Rundown (5/24-5/30) TG Forever

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Wherein I discuss my love of TG, a Marvelous investment, the hottest feel-bad murder-simulator of 2020, and the end of a mobile era.

This past week, I have been making my way through re:Dreamer, a TG visual novel that started development last year. My review of the title will be out on June 3rd, but while playing it, I had to stop and think for a moment just how much of my life centers around TG, and how much I’m still drawn to it after all these years. I learned about TG when I was 13, became obsessed with it for a good while, and even to this day, even after turning 25 last year, I still keep coming back to it.

When I first discovered TG, it was something lathered and drenched in perversions, a tool for me to illicit sexual thrills, and while I did appreciate other aspects of the work, such as the art and story, I did predominantly use it as a masturbatory aid. However, as I grew older, as I became less comfortable and confident with living the remainder of my life as a male, and as I began to dig deeper and discover things like Version 0.3b of the TG visual novel Press-Switch, that my interests in the subject matter changed.

When I was 20, I simply stopped using TG for more perverted purposes and continued to pursue it as I recognized it’s finer qualities as a storytelling device. TG can be elating, it can be horrifying, it can be a bringer of great unrest and existentialism, it is something that, while fantastical, is grounded in a simple and widely understandable concept. It opens the way to so many storytelling opportunities and subgenres. It is versatile, it has layers, and when paired with the narrative fundamentals of enjoyable characters and a compelling story, it can be something wonderful. I’ve seen creators do this, I’ve tried to achieve this same thing myself time and time again, and it’s something that’s been with me for so long that I don’t see myself ever getting tired of it.

Though, that same sentiment can be applied to just about everything I do on Nigma Box. I love what I do for this site, it is my true and most primary hobby, and everything from writing stories, writing game reviews, and writing about video game news are all things I have been doing for so long that they are quite simply a part of me at this point. But I suppose I should stop talking about how much I enjoy doing what I do and just do it.

Remember how last week it was announced that Tencent was publishing and funding System Shock 3? Well, that was just one of the many ways this wealthy conglomerate is planning on expanding its influence around the world, and now Tencent is set to acquire a 20% stake in Marvelous Inc. A Japanese company who you might know as the owners of XSEED and their eclectic scattering of AA titles spanning Senran Kagura, Daemon X Machina, and Story of Seasons (which was localized as Harvest Moon from 1996 to 2013). They are certainly an odd publisher/developer to invest in, and if I had to guess, this is most likely an effort by Tencent to get into the Japanese games industry, using Marvelous as a partner to help bring their games to a new region, while also diversifying their investments in the games industry.

This may strike some as worrying, as it is another Chinese company exerting influence on foreign companies, and an anti-China bias has been building up throughout the world over the past few years. However, Tencent typically does not exert influence over the companies they invest in, and while them being the largest shareholder might sound concerning, 20% still does not represent absolute power. It is a significant influence, yes, but nothing to panic about inherently. Besides, this also represents a huge injection of capital for Marvelous, which could allow them to pursue riskier, higher quality, or more profitable ventures. I mean, that’s basically why PlatinumGames partnered with Tencent earlier this year. Tencent has money, Tencent is willing to invest it, and Tencent doesn’t pester their investees about their operations.

After hosting an information-rich 18 minute State of Play broadcast for Ghost of Tsushima two weeks ago, Sony has decided to do something similar with The Last of Us Part II, giving the game a 23-minute-long showcase. Presumably because the game is coming out on June 19th, and Sony might feel the need to re-establish the game in people’s minds after its numerous delays and public opinion soured on the title after the highly detailed leaks that came out at the tail end of April. Regardless of the reason, however… the game still does not look like an especially good time.

While the first entry did have its fair share of violence against people, it was largely presented as a mostly heroic pursuit, with those opposed to the player being ravenous bandits who wish to destroy and break away at the small remnants of society still left standing in this world, or alternatively dirty no-good cannibals. The ultimate goals of the protagonists were noble, to help better the world and rid it of a virus that has caused society to persist in shambles for years and years. Here, however, the goal is that of revenge, of murdering those who wronged the protagonist and bringing further destruction and upheaval on the already fragile remnants of humanity.

For all the thousands of hours of work invested into the game, the millions of dollars put into its every aspect, everything shown of it thus far makes it look to be about little more than a violent serial killer going through the world to right a wrong with several thousand more wrongs, all rendered in gray-hued realism. I have no problem with dark and profoundly messed up subject matter (just take a look at Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth), but when a work is this overbearingly upsetting and cruel, I have to question if there is actually a point. And, based on everything I’ve read about the game, there really isn’t one. Or at least a good one more complicated than how humans sure are messed up sometimes. …But I guess we’ll just need to wait and see what the consensus for this game is when it launches on June 19th.

To end this week on yet another sour note, let’s talk about Mistwalker. The developer was founded by Hironobu Sakaguchi after he nearly bankrupted Squaresoft by creating Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which wound up costing Square just about all the savings and capital they had acquired throughout the lucrative PS1 era. Square pulled through by merging with Enix, while Mistwalker was fortunate enough to form partnerships with larger publishers, allowing them to make titles like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and The Last Story, along with a slew of smaller DS games. All of which helped earn them a very positive reputation during the 7th console generation.

However, things changed after 2011, and Mistwalker began focusing on the creation and development of mobile games, most notably 2014’s Terra Battle. The game was a success for Mistwalker, garnering a hefty number of downloads in the harsh mobile market, and from the onset, there were plans to expand the game beyond just this one mobile live service. These included a console version that was announced in 2015 after the game reached 2 million downloads, but that never came to be. Instead, Mistwalker attempted to expand the world and brand of Terra Battle across two additional mobile RPGs, Terra Battle 2 and Terra Wars.

This… basically killed the entire series, and what was poised to be a mobile game empire crumbled rapidly. Terra Battle 2 launched in North America and Japan in September 2017 and was shut down on September 28, 2018. Terra Wars launched on July 1, 2018, and was shut down on December 24, 2018, never leaving Japan during its lifespan. While the original Terra Battle received its final major update in September 2018 and the service was ended in various countries on October 31, 2018.

I only bring all of this up now because on May 29th, 2020, Mistwalker announced that Terra Battle’s will be ending service globally on June 30th. It’s true that this is the natural endpoint for most online-only mobile games, as there is nothing the developers could do other than retrofit the game to work without relying on a central server or make the server code publicly available. However, it is still a damn shame to see so much work, an entire era for this company, crumble away like this into nothing more than remnants, memories, and a piece of DLC for Final Fantasy XV. I hope that their upcoming Apple Arcade title, Fantasian, manages to fare better, or at least has an offline mode. Something that allows it to live on like all the games the talented folks at Mistwalker made before this.

Header image comes from A Manga About a Hero who Pulled Out the Holy Sword and Became a Girl by Taro Fukuoka

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