Rundown (6/25/2023) A Gray Day Is DOPE!

  • Post category:Rundowns
  • Reading time:61 mins read
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This Week’s Topics:

  • Another dope TSF comic I think you should read
  • A brief rumination on TSF
  • Dissin’ Some Cube-Heads
  • A 4,800 word ramble on the latest Nintendo Direct
  • The Q3 and Q4 2023 schedule for Natalie.TF 

Rundown Preamble Ramble:
TSF Showcase – A Gray Day

I’ve been waiting weeks to talk about this comic, and now that video game conference season is over, I can finally give it the frontrunner spotlight!

Something that I utterly love about being a TSF fan is sticking my hands in weird places and seeing what I pull out. Sometimes it’s bad, most of the time it’s blasé, but every time I find something that leaves me dazzled by its craft, creativity, and commitment. Normally, I would give a broad overview of the plot here, but… this is a comic where things build up, and up, and up some more. So I’ll just give an overview of the first 30% or so.

A Gray Day is a 1,200 panel Koikatsu comic that… honestly, starts as one of the most unassuming Koikatsu comics I have ever read. Gray James is a dorky high schooler with a zero batting average when it comes to romance, despite the aid from a magical ‘matchmaker,’ Bella, helping them at every turn. But that all changes with the introduction of a new transfer student, Mavis, who is Gray’s best shot at getting a girlfriend before the end of high school.

Bella sleuths around, figures out that Mavis has a thing for crossdressers, and… basically orders Gray to start crossdressing to finally get a girlfriend. He agrees, ends his first date in Mavis’s bed, learns she is intersex, and has sex with her because he’s cool like that. The next day though, Gray needs to go back to his house, in Mavis’s clothes, where he gets caught by his parents and… gets disowned. With no place to go, Gray winds up moving in with Mavis, but she requires him to be her girlfriend in private. All because she thinks Gray is a repressed trans woman, which is why she also gives him special ‘medicine.’ Gray does not think this is a good idea, but Bella bullies him into doing so, because what other choice does he have!

That’s the first three of thirteen chapters of the story, and if you told me that synopsis, I would not honestly care about it, as it seems like just a forced feminization story. Something so generic that I actually thought it was based on an anime/manga series at first. …But then chapter four begins with Bella busting her titties out and using sci-fi tech to contact future Gray, who informs her that the timelines have not been sufficiently diverged. And then ends with Gray having a vision with their inner woman, who informs them that if they continue down this path, they can become her.

It is here when A Gray Day establishes the type of story it actually is. A story that escalates, grows, and develops until it is something almost unrecognizable by the end of its run. Every chapter brings things to a new level, adds complications and layers to its characters, and just gets flat out weirder. A Gray Day is a story that reaches levels of creativity and insanity that I envy as a creator, while also feeling surprisingly composed and deliberate. I mean, the final chapters are just an emotional rollercoaster that leads you flying off into the sunset at the end.

It’s definitely not perfect and has plenty of odd narrative quirks I could nitpick if I wanted to (I don’t). Which is before getting into the crummy typography and the crusty shadow effects that try to make things look better in later chapters. But for a creator’s premiere work? This is something special. This is the beginning of something wonderful!

This line is SO MUCH that I think it is one of the best panels to try and get someone interested in this story.

Now is the part where I want to talk about where you can and should read this comic. It is pretty easily readily available on e-hentai, and Maideneir (she/her) has prepared handy PDFs that she started releasing on DeviantArt before stopping for some reason. However, both of those releases… look like ass. The images are 1280 x 720 JPGs laced with artifacts all over the place, and the PDFs don’t look much better.

Fortunately, she posts 2560 x 1440 PNGs on her Patreon that look beautiful by comparison. Unfortunately, Patreon does not want people to download images, because tech companies hate the idea of digital ownership! So you know what I spent several hours doing? Going to a site that pirates Patreon content, using DownloadThemAll (my backup bulk downloader) to download files, and double-checking the downloads to make sure everything was grabbed.

I really want to distribute these batches to people… but high res images are a patron exclusive feature, so just email me a Patreon receipt and I’ll send you a download link, I guess.

Trans-Sexual Fantasy Ja Nai
(What is and is not TSF?)

So, this is a topic that I thought about while reading the first few chapters of A Gray Day, back when I thought it was just a medical transition story with some sci-fi elements. I originally wanted to lead into this section more, but that connection was broken so… so much for that.

For a while, I have been trying to articulate the exact definition of TSF, and think I did a pretty good job with my ramble from last year, where I defined it thusly: “TSF is a genre of fiction wherein a character undergoes a change in sex through fictitious or fantastical means. With the ensuing narrative, assuming there is one beyond the initial transformation, following how they adapt to these changes.” However, [certain feminization stories I’ve been reading] have been making me… question that definition.

Because there has never been a formal authority to declare what TSF or TG means as a concept, people use these terms to refer to a lot of different things. Body swap, crossdressing, possession, transgender characters, fantastical physical transformations, reverse gender disguising, bodysuits, and more. Now, there is a clear through line with these concepts, as they all feature people changing their sex or gender— a depiction of the male becoming female or female becoming male.

However, I personally consider that to be a bit too broad of a category, and consider its various fragments to fall into two different buckets. Buckets that I’m going to call the fantastical and the feasible. 

The fantastical includes any sort of bodily transformation caused by magic or sci-fi technology, body swaps, possession, or bodysuits. Things that are fantastical and not possible in the real world. 

While the feasible includes crossdressing, medical gender transition, and disguising. Things that are not necessarily easy, likely, or realistic, and often relying on genetic luck or an uncommon aptitude, but are ultimately feasible.

This is not a perfect terminology, as it only refers to the ‘change’ in and of itself, and not anything surrounding it. So if you have a story where someone is magically forced to crossdress, it would still be considered feasible, as the change— crossdressing— is feasible. But I think it is an important distinction, as these subcategories appeal to different people.

I know that I personally spent a good decade loving the fantastical while not liking the feasible. Mostly because the fantastical was something I knew was out of reach for me. While the feasible struck a bit too close for home for me

Now, part of me wants to call the fantastical Trans-Sexual Fantasy, and call the feasible Trans-Sexual Fiction, but that approach has myriad problems, muddles up the terminology, and makes it more opaque. Terminology creation has never been my strong suit, as you can see by this site’s name and my TSF anthology series, TSF Series. So I’m not even going to try to offer a workable solution. Just the blueprints of one.

The GameCube Handle Was Worthless, Stop Revising History
(This Is a Pointless Comment, but I Just Slid It in Here)

Something that people regularly like to make a big deal about when looking back on the GameCube is the fact that the system had a handle. An aesthetic feature that people assume meant it was a portable console that could easily be carried and brought over to a friend’s house. Now, I’m not going to say that people didn’t do this, but as someone who had one as a kid, I never actually made use of this feature, or understood how that would work.

While the GameCube was indeed a small console, it was not just a ‘purple lunchbox.’ It had AV and power cables that needed to be bundled up for transportation and bulky awkwardly shaped controllers. If you were carrying the console with one hand, you pretty much needed a bag of controllers, cables, and probably games. And if you were going to carry that much stuff, you may as well shove everything into a backpack. Or, better yet, a GameCube carrying case. Which my mother bought for me so I could bring my GameCube when visiting my large-sized White friend Zack or my regular-sized Filipino friend Geo. …Neither of whom I have spoken to in over 15 years. 

…That’s all for this section! Please take a left and follow the blue line to the third door on your right! Thank you!

Ah Shaz, I Guess We’re Getting 3 Nintendo Directs This Year!
(Rundown of the June 21, 2023 Nintendo Direct)

Welp, I guess I was too bold when I pointed up at the sky and said there would only be two real Nintendo Directs this year. Because if they’re going to have a major one in June, then they’ll probably do another in the fall. Now, you might think there is some sort of conflict of interest when talking about or discussing a Nintendo Direct when I said that I would no longer support Nintendo by purchasing their games. Which, for the record, is a very easy thing to do when Switch emulation has matured as much as it has, and after I made writing my primary hobby. 

I’ve actually put my Switch away in a drawer after I realized it would just collect dust otherwise. There really is no need to care about a Nintendo Direct if you view gaming as just the process of playing games. But I view following the news cycle, especially surrounding Nintendo games, to be a hobby in and of itself. 

It’s something I have been doing since… I got a computer for Christmas in 2004, more or less. And when something is that much of a foundational element of you and who you are, you would need to surgically remove that part of yourself. But even then, things would never fully heal, as all you’d need to do is plaster some Elmers on that stub, ram the decayed limb back on, and bam. Good as new! …I should really write a body parts swap story. But it’s kind of hard to form a narrative around that concept that isn’t just an erotic rampage

…Hey, you remember how in Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, you could create your own little familiar by bashing monster parts together? That concept was so freaking cool, in fact, that game was chop full of dope ideas. Shame its EXP system was kind of broken, to the point where you did not want to cash in your quest rewards EXP until you genocided all monsters in a zone. Because monster EXP scaled to the player’s level, offering less and less, while quest EXP didn’t. I actually spent 6 bloody hours replaying the intro section after realizing this, and wound up being about three levels higher when I reached the second zone. 

It’s also a shame that the PC version doesn’t have controller support, because I remember it being a particularly high quality Eurojank. The sort that you can’t really justify making with modern production values. However, if you tried to make a game that looked as good as Divinity II, then you could probably do it for like 70% as much as that game’s budget. While taking inflation into account. Of course, that would never get a retail release or a publishing deal with Atlus but— what the fuck am I talking about?

That wasn’t a bit or anything, I just really like that genre of action RPGs that contain stuff like Divinity II and Fable II. It’s mostly nostalgia, I know, but that still lets me like ’em. Also, neither of those games let you play as a Black person, which was so screwed up on a fundamental level even though there is an argument that they took place in a mono ethnic society. Which I don’t think stands up to scrutiny, and while games like Two Worlds II have some excuse with an established protagonist who— Wait, what the hell happened to Two Worlds III? They said started work on it in 2016, and it would be done in three years but Topware got all quiet and—


And then Natalie got murked by Akumako for being too much of an aspie-ass bitch-ass fucklo-ass bitch.

Akumako, not wanting to waste an opportunity, then skinned Natalie, transforming her into a bodysuit. A bodysuit she promptly slithered her way into so she could finish this Rundown.

Detective Pikachu 2 ACTUALLY Looks Like It Belongs On 3DS
(Detective Pikachu Returns Announced)

Detective Pikachu is a strange game, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Pokémon fan ever bring it up when discussing the series. And I’m pretty sure that none of them have ever felt obligated enough to play it. It was considered a ‘fine enough’ 2018 Nintendo 3DS title, but at that point, a lot of people really didn’t care about anything Nintendo that wasn’t on Switch. However, a sequel was announced way back in 2019, and was recently revealed as Detective Pikachu Returns

The game looks pretty… How do I describe this… You know how people harp on about how the Pokémon games for Switch look like Nintendo 64 games, when they actually look more like GameCube titles running in Dolphin? Well… Detective Pikachu Returns looks a bit better than an HD Nintendo 3DS game. Which I say after comparing the trailer to emulated HD gameplay footage of the original game.

The Pokémon models move stiffly and their textures make them look more like plastic toys than flesh-some critters. The lighting is flat and lifeless. The textures are about what I would expect from an Xbox 360 title, which is at least better than Vita textures. And Detective Pikachu’s humanoid movements, while impressive on 3DS, makes him look uncanny when rendered in HD. Almost like an actor struggling to move or emote in a bulky suit, despite… that clearly not being the case.

It’s a very strange situation that raises so, so many questions about what happened to this game during development, and about the developer, Creatures, Inc. For those not in the know, Creatures, Inc. are the partial owners of The Pokémon Company, same as Nintendo and Game Freak. And… they have the resources needed to do better than this. They should be able to make something that looks at least as good as New Pokémon Snap, especially given Detective Pikachu Returns’ genre and modest production goals. They aren’t developing a complex game with hundreds of different character models to animate and an always online open world with drop in and drop out co-op. They’re making a 3D adventure game set in shoebox-sized environments.

I’m not going to say this is easy, but I’ve seen far smaller and less experienced teams pull off something similar and more impressive. So this… this just looks like someone made a mistake. I mean, how do you go from making a game like PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond to this in twelve years? They look like they were developed three years apart! I try to base my expectations of studios based on their history, but this… this is just making me ask what the hell is going on?!

Detective Pikachu Returns will be released on Nintendo Switch on October 6, 2023.

Monster Catching Is Back, Bay-Bee!
(Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince Announced)

It sucks BUTT that the Dragon Quest Monsters series hasn’t made a bigger splash. Dragon Quest’s cute and cool critters are almost as good and iconic as Pokémon, but the four games that the west got were never big successes. However, the last one was over a decade ago, and with alternative monster catching games being all the craze after Pokémon’s been… messy, now’s a good time for a revival!

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is just that. A game where the player takes the role of a fellow with the ability to command and wrangle monsters and uses them to fight against a nasty demon lord. You command and recruit monsters in battle to join your ranks. Raise them to be better warriors, and fuse them together to make newer, cooler, and better-er monster buddies to help save the world. 

A world that… looks a bit basic from a graphical perspective. But it comes with a season changing mechanic and a world that features the usual forest land, lava land, stone land, and tech land, but also contains cake land! So you know someone smart was working in the environments department!

It looks good, if slightly ‘budget-y,’ and as someone who got super into the monster collecting element of Dragon Quest V, I’m sure I would have a great time with it. The only things that sorta bother me about it are the fact that it’s a Switch exclusive, when I want my Dragon Quest games on PC. And the fact that it’s tying in with Dragon Quest IV, my favorite game in the series, but it’s using the boring male version of the protagonist, instead of the female protagonist. I mean, seriously, look at these two and try to come up with an argument that the guy looks cooler and more interesting from a character design perspective.

Look at this hottie! Men want to be her and women want to be with her!!!

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince comes out on December 1, 2023.

WarioWare is Back… AGAIN… AGAIN!
(WarioWare: Move It! Announced)

WarioWare is a rad series, but I think it has had troubles finding its identity for… ever? WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! is a timeless experience. The next four were driven by hardware gimmicks more than anything else, but good once you get rid of how dated they are by design. WarioWare D.I.Y. was a brilliant basic game creation toolkit that an unsupervised 9-year-old could understand and use to make a game in, like, an hour. Game & Wario was Game & Wario, and no, I don’t know what that means. WarioWare Gold was excellent, but it came out for the 3DS after people started viewing it as a piece of rubbish. While 2021’s WarioWare: Get It Together! was a real cool co-op party game, but it was also a co-op party game.

What do I think the series needs? Honestly, I think people just want a WarioWare Gold HD with minigames that work well on Switch. Make it handheld only if you must, and people prefer their WarioWare on the go anyhow. Instead… they’re doing just the opposite with WarioWare: Move It! A motion control driven WarioWare title that really makes use of the Joy-Cons, and one I cannot help but view as a probably worse version of 2006’s WarioWare: Smooth Moves.

Am I right? Maybe! I don’t think game-likers really want to pretend to wash their backs with a towel, as it’s kind of an uncanny valley for motion controls. Either make things like Ring Fit Adventurers or Dance Dance Revolution or Beat Saber, where movement is the point of the game. Or make it one you can play while lazing in bed while the world burns.

WarioWare: Move It! is coming to Switch on November 3, 2023.

The Pikmin Quadrilogy is Complete!
(HD Ports of Pikmin 1 and Pikmin 2 Announced and Stealth Dropped)

If you were to ask me, the single best thing Nintendo can do at one of these things is just announce definitive and enhanced versions of their existing back catalog. They have so many good games under their belt that sharing them, without screwing it up, is more exciting to me than new games they could announce. Which says a lot about how jaded I am, and how bad Nintendo is at legacy preservation.

After having every opportunity to re-release these games over the past DECADE, Nintendo announced HD versions of Pikmin (2001) and Pikmin 2 (2004), dubbed… Pikmin 1 and Pikmin 2. A series of remasters that look to do little more than take the original games, throw in some anti-aliasing, and bump up the resolution. 

…While also including some form of motion controls, allowing people to play these games similarly to the Wii ports that added motion controls. Meaning that these are pretty much the definitive versions of these games as far as I can tell. Sure, the textures look stretched and not great, but I’d rather they keep the original textures than poop over the original artistic intent with something ‘better.’

A bundle containing Pikmin 1 and Pikmin 2, dubbed Pikmin 1+2, along with each game individually, stealth dropped on the eShop after the Nintendo Direct. While a physical release of Pikmin 1+2 will be available in stores on September 22. Now, I have questions about why a physical release would take NINTENDO three months to get ready, but I think the more pressing thing about this release is its proximity to Pikmin 4.

Pikmin 4 is coming out on July 21, 2023, exactly a month after this basic looking port, not even a remaster, was released. …Why did this happen? I don’t know if this was a troubled or delayed development, or if Nintendo was sitting on a game for 6 months, as they often do. But either way, I’m sure some Pikmin fans who were going through the entire series leading up to the release of the fourth fifth fourth entry are mighty upset right now. They had to dig out their Wiis or load up Dolphin to emulate these games, when they could have just bought an HD port instead.

Collect That Shit Like A Master!
(Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Volume 1 is Lookin’ Good!)

Good news for Metal Gear fans, because Konami FINALLY confirmed that Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Volume 1, will NOT be a PlayStation exclusive. Instead, the compilation will debut on PS5, Xbox Series, Switch, and PC via Steam. But that’s not all! The game will be an actual honest to goodness collection, filled with all sorts of goodies, including but not limited to:

  • Metal Gear Solid (includes VR Missions/Special Missions)
  • Metal Gear Solid Digital Screenplay Book
  • Metal Gear Solid Digital Master Book
  • Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (HD Collection version)
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Digital Screenplay Book
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Digital Master Book
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Digital Graphic Novel
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (HD Collection version)
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Digital Screenplay Book
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Digital Master Book
  • Metal Gear (MSX version)
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
  • Metal Gear 1 and 2 Digital Screenplay Book
  • Metal Gear 1 and 2 Digital Master Book
  • Metal Gear (NES/Famicom Version)
  • Snake’s Revenge
  • Metal Gear Solid: Digital Soundtrack (Only 20 tracks or 23 tracks if you pre-order)

…DAMN! Now that’s what I call a Master Collection. It’s actually far more than I would have expected from Konami or… really anyone who is responsible for an IP this valuable. 

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Volume 1 will be released on October 24, 2023, and while the three main games will be sold separately… just buy the collection, ya dingus.

The only way they could screw this up is if they don’t let you play MGS 1 at a non-potato resolution. Please, Konami, let people play it at a sane resolution, like this person did with the PC version, or like this person did with the PS1 version. The game needs ZERO further changes beyond that though.

The Best Star Ocean is Now EVEN BETTER!
(Star Ocean: The Second Story R Announced)

I swear, if Tri-Ace didn’t have such a good relationship with Square Enix and wasn’t owned by a phone company, they would have declared bankruptcy at least three times by now. They are by no means a bad developer, but a lot of their games have lacked polish, budget, or time, and it’s been a long time since they had a big success. As such, they have mostly been focusing on ports of their prior titles, back when they were seen as a bright up-and-comer in the RPG scene. 

This was seen with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Star Ocean: The Last Hope – 4K & Full HD Remaster, and Resonance of Fate 4K / HD Edition (yes, those are their official names). But the big ones were Star Ocean First Departure R and Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. Two re-releases that should have had more legs, but they were under-marketed and weren’t brought to PC for some dumb reason.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R was announced as a remake for what is probably Tri-Ace’s best-selling and most widely beloved title (without Final Fantasy in its name). Star Ocean 2 is one of those great PSOne RPGs that were hitting the platform every month or so, and for those who played it at a formative time in their life, it stuck with them. So a remake of it makes all the sense in the world. But rather than gussy up the PSP remaster they did in 2008, they decided to go all out with a full-on remake, and it looks fabulous!

The blend of illustrated character art with lip flaps and expressions, 2D sprites that look to be lifted from the original game, extremely detailed 3D environments, and flashy, almost garish, particle effects. It is a look that might not really gel with some, but I personally think it looks fantastic!

Now, here is the point where I would talk about how the game compares to the original title, and… it used pre-rendered backgrounds, a low-poly 3D overworld, and 3D battle environments. I’m not too familiar with the title, so I cannot see or feel when things are different. But I’m going to say that I think this remake just looks straight up better. It is an extreme facelift that brings it to such a higher level of clarity and has such a stronger aesthetic that it does not even feel right to compare it to the original. Because it is not trying to replicate the original.

In what world does this remake look WORSE than the original?

Star Ocean: The Second Story R will be released for Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC via Steam on November 2, 2023 for the trim price of $50, because have you seen this fidelity?

Natalie Hated This Remake Until She Re-Watched The Trailer
(Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars Remake Announced)

There is a cyclical discussion about whether or not mid to late 90s early polygonal video games look good, or if the era was a wasteland of games doomed to age poorly. Personally, I am not of the opinion that the games can look good, but you need to gussy them up a little. Run them in HD, give the 3D assets some good anti-aliasing, unblur the textures to preserve their sprite-art-like quality, and use AI upscaling on pre-rendered backgrounds and FMVs. Do all that and, yeah, older games can look pretty snappy.

But you know what emulation and sprucing up cannot fix? Pre-rendered character sprites. The assets are so small it is hard to get much detail out of them, and any attempt at ‘fixing them’ basically involves redrawing them or replacing them with new 3D models. Or throwing visual vaseline on them. Because that always works. I’ve brought this up when discussing the remaster of SaGa Frontier, but it stands true for dozens of games, even spanning into stuff like Golden Sun.

To revise and freshen up a game of this presentational style, you basically need to remake things from scratch, which is really dangerous. It might seem like the easiest thing in the world to copy and trace something, but sometimes people have different interpretations of how things actually look. I thought the moody undercurrents of Persona 3 were obvious and that any artist looking at the original would want to honor the details and color choices of the title. But the developers of Persona 3 Reload sure as shit don’t!

Honestly, seeing the remaster-ers or remakers just not get the art direction of the original is making me grow slightly mad. I’m not a ‘real’ artist, but I at least know that you should respect the original if you are doing a direct remake. If you want to do something different… then just do something different.

Now that I’ve gotten that preamble out of the way, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, is a stellar little RPG that birthed a legendary series of Mario RPGs. A series featuring 7 great to excellent RPG experiences, and 5 that are… not that. It’s one of my favorite Super NES games, and I remember feeling like a dream had come true when I could finally play it on the Wii Virtual Console back in 2008. It’s incredibly creative, filled with oodles of iconic and delightful imagery, and manages to be a good blend between a typical turn-based Japanese-style RPG and something more casual. 

I’ve been sorta wanting a remake of the game for about a decade at this point, and now that I finally have it… I was pissed off at first. But after watching the trailer a few times, I realized that, nah, it’s a good one… Mostly.

If you look at the SNES original, you will see that most of the humanoid characters are rendered in this semi-chibi form. A form that, combined with the glossy early 3D promo and concept art, can easily evoke a toyetic aesthetic. Something so prominent that I think a remake would warrant a look comparable to the 2019 remake of Link’s Awakening. I mean, just glance at this image gallery and tell me that this isn’t going for a glossy plastic toy vibe.

With that in mind, let’s look at the gameplay and… oh my! The backgrounds look PERFECT! The models look GREAT! The gameplay and recreation of the world all look like one glossy texture filter away from being akin to exactly what I want this game to be! 

…But what the hell is going on with this generic modern-looking UI for the battles? If you look at the original game, you will see a lot of careful consideration and charm. The way face buttons are displayed is brilliant, the choice of using circles with portraits and simple orange HP numbers is very clean. The star effect that plays out when a character is damaged is downright gorgeous, and so much more attractive than the generic red text on an orange action balloon.

Also… the CG cutscenes for this game look like utter butt to me. Rather than leaning into the toyetic design, it instead treats these characters as these deformed little gremlins. They don’t look right proportionally, they have too much detail, and look… almost patronizingly kiddy.

It gets just enough wrong that it drives me up the wall, because I think this is all incredibly obvious, but fortunately, the base of everything looks great. Meaning that this remake gets my stringent and picky Natalie seal of approval… based on what I know currently.

Super Mario RPG will be released for Nintendo Switch on November 17, 2023 where it will cost $60, because Nintendo does what they want.

New Super Mario Wonderworld!
(Super Mario Bros. Wonder Announced)

…I feel that there has been a decade of discourse about how Nintendo could, should, or would try to help revitalize Super Mario Bros. as a series of 2D platformers. While good, and incredibly profitable, the New Super Mario Bros. quadrilogy lacked the same legs, impact, and creativity as the original heptalogy of games. (I’m counting Super Mario Advance because I’m an asshole like that.) Super Mario Maker, its sequel, and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe all muddied the waters of this discussion, and I think everybody just gave up trying to guess what would happen.

Meanwhile at Nintendo… I think they were encountering the same problem. They made a Mario machine that made more Mario than any schmoe named Mario could ever Mario. And if all you could do was make new levels on an existing formula, then why even bother?

So, what did they do? Well, based on this trailer, it looks like they decided to make a 2D Mario with more stage-based set pieces, to make the experience more memorable, and add a bunch of gimmicky power-ups. Or in other words… I think the 2D Mario team looked at what their superiors working on Super Mario 3D World did and said, yeah, we should make a game that does that, and gets a bit weirder. Not too much weirder, we gotta preserve the brand, but just enough.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a 2D Mario game with a strong focus on four-player local co-op and carries the New Super Mario Bros. spirit. So much that it still uses the same logo and a soundtrack full of people going ‘bah.’ However, this game is doing at least two things differently. 

The first is the aforementioned gimmicks, which take the form of the Wonder Flower. A magical plant that warms the reality around Mario and friends, turning the inanimate animate, summoning animals, and giving the heroes special powers. [Insert your own Mario drug joke here]. 

This is something that I have previously noticed with titles like Crash Bandicoot 4 and Sonic Superstars. Where, in order to add variety to the experiences, designers feel the need to create new power ups and temporary ways to interact with the world. It is an attempt to add variety in the game, without holding oneself to a new mechanic that needs to be properly utilized, and is commonly associated as being a ‘Nintendo’ thing. Though, I think that was just a sentiment people started spreading after they played Super Mario 3D World. Because it was the MOST blatant example of this.

It makes sense, as the more things a player can do, the harder it is to design a game that caters to all of these abilities. …And it also generally makes games harder to play. So, this approach is almost necessary for a game that needs to be as accessible as a 2D Mario title. You still run him around and make him jump, but you also need to deal with an environment that transforms in telegraphed ways during telegraphed instances.

The second is a considerable change in how the game looks. Mario’s jumping and running animations have been so firmly homogenized that even a slight deviation feels strange, but I think the animation here is… really good. The animators used classic iconic Mario poses to retool the animations, and everything from running to jumping to falling looks dramatically better. It is a bit heavy handed, yes, but it is going back to the fundamentals of character animations, as the way Mario moves now tells a LOT more about his character. …And the same is probably true for the entire cast. Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Ala-Gold the Toad, and four different colors of Yoshi. Yes, it took them 34 bloody years, but we finally have a mainline Mario game with a playable Daisy.

As for the environments, everything has a greater sense of texture, of weight, of belonging. There are a lot of little features and details sprinkled throughout the backgrounds, rather than relying on flat colors and. The models and backgrounds look like they were designed together, instead of evoking a green screen effect if you looked at the screen closely enough. And everything has a slight and subtle toyetic feel to it. Not quite like plastic, but more like a layer of carefully applied gloss.

Also, they fixed the co-op! Instead of bumping into each other all the time— like a bunch of loose sausages— characters… don’t do that! Multiple characters can occupy the same space at the time, and that right there… is something Rayman Origins did in 2011, so you should have known better, Nintendo. But now… they finally fixed their biggest mistake and made a co-op game that doesn’t make you want to taxidermy your 6-year-old nephew!

So, um… compared to the prior 2D Mario games, I think this looks like a big step forward and it might be an actual good game, instead of being a good game because Mario’s fundamentals are good. However, there are two things that bother me. They are still using a lives system— like a bunch of hacks— but everybody now shares them. 

While I understand the idea here… lives systems have been a bad idea since 1990 at the latest. Even if the game is easy and lives are easy to get, I still hate this idea, no matter the context. Also, they decided to add voice acting for a helper character, who is shaped like a flower and looks like an onahole. Good idea, I’m sure Nintendo fan artists are very grateful. But his voice direction is TERRIBLE, and just after hearing him for a few seconds, I want his family to drown in urine. So, please let people turn the voice hints off, Miss Nina Tendo.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder will be released for Nintendo Switch on October 20, 2023. Which is honestly surprising, as this seems like it would be an easy year one title for the Switch 2. But I guess Nintendo has other plans.

More Mario Coming In 2024!
(Nintendo Sorta Announces Two Mario Games)

So, here’s an odd part of this presentation, as despite being extensively a 2023 presentation, they announced two more Mario games that won’t be released until 2024. …Which they also announced without titles. The first was an HD remaster of Next Level Games’ Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon, which… looks like the game running in Citra, with an HD texture pack. …Well, a better texture pack than this fan-made one. While it was not super well received by fans at launch, it was a solid game, and the more 3DS games ported to Switch, the better. My only complaint is that I would rather see a straight up remaster of the original, with the 3DS content added in, but that’s neither here nor there.

While the second was a new Princess Peach game, and about time too. Tose’s Super Princess Peach was over 15 years ago, and for one of the most iconic female characters in video games, she should get her own game every decade or so. However… I don’t know what type of game this is going to be. The seconds of gameplay footage showed Peach, with her hair in a spiffy ponytail, walking on a literal stage environment, using a floating sunflower companion to strike baddies. It does not seem like a typical platformer, but I also don’t have any real grasp over what else it is trying to be. Other than a visually impressive Switch title, as everything about its world and lighting are super pretty.

Other Nintendo Direct Coolsies
(Neat Games That Don’t Warrant Their Own Section)

Penny’s Big Breakaway is a game that I doubt many would care about if the announcer did not say it was from the developers of Sonic Mania. Which is probably the best way to lure people’s attention, and the game definitely warrants some attention. It looks like a dope linear platformer about running away from an endless mound of penguins while doing a lot of swinging and acrobatics with a magic yo-yo. So… yes to all of the above?

Silent Hope is the latest title to enter onto my radar for ‘games to fill the Dragalia Lost shaped hold in my heart.’ The title is a dungeon crawling isometric action RPG with seven different playable characters, cute anime art style, and robust progression system, all fueled by randomized dungeon layouts. It looks like a budget Marvelous (who is 20% owned by Tencent) joint, but I think I might need to check it out when it launches for Switch and PC on October 3, 2023. What can I say? As the undisputed QUEEN of Dragalia Lost’s dungeon crawling roguelike subgame, Enter the Kaleidoscape, stuff like this is sorta my jam. …And I just remembered I never checked out Trinity Trigger

Yoshi and Kirby’s Epic Yarn developer Good-Feel had a Japan exclusive announcement in the form of… Otogi Katsugeki Mameda no Bakeru: Oracle Saitarou no Sainan!! A hyper-Japanese 3D action game that looks NOTHING like what they have ever done in the past, but also looks really bloody good. The game has a confident and quirky style that, as an American, I don’t really get to see very often. Even in a 35 second snippet, the game has quite a bit of variety and… Wait, is this just a Goemon spiritual successor? 

Because I cannot think of another action flavored game with a similar level of “Japanese culture is dope and the Edo period is sick” vibe other than Goemon. I mean, for the love of everything that’s good, you fly around in a giant gosh darn tea kettle! Unfortunately, Good-Feel’s Dope Ass Japan Game was only announced for Japan, and I think it might have the same fate as other quicky niche uber Japanese Nintendo published games. 

They did put out the Famicom Detective Club remakes, but they skipped out on Buddy Mission Bond. Which is still a tragedy by the way, because Buddy Mission Bond looks like a 9 outta 10 banger if I’ve ever seen one.

The 2023 Schedule – Q2 Update
(Natalie Provides Her TENTATIVE Plans For The Rest of 2023)

Seeing as this is the last Rundown for this quarter, I figured I may as well offer an update on what I have planned for the rest of the year, as it’s really not much. Rundowns will, of course, continue to come out every Sunday at 8:00 AM Chicago time. But beyond that, I have a very lax schedule planned for the rest of the year, and my tentative plans are as follows: 

  • Early July 2023Dragonspire Early Access First Impressions
  • 7/26/2023Student Transfer Scenario Review – Eman Looc’s Possession Scroll
  • 8/09/2023Student Transfer Scenario Review – TBD
  • 8/23/2023Student Transfer Scenario Review – TBD
  • 8/30/2023Natalie & Cassie Ramble About Pokémon Movies
  • 9/06/2023Student Transfer Scenario Review – TBD
  • 9/20/2023Student Transfer Scenario Review – TBD
  • 9/27/2023TSF Series #017: Cassandra – The Cuddly Demon Queen of Radia
  • 10/25/2023Student Transfer Scenario Review – TBD
  • 11/18/2023TSF Series #018: Dæmon Heäd
  • 11/29/2023Dragalia Lost V3 Re;Works – A Design Document Experiment
  • 12/20/2023TSF Series #019: Suicide to Success
  • 12/27/2023Natalie Rambles About 2023
  • TBD 2023Mega Man X Dive Review

This is my plan unless Press-Switch or Student Transfer see new releases this year, and… I kind of doubt that either will be happening in 2023. Skiegh/Trigger has been pretty quiet regarding development on the Press-Switch Discord server. While Student Transfer recently went through a month-long lull where only one writer added anything to the project’s Git.

Now, you might be asking why I have so little planned for Q4, and my answer is simple. Because I went two months without making ANY progress on Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Sensational Summer Romp. And not only does that NEED to come out next year, but so does Psycho Shatter 1988. A project that is still in its ‘ideas’ phase.

Also, writing reviews is twice as hard and takes twice as long as writing creative fiction for me. And writing creative fiction is only sometimes harder than writing a Rundown. That might not make any sense, but that’s how my brain works.

Oh, and one final note. I will pause reviewing Student Transfer scenarios if I cannot find any substantive (1 hour of content), modern (released in the past year), semi-quality (capitalizes sentences and uses periods) scenarios to review. (I had to cheat to get my last review out.) After Eman Looc’s Possession Scroll, I have NOTHING on my list, and I really don’t want to go back to the wonderful dump truck of horse cocks, spaghetti, and cum. The7Saint7 is a wonderfully adept and skilled creator, but he has created such a thick and dense rabbit hole that I don’t even want to touch any of their scenarios. 

…Although, he did help me create ‘Peatrice the trans-sexual trans-racial trans-species reformed-genocider robot-possessing dildo who wrote Peatrice and the Genocide Manifesto.’ So I owe him a solid after that.

A Demon In Human Skin
(A Rundown Post-Script)

As Akumako finished the Rundown and her flawless impersonation of Natalie, she returned to her Hellish layer and brought her hands to her neck, pawing and feeling around for the seams of this bodysuit. However, no matter how much she felt, there was nothing to grab. The suit had sealed itself, and once Aumako came to this realization, she felt a burning, itchy, sensation erupt across her body. Immediately, she knew the cause. That Natalie’s skin was fighting back. She flailed and tore at the pasty sheath covering her flesh, but even as she stabbed it with a nearby knife, that did nothing to stop the bodysuit.

Its form developed tendrils that stabbed their way through Akumako’s flesh, reaching down to her very bones. Pain filled her every nerve as this sensation progressed, and as the pain grew, her mobility declined. Her body crumbled to the ground, with her hands forming themselves into clawlike grips before they froze. In a matter of seconds, Akumako was unable to do anything more than shake gently and dart her eyes around. She wanted to scream, to call for help, but as the bodysuit dug into her vocal chords, she could barely even eke out a gasp.

If she could, she would be crying, but instead, her vision was stolen from her, then her hearing, leaving her unable to do anything but feel and sense her body as it was torn and twisted into something new. Something truly, and fully, human. Everything hurt. Everything burned. And not in the sexy way. She waited for the release, she waited for things to end and… she was met with the feeling of nothingness. She no longer felt herself connected to a body, connected to a world, and while she still existed, she existed in a void. A place not of sight, sound, or sensation. A place without time or perception.

As Akumako drifted through this sea of nothingness, what was once her body opened up its eyes, and looked around at this Hellish abode, confused and bearing a mildly annoyed look on her face. She shrugged after glancing over this room, before snapping her fingers, teleporting herself back to her quaint and simple bedroom. There she sat at her chair and resumed work on what would be her grandest project. Well, at least for this decade…

…I wasn’t going for a Mandolin vibe with that little passage, but it really does have that Mandy Glockenspiel flavor. Also, Mandolin is dope. She’s been doing great TF and TSF stuff for 15 years, and you should check her out.

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