoles aren’t any different, though the PlayStation 4 is almost as big as the original Xbox. It wasn’t until we began to have consoles that began to show easily damaged sections in the mainline consoles. While the PlayStation could take some hefty damage (personal experience tells me it can survive a trip in a lake), the PlayStation 2 could be damaged by having enough weight at the wrong spot. This was the time when PCBs started to become thinner and more packed up with components downsizing with almost each year. You could lob a NES or SNES outside a window have it working with a cracked case, and the same really for the PlayStation as well. Personal experience, don’t ask. PlayStation 2 however was the first truly delicate piece of hardware that in the end begun to have issues with reading the discs. Sometimes from the very beginning.


Goddamn, this video came out sometime early 2000’s. Takes me back

Nintendo’s consoles usually have been durable, especially their handheld consoles. There has even been discussion how Iwata drove the DS’ tech team mad by demanding the console to be able to withstand multiple drops from a standard height.

However, the more we pack delicate technology in a smaller place, the more easy it is to break it. While most people fellate companies over the hardware, it’s uncommon to see anyone appreciate the design and intentions of the design. The PSP was applauded for its higher raw power over the DS, and while it was snazzy to have in your hands, it was a delicate piece of hardware that could break down very easily. The console wasn’t meant for everybody, and much like how SEGA used to sell Mega Drive for more mature gamers, SONY’s western branches clearly had the more adult audience in mind. The PSP really couldn’t take much damage, I’ve had to fix a few. The same applies to the Vita to some extent, thought the Vita seems to be able to take a beating or two more than its elder sibling.

The Switch has been out only for a while, but it’s already showcasing very erratic behaviour. Some have it going completely mad in sound department, some consoles refuse to launch games, connection issues with the controllers, and the screen’s been scratched by the dock itself. I saw the dock scratching issue the very moment the whole thing was revealed (it had no guiding rails to keep the screen clear), but having a plastic screen is a necessity. Why wouldn’t you want to have a glass screen? They’re so much better! The reason for this is safety and durability design. See, when you have a plastic screen, the console can dissipate a fall impact by wobbling around rather move the energy directly into rigid parts, destroying them. The very reason your phone’s screen shatters so easily is because it can’t bent, and the energy from the is released by shattering. It’s a design decision between durability and looks.

To sidetrack a bit, this really applies to Muv-Luv‘s BETA as well. The Destoyer-Class has a shield hardness of Mohs-15, but because that’s hardness topping that of a diamond, their shields should shatter when shot at. They don’t flex when hit due to their hardness. Mohs scale is for mineral hardness after all and should never be applied outside jewellery.

Newly borked devices is nothing new, either. The 360 had firmware issues since day one, and the infamous Red Ring of Death haunted machines every which way. Hell, the 360 may be a good example overall how to fuck your console from time to time, as some of my friends have told me their 360 crapped out because of an update. For better or worse, my 360 hasn’t crapped out yet.

No modern console is truly finished at launch. Firmware and software issues are relevant and will be patched out at a later date. This is largely due to modern technology. A Mega Drive never needed firmware patches, because it was less a computer than the modern machines. Whatever problems with the firmware Switch has now will be patched at a later date. However, the hardware and design problems are harder to fix, and if Nintendo is anything to go by, they may revise some of the designs in later production versions.

Though there really isn’t any good excuses to use paint coating that peels off with stickers. That’s just terrible. Who puts stickers on their consoles any more? You’d be surprised.

The first wave of adopters will always have to go through the same pains with modern technology. New smart phones and tablets suffer from firmware issues to the point of most common consumers willingly buying last year’s model in order to get a properly functioning device. The price has already dropped at that point too. Apple has been infamous with some of their smart devices’ firmware problems, and sometimes they were removing basic utilities from the hardware alone. Nobody really expected iPhone 7 not to have a headphone jack.

The question some have asked whether or not it’s worth buying a game console, or any modern smart device or computer component for the matter, if they require multiple updates months later down the line? We can’t see into the future, and it’s hard to say what device will go through a harsh update cycle. Essentially, you’ll need to look into history of a company and make a decision based on that. Just trusting that a company will update broken parts is strongly not recommended.

I guess releasing things partially unfinished and patching them up is an industry standard practice. Games get patched to hell and back, and while this isn’t much new for PC side of business, it’s one of those things that show how little of classic console business is in modern consoles. Not all games get patched though, even when they have console destroying bugs in them. NIS America’s track record with localised games that supposedly lock permanently and prevent you from finishing the game, break your console or generally have terrible translation would a perfect chance to use these patches to fix these issues. However, unlike with consoles and other devices, game developers can ignore these problems as the purchase has already been made and they probably are banking on hardcore fans.

Not that any product is final when it’s released. All products are good enough when released, but that good enough has seen a serious inflation with time.