Rundown (6/27-7/03) Abyssal Depths of the Human Imagination

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Wherein I discuss my weird fixations, some honorary hall of famers, an acquisition blitz, a pair of monkey paw situations, and a sequel to one of my GOATs.

When writing Natalie Rambles About The Saga of Vincent Dawn, I had to dredge up a lot of old memories as I recounted the origins of the stories I wrote from 2012 to 2014. In doing so, I was once again reminded of what inspired me to become a writer, what exactly keeps me going, and what continues to inspire me to this day. 

While I do not put a lot of value behind ideas, as good ideas are rather common, I relentlessly admire creators who take wacky and out-there premises and go all the way with them. Creators who are not content with simply throwing a concept out there, but who take it seriously and develop it into something whole, and develop it into a story. This admiration helped shape my own direction as a creator and is what inspired me to pursue such… wack and wild stories when I first started out. 

It’s why I immediately purchased a copy of Unbirth by Gregor Daniels after reading the description. Because a black BBW TSF story with unbirth is a concept that you need to have a weird-ass mind to even come up with, and an even weirder-assier mind to write into a 39 page novella!

It’s why I love it when I find comics like Filial Son by Pixiv User 11123968, which is both disgusting in how it treats its characters and the concept of a family, but it still tells an emotional and complete three-part story across only 21 pages while finding enough room for a robust pedophilic incest sex scene. 

And it’s why I wrote a story about a trans-dimensional ghost who turns people into her clones to topple capitalistic super corporations. A story about a 50-something-year-old man who finds a cactus that turns him into a cactus woman. And a 30,000 word novella about old people who pay to have their essence liquidated and inserted into the husks of young people abducted from third-world countries

The first story of note to fly by my desk this past week was the periodic reveal of new Mii Fighter costumes for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which serve as a means of getting some greater representation in the series while also crushing the hopes and dreams and wishes of people who wanted X character to join the fray. 

This new wave of Mii Fighter costumes included Lloyd from Tales of Symphonia, Shantae from Shantae, Dante from the Devil May Cry series, and Dragonborn from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I personally thought it would be neat to see Shantae and Dante get a spot in Smash, as they have a lot of moveset potential, as I am a bit upset to see them relegated to a mere costume. However, a Mii Fighter Costume is better than nothing, and it’s still nice to have them be part of the greater Smash pantheon, even if it is in more of an ‘honorary’ capacity.

Moving on to acquisition news, Sony has always been a historically lean publisher, having relatively few companies under their belt and often relying on third parties to produce some of their biggest exclusives. However, going forward into this new generation, it seems like they are modifying this approach, as they announced the acquisition of two closely affiliated studios. Housemarque, developers of Resogun, Super Stardust, and the recently released Returnal. Along with the renowned BluePoint Games, who handled the recent remakes of Shadow of the Colossus and Demon’s Souls

I’m sure the owners, investors, and executives of both studios appreciate the payout of cash, but I do not necessarily read this news as good news. With the closure of Japan Studios, and based on that one article discussing a remake of The Last of Us, it is clear that Sony is incredibly averse to risky projects unless the studios can prove the sales potentials or have a wonderful track record. It makes this news somewhat bittersweet, as I am happy for the financial security of these studios, but I worry they will be forced to put out Sony certified prestige titles and little else. Don’t get me wrong, those games are great, but I don’t like having my creativity limited around a single flavor, and I’m sure that many developers at these studios feel similarly.

I assumed that this would be the only major acquisition announcement from Sony, but just a few days later news broke stating that Sony acquired Dutch game developer Nixxes. Who is Nixxes? Well, you might know them as the people responsible for the PC releases of the modern Tomb Raider games, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and so forth. Since their inception, they have been associated with Eidos and Crystal Dynamics, putting out the bulk of their big PC releases, and they are exceptionally good at what they do.

The reason why Sony would buy them is fairly obvious. They intend to invest more into the PC platform and want to port over some of their recent and upcoming titles. However, rather than have each studio handle their own ports and figure out how to make a good PC port independently, they want a dedicated team to go through the laborious process of making a rock solid, if not excellent, PC port for all their future titles. Which is good news for PC game likers, and good for various PlayStation Studios games, as good PC ports lead to both good PC sales and satisfied customers.

Now, in case you are confused as to why I am fairly positive on this acquisition, the answer is simple. Nixxes is more of a software developer than they are a game developer. They have no intention of making their own games, and only retool and modify games to run well on new platforms. That is their job, that is what they are known for, and that is what they are good at. All that really changed is how many and what games they are now bringing to PC. And I personally would rather see good ports of PlayStation Studios titles than good ports of Eidos and Crystal Dynamics games.

In recent years, Konami has more or less bowed out of the console game scene, allowing their IPs to stagnate and become relics unknown to an entire generation of game likers. I personally have wanted Konami to start licensing out their IPs to other developers for years now, but they have yet to (publicly) form a major partnership with an established game company to keep one of their plentiful properties alive without needing to develop a game themselves. However, that all changed this past week.

Konami recently announced a partnership with Bloober Team, a Polish survival horror developer best known for Layers of Fear, The Medium, and Observer. Combine this with a article from back in February where the CEO of Bloober Team announced that the company was working on a horror IP, from “a very famous gaming publisher,” and it is all too easy to draw the conclusion that Bloober is indeed working on a new game in the Silent Hill series. 

Now, this should be good news as people have been clamoring for a ‘true’ new Silent Hill game since… 2005 or so, and Bloober is quite experienced with the genre. Unfortunately, Bloober’s past works have not been particularly well-received by horror fans, nor did they fare all too well critically, which has stirred doubt in some Silent Hill fans. That may be the case, but I cannot help but look at the back catalog of Silent Hill and need to ask what the harm is with another poor or otherwise not very good game? The series has not had a good entry since Shattered Memories in 2008, and even if this game is a gosh darn disaster, it won’t really hurt anything.

Besides, according to VGC, this is not the only Silent Hill game in production. An unnamed other Japanese developer is supposedly making one, so even if Bloober’s game sucks eggs on toast, there will at least be another game in the series.

On the subject of potentially disastrous revivals, following the sudden announcement at Square Enix Presents Summer 2021, fans have gone back through the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster trailer and realized that, despite initially resembling the originals and their GBA remakes, all six of these games feature redone and altered sprite work, modifying the colors, aesthetic, and proportions.

This was a mystifying change that I hoped would be a mere option by the time the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster released, but now that store pages have launched for Final Fantasy I, II, III, IV, V, and VI, it is clear just how much the developers changed over the prior re-releases and… I just need to ask what the hell Square Enix thinks they are doing. Nobody was asking for the sprite art itself to be remastered. Nobody wanted anything more than maybe some balancing tweaks, the ability to save anywhere, and widescreen support. Instead, they changed LOADS of things!

I played through the GBA versions of Final Fantasy I and II back in 2006 and adored the sprite art in both games. It was detailed, colorful, and a modest evolution over what the SNES games were doing. And it is because of this nostalgia that I find the screenshots of both remasters, or rather remakes, to look so… uncanny.

They completely redid the party member sprites for all games, replaced all enemy sprites, altered the color palette of environments, and replaced the UI with something with a discernible lack of pixels and one of the worst fonts I have seen in a video game. They also got rid of the MP magic system seen in the GBA and PSP versions of Final Fantasy I, which is just… stupid. Nobody likes the primitive charge-based spell system, and there is a reason why it was removed in later releases. Oh, and I do not think any of the bonus content from past remakes and re-releases will be included in these new versions.

I just don’t see the point of doing all this work when Square Enix could have taken such an easier approach with this project. All they had to do was take the GBA versions of these titles, fix a few bugs, make some audio improvements, and make the games run in 16:9. Admittedly, this does bring up an issue with Final Fantasy III, which never saw a shipped 2D remake. However, there was a cancelled remake for the WonderSwan Color that Square Enix could have potentially used as a base for a complete remake… but didn’t. In their defense, the remake was canned in 2001. They might have just lost the source documents.

I guess the real takeaway from this news is that the answer to the perpetual question remains unchanged. If you want to play the classic Final Fantasy series, just play the GBA versions. Run an emulator, play them on your phone or computer, and enjoy them that way. They were a great way to play through the original games when they launched, and while they have some incredibly minor problems, you can find fan patches for them. 

On that note… I think that the only way for these remasters to feel true to their original counterparts would be if somebody cracks the games open and replaces the character sprites and fonts. Because only then could you make an argument that these are the definitive versions of the original hexology.

Moving onto some good news, dedicated readers might recall that I reviewed AI: The Somnium Files back in 2020, where I said it was “easily one of my favorite games of all time.” Even after a year of distance from the game, I still stand by that sentiment. The tightly constructed cast of lovable dorks, branching multi-timeline narrative, other worldly dream sections, writing that strikes a marvelous blend between a serious drama and goofy comedy, and of course subject matter that… I will not spoil, but if your tastes overlap with mine, you will be quite pleased.

However, one of the things I appreciated the most about AI was how it ended. It wrapped up all the loose ends, gave every character a send-off, and had the BEST final section I could have ever hoped for from a game like this. …So you can imagine how perplexed, and excited, I was when I saw an announcement for AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative

The title was only shown via a brief cinematic trailer and synopsis blurb, which revealed the following: This sequel is set some years after the original and follows Mizuki, a supporting character and all-around girlboss from the original game, who is now working with co-protagonist, Aiba, as they investigate a series of murders where an enigmatic killer cuts people in half and seemingly displaces the other half through time. Which probably means the game is going to deal with a lot of right brain and left brain theories.

Honestly, I do not care to know a single thing more about AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative until it releases. Unlike other sequels to my other ‘dream games,’ this is being produced as a direct successor by the same team, and will almost certainly live up to its predecessor, based on the team’s track record. I know it will be good, I do not care what it is going to be about, and I will continue to patiently wait for it to come out… not that I will need to wait for very long at all. AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative will release for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch, Steam, and Windows 10 sometime in spring 2022.

Header image comes from One Man’s Slime by Shiyin. I have been following Shiyin since he came into prominence, and he is genuinely one of the best 3D TSF comic creators around, so I would strongly recommend checking out his work. Admittedly, the comic is not especially weird, but I had this saved as a potential header image for a few months, and I figured now was as good a time as any to bust it out.

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