Rundown (8/23-8/29) Work Life Imbalance 2: Sorrow is a Virtue

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Wherein I discuss a brand new Switch-up, a most unexpected remake, the fall from Zero unto nothingness, and yet another incomprehensive compilation.

While I personally have taken fondly to the prospect of working from home, as I am most productive when left to my own devices and in a controlled environment, there is one major drawback I have been facing as of late. The fact that my mother (who is also my boss) is also working from home, and has ALWAYS had far too many responsibilities thrown her way. Now, with no divide between work and home established, her days have largely devolved into 7:00 to 21:00 workdays with sporadic breaks for errands, meals, and exercise. Because she is my boss, and because she is always working, she has no problem with giving me work at sporadic intervals. Sometimes just a five minute task, or sometimes it takes hours, all spliced throughout my day, thus turning every day into a workday, and one filled with her shouting from the other room or venting about how much she hates working from home, and how she will be working from home “forever.”

Now, you might be asking why I allow her to do this, and the answers are simple. I am her daughter, I have been working with her for 6 years, and my work ethic is inspired by hers and very rigid. I will do whatever is asked of me, and want to do it immediately. I always make sure to take care of daily banking tasks immediately after I get up at 6:45, I have no reservations about working until 11:30 PM, I will skip meals if need be, and I regularly remind myself that I am a shit employee 1099 contractor for not going above and beyond with my work.

Now that I’ve bragged about my merits as a worker in the machinations of society, let’s get on with the video game news.

Ever since the Switch launched people have been musing and charting out how the system could be revised and upgraded over time through smaller form-factor, better performance, and higher quality screens. It is one of the many things Nintendo diehards like to talk about, but this topic of a souped-up Switch model has been making the rounds yet again after the Taiwanese newspaper United Daily News reported on a new Switch model, only for Video Games Chronicle and Bloomberg to add additional details about this supposedly upcoming Switch revision, and the details boil down to four core points.

The new Switch model will be due out in Q1 2021, it will be able to support 4K graphics, it will have improved processing power and the system will have other interactivity features. This is all worth rallying over if you are the type of person who gets fussy over the lackluster performance of certain Switch titles, but I am not that sort of person, and will likely not be purchasing this new model, especially since I only play maybe 4 Switch games a year.

For those who do care about high quality performance however, I hope this new electronic toy makes all their wishes and dreams come true, if only so they stop making a fuss whenever a game runs at a subpar frame rate or resolution.

Back in May 2019, I reviewed the 1994 seminal Genesis classic Monster World IV, and while I found many a thing to praise about the game, I ultimately concluded said review by saying that the game would greatly benefit from a remaster that refined its gameplay and sought to undo some of the more frustrating parts of its structure and general balance. Now, I never thought that would ever actually happen, even after the Wonder Boy and Monster World series have been on a revival kick as of late with 2017’s Dragon’s Trap and 2018’s Monster Boy.

But then Studio Artdink announced Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World as a full remake of Monster World IV, co-developed by the original development team, including series creator Ryuichi Nishizawa. It all sounds like a match made in heaven, but then I saw the debut trailer, and got worried almost immediately. Unlike the prior two entries, and every game in the series, Aisha in Monster World features fully 3D graphics, and it does not look that great. Everything is clean, the developers have accurately recreated the game’s backgrounds, enemies, and overall artwork faithfully, but does not look especially good, and if not for the Wonder Boy namesake, I doubt I would give this title the time of day. However, I am always keen on waiting until a game launches to pass judgement on it, and Aisha in Monster World is set to debut on PS4, Switch, and PC sometime in Q1 2021

Shifting from two happy stories to a sorrowful one, let’s talk about Lab Zero (developer of Skullgirls and Indivisible) and its sole owner, Mike Zaimont. Over the past few months, there has been some controversy surrounding Zaimont after he made a joke on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd on a live stream, and after his awkward DM history with the streamer, Bunny Ayumi went public. They were uncomfortable displays that Zaimont apologized for shortly thereafter, and I generally thought they were merely isolated instances at the time. However, it appears that these were merely indications of the type of person Zaimont is, as revealed by many employees of Lab Zero who have recently left the company, primarily due to Zaimont’s behavior.

The assertions are numerous, but the general gist of the situation is that, for years, Zaimont has exhibited inappropriate behaviors regularly, made uncomfortable jokes, and abused his position as the owner of Lab Zero. He did not acknowledge these flaws, denied opportunities to get better, and overall… sounds like a pretty shitty boss based on what his former employees have to say.

This caused some unrest in the employees of Lab Zero, but in 2019 the studio began the early steps to transition into an employee-owned company which should have limited Zaimont’s power and forced him to clean up his act. However, this plan did not follow through into 2020, what with the global pandemic and all, so by the time Zaimont was dirtying Lab Zero’s name with controversy, he still retained 100% control of the company. Despite this, the employees of Lab Zero still attempted to bargain and reason with Zaimont in order to have him removed from the company, but Zaimont’s demands for such an arrangement were deemed unreasonable.

The employees tried to re-negotiate things a few days later, but they did not go much better, and Zaimont ended the conversation by giving all unsatisfied employees the option to leave by August 31st, and here we are. Mike Zaimont has been publicly lambasted, his studio’s name is in the red, and now the only question that remains is what becomes of titles like Skullgirls, which has retained a thriving community. Well, Skullgirls is actually fully owned by its publisher, Autumn Games, who, in conjunction with Skullgirls Mobile developer Hidden Variable, have publicly distanced themselves from Zaimont, and affirmed to fans that they will continue to develop and support the Skullgirls brand, both for the foreseeable future and for years to come.

This is all a frankly horrible display that once again goes to show what happens when a leader refuses to admit their flaws, denies opportunities to correct them, and does not wield the power of being an employer with the necessary care or responsibility. And also why it might not always be a good idea for independent studios to house their own IP, as if Lab Zero owned Skullgirls, then the game would be dead. But instead, it will continue to live as most of its developers hopefully move on to better jobs without an abusive asshole of a boss barking down their neck.

To close this post on a happier note, this week was also home to a Nintendo Direct Mini that exclusively focused on third party games and, much like the one held in July, it did not feature much privy to my interest with the exception of two announcements.

The first being for Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, a sequel to the vibrant and wonderful puzzle mashup title that I still need to play one of these days and, as to be expected, it looks wonderful. The aesthetic is on point, the story looked to be zany and charming, and the gameplay looks tight as all heck. The game is set to release on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, and PC either on December 8th or in early 2021, and serves as a burning reminder that I have yet to purchase or play the original Puyo Puyo Tetris. Now, I could technically catch up before the sequel releases, but my 2020 schedule is basically locked in at this point, because that is the type of person I am.

Eye-catching announcement number two was none other than Collection of SaGa: Final Fantasy Legend. Which is a simple repackaging of the three SaGa games originally released for the GameBoy in the west, where they had their name changed to Final Fantasy Legend for branding purposes. Now, I always say that I love seeing developers release older games because then a whole new generation can enjoy them, and that remains true with this collection. However, I look at this and feel that Square Enix could have done far more to celebrate the history of this series. Either by fleshing out the collection with the Romancing Saga Trilogy, or by including both the original GameBoy versions of SaGa 1, 2, and 3 and their later remakes.

SaGa 1 was remade for the Wonderswan Color in 2002 and mostly served as a faithful recreation that gave the game a new coat of paint and some additional quality of life features. SaGa 2 was remade for the DS in 2009 and was soon followed with a DS remake of Saga 3 in 2011, both of which were full 3D reimaginings of the original games that, from what I can tell, still remained faithful to what the originals offered. I think these games are novel, interesting, and generally far more innately appealing than the musky old monochromatic originals, and would rather play them myself.

But Square Enix likely did not put much stake in this project and did not want to go to the trouble of addressing the remakes. After all, none of them ever left Japan, and DS games typically need to be reworked to work on traditional displays. So while I am not happy that they are putting out a placid looking collection of ROMs… I cannot honestly expect them to put in the extra work for such a niche property.

That covers it for this week, as nothing that was shown at the recent Opening Night Live for this year’s digital version of Gamescom stood out to me, and I am not in the mood about musing how Call of Duty is evoking political imagery for the sake of profit and publicity. So until next time, see ya.

Header image comes from Taishou TS Otome Soushi by Kouji.

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