Wherein I discuss an embarrassing anecdote, the future of Sonic, the future of Windows, the downfall of Yager, and the Trails celebration.
June 23rd was this past week, and while it was an uneventful workday for me, it doubled as my 5 year anniversary of starting HRT, and the 30 year anniversary of Sonic The Hedgehog!
This was never planned or anything, but I just think that it’s hilarious that the anniversary of a video game series that I am cursed to have an eternal interest in is also the same day where I changed my life around and took the first steps needed to start presenting myself as female.
For the past week, I have been trying to correlate these two events in a more meaningful way, and I actually thought of one! And it’s a really gross and personal one, meaning that I simply MUST share it with you all!
Part of the reason it took me so long to come out as trans, about 7 years, was because I tried to spin off my fascination and love of TSF/TG/gender bender stuff as pure fetishism, and convinced myself that I didn’t really want to transition, because it was hard and I did not think I wanted it enough.
Back then, on DeviantArt, one of the most common forms of TSF involved creators taking existing characters from popular media and either changing their sex or doing a body swap between a group of characters. I found a bountiful collection of TSF stuff that involved characters from IPs I enjoyed at the time, and collected it into my old DeviantArt favorites. One of these IPs was Sonic, as I was invested in the series as a teenager, and I would regularly search for stuff like ‘Sonic TG’ and ‘Sonic body swap’ to see what I could find. And on my fifteenth birthday I found some now (likely delisted) fanfic where Sonic and Amy Rose swapped bodies… and that was the first thing I ever masturbated to.
No joke, I was humping my bed after reading that fanfic and I eventually started ejaculating. I did not know what an orgasm was at the time, as you don’t learn that stuff in health class, so I panicked and ran out of my bedroom into the bathroom, leaving a trail of semen behind me and sullying my underwear. Oh, and to make things even weirder, this happened on my 15th birthday!
This started what would evolve into a ‘teenage masturbation career’ where I would dismiss my interest in TSF stuff as me just being a horny ‘asexual fetishist’ before I eventually realized that I’m transgender and was just repressing my true desires by claiming that I am a pervert. When in actuality, I’m both.
I could say that without Sonic, I might have started transitioning a few years earlier, but that’s a goldarn lie! My first orgasm would have just been inspired by Alicia’s Great Shift TG Captions or some crap that only exists as a ghost of a dead internet. Besides, I’m not one of those people who regrets transitioning too late. I started when I could afford to commit to my transition when I had a stable job, made $15 an hour, and could afford a $30,000 medical bill on my own. And I wasn’t able to afford that because my family’s rich. I could afford it because I live with my parents and I’m good at saving money.
Keeping the topic focused on Sonic, the anniversary pretty much came and went with only two truly notable news stories. The first being for a Sonic DLC pack heading to Minecraft, featuring high-speed 2D and 3D platforming in the Minecraft framework and art style, along with representations of Green Hill, Chemical Plant, and Sky Sanctuary, and also a Chao Garden of sorts. That last bit alone has me curious, but my biggest takeaway from this is how nothing about Sonic has truly been iconic since 2001, as Chaos and a playable Shadow the Hedgehog are the most recent things to get any representation.
I find this to be rather odd because, while this appeals to the largest group of people, it also reinforces the idea that Sonic is in a regurgitation mode, not doing anything new and simply peddling wares from the good old days to capitalize on nostalgia, while ignoring titles that many people grew up with and were fond of. People got into the series with games like Sonic Heroes, Unleashed, and Colors, and that does not make them lesser fans compared to people who played the Genesis games or devoured the Adventure titles.
The second announcement was that various Sonic brand leaders are looking to expand the Sonic series following the continued success of the recent Sonic The Hedgehog movie. The first of two major non-game projects in this initiative is a theme park, which sounds unsustainable due to how Sonic is a fairly niche interest nowadays. I can imagine a Sonic attraction in an existing theme park, but not an entire theme park dedicated around the idea.
However, the more interesting way Sega wants to push Sonic forward is to… turn him into a VTuber, which actually makes a lot of sense. Corporate VTubers can be a good marketing ploy for companies, especially if they are as recognizable as Sonic. However, Sonic really is not the best character for this when you consider what he is. He is a styled cartoon hedgehog who would look bizarre if he had humanoid movements, due to how giant his head, hands, and eye are. And his character simply is not well-suited to sitting back and chilling with fans, as he is a speed demon who enjoys running throughout the world and doing his own thing. That’s why just about every Sonic game opens up with Sonic in the midst of some conflict or adventure.
Still, I am plenty interested in seeing how this VTuber is brought into reality, as it could either be an unmitigated disaster or be fairly impressive. However, much like a modern Sonic game, it will probably be a combination of both.
Moving onto more general gaming news, let’s start with the bad news first, as Tencent has struck again with another majority interest acquisition! Back in February 2020, Tencent acquired a minority stake in Spec Ops: The Line developer, Yager Development. This was troubling news, but assuredly helped Yager as they continued work on their current project, The Cycle, but now, nearly a year and a half after this initial transaction, Tencent has acquired additional shares of Yager, making them the majority shareholder.
This might be due to how Yager’s financials were hit hard by COVID-19, it could be due to how Tencent wants to publish The Cycle in the Chinese market, or it could be due to how Tencent simply wants another developer under their banner for the sheer sake of influence. Regardless of the justification, this is not a good sign, as it means Tencent is gaining more power and influence in the industry, and the western gaming industry now has a greater reason to conform to China’s governmental policies and restrictions.
Moving into something that’s not technically gaming news, but it may as well be as far as I’m concerned, Microsoft hosted a livestream this past week where they unveiled Windows 11. This is a somewhat bizarre announcement, as Microsoft has previously insinuated that Windows 10 would be the final version of Windows, and would be updated over time. I assumed they would switch to the Apple approach for their OS, keeping the same core operating system for years upon years, but releasing significant upgrade packs over that would refine and rework things in the backend, introduce new features, but do little to change the GUI and front-end of the OS. Instead, they are pushing out a fresh new numbered version and… it looks pretty good.
Most of the changes that were discussed during the pompous livestream were on the GUI end of things, introducing a new start menu design, a customizable widgets side menu, an optional centered taskbar, curved windows instead of squares, and a glass-like UI similar to what they tried with the aero themes in Vista and Windows 7. But there were also a few handy changes to organizing windows, and better dual monitor support which, as somebody who has been rocking two monitors for nearly a year, I’m glad to see.
The (in my experience) busted Microsoft Store is getting a full overhaul. The store will support basically every type of Windows software. App developers will use their own commerce engine, meaning that Microsoft will not take an additional fee. And the store will also feature Android apps from the Amazon Marketplace, as Windows 11 has native Android support, allowing users to use Android apps without the use of a third-party emulator. This is actually a really neat feature that I’m sure will lead to a variety of diverse setups and boosted productivity, as users can now have both Windows and Android apps running on a single device.
News of this Android compatibility came with an assurance from Microsoft’s CEO that Windows 11 will continue to be an open platform to developers, as he wants Windows to be the place where the next generation of major technical innovation happens. While this is a bit lofty, like much of the dialogue seen in this livestream, I am glad to hear this news and hope that there are as few barriers as possible between me doing what I want with my computer and any ‘security’ measures.
Windows 11 will, as expected, be offered as a free upgrade to Windows 10 users, but the launch of Windows 10 taught me that one should be cautious with OS upgrades like this, so I probably will wait a few months until after I let other people learn its quirks, and blemishes get patched out over time. Afterward, I can go through the process of upgrading existing PCs and helping Boomers adapt to the new GUI.
That being said, I’m not necessarily excited to upgrade to a new OS, as there are always growing pains, but I know that no good comes from delaying the transition for a prolonged period, and it’s best to just go with the flow after you dip your feet into the water.
Moving on, Nihon Falcom Corporation and NIS America announced the localization of four titles in the Trails series. A series that has been blighted with woes of localization mishaps, shifting publishers, dubious financial prospects, and just how obscenely dense and long the scripts are, making the already difficult practice of J-to-E localization a gosh darn nightmare only for those with steeled hearts.
This has caused the series to skip out on certain entries when it came to localization, but NIS America is looking to bridge the gaps and bring over every previously unlocalized title. This includes the crossbell duology, Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure. A pair of titles that English-speaking fans were unable to play until the recent release of the Geofront fan localization, which will be used as a basis for NISA’s official localization. The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails, a spin-off that took the series in a different direction and, if they are localizing this, it really shows a commitment on Falcom and NISA to get this entire series available in English. And finally, Trails into Reverie, the 2020 entry into the series, and the start of a new story arc.
All of these titles are slated to come out on PS4, Switch, Steam, Epic Games Store, and GOG, but it will be a while before any of them see the light of day. Trails from Zero was confirmed for a 2022 release, but Trails to Azure, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails, and Trails into Reverie will not hit the western market until 2023. Which makes sense, as does the decision to just outright announce all the projects, rather than leaving the devout Trails fanbase, sorry, Kiseki fanbase, wondering when and if other titles will hit the western market.
This is all great news for the existing fans, but the more Trails series that are localized, the harder it becomes for newcomers to get into the series. Fans proclaim that, because all the Trails titles take place in a shared world, that the proper way to play the series is to play all of it, and that choosing to only play a few games is a suboptimal experience. Which is becoming an increasingly unreasonable prospect as time goes on. As of 2023, there will be 11 titles in English, each of which takes a good 50+ hours to fully complete, and while I am sure that some people enjoy going through an experience that will take at least 600 hours to do things ‘properly,’ you cannot honestly recommend anybody make a commitment of that scale.