Wherein I discuss how I wanna make more TSF stuff, a premature sequel, a sequel 25 years in the making, two collections of disproportionate quality, and how you can make super emulation machines if you are smart enough.
TSF as a genre has experienced rapid growth over the past decade or so, and for pretty much the same reason that anything else gained popularity in that timeframe. Creation tools became more accessible, communities became larger, monetization became way easier, and it became a lot easier to share media with others thanks to social media. It went from something I had a decent handle on during my adolescence, back when I knew of all the usual places to check. Nowadays, things are so fragmented, plentiful, and uncategorized that I basically gave up.
Currently, I have Patreon email me things. I check in my DeviantArt inbox two to three times a day. I check my Twitter too damn often. And I ‘milk the panda’ every Saturday (meaning I check out e-hentai, grab the links, and have a loli deliver them to me).
Am I more than content with this? Abso-goldarn-lutely. But I know that this approach is far from perfect, and that a lot of things inevitably fall through the cracks. Unless something gets retweeted by one of the lovely degenerates I follow, gets translated by a suspiciously wealthy furry or gets tagged as “body swap” or “gender change” on ‘the visual novel CG site’, I will not see it.
…Why the hell am I bringing this up now? Because I found one cool outrageous lord of one uniquely raw style who has been making TSF stuff since 2001 by the name of Tira. I only know about this person through light sleuthing through their dedicated blog and Pixiv. However, the more I discover about the breadth of their work, the more amazed I get by their output and dedication. They have been making TSF stuff for DECADES, show no signs of stopping, and based on the few English comics that are available, they’re damn good at what they do.
It has been a hot minute since I saw a creator say “fuck it, let’s go in harder and wetter” than Another Invasion. A comic about a timid boy who, when naked, can enter the bodies of others, and becomes an absolute pervert as he titillates and penetrates women from inside their skin. Also, this boy, this child, can grow into an adult-sized man so he can move them around like sex puppets. That’s not too weird, but then you throw in the diet incest, the fact that, when the protagonist enters someone’s body, he can then control that person and enter a third person’s body. Then, after exiting the third person’s body, then the second person gains his ability, and can enter the bodies of others.
So it is a story about a kid who… can pull a matryoshka of bodily control, with no defined limits. Judging it just by the singular 215 page text, this kid could enter the body of someone, enter the body of someone else. There is no defined limit, so, theoretically, he could continue this trend until he absorbs/eats/assimilate even tens of thousands, and… I don’t even need to say what happens after that. Just that things will get truly crazy and morally rainbow-like.
This idea is freaking AMAZING! It is double, triple, and X-tuple possession mixed with inherited abilities. It makes me want to go and write a short story that takes this wackadoo concept to an even greater extreme… Unfortunately, I have outlines for 3 short stories and one 13,000 word story that is almost done. So I cannot commit to more ideas!
I can’t help but look at the sort of stuff this Tira person creates and ask myself… “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” I could be running a dedicated TSF website, learning how to make TSF comics in Koikatsu, making my own TSF visual novel, and so forth. All I need to do is say fuck it to the video games and discard that hobby in order to become solely invested into TSF. All I need to do is throw away the tendrils of something I have loved for decades of my life (21 years, but decades sounds more sophisticated).
I know that this is something that would make the largest number of people the happiest, as I could muster up an audience of dedicated TSF fans with original content and discussions of other creator’s content… But at the same time, I don’t want to do that.
This is something I run into regularly. I identify that I want to change things, but it takes too much effort and too many sacrifices for me to justify this change. I want to do a lot, but I do not have the drive or passion to fully commit to any one thing, as that often means sacrificing something you love.
I love TSF, I love video games, I love writing stuff in general, but this worry about not being able to do enough is something that has been getting to me for years. I think it’s just a chronic curse at this point. A curse where I forever hate myself for being a suboptimal fleshbag too scatterbrained to do everything I want.
Argh! Now I’m getting all sorts of upset! Let’s put a lid on this floor pizza and get on with the things I spent a few hours typing up over the past week. All of which have to do with video games, because I don’t want to talk about war or politics beyond saying that war is terrible, especially when it is as pointless as this. And I don’t like talking about trans issues here, because there’s nothing I can do about them.
Also, if you have $300 to spare, and live in the burgeoning dystopia known as the United States of America, you really should consider donating to a 501(c)(3) charity. It’s a good thing to do, and that $300 goes against your income on your taxes. It won’t save you much on taxes, probably only $36 depending on your bracket, but it is an incentive. And one I, as a tax accountant, encourage all US resident taxpayers to take advantage of.
Acquisition news has become so prevalent in the video games industry. So, I decided to dedicate the second section of Rundowns to simply discussing and outlining the acquisitions that crop up (basically) every week nowadays.
Starting with the ‘golden boy,’ Tencent plucked up another supple plum from the forest of the western games industry with the acquisition of Inflexion Games. A Canadian developer who is currently working on a Victorian-era shared world survival crafting game by the name of Nightingale. The title was announced during The Game Awards 2021, and looks to be a pretty high budget affair.
Based on GamesIndustry.biz’s article on the subject, Inflexion’s parent company, Improbable, was looking to sell Inflexion since the summer of 2021, and Tencent, unsurprisingly, made an offer. The article continues to comment that the structure of Nightingale will change with this transfer of ownership. As the title was originally going to use Improbable’s SpacialOS technology, but it will now be more of a single-player and small group experience. Tencent has also apparently been more hands-off and supportive of what the studio wants to do, which falls in line with what I’ve heard over the years. Tencent is typically more inclined to lie back and let the studios do their own thing. Which is probably for the best, as I have no idea how they could manage dozens of studios without mass-hiring managers.
This is an acquisition where I cannot really blame any party involved, as it is less of an acquisition and more of a transfer of ownership. Inflexion was not an independent developer, and they still aren’t. But this is yet another instance of Tencent growing in scale and influence, which is something that I dislike seeing. Unfortunately, it is something I see twice a month nowadays.
…Or in this case, twice a week, as Tencent also acquired 1C Entertainment. A capital group containing various Polish game publishers and distributors that I doubt many people outside of Eastern Europe are familiar with. The only part of their company I am familiar with is QLOC. They’re a support and porting studio that did the PC ports of Yakuza Kiwami 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, and God Eater 2. But more probably know them as the people who did Dark Souls Remastered, which wasn’t great.
The reason Tencent is doing this is that they see the eastern European games market as something worth getting invested in. Plus, as a publisher and storefront owner, they will have the ability to push Tencent titles to larger audiences. It is all part of their plan to globalize their operations beyond China and soak up the revenues from just about any market they think is worth investing into.
Also, 1C Entertainment will drop the 1C Entertainment name within 6 months, as Tencent only bought the Polish publishing video game branch of the company, not the Russian parent company. I’ll try to keep an eye out for this, so I can add the new capital group’s name to my mental list of Tencent names.
Speaking of capital groups who I try to keep organized in my head, Embracer Group acquired an animation studio by the name of metricminds. They’re responsible for cutscenes, trailers, motion capture— just about every step of the animation process— and have worked on a number of high-profile titles including Horizon: Zero Dawn, Dying Light and Alan Wake. But it is also worth noting that they have worked with Embracer more than a few times, doing work on Darksiders III and Destroy All Humans! 2020.
Embracer worked with them before, liked their work, and wants an animation powerhouse to help with the animation workload in their titles. And if that sounds vaguely familiar to you, it should! Because Embracer acquired the animation studio Digic two months ago. They clearly want a stake in the animation end of the industry, and it is something that is highly valued in just about every game nowadays. It’s vertical integration, and it’s a good tactic.
…However, “vertical integration” is not something I want to think about when discussing a company that makes dozens of acquisitions a year. And I worry when two major animation studios are acquired by the same parent company within two months. I admire the hustle, but I’m still worried how Embracer is going to shape up in the next 5 or so years.
Last week, I struggled to think of many closely affiliated companies Nintendo could acquire during the current acquisition frenzy. I named the obvious ones like Intelligent Systems and Camelot, but in doing that analysis, I was being pretty surface level. Because I did not know that Nintendo has been working with a company by the name of Systems Research and Development Co., Ltd. (SRD) for the past 40 years.
This is a bit embarrassing for me, as someone who has compartmentalized a lot of video game malarky over the past few years. However, I will defend my ignorance by pointing out how Nintendo’s internal teams tend to have generic names attached to them: Software Planning and Development. Entertainment Analysis and Development. Research and Development. So it was fairly easy to miss that a Nintendo-affiliated company named SRD was not, in fact, part of Nintendo.
Anyway, the actual story here is that Nintendo acquired 100% of SRD, and stated that this acquisition “will have only a minor effect on Nintendo’s results.” So, nothing to get excited about here, but this shows that Nintendo is trying to bring companies that are Nintendo-affiliated under the banner of Nintendo. Which I think is fine. If two companies are so close that they are effectively the same company from an outsider’s perspective, then I see no real harm done in one of them acquiring the other.
Murmurs about Street Fighter 6 have been floating about for quite a while. Normally, the buzz about a new Street Fighter should send the fighting game community into a tizzy, but the decision to ramp up the release of a new Street Fighter right now is… questionable. It would be no exaggeration to say that, despite being a good fighting game, Street Fighter V has had more than a few rough patches in its life. It came out in 2016 with a paltry roster and missing features, saw numerous re-releases, and has been vying for continued relevance since its debut by releasing 5 yearly season passes.
As it is, SFV is in a pretty good place, but the constant updates and iterations have borne a disinterest in the series. To the point where many fans want the series to take a step back and for Capcom to focus on growing other fighters for the time being.
Instead, they announced a new entry with Street Fighter 6, as revealed with a vague teaser trailer featuring posterboy Ryu going up against the spunky newcomer Luke. The only thing I can really gather from this trailer is that SF6 will reprise the same art style from prior games. Also, they used a stock logo to replace the often-iterated but structurally sound Street Fighter logo. Because… Someone thought that was a good idea.
I have been largely disconnected from the fighting game scene since I stopped listening to Castle Super Beast 18-ish months ago. But the general impression I have is that Street Fighter is the leader of the FGC, and people want it to make strides to become more open to a mass market so that more money and attention is invested into fighting games. Theories are bound to run the spectrum, but the ones I heard are that people want SF6 to be free-to-play to attract more people, and they want the game’s inputs to be less demanding and approachable to your typical MOBA player. Unfortunately, no questions about this game were answered, and Capcom does not plan on answering them until this summer… okay.
Moving onto a fighting game announcement that actually has people excited, Capcom announced the generically named Capcom Fighting Collection. A compilation of ten Capcom games that was probably a Darkstalkers collection at one point.
I say this because the compilation contains Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, Vampire Savior: The Lord of Vampire, Vampire Hunter 2: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, and Vampire Savior 2: The Lord of Vampire. …Which reads like the output from a random title generator, but it’s actually the entire Darkstalkers series, including two games that never left Japan. While this alone makes it a hefty package, Capcom Fighting Collection also includes cult mid-90s hits like Red Earth and Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness, the chibi Capcom fighting crossover Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, and the debatably best version of SFII with Hyper Street Fighter II.
It took me a while to view over this list of titles and cross-reference it, but this collection contains all of Capcom’s non-Marvel and non-Street Fighter 2D fighters from the 90s. All of which are enhanced with rollback netcode, new training modes, and oodles of extras. Based on all this information, it sounds like this will be a quality collection, and one that will preserve these games going forward. But as is always the case, players will need to wait to see how the package fairs when it releases on June 24 for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.
Moving from a good collection, let’s talk about a bad one. This past week, publisher ININ Games and developer Bliss Brain announced Wonder Boy Collection. A compilation of 1986’s Wonder Boy, 1987’s Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and Monster World IV. It is a compilation that features only four of the six original games in the Wonder Boy series and only contains a single version of each title.
First off, why the hell did it take so long for this collection to materialize? The series has been going on a revival streak with 2016’s Wonder Boy Returns, 2017’s Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, 2018’s Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, and 2021’s Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. But somehow it took this long for someone to license a basic re-release like this?
Secondly, this is a pretty poor re-release all things considered. Especially when looking back on earlier collections of the Monster World / Wonder Boy series. From 2003 to 2008, Sega put out the Sega Ages 2500 Series. A collection of 2,500 yen (~$25) re-releases of their classic games. Each entry was a specific game or series, the quality was a bit scattered, but the Monster World Complete Collection was a prime example of what I want to see in a collection. It featured all six games in the series, 10 ports of these games for other Sega systems, and it was all done by the wizards at M2. The presentation of the collection was pretty genetic, but it did its job and preserved these games… or it would have if Sony valued backwards compatibility.
There was also the 2012 Xbox 360 collection, Sega Vintage Collection: Monster World, which simply re-released Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and Monster World IV. It was not a good collection, but it was a $10 budget re-release, so I’m willing to give it a pass for being half a collection. Besides, it was the first western release of Monster World IV, which is a $10 game on its own. Wonder Boy in Monster Land and Wonder Boy in Monster World were just bonuses.
Wonder Boy Collection had the opportunity to basically just be Sega Ages Vol.29: Monster World Complete Collection, but instead it just isn’t, and I’m almost certain that it will cost more, despite offering far less content. Yes, I know some of these limitations are likely legal, but the precedent still stands. Anyhow, if you want to support bad collections, Wonder Boy Collection is coming out ‘soon’ for PS4 and Switch.
Moving to an announcement that makes me happy instead of mildly frustrated, Atlus recently held yet another announcement countdown. It originally seemed like it was going to be for something Persona related, but Atlus pulled a ‘February Fooled Ya’ and announced Soul Hacker 2.
Devil Summoner: Soul Hacker is one of the many tendril-spawned iterations of the Shin Megami Tensei series that originally came out in 1997 on the Saturn and 1999 on the PlayStation. Where it remained a Japan-only enigma until it was brought to the 3DS in 2013. It never struck me as any more successful than any of the other non-numbered SMT games. However, its uncanny cyberpunk-ish world, filled with labyrinths of demons who operate on moon logic, almost certainly struck a chord with some of Atlus’s staff. In fact, it might have struck a chord with them back when they were kids, which would explain why they’re developing a numbered sequel almost a quarter century later.
The plainly named Soul Hacker 2 looks to take things in a different direction though. With the protagonist being a digital angel of sorts by the name of Ringo who joins with a trio of grungy Devil Summoners to prevent an apocalypse by both battling and seeking out the aid of demons. In a sense, it sounds like a pretty standard SMT game, but it stands out with its vibrant art direction and lighter tone.
The protagonist, as a newly born being, gives off an optimistic and cheery vibe, which is unusual for an SMT protagonist. And the world is less of a grungy post-bubble dystopia vibe, and a vibe closer to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth. It is a world primarily painted in blacks, blues, and purples, but there are plentiful dashes of bright colors, everybody is dressed in slick fashion, and characters look appealing. Sure the Devil Summoners are a bit more grizzled, but they overall look like people worth hanging out with, unlike the more retro SMT characters, who look like people you shouldn’t trust with your shoes.
I’m sure that Soul Hacker 2 will be a fine RPG up to Atlus’s usual high standards when it releases on August 26 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, PC, and… that’s it. Yes, an SMT game is hitting Xbox platforms for the first time in 20 years, but not the Switch. I would try to formulate a reason why this might be the case, but Atlus has been historically illogical with their platform choices. It’s why they still haven’t brought Persona 5 to the Switch, Xbox, and PC, but brought the sequel spin-off, Persona 5: Strikers, to those three platforms.
That’s it for news this week, but I do want to make a small follow-up on what I said regarding the shutdown of the 3DS and Wii U eShops last week.
In my discussion of the story, I positioned emulation as the answer to how people are going to play the Wii U and 3DS library going forward. However, I failed to remark on the unique hardware of these devices, and how demand for their hardware has skyrocketed over the last… 18 months or so. Here’s the thing though. While the DS, 3DS, Wii, and Wii U all had unique hardware and input devices, and said hardware is limited, there are actually widely available replacements for this hardware. And these replacements show no sign of going out of style within the next few decades.
Let’s start with the DS. I know that the original story was about the 3DS and Wii U, but I want to talk about all unique and kitsch Nintendo hardware. What is a Nintendo DS other than a screen, a touchscreen, and a series of buttons? Not much. Is it possible to create a device with a touch screen, a secondary screen, and a series of buttons using widely available supplies? Very. With the technical knowledge, one could make a device comparable to the DS by taking two phones, connecting them via a harness, and then into a controller grip. That would probably be bigger and heavier than even a DSi XL, but functionally, it would be comparable to a DS once properly configured. Now, there are logistics involved with making two phones consider themselves to be the same device, and you would need a custom ‘peripheral’ to make this happen, but it is indeed possible to emulate or effectively recreate a DS.
Or if that’s too elaborate, it is also possible to emulate DS games on a phone, but have them display vertically. With one emulated screen above the other, and only the lower portion of the screen functioning as a touch screen. You would probably want a larger phone or a tablet to make this work, but it is fully possible to emulate the DS using this method and a vertical controller grip.
For 3DS games, the same principle applies, but the vertical approach is less ideal, due to the wider display of the upper screen of the 3DS. However, I would argue that most 3DS games play just fine on a computer with a controller, as few of them really use the touch screen to do more than display information.
A lot of the underlying technology with the WiiMotes and their general form factor can be found in modern VR controllers. Using the Oculus Quest as an example, the device has two motion-based controllers that each feature three action buttons, one menu button, and a stick. That is just enough to replicate the entire WiiMote and Nunchuk control scheme, and assuming support/integration is there (which it sort of is from what I’ve read), then you could use them to substitute motion controls for many Wii games. It might not be ideal for all of them, but that’s why alternatives exist.
As for the Wii U… realistically, what is the Wii U GamePad other than a tablet with a big comfy controller grip? Nothing, that’s what. You would need to sync the tablet with another display, or have it act as a screen/input device for a game running on a computer, but you could play Wii U games with a set-up like this. Hell, you could play Wii U games on the two screen DS emulator I proposed.
Actually, the more I think about it, there is probably a big enough audience to warrant producing a specialized device. One that is basically two Android phones wired together, locked in a clamshell case, loaded with customized emulators for DS, 3DS, Wii U, and basically every other system released from 1997 to 2005. I know that lots of people are at least interested in these kitsch little handheld emulators, like the Analog Pocket and various aftermarket contraptions. And I think that someone could sell a few thousand units of a dual-screen emulation beast. They just need to get the per-unit price down to under $300 and positioned it as the best way to play an entire lineage of Nintendo games… along with all the other easy to emulate systems.
…Or in other words, it is harder to emulate some specific hardware features of these games, but you can do it, and people can recreate everything that these systems do. So don’t act like they are one-of-a-kind devices. Don’t keep this narrow view of what game consoles are. Because game consoles truly are just boxes that run software. They are just computers. While the input and display methods might be different across devices, you can run or emulate just about any computer software on a powerful enough machine, and games are no different.
Also, there is nothing sacred about the release put out by rights holders, and I’m sick of people acting like Nintendo games aren’t best enjoyed via third party emulation. Besides, Nintendo is kind of crap at emulating their own games.