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  • WoawBeeko! posted an update 1 month ago

  • Ori and the Blind Forest is a game that got me wondering what I look for in art, and why, and how to approach what art is to me in a review.

    This post has two very distinct parts I could not make harmonious; […]

    • Interesting thoughts. I often feel like I have very high — perhaps prohibitive — standards when it comes to art; I tend to feel the “meh” sensation you describe an awful lot. Personally, I diagnosed it as a counterculture outlook; I prefer (increasingly exclusively) art that bucks trends and defies the way things are normally supposed to go, and just by their nature that stuff is going to be uncommon. It breeds a kind of cynicism; I sort of have to resign myself to the likelihood that even indie or “weird” stuff is going to end up conforming to the standard narratives in the end, and be pleasantly surprised when they don’t rather than actively hopeful. Things were different once, but Steven Universe killed that hope pretty dead.

      Also, I worry that I entered the metroidvania genre by playing the best one and now I don’t know what to do, send help.

      You did indeed. I do enjoy several of the Castlevanias myself; Symphony of the Night is particularly popular. They’re still not as good as Hollow Knight though.

      If you want something slightly adjacent to the traditional metroidvania experience, check out Craze’s metroidvania RPGs. I actually made a Reddit post about similar games that are metroidvanias in spirit without being platformers, but I didn’t find much.

      Edit: Why do links no longer work in the RichText editor.

      • I tend to approach art as food: not every meal is going to be earth-shattering, but it fills you up and elevates the good stuff when you have it.

      • I’ve always chalked it up to overload — I think when you play/read/watch as much media as you and I have, you see so many things being done over and over that it takes something really special to rise above the noise. So it ends up in that weird spot where it’s neither good nor bad enough to be entertaining relative to everything else.

        Def an interesting thread, though I will vote against Rain World. It was a game where I think the dev got exactly what they were going for except the problem was it wasn’t any fun. I think it has the exact kind of hard-to-be-hard gameplay you’d really dislike, too.

    • Hm, yeah, I can see how Ori would kind of just get a ‘meh’ from someone looking for more. For me, it was great more for the experience of four adults sitting on a couch together for the first time since they were kids to play a video game. We weren’t looking for more than the game offered, so we all dug it.

       

      Also, I worry that I entered the metroidvania genre by playing the best one and now I don’t know what to do, send help.

      You did, unfortunately. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Hollow Knight is the complete experience. There seems to be some stirring of interest in the genre once again, with people recreating Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with a fake mustache and other stuff, but you’re probably just better off waiting for Silksong.

      • I’ve been playing a farm sim called Forager and there’s a Hollow Knight skin so I’ve just been wearing it everywhere pretending it’s actually a HK spinoff.

    • This is a good post! It’s true that reviews are so horribly specific to the person doing the reviewing, their own taste and personal experiences and the context that they bring to a piece of art. What you mention about not being as unimpressed with Ori if you hadn’t played anything like it before makes me think of everything I adored as a teenager; a lot of it, looking at it now, was meh if not actively bad. But it still had immense power to make an impression on me, because at the time I’d never encountered anything like it. It was more about my own experience, and what those things made me realize was possible, than anything the creator was doing, necessarily.

      I don’t know that I can really imagine a group of people setting out to make a <i>pleasant</i> game, as such… I don’t know of anyone who really begins from a place of, “I want to make a thing that’s just kind of okay.” If it’s something they’re under contract to do and just need to vomit it out to get paid, sure, but I don’t see much evidence that that’s what’s going on in this particular case. But with video games especially, which are hugely collaborative, I think it can be pretty easy for vision to get *diluted*–everybody works on their own thing without really tying it strongly back to the overall desired experience. Even if the team started out with a desire to <i>do something</i>, it’s easy to end up with something where the pieces aren’t all pointing in the same direction, and where some may be actively working against others, and where the central thread is weakened as a result. When it comes to making art, especially in industries like gaming, I think that people often have ambition, but also a ton of shit happens simply as part of the process… Sort of amazing that anything really stellar and cohesive ever ends up getting made at all, actually!

      •  makes me think of everything I adored as a teenager; a lot of it, looking at it now, was meh if not actively bad. But it still had immense power to make an impression on me, because at the time I’d never encountered anything like it. It was more about my own experience, and what those things made me realize was possible, than anything the creator was doing, necessarily.

        There’s a part of me that NEVER EVER wants to revist formative works of mine for this reason, lol, I don’t want to be like, fuck, this really sucks, I was just a kid. I prefer to let certain things live forever in that retrospective bubble.

        I don’t know that I can really imagine a group of people setting out to make a <i>pleasant</i> game, as such… I don’t know of anyone who really begins from a place of, “I want to make a thing that’s just kind of okay.”

        I don’t think it’s so much an active “Let’s make it just okay,” as it tends to be a passive focusing on the wrong things. I think a not-insignificant portion of indie games are born less from a creative spark and more from people who like games wanted to make a game for the sake of making one, and as a result they end up focusing on things like putting all their effort into background art (seriously, why are indies so obsessed with background art) instead of things like story-gameplay integration. I think games are starting to hit the level of ubiquity that previously was only applicable to novels where people so take them for granted that no one stops to think about how much artistry goes into good ones; if you can speak you can write a novel becomes if you’ve played a game why not make one. While I’m very much in favor of art being accessible, it does have the consequence of diluting the pool a bit.

  • Inside: Niche, Guacamelee!, I & Me

    Niche
    Turn-Based Strategy

    The first problem with Niche (A GENETICS SURVIVAL GAME, as it insists on obnoxiously subtitling itself in my Steam library) is that while it […]

    • I am also HIGHLY suspicious of three guys names Chris Harvey, Ryan MacLean and Graham Smith writing Mexican people as lecherous assholes.

      Hahaha, yikes. In somewhat related news, I was naturalized last week! Yes, American citizenship is definitely still something to be proud of. Now Chris, Ryan, Graham and I are countrymen, brothers even. Feels good.

      I mean, this sort of thing is bound to happen, particularly in America’s current political atmosphere. Amusingly, Mexicans have little to do with the current immigration waves. Ah, racism.

      • Yes, American citizenship is definitely still something to be proud of.

        Is it? Is it really?

        Naw, I’m just messing with you. Congratulations, Roarke! :-)

      • Congrats! I fantasize every day about fleeing to Canada, a magical place where medical bills don’t ruin your life and there aren’t mass shootings every week.

        John Oliver talks sometimes about how weird it is to be an immigrant where you’re so happy to be here and love the country so much but also are hyperaware of its problems and the weird cognitive dissonance that creates. It’s interesting to hear, because I’m coming to the middle from the complete opposite side; I grew up in a very MURRICA household and — like a lot of similar millenials, I think — am having to contest with all the “this country is the best” stuff I got fed was utter bullshit.

        Anyway, 2019’s slogan for me has been, “Is the world really an irredeemable dumpster fire or is that just my depression talking? Who knows!”

    • Update: Aritana and the Harpy’s Feather has been on my list for a while, can’t believe I forgot about it.

      I renew my recommendation! :-)

    • I had a similarly lackluster experience with Niche, but for different reasons. I was really drawn to being able to breed for certain characteristics, so that was what I was playing for and it was just /so/ /tedious/. I spent three times the amount of time playing the game just writing down the potential breeding pairing and each units traits and age, trying to keep track of everything so that I didn’t breed in a blood weakness and trying to preserve as many letter types immune systems as I could. I realized that, while it had potential to be fun as a breeding game, it wasn’t with the current interface because of the dearth of functions to sort through your breeding options, so I dropped it. Different experience from you, but same result.

      • Yep, same. I also thought the tutorial really skimped on explaining the breeding mechanics.

         

        You might like Equilinox — it’s going to be in the accompanying QuickRecs post, and I found that it scratched the itch Niche didn’t. It’s more macro than Niche — you’re working on evolving whole ecosystems instead of individuals — but I’ve really been enjoying it.

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  • So, I decided to try out Devil Survivor 2. I reviewed the first game a while back; this one is a spiritual successor kind of sequel, with no direct relation to the first game’s events. I did not like it nearly as […]

    • God, finally someone who had the same experience with this game as I did! Except how I accidentally let Keita die and felt bad about it at the time. Also, I played the 3DS version which came with an extra storyline that was also really blargh. It’s just more blather about how Yamato is the bestest and really good and cool while glossing over the fact that he’s a horrid person. I had a huge writeup about this game mouldering in Google Drive for years. It may finally be time to set it free! If you’d be interested. I actually did rant about it a little a few weeks ago when FGO was stressing me out.

      A lot of the blehhhh story makes more sense when you consider it’s a REALLY derivative story: nothing in the storyline hasn’t been done better by SMT: Nocturne, including the evil social darwinist leader. Chiaki <3333333

      Surprised you didn’t mention the huge sexism problems. Because like a lot of modern Atlus games, it’s sexist as hell.

      I also have a lot of thoughts about how the Neutrality alignment has deoriated from a legitimate stand against an unfair system, choosing your own path and rejecting the existing ideas of how the world should be (law and chaos) to the kind of wishy-washy centrist “the status quo is fine and if you want to change it you’re bad” attitude described in this post. I think it’s symptomatic of a lot of changes in Atlus’ creative process in general. A lot of their earlier stuff is rough and experimental and unafraid of doing things that would make its players feel bad. Like, in the first Etrian Odyssey, your party is pretty morally awful in that they do genocides for tourism, ruin the town’s economy, and the final boss is the guy who’s trying to fix the post-apocalyptic earth. When the game got remade for the 3DS years later they retconned all that out in favor of a generic save the world story.

      If this is more representative of the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole, I can’t say I’m impressed.

      I’d say this is pretty representative of the newer SMT games, so agreed.

      I could rant about Atlus games more since I love to do that because they’re an endless well of disappointment but I’m going to stop before this post gets too big.

      • Like, in the first Etrian Odyssey, your party is pretty morally awful in that they do genocides for tourism, ruin the town’s economy, and the final boss is the guy who’s trying to fix the post-apocalyptic earth.

        To be fair, the final boss who is trying to fix the Earth is also the one who mandated genocide. I don’t think you need to feel bad about that guy.

        One of the things I did appreciate about Dragon Age is that it did force you to choose between irreconcilable characters and decisions at certain points; I’d have liked to see that here.

        That was part of Bioware’s attempt at being ‘dark’ fantasy; it was a reaction to more or less the previous decade of wRPGs trying to always give a peaceful solution. I agree that they had the right idea to shake things up, at least, but I don’t remember how well-executed (or not) it was.

        • I agree that they had the right idea to shake things up, at least, but I don’t remember how well-executed (or not) it was.

          Very well-executed, in my opinion. That was one of my favorite features in the first game — I think you can see me gushing about it in one of the pokeauthors posts. Unfortunately they dialed it back a lot in the second game despite that being the one with a clear faction division — the only irreconcilable choice is between Anders and Sebastian, and Sebastian is too unlikable for that to have any pathos.

          Still wouldn’t have saved this game because the characters are so shallow I see no reason to choose people over ideology, but in theory it could have done a good job of selling the neutral route.

          • I would have been better off skipping DA2; I didn’t play Inquisition because of it.

            DA:O had, what, Loghain vs. Alistair, Harrowmont vs. that little shit brother, Branka vs. golem dude, yeah, I can see there were a lot of irreconcilable factions. I think it helps, actually, to have relatively smaller factions fighting in minor struggles while you try to unite people for a larger one, if you want them to be irreconcilable with one another. IIRC, you could make peace between the werewolves and Dalish, somehow. It actually felt even better among the backdrop of zero compromise.

            • I was also referring to the breaking point choices, like if you corrupt the sacred ashes with Leliana watching. Those hit really hard because it’s not just an inability to reconcile two strangers, it’s your own friends drawing a line. That’s exactly the kind of pathos DeSu2 needed for “Why can’t we all just get along?” to feel at all valid. When you can recruit everyone on the idealist routes anyway… what reason is there to go neutral at all?

              • Ah, yes. It was nice to actually lose companions sometimes if you offended their beliefs enough. That’s still not very common.

              • To be fair, why would you even?

                Though I suppose that if you side with crazy dragon cultists, you kinda deserve your party members leaving you.

              • Because it was the only way to get the Reaver specialization, duh. How else would I gain a title that edgy and grimdark?

                Also because, while I normally can’t stomach evil playthroughs, desecrating a holy person’s ashes and being treated like a huge douchebag for it is acceptably lulzy to me.

              • Just do the quest and reload, like a normal cheater. Specializations need to only be unlocked once and then stay unlocked forevermore even if you start a new game.

              • I didn’t get this far by going back on my whims. Unless Morrigan disapproves, then I HAVE to reload.

              • Though I suppose that if you side with crazy dragon cultists, you kinda deserve your party members leaving you.

                I just didn’t realize doing what they said would actually work. The dragon cultists were clearly crazy wrong about every other thing, they were specifically crazy wrong about why it would wreck the ashes, why would I think it’d work? They’re a holy relic, you think they’d be a bit more durable!

              • But everyone knows holy relics need to be extemely fragile to justify even more extreme measures to defend them!

              • Pokemon is trash 

            • I didn’t play Inquisition because of it.

              I’m playing it now after soft-dropping it a while back. It’s pretty OK. I’m not sure I like the open-world aspect of it. The navigation is rather clunky in that I have to constantly play the guessing game over whether I can jump on this rock or it’s actually an impassable barrier more powerful than any demon. Plus, I just generally prefer more limited-space RPGs. They’re tidy, easy to explore in full and find everything there is to them instead of abandoning some collections because fuck fine-combing vast spaces.

              Still, I’m mostly having fun with it. Being in charge of a major organization is cool, the characters are fairly likeable if a bit on the archetypal side (though some do have some interesting quirks and depth to them), there is a lot of side quests to lose yourself in (even if some of them are repetitive. No, I don’t really need to deal with the rifts in every single location I visit, thanks).

              It’s also doing OK on representation front, though it’s subtle like a brick wall about it. Pretty typical for Bioware, it’s reasonably progressive but really, really clumsy about it. It’s still better than the alternative, though.

              • Almost as soon as I picked up Inquisition and saw it had the same gameplay as 2, I dropped it. It’s like if you tried to play too many Bethesda open-world games in a row. Your body would revolt in self-defense. I was interested in seeing if the series would return to form in terms of writing – tone, characters, lore and the like – but I think I got to where Varric rejoined and just stopped.

      • Surprised you didn’t mention the huge sexism problems. Because like a lot of modern Atlus games, it’s sexist as hell.

        Oh it super is, but not in any way worth commenting on. The women are all fetishes and there’s gross anime perviness, but that’s not really anything new or notable. Unfortunately.

        It’s particularly a shame when the women were so good in the last game (even if the importance did slant male). Never thought I’d miss Yuzu but she was still better than any of the women here. :/

        Except how I accidentally let Keita die and felt bad about it at the time.

        Yeah he ends up joining the fascists, so nothing of value wast lost. I want to be sympathetic towards him since he’s just a kid and has traumatic backstory reasons for believing in social Darwinism, but… he’s still old enough to hold responsibility for his actions, and like all the demon tamers, is extremely dangerous.

        And you’re totally welcome to write up your own post if you want! We take guest reviews. Maybe you can tell me whether the earlier SMT games are worth looking at — I tried playing the first one but the gameplay was too opaque and grindy.

        • Oh it super is, but not in any way worth commenting on. The women are all fetishes and there’s gross anime perviness, but that’s not really anything new or notable. Unfortunately.

           

          Yeah, but the thing I was thinking of was the time you had to tell all your female party members to “act sexy for me” for important plot reasons. That moment pushed it from “ugh stupid anime shit but whatever” to “ugh this game”.

          Yeah he ends up joining the fascists, so nothing of value wast lost. I want to be sympathetic towards him since he’s just a kid and has traumatic backstory reasons for believing in social Darwinism, but… he’s still old enough to hold responsibility for his actions, and like all the demon tamers, is extremely dangerous.

          Yeah, I let him live on NG+ (and he can’t die in the new story content the 3ds remake adds anyways) so I did feel better about it later.

          Fuck Keita.

          And you’re totally welcome to write up your own post if you want! We take guest reviews. Maybe you can tell me whether the earlier SMT games are worth looking at — I tried playing the first one but the gameplay was too opaque and grindy.

          Sounds good to me! Should I submit it by email? I’m gonna have to tweak the post a little since it was initially intended as a forum post.

          The SNES SMT games aren’t really notable for their gameplay. I’d say they’re more notable for establishing a foundation and common archetypes for the series, so reading a LP for the story should be fine. I and II are mainline entries, and if is a weird side game that eventually led to the Persona series. Also one of the few games in the series with a female protagonist. And some decent female characters too. 2 female protagonists vs the legions of hell!

          PS2 era had a bunch more weird spinoffs that I haven’t played and also III aka Nocturne. It was intended to subvert a lot of established series motifs: the Law and Chaos heroes, the protagonist being a demon instead of a human with a computer program, and a really weird post apocalyptic setting with really striking aesthetics. It’s hard as balls and kind of dated and definitely has some goofy bits (I’m looking at you, Dante.) but it’s worth checking out. Especially because a lot of the ending routes in DS2 are trying to ape the aesthetics and ideas of  Nocturne’s Reasons without really ‘getting’ it.

          DS: You covered the Devil Survivors but I liked Strange Journey enough. Self-contained, adult protagonists, crunchy (painful) dungeon crawling. Not the remake though, it adds a bunch of dumb stuff that takes away from the original game (all you need to know about the remake is that Demeter is a little girl for no reason). First SMT game I played. Has a lot of callbacks to SMT I with the first person dungeon crawling and the storylines for the Law and Chaos heroes.

          3DS era: I feel like you’re gonna have the same issues with the original games you had with DS2 but the remakes (DS1/DS2, Soul Hackers) seem alright. Haven’t played any of the IV games but what little I heard seems pretty rage-worthy. Both in terms of the shitty ‘yaaaaaay the status quo is great’ takes on neutrality and the awful, pandering female characters.

          • Yeah, but the thing I was thinking of was the time you had to tell all your female party members to “act sexy for me” for important plot reasons. That moment pushed it from “ugh stupid anime shit but whatever” to “ugh this game”.

            Ohhh yeah. And the one who actually ends up doing it is Airi, the fifteen-year-old. I purposefully avoided talking to her in the leadup in the vain hopes that surely even this game had standards, and no.

            Should I submit it by email?

            Sure, we have a contact page in the navbar.

            Sounds like the SMT games wouldn’t be fun to play, but the LP Archive has LPs for a bunch of them, so I’ll check that out.

      • I could rant about Atlus games more since I love to do that because they’re an endless well of disappointment but I’m going to stop before this post gets too big.

        I’d like to hear your thoughts on Persona games (they’re still Atlus’ property, right?). I’ve heard some good things about the anti-authoritarian message of P5, but I can’t play it, so can’t really confirm them.

        P3-4 were an extremely mixed bag in regards to their social stances (the treatment of trans people in P3 is… ah… a thing, and I can rant about Kanji and Naoto in P4 for hours. There are just so much to unpack with them). On the other hand, at least I didn’t get the impression they were advocating for the shitty centrism, but it’s probably because they were focused more on personal struggles and connections over taking a look at the bigger picture (the way Naoto’s conflict is presented, even ignoring trans issues and focusing on sexism, is telling here).

        • I dunno how much I can help with the Persona series since I only played P3P and lost interest after they stopped adding female protagonists, but I did really like this review of P5 that focuses on the way it treats the female characters. My impressions are that the wish fulfillment-y bits of P5 get in the way of the anti-authoritarian aspects it wants to tell: i.e. it is hamstrung by the fear of making the audience uncomfortable lest it ruin their power fantasy. I think the term is ‘establishment punk’?

           

          What frustrates me about Atlus so much is the huge backslide they made in regards to progressiveness which I blame on the changes in management but that’s a different story. Why can the protagonist be gay in a game from 1999 but the only gay characters in their 2018 game are gross stereotypes? Digital Devil Saga has several noncis spoiler characters that aren’t treated in a gross way as well.

          • Thanks for the link. It was disappointing but not surprising. Persona games always had an issue with their female characters in the romantic context. I think the conclusion reached by the article, that the devs are willing to make a stance for progressive causes for only as long as it doesn’t get in the way of (presumed male) player’s empowerment fantasy, is the right one.

            Unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with Atlus’ history, so can’t make comments about it. I’m looking forward to your guest review, though.

            • Kinda reminds me of the difference between KnK and Tsukihime (both narratively and their initial commercial reception), or the Fate route of Fate/Stay Night. At the end of the day, these are media properties that need to be sold, and you’ve gotta remember the kind of person who buys this stuff in Japan.

              Just remember, one of Japan’s best selling light novel authors has fully admitted to being unable to write female characters who don’t fall in love with his male protagonists, and he seems far from being the only light novel author who can’t.

              No matter how progressive a story an author writes, in order to get it published to a wide audience, he’s going to have to get past the corporate fairy asking why neets and otaku will want to buy it.

              • To be fair, the work that has started the modern LN boom was Boogiepop, which gave us girl!Batman and was generally fairly decent with female characters, so I don’t think open pandering is inherent to LNs or that works devoid of it won’t be published. It’s just that fanservice-heavy works have an in-built audience that’s going to consume basically anything that’s technically readable, while abstaining from such elements and trying to sell your work on other merits carries more risks.

              • Eeeeeeh, I’d argue that, while Boogiepop started the original LN boom, the modern LN boom was started by OreImo, which… well. None of that stuff you said. Of course.

                There’s nothing inherently pandering about the Light Novel format (since, after all, it’s basically just a young adult novella with about a dozen illustrations), but the Light Novel genre has definitely decided that it’s going to be about not just pandering, but putting that pandering right in the title so you know what kind of pandering you’ll be getting. Choose Your Own Light Novel Plot below the Read More. And there’s no indication that’ll change any time soon.

                There are a lot of cringy manga (many of them based on light novels), but… for every trash manga, you could probably name a pretty good manga, or even a great manga. Good light novels are exceptionally few and far between, and most of them are older than the age of the demographic buying LNs today. Modern light novels are a hell of a lot less like Boogiepop than they are like The Middle-aged Man Who Just Returned From Another World Melts His Fathercon Daughters With His Paternal Skill.

                Which is a real light novel. That actually exists. And received a manga adaptation.

                In an world… : That’s an extremely generic fantasy world with unexplained video game mechanics that allow the author to make massive skills lists to pad out chapters on their LN website.

                … Our protagonist… : A.) Is a NEET who dies or commits suicide and is transported to the extremely generic fantasy world OR B.) is someone who acts exactly the same as A but was born in the extremely generic fantasy world.

                … Who is special because… : A.) He has a character class which is commonly viewed as the weakest, but through simple logic which would naturally occur to anyone who plays the class long enough, is secretly the strongest class OR B.) He is the strongest class.

                … And with this power he decides to… : A.) Live a slow-paced life of easy living OR B.) Get revenge on the normies who wronged him.

                … With a… : A.) Harem of cute girls OR B.) Harem of cute girls aquired through slaveomancy.

        • I think that was kind of intentional, at least as far as Persona 4 was concerned. It really learned hard into the persona one wears for themselves, especially compared to Persona 5, which was more about the persona one wears for society (though I can’t speak for P3, since I don’t really remember any of it).

          I think that’s part of why people interpreted Naoto as a commentary on transgender issues is because things like internalized transphobia essentially being that kind of self-denying persona; even though at one point she pretty much says her reasons for crossdressing are that if she had to choose between being a detective and being female, she’d pick being a detective in a heartbeat. The fact that people took it as a commentary on trans issues rather than sexism, despite the fact that she pretty much says “I present as a boy because girls can’t be detectives that’s just silly whoever heard of that” is… hm, I don’t know the word for it. Interesting in its own right,  suppose?

          Considering the rest of the story, if she was transgender, I feel like it would’ve made more sense if she started off trying to present as her birth gender and either being uncomfortable in that role or more comfortable in the other (depending on how they’d want to frame the story), and then slowly transitioning to presentation as her identified gender. Which… now that I think about it… is kind of like what actually does happen in the story, but in reverse: She starts off presenting as the gender she believes she needs to be perceived as in order to be accepted by society, and slowly shifts to showing her true self by the end (to the point she’s stopped crossdressing in that supplemental novel). And that’s kinda what Kanji does. He presents as hypermasculine to compensate for his feminine-coded hobbies, and over the course of the game, comes to more accept that side of himself being normal.

          Which, speaking of Kanji… eeeeh, I dunno, I don’t got as much to say about him? Maybe something about gender non-conformance and toxic masculinity, or… something like that? But, honestly, I see the argument for Kanji being at least a little bit attracted to men far more than I do for Naoto being transgender, so… yeah.

          • Well, a thing about Kanji and Naoto is that issues with them have layers. Firstly, they could have been gay and trans man, respectively, with some tweaks to their storylines, but they aren’t, which raises the usual issues of representation.

            But alright, it’s not the conflicts the game was going for. So, let’s talk about conflicts that are present.

            Kanji has feminine-coded hobbies, of which he’s ashamed and so overcompensates by presenting this hypermasculine image and kinda failing at it. As you say, over his storuline and the SLink, he comes to realize that the division between “masculine” and “feminine” hobbies is mostly bullshit and he should do what he likes, and people would accept him. That’s a good message, but it’s severely undermined by the fact that in the main plot, a lot of scene with him end with “ha ha, that’s gay” punchline. Yosuke is afraid to sleep with him in the same tent, there is stuff with him during that game on a city trip and the date cafe, etc.

            So the message becomes, “it’s OK to accept yourself, but people would still mock you for not comforting to the ideals of masculinity.”

            With Naoto, her conflict revolves around how she’s not treated with respect she deserves because she’s a kid and a girl. The conflation of the two is actually interesting because infantilization of women is very much a thing, and it could have gone interesting places. But then her SLink focuses solely on how important it is for her to not rush out of childhood and enjoy it while it lasts, while the issue of sexism is kinda… not really mentioned much again. And, I mean, the issue of her being a kid is going to fix itself in time, the issue of sexism is not.

            though I can’t speak for P3, since I don’t really remember any of it

            P3 has an absolutely delightful beach scene where three boys, including the protagonist, try to pick up girls. They’re awful at it, so they get turned down each time, until they come across an older woman who’s very willing to basically do one of them right now. Despite them still being in high school, which is… ah…

            But then! What a twist! One of the boys notices that the woman – gasp! – has an Adam’s apple!

            It is treated as a shocking reveal that obviously ruins any chance of romantic entanglement, and the woman reacts with something like, “Damn, and I’ve almost got me a boytoy.”

            So, yeah, it’s a standard “trap” narrative about how trans women trick honest straight men into sleeping with them, with a side dish of pedophilia.

            • Firstly, they could have been gay and trans man, respectively, with some tweaks to their storylines, but they aren’t, which raises the usual issues of representation.

              I’ll accept that this could’ve been the case (as much as it could’ve been with any character), and could’ve possibly been what they originally intended to do (though I’ve never heard anything to imply or deny that), but I was speaking only of what the finished product presented. Datamining found evidence that they might’ve had plans for Yosuke to be a love interest at one point (or something of that nature, I forget the exact details), but in the finished game, he’s not.

              So the message becomes, “it’s OK to accept yourself, but people would still mock you for not comforting to the ideals of masculinity.”

              … Well… To a large extent, that’s still kind of true? People mocking men for feminine-coded behaviour is still pretty much just as common today as it was when the game came out. I suppose the right way to deal with that would be to add “but that shouldn’t influence your own feelings” or something of that nature, but I feel like it’d be kind of disingenuous to say it’d be all rainbows and sunshine if you just accept yourself. That’s setting an unrealistic expectation, and could improperly equip anyone who takes that message to heart.

              But I don’t see how that would make him gay. Like I said, I see the argument that Kanji might like guys to some extent more than I do Naoto being transgender, but… a lot of that is from the comic relief scenes you mentioned, and not his Serious Deep Themes Important Stuff story arc.

              With Naoto, her conflict revolves around how she’s not treated with respect she deserves because she’s a kid and a girl. […] And, I mean, the issue of her being a kid is going to fix itself in time, the issue of sexism is not.

              I also don’t see what this has to do with the trans interpretation. I’m kinda getting the feeling at least one of us is talking past the other? Am I missing something or something?

              • I’ll accept that this could’ve been the case (as much as it could’ve been with any character), and could’ve possibly been what they originally intended to do (though I’ve never heard anything to imply or deny that), but I was speaking only of what the finished product presented. Datamining found evidence that they might’ve had plans for Yosuke to be a love interest at one point (or something of that nature, I forget the exact details), but in the finished game, he’s not.

                I mean, I don’t know anything about behind-the-scenes stuff, I’m only talking about the game as present, and what is present is a story that at first seems like it’s going to deal with issues of sexuality and gender identity, and then doesn’t. I can believe that the devs didn’t intend it that way (well, with Kanji at least they definitely intended to at least reference homosexuality), but that’s the impression a lot of people got before being disappointing.

                Basically, it’s not just that they aren’t gay or trans, but that, based on the beginning of their storylines, you kinda expect them to be, and then they aren’t.

                Whether it’s fair to blame the game for betraying such expectations is a separate issue, but I can’t exactly blame the people who do, considering the low number of such characters in media.

                … Well… To a large extent, that’s still kind of true?

                We aren’t talking about random people, though, but about the protagonist team, the people who have helped him to resolve his issues in the first place and became his friends. The scenes in question are also presented in a way that makes it clear that the player is supposed to laugh at the gay jokes as well, rather than find them insensitive at best, thus normalizing such behavior.

                It’s not that such behavior is presented as something you’d have to deal with, but rather as something natural that shouldn’t be questioned and should, instead, be embraced.

                But I don’t see how that would make him gay.

                I also don’t see what this has to do with the trans interpretation.

                I was talking about my issues with them in general rather than specifically gay/trans interpretations. I mean, my second paragraph is basically, “OK, so now let’s engage with the conflicts the game actually wants to present.”

              • Sorry guys, but I think this has reached the point where you should move to misc discussion.

  • Mostly polite today.

    re: Your review to fast car
    7 Julypeetas
    A response to your review at https://www.fanfiction.net/r/13313951/

    hi! i’m not trying to be a professional writer or anything but i […]

  • A lot of stories that don’t go anywhere; a pokemon empath who appears to be going on a regular trainer journey; and an intriguing story about an oranguru who acts as the team’s trainer after their human […]

  • The author of a previously failed SYOC gets affronted because I pointed this out. Other people are very chill.

    You have received a message from:

    The Renegade Kingslayer

    Reply link: […]

  • Act wrote a new post, Patreon 2 months, 2 weeks ago

    Hello my loves! We have, perhaps surprisingly late, decided to set up a Patreon. It would mean so much if you’d help support us. I’ve included the pitch below the jump. You can find us […]

  • Standing on the corpse of its mother was a young Cyndaquil who was crying for all to hear, which would only give its location away to those Pokémon who would see it as prey. From his location, Bastion could tell […]

    • This is illegal. Pokemon is someone else’s intellectual property and it is theft for you to make money off of it.

       

      Hybrid actually insisted I was lying about this. Well, that’ll be a fun surprise for the author.

       

      Feels like this person should be directed towards FurAffinity and SoFurry as well as DeviantArt where stuff like this is common place (kinda) except with original content.  The “quality” of these stories don’t seem to be high either.

      As for if there will be any legal consequences, hard to tell. Patreon and fanfic are somewhat accepted these days.

      FFN isn’t the place for them though.

    • Broke: Oh my Arceus

      Woke: By the mane of the Alpha!

      Bespoke: Arceus’ fucking taint, dude

  • “I type how I type, and how I type is how I type. You’re the only one to have brought it up so far. If it was something that was irking everyone, then I would have corrected it. But, people can understand what is […]

  • Some varying quality today. Most of the porn authors blocked me this time, interestingly.

    Anime: 14

    I don’t watch the anime, so I’m not going to be able to review this story on content. Please tag your sto […]

    • You’re correct, but people have enough trouble following my reviews without getting into all the IFs and EXCEPTs in every single one of English’s byzantine rules.

    • But honestly, titles are generally rather short anyways, so would it really be that much additional work for you to tell them exactly how they should look like?

      Yes, because it requires making a unique modification to a template call, which defeats the entire purpose of a template call.

      “Your title is incorrectly capitalized” without further explanation is the exact kind of useless vaguery that people get most frustrated by. “Your title needs to be fully capitalized” does not mean every word has to be capitalized, it means not all the words that should be capitalized are.

      You are really splitting hairs here. I cannot recall a single case in literal years of doing this where too many words of a title were capitalized. It is always either native speakers who know exactly what I’m talking about but who are too lazy to do it, or, very rarely, it is nonnative speakers who can and do ask for clarification if they’ve heard conflicting information. This is not an issue.

    • “Your title needs to be fully capitalized”

       

      Is an improvement over the one you used.

      In English, all words of a title are capitalized (is clearly false.)

  • Some extremely low-effort revenge reviews, and otherwise not much.

    Seriously?
    Jun 12Shooting Star Dragon 3000
    A response to your review at https://www.fanfiction.net/r/13310383/

    Dude, don’t be a dick. […]

    • Just noting the font used for the review messages strains the eyes. I preferred the previous format.

      Keep up the good work of reviewing the Pokemon archive.

       

    • Huh, that’s interesting. I forgot to paste raw. It’s fixed now.

  • Some variety today, including a story with talking pokemon that does nothing to examine the implications, and a bunch of gross porn.

    Anime: 8

    Hi! I’m doing a round of reviews around the site, hoping to help g […]

  • A nice response to a detailed review, and otherwise nothing.

    re: Your review to Quagsires Quest
    6 JunLeoTheDumb
    A response to your review at https://www.fanfiction.net/r/13305589/

    ok I just have this […]

  • A competent but otherwise unremarkable novelization, two instances of weird untagged porn (including totally-not-incest between adopted siblings), and what looks to be an actually good grimdark Rocket takeover […]

  • A few years ago I did a recap of stuff at e3 I thought was cool, and I thought, why not do it again? This time I started taking notes and then realized I was just doing a liveblog, so that’s more or less what this […]

    • Star Wars, whatever.

       

      The early aughts were the golden era of SW video games. Battlefront, KOTOR1/2, the Jedi Knight series. SW was really well-represented across several genres. I would like to see a return of that, if possible.

      Hey, a Hollow Knight shoutout. Guess it got an XBox port.

      Yeah, it was ported to the consoles September of last year. Play it, everyone! Re: Ori 2, it’s somewhat a Hollow Knight follower, but its first iteration, at least, was much more focused on the puzzle-platforming than combat, so I don’t think I’d call it one. I can confidently say Ori 1 is its own thing; it’s not nearly as polished as HK but it has the same ‘labor of love’ feel. Good game, would rec.

      The Tales Game stuff

      God, I might just play it for the costuming alone. At least someone put a (still fairly long) leash on the costume designer so he couldn’t go “scraps of a jacket with whole tummy out and underboob”.

      FFVII Remake

      I saw a Reddit thread steeped in murderous anger over the size of Tifa’s boobs, which the gamerbros say are smaller than they should be based on the blocky polygon original. What they mean is that her boobs are smaller than 20 years of hentai doujins have led them to expect. Also, the gameplay is Kingdom Hearts style. I believe most FF games are still doing a pseudo-turn-based thing.

      Elden Ring

      GRRM is whatever these days and he has nobody to blame but himself. Miyazaki on the other hand is the Dark Souls/Sekiro guy and can do no wrong in my eyes. I am looking forward to it, though with some trepidation due to GRRM’s close proximity to something that seems inspired by LOTR.

      Beyond that, idk. I didn’t watch E3 and try not to pay too much attention to stuff beyond what friends directly tell me about. They are my treasured buffers between me and all that shit.

      • Act replied 3 months ago

        I saw a Reddit thread steeped in murderous anger over the size of Tifa’s boobs

        This is the least surprising thing I’ve ever read.

        Tales of Arise

        The character design is less wtfy than Berseria, but still par for the course for the series imo, in that the male and female protag look like they’re from completely different universes. That’s like my least favorite part of costume dimorphism, they can’t even keep the same art style. The game itself though looked absolutely beautiful.

         

        • Yeah, that’s fair. Berseria definitely got hit with costume sexual dimorphism ludicrously hard, which was all the more noticeable because, like, the party was actually balanced, gender-wise. Heck, it was the first in almost 20 Tales games to actually have a female protagonist not overshadowed by a man! And her Count of Monte Cristo-style character arc of being betrayed and imprisoned -> psycho vengeance -> eventual resolution and return to being a kindhearted protector was very refreshing. Too bad that game didn’t stick the landing.

          I’d be interested in your opinion on the costuming for Valkyria Chronicles 4, which came out late last year. That whole series is about war ‘n’ stuff, so basically everyone is wearing a soldier’s uniform of some kind, with special embellishments for the protags. It’s kind of like that one Atelier game you reviewed, where basically all the fanservice was packed into a (DLC) beach episode.

           

          • My only exposure to Valkyria is whatever is going on here so

            • … JFC. I want to say it’s unfair to judge the games by that figure, but it’s not like the games are totally innocent of having pretty women around and sexualizing them in (what seems like the depressingly standard) JRPG fashion.

              No longer trusting myself to be objective, I read an article detailing some of the sexualization/harassment in VC4, the recent one, with its comment thread set ablaze by GGers howling at the criticism. So never mind.

              • To be fair, in the games themselves, you’d almost never know that the character designer was the guy who did the art for Minamoto no Raikou in FGO. Even the concept art itself is surprisingly… anatomically accurate… for Raita Honjou.

                That’s not to say it is anatomically accurate, just… you know, by the standards of Honjou’s art.

              • Well, over and above the character design, which is indeed admirably restrained for a hentai artist, the game itself could at best be said to be treading water in terms of sexism. There were lots of active women with varying personalities and prominence, which is good, but there’s still a prominent Brock-type character, which is bad. It’s not as bad as the very low bar for games, but that in itself is saying something.

            • That’s a mistake. Your exposure to Valkyria Chronicles should be this.

    • Is this… Battletoads? No. Yes…? Why…

      Nostalgia, most probably. Plus, it always was an IP with lots of wasted potential: the NES game had terrible co-op gameplay (a cardinal sin for a beat ’em up), the arcade game wasn’t very popular (which is a shame, because it was really, really good), and the sequels are more miss than hit, to put it mildly.

      That said, the art style in this one is so not my thing.

      • Act replied 3 months ago

        There was a lot of couch coop stuff this year, so maybe they wanted to do CC and that was one of the IPs they had laying around. I’m glad the Switch seems to have brought local multiplayer back. ty nintendo

        • Oh, yeah, Act, since you liked Rayman, I highly recommend “Rayman Origins”. I’m not a fan of the series – I don’t dislike it, either, it was just never my thing growing up -, but Origins is SO good!

    • It’s a completely trivial thing, but you know what baffles me the most about the Cyberpunk game? That it’s based on the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG, instead of just being generically cyberpunk-themed. I mean, was that game ever so popular that it merited getting its own licensed game?

      • Cyberpunk 2020 was pretty huge back in 90s, spoken of as an alternative to Shadowrun for those who wanted pure cyberpunk rather than D&Dpunk, and while it lost a lot of goodwill over the third edition, it still has a modest fanbase.

        I’d think the license was cheap enough that it was worth it to grab for some nostalgia bucks.

        • I guess there’s something to be said for picking up an old IP to cut out most of the legwork in terms of lore and name recognition (looks at Bethesda and Fallout).

        • Interesting! It was never a big thing here in Brazil. I mean, it got attention, sure, but GURPS Cyberpunk, for instance, was much more popular.

          And yeah, I suppose that makes sense, nostalgia + cheap license.

      • Act replied 3 months ago

        Yeah, I found this out after I wrote the post, which transfers my jab at the name being silly to someone else.

        As far as I’m aware CD has no unique IPs, so I’d guess the logic was, “What can we crib worldbuilding from that a) we can afford and b) doesn’t have a big enough following that we’d end up with angry fanboys?”

    • Jesus Christ they’re ALSO doing a subscription service?? This is why I play Nintendo and indie games. You will be paying forever and never own anything indeed.

      *Karl Marx’s Voice*: “That’s not what I meant when I said abolish private property“.

      • Act replied 3 months ago

        Abolishing property: apparently totally fine when the wealth goes to Bill Gates instead of poor people.

    • Act replied 3 months ago

      Haha, not at all, made perfect sense!

    • Act replied 3 months ago

      I’m not sure if you’ve seen any of the stuff about Cyberpunk and especially regarding that one ad 

      Oh god do I want to know

      FFVII

      I actually strongly prefer turn-based and quite enjoy the classic FF style! Seeing it went for an action thing actually turned me off the remake. I had my eye on FFXIII but if it’s largely that kind of real-time I’ll probably skip it.

      Bloodlines 2

      I’ve seen some of the promo stuff. I’m cautiously optimistic about it. What I loved about the original was the world and character depth, which there’s no way to know about from the trailer, and that it was willing to put female characters in major plot roles without criticizing them for it, and my big fear is that a 2019 (or whenever) iteration will turn into fully-clothed dudes and some weird-ass Freudian shit about women with power and their giant tits.

      • Bloodlines 2 feels weirdly relevant to our day and age, given that Bloodlines 1 was also released during a terrible Republican administration and, not coincidentally, dealt with themes challenging entrenched power structures and the corruption they cause.

      • FFXIII is… kind of the worst of both worlds. It’s ostensibly turn-based, but it doesn’t pause while you’re inputting commands. It generously provides you a way around this by automatically selecting recommended commands via an AI with a single button press, which in practice is all you’ll ever do. You can watch a gameplay video if you’re confused.

        FFXIII is… not good, in my opinion.

        • Isn’t that basically like, uh Dragon Age? Or even Bioware RPGs in general. Though I guess those do allow you to pause.

        • I actually think FF13’s battle system if the best in my eyes. It’s very fast-paced and frantic and actually pretty difficult. Just using the auto-attack isn’t really a good idea and there’s a lot of strategy and tactics in how you set up your party to do damage, because magic and physical damage are both needed to win most fights.

           

          It’s also not anything like Dragon Age Origins. The auto-attack button is pretty much for spamming basic attacks since instead of magic points or what-not you’re limited by Action Points which regenerate swiftly and so saving them up for a properly times combo is always a good idea.

           

          I could probably talk forever about how much I like the battle system.

    • Ah yes, that new lead writer they’re introducing is a riot. I remember seeing an interview where she led with a joke about expanding the sewer levels when asked how she’d improve the game. That’s how you know she’s the real thing.

    • I guess DA is more similar to an MMO, then. Bioware better not get any ideas.

    • Yeah, the original Bloodlines even made at least one direct dig at the GOP, considering voting for them an unpardonable sin. The game was not trying to be subtle about who the real bloodsuckers were, you know. That said, I do see how a gamerbro could get through it thinking that it’s not ‘political’ just because, like, it’s full of scantily clad women calling each other whores and sluts. If that’s where your thought process begins and ends, you’ll think it’s just an edgy, juvenile game about vampire drama.

      Fallout: New Vegas had this same problem, where the whole Obviously Evil Roman Legion guys tricked half the player base into assuming the ‘Murica Reborn NCR were shining patriots, ignoring all the signs that ‘recivilizing’ the wasteland was just a rehash of Manifest Destiny and all that glorious imperialism crap. Plus House’s whole deal. You can kind of just assume there’s a filter on when gamerbros have to read words and make connections to understand a game’s point.

    • I mean, really, White Wolf stuff as a whole was always deeply, unsubtly political.

      It was also always cringe as fuck because while authors’ hearts were generally in the right place, they often had no idea what they were talking about.

      And, OK, it’s easier to overlook in Vampire than in, say, Mage or Werewolf because Vampire books don’t literally bash your skull open with a club with “Discourse” written on it, but it’s still a game where a faction named Anarchs is presented as the most sympathetic, just as an example of surface reading.

      • The even more obvious parallel is the entire Ventrue clan, which explicitly draw a line between old-school nobility and modern corporate executives etc. Get it? A Ventrue capitalist! Yes, remarkably subtle. Ol’ Lacroix even did a colonizer stint in Africa, where he found the Sheriff. Just a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it thing, not political at all.

      • Man, the Sheriff was such wasted potential.

    • I would guess there’s a significant cause-effect relationship between the fact that Gamerbros tend to be conservative and in the US conservatives tend to be on the lower end of the education spectrum — things like thematic analysis are generally saved for higher education and honors or AP high school courses, or, idk, states that aren’t 50th in education. If no one ever taught you how to identify themes and motifs, you’d probably just take things as face value.

      • It’s also true, though, that higher education tends to be liberal in nature, and that contributes to those statistics; in the same way that a few centuries ago, it’d be true to say the same about the connection between higher education and a church career.

        The over-emphasis on the “importance” of higher education is the main cause of America’s current skills gap. We have millions of unfilled positions in good careers, and millions of unemployed college graduates who aren’t qualified to do those jobs because they were told by state education it was more wise to rack up tens of thousands of dollars of debt to be taught that those jobs were beneath them. There are probably millions of homeless people and millions of good, honest, well-paying jobs in construction that go unfilled, but between overly strict government regulations on putting up new housing (looking at you, San Francisco) and a lack of the required skillset, these two problems can’t solve each other.

    • Woooooow.

      Though I think the thing where they apparently coopted a trans visibility hastag to post an ad is far worse.

      Way to live down to my worst assumptions, CD.

    • That ad (the in-game one, that is) actually seems to have just been a message that was misfired.

      • Yes, that seems to have been their selection from Low-Effort Damage Control for Dummies. Rote recreation continues to not be a form of critique.

        I would say the odds of this game containing a meaningful examination of trans fetishization are roughly zero, but who knows,  maybe someone on the team looked at the whole “women who don’t carry pregnancies to term will be murdered by fetuses” thing and felt remorse.

        • I don’t think there’s enough context in one screenshot to tell if it’s part of the game’s commentary on the commodification of humanity or just rote recreation.

          • I think it can be intentionally commentary but commentary that’s built off an unintentional transphobic base at the same time. What I think happened is they started with their own bias in viewing trans people as hypersexualized then tried to make a evil corporation version by amping it up further.

            If the point is just hypersexualization/being reduced to body parts due to corporations, there should be cis dicks getting featured too. Or if it’s specifically focusing on trans fetishism as corporate evil, that would suggest there should also be burly trans men in cameltoe outfits. If nothing else, it fails as a future prediction because lol chick with a dick has been the state of shitty trans stuff so long it’s old hat and would probably not still be cutting edge by then.

            • Either way, or even if it’s a third or fourth way, I still don’t think there is even close to enough information, or context of the information presented in that trailer, to make such a call yet.

              It’s not as if that poster was seen hanging on the wall while the trailer walked through the Hall of Objectification next to all the other kinds of objectification that’d be going on. You need more than one nail to close a coffin, and I’m still willing to give Pondsmith the benefit of the doubt because he’s one of the few guys who has been doing cyberpunk since the eighties who is still doing it, and who doesn’t think cyberpunk isn’t real cyberpunk if it doesn’t fetishize anarcho-communism.

              I just wish he’d hand the reigns over to someone else when it comes to the mechanics of the complementary pen and paper RPG. Jesus Christ, it’ll use  Interlock. In the modern day. I’d almost take the anarcho-communist fetishism for a modern system. Almost.

              • No one is saying, “We absolutely know for sure what the context is and it’s terrible,” we’re saying, “Given the CD’s track record with trans issues specifically and social issues in general, as well as the problematic way this was presented, we’re incredibly concerned about the message the game is going to send.” I personally think it’s stupidly unlikely there’s any secret meaning here. I would love to be wrong about that — it would be a great thing if I am — but I’m also perfectly comfortable being cynical about CD.

                Also, expressing these concerns during development is probably the best time to do so. It gives the team a chance to respond and make changes. Waiting until everything is finalized to say, ‘Hey, maybe no?’ seems silly.

  • ERROR: Human Not Found is a murder mystery visual novel about a murdered AI. You play as one of the researchers involved in the AI’s development, and team up with another AI to investigate the mystery. It’s free […]

    • You should check out Catherynne Valente’s novella Silently and Very Fast. It sounds like exactly what you wanted from this game. P sure it’s up on Tor.com for free.

      • That was very good! I particularly liked The Parable of the Good Robot.

        Forward (which I linked in the review) is also looking pretty good on this, though it’s focused more on the human side.

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