Rundown (4/17-4/23) Crisis is Ended – Now Work Like a Beeeeee!

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Wherein I discuss the growing Gearbox Empire, the Definitive(?) Classic Sonic Collection, some crazy and jammin’ GaaS, Nintendo being frustratingly eccentric, and one of my favorite concepts.

Tax Season is over, and it ended pretty well, all things considered. So now I’m currently throwing myself back into Nigma Box stuff, albeit in a disorganized manner, as I have too many things on my to-do list and I’m having big trouble with the focusing. However, I was able to focus enough to release a Student Transfer Scenario review, finalize the ePubs for the Amazon release of my 6 novels, start playing Kirby Discovery, and offer feedback on an 8,000 word design doc for a TSF visual novel in pre-production.

That might seem like good progress, but I still need to get started on The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan and Natalie Rambles About TSF, both of which I feel constantly guilty about not writing. Seeing as how my boss is going to be in Puerto Rico for the next few days, I’m planning on hunkering down and working on Natalie Rambles About TSF. Once that is done, I can focus entirely on The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan as my main objective… until the next version of re:Dreamer drops in mid-May, spurring me to get started on my annual review. Normally, I would not be so transparent, but this is my way of screwing over future Natalie by giving her a lot of work to do. 

Also, Verde’s Doohickey is currently available for $2.99 on Amazon. Buy it if you want to have it sync nicely with your Kindle or Kindle app, or you could just download a free version of the ePub instead. In fact, feel free to download ePubs for The Malice of Abigale Quinlan, Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan, The Saga of Vincent Dawn, Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth, and Psycho Bullet Festival 2222. None of which have been published on Amazon yet, as I am planning on staggering my releases to appease the algorithm

Now, you might be asking why I’m selling something that I am giving away for free. Well, as I said before, I have no intentions of making a significant money off of my writing. I am putting my novels on Amazon more for exposure and legitimacy purposes. If my novels fail to sell more than 10 copies each, then I’m cool with that.

You might be asking why I don’t charge the minimum of $1.99 in that case, and the reason is that I don’t want Amazon to make 65% off the sales, which I think is just horribly cruel to creators. Though, their 70% cut is not much better. They say that the creator gets 70% of the proceeds, but they also charge an additional $0.15 fee per megabyte. And my image-filled ePubs are about 3MB after Amazon converts them. Meaning I’m making less than $1.50 on every $2.99 sale.

After Gearbox Entertainment was acquired by The Embracer Group in April 2021, the developer has steadily been growing their operations. All with the obvious end goal of becoming a major AAA publisher capable of taking on multiple projects across multiple development studios. This was seen in their opening of Gearbox Studio Montreal in August 2021 and the establishment of a film and television production company, Gearbox Studios, in October 2021. However, they also began acquiring, or being assigned, developers as part of The Embracer Group’s continued acquisition sprees, making them the owner of Perfect World Entertainment. The western publishing branch of the Chinese mega studio, Perfect World. This would spur relentless confusion, but Gearbox thankfully renamed Perfect World Entertainment to Gearbox Publishing this past week.

While this all seems like an extreme amount of growth for a company to undergo in a single year, Gearbox is still expanding their operations with the acquisition of Lost Boys Interactive. A Wisconsin-based developer founded in 2017 that has done support work on the 2018 kusoge The Quiet Man, WWE2K22, and most notably, Gearbox’s March 2022 Borderlands spin-off, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.

Or in other words, Gearbox acquired a support studio shortly after they collaborated on a project. That is a fairly common approach for acquisitions, and one that I cannot get too frustrated by, as there is a precedent for these two parties to operate under a single banner. This offers the folks at Lost Boys more security, at least in theory, and this helps bolster up Gearbox’s staff as they continue to take on more and more projects. Besides, Lost Boys was probably, at least to some extent, launched so it could be acquired by a larger studio.

Ever since the Christian Whitehead versions of Sonic 1, 2, and CD hit mobile, there have been clamors for two things: An enhanced version of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and console ports that would allow players to enjoy these titles on their platform of choice. This was the desire Sega addressed with the May 2021 announced remaster, Sonic Origins. Which was presented as the definitive versions of Sonic The Hedgehog (1991), Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992), Sonic CD (1993), and Sonic 3 & Knuckles (1994). I had nearly forgotten about the project during the interim but, after 11 months of silence, Sega finally released a proper trailer, which showed off many features unique to this release.

  • Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are playable across all four titles, which I think marks the first time Knuckles is playable in an official release of Sonic CD.
  • New animated cutscenes have been added to these games… though I’m not sure how they’ll be used to enhance the story.
  • A new mission mode has been added, giving players access to focused and repeatable challenges.
  • There is both a vintage 4:3 Retro Mode and an Anniversary Mode that renders the games in a 16:9 aspect ratio— the correct aspect ratio for all Sonic games.
  • There are a bunch of museum-based extras, as this is a collection after all.

While the trailer itself leaves the actual developers ambiguous, it soon came to light that this collection is indeed based on the Christian Whitehead ports of 1, 2 and CD. Meanwhile, the new Sonic 3 & Knuckles port was handled by Sonic Mania co-developer Headcannon, so it seems like this really is the definitive collection people were hoping for.

The one bad thing about this collection is the monetization. Because Sega is not only charging $40 for souped up Sega Genesis Mega Drive games, but they are charging $4 for various cosmetic DLC and bonus mission packs. Why? …Because Sega is Sega..

Sonic Origins will dash/run/whatever onto all major digital storefronts on June 23rd. Meaning PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch, PC via Steam, and PC via Epic Games Store. 

If I seem dismissive with my stance toward the classic Sonic quadrilogy with that last bit, it’s because of two reasons. One, I do not like these games too much, as I think too much enjoyment comes from mastery, and they do not lend themselves well to unskilled play. Two, I would rather see Sega devote more resources into other IP than more Sonic stuff. 

As a publisher, Sega’s greatest asset is their deep well of intellectual properties that the publisher has routinely neglected in favor of focusing on a few core series. In recent years, however, the publisher has become more open to licensing their titles to other parties for new entries and remakes, as seen with the Streets of Rage, Monster World, and Panzer Dragoon series. Considering the success of endeavors like this, I assumed that this would be part of Sega’s business plan going forward. Licensing out titles to create a deluge of niche games that Sega gets royalties from, without needing to spend much money, while retaining creative control. 

Instead, their plans are leaning in a different direction. According to a Bloomberg report, Sega is working on big budget reboots of their classic IP, namely Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi. A cult game that appealed to a subculture that has grown more niche since its release and a game that is mostly remembered for its memetic elements than anything substantive.

The very idea of these two series making a revival is exciting, as it has been nearly two decades since either got an installment. Yet, the decision to make them ‘big-budget’ affairs, and positioning them as ‘big earners’ meant to compete with Fortnite makes me dubious about Sega’s plans for these two in-development projects. Neither of these can be or should be major IPs and should instead be positioned as niche AA releases with the goals of modest profit with the potential for franchise growth. 

However, Sega is doing what Sega wants and… the worst-case scenario is that we get new heavily monetized entries in both Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi. Which wouldn’t be that bad. 

Also, Crazy Taxi was a full-blown trilogy, which nobody really talks about, when I think that’s a cool little footnote. If I was in charge of reviving Crazy Taxi, I would put out some bare-bones HD remasters of Crazy Taxi, Crazy Taxi 2, Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller, and Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride for GBA. Yes, even the GBA one. Because I think the idea of re-releasing a 3D GBA game in the modern day is both hilarious and lowkey awesome. 

Speaking of re-releasing GBA games (a segue I don’t get to use often enough) some cheeky little chap decided to leak the unannounced Nintendo Switch Online GameBoy Advance and GameBoy emulators onto 4chan. The leaks in question were of in-development builds of the emulators, but their existence makes it clear that Nintendo is planning on bringing GBA and GB emulation to the Switch in the foreseeable future. 

This is something that has been discussed and rumored for years. And while I am inclined to comment on how this is good news for all who want to play these classic titles on Switch, I truly have zero interest in official subscription-based emulation at this point. Why? Well, it has to do with how community created emulators are technologically superior, how emulation-based handhelds are super cheap, and Nintendo’s own paltry offerings. So… thanks for at least trying, Nintendo.

…For transparency’s sake, I only dirt-mouth Nintendo because I want them to do better and be better, and I want them to be the company they are in the hearts and minds of many children and child-minded individuals around the world. And yes, I do consider myself to be one of those individuals, because I am fundamentally the same person I was when I was 12. For better or for worse… but mostly for worse.

Moving from old Nintendo wares to their new hotness, Nintendo recently released the second trailer for the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Which immediately captured my attention, as it revealed that the game is doing two of my favorite things. One, the title is ditching the 3-character party of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 & 2 in favor of giving the player a squad of not four, not five, but seven party members!

I don’t think I’ve ever discussed this, but something I absolutely adore about JRPGs is this idea of assembling a posse, a squad, a miniature army of characters who all join together and collaborate against a threat. Just seeing, using, and commanding a bunch of characters at once fills me with a difficult-to-articulate sense of joy. Plus, based on my personal experience with RPGs, the more party members you have at once, the more fun the game is. More party members means you get to play with more skills, abilities, and possibilities, and makes the player feel both more empowered and more capable in combat. Hell, NEO: The World Ends With You has one of my favorite combat systems of all time, and a lot of the reasons why I love it stem from how you’re controlling up to six characters at once. 

That is thing number one. Thing number two is that certain character pairings can merge together to enter their super powered robot forms, known as Ouroboros, where their wills and thoughts flow as one 

Anybody reading this probably knows that I have a fondness for body swaps, TSF, and transformation in general. But my actual favorite transformation type, the thing that really gets me going, is fusion. The idea of two people’s traits mixing and mingling into one greater, stronger, and superior being is something that I have been enamored with… since I was literally 7-years-old. 

The only reason I don’t do it as much is because of how much of my work is ‘inspiration reactive’ and how rare it is to see works that explore the ideas of two people becoming one. Now, this is not an obscure concept. It was a key part of the Buu Saga in Dragon Ball Z and a central concept in Steven Universe. People know about it, but it does not get explored nearly as often as I would like it to be. Which is why the only times I have seriously explored it were in my delisted 2016 novella, Maple Loves Senpai, where it was more akin to absorption than fusion. And in Psycho Bullet Festival 2222, where I lacked the narrative breathing room to explore what fusion meant. Fusion happened right in the middle of the third act of the story— THE BATTLE ACT— and I did not have enough room to explore the concept of fusion. I had to make moons commit suicide and have swords chop up planets into isty bits.

Because of this… I feel as if it is my civil duty to support the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, when it releases as a Switch exclusive on July 29, 2022. Now, that might seem awfully soon, and sooner than the game was originally slated, and you would be correct on both fronts. XC3 was originally set to come out in September, but the release dates got shifted, with Splatoon 3 moving down from Summer 2022 to September 9, 2022, bumping up XC3 to the mid-summer slot.

I would shift to say something about Splatoon 3, but I honestly cannot get invested in a multiplayer-driven thing. Even though I know there are things I would love about Splatoon if I did tread through the crap and focus solely on the solo content. The ‘real game.’

Header image is a mashup between my newly created The Saga of Vincent Dawn Master Sheet, because there are too many links for me to NOT have a master sheet. But I thought that was boring, so I combined it with another side project that I got myself mixed up in. I decided that, since my beloved Dragalia Lost is coming to a close, I want to embark on a completely pointless intellectual exercise where I theorize how the game could be restructured as an offline title. This includes proposing how the game could be rebalanced and how things could be redistributed. The header image is just a WIP version of how dragon abilities would be reassigned in this proposed rework, but I intend on doing similar things for the adventurers, weapons, and wyrmprints. 

While working on this Dragalia Lost project this past week, I was searching for video content to keep me satiated and I wound up watching that 8.5 hour long documentary on the Bomberman series. The documentary itself has an endearingly dated feel to it, like it was written in 2012/2013, but it is one of the most thorough and honest retrospectives I have ever seen. Because the creator is not a diehard fan. He’s just someone who got curious and became a fan through experience and dedication. And when I say dedication, I mean thousands of hours of dedication, because that’s what it takes to play through over 70 games and produce a video of this scale.

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