Rundown (2/28-3/06) Boy Functions Terminated

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Wherein I discuss a nostalgic TSF diary, Forever remake #5, a new conclusive fantasy, a cynical acquisition of jelly bean boys, and a consolation prize for a decade of loyal support.

During my (limited) free time this past week, I went through my usual ritual of scouring for the latest TSF, or “gender bender” manga, when I happened across an illustrated photo diary with the creative title of Sex Change Diary by Tsukiyomin and Tsukiyono Marron. A story that follows a Japanese middle schooler who was assigned male at birth as they undergo a year-long  state-sponsored gender transition program where they learn how to live as a woman, unlearn their more male habits, and undergo a medical transition.

It sounds like it should be an overwhelmingly positive if not heartwarming transgender story with close ties to reality… except the writer doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Based on the endnotes, the writer was in his late 50s or early 60s when he wrote this, came up with the general idea for this story during his elementary school days, and writes this story like it is set in the 1960s, when it is actually set in the modern day.

It’s a truly bizarre work that is spiritually positive, but if you actually read the text… there’s something uncomfortably problematic on pretty much every page. From describing cisgender girls as “normal,” “real,” and “regular” to calling women “weak organisms” who think emotionally and have difficulties thinking about logical subjects. I initially thought this might be an issue with the translation itself, but considering the background of its creator, I think it’s far more likely that they’re just stuck in the past when it comes to modern gender issues, as they’ve been writing stories about boys turning into girls for nearly 2 decades.

However, that did not stop the creator from highlighting some obvious and less obvious changes that a young male body undergoes as it is exposed to female hormones, using a lot of details that make it clear that the writer did some research. But he also interjects fantastical elements and changes that are impossible with modern science, such as a penis shrinking into a clitoris, the biological development of a womb, and mentions how the protagonist’s eyes are getting bigger which… isn’t how eyes work. Men and women have the same sized eyes… and I have never heard of anybody thinking otherwise.

You might think that I’m just bringing this story up to mock on it for its inaccuracies, but no. I actually enjoyed this story for its positivity, optimism, and how, buried beneath all the antiquated rubbish about gender roles and how being a woman is being a performer, there is something that I find pure and nostalgic about stories like this. The creator’s heart is ultimately in the right place, the world it paints is something of a fantasy for many transgender people, and it reminds me of the sorts of media I first encountered when I dug into the boundless rabbit hole of TSF/TG fiction. 

While I only started getting into this stuff in 2008, a lot of the things I was drawn to initially were Fictionmania stories written in the late 90s, which had a similar antiquated yet pure feeling. Where you could tell that the writers wanted to write wholesome stories full of magically powered gender euphoria, but if you look back at them today… you suddenly realize just how much progress the world has made over the past two decades.

Well, I say that like progress has been universally made and accepted, but there are still fuckers out there trying to drag people back to the past. Why? I don’t even pretend to know, but I’m guessing that they weren’t taught good morals back in kindergarten and are too proud, old, or bitter to learn about things like tolerance, decency, or respect. 

Switching spectrums to the wild and wacky world of video games, something I wish game companies would do more often is license out their dusty old IP for new installments or straightforward remakes. Doing so can revive a lot of dormant series, give smaller developers the spotlight needed to make it in the industry, and net the rights holders another revenue stream with little risk involved, as they do not need to publish, let alone fund, these revivals or remakes. They just need to write the contracts, do periodic check-ins, provide the developer/publisher with contents related to the IP, and shut the project down if it starts looking like it will hurt an IP more than it will help it.

In recent years, Sega has been doing this a fair bit, having licensed out the Wonder Boy, Panzer Dragoon, House of the Dead, and Streets of Rage series to other publishers and developers. However, few other publishers have taken the same initiative, at least until this past week, when Forever Entertainment, the company behind the 2020’s Panzer Dragoon: Remake and the previously announced House of the Dead 1 and 2 remakes, announced a partnership with Square Enix to develop remakes based on one unnamed Japanese intellectual property

This is something of a hollow announcement, but it is interesting to see Square Enix loan out their Japanese IPs like this to a western company, something they have not done since 2010’s Front Mission Evolved and the ill-fated Project W. As such, I hope this sets a good precedent for Square Enix, both to pursue more remakes and to license out their IPs to more companies and keep their back catalog alive and accessible beyond unendorsed emulation and decaying physical media.

Back when Apple looked to be making waves in the games industry with Apple Arcade, a novelty phone-based subscription service that has mostly been forgotten about, one of their biggest showcase titles was Fantasian, a game by Mistwalker and headed by Hironobu Sakaguchi of Final Fantasy fame. Previously, all that was really known about the title was that it would use meticulously constructed real-world dioramas for its environments, giving the game a unique visual identity, but a story synopsis and features trailer have been released this past week and… it looks like it could be a Final Fantasy spin-off, just like every other Mistwalker game.

The story of the Fantasian follows an amnesiac by the name of Leo who finds himself in a fantastical world in the midst of a dramatic change, as machine-based lifeforms are taking hold of the naturalistic and magical world, threatening its inhabitants. Being a man of profound destiny, the hero, along with his two female companions, set off to investigate in hopes of preventing further devastation. And during said quest, the protagonist will uncover memories of his past, as represented via novel-like segments. A feature almost certainly inspired by the A Thousand Years of Dreams sequences seen in Lost Odyssey, which were arguably the best part of that entire game. Or in other words, Fantasian sounds like just about everything I would want from a Sakaguchi RPG on a story front.

As for the gameplay, after 2014’s Terra Battle was less of a JRPG and more of a tile-based puzzle game with a JRPG core, I was cautious of what form Fantasian’s combat system would take. Much to my delight, it is a Final Fantasy X-style turn-based JRPG, but instead of focusing around exploiting enemy weaknesses, it appears to be focusing on using character skills effectively, aiming and positioning them around enemies in order to deal big damage and take small damage. I am hesitant of assessing the combat system without seeing raw gameplay, but this concept, combined with the ability to stockpile up easy random encounters into something more akin to boss battles, makes me hopeful about how this game will play. 

While I am not particularly interested in Fall Guys beyond a raw aesthetic level, I do hold a lot of respect for the title and for its developer, Mediatonic. They knew they had a hit on their hands right out the gate and were able to support the game with several seasons of content, growing what could have been a novelty take on the battle royale genre into something that has remained popular after being the talk of the walk for several weeks in the summer of 2020. However, success, popularity, and brand recognition draw the attention of larger corporations, and after what I could only assume to be many offers and countless discussions about terms and payments, Mediatonic has announced that they have been acquired by none other than Epic Games.

This surprised me when I first heard the news, as I had no idea who, if anybody, owned Mediatonic, and whether or not the rights to Fall Guys were in any way tied to its original publisher, Devolver Digital. However, reading this story again, it makes a lot of sense. After finding profound success with Fornite, Epic has been looking to expand their influence and power in the games industry, and particularly in the casual online multiplayer game front. This is why they acquired Rocket League developer Psyonix back in 2019, and Fall Guys both fits in the same widely marketable category and is fairly early in its lifecycle, having come out only half a year ago. Meaning that Epic has plenty of room to grow this title into another pillar to support the company.

Now, I don’t like what they are doing, and worry about how Fall Guys will look after Epic starts demanding changes from their subsidiary, but I also cannot blame the heads of Mediatonic for selling their company for hundreds of millions of dollars. …That’s just an interjection on my part, as they did not disclose any dollar amount, but I can only assume that Mediatonic is worth 9 digits. Not 10 digits, as that seems a bit steep, but 9? 9 is a safe number.

After the reveal of Pyra and Mythra as the next Super Smash Bros. Ultimate character, this week was home to the expected character breakdown by the game’s director, Sakurai, and with this breakdown also came a scattering of new Mii Fighter costumes. Rather than rep the Xenoblade series with other fan favorite characters, the DLC this time features some love for Capcom. Arthur from Ghosts ‘n Goblins joins the fray, which makes sense since Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection just came out as a Switch exclusive, while the Monster Hunter series is getting its own Mii Fighter costumes with a Felyne hat and two sets of armor. A move that all but confirms that Ultimate will not be home to a Monster Hunter fighter, as many hoped and assumed it would be.

It’s a shame, as there is so much to work with when creating a moveset for a Monster Hunter character, and so many opportunities for fan service, but somebody must have not been interested in this concept, either Nintendo or Capcom themselves, so all we get is this consolation prize of representation. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing.

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