Wherein I discuss: The release of another massive TSF visual novel update. A remaster with a 99% chance of being real. Why the Switch is a tablet! The English release of a long forgotten Japan-only shooter. The re;birth of the queen of TG Captions. Why Natalie does not do video stuff. And the end of Dragalia for the umpteenth time.
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
Student Transfer V7 is Good; Review Coming Before December 7th
As the title to this week’s Rundown indicates, Student Transfer Version 7.0 has been released. The latest update is approximately 240,000 words of new content, and I will be replaying a fair bit leading up to the new stuff, so I probably will not have a review ready until December. As always, flowcharts are up on my dedicated Student Transfer page.
What are my current thoughts on it? Well, it’s more Student Transfer, and ST is great, simple as that. That being said, I was not especially looking forward to this release. After going through 700,000 words of Press-Switch back in October, I pretty much had my fill of TSF visual novels for a while.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this stuff, but I was sorta hoping the release was delayed, as I wanted some time to decompress and work on some of my own personal/creative stuff.
Like my upcoming story about a trio of communist milk-based superwomen battling the cyborg slave army of the pederast capitalist overlord Willy P. Cockdick. And by battling, I mean sucking the maleness out of their cyborg penises and turning them into communist milk-based superwomen. …Actually, those cyborgs should be Bricks. I have not used those dudes in a decade, and… they would be super appropriate here.
TSF Series #005-2: Ghost Milky in… Genocide the G.O.D.S. will be released on December 21, 2022.
These Wolves Ain’t Rebels No More!
(NetEase Invests in Polish Studio Rebel Wolves)
Back in February, a group of former CDProjekt developers started their own AAA gaming studio, Rebel Wolves. This is an action that I’m sure many people in the industry have considered, but as anyone will tell you, getting funding for third party AAA development is not easy. Typically, a deal needs to be struck with a publisher or investment company for a studio like this to rise from the ether, and… that’s pretty much what happened.
Nine months after being established, NetEase swooped in and purchased a minority stake in Rebel Wolves, providing them with the funds needed to focus on developing their first game, a “dark fantasy RPG.”
Now, I want to highlight how there is a problem with this approach, but there really isn’t. Starting a studio like Rebel Wolves takes a lot of capital, NetEase saw an opportunity to provide that capital, and they took it. Now, this is not a full acquisition, and Rebel Wolves claims they will “maintain full creative control and ownership of its IP.” However, NetEase could fully claim a majority stake in the studio after a few years, and this investment is just the latest in the publisher’s recent global expansion.
For those who do not recall, NetEase acquired Grasshopper last year and Quantic Dream this August, which is an odd, if diverse, spread. However, NetEase also has a habit of forming new studios as well. Such as Sakura Studio, Nagoshi Studio, GPTRACK50 Studio, and Jackalope Games. I cannot really fault them for opening new studios like this, but whenever I see rapid growth like this, I cannot help but worry about what the stage will be like in five years. How many studios will they open by then and, more critically, how many established studios will be under the NetEase umbrella.
The ‘Kdicarus’ Will Rise Again
(Masahiro Sakurai Teases Kid Icarus: Uprising Port)
Moving on, there has been a persistent rumor that some sort of port or remaster of Kid Icarus: Uprising will be produced for the Nintendo Switch. This is something that people have been wanting for a long while, as the most criticized element of the original is its 3DS control scheme. A control scheme where the player controlled the protagonist with the analog nub, aiming the reticle using the bottom screen, and using the L button to shoot. It was simultaneously brilliant and terrible. Because while it felt really good when it worked, it was incredibly tiring on the hands due to the ergonomics of the 3DS system.
This was remedied by bundling a stand with the system, so players did not need to hold their handheld. But people view this as an admission of defeat more than anything. And… They have a point. However, I will say that I loved that little stand. It is shockingly good for playing Switch games, and is how I played 95% of Pokémon: Let’s Go! Eevee and The World Ends With You: Final Remix.
Anyway, the reason why I am talking about this rumor has to do with the series of videos on game development produced by Masahiro Sakurai, director of Kid Icarus: Uprising. In a video discussing a mechanic from the 2012 title, he ended things by coyly mentioning that someone should bring the game to a home console, before ending the video with an obvious grin.
That is about as good of a direct confirmation as you could ask for, so I guess the project is happening and the game is going to be reworked into a single-screen affair. That is wonderful news, as I liked the game quite a bit and it was one of the best original Nintendo titles for the 3DS. Though, I have to say, part of me internally groaned when Sakurai said ‘home console,’ as I knew he was referring to the Switch.
There Is No Such Thing as a ‘Hybrid Home Console Handheld’
(Natalie Complains About the Switch’s Classification for the nth Time)
This is an unrelated tangent, but I stopped considering the Switch to be a ‘home console’ when I first got one in my hands in August 2018. The Switch is a tablet. It is a device with its own screen and internal battery. One with a slim rectangular form factor, only about an inch thick, that is made to fit within one’s hands. And it by no stretch of the imagination requires a television to play any games. It meets every criteria for being a handheld, yet people insist that it is a home console.
This is largely the result of Nintendo’s marketing tactics and their attempts to control the narrative. Nintendo originally pushed the Switch as a ‘hybrid’ for marketing purposes, but after it launched with Breath of the Wild, people began to consider it a console, as it offered ‘console quality’ games. Which is a nonsense term whose definition changes with each passing generation, but I won’t harp on that topic again.
The reason why people considered the Switch a console has nothing to do with the technical aspects, but rather because it makes the Switch seem more important. Consoles have historically been positioned as the home for ‘real games,’ ‘important games,’ and ‘adult games.’ Meanwhile, handhelds are for ‘casuals’ and babies.
When telling the history of console gaming, people often skim over handhelds, as they were not where technical innovations were happening. While gaming was entering 3D, the only handheld on the market was the half-dead GameBoy. While HD gaming and motion controls were the craze, the DS was pushing games with ‘primitive’ 3D graphics.
Because of this internalized, and often unconscious, belief, some people get super uppity when the Switch is called a handheld. However, this reluctance to embrace something for being a handheld has also struck me as a bit… hypocritical.
I say this because, while people do not like calling the Switch a handheld, people also love handheld gaming devices. Maybe my algorithm is all screwed up, but I am constantly seeing recommended videos on new handhelds or portable emulators. I remember a lot of people losing their bacon upon seeing the Analogue Pocket. And I do not think I have seen people love a piece of gaming hardware more than the Steam Deck. Which, for the record, is a handheld, and I don’t even need to be in the same room as one to tell you that much.
Oh? Are you going to try to convince me that the Steam Deck is a home console? The device is literally designed to be used in your hands. It has a dedicated screen, buttons, and battery. And while you can plug a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and controller into this sucker via a USB hub, that does not make it a console.
More Like T.E.X.T. Troopers
(E.X. Troopers Has Been Fan Translated)
While I loathe the ‘lazy dev’ rhetoric, there is some merit to pointing out certain genuinely bad decisions made by game designers. And one of the examples that will forever stick with me was the 3DS and PS3 exclusive spin-off of the Lost Planet series, E.X. Trooper. A Japanese only third person shooter that looked to be the closest thing there would ever be to an actual Mega Man Legends 3. The game launched in Japan in late 2012, but Capcom made it clear the title would not receive a western release. This was odd in and of itself, but what really stuck with me was the reason.
E.X. Troopers was not localized because the Japanese text was part of the in-game art assets, and could not be replaced with another language’s script. This is a terrible way to make a game, and an utterly baffling decision for a company that lost most of its goodwill after they started appealing to western audiences.
However, fan translators are some of the most dedicated and insane people in the gaming community. There is no whale too big for them, no target they will not try to pursue, and they did what Capcom couldn’t. They translated E.X. Troopers! It took them seven bloody years, but they did it!
To me, this is a landmark moment, as it solidifies that pretty much any title can be translated if there are enough people to lend their time, energy, and expertise to the task. Which is becoming more common, as more people are learning the technical and linguistic skills needed to do things like this.
It almost makes me wish that Capcom internally had people with these skills, so they could release the game and make back some money. I don’t know the lifetime numbers, but E.X. Troopers sold just over 21,000 units in its first week in Japan. Meaning it probably flopped.
This, curiously, did not mark the end of the Lost Planet series, as the following year graced the west, and Japan I guess, with Lost Planet 3. A game that was lambasted by critics, sold like crap, and aided in the closure of Legendary developer Spark Unlimited. Which, in retrospect, was probably one of the best closures in gaming history.
That is a rude thing to say, but Spark never put out a truly polished title and a surprising number of Spark Unlimited employees went on to work on bigger and better games. Seriously, do a MobyGames deep dive on some of the staff if you have a modicum of curiosity.
(Alicia’s The Great Shift TG Captions is Back!)
I have a soft spot for the type of TSF materials I frequented when I was growing up. Specifically old Fictionmania stories, the cesspool of interactive Writing.com stories, and TG Caption sites. I could go on a spree about any one of these, but one of my absolute favorites was Alicia’s The NEW Great Shift Captions.
Why was it my favorite? Well, the images were well selected, depicting scenarios that were relevant to the story of the caption. The captions were short, yet long enough to instill an idea into the reader’s mind. There was a lot of creativity on display as, despite the name, the site’s output was not exclusive to captions related to Morpheus’s The Great Shift. And Alicia was a captioning machine back in 2009 to 2011, putting out several a day, and maintaining separate blogs that reposted old content, but under a specific theme.
However, Alicia’s various caption sites eventually began removing older captions. This turned the site from a treasure trove of thousands of captions to being a wasteland of dead image links, only hosting something like 20 images at a time. I honestly do not remember why this was, but it made it hard for me to remain invested in her work, as it was so finite, and there were oodles of other caption sites that offered quality content. Such as tehswitcher, CrestF, Divine Interventions, and so forth.
However, I always held a soft spot for Alicia’s work, and even archived what I could. However, on November 3rd, 2020, she announced she was taking a break from captioning and may leave the caption game after over a decade of consistent output. It was a sad loss for the ‘community,’ but an understandable one. I mean, my crappy TG Caption site only lasted a few months before I lost the drive…
With this background established, imagine my surprise when I saw that, after nearly two years, Alicia was back! …Except instead of using photographs for her captions, she started using AI art. …I actually 100% understand this decision, and support this.
As someone who did TG Captioning for a hot minute, a lot of the time it was hard to find good images to use captions. Most of what I used on VD Captions was from bouncing between related Google Image searches, and following a trail of ‘busty candids.’ That’s what Google called ‘em, okay? If you have an idea for a specific caption, it can be hard to find an appropriate image, given how search algorithms work. But with AI generated images, you can have an idea and then create an image to go along with it. That completely changes the caption creation landscape, and can do wonders to reignite one’s creative fire!
…That being said, the more I look at AI art like this, the more I see the flaws. And with these photo-like human faces, they just ain’t right, chief.
As such, I have not felt compelled to use these captions for what is probably their primary purpose. Instead, I’ve been getting my kicks from spreadsheets and imagination.
(Should Natalie Start Recording Gameplay and Making Videos?)
Now that I am near the final stretches of my Dragalia Lost archival process, I am dealing with the… ramifications of what I have done. For the past three months, I have been playing this game for archival purposes and, in doing so, I think I triggered something in my brain. Something that makes me want to capture and archive footage of every game I play, just so that it is saved and preserved.
Now, this is a thought spurred by multiple factors. With the rise of video streaming technology, there are people who view streaming as part of playing video games. If the option is there, why not stream it to others, record it, and keep it forever?
Now, for the genre of game I primarily play nowadays, TSF visual novels, the whole recording thing is complicated by three factors:
- Most streaming sites have policies against showing scenes of explicit sex and ‘graphic nudity,’ no matter the context. And games like Press-Switch, Student Transfer, and re:Dreamer all have lots of sex. This could be circumvented through editing of the recordings, or, preferably, of the game’s art files, censoring elements that streaming sites would take issue with.
- Most of these games are for PC and are either cheap or free. They are not in danger of being lost to time, and can be played on common consumer level computer hardware for the foreseeable future. Meaning there is not a pressing need to archive these games.
- If one were to archive these games, they would ideally want the recordings to be clean. With visual novels, this is done by using an in-game auto mode and snappy menu use. Archived footage should not be that of a blind playthrough. Furthermore, alternate takes would need to be prepared to show the most meaningful options, and the videos would need to be both arranged and labeled accordingly.
Now, some people have tried to record and post footage of these games, namely Student Transfer, on YouTube, but a lot of them are pretty crap. PSTG is a scam that posts worthless clips drowned with calls to action. Allround produces low quality watermarked crap. This Student Transfer channel is actually kind of ideal, at least based on a quick glance, but they stopped updating after a few videos. I also found a channel by Darknost, who has been hosting self-recorded preview footage of Eman Looc’s Possession Scroll. Which I think is a great idea. A creator hosting their own content on a new platform, where people can more easily find it outside of the ST community. I would say that he should consider hosting all of it on YT, but that is ultimately his call to make, I suppose.
I would actually love to be the person who does flowcharts, reviews, and recordings for TSF visual novels, but the issue I run into is… time. While uploading raw footage to a video platform is pretty darn easy, this commitment would require me to do a recording playthrough, edit away the nude bits, and learn how to use a modern video editing program.
For the record, I have done some light video editing in the past, for my father’s failed video production company, but I did not enjoy it at all. I don’t particularly enjoy the editing part of these posts, so I cannot imagine I would enjoy doing anything complicated in an editing program.
…Which also, loosely, leads into a topic I have been deliberating for years at this point. Video review. Video reviews have been widely popular ever since the advent of video streaming, and I have spent my fair share of cumulative months watching them. However, I have never produced a video review personally, and for four reasons:
- My voice is pretty crap and hard to understand. While I do not have the same vocal dysphoria as other trans people, I do recognize that my voice is not the most pleasant, and any review I produced would also require closed captions.
- I understand the immense time investment it can take to edit together even a basic review that only uses gameplay footage. While this can be reduced depending on one’s proficiency as an editor, this is a skill I lack, so I know editing a review would take me forever.
- If I make a mistake in a written review, it is very easy to fix and update things. I just open up things in WordPress, rewrite the section where I made a mistake, and make a note at the start or end of the post saying that I updated things. If I make a mistake in a video review, I would need to either live with it or re-edit and re-export the entire video. Probably the former, as YouTube does not allow users to post updated videos.
- My time is finite and I don’t wanna invest it into crap like this.
Despite this… I am still overcome with a sense of waste when I just think about playing something like Pokémon Violet without capturing footage. Yes, even when talking about a game that will have millions of hours of video footage saved by year end, and will be played for years upon years, I worry about archiving footage. …Ugh. I think I just broke my brain in a whole new way.
End & Updates:
Goodbye Dragalia Lost…
This past week, I finally finished Natalie Rambles About Dragalia Lost: THE FINAL, which is queued for release on November 30th.
With that done, I have begun uploading over 450 hours of Dragalia Lost footage to Archive.org. While YouTube is an option, I ultimately decided against uploading thousands upon thousands of small video files onto the platform, especially when the content can so easily be delisted due to the Content ID system. I actually started with YouTube uploads back in September, but it simply was not the right way to go about things.
Due to upload and processing speeds being what they are— my internet speeds are okay, not great— this is going to take me a long-ass time. But it is a mostly passive activity once I enter the information for every item.
With this major task done, allow me to share what my TENTATIVE task list currently looks like for December 2022 to August 2023:
- Early Dec 2022 – Student Transfer Version 7 Review
- 12/19/22 – Natalie’s Bottom Surgery
- 12/21/22 – TSF Series #005-2: Ghost Milky in… Genocide the G.O.D.S.
- 12/28/22 – Natalie Rambles About 2022
- 1/20/23 – The Malice of Abigale Quinlan Re-Edit
- 1/20/23 – The Malice of Abigale Quinlan – Encounter Unlimited
- 1/31/23 – Soft Deadline for IRS SEE Test #1
- Jan 2023 – Pokémon Violet Review
- 2/14/23 – TSF Series #016 – Divinica Lust
- 2/28/23 – Soft Deadline for IRS SEE Test #2
- February 2023 – Mice Tea Review
- 3/15/23 – Tax Hell of Spring 2023 Begins
- March 2023 – Cellular Shift Review
- 4/01/23 – TSF Series #005-3: Ghost Milky in… The White Terror
- 4/17/23 – Tax Hell of Spring 2023 Ends
- 4/27/23 – Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan – Episode Alternative
- April 2023 – Student Transfer Scenario Review
- 5/18/23 – Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth – The Day After
- 5/29/23 to 8/15/23 – Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: SSR – Sensational Summer Romp
- 5/31/23 – Soft Deadline for IRS SEE Test #3 (Natalie is now an enrolled agent)
- May 2023 – Student Transfer Scenario Review
- 6/03/23 – re:Dreamer Review #4
- June 2023 – Student Transfer Scenario Review
- July 2023 – Student Transfer Scenario Review
- August 2023 – Student Transfer Scenario Review
- TBD 2023 – Dragalia Lost V3 Re;Works – A Design Document Experiment
Now this… this is a full task list as far as I am concerned, and I do not foresee myself being able to do much more than what I have listed here. But with the loss of Dragalia, I may have more free time than I am used to… But probably not.
Also, you know how I said I would be playing Pokémon Violet during my time recovering from surgery? Well, when I said that I forgot about my anxiety about being seen playing video games. I do not like it when strangers see me do things like that, as I do not like it when people see me doing anything that is not wholly ‘neutral.’ Yes, I feel that way even though the Switch is a widely popular system enjoyed by people of all 72 humanoid ages and 31 Federally recognized genders (I kid, gender is infinite).
So, um… after I am done with Student Transfer Version VII: Future’s Climax, I will start playing Pokémon: Violate or Get Violated. …I really should listen to more A Tribe Called Quest. I only know their first album.