Rundown (4/11-4/17) Meandering Musings About Money

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Wherein I discuss making mad dochy, a remake of dubious soulfulness, a Konami game, and the continued downfall of Sony.

While updating my personal finances spreadsheet— something that everyone should maintain, as everybody should care about their finances— I reached the realization that, per hour, I am making 400% of what I was making back in 2014. That’s when I got my first real job as an office assistant in downtown Chicago, where I was more or less paid minimum wage. But after nabbing a Master’s in Accounting, I am now working at home, remotely meeting with my employer, and doing work that, from my perspective, is not significantly harder or more demanding than what I was doing back then.

Now, you might look at that from a logistical standpoint and say that makes sense. I was dumb and inexperienced back then, but now that I a marginally less dumb and have some experience, I am both a better employee and able to do more things. That is indeed true, but on the receiving end, it is eerie to have one’s wages increase so dramatically over such a short period of time without changing their line of work or developing a true need for the monies I receive.

My wages match the standard or average rates for my profession (I’m a ‘senior’ tax accountant), but I have no idea what to do with them beyond putting them in my savings or investment accounts. I do not want many high-value material possessions, my living expenses are covered by the pittance I pay my mother for rent, I don’t have a car, and aside from occasionally splurging with Patreon, games, and albums, my expenses are not very high.

I know that I should be glad that I can save so much, especially with society being society, but I also have this constant nagging feeling that something is wrong whenever I see $1,000 hit my IRA and a couple more thousand hit my checking at the end of every month. …God, that’s the whitest thing I’ve ever said in my goldarn life.

Forever Entertainment and Megapixel Studios are a pair of Polish companies who are easily best known for recreating a Sega Saturn classic in the form of the honestly titled Panzer Dragoon Remake. Before that game was even out, however, they announced they were working on remakes of the first two The Hours of the Dead games. And seeing as how now is as good a time as any, they revealed what they have been cooking up via an Indie World Nintendo Direct, and… well, they sure remade the game, I guess.

Something contentious with any direct and ‘true to the original’ remake of a game is preserving the original art direction, capturing what the original dev team wants to make, and deciding how to interpret this original vision using greater fidelity and a more detailed art direction. Sometimes this transition works well, like in Shadow of the Colossus (2018) and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, but other times you have XIII (2020), which ditched the original cel-shaded art direction of the 2013 original for something more realistic.

Forever’s The House of the Dead Remake is sadly in the latter camp based on this trailer. The game is dark, enemies are realistic in design, and the general art direction seems to go against the tone set by the gameplay with its rapid-fire shooting and high-pitched score jingles. The original had a relatively dark art direction for its time with brown backdrops aplenty and a grimy aesthetic, but I would definitely argue that a less realistic art style would better fit the spirit and tone of The House of the Dead. Because regardless of what the developers intended, most people remember the game for its gratuitous 90s-style ultraviolence and some delightfully corny dialogue.

I would hope that Forever had enough reverence to pick up on this, but instead the game does not appear to be notably goofy or outlandish, and the voice acting seen in the trailer, while not good, is not as bad as it should be. Now, you could comment on how this game can be whatever it wants aesthetically… but when you are making a remake of something, and openly calling it a remake, you should hold true to what the original did and look at how people perceive it in the modern day.

The same Indie World presentation also saw an announcement from… Konami of all companies. Huh. It truly is amazing how thoroughly Konami has managed to shy themselves away from the greater gaming audience this past decade, and while they are still around, I’m under the impression they only have maybe one team’s worth of developers working on a project at any time. Whether it be Super Bomberman R, Metal Gear Survive, or Contra Rogue Corps. And now their latest attempt at retaining relevance in the games industry while keeping the budget low is… with a reboot of an obscure and not particularly memorable Japanese-only 1987 Famicom game.

GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is a roguelike action platformer following a warrior as they delve into a distinctly Japanese depiction of hell with the intention of preventing some sort of great disaster that can only be stopped by killing increasingly aggressive and powerful demons. All of which draws heavily from Japanese folklore and reprises a classical Ukiyo-e aesthetic, so the entire game looks like a classic Japanese illustration brought to life. Which is both admirable and gives the game a striking art style. However, the game is also on the busier side of things, and based on the gameplay seen in the trailer, I’m a bit concerned that players might struggle to differentiate background detail and enemy attacks in the foreground.

Beyond that however? The game looks pretty great, and I’m curious to see how it fares when it releases via Steam Early Access on May 13th. Now, you might raise an eyebrow at that, considering how this is such a Japanese game, and the PC is not a very popular platform in Japan, so why would they launch a game this way. Personally, I think this is more of a calculated move based on the game’s genre, as roguelikes work very well with the early access model.  They’re games players can keep coming back to, do not require a significant time investment for a full run, and involve a lot of mechanics and systems that need to be fine-tuned through player feedback. So… good job Konami. Hopefully you can spin this into something genuinely good.

Alright, what else happened this past week… Oh, Sony invested $200 million in Epic Games? Yes, after investing $250 million in Epic back in July 2020, Sony acquired another chunk of the mega-corporation. All with the implied two-pronged intention of strengthening the relationship between the two companies, and also nabbing Sony a steady stream of revenue as Epic continues to rake in cash with Fortnite and Unreal Engine.

Now, I should not really care about this story as, despite all the bad things you could say about Epic, they are a private company and ideally this investment should just be viewed as two companies trading money as a means of… an investment. However, that’s not necessarily the case, as anything that helps Epic Games ultimately helps Tencent.

Tencent owns 40% of Epic Games, and while founder and CEO Tim Sweeny ultimately owns the majority of this corporation, that does not mean that Tencent gets nothing from this investment. When profits are made and earnings are distributed, they nab a good chunk of what Epic gives to its investors. And with that money, Tencent can fund further acquisitions and investments in other game companies, spreading its influence farther and wider— which is something one should be wary of, regardless of the industry.

I cannot help but look at that investment and wonder how Sony could have used it to improve their platform. How they could have used this $200 million to keep their online storefronts up and running, fund more unique projects, and develop backwards compatibility systems for the PS5. But instead, they decided to do this. Indirectly funding a growing mega-corp that I hope won’t be a major problem in the next few decades… but i’m damn-near certain that they will be.

Header image comes from Ossan ga Shougakusei by Guntao. Specifically from a fan translation done by Nigma Box reader Chari, who translates various manga as a hobby. She recently gave me permission to share collections of some of her work a while back, including a collection of TSF manga and a collection of manga without TSF. Both have some neat stuff in them, and I would recommend giving them both a download and read if you’re a manga-liker, like myself.

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