This Week’s Topics:
- NetEase established ANOTHER studio
- The death of Vanpool
- Why Redfall was a bad game
- Nintendo’s low effort write-off
- A Leaf classic is getting translated!
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
How Do You Sell Old Video Games?
This past week, I took my first enrolled agent test, released my fourth re:Dreamer review— which is even gushier than the last, and did some backbreaking work in organizing my old game collection. That is only slight hyperbole, as my back, legs, and butt were all super sore after digging through boxes and arranging game cases and consoles onto my bedroom floor.
According to PriceCharting.com, the estimated value of my collection is over $6,500. Meaning that if I were so inclined, I could get a lot of money for this stuff. But that would require shipping it to the people who want it, which would cost a good bit of money, and making/managing the listings would take a lot of time. Instead, my plan is to try to offload this stuff locally, and offer all of it at a steep discount.
I have already cataloged everything on both PriceCharting.com and in a spreadsheet, and took a bunch of photos of my collection. So the ‘hard’ part is done, but now the ‘very hard’ part begins. Actually selling this stuff.
I could try to find local buyers using services like Nextdoor and Offer Up, but it would be difficult to find a collector who wants everything. As such, I am currently thinking of contacting a retro game store and getting an estimate for what they would pay for a collection of this size. Or at least a portion of this collection. Also, as a reminder, I live in the Chicagoland area, so there are a good number of retro game stores within driving distance.
I am very much gearing toward the latter option after I got rid of about 50 pounds of books this past week. And by books, I mostly mean comics. Comics that, all in all, cost over $700 in total, and Half Price Books gave me $100. That’s kind of a shitty deal, but it was a single transaction, and once I was done, I was done. Money is nice, but the less work I need to do to offload this collection, the better.
I would ask if any readers in the Chicagoland area want to buy my stuff for a steep discount. But my audience is pretty small, and most of my active commenters aren’t even in the US, so… that’s probably not gonna happen.
Oh My God, NetEase! Stop Establishing New Studios!
(NetEase Establishes Their Fifth Tokyo-based Studio)
…NetEase, please stop opening studios left, right, and center. It is becoming genuinely frightening how much power and staff these people are amassing, and I know for a fact that I will not be able to remember all of these studios within a few years.
Despite having bought Grasshopper Manufacturer and opening up Sakura Studio, Nagoshi Studio, Studio Flare, and NetEase Games Tokyo, NetEase has decided to open up their fifth studio in Tokyo. This new studio, PinCool, is headed by Ryutaro Ichimura, the former “chief producer” of the Dragon Quest series at Square Enix. The studio itself will “mainly focus” on developing games, but will “also be involved in planning and producing a range of additional forms of entertainment.”
Seeing as how none of NetEase’s new flock of studios have actually announced anything, it’s hard to determine what this studio will actually be or work on. But I am noting it here for historical purposes, because this news came FIVE DAYS after their last new studio opening.
And the Love-de-Lic Fragmentation Continued…
(Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash Developer Vanpool Shut Down)
What’s that? A Japanese studio with a long storied history has shut down? You know what that means! It’s time for Auntie Nattie to give a video game history lesson.
Long ago, back in the halcyon era of the original PlayStation, there was a studio known as Love-de-Lic. A creative and experimental sort who captured the innovative aesthetic of the original PlayStation to a tee, and made their debut with 1997’s Moon: Remix RPG Adventure. A foundational game for the RPG genre that has indirectly influenced just about every ‘genre breaking’ or ‘meta’ RPG that has come out over the past 25 years. Also, the game is available on Steam, Switch, and PS4 with a high quality English translation.
Its same creative energy and cobble-some aesthetic was carried over with their later two titles, 1999’s UFO: A Day in the Life and 2000’s L.O.L.: Lack of Love, but that was where their story sadly came to a close. The studio folded, split off into several facets, including Skip Ltd. (Chibi-Robo, Giftpia, Captain Rainbow), Punchline (Chulip, Rule of Rose), and Vanpool.
Vanpool began its life with a pretty direct continuation of the themes and aesthetic of Love-de-Lic with 2001’s Endonesia. Which I seem to recall being the most Moon-like of any of the other Love-de-Lic titles, but it has never gotten a fan translation, so only bilingual wizards have the ability to decipher its true value.
After this however, the studio shifted to working almost exclusively with Nintendo. A lot of it was support work, and their most remarkable contribution during the 2000’s was the ‘Tingle quadrilogy.’ A collection of Nintendo DS Zelda spin-offs starring the pudgy fairy man Tingle, and carried forward the same themes of love and acceptance emblematic of this genealogy of studios. The games were fairly well received in Japan, from what I recall, but they lacked much western appeal, and only one title ever made it to the west.
For reasons I can only speculate, the studio shifted toward more Nintendo-like offerings at the start of the 2010’s, and began working on titles with more mainstream appeal. Such as the Dillon series of 3DS eShop titles, the dearth of creativity that was Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, and… they did the script and direction for Paper Mario: Sticker Star? …And the writer for that game was Taro Kudo, the writer of Moon? He should be the ideal writer for a series like this, but he somehow wrote that shit? How is that even possible?
…Anyway, after the 3DS era, the studio largely relegated itself to a support studio for HAL Laboratory, and most recently worked on the excellent Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe. That seems like solid work and enough to keep the lights on… but then Vanpool updated their website on May 31st, stating that the company has shut down. So, what happened?
Well, in reading this story I am reminded of what happened to Alpha Dream. A developer headed by former Squaresoft staff who made quirky handheld games for Nintendo. But rather than jumping into a new HD project with Nintendo’s support, they stuck with the 3DS, tried to do support work to keep the lights on, but ultimately shut their doors as they ran out of money. Alpha Dream’s collapse was pretty rapid, Vanpool’s collapse was a lot slower, and while Nintendo could have just bought them, they… just didn’t feel like it.
It’s all an unfortunate result of trying to do business in an industry with such high costs and risks for any given project, and what happened to Vanpool is sadly pretty normal. And with a closure like this, all you can really hope for is that the developers find future work.
Arkane Austin’s Bloody Fall
(Redfall Development Deets Just Dropped)
One of the areas that these Rundowns fail to cover is the more cultural attitude and reception to games. Partially because I no longer follow new releases, and because discussions tend to be pretty binary. Either it involves a lot of ravenous gushing to the point of mindless hyperbole. Or spewing vile at the developers of games when the blame is almost always (99.99% of the time) with the publisher.
The latest example of the latter was Redfall, a multiplayer loot shooter developed by Arkane Austin… which, writing it out like that, really seems like an odd choice. Almost like the developers of Prey (2017) would not be the sort of studio who would, of their own fruition, decide to make a multiplayer game. Hm… was this an instance of publisher mandates? Well, according to a Bloomberg report on the game, it was mostly the leadership at Arkane Austin. The businessmen— the non-developers— who ran this development studio. So… basically the same thing.
This decision helped fuel an exodus of staff from Arkane Austin, and by an exodus, I mean 70% of the staff who worked on Prey (2017) left the studio. A figure so high that I would not believe it if it were coming from a less credible source. This fact alone basically explains why the game was such a mess. Because the studio had to rebuild its entire staff. Which is hard enough in the best of circumstances, but is even harder when a studio is in Texas. A state known for a blatant lack of respect for human rights.
A lack of staff, time, direction, and managerial belief in ‘magic’ all led the title to fail to ever coalesce into something… good. But at least it led the developers to cut the elaborate microtransactions out of the game, meaning the game could have been way, way worse!
Currently, Arkane Austin is dedicating time and staff to improving the busted mess they were forced to ship out the door, but I need to ask if they should even bother. When a game is just broken on a fundamental level, when it lacks a solid core or something unique to be preserved, I need to ask if it is worth trying to improve it. Because that same effort could be injected into a new project without such a shaky foundation.
Yes, it is potentially easier to fix up a broken game than it is to make a new game, but I don’t see a redemption being possible for this game. …Well, unless they go the standalone expansion route and just make a smaller scale immersive sim that repurposes existing assets and technology. But I would consider that to be a different project altogether.
I know I’m being bitter here, but after Bioware openly LIED about rebooting Anthem, I have zero trust in any major AAA studio ‘pulling a No Man’s Sky.’ Games can see a dramatic boost in quality through support and fixes, but in order for that to work, there needs to be something to the game. While Redfall just strikes me as a generic wad of meh.
Nintendo Is Releasing A Shitty Game Nobody Liked Because Fuck It
(Everybody 1-2 Switch Announced)
Oh, right, this load of shit. My memory is very reactive, so I completely forgot about the 1-2 Switch successor that Fanbyte reported on in June 2022 until this past week. 1-2 Switch was a crappy gimmick launch title for the Nintendo Switch that nobody would have cared about if it was just some random third party eShop title that came out in 2019. But because it was a launch title, people were obligated to check it out, and it sold a few million.
It did well, Nintendo started working on a sequel, and when it came time to test it, it got a strongly negative reception. This raised questions about whether or not the game should be released. And if so, should it be a retail release, an expansion, or a bonus for Nintendo Switch Online members? Nintendo decided to go with the first of those options, but in the least committal and most dismissive way possible.
The title was announced via Twitter as Everybody 1-2 Switch on June 1st. They provided a single piece of promotional art, no trailer, no screenshots, and no real information other than a June 30th release date. There is absolutely no reason for anybody to actually care about this title, or anything to aspire confidence that it has gotten better over the past year. If anything, the fact this announcement is so muted implies that the game is terrible, and Nintendo just wants to shove it out the door. It’s basically just a write-off at this point, and I hope people recognize it as just that.
The only nice thing that I could say about this game is that the Fanbyte news reports on it inspired me when writing TSF Series #006-3: OPPAI 3 – Let’s Go To Hell. Namely with the character Jeremiah Pepperoni, who was originally going to be a “tall humanoid reptile man with pink skin” but then I said, nah. So I made him a horse head with a man’s lower half, but a big, fat, girthy horse dick that can eject cum for 5 minutes straight. Also, if you have not read TSF Series #006-3 yet… please read it. It is one of the best things I have ever written. It has a helicopter chase scene, a sex powered elevator, beetles that drink cum, a whore angel, and the entire story is about demons using incest to save humanity.
White Album is Coming Out in English, Bay-Bee!
(Another Classic Visual Novel Is Getting Localized)
The world of visual novels is so vast that I could basically just give up on all other genres of video games, only care about visual novels, and never run out of cool, interesting, or good stuff. I could effortlessly go on about the versatility, effectiveness, and overall quality of the genre when it comes to storytelling in general. But in saying those things, I openly know that I have only scratched the surface with the genre, and have yet to consume ‘the good stuff.’
There are so many classic and beloved VNs that I simply have not made the time to play, and even more that I cannot play without relying on a translator. However, one visual novel is making the switch from category two to category one, as a vintage Leaf classic is getting translated!
Specifically the 2010 remake of the seminal 1998 Leaf classic, White Day, White Album: Memories like Falling Snow. What’s it about? University kids, feelings, friendships, love triangles, and probably a bunch of other stuff that synopses don’t really capture. But the important thing is that it’s a pretty big game when talking about late 90s visual novel history. …While its sequel, White Day 2 has a reputation as one of the best visual novels of the 2010s.
What is it about? I forget! But it is a visual novel that follows characters as they go through high school, college, and early adult life, which is an immediate pull for me. Because while I don’t really like high school settings, I adore stories that take place over the span of several years. Plus, I like to think that if a story is good, then I’m down for just about anything.
Anyway, White Album: Memories like Falling Snow is coming to the west for PC in Q3 2023. I would be hesitant about its localization being up to snuff, but the publisher, Shiravune, previously did the excellent translation of Dokyusei: Bangin’ Summer. So chances are, it will be bangin’ too!
That’s it for this week, but I hope to have a review ready for you next week. Not another TSF VN, but rather a re-up on that cracker shit.
I could also throw out a new entry in TSF Series if I wanted to… but I’m saving that until June 23rd. Wiring took me a week, editing and arts took two days in total, and outline took two days. Which ain’t bad for a 21k word story.