This Week’s Topics:
- A re:turn to re:Dreamer for side content
- An email-based TSF story from 2002
- A triple dose of acquisitions
- NetEase is back with their tenth new studio since 2020
- Another re:turn of an older Sonic style
- A 3.5-hour-long animated fan film
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
re:Dreamer Isekai Ver. Alternative/If…
Two weeks ago, CaptainCaption released the much-delayed anniversary update for re:Dreamer, version 0.17.0. I normally only play re:Dreamer once a year, rather than with every update. However, this update offered anniversary side content with a unique novel-length side path that begins like a usual Friday Update, but in the form of a visual novel.
I’ve probably said as much before, but for as much as I will gush about re:Dreamer as a game, that is only one half of the re:Dreamer experience for me. While the other half is the story of its sole developer, CaptainCaption. They have been incredibly candid about the development of the game, but also their life in general. Their complicated and strained familial relationships, their numerous health issues, their own chaotic and ongoing quest of gender discovery, and just so many insights into who they are as a person and creator.
Their writing is so honest and unfiltered that I keep finding myself drifting into a parasocial relationship with CaptainCaption while reading it. I try to be candid and open when it comes to my writing— I spent too long finding out who I am to wear a fucking mask— But CaptainCaption offers a level of honesty and transparency that makes me feel like a damn faker.
Akumako: “Does that mean you envy them?”
Oh, fuck no. CaptainCaption is an amazingly adept, and dazzlingly dedicated individual, and I respect them as much as I can respect a creator. But their body and life both fucking suck.
Their Corticobasal Syndrome will likely cut their life short, and has already given them chronic problems with their right hand. Despite having seen numerous specialists about it, the relative obscurity and complexity around their condition makes it difficult to find treatment, and certain promising ideas fall through, like the life-prolonging brain pacemaker. Their body reacted to HRT in a way that sounds like utter bullshit, but it’s not. Their body is routinely a source of frustration, discomfort, and dysphoria for them after their gender identity melted away into chaos. And while there have been various opportunities for things to get better— or at least that’s how CaptainCaption perceives it— they have not
Even though they come from a well off family, they’re far from the supportive or understanding environment CaptainCaption needs at this time in their life. With many being presented as genuinely unpleasant individuals, including their mother.
While their community… was pretty much thrown through the wringer this past year by people who CaptainCaption afforded a strong level of trust. People who viewed CaptainCaption’s transition as a sort of game, regularly projected their feelings onto CaptainCaption, and tried to shove the creator of ‘the trans girl VN’ to go into the ‘trans girl’ box. These people who eventually burned bridges with CaptainCaption, taking a good chunk of the community they fostered over the years, rather than… just accepting them for who they are. You know, the underlying principle that all
queer people should not only preach, but practice.
It’s something that CaptainCaption delves into far better than I could. Voicing how diversity is the greatest strength of human beings. The importance of allowing people the freedom and ability to come to terms with their own identity. How turbulent this process of self-discovery can be. And how damaging it can be to have this discovery co-opted by other people.
Reading all of this makes me wish that I could offer them more support in some way, shape, or form… but I know that I’d be awful at it. Socialization is not my strong suit, just in general. I am oblivious to my own shortcomings when around others— unless they kindly point it out to me. And when around people who I perceive as being ‘superior to me’ (which is a truly awful way to compartmentalize humans), I tend to view their word as law, but be critical when they do something worse than me. That is, assuming I’m not literally shaking when trying to talk to them, out of fear of fucking things up. …Like I often do when around CaptainCaption.
Like with many of the more personal Friday Updates, the story here is a deeply sad one that shows how much people can hurt each other by abusing their trust. However, what makes this one special, in addition to the added visual elements of being a visual novel, is how it directly leads into its own ‘side canon’ ‘side route’ within re:Dreamer, where CaptainCaption gets TF’d and isekai’d.
This segment begins with a… genuinely confusing introduction where CaptainCaption says they lied about working on re:Dreamer, and only managed to create the game with the help of their magical clipboard. One that grants the user’s wishes when they hold it, cannot be destroyed or lost, and can warp reality, but with a six-month cooldown on any changes. Which would be great, but it works like a monkey’s paw, twisting the user’s wish, and turns CaptainCaption into their ‘profile pic’ while sending them to the world of re:Dreamer right as the game begins.
CaptainCaption begins ‘exploring’ in one of the slowest ways possible, before they meet Samantha, Zach’s mother from re:Dreamer, who immediately begins trying to solve the mystery of the redheaded clone who suddenly appeared in her house. A sufficiently surreal starting spot, and one that leads way to a story that… takes the personal bent of the Friday Updates of re:Dreamer and brings it to a whole new level, while telling an utterly wild story.
A story that offers insights into Samantha the character, letting her flex her character beyond the narration and context of Zach, and without the summarizing of the World Information sections. Instead, allowing her to react and bounce off of an impossible event as she tries to make like a detective and deduce some logic out of this bizarre situation.
A story that explores the genre of the writer meeting their own fictional character. The dread and rage that come from the awareness that there is a God and they’re just some fucked up lonely writer who is responsible for every hardship and speck of loss in their life. That one’s suffering is merely entertainment. And that one’s life may be forever frozen upon the story’s conclusion. (Which, while good for drama, I vehemently disagree with. Reality does not stop when it stops being observed, and writing lacks any magical properties to manifest sub-realities.)
But more than anything else… This is the story about the heart and soul of re:Dreamer. The story of CaptainCaption.
This route is about CaptainCaption coming to terms with themself in so, so many ways. Their own chaotic gender identity, fluctuating between masculine and feminine at seemingly random intervals, even as they literally reside within the body of their source of gender envy. Their fear of their own death, loss of mobility, and loss of mind as their debilitating condition looms over them. Their own issues with sex and intimacy that prevented them from pursuing a romantic relationship.
It does a lot to make the reader feel as if they are getting to know CaptainCaption as a person, see their self without any filter or barriers… only for CaptainCaption to claim that is a lie. That they overshare so many elements of their life not as a way to share themself with the world while they still can, but a way to protect their true self. A self that they hid away in a tiny box, because they deeply, viscerally, hate it. A self that was left in a state where it could never grow. A self hidden behind masks and disguises so tightly wound that they could not be removed. A self that nobody ever got to know. A self that CaptainCaption themself does not know or understand. And a self, a true unabashed self, that may have never been alive.
They don’t want to be so angry, they don’t want to be such a hothead, they don’t want to have such rigid morals, such obsessions. But no matter how much they try… they cannot escape this untrue self they have locked themself into.
Because of that… CaptainCaption projects. They look at Samantha’s art, at pretty anime girls, and project themself onto them, wishing to be them, to live within the lie that they can be someone else. Someone they cannot be due to the limitations of reality and, no matter how much they want it, that cannot change.
…Oh god, I hope I didn’t butcher their words and feelings in writing that. Because the last thing I want to do is tell CaptainCaption who they are.
The concept of the self is a nebulous little clump of shit that has been the fixation of philosophers for millennia, and I’m not going to pretend that I know more about it than someone as well-read as CaptainCaption. But… I will say that when one dies, their ‘true self’ dies, and all that is remembered is the self left behind. The self imbedded in their work, in their words, and those who touched their lives. And CaptainCaption, with re:Dreamer alone, has touched people in a way that… only a small percentage of people ever get the opportunity to. It might not be as impressive or glorious, not on the scale as CaptainCaption’s grandfather, and far from the dream they held 24 years ago.
However, they did create something so deeply connected to their cumulative self, so personal, that it is hard nigh impossible to divorce from its creator, and with the more I learn about them, the richer their story is.
To highlight the most obvious example, one of my minor gripes with the cast of the game was how… everybody within re:Dreamer has some relationship to the idea of greatness. Zach was raised to be a prodigy. Samantha is a polymath. Kevin played a massive role in various unions. Keisuke is a sports prodigy. And Britney is a master in her own craft.
It all makes sense, and gives the story texture by having characters struggle or fail to meet the greatness that was ‘within their reach.’ But something about it did not click with me… until I learned about just how much respect and reverence that CaptainCaption holds for their grandfather. How, from such a young age, they wanted to achieve a similar greatness, but had this opportunity stolen from them by mental illness and was “diagnosed with a death sentence.”
Knowledge like this adds another dimension to these characters, to this story, as it is one of the boundless fragments of self that CaptainCaption put into re:Dreamer. And because of this, because of the sheer magnitude of self present here, because of the personality, because of the boggling amount of effort… I don’t think. I know that they will not be forgotten. That re:Dreamer will not be forgotten. Because a work like this cannot be forgotten.
…Oh shit, this was supposed to be a TSF Showcase, wasn’t it? …Except this involved a real person getting TSF’d (Trans-Sexual Fantastical’d), so is that… No. This is too deeply personal for it to be a TSF Showcase, and I don’t feel right applying the Trans-Sexual Fiction label to works involving real people. I did it with Intertoids back in 2012, but that was a mistake. …But doing it with Nate Neumann in 2021? Nah, that was justice.
TSF Showcase #2023-36
Shisutaabooi by Joe Six-Pack
Ah crud, I was really hoping that re:Dreamer segment would count for a TSF Showcase, so… shit, nothing I could bring up from my bag would be half as interesting as that. So… I really should just have a list of potential works or something and— wait, nevermind, I found something! It’s weird, old, racist, and cool! It smells like grandpa and tastes just like him too! And like grandpa, it also requires some context.
So… one of my life goals is to eventually form a massive repertoire of written content, mostly meaning TSF short stories and novels, that I can look back on, point at, and eventually spread wherever I can. It’s kind of the goal behind all of my creative works. That and trying to make something good.
Now, even though that is a life goal, I still spend precious time working on these Rundowns. Why is that? Because I have a platform, damn it, and I want to champion and celebrate people who make dope shit, and have been making dope shit since 2001!
Joe Six-Pack is up there with Tira as being one of the most enduring and prolific TG/TSF creators I have ever seen, and the sheer library of their stuff is kind of insane to me. They have writings spanning two decades, dozens of comics written and illustrated by themself along with a bunch of collaborations. Archives of TG sites from two decades ago. A repository of links to TG sites that I… definitely used back in 2011.
So, Shisutaabooi is a rather unconventional story, as it is told through a series of emails between two friends, each of which contains a picture of the main protagonist. Things progress in snippets over the span of 8 months, and the formatting alone gives the story a unique feel. Like the reader is investigating documents for some unknown purpose. It reminds me of digging through client emails for an IRS audit and digging through leaked FTC emails, but fun!
The emails tell the story of Chad Rivers, a 15-year-old American boy who goes to Japan as part of an exchange student program and treats the experience the way one would expect an American dude to circa 2001. Being very racist toward Japanese people, using terms like “japs” and “slanted eyes.” Fetishizing “Asian girls” as a thing of unique sexual value, and getting really excited about lower age of consent laws. All while being an ungrateful sonuvabitch who prefers to bitch about things for being different, instead of trying to understand why they are different.
Chad’s an ass—a realistic sort of ass who captures many prevailing attitudes among his era and demographic— and that makes him a prime candidate for a transformation story like this.
After about a month of this behavior, Chad’s host family, the Hosogawas (a likely misspelling of Hasegawa), have had enough of his behavior and decide that he needs to to begin his transformation. One fulfilled by eating Oreos that “smell like medicine” and playing a video game named Absorption. An addictive and difficult genre-shifting game that has psychological effects on the player. For the record, this was written about four years after the Polybius urban legend first appeared online.
With the influence of drugs, psychoactive conditioning, and a geisha makeover (because of course) Chad gradually starts acclimating to their new life, and the persona they express in their emails to Mike begins to change. His grammar becomes more proper and less casual. He stops cursing. He is more receptive to things that, just a few weeks/months ago, he would have hated. and is physically undergoing the effects of accelerated mid-pubescent HRT. (Side thought, if the brain controls hormone production, couldn’t mind control be used to induce a biologically driven HRT, or at least disable the production of certain hormones?)
During this time, Chad also loses the ability to read Mike’s replies, if he left any, leaving Chad alone as he continues to descend deeper and deeper, his body thinning and “swelling” as his mind becomes achy. As his clothing choices grow more feminine. As he begins confiding in his magical all-seeing bear, Kentaro. And as he begins doing ‘Japanese girl stuff’ like Comiket cosplay and hitting the streets of Tokyo as a ganguro girl. Well, okay, it’s “Yamamba” but that’s just a misspelled subset of the proud art of Japanese blackface fashion.
It initially seems as if the indoctrination is complete, that Chad will fully embrace this new persona, but he has a revelation, recognizes that he was abused, that his identity had been suffocating, and tries to escape. Wearing his old ill-fitting clothes as he sends his final message to Mike, ready to escape his capture. …Only for things to jump forward 7 weeks, with a ‘machine translated’ message from the email account of one Yuki Hosogawa.
The hero failed, the indoctrination was complete, and Yuki… sure seems plenty happy with her new life. Then, after her email reaches Mike’s email address, she gets a reply from Mika, explaining she was sent back to Japan from an exchange program in America, her favorite game is Absorption, and implying that she likes Oreos.
Gosh, this story is so freaking cool. The email and JPG attachment format is a wonderfully creative Web 1.0 way to tell a condensed narrative. The lore about these super HRT Oreos and this PlayStation game that can turn people into a Japanese girl is such a buck wild premise that I wish I came up with it first. But I was literally seven when this story was written. And I found the story to be pleasantly centrist in how it can be read as a horror-flavored identity death story, and an identity rebirth story. Because losing one’s sense of self, family, language, and country is kinda bad… Yuki and Mika sure seem peachy with their new lives.
Things like Shisutaabooi remind me of how easy it is for cool and interesting works to get lost to the doldrums of time. How easy it would have been for me to never find this story or forget about if I didn’t do a deep dive and save a PDF back in 2015. Actually, that is not only a problem with TSF media, but a lot of independently created media in general.
However, I suppose that that is the point of a showcase like this. To keep the word around, and spread something even decades after its release.
…And now I feel like I need to become a TG historian, even though I’m really not the best person for that, and don’t really want to be. I’d be happy to help someone— like Natalie.TF hall-of-famer Chari Shal. But I’ve got too many projects on my plate to be a lead on anything.
Header image comes from Joe Six-Pack’s DeviantArt page.
Digital Eclipse Is No Longer Independent
(Atari Acquires Digital Eclipse)
“COCK! BITCH! FUCKING SHIT! COCK IN MY EAR FULL OF FUCKING SHIT!” Natalie said as she woke up and saw this headline, paraphrasing Jaime Le Fay A.K.A. TheAmazingBrando’s Super Mario World song. Shit’s like it’s straight from 2009.
Atari is a shell of a company that has died and been bought out so many times that I cannot have any confidence in their leadership. They are an IP and nostalgia dragon who profit off of the work that is so divorced from what the company is that I find it hard to respect them. Whenever I think of their more modern incarnation, the first two things that come to mind was their spin-off NFT company, and their attempt to revive series like Alone in the Dark and Asteroids back in 2015. Also, they tried to release their own console, the Atari VCS, and while that is somehow still getting new games, two years after launch, it always struck me as a system that exists to entice collectors and investors. Not something to be played.
That being said, I also want Atari to do well, because they bought MobyGames— one of the greatest resources for video game history, credits, box art, and general information. They are one of the first resources I use to learn about obscure developers, and I use their API for my expansive game collection. So if Atari ever encounters trouble… MobyGames might just be shut down, which would be one of the saddest days in gaming history.
Meanwhile, Digital Eclipse has gradually transformed from the developers of some of the best gaming collections into something more. They are creators of interactive gaming documentaries that chronicle the history of games and studios, alongside wonderfully emulated renditions of the original games. Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration and their remake of the highly influential Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord alone make the bulk of the industry look like a bunch of amateurs when they repackage old titles.
As such… I completely understand why Atari is acquiring Digital Eclipse. Digital Eclipse is a studio with skilled people who are incredibly good at what they do, but they need money and capital to take on more projects. And if they don’t take on these projects now… then a lot of history might just get lost. People who were making games in the 70s are in their 70s right now, and they’re going to start dying real fast.
The acquisition price is $20 million, which should be enough to fund a few projects. In exchange, Atari will receive access to not only one of the premiere historians, chroniclers, documentarians, and re-release powerhouses in the games industry, but also their relationships. Atari would be utter fools if they did not allow Digital Eclipse to pursue relationships with other game companies, in part because, if Digital Eclipse forms a good relationship, then Atari gets a good relationship too. And anybody who took a Business 101 class will tell you how often deals in big businesses are driven by two people knowing each other.
Devolver Digital’s Corporate Consumption Continues
(Devolver Digital Acquires System Era Softworks)
This is a pretty minor acquisition, so I’ll keep it brief. Devolver has a growing history of acquiring their development partners in order to grow into a larger publicly traded company. While I am not aware of any remarkably bad things they have done since attaining this position, I do find it frustrating when an independent publisher… stops being independent. It means they must adhere to a different set of values, most of which go against the plucky risk-taking nature of an independent entity.
They have bought plenty of development partners in the past, and I expected that to be the case here, but… not here. Instead, they bought a developer they have a “mutual admiration and friendship” with, System Era Softworks. A developer known for their routinely updated niche-filling PC-centric space exploration game, Astroneer. A title I never heard of until now, but seems like something Cassie has heard of…
Reading through System Era’s post on the acquisition, they underplay the loss of independence and position this as a way for them to better achieve the things they want to do. However, I think they might be underplaying the true reason. They have been around for a decade, they have been successful, but as they are ramping up development on a new title, they likely want/need outside funding of some variety, and want more security for the studio. An acquisition can address both things, and even with my less than enthused views on them, getting bought by Devolver is at least 60 times better than taking on debt with a venture capital fund.
…Also, this deal was for $40 million, which seems like a LOT for an independent studio, but I guess Astroneers might be far bigger than it appears to be.
Sony is Buying Up A Video Delivery Company For Their Cloud Streaming
(Sony Announces Acquisition of iSIZE)
Okay, this one is an all-American nothingburger, so I’ll make this extra quick. Sony has historically bought companies to help them with their streaming efforts, as seen with their acquisitions of Gaikai and OnLive’s patents back in 2012 and 2015 respectively. They are currently pushing PlayStation Plus as a major cloud gaming service, but their offerings are less than stellar at the moment. So they are buying ISIZE, a company to help them deal with one of the biggest issues with game streaming.delivering quality high bitrate video to people.
It seems like it should be simple, but it requires a lot of complex math and programs to deliver good looking video without taking up a bunch of bandwidth. And with modern games being so busy visually, they are genuinely harder to play at lower resolutions.
Also, the press release mentions they are a ‘deep learning’ and ‘AI’ company, but that’s just a bunch of fooey and hooplah. AI can mean whatever people want it to mean, and every tech company worth their salt jumps on the next big tech trend. It was blockchain crap a few years back, and now it’s AI.
Net Ease is BACK with Another New Studio
(After a 5 Month Hiatus, NetEase Announces Their Tenth New Studio Since 2020)
NetEase, for everything’s sake, STOP MAKING NEW STUDIOS! The list of new studios they have established since 2020 is as follows: Sakura Studio, Nagoshi Studio, Studio Flare, and PinCool Inc in Tokyo, GPTRACK50 in Osaka, Jackalope Games in Austin, Jar of Sparks in Seattle, Anchor Point in Seattle and Barcelona, and Bad Brain Game Studios in Montreal and Toronto. None of which have released anything since their founding. But… I guess that’s just not enough!
Their latest studio is called Fantastic Pixel Castle, a remote studio who is set to develop MMOs, a genre that has been dying out in favor of its successor, live services. The studio is being headed by former Blizzard and Riot developer, Greg Street, who I wouldn’t trust based on that rap sheet alone. And unlike prior new NetEase studios, they at least have a project they want to announce. A grand fantasy MMO known under the working title of Ghost. Which… is a rather bold title, because if the game gets canceled, then the headlines and jokes write themselves.
NetEase is ultimately creating jobs when they establish new studios like this— which is needed after all of these damn layoffs. But that does not mean I like the idea of an already massive company launching these studios to acquire more resources, clout, and influence over the games industry. Especially one with intrinsic ties to the Chinese government.
Sonic Dream Team Looks Like An Official 3D Sonic Fan Game
(This Is the Closest Thing We’ve Gotten to Sonic Adventure Since 2006)
If there is any singular series that I would vehemently insist that parents do not allow their children to touch, it would be Sonic the Hedgehog. Because a childhood where one grows up with these games will lead to complex feelings lingering in one’s adolescence that will then persist into their adult life. Sonic is a series with such imposed importance, inherited from an advertisement-dictated narrative presented to impressionable children. And one that manages to function as… the most powerful neurodivergent mind-worm I have ever seen.
Once one is a Sonic fan, the remnants of being a Sonic fan will always remain. It is alarmingly easy to inherit some degree of shame/trauma/discomfort over the series’s fraught history. And try as one might, it is very difficult to escape the allure of the series.
Akumako: “Natalie’s first video game was Sonic 1. Her first 3D game was Sonic Adventure 2 Battle. She played Sonic 2 while at the dentist’s office from age 6 to 12, which she went to every 4 months because her teeth were genetically fucked. She reviewed Sonic every mainline Sonic game except for Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) from 2016 to 2019. And she used images like this as masturbation fodder as a teen. Also, she wrote Sonic fan fiction in elementary school, and her first webcomic was Sonic and Pals.”
And that is why I say that one should treat Sonic like black tar heroin and never give it to children. Not even on Halloween!
Anyway, I bring this up because, two weeks after Sonic Superstars released to a… mixed to positive reception— pretty similar to Sonic Frontiers, actually— Sega announced the next Sonic game! …An Apple Arcade exclusive mobile title!
Apple Arcade is something that I agree with on principle, as I think there are many wonderful games available for mobile platforms, but many of them are made materially worse due to their monetization. Mobile games were supposed to be a fresh new start for the industry, but failed to reach their promised potential due to the machinations of capitalism and user retention. Mobile games had the potential to be so much more, but then they— like most mobile software, honestly— turned into engagement traps.
In part because of this association… I think there is just a disinterest in the idea of using phones to play ‘real games’ among a significant number of users. Games require interactivity and attention, while phones have increasingly become something people use to dawdle about during the liminal lulls of their life. Sure, you can highlight how many people play mobile games, but the way they are played is often fundamentally different than that of a console or PC game. They are designed not around interconnected campaigns, but instances that rarely take more than a few minutes. And any game that aims to do something more than that… honestly feels like it is going against the newly established ‘point’ of mobile games and—
Akumako: “Natalie, we’re almost 500 words into this segment. Talk about the actual game!”
Sega and their subsidiary Hardlight announced a new Sonic mobile game, entitled Sonic Dream Team. Not to be confused with the GOAT Sonic fangame, Sonic Dreams Collection, or Team Sonic Racing. A 3D action platformer that looks like the closest thing to the Adventure format seen since Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) kind of stabbed that mechanical subseries with a javelin through the face.
The worlds are colorful and vibrant, if a bit basic in terms of assets, but also wide and open, with bits of dream world flair to make the environments feel a touch more creative. The game features high speed— but seemingly boost-free— running. Character specific movement techniques. A more combat-driven focus based on the fixation of boss battles. And a total of six playable characters with Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Cream, and Rogue. Though, they do only have three unique gameplay styles, which I think is a good compromise. That’s what they did in Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Heroes.
So, what’s the catch here? Well, the game will only have 12 levels across four environments, which strikes me as half enough to fill a typical Sonic game. And this game is being developed by the de facto Sonic mobile developers, behind Sonic Jump, Sonic Dash, Sonic Forces Speed Battle, and Sonic Racing. This is a significant genre shift for them… but I have a feeling it will be about on par with those many proof of concept Sonic test demos people put out every few months. Which you can interpret either as a compliment or an insult.
Sonic Dream Team will be released exclusively on Apple Arcade on December 5.
Fiery Red Passion
(Natalie Rambles About Pokémon – Flash Filmic Fanworks)
So, in my infinite wisdom, I have just been burying myself into a hole of Pokémon obsession, fueled by the fact that my YouTube recommendations are now chock full of PokéTuber stuff. Meaning that when I’m eating a meal or working on some more non-writing stuff, I will probably put on something that seems interesting. Now, is it interesting? Well, it’s what my autistic stimulation gluttonous youth-some mind craves, and that’s the actual important thing.
However, between the Pokémon kit redesign essays/narrated abridged playthroughs and the fan art/theory showcases, I managed to find a most curious curiosity. A 3.5 hour long animated film based on the events of Pokémon Red, its remakes, fan theories, and things that the creator, Pedro Araujo, just thought were neat. Simply entitled Pokémon RED FULL GAME ANIMATION.
If I had to succinctly describe this feature length film— and I do, as it’s sorta my job— I would say this is like a long-lost Newgrounds animation series from 2010 that one dude worked on throughout high school. It is a work with often slapdash and basic animation and visual design. A work with a palpable immaturity to it given its fixations on shonen-style masculine strength, the way it interjects more ‘mature’ elements, and its attempts to make the story of a child friendly game more ‘serious.’ A work with a… potently lecherous way it presents female characters, particularly ones who are supposed to be minors. A transformative approach that is more akin to fanfiction than anything professional given its particular indulgences. But, most importantly, it has a wild sense of ambition.
I have seen a LOT of people start projects with a grand scope and promise to do something on a scale like this, but it is incredibly rare to see someone actually go through with it. …And Araujo did not take the easy or lazy way to get there.
This is a largely silent story, mostly using rips/edits/covers of music and sound effects from Pokémon Red and other games in the series, and places heavy emphasis on the visual language of its presentation. Which is strong enough to stand on its own, and not need any dialogue, due to how expressive its characters are and how well things are conveyed through gestures and props. It also means no crummy bedroom voice acting, which I adore, but will admit to be an acquired taste.
Rather than bulk up its runtime with drawn-out scenes, like your typical weekly anime, things move fast in this film. Not in the sense that it ever feels rushed, but in the sense that the creator wants to keep the viewer engaged. To show them what they know, what they expect, and lure them in for when… this story decides to toss in its own personality and interpretations.
Things start innocuously enough, throwing in a scene where Red hunts for aliens/Clefairys with the kids on Route 3. Fixating on Brock’s use of bide during the first boss battle, and even keeping bide as part of Red’s Charizard’s moveset. Having Red not only use TMs, but use them on… what honestly looks like a PlayStation, which is weird, but also neat. Having Red and Misty form a romantic relationship where they make out a bunch, because of course the protagonist has to have a fling with the redhead swimmer girl.
But then… it just keeps on going, keeps on finding ways to throw in new ideas, new concepts, into an almost painfully familiar story, until it manages to feel like something unique. Something born from the creator’s own imagination, inspired by fan theories, based on what he wanted to see.
For example, Giovanni in the original 1996/1998 game… is pretty much just a mafia boss. What he does, why he does it, is all only explained through small bits of text, and he does not have any clear motivation beyond a desire for power and greed. This is not a bad thing, and was built upon in subsequent games, but rather than just do the boring thing and make him evil, this film reimagines his origins.
It makes Giovanni into someone who was obsessed with discovering the origins of Pokémon, who has been fascinated in the mythical Pokémon of Mew for as long as he could remember. But despite his clear passion, his fascinations were never respected by those around him. He wrote papers, asked for funding, only to be rejected every time..
Out of desperation, Giovanni then decided to take matters in his own hands, to get the capital and resources he needed by resorting to a life of crime. Leading him to sell his rarest Pokémon, and found Team Rocket. By going down this dark path, by sacrificing his optimism and drive in favor of sheer obsession, he became the person he needed to be to achieve these goals. A vindictive and bitter crime lord who desires power and vengeance above everything else. And you know what? He gets it. He actually gets the Master Ball, captures Mewtwo, and uses it to launch an assault on Kanto.
Oh, but Red doesn’t just beat Mewtwo with four badges to his name. Hell no. It takes the combined power and determination of everyone to win, and the Silph Co. building gets destroyed in the process!
Or to use another example, this film makes the curious decision to reprise the whip-wielding Sabrina from the original GameBoy games, which was never seen in any subsequent title for obvious reasons. It draws from this design, and in the process, goes against every pre-existing interpretation of her character, transforming her into an abused psychic who, as a child, was exploited for her supernatural abilities. This has left her with trauma and pain that she had tried to repress by amassing power and becoming someone cold, vindictive, and even cruel. Someone who wields a whip to remind her of the power she now possesses— that she rightfully possesses— but when confronted with a greater power, with someone with a grand destiny, her sense of power shatters.
Her repressed memories bubble up to the surface, threatening to consume her, and as she finds herself sinking into this abyss of fear and despair, Red grabs her. He saves her, frees her from the dark confinement she has defined as her home, bringing her into the light of the evening sun, reassuring her that her future, the future of this world, will be a bright one.
Now, is this original? No, but fuck originality. You don’t need originality if you really believe in what you are trying to do, and are able to ingrain that effort into the final product. And this film absolutely does that. It has heart. It has soul. It has passion. It absolutely succeeds in everything it tries to do. And it is not only comfortable with its more adolescent or ‘shameful’ indulgences, it executes them with pride.
Can it be kind of dumb and feature some weird decisions that don’t quite hit? Yeah. The training montage after the gym battle with Lt. Surge is… surreal. The way it implements the Mew and Missingno glitches are also… not the way I would have thought to handle them. Sometimes… the film just looks like ass. And when viewing things from a broader perspective, you can tell this was being built on over time, and the scope of the story changed.
However, if you showed this to me in 2010, at age 15, hot off of playing HeartGold, I would say that this was the coolest thing ever. It captures a lot about what is great about fan transformations of works, is an interesting adaptation in its own right, and while it might not do everything great, the most important thing is that it does it. It’s so easy for a big project like this to just never happen, but this dude did it. He freaking did it! And is cranking out a sequel film, like a freaking machine.
All in all, I would easily recommend it, so long as you have similar brain damage as me!
Progress Report 2023-11-05
Blackface! Blackface! Blackface!
Akumako: “Natalie, please. Stop it with your fucking Japanese blackface fixation.”
Cocaine, cocaine, cowboy, like Mickey Monday! Mickey!
Akumako: “Such a poor child. We should have never let her listen to the nerdcore…”
When they sayin’ it’s 42 for that white powder, I nose better!
2023-10-29: I was busy hanging out with Cassie and working on the Jurassic Park ramble, but made some difficult to quantify work on my Dragalia V3 project. Mostly just reviewing the data inputs, but because the data is so vast, it is hard to review everything.
2023-10-30: I tried to come up with a solution for getting Excel to work with images. This was an issue encountered previously, and I wound up reaching the point where I accepted that Excel just does not work well with transparent PNGs. While the image quality is retained and the compression is good, everything gets a murky border around it. However, I managed to both automate the process by use of the (new to me) IMAGE function within Excel 365. This allows me to directly pull images from a URL and insert them into a spreadsheet, and it works like magic. However, the URLs from the incredible Dragalia Lost Wiki did not follow a reliable format, so I took a drastic action. I renamed and uploaded thousands of Dragalia Lost art assets to Natalie.TF, because my WordPress file naming structure is more reliable:
Well, I break mine up by year and then month, so in the long run, it is NOT a good method for image referencing. However, it works here, since I uploaded everything today! And I exported 100 PDFs for adventurers. Only ~400 PDF exports to go!
2023-10-31: I realized I screwed up the font and formatting for the adventurer exports. This is partially due to how wrapped text in Excel always uses 1.2 line spacing. Partially due to the length variability of these data points. And partially because of some typographical errors. I changed my methodology so that I systematically update every PDF after exporting. This sucks, but I can see the ending…
2023-11-01: I got fed up with doing exports for the dragons, so I decided to work on creating printable versions of the other 20-ish spreadsheets that are part of this project. This is just work at this point, plain and simple. Except I ain’t getting paid $50 an hour, and this is harder than crypto shit.
2023-11-02: All the shit has been exported, I don’t CARE that the font for adventurers is too small to be read, I don’t WANT to re-export 160 PDFs or edit them. Because you know what 160 times 3 is? 480. And how many hours are in 480 minutes? EIGHT! I’m not spending a full work day correcting a formatting fuck up when the info is still there.
2023-11-03: …So I decided to re-export and re-edit the first 160 adventurers, because the work product looked unacceptable next to the later revisions. It’s okay, I hate me too! Also, I made a cover and some visual assets.
2023-11-04: UGH! I am finally editing the main word document after exporting all of the PDFs. But then I found errors that would require me to redo some of the easier PDFs. I should get V3 Re;Works done sometime next week. Still not putting it out until November 30th though!
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: 206
Akumako: “What separates the good art from bad art is not the skill of the artist, is not their craft and how refined it is. It is the passion they put into it, and their ability to bring their vision to life.”