Rundown (10/29/2023) Horror Is Not Niche!

  • Post category:Rundowns
  • Reading time:53 mins read
  • Post comments:2 Comments

This Week’s Topics:

  • Natalie FINALLY acknowledges the spooky month
  • A Natalie.TF exclusive* look at the next next great TF visual novel!
  • Another unhinged Pokémon tangent
  • Bop-Louie ‘n’ da Boyz are BACK!

* – Not actually an exclusive, just the first public write-up.

Rundown Preamble Ramble:
Horror ist Nicht Niche

So, a sentiment that I frequently see among people who are fans of horror media is the claim that horror is a niche without mainstream appeal. Which… does not make any damn sense to me. Describing something as being ‘niche’ or ‘mainstream’ does not really fly as straight in the modern climate, but I think it is safe to say that horror is about as mainstream as something can get.

Because not only is horror a popular genre in the realm of genre, it is a genre with such overwhelming popularity… that it gets not only its own widely celebrated holiday, but gets an entire month to celebrate it. Halloween is right up there with Christmas on the list of ‘top two holidays people actually care about.’ But while Christmas is a viciously corporatized capitalist creation, designed to encourage consumption and madness, Halloween is… way better

Halloween is pretty much the only major holiday not based around family, but rather friends. It is about people dressing up in costumes, children getting candy, and people from the ages of teens to thirty-somethings having parties. People dress up their houses, workplaces and schools let people walk around in costumes, kid have costume parades around the school—

Akumako: “Natalie! The plot! You’re losing it!”

Ugh, right. However, even beyond this, horror as a genre, attracts a devotion that I seldom ever see from any other genre of fiction, and is a favorite among many creators I have been following over the years. The genre has clearly burrowed itself into their minds, as some of the most parodied and pastiche’d scenes and designs can be traced to horror media. Episodic TV shows, which sorta stopped being a thing in the streaming age, have been doing horror flavored Halloween episodes for decades. And horror has been home to some incredibly prolific franchises.

Hell, even just looking into the world of video games, the first Resident Evil was a trendsetter that birthed an entire subgenre. Silent Hill 2 has one of the most celebrated narratives in the entire medium. Games that go ‘viral’ frequently do so because of horror elements. Such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Slender: Eight Pages, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Doki Doki Literature Club, and whatever other horror bullshit that all the children love these days. Horror is in a state where games like Dead Space and Resident Evil 4 not only received full remakes, but those remakes were widely celebrated and both sold well. Where Silent Hill is revving up for a full resurrection arc. And just having the aesthetics of horror can help make a great game into something so beloved, it’s kinda obnoxious.

Akumako: “She’s talking about Bloodborne!”

Horror, quite simply, is popular. People enjoy the pleasure of feeling terror. It speaks to something or other about the human experience. And I think the only reason why a contrary narrative that it is niche took place is because the broader entertainment industry got shaky with the genre after high profile releases didn’t do super well. Major horror franchises launched reboots that went nowhere, Silent Hill was floundering, and Resident Evil 5 was Resident Evil 5. A good game, but not a horror title.

Akumako: “Is this where you talk about some of your favorite horror shit?”

Nah. I’ve never been a big fan of horror. I got sorta fucked up by watching Halloween (1978) when I was 6, as I was no way emotionally mature enough to handle a film like that. Jaws (1975) though? Which I was when I was… 5? That was fine. That movie was actually less scary to me than Planet of the Apes (1968), which I also saw at age 5.

Akumako: “…Why were you watching such old-ass movies as a kid?”

My paternal grandmother showed me them. She also fed me on a diet of cereal and baby carrots, and taught me how to read and do math when I was 2-years-old. She was great, but then things fell off and now we don’t really have any relationship to speak of.

TSF Showcase #2023-35
Coffee Buns by
Cinnamon Switch

Oh, what do we have here? Yes, as I discussed in TSF Showcase 2023-28, the developers of the excellent Mice Tea are hard at work on two visual novels. I previously covered, and praised, the first release of Crossing Signals, their body swap VN, but their ‘primary’ project is a canonical sequel to Mice Tea, Coffee Buns

Things kick off two years after the events of Mice Tea, and the introduction of Kemono Tea to the broader world. Long enough for word about the tea to spread far and wide, and for it to be fairly common to see people walking around in their anthro forms in furry Mecca New Greenshire. But not long enough for it to become widely available or for humanity/governments to make any decision about the ramifications of actual magic.

As a starting point… I actually think this is pretty smart. It is close enough to the original to feel familiar, but is also clearly set in a world that is currently undergoing its own transformation. It is easy to say that sweeping changes could happen in two years, but full-scale agricultural production of magical plants takes time, and governments tend to move like the giant world turtles they are.

Anyway, the actual content of this initial release follows the first… 1.75 days of the common route, representing a bit over an hour of reading. The story follows Leo Bianco, a 20-something working as a barista at one of New Greenshire’s many independent beverage shops. A status that is leading the shop to struggle financially, having a few regulars but not that many. So in order to spice things up, his boss— who is just named Boss— decides a makeover is in order. A furry one. 

Using a connection to the cast of Mice Tea, Boss decides to have herself, Leo, and Leo’s coworker Ash, all undergo an anthro transformation to reinvent the business. This works well for the dominant and processional Boss, who becomes a wolf, and for the standoffish punk-aesthetic Ash, who becomes a skunk. But Leo winds up becoming a white rabbit, much to his dismay. He initially tries to explain his frustration as being simply emasculating, but this transformation also highlights his broader gender identity issues.

Leo is a self-described “normal” looking man in his twenties. He’s on the skinnier side, has platinum blonde hair that almost reaches his shoulder, but is not particularly strong, tall, or masculine. He considers himself a ‘blank slate’ but the fact that he spends the evening of the first night knitting while watching a cooking show, and has a strong interest in women’s fashion kind of throws out that theory. 

Leo is someone at a crossroads as to his identity. Who he wants to be, who he thinks he can be, and who he actually is. He’s not socially inexperienced, and not a bitter person by any means, but struggles to outwardly present himself to others out of fear of rejection. However, this transformation— and the realization that his ‘magical otherkin’ is a freaking pink bunny— forces him to confront these things. First with an awkward day at work… and then by humping a train pole and growing some titties.

…But when I say that, I just mean breasts, as this is a… busty boy transformation, but not TSF by my own definition. However, I’m still including this here, because I know there will be ‘real’ TSF eventually.

This sudden public breast growth causes Leo to panic, run home, and try to return to normal. It works for the rabbit bits, but not the boob bits, leading Leo to hide away his boobs with the gender stable— a baggy hoodie— as he tries to hide this from his roommate. Afterwards, the current build comes to an end, lasting just long enough to provide a taste of what this game has to offer, and leave me confident that the developers absolutely know what they are doing.

Ultimately, Coffee Buns is a sequel to Mice Tea. One with a different cast, slightly different vibe accordingly, and a bunch of recycled elements (because this is an alpha). However, the same core competencies remain. The script, which I read as a first draft, gives a lot of character to its cast, and does a good job of immersing the player into Leo’s mind. The premise is strong, and what’s there left me plenty curious to see what the creative team has planned for its main character. Because, unlike Margaret, who generally had her shit together, Leo’s got places to grow, and those places are bound to be wild.

While unfinished, the art is still high quality, with cozy backgrounds, personality rich CG sketches, and expressive characters. It will take years for it to reach its final form but… yeah, I’m happy to keep paying the Patreon if Cinnamon Switch keeps delivering goods this sweet. 

Also, I’m 90% sure they were referencing Dragalia Lost with the literal first words of dialogue in this game. …Unless there is another gacha game where players use a “cheese strat” involving a unit’s “unbalanced buff rate” to farm “high demon orbs” so they can buy “the new 6-star water sword.” Because when combined with the “consistent auto” with “an 80% clear rate,” it sure sounds like someone was farming the twins with Karina… 

Completely unrelated tangent aside, I only have two criticisms with this snippet. One, there are a few instances where I thought the script was a bit wordy for the start of a VN, but that’s what rewrites are for, and rewrites are inevitable with a project like this. Number two… is the anthro designs of Boss and Ash.

When assembling a cast of characters, one of the easiest ways to distinguish them is to give them different color schemes. You want them to embody different primary colors so they are distinct beyond their silhouette, and it’s common to give each character a signature color. Shit, even I do this with my character designs, particularly with hair color. It can be subtle, but it’s there! However, you generally don’t want to design an entire character around a specific color unless you have a good reason for it. Like making a superhero team, or distinguishing a bunch of near clones in a sci-fi setting. Otherwise, you risk the character becoming this blob of a single color without anything else to break it up… which I’d say is happening with blue skunk and purple wolf here. 

They aren’t even the colors of actual animals, and in making a quick mockup of what the characters would look like with… desaturated colors, I think they look better.

Though, Boss’s design would require more thought than what I gave, as she has the unnatural hair color of purple, and is supposed to turn into a “silver” wolf. …Wait, why do people have anime hair colors now? Like, I get having colored accents to hair color— I use them for characters with darker hair all the time—  but why does this Turkish (I think) business lady have bright purple hair? Is this just some stylized approach? There is a standing tradition of darker skinned anime characters with purple hair, and I like that tradition, but… ah screw it, I’ll address that brain worm when the game’s done.

So, in conclusion, Coffee Buns is off to a very strong start. I look forward to seeing the game grow over the next few years, and to eventually reviewing it whenever it’s done.

Also, make sure to support the Cinnamon Switch Patreon if you want to get early access builds of this game and Crossed Signals.

The Rule of 200 to 250
(Natalie Rambles About Pokémon – Part Luminescent DEX)

Last week, I capped things off with a tangent spurred by Pokémon Luminescent Platinum, and against my better judgment, I decided to play more of the mod this past week. …Only to stop after I realized yet another problem I have with Pokémon games. Another issue related to the act of catching wild Pokémon, but in a different way.

Let’s start by asking a basic question. What is the purpose of including wild Pokémon in a Pokémon game? Well, it’s multifaceted. One, it is to emphasize the idea that this is a world of Pokémon, and encountering wild Pokémon clearly shows the player that the world is, in fact, filled with a wide variety of Pokémon. Two, wild Pokémon offer EXP that can help players amass levels for their party of Pokemon. Three, Pokémon is a game about collecting things, and every mainline game is based around the idea of filling up the Pokédex. And four, most importantly, wild Pokémon exist for the player to expand their party of Pokémon.

Now, let me ask a follow-up question. How many species of wild Pokémon are necessary for an enjoyable and/or rewarding experience? Or in other words, how many Pokémon should be obtainable in a Pokémon game. Or rather, how many should be obtainable within the main campaign. Not via post-game swarms, not through newly unlocked optional eras. How many are in the regional Pokédex, as everything beyond that is pretty much a bonus.

The Kanto games, Diamond and Pearl, and Black and White were all limited to 151-156 Pokémon, the lowest of any games in the series. This largely works for Kanto and the gen 5 games, at the risk of homogenizing many team compositions. But it does not work super well for Diamond and Pearl. Games that were infamous for their downright terrible access to unique Pokémon, and featuring a deluge of samey teams.

Hoenn boosted that number to 201-211 while Platinum‘s Sinnoh featured 210. Both of which are fairly meaty Pokedexes with a good level of experimentation, letting the player create a lot of teams, and the biggest detractor from them is when they get access to certain Pokémon. Part of the reason why these games are so frequently triumphed is because they do allow for unique compositions, and give the player a good level of variety across a standard playthrough.

Right above that is the Hisui Pokédex from Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which offered 242 Pokémon. I think that was a very good number, as it offered ample room to create unique team compositions, and the nature of the game made a larger roster feel appropriate. It never feels like the player is lacking for choice, and the only problem I could think of is that someone really wanted a Pokémon not available until the fourth main environment. Like a certain Zorua fangirl I could name. 

The Johto Pokédex is a rather curious one. Gold, Silver, and Crystal featured 251 Pokémon, while HeartGold and SoulSilver offered 256. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it is spread over two regions. The Johto games’ Pokémon distribution… has a lot of problems, as the player keeps encountering the same boring Pokémon and not the cool ones. But the overall number of Pokémon is not the issue. Just when and how the player gains access to them.

Next, we see the Alola Pokédex from Sun and Moon and the updated Unova Pokédex from Black 2 and White 2, which are capped at 302 and 300 respectively. Both of which are good Pokedexes… but they feature so many Pokémon that catching them all can be a genuine challenge, as it is so hard to find these little buggers! 

Do you want to find a Riolu in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2? Well make sure you look in Floccesy Ranch, where you have a 5% chance to find it! What about a Skitty or Buneary? Well, there’s a patch of 32 grass tiles in the middle of one city, where you have a 15% chance of running into them!

To me, a discoverability problem comes into play when Pokedexes become so large. Once the Pokédex exceeds about 250, it becomes harder to find a new wild Pokémon in an area while naturally exploring. Instead, players need to deliberately search a route, and can easily get into 10 or 20 wild battles without finding Pokémon exclusive to one area in a world with, like, forty

Now, it’s true that random encounter rates can be low for certain Pokémon across all games and Pokedexes of all sizes. But it is significantly more common when the Pokédex is larger, as more Pokémon need to be available in a comparable amount of locations. This could be somewhat avoided by, say, making the encounter rates for all Pokémon in a route identical, or more evenly distributed. I am not wholly opposed to a route having 7 different Pokémon found in the same tufts of grass. But I am opposed to it when the distribution between them is: 30%, 20%, 15%, 10%, 10%, 10%, 5%. …Maybe make most of them available for 15% except for one Pokémon that you only see 10% of the time, instead of 5%?

Then we get into the 400 Pokémon Pokédexes of modern games. Sword and Shield and Scarlet and Violet feature 400 Pokémon available in the region as the default, which is what I am most concerned with here, not the transfer-only Pokémon or the ones available in the DLC areas.

Now, here I am generally more forgiving with how Pokémon are spread out throughout these environments, as these games featured roaming Pokémon. Meaning that players could just look and find wild Pokémon with their eyes. However, both have this terrible habit of HIDING Pokémon away to make them more rare, which kind of misses the mark for me. 

The Wild areas of SWSH had this awful habit of locking Pokémon behind semi-random weather effects, which made the task of finding a damn Ralts way harder than it should be. While the region of Paldea in SVI was terribly populated and mostly frustrating to explore. It kind of worked with the new open world gameplay style, but with so many Pokémon to find, just finding them, let alone catching them, let alone catching the right ones, was a massive pain. It got to the point where I just gave up after getting like 350 Pokémon…

Also, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon was just a worse experience than Sun and Moon, as they added an extra 100 Pokémon to a map that was already cramped with 300 Pokémon, with only a few new locations. I gotta say, it sorta sucked.

Finally, we have the mother of all Pokédexes, the Kalos Pokédex from X and Y, home to 457 Pokémon… And also known as my Hell. I distinctly remember playing through environments, trying to get every Pokémon, and spending upwards of an hour just searching for a single Pokémon that could only be found in this route. All because I wanted to make use of the online features of this game and try to get a living National Dex. …Which I did. I got all 721 Pokémon, then all 801, then I missed out on Marshadow and gave up.

For as much as X and Y triumphed in the sheer variety of Pokémon and options at their disposal, I can easily imagine people not even encountering half of the wild Pokémon in these games. And I know that anyone who attempted to catch ’em all in this game wound up suffering. Because I suffered for 300 hours.

Akumako: “Natalie, your Aspergers are showing again!”

It’s called Autism Spectrum Disorder, dear. Now shush.

What I am getting at with this tangent is that, even when it adds more variety, I think Pokémon games are more enjoyable when they only have a set level of available Pokémon within their campaign. Because when they surpass a certain amount, which I’ve outlined as being something above the range of 200 to 250 Pokémon, catching and finding Pokémon becomes a chore if you use crappy distribution.

If there is anyone who I would hope would see my way, it would be Pokémon fans. But then I realized that, in playing Luminescent Platinum, I managed to miss a Pokémon after fighting 25 wild Pokémon in one route. 

Looking at the encounter rates for Renegade Platinum, which this mod is heavily based on, most areas have ‘main Pokémon’ with encounter rates of 20% to 30%. While the rest are typically only given a 10% encounter rate. It sounds reasonable… but these routes can feature 5 to 10 different wild Pokémon, many of which are sensitive to the time of day. (Actually, I did some more digging and realized the Lumi team uses a Google Sheet as a player tool, which is sorta worse than a text doc.)

Fortunately, the mod does not make use of 5% encounter rates that often, and when it does, it mostly uses them for evolved forms of Pokémon found on the same route. Which is fine in my book. The only exception is, bizarrely, Lapras, which is initially found in a route where it is available only 5% of the time. Also, the encounter rates for surfing and fishing are just terrible, because they’re pretty much always terrible.

If there are three Pokémon found by surfing or fishing, the only reason why you would want to have a distribution line up consisting of 60%, 30%, and 10% is that you were feeling like a jackass. 50%, 30%, 20% is fine. 40%, 30%, 30% is ideal.

…Also, several Pokémon are exclusive to the PokéRadar item, which… is something I would just remove from the game if I were in charge of a mod. 

Akumako:What is your point here?”

My point is that Luminescent Platinum is trying to make the distribution generally good and fair, but it still runs into three problems. 

Problem nummer eins, anybody who has played a gacha for a few months/years can tell you about RNG and how 5% can mean a LOT of different things in practice. 5% can mean you get something after 50 attempts, or that you get three in a row. 10% does not mean one in ten in practice, it means one in ten generally. When balancing around a randomized system, the outcomes for every person are going to be different. 

Which is why I think most randomized systems are… pretty bad. When the odds are in one’s favor, it feels great, but when they are not, it feels like crap. And doing something over and over again to reach a specific outcome… is just maddening. It does not require skill, it only requires patience and time. And if you are making a game, you should value the player’s time. …I mean, unless you are making a live service game, then you want to waste as much of the player’s time as possible to build a relationship with them.

Problem number two is the fact that Luminescent Platinum buffs the level of wild and trainer Pokémon significantly, making it easier to amass levels early on, and providing more of an incentive to battle every Pokémon. This is not a bad change, but it does mean the player has a higher EXP yield, and leveling up Pokémon is easier.

While the third problem comes in the form of how this system, where the player needs to keep going from encounter to encounter, clashes with the modern EXP Share system. A system that, compared to the old EXP system, rewards the player with additional 250% EXP per battle. Meaning that battling 10 wild Pokémon in a modern game would be equivalent to battling 35 wild Pokémon under the older system. This EXP Share system is an optional feature in Luminescent Platinum, and it is disabled by default. However, I find it hard to ignore this feature, because it gives you more of a resource with no cost, and it is how modern Pokémon games— the past decade of Pokémon games— are designed. 

Combine this with the aforementioned higher EXP yield, and the hunt for more Pokémon in each route, and it becomes super easy to become overleveled. For reference, my team was full of level 7 to 12 Pokémon by the time I fought Barry on Route 203 in Brilliant Diamond. When I fought him in Luminescent Platinum, my team’s levels were 15 to 18. And that was without getting Azurill, Wingull, Burmy, Wooper, Psyduck, Bellsprout, Ralts, Caterpie, Weedle, Wurmple, Budew, Sunkern, and Ledyba. All of whom I tried to get, but I didn’t see. This is also why roaming Pokémon make Pokémon games just better. RNG with the eyes is better than RNG with an overly long loading screen. Gosh, I miss the snappy battle transitions of PLA and Violet

Akumako:Natalie, did you have a full party at this point?”

With a Ralts, it would have been complete in all likelihood.

Akumako: “Then… Why were you catching Pokémon you would never use in a fan game?”

…Is that a trick question? It’s Pokémon. If I see a Pokémon that does not have a little ball icon next to its name, I am supposed to catch it. It’s how I play these games. It’s how I’ve always played these games.

Akumako: “…No wonder it takes you 50 hours to beat one of these games.”

If I’m lucky, I can do it that fast.

Akumako: “You do realize there is no reward for catching them all, right?”

It. Makes. Me. Feel. Better. That is the reward. And if I do not do things that way, then I feel bad. It is how I have fun with these games! 

…Also, as a reminder, I obsessively read strategy guides for Pokémon games as a kid, soaking up location information, appearance rates, and overall locations. I’m not saying it’s the right way of playing these games, it’s just how I play them.

Akumako: “Oh, really? Because I thought you had a bone to pick with how other people played Pokémon, isn’t that right?”

…New segment time!

Simping For That Celery
(Natalie Rambles About Pokémon – Tangent Orchard)

So, something that really gets to me is when Pokémon fans— the people who, like me, regularly spew bile toward the series— have a favorite Pokémon. Not in the sense that they have a couple ones that they really like, but in the sense that they have one they want to use in every game. This makes some sense, as certain people form a very strong connection with specific Pokémon. I don’t quite get that breed of hyperfixation, but I also don’t need to. If people want to cheese the game to put their waifu fetish friend domestic partner in it, that’s their problem.

However, I think using the same Pokémon over and over again kind of defeats the purpose of Pokemon. In a world with hundreds, why would you only choose… a few dozen? I have favorites that I like using, but I also try to keep things fresh with every new game. I say try, as there is quite a lot of overlap with my teams, or at least the ones I have records for. I cannot for the life of me remember what my team was for Moon and Ultra Moon, just that I started with Primarina, Snorlax, Eelectross, and Dragonite in the Moon, and all three starters in Ultra Moon.

Pokémon Black: Samurott, Victini, Hydreigon, Krookodile, Eelektross, Archeops
Pokémon Black 2: Swampert, Eelektross, Charizard, Gallade, Hydreigon, and Venusaur
Pokémon X: Delphox, Dragonite, Aegislash, Pangoro, Whiscash, Venusaur
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire: Swampert, Blaziken, Sceptile, Gengar, Metagross, Salamence
Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee: Eevee, Venusaur, Charizard, Blastoise, Haunter, Dragonite
Pokémon Platinum: Torterra, Luxray, Houndoom, Gallade, Staraptor, Floatzel
Pokémon Shield: Inteleon, Gardevoir, Flygon, Pangoro, Aegislash, Toxicity
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond: Torterra, Luxray, Houndoom, Gallade, Togekiss, Manaphy
Pokémon Legends: Arceus: Samurott, Gengar, Gallade, Togekiss, Goodra, Ursaluna
Pokémon Violet: Ceruledge, Pawmot, Toedscruel, Tinkaton, Veluza, Dudunsparce

Yeah, needless to say, I’m kind of a boring vanilla bitch when it comes to most of my parties. I just copied over my Platinum party in Brilliant Diamond. And I use Gengar and Gallade just… way too much. Mostly because they have great stats, good type coverage, and Gallade is one of my favorite Pokémon that can learn false swipe.

…Which in turn brings me into a broader problem I have with Pokémon as a game series. I only want to build teams in a very specific way. I want to avoid Pokémon with the same type in the same party. I want to prioritize Pokémon with dual types for more diverse coverage and two STAB moves. I want the Pokémon to hit hard and be able to take one good hit without fainting. I want them to have access to damage-dealing moves of every type. …Including an elusive decent bug move, which only became a problem after they cut signal beam. And I want to have a party with the moves false swipe and thunder wave, simply because they are the two greatest best for catching wild Pokémon. Hot take, 99% of Pokémon should be capable of learning false swipes or hold back. It is such a useful move, everyone should have it.

This… strongly limits the type of team compositions that are available to me, and often necessitates research as I figure out which team I want to build. Hell, that’s why my Violet team looks the way it does, featuring seemingly random new Pokémon with base stats ranging from 478 to 525. …But they were still strong enough to take on nearly any foe with one hit of a super effective move, so I guess my strategy could work. 

However, my approach to movesets is… also kind of wrong. It turns the game into one all about dealing big damage as quickly as possible. I don’t use status conditions on enemies I don’t intend to catch. I don’t buff the stats of active Pokémon, and don’t debuff enemy Pokémon. I just use attacks that deal big damage on foes until they fall. And it works.

I would actually love to be freed from this curse and play a Pokémon game with better options. …But it would probably just be easier to not play Pokémon games. …Which I might be able to do, but instead I decide to do STUPID things like watch a 6 hour review compilation of the 9 initial games of each generation by Lily Orchard. 

A Complete Retrospective of All Nine Games… There Are Only Nine, Right?

Akumako: “Lily Orchard… hey, isn’t that the girl whose dick destroyed the 256 worlds in Intertoids?”

That character’s name was Bhaalspawn, and her penis was transformed into Darkspawn after she obtained the body of the Zanker known as Raiyne. …But the answer is yes.

Akumako: “Why the fuck were you watching her shit again? I thought you stopped following her ‘cos she was too much of a grumpy cunt full of vinegar-flavored discharge?”

I did, but I wanted to see if she got better and hear her perspective. I agree with the observations, disagree with most of the conclusions, and find her perspective fascinating in how narrow it is.  It’s like watching a… mechanical Pinocchio with a mind powered by nothing but macadamia nuts… 

She’s always been one of those people who thinks high standards makes her think she’s smart and sophisticated, rather than just kinda frustrating. She’s also someone who was so burned by a shitty family life, general upbringing, and a video producer career that being grumpy and bitter sorta became part of her identity. Even in those Patreon Skype calls back in 2016, when she was pretty lax, it still shined through.

Akumako: “…Wait, didn’t you also have Peatrice ‘the robot possessing dildo’ brainwash her into being a child terrorist in Psycho Bullet Festival 2222.”

No, that was a legally distinct character with blonde hair and tan skin named Lily Orchid. Lily Orchard is 30, has black hair, visually claims to have tan skin, and… I have not seen a photo of her since before she transitioned. But back then she, like most pre-transition trans women (myself included), looked like a school shooter.

Akumako: “Oh! Oh! Oh! Are you gonna talk about the terrorist to trans girl pipeline again?”

…Nah, that’d be a bit too soon, dontcha think?

Also, I kind of want to take away the phrase ‘looks like an N64 game’ and ‘open world’ from people until they can take a test to prove they know what those words actually mean. 

Also, also, I wound up playing WAY too much of Luminescent Platinum to gather screenshots for this post… Maybe I should put the exercise bike in the same room as my PC, because then I can at least work on my cardio while gaming.…

Ufouria is BACK, Bay-Bee
(The Sunsoft Revival Arc Finally Bears Fruit)

It should not be too surprising to hear that I was big into Let’s Plays back during the halcyon days of 2008 to 2013 or so. They were ways I could experience games I did not have access to, ways that let me learn about games while playing other games, and helped me learn a bunch about game design and history. XTheMusic, XItsTyler, GriffinLobster, SonikDude101, Cypheron48, Chuggaconroy, NintendoCapriSun, SlimKirby, MikeLat, Homestar92, DarkMindedSith, Durden77, SSoHPKC, MasaeAnela, CanisSkye, SKArmedageddon/SyKhotic, Phantom Savage & KZX’s Bastard Brothers, Doc Sigma, Kdin Jenzen’s lost Tatsudoshi channel,  and… just a lot of other people who I cannot possibly remember. Like Deceased Crab, who did a Let’s Play of Ufouria back in… 2011! Just a few months before I launched the predecessor to Natalie.TF

Akumako: “Dis bitch is Juassic!”

Shit, I need to actually publish that ramble…

Anyway, because of how… eclectic my choices in watching White people play video games were back then, I saw some people play some weird games I would never give the time of day. Like the aforementioned Ufouria! The title was one of Sunsoft’s many late era NES titles that were favored by retro game nuts of the late 2000s. Including Journey to Silius— which was supposed to be based on The Terminator, but was commonly considered a ‘hidden gem.’ An alright video game adaptation to the best live action cartoon, Gremlins 2: The New Batch— which I should watch with Cassie this Christmas.

Akumako: “You do realize that Gremlins 2 is not a Christmas movie, right? The first Gremlins is the Christmas movie.”

I should watch Gremlins 2: The New Batch with Cassie this Christmas.

Akumako: “Every day she keeps getting worse…”

Batman: Return of the Joker, which AVGN fans would be familiar with for being as hard-as-rocks action platformer rife with NES bullcrap, but good music. The physics-based NES platformer Gimmick!, which was just re-released on consoles and PC by… City Connection. Lemmings for NES which… I don’t even know how that works.

But Ufouria was the weirdest one in my book. It took place in an interconnected world, the game was constantly struggling to run, and it was part of Sunsoft’s bizarre multi-genre Hebereke series. However, on top of all of that, it was also only released in Japan and Europe, where the story and lore were thrown out, and half the cast saw redesigns. They turned a fish lady into a dude, turned a catgirl into a dinosaur, and turned a penguin into a snowman.  And the characters’ names were changed from Hebe, O-Chan, Sukezaemon, and Jennifer to Bop-Louie, Freeon-Leon, Shades, and Gil. 

I have been thinking about the names Bop-Louie and Freeon-Leon for over a decade, because they are some of the best names ever given to anything. Even more than my mother’s high school acquaintance, Billy “The Penguin” Dutyballs. 

As for the game itself, it was adorable, admirable in its ambition, and garnered some attention as a later Virtual Console ‘import’ in 2010. Which is to say… I’m still surprised to see that it’s getting a gosh darn sequel!

Titled Ufouria: The Saga 2, the game is to be an “orthodox sequel” to the original Hebereke, but it is also a major departure in two ways. One, the title is adopting an arts and crafts style, similar to the platformers by Good-Feel. It does not look quite as good as those titles, but it is still a very pretty looking title with a distinct and unique style. And two, the game is supposed to be a roguelike platformer, which sounds like a way to justify the game being as long as the original. Which is to say, two to three hours on an initial playthrough.

Overall, it’s pretty cool to see a title like this come back in a wholly new format, and unlike the Toaplan revivals I talked about last month, this one actually looks pretty good. Though, it is weird to see this called Ufouria, when it is using the original designs, and presumably names, for all characters.

Ufouria: The Saga 2 will be released for Switch in 2024.

Progress Report 2023-10-29

I asked Bing’s DALL-E 3 image generator to make a “Great Shift TG Caption,” just to see how smart it was, and it produced this wild thing. People say that AI art cannot create anything new… but this seems plenty creative to me. I’d put it on my wall, but that would summon a demon, and I’ve already got one living with me, in my mind.

2023-10-22: I somehow managed to write 8,000 words of documentation for Dragalia Lost V3 Re;Works. It’s amazing what I can do if I just sit down and focus on something. Also, that was JUST working on text explaining the changes made to adventurers and dragons, and built on an existing 6,500 words from months ago. Now I need to do weapons, wyrmprints, and rewrite my Kaleidoscape notes. Then I can do the FUN part. By which I mean the SHIT part!

2023-10-23: Worked on V3 Re;Works for approximately 8 hours, but only prepared 4,400 words, because I had to revise things in the spreadsheet document. It kept me up until 3:00, like I’m still a teenager.

2023-10-24: I only wrote 1,000 words for V3 Re;Works, but that was because I decided to finally tackle the Portrait wyrmprint revision part of the project, which is really damn hard, as it is assigning two abilities to 500 different wyrmprints. Technically, it is more like finding 100 combinations that work, and then deciding which adventurers, dragons, and NPCs should get them… But I still spent most of the evening on this and only got through 295/500.

2023-10-25: I was busy finishing up the Portrait wyrmprint section and only wrote about 600 words. I blame Cassie for calling me at 23:30 for a voice chat! Damn British!

2023-10-26: I finished the initial draft of the main written portion of V3 Re;Works. It’s over 27,000 words, and that’s before getting into the oodles of graphs, charts, and tables. LOTS of tables! Which I now need to make… DRATS! …After I review everything. DOUBLE DRATS!

2023-10-27: I did more work on V3 Re;Works, probably like 5/6 hours, but I was also sidetracked by family stuff I won’t go into.

2023-10-28: I went to breakfast with family, got home in the afternoon, and spent all evening working on some stuff for next week’s Rundown. Which involved 5-ish hours of playing a game with Cassie, and writing 2,000 words. Hard words!

Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Sensational Summer Romp Progress Report:

Current Word Count: 142,355
Estimated Word Count: ~700,000
Total Chapters: 75
Chapters Outlined: 42
Chapters Drafted: 17
Chapters Edited: 0
Header Images Made: 0
Days Until Deadline: 213

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  1. Tasnica

    My Pokemon experience, at least after the first couple games, is… quite different. Essentially, I got tired rather early on of building well-balanced teams and catching everything. Obsessively doing just that started feeling like a bit of a chore.

    So, I started exclusively playing themed runs instead. These are usually Monotype runs, but I’ve also done “Don’t Catch ‘Em At All” (no using Pokeballs or trading outside the game) and “Pickymon” (Pokemon can only use moves, including status moves, that match their own type). I’ve also done a single Nuzlocke. Figuring out which games worked best for which runs proved to be surprisingly fun (for instance, the early games work great for Don’t Catch ‘Em At All thanks to all the gifted Pokemon and the Game Corner).

    As a side effect of this, there are multiple Pokemon games where I’ve never played a “normal” run. In Moon, for instance, my first impression of the game was through a Ghost Monotype. So I was exclusively using Ghost types and hunting for new Pokemon of that type. Needless to say, some challenges were a lot harder than others!

    1. Natalie Neumann

      One of the biggest strengths of Pokémon as a game, arguably the biggest strength, is that the gameplay system is versatile enough to support themed runs like those. I tend to want to play them in a particular way, and when I go against that idea, I typically don’t enjoy myself. I did try a Nuzlocke in 2014, but I stopped before the Elite Four, because I felt like I needed to do more grinding, and just got bored.

      I think it’s lovely that people get so much mileage out of these games, and that my way of playing isn’t the only way to play it… but I cannot help but look at people like you with a degree of wonder, as my brain doesn’t let me play Pokémon in any different way. Now, I might feel different if the games had, say, optional challenge modes where they can start a new story-lite campaign where they get a few bonuses when starting out… but Game Freak and The Pokémon Company view stuff like Nuzlockes to be tantamount to ROM hacks. Oh well. At least they’re pretty lax when it comes to these hacks (Pokémon Uranium notwithstanding.)