Rundown (7/26-8/01) Leaks are Love; Leaks are Life

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Wherein I discuss the God-tier gigaleak, a promise most befuddling, and cry like a bug about licensed gacha games.

For the past couple of months, Nintendo has been leaking an excessive amount of internal documents, prototypes to decades-old projects, and the source for both many of their most celebrated titles and the platforms they launched on. It was crazy that the public got their hands on the Wii design documents, the source code for the 3DS, an early version of Pokémon Gold and Silver, Ruby and Sapphire, and Diamond and Pearl, but now? Well, now the source code and full developmental repositories for dozens of Nintendo games dating back to the SNES-era. We have prototype sprites for Yoshi from Super Mario World, early assets for Pilotwings, the source code to Super Mario 64, the source code to the official Nintendo DS emulator, and models for human NPCs for Animal Forest. Bust most amazingly, they hacked an official model for Luigi into Super Mario 64, 24 years and 1 day after the game’s original release, thus validating the L is Real 2401 meme that has been permeating for roughly 20 years!

It is all so amazing, wonderful, and fun to view what these classic games were and could have been, and makes me wish that Nintendo, and basically every other game creator on the planet, would just let the internet play around with their scraps and repositories because people get such a kick out of them. Unfortunately, Nintendo and companies like them love their secrets and do not want to show off source codes where disgruntled programmers used the F-Word and sprites of Mario flipping the bird. It sucks that it has to be this way… and makes me hope that more data miners and leakers continue to give this form of joy to the people, especially during these #TryingTimes.

Moving onto more publisher sanctioned news, NIS America recently announced that Disgaea 4 Complete+ will be coming to PC this fall. This isn’t surprising, as Nippon Ichi Software has been having financial troubles for years and ports to platforms that people like buying games on are a good way to make a reasonable profit. Normally there would be nothing much to add here, but as I looked into this game’s announcement in more detail, I learned that the same version of Disgaea 4 released on PS4 and Switch on October 29th, 2019, roughly a year before this PC version is set to release.

While a delayed PC port is not uncommon, the fact that a frequently ported game from 2011 took so long to bring to PC in comparison to other platforms strikes me as… just bizarre. Which, in all fairness, is an apt way to describe my thoughts on how NIS America has been handling their ventures into the PC game market. When they first seriously began supporting the platform in 2016, they made new renditions of older games like Disgaea, Disgaea 2, and Phantom Brave, and while the ports weren’t always great, they were good enough and received regular updates.

This showed a strong dedication to the platform, and a desire to succeed on it, but they have never gone all-in on it, and regularly put out titles that have a staggered PC release (which is completely understandable for logistical reasons), and titles that just never make it to PC. I can understand this in certain cases, as they do publish a lot of games from smaller Japanese companies that might lack the resources to make PC ports. However, a lot of the time this happens, when a game simply never comes to PC, it’s a game developed by Nippon Ichi Software themselves.

Disgaea 1 Complete, Lapis x Labyrinth, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2, and Destiny Connect were all internally developed, but never found their way to PC, and for no apparent or obvious reason. Yet other internally developed titles like Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk, The Longest Five Minutes, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku!, and the Yomawari duology all launched on PC in conjunction with other platforms. What made the first group different from the second? I don’t have any gosh darn clue, and this lack of consistency bothers me when so many other niche Japanese game publishers have reliable systems for how they handle PC releases.

Okay, so that’s two stories I talked about, but what should the third be, let’s see…. Yeah, not much happened this week actually, so I need to dig for another article— Oh, this will fill the hole!

The prevalence of licensed microtransaction-riddled mobile RPGs is something that, on some level, I understand the popularity of. People enjoy intellectual properties, want to engage with them, and while mobile game costs are rising, they are pretty cheap to make, relatively speaking. You need writers, illustrators, UI designers, programmers, project managers, sound people, and translators if a global release is planned, but you can both create and maintain a successful mobile game with a very modest development team. As such, I am not surprised that licensed mobile games keep getting made, but I am surprised that they are still so consistently profitable for developers. I understand spending money on tat, memorabilia, and licensed merchandise, but I do not understand why anybody would spend money on a mobile game just because of a featured brand. Unless they were invested in it on a mechanical level

Now, I am bringing this up now specifically because I saw an announcement article for Higurashi When They Cry Mei, a mobile gacha RPG based on the world-famous sound novel series and its many anime adaptations, whose upcoming release is likely inspired by a new anime adaptation coming this October. My immediate thoughts as I read this announcement were: who wants to engage in something like Higurashi on a mechanical level when the core appeal of the series lies within its characters and story, and there exists no context to truly justify any sort of RPG-based combat. Even then, the story of Higurashi is mostly shut and done. The writer finished it, expanded upon it with supplemental material, and I cannot see how adding exploitable mechanics to this series could meaningfully enhance it on any level.

I say that, but a mere day after this announcement it was also announced that SINoALICE, the gacha RPG by Nier writer/director Yoko Taro, will be doing a Japan-exclusive crossover event with Higurashi later this year as a promotional event. And while I think the idea of a Higurashi gacha is… just kind of stupid, I think the idea of putting Higurashi characters into an existing gacha is genuinely cool. Why do I say this? Well, it is the difference between taking an IP and turning it into something it is not and taking iconic characters and putting them into a world and situation completely disassociated from their source material. The former is clearly done not out of appeasing fans with something they want, and the later is something so unwarranted, unexpected, and fanfic-y that there is a certain novelty to it.

Or, in other words, cash grabs are bad unless they are crossovers, in which case they are good because they are making people’s childish dreams come true. And dreams are the reason life is worth living.

Das Ende und Gute Nacht

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