Wherein I discuss Pride, the end of a Wonderworld, yet another cult classic Japanese game series coming to PC, and the looming dread of a sloppy wet E3.
Let’s see, topics, topics— oh, here’s one. This past week saw the beginning of pride month, also known as June, which over this past decade has gone from something only visibly celebrated via parades in larger cities into a major movement for everybody under the LGBT+ spectrum to come out, declare their gender and sexual identities, and celebrate their differences. While also being a time for cis and hetero people to show their support however they can, and for corporations to pretend like they care by putting out rainbow renditions of their logos. Because that takes 3 minutes in Photoshop and makes you seem relevant, without actually doing anything.
Anyway, the reason I’m bringing this up is because of my somewhat… estranged relationship to this whole concept and the idea of even being part of a community. For those not in the know, I’m an asexual transgender woman, so I easily fall under two of the LGBT+ umbrella categories. However, I struggle to look at all these other LGBT+ people celebrating themselves and feel like I necessarily belong with them. The idea of being ‘proud of who you are’ has never really sat well with me as an individual, and that is for a lot of messy reasons involving my low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and self-deprecating nature.
Those traits are actually fairly common in a lot of the LGBT+ people I follow, but I think there is one thing that differentiates me from most of these people, and it’s the whole reason why pride month is a thing. Most LGBT+ people have some sort of shared adversity. Discrimination, fighting to get proper healthcare, rejection from friends and family, all of that awful stuff. But me personally, I really did not have any of that.
I mulled through my own gender issues in secret, came out as trans to my mother, started HRT a month later, and 18 months after that, I liquidated my savings account to pay for FFS and assembled a preliminary wardrobe so I could begin presenting myself as female. That was 3.5 years ago, and I have not run into any issues since then. Nobody rejected me, was mean to me, and while some took months to adjust, they all pretty much got used to me being Natalie. Also, I pass as female and I have never been misgendered by somebody who did not know me before I transitioned. That’s something very few trans people can relate to.
I look at my story and see myself as somebody who had some stuff wrong with them for a while, repressed it with the ‘I’m not trans, I’m just a pervert’ schtick, eventually realized enough was enough, followed the steps needed to transition, and is now comfortably and happily living as female with no major lingering dysphoria. I mean, except for my genitals, but I’m working on that as we speak. Nothing about that really strikes me as something to be proud of.
Now, am I saying that other people shouldn’t be proud of their gender or sexuality? Hell no. I’m glad that so many people come together, clamor, and make themselves known during this time of year. If you’re LGBT+ and happy with yourself, go nuts, get loud, and make your voice heard to help earn sympathy for your community. All I’m really saying here is that I’m not particularly proud of my journey or status. I did some stuff, am still doing stuff, and I’m content with my place in the world and my overall identity.
…Also, and this will probably get me branded as a heretic from somebody, I really don’t like the trans pride colors. I never really enjoy associating myself with warmer colors as they do not look good with my light complexion or red hair, and the bright pastel pink of the trans pride color scheme just does not sit well with me. But I freaking love the asexual color scheme. It’s comfy and looks cool. No joke, but if you give me a character creator, there’s an 80% chance that I will dress them up using the asexual color scheme.
This week in video games… not a lot happened, as everybody is getting ready for E3 2021, and it’s looking to be such a mess this year. Instead of just having a few big conferences, there are no less than a dozen events this year, and I have a strong suspicion that the show as a whole will suffer because of this.
With the rise in the prevalence of these publisher-run announcement showcases, we see a lot of misunderstanding of the fundamental appeal of corporate livestreams from a customer perspective. People watch these things because they want to see games, they want to see new game footage, and they want to see game announcements. They want to know what’s coming out and what they can get excited about. But so often these showings get sidetracked as they feel obligated to advertise fluff or tat, or they simply lack the content to justify their length.
There have been a lot of discussions about what makes a good one of these things, a good Nintendo Direct-like, but few people, like those behind the Dragon Quest 35th anniversary special, seem to get it. Combine this with production delays introduced thanks to COVID-19, and I think this year will have a lot of titles that are over a year from shipping, or titles whose presence is stretched out for the sake of filling time, even though people typically prefer the rapid-fire approach.
Anyway, the first story that caught my eye this past week was how Yuji Naka is no longer working at Sega. Yes, the programming wizard behind the Genesis Sonic titles and the shepherd for the series for nearly a decade has left Square Enix and for pretty obvious reasons. I did not bring the game up since its reveal, but Balan Wonderworld came out this past March, and it was not good. The reasons why are complicated, muddled, and not necessarily confirmed due to how secretive the Japanese games industry is, but when you pick up the pieces, it’s clear why something went wrong.
The game was the first HD console title that Yuji Naka worked on in his storied career. The game had to include 80 different power-up costumes, for some reason. The story was carved out of the game at some point and repackaged as a novel. A small team within Square Enix conceptualized the title while Arzest handled the actual development. With Arzest being a small developer who never made a 3D platformer, let alone a console game that had to ship on 6 SKUs. The COVID-19 pandemic obviously impacted the development timeline of the game. And based on some of the quotes I saw floating around, it appears that Arzest developed these versions simultaneously, which is not how you do a multiplatform release like this.
People first suspected that something was up with the game after checking out the (delisted) January 2021 demo, and seeing as how the final release was only two months away, the developers simply did not have time to make the game better or implement player feedback. This led to a poor critical reception and a dismal commercial reception, with the game selling less than 2,100 copies during its first week in Japan.
Because of this, Square Enix ended their contract with Yuji Naka as of the end of April, and now it appears that Naka is once again a freelance developer and one with a fresh sticky brown mark on his otherwise exceptional track record… and it might be his final title. Based on an update provided by Naka, he is considering retiring from game development, and I can certianly see why somebody in his position would think as much. He had great success in his youth, but between Kadokawa screwing him over with Rodea the Sky Soldier and Balan’s poor reception, he is in a tight spot and is likely very discouraged that he has the capacity to work on a successful new title. It would suck to see him retire or bow out of the industry on such a low note, but it’s ultimately his decision. And if he does not want to go through the process of assembling a while new team and working with a new publisher yet again, then retirement might be the best option for him.
In happier news, following their October 2020 re-release on Nintendo Switch, publisher XSEED announced that No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle are both coming to PC via Steam on June 9th. As I always say, I love seeing games like this come to PC, as it keeps them future-proof, opens up the potential of game-enhancing mods, and often offers the best experience on a technical (resolution and frame rate) level.
I personally would like to check these games out now that they are on my platform of choice, but it has become painfully obvious just how few games I play nowadays, and when I do, it’s almost always a TSF visual novel, which… Actually, no. I’ll save that as a preamble for next week’s Rundown, when PRE3 will be in full effect!