Diecast #372: Caves, Death, and Japanese Spider-Man

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 21, 2022

Filed under: Diecast 113 comments

If I had a sign in my office that read, “WE HAVE GONE ___ WEEKS WITHOUT COMPLAINING ABOUT THE ENDING OF MESS EFFECT 3,” then that blank would have at least a 15 in it. Until today, when I’d have to erase that number and replace it with a 0.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Cave Story

To answer the question I asked on the show: The original Cave Story came out in 2004, several years before the indie revolution began.

02:06 Minecraft 1.18

I didn't build this house. The modpack I'm using generates structures like this, so I just moved in.
I didn't build this house. The modpack I'm using generates structures like this, so I just moved in.

For the curious, I’m playing Better Minecraft [Forge] 1.18.1. Although I had to add a few mods to get what I wanted. I prefer to play with fancy shader packs that do real-time lighting, and I also insist on having tools for mining 3×3 blocks. I really miss Tinker’s Construct, but that mod hasn’t made it to 1.18 yet.

10:50 Minecraft Server Shenanigans

Again, I don’t want to link the video because I’m not looking to shame anyone. But apparently there’s an entire genre of YouTube channels where kids spend dozens of hours grinding away to build giant complicated lag machines in order to “punish” heavily monitized pay-to-win Minecraft servers.

17:18 NMS update 3.8

What do Paul and I think of the latest No Man’s Sky versions?

29:13 Mailbag: Death and Relationships within Games

Hey Shamus and Paul,

After recently suffering a couple of losses in the real world, it got me thinking about death within video games. I know a lot of people will probably pop in some Mass Effect and Final Fantasy answers, but what are some games that actually treat the death of a character with the respect it deserves, and have it serve as more than a mere plot device? What are some of the deaths of characters in games that actually affected you? One that hit me, even though it is from a game that doesn’t serve as a stellar example of writing is Dom’s death from Gears of War 3. The music, the dialogue, the cinematography all combine to hit me in the feels.
To go along with that, relationships as well very often serve only as a plot device for our protagonists. What games would you say have included good examples of relationships? Very rarely do we see marriage, children, parental, or even friendly relationships that feel complicated enough to be real. Garrus from Mass Effect would probably be an easy example of a well written friend, I would be bro’s with him irl. Anyway, thank you for fielding this two-parter,


Heads up: Spoilers for Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Also, we once again beat the dead horse that is Mass Effect 3. Because I have no self-control.

40:51 Mailbag: Japanese Spider-Man

Thoughts on Japanese Spider-Man? How does he compare to the original?


Here you will learn why I am not a drummer.

46:19 Mailbag: Detention Video Game

Deeeeeear Dyecast!

Have either of you watched the movie Detention?
It is based on the Taiwanese survival horror game of the same name and I think it is one of the best and most faithful video game movie adaptions
while also being the best Silent Hil movie we’ve ever had!
It works on it’s own, but for fans, scenes and iconography are taken directly from the game without feeling forced or jarring,
and it has that wonderful blend of dread and melancholy that defines this type of horror!

Thanks for reading and have a pleasant day,

48:47 Mailbag: Dream Anime-ified Game

Dear diecast,

I was going through the archives and found shamus’s top 64 games. He mentions that tetris was not for sale on steam in any way or form (well at the time of writing I assume). So i did a quick search and found you can buy tetris on steam now. Including anime tetris.

So wondered, what anime-ified game would you like to see? COD modern warfare, anime edition? anime lord of the rings?

With kind regards,

For the curious, here’s that Top 64 Games series.

Also: I looked it up after the show and discovered that Robotech and Macross Saga are two different things! Robotech re-used the Macross animation to tell a different story. Actually, three unrelated OVAs were mooshed into a single story, because you needed to have 65 episodes in your series to fit the syndication schedules in North America.

The party from the third Robotech saga. The guy on the right is Lancer, who we talked about on the show.
The party from the third Robotech saga. The guy on the right is Lancer, who we talked about on the show.

You know, I really loved Robotech. I kind of forgot just how much I was into it until I did the above research and it all came flooding back. I’m willing to bet this had a big impact on how I connected with JRPGs. When I think back on The Third Robotech War, main characters feel sort of like a proto JRPG party.

So anime fans: What’s the consensus on the Robotech Saga these days? It was mind-blowing 1984, and came off as a hundred times smarter and more sophisticated than western shows that ran in the same block, but I don’t know how it holds up today. Do people even remember it?


From The Archives:

113 thoughts on “Diecast #372: Caves, Death, and Japanese Spider-Man

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    40:51 Mailbag: Japanese Spider-Man

    Stuff like this makes me really want to see how Japan would reimagine superheroes like Batman, is it going to turn out into something like the Adam West show but on steroids?

    48:47 Mailbag: Dream Anime-ified Game

    I’d like for some japanese game studios to develop a Star Wars game.

    1. Rho says:

      There is in fact a Batman anime, and it’s absolutely wild. Actually, it’s more anime than imaginable, as the plot is sort of a reverse-isekai story with all the villains. Reviews suggest the plot is thin but entertaining action.

      1. Geebs says:

        reverse isekai story

        If my understanding of anime tropes is correct, this means the plot is that Batman drives a bus and accidentally hits all of the other cast members, sending them forwards in time.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          Always thought “reverse isekai” meant that it’s the fantasy characters that end up getting transported to Earth.

          1. Thomas says:

            I thought it’s the one where an All-powerful, Super Cool and Successful guy slowly realises they’re an ordinary dude playing FFXIV

            1. Syal says:

              I was thinking the villains would all be people who suddenly showed up from other worlds and developed super powers. They’re here to have an Isekai adventure, and Batman has to stop them.

              1. Thomas says:

                I don’t know if that exists (there have been so many Isekai!) but I want it to

          2. Shufflecat says:

            This would be my understanding as well.

            Like, “Enchanted” (the movie, not the animated show) and the live action “Masters of The Universe” movie would be famous examples of reverse-isekai.

      2. tmtvl says:


        Ikasei? Squid life?

        1. Rho says:

          Isekai stories are where some regular guy gets sent to a fantasy world. The Batman anime sees him and his villains sent to feudal Japan. Hilarity ensues. (Literally, because Joker is there.)

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      There is an official Batman manga where the Joker takes care of a baby Batman: https://screenrant.com/operation-one-joker-manga-baby-batman/

  2. Dev+Null says:

    I remember loving Robotech, but I’m pretty sure what I remember was from the third saga. Lots of traveling across a post-invasion earth scavenging parts and fuel, if I remember correctly. It was awesome. In a fit of nostalgia a few years back, I tried to watch starting at the very beginning (first saga, presumably?), and it was pretty terrible. I never made it far enough to recognise anything, so I’m hoping there’s still some good bits to rediscover someday, and it’s not just a case of the memory being better than the raw materials.

    1. Joshua says:

      That’s pretty much how I am with anything from childhood cartoons. We borrowed a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons series from a friend, and could only make it through 1 or 2 episodes. It gave me perspective on how much my parents must have suffered to watch children’s programming with me.

      1. Steve C says:

        That 80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was actually high quality for the time. Still bad. But compared to everything else it was top tier. Seriously.

        BTW I realized something only a few years ago about that cartoon… Erik the cowardly Cavalier was a surprisingly great character. Because he was based on D&D game mechanics. His “rich father” was because he was a Cavalier and Cavaliers had to have a noble background. Plus Cavaliers from that rules era provided an aura that protected allies from fear. But weirdly not the Cavalier himself. So as a result in the show everyone else is brave and he is a craven coward. Erik’s player was roleplaying.

        The show wrote in roleplaying game mechanics as key part of its narrative. Which is impressively deep writing for an 80s cartoon. Especially compared to other cartoons from that era like the one that turned a teen into a car when he got wet.

    2. John says:

      I loved Robotech as a kid, but I was only able to watch it intermittently because my mother didn’t approve. At the time, she told me that it was because the show contained bad language. One character told another character to shut up! We can’t have our elementary school students exposed to that kind of thing! (When I asked her about it years later she admitted that the real reason for her disapproval was probably something else, but she didn’t remember the show and couldn’t say what it might have been.) I somehow managed to catch most of the first saga, but only a little of the second and almost none of the third. I think I’m okay with that. The first saga has the best mecha anyway.

      I don’t particularly want to go back and watch Robotech again, but about ten years ago I did go back and watch Macross. It was pretty good. I can’t say much more than that because I honestly don’t remember it all that well. My impression was that Harmony Gold didn’t actually change all that much when they edited it to create the first third of Robotech. I don’t doubt that there are a lot of little differences, but–may the hardcore anime purists among you forgive me for saying this–I’m not sure that those differences amount to anything significant.

      When I was a kid, the appeal of Robotech was that it contained (a) robots, (b) jets, and, even better, (c) jets that turned into robots. I not-so-reluctantly confess that the appeal of Macross as an adult is still that it contains (a) robots, (b) jets, and (c) jets that turn into robots. The difference is that as an adult watching the series on DVD I didn’t actively resent every second of screen time that didn’t contain (a), (b), or (c). I could be charitable towards all the bits with Minmei, even if I still didn’t find them interesting. That’s maturity for you, I guess.

      1. Shufflecat says:

        I remember watching Robotech as a little kid in the 80’s. It had the same robots/jets/transforming appeal to me as well, but the really big things that for me made it stand out from the other cartoons of the time (He-Man, GI-Joe, Transformers, etc.) were:

        A) Long-form story. Episodes were chapters in a single large story (like we’re used to now), rather than self-contained stories that could be watched in any order. This was mind blowing, as even the adult shows of the time followed the latter form.

        B) People actually died in this war story. Most cartoons of the time seemed to be burdened with a notion that kids had to be shielded from the concept of death (or even serious injury), or something. This got really, really weird considering most of these shows had war or some other form of lethal weaponry-based conflict as a premise. Me and literally every other kid I knew found this incredibly patronizing. We knew what war was, and what death was. Even to a little kid it was obvious the people in charge of these shows had an insultingly poor understanding of children. Seeing Robotech was like “FINALLY, someone who isn’t trying to talk down to me.”

        I tried to rewatch Robotech a few years ago (the original still isn’t available in the US in Macross form, last I checked), and it didn’t hold up. To adult eyes, the animation and writing is really only barely better than the American kids cartoons of that era. Later Macross stuff (like Macross Plus) holds up a lot better, so the franchise as a whole is good, but that first series is rough watching.

        1. John says:

          I was definitely aware, even as a kid, that Robotech’s storytelling was different from that of other cartoons. I was even kind of impressed. I just didn’t care about that nearly as much as I cared about jets, robots, and jets that turned into robots. I was in elementary school.

          I will admit that Macross’ animation is not great, but it’s no worse than normal for television anime of its time. I personally think it holds up better than some other famous mecha anime that I could mention. But Macross is definitely better than a lot of contemporary American kids’ cartoons, if only because the characters are consistently on-model. In any case, I grade animated shows on a sort of a sliding scale. The question is not necessarily whether the animation is objectively good–which is kind of a loaded question anyway–but whether it is good enough to get its point across. Rocky & Bullwinkle, for example, has some truly terrible animation, but it is an utterly fantastic show, easily carried by the writing and the vocal performances. The animation doesn’t need to be great, because the show is smart enough not to rely too much on its visual presentation. Similarly, I personally think that the animation in Macross is more than good enough to effectively convey the message that jets that turn into giant robots are deeply cool.

          Finally, I’ll just note that when I watched Macross it was in the form of DVDs from Netflix. I don’t recall there being any Robotech branding on or in the disks, so Macross proper must have been available in DVD form for English-language markets at some point.

          1. Shufflecat says:

            I was in elementary school too. I would’ve been, I dunno, 6 maybe? Like I say, I loved jets and robots too, but my age didn’t stop me from noticing or caring about other stuff as well.

            On re-watch the animation was better than, say, GI-Joe, but there was other stuff coming out of Japan and Europe at the time and earlier that was a lot better. Though granted a lot of that was films and limited series rather than TV shows with high episode counts. It was good for a Saturday morning cartoon of its era, but that wasn’t a high bar.

            That said, you’re right that that shouldn’t matter if it’s strong enough in other areas. But again, it was great… for a Saturday morning cartoon of its era, and that’s not a high bar (by either today’s or the mid 80’s standards).

            If you saw it during the Netflix DVD era (same method I rewatched it, actually), you definitely saw “Robotech”, not “Macross”. If you were in North America at least. Up until very recently, there has been no official English language localization releases of the original Macross series other than as “Robotech”, thanks to Harmony Gold (the company who owned the distribution rights) being VERY aggressively protective of its hold on the IP. The only way to see “Macross” instead of “Robotech” would’ve been through untranslated Japan-region imports, and unofficial fan subs/dubs.

            1. John says:

              So, it’s not that I don’t believe you. Everything you’ve said has been perfectly consistent with everything I’ve ever heard about Harmony Gold’s licensing shenanigans. But what the hell did I watch then? I ordered Macross disks from Netflix. I got Macross disks from Netflix. The disk labels all said Macross, not Robotech. The disk menus all said Macross, not Robotech. The opening credits all said Macross, not Robotech. There was a Japanese audio track with English subtitles, which I can’t imagine that Harmony Gold would ever have bothered to create. I don’t know what to tell you. I may possibly be crazy.

              1. Fizban says:

                What sort of disk labels? I’d say that could very well have been a very high quality unofficial fansub. People who do the official work nowadays may have in fact worked on unofficial versions in the past- DVD menus aren’t usually important considering the distribution, but there’s no reason some person or group couldn’t have decided to go further than usual and put together DVD menus for burning disks, particularly in the era of dvds before digital storage got cheaper and easier (I’d love to see some of the old VHS fansubs someday, even if they’re terrible that’d be a hell of a bit of history). And then some bootlegger could very well have printed DVD labels and sold them, and real-physical-disk Netflix could have bought and rented them out without noticing since they wouldn’t have needed license agreements to do what they want with physical disks.

                Still, probably more likely you’re just remembering it wrong. Googling “netflix macross disks” didn’t immediatley find any posts of someone else noticing such a thing, and single word replacement/insertion is the sort of thing our terrible meat-storage does all the time.

              2. Shufflecat says:

                Like Fizban says, this is most likely a Mandela effect memory thing. My own memory is the DVD labels were just a big UN-Spacy logo with an inset disk number, but neither “Robotech” nor “Macross” lettering (presumably assuming a DVD case that wasn’t present with a Netflix shipped disk).

                I think it’s unlikely that Netflix would’ve mistaken a fan bootleg for an official release. While it’s true (and court-tested) that Right of First Sale protects them from licensing issues, I don’t think it would protect them from charges of distributing what would legally be considered pirated media (a legit import disc wouldn’t be an issue, but a re-encoded copy with a fan sub/dub would be). Also I doubt they were sourcing their disks from convention dealer halls or 3rd party fan sites.

              3. Boobah says:

                I’ve got a Macross DVD set published by ADV Films (and with a Harmony GOLD logo, though I doubt they had much to do with it beyond getting a cut) with a 2006 copyright on it.

                For the sake of completeness, I’ve also got a Robotech Macross Saga DVD set, also published by ADV Films, with a 2001 copyright on that.

                1. John says:

                  Bless you, sir. I feel 50% less bonkers already.

        2. Kyle Haight says:

          The long form story is what made both Robotech and Star Blazers stand out to me as a child. The first series of the latter had a literal timer counting down at the end of each episode. It was so refreshing to have a story with a beginning, middle and end. Characters had arcs! It was a huge leap forward in narrative complexity and child me was always baffled by the fact it was so rare.

          Neither show really stands up today when watched as an adult, but at the time they were relevatory to me and I remember them fondly for that.

          1. Fizban says:

            On the one hand, I’d always wanted to watch Pokemon, not Digimon (which was all you got without cable). On the other hand, Digimon Adventure 1-2 are mostly rock-solid kid adventure stories with characters and arcs that still held up watching them again (twice even) as a 20-something, which I would watch again if I didn’t already know them so well (but really should because that’s like the definition of comfort food)- which is say, one of the rare ones. While Pokemon was a ridiculously inconsistent commercial with painfully bland one-note sterotypes mostly about an amnesiac Time Lord getting worse at their primary skill as time passed. Which I watched around 900 episodes of ’cause I finally could, almost none of which I remember for obvious reasons (not that I regret it or anything).

            Having been forced to watch Digimon instead of Pokemon is probably a low-key massively huge part of my taste and expectations in just, a ton of things. Being patterned to expect adventure in adventure shows, character growth from characters, being 100% on board and ready for monster trainer/magical girl/isekai on general principle at all times- and some other not so good things like if male and female characters then “romance” subplot=always. A formative show at a formative time.

    3. Steve C says:

      The people who watched Robotech back in the day still remember it. But does the current anime zeitgeist still remember Robotech? No. It has been forgotten.

      There’s lots and LOTS of internet discussions asking about what anime to watch. Threads about classics etc. Anime like Spirited Away, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Ranma 1/2 etc are all repeatedly mentioned. Robotech not so much. Nobody advocates for it like the others. Robotech is like Fist of the North Star. Acknowledged it exists but not being discovered by new audiences and therefore being forgotten.

      The line in history seems to be the DVD. If it from the VHS era then it is a line in a list rather than something advocated.

      1. John says:

        You’re probably right, but somehow I doubt that serious anime enthusiasts would ever stoop to recommend a series frankensteined together from the corpses of three unrelated anime and dubbed into regardless of age. At best, they would recommend one of the constituent series, most likely Macross as to the best of my knowledge the other two have virtually no cultural legacy.

        1. Kyle Haight says:

          Anime fans at the time coined the term “Macekered” (after show runner Carl Macek) for a reason, and it wasn’t a polite one.

  3. Mik says:

    I hope Shamus will do an updated ‘top 64 games’ some time; surely there will be some additions/replacements since 2014?
    Although perhaps not as much as we might expect, since his original list often contains the grand-daddy of the genre (like Duke Nukem 3D).

    But even the discussion about the older games will be interesting: the audience on this site and opinions will surely have changed, in the last 8 years.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      Comparing that list to the games I’ve played list, I’d consider Hollow Knight at least worthy of consideration. Possibly Hades as well, though I haven’t played it. Neither were out by the time of the list’s release. Overall it’s still a pretty solid list, though.

      1. Lino says:

        Even if Shamus redid the list, Hollow Knight and Hades probably won’t make it, because he doesn’t play 2D platformers or roguelites. The fact that Hollow Knight has a strong Dark Souls influence is an even bigger guarantee that he won’t play it.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Both of those are outside Shamus’ area of interest. I can see him recognizing they’re well made and praising the developers for their work, but I don’t think they’d go into his favorites list.

        Though he did like Carrion, and that’s basically a Metroidvania. I suppose with the right context every genre can be attractive to everyone.

    2. Mik says:

      There would be more changes: surely Shamus would include Factorio in any new list, for example.

      (Also, did I say Duke Nukem 3D? I meant Wolfenstein 3D. Sorry.)

  4. MerryWeathers says:

    10:50 Minecraft Server Shenanigans

    I’m surprised that you aren’t aware that “pay-to-win” servers exist in Minecraft Shamus, considering the initial controversy surrounding them back in 2013 (or was it 2014?) was what led to the Microsoft buyout of Mojang in the first place.

  5. Joshua says:

    I’ve been playing Minecraft with the wife a bit in the past two weeks (it had been several years), and we’re not a fan of the recent update. Those mile-deep fissures that allow you to directly see the lava below you were neat before in their rarity, but they’re the norm now I guess. Instead, actually finding caverns that gradually drop down deeper and deeper, ever opening to other caverns, are the rare find now. It makes finding ores a lot more of a pain in the butt. Also, some people have complained that the chopped up terrain has really made riding a horse extremely dangerous and/or tedious now.

    I remember seeing a few episodes of Robotech when I was a kid (I was 7 in 1984), but I couldn’t tell you anything about them other than that they bounced back and forth between different stories.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Minecraft terrain tends to be kinda meh. It’s why I quite love the Terraforged mod for 1.16, it makes the world-gen so much better.
      With 1.19 around the corner I wonder when the big tech mods (Immersive Engineering, Mekanism, Thermal) will get to a newer version. It’s nice that they no longer have to implement their own copper, that’s another few chest slots saved. But I feel for the Create and GregTech Intergalactical devs, having a moving target again after the relative stability of 1.16.

    2. MerryWeathers says:

      Both Minecraft and No Man’s Sky share the same problem of having stale core gameplay loops that haven’t been addressed that much by the developers, instead just relying on superficial additions like new areas that don’t really improve the game at all and just serve to seemingly keep it “fresh”.

      I think they can be more engaging to play again if both games’ respective devs took an “immersive sim/emergent gameplay” mentality approach with having the existing systems within the games properly interact with each other more, which could also lead to the game world feeling more alive and organic.

    3. bobbert says:

      Don’t you need a windows account to play minecraft now?

      1. Veylon says:

        I still use my non-migrated Mojang account.

        1. bobbert says:

          I just checked the launcher. It now screams at you, “We are absolutely, positively, for real, getting rid of those in March!” I guess that’s a ‘maybe?‘.

  6. tmtvl says:

    Death and Relationships within Games

    I’ll leave it to others to talk about That Dragon game, as I feel I am uniquely disqualified to talk about it, being a bit too much on the nonchalant side.

    I’ll stick to three games to keep this post of manageable size.

    First off: let’s talk about the Final Fantasy series:
    Aeristh’s death is a fairly well-known scene, but it was a bit of a recurring element, in Final Fantasy VI General Leo, the sympathetic second in command of the Empire is betrayed and killed and he gets a grave in the town of Thamasa, which you can visit if you like.
    But hang on a second, the series has phoenix down items and life spells, why didn’t they use those? That’s why I am partial to Final Fantasy V. Ex-Death (the bad guy) has captured your party, but one party member, through heroic effort manages to break free of the holding spell and engages him.
    First thing that happens is Ex-Death lobbing a meteor on your party member’s head. At that point in the game you are not quite in position to shrug off meteors to the noggin and it isn’t long before his HP has reached 0.
    Yet he keeps fighting.
    You can keep dealing damage to Ex-Death who is flabbergasted that your party member hasn’t gone down. After an exchange of blows Ex-Death takes flight and your party members are saved. Yet the one who fought Ex-Death has fallen.
    By going beyond his limits he is no longer able to be revived. And they try. They even lob an elixir at his corpse in the vain hope of getting something, anything done. Considering the technical limitations the game was under, it’s a surprisingly emotional scene.

    Persona 3 so much we could talk about. Shinji with his complicated relationships to the rest of SEES; Chidori, and her redemption arc through her relationship with Junpei; but the one I want to talk about hits a bit closer to home. How many games have you played where at the end of the game… your main character dies?
    It’s a rather heavy-hitting scene, very understated, leaving the player to think for themselves. All the people you’ve formed connections to through the game, how will they react to the news? All the things you’ve done, was it enough? Are you happy with the choices you made?
    SMT tends to a heavier emotional feel then FF, and the Persona sub-series (despite P4’s cheery tunes and bright yellow colour scheme) is no exception.

    And finally…
    Breath of Fire IV
    Where do I start? An innocent woman gets tortured to death to serve as ammunition for a magical cannon. There is Ershin’s storyline which raises the question on whether an animated suit of armour can be considered a living being. And then there is Elina…

    Nina…could you leave us alone for a moment? Thank you. Oh, and Ryu? Would you mind leaving the Dragonslayer here?

    Well, after such a line it’s clear to everyone that the follow-up scene is gonna be a barrel of laughter, rainbows, and prancing ponies. But of course, what else do you do when you’ve been turned into a mutated horrid mass of flesh that is fused to the castle where you’re held prisoner?
    To say that Yuna (the mastermind behind it all) is a deranged, foul, evil monster is to understate the case. Oh, and it gets worse: he gets away with it.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Persona 3 is the one that I was going to mention, especially since death and its consequences is pretty much the theme of the entire game, and yet it isn’t just completely depressing (even the death/coma scene at the end). For example, you left out Mitsuru’s father and Miki which has a huge impact on the characters it effects.

      I’d also recommend the Persona games as games that do relationships well. The relationships that you can’t skip are done well, and you get to choose the other ones you pursue for the most part, which is different from how most games handle it.

      SMT tends to a heavier emotional feel then FF, and the Persona sub-series (despite P4’s cheery tunes and bright yellow colour scheme) is no exception.

      Even in Persona 4, while the death didn’t happen in-game you have the issues around Nanako’s mother’s death that play out through their S-links, and for emotional appeal you can’t really do better than the emotions around Nanako’s illness towards the end.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      – The thing that baffled/annoyed me about Aeris dying in FFVII was that you can see in her character stats sheet that there’s a full set of limit breaks, a load of unique weapons and everything else that you’d expect from a character who was going to stick around for whole runtime. Guides at the time would even tell you about the abilities you could unlock, even though you’d never see them unless you stopped playing the game to grind for hours upon hours.

      Also, just use a Phoenix Down, Cloud you cheapskate.

      – I also immediately though of The Walking Dead Series 1. The game does a very clever thing in making you take care of a child for the full runtime, then justify every choice you made to a stranger from that perspective near the end…and having Lee die at the end was a great way to draw a line under the story and leave you to think about what you’re doing.*
      None of the other Telltale games I played ever came close to the emotional weight of that ending, though they definitely seemed to be trying.
      Like Shamus, I decided to not cut off my arm, but not for the same reason – I thought it’d be a burden on the rest of the group if Lee were in constant pain (turns out that wasn’t true, but whatever). And that wasn’t the hardest choice for me; the VERY final choice you have is after you’ve got Clementine to handcuff you to a wall because you’re about to turn into a zombie.
      Do you tell her to run away and leave you to die, or make her shoot you to be safe?

      While I get people complaining about the Telltale games and their moral choices having the same results, that’s very much forgetting that there’s more to a moral decision that the immediate results. And Walking Dead S1 really nailed that.

      *Also related: for a game that has an ending directly linked to the consequences of interacting with a child, it blows the Witcher 3’s ‘Oh, by the way that far-future magical apocalypse is happening RIGHT NOW, hope you made the right choices without realising it!’ ending out of the water.

    3. Hal says:

      The mechanical vs narrative conflict in character death is a problem in the Final Fantasy games. You have magical healing, including spells and items that bring people back from the dead . . . how is death permanent in any fashion? Some games actually try to explain this.

      In Final Fantasy 4, for example, the party finds itself in a trapped room where the walls are closing in on them. Two of the characters cast a spell on themselves, turning themselves into stone statues and stopping the trap. Normally, you could just use a healing item or spell to undo this, and the characters try this. The game tells you it can’t be undone because they did of their own volition.

      There’s something to appreciate about the game at least lampshading this, compared to other games where the characters pretend that healing spells don’t exist. You get the impression the developers have divorced mechanics from narrative (e.g. FF7, when Aeris dies and no one utters the words “phoenix down.”)

      On the other hand, there’s FF9, where there’s a major NPC death and no one (to my memory) tries to use magic or items to revive her. But it’s a major plot point that the villain observes you using a limit break technique and says, “Hm, I need to learn to do that.”

      I understand why writers would ignore those things; it’s kind of hard to have those dramatic deaths when undoing death is a trivial mechanic. Still, I appreciate when it’s at least lampshaded; makes the world feel a bit more coherent.

      1. Thomas says:

        It makes it better if ‘revive’ is specifically from an unconscious state, because character death or no, I’ve never seen a game acknowledge the ramifications to world building if resurrection is a routine action.

        Otherwise in FFX they should be dropping phoenix downs out of an air balloon after Sin strikes instead of sending the dead!

        This is close to the territory where you just have to accept it though. In the same way people sometimes propose ‘luck’ systems instead of characters getting wounded by bullets/swords, but it just ends up being less viscerally satisfying than actually seeing your character get hit and recoil.

        1. Syal says:

          I wish more games used FF4’s ‘Swoon’ status. What a fun way to say someone’s fainted.

          1. Hal says:

            That was definitely a localization issue, a compromise between Nintendo not wanting to outright mention death or killing, and finding some other way of indicating that a character has fallen.

        2. Joshua says:

          LOTRO uses Morale, which sometimes has the goofiness associated with losing your morale and fleeing after you fell off a 1,000′ cliff.

        3. Chad+Miller says:

          It makes it better if ‘revive’ is specifically from an unconscious state, because character death or no, I’ve never seen a game acknowledge the ramifications to world building if resurrection is a routine action.

          People often try to headcanon this, which leads to the hilarious conclusion that the Death spell summons the Grim Reaper to make someone faint and the Phoneix is a mystical creature famous for falling asleep and waking up again.

          I think Aeris in FFVII actually may mark the exact point where the series stopped caring. Even as late as FFVI the only way to permanently kill a party member was to leave him behind as the continent he was standing on was destroyed along with most of the rest of the planet.

          EDIT: Ah, no, General Leo probably qualifies also (haven’t played that game in awhile though I will be running through the pixel remaster version which comes out later this week, especially since I just finished my playthrough of the Mass Effect remaster)

          1. Syal says:

            FF7 is also the point where they stopped permanently killing party members. 2 killed them, 4 killed them, 5 killed them, 6 let you kill them, 7 killed them, and now we’re done. 9 is the first game with a rotating cast where every cast member survives to the credits.

            1. Rho says:

              Wait, did anyone die in FF8?

              1. tmtvl says:

                Squall, at the end of disc 1. (Not really, but it’s a silly fan theory)

              2. Syal says:

                No, but I’m not sure I’d call it a rotating cast like 2, 4, 6, or the beginning of 9. 8 is like 7 in that you gain new party members over time and they stay with you for the rest of the game.

                1. Rho says:

                  Well, not going to argue but that feels like fitting the data to the theory. IIRC, there are several sequences where the the party was fixed.

                  1. Syal says:

                    Not sure which game you’re saying had fixed parties. I’m mentioning rotating casts because 2 and 4 had rotating casts (i.e. characters change with story progression but the player party is fixed the whole time) and are the games with high body counts*. Your party often changes because someone in it died.

                    *(4 walks most of them back, but not until endgame.)

                    1. Rho says:

                      I mean there are multiple parts of FF8 where you cannot use any random existing party members you wish, or where the party is fixed entirely. And these are determined by the plot.

    4. Mye says:

      Breath of fire is such an amazing game… except the combat system is utterly boring and everytime I try to play trough it again I end up giving up pretty quickly. Amazing story, soundtrack, visual but it’s so slow and there’s no interesting way to build character.

      1. bobbert says:

        I don’t know. Being able to turn into the Czar Dragon and stomp on everything, without breaking a sweat, always puts a big smile on my face. Then again, I willingly played Wizardry.

        Breath of Fire II has an extremely strong story and, to top it all off, is extremely pretty. Sadly, despite the game loving the themes of sacrifice and loss, it never has the guts to kill-off or marry-off any of the PC’s, despite threatening it constantly. Though, the part where Nina’s little sister steals Nina’s heroic sacrifice always makes me cry.

        You can make a fun drinking game by having a sip every time you ask yourself while playing: “How did this get past the censors.”

        1. John says:

          I don’t know if I’d call Breath of Fire II pretty, exactly, but the art is definitely a huge leap over the art from Breath of Fire I.

    5. Dreadjaws says:

      This has always been a problem with the game’s representation of death. Technically speaking when your characters run out of HP they’re knocked out and not dead (this is something the games make very clear), so items like Phoenix Down and the Revive magic basically just wake you up. Is different to how it works with enemies. When an enemy runs out of HP they dissolve into nothing and are removed from their party, so reviving isn’t an option. They’re clearly dead.

      But then you have undead enemies, and you gotta wonder how do those work. Also, why does the “Death” spell actually kills your enemies and only knocks out your party members? The Phoenix summon exists, and while it’s true that its schtick is to revive itself and not others in many interpretations Phoenixs can cure deadly wounds. All of this stuff could be easily handwaved, but the games never bother. It’s just one of those conventions you’re not supposed to pay attention to.

    6. Pink says:

      I hesitate slightly to even mention Resonance due to it being a bit spoilery, but that death scene hit hard.

  7. Lino says:

    Regarding memorable game deaths, there’s definitely quite a few for me. Off the top of my head, the death of Oriin the second Ori game, Eli Vance from Half-Life, that one death in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and I’m sure there were some memorable ones in the Witcher 3 (e.g. Vesemir comes to mind).

    As well as memorable relationships, there are also quite a few I really love: the two main characters in Beautiful Desolation, Geralt with Triss and Yen in Witcher 3, the Prince of Persia with Farah, the relationships in the new Guardians of the Galaxy game… In theory I also like the relationship Kratos has with his son in the reboot. But even though I liked the game, I’ve got a lot of animosity towards it, in part because of that relationship. But I’m in a good mood today, so I’ll save that rant for the next TWIP thread.

  8. MerryWeathers says:

    29:13 Mailbag: Death and Relationships within Games

    Undertale toys with this quite deviously in the order it was designed to be played in, it expects you to do a playthrough where you befriend or at least know every character in the game first before doing a genocide run where you brutally kill almost every one of them and tragically witness how some of these endearing characters react or deal with such a situation.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Honestly I never thought Undertale intends for you to do a “genocide run”. Like, yes, it’s an option. Yes, the game acknowledges that you did it. Yes, there is that whole “you have not 100%ed and seen every single bit of content in the game” completionist thing with many gamers… But to me it seems like it’s kind of doing the Spec Ops: The Line thing right: it lets you do an awful thing but it also lets you not do the awful thing, and if you do it “remembers” and calls you out on it*.

      *Unless you trick it.

  9. ContribuTor says:

    It’s not technically a death, but the scene where you pass your consciousness into a different body /deep sea diving suit in Soma really crystallized for me the core “who are YOU really?” premise of the game.

  10. ContribuTor says:

    Semi-unrelated. Sometimes I read this site on my laptop, and sometimes on my iPhone. Posts like this keep reminding me of how broken this site is on iPhone for strike tags.

    It’s a ball of orange, and there’s no real way for me to reveal the text within. If I really really want to read it, I cut and paste the text into the Notes app, but it’s hugely cumbersome.

    Not sure if there’s a “fix” for this in CSS – highlighting text on mobile kinda sucks. But it would be awesome if there was some way for me make the spoilered text visible. I’d settle for a global “spoil all the things” switch to flip over having to shrug and pull out the laptop.

  11. BlueHorus says:

    Hey, Shamus, I’m pretty sure that the glowing parts of Earth shown in Mass Effect were in fact enormous fires from all the fighting and destruction.
    Not that that’s much better, but at leasts it’s not the case that the Reapers were just stripping planets of their rock crust for fun*.

    – BUT! I actually do have a meaningful Death Story from Mass Effect 3. It was my first playthrough, at the end of the Quarian/Geth section: I’d sided with the Geth, and Legion was upgrading the Geth warfleet with magical Reaper Tech(tm) that would allow them to win the war the Quarians started…
    …and the Quarians panicked and started attacking the Geth even harder.
    The game gave me a chance to intervene, and – silly me – I DIDN’T blindly pick the Paragade color-coded ‘Automatic Win’ option. Instead, I picked the normal conversation option that seemed the most sensible, to try and persuade the Quarians to back down. It didn’t work.

    Anyway, while I was sitting there glumly (and angrily) brooding over the way the Quarians had doubled down on bad decision after bad decision like idiots, Tali quietly excuses herself from the conversation and walks over to a cliff. I see it coming, but before I can say anything other than ‘No!’, she shoots herself.

    Ironically, even though I have since played it through again with the ‘right’ ending, that situation sticks with me as the most memorable – because the only thing I did ‘wrong’ on that playthrough was not pick the color-coded conversation option when it came up. I saved that one Quarian captain, I advocated for peace, I was just trying to do the best I could, but other people had already made their choices.
    I was wandering around the ship afterwards, and Joker summed it up perfectly: “All they had to do was just stop shooting.” But they didn’t.

    Sometimes failure is more interesting than success.

    *Though, gives some of the OTHER things that happened in Mass Effect 3…is it that unlikely?

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      The funny thing is that the bad ending to that quest also makes the ending slightly less nonsensical, keeping in mind the reason the Star Child gives for the Reapers’ behavior in the first place.

  12. beleester says:

    Anime Call of Duty already exists, and it’s called Vanquish. Platinum Games decided to make a cover-based shooter, but because they’re an anime studio at heart, the result was a game where you slide from cover to cover in a rocket-powered suit while shooting things in bullet time. But it’s still undeniably a cover-based shooter about Americans killing evil Russians in a morally grey setting, and that’s Call of Duty enough for me.

    As for my personal answer? I want an anime Mirror’s Edge. Like, take the basic concept of jumping across rooftops in an open city and running from the cops while doing cool stunts, but make the jumps a bit floatier, the stunts a little more gravity-defying, and give the main character a cool sword or something so you can cut through enemies without breaking stride. That would be pretty slick.

    That, or anime Skyrim. Take the look and style of Genshin Impact, strip out the gacha grind, make it a traditional AAA sandbox where the dungeons and sidequests are handcrafted, and I’d play that for a hundred hours, easily.

    1. tmtvl says:

      give the main character a cool sword or something so you can cut through enemies without breaking stride

      No! Mirror’s Edge was interesting for being a AAA game that for a change WASN’T focused on combat this, fighting that, shooting them,…
      That said, if ME was turned into an anime, EA’d probably talk to a hard-boiled studio. So we’d get a “Faith shoots all the dudes” scene in every episode.

      1. beleester says:

        Mirror’s Edge wasn’t focused on combat, but then it frequently put bad guys with machine guns in your path and forced you to fistfight them. If they had leaned into it properly, sure, that would be really cool, but taking the game as it stands it definitely should have had better combat.

        Catalyst improved on this a bit by adding the Focus Shield so you could run away more easily, but it also locked you into rooms to force you to fistfight bad guys even more often. But the combat was also a lot more fun and stylish, so I didn’t mind that much.

        1. Shufflecat says:

          I feel like that was just a design flaw on the first game’s part.

          IIRC the way combat was implemented, the game was very much still trying to lean into the idea that combat was undesirably dangerous for Faith. The problem I think was that they didn’t design it to be as avoidable as it should’ve been for what they wanted it to be: they kept putting enemies in your path in ways that denied you the ability to evade.

          There might also have been pressure to put combat in the game by studio execs who didn’t understand the idea of a non-combat oriented first person game, and the result was a begrudging half-compliance by the devs. That’s just blue-sky speculation, though. That it’d be in-character for EA is the only thing I can say for the idea.

          There’s also the more general problem that it’s hard to put literally any combat in a game without some segment of the audience latching onto it as if it’s the core gameplay, and proceeding to either break the intended experience with it, or complain that they can’t break the intended experience with it (see: survival horror games).

          If you’d personally prefer more combat focus, that’s one thing, but it’d seem disingenuous IMO to point to the combat that was there as evidence that the game was intended to be more combat-oriented than it was.

          BUT… good news! The game you’re wanting might already exist! Check out “Ghostrunner”, if you’ve not already seen it.

          1. tmtvl says:

            I went through hardships to do a pacifist run. The part on the rooftops where you have to climb a pipe after a chopper dropped three cops and the part in the ship where you need to open a door when there are cops in the hold are the standouts. And of course there’s the boss fights, which really don’t belong in the game.

            I should replay Thief 2, it did everything better.

        2. PPX14 says:

          I never really saw the combat in ME as being bad, more something you weren’t really meant to do but could use as a last resort. I only once capitulated and used the guns because it got too difficult, spent the rest of the time avoiding the enemies or trying and failing at disarming them properly.

  13. Mattias42 says:

    I know its a really divisive game, but I really dug how Death Stranding handled death.

    Like, even a no-name mook? Shooting them dead is a Big Deal, a horrific last resort that not even most of the vilest people around will never even consider, because every death, is another potential annihilation event. Yes, as in anti-matter meets matter annihilation. So BIG BOOM when you’re talking about a grown adult’s body-weight. (It makes sense in context.)

    And it’s not just a throw-away line or two to force you to use non-lethal weapons. You totally CAN go print yourself a shotgun, and clean out entire camps… but after that, you have to drag all the bodies to the incinerator yourself. Or it’s game over in a couple days, as you see a gigantic explosion on the horizon.

    It’s a LOT of work, for some horrific business. And that’s when you could have just as easily printed the exact same gun, but with rubber bullets. And if you go through it all anyway? That camp just stays empty for a few days extra anyway.

    Days of the near dead world echoing just a little emptier, as you trudge along. And you got nothing but extra work and even more silence for that horrific deed.

    Again, it’s not a game for everybody… but I really loved how it made you consider what in, say, an Ubisoft game, is barely a footnote in your journey.

    1. Shufflecat says:

      It does get weird though (well… weirder) in that as you progress through the game, those bandit camps give way to terrorist camps, and those guys use lethal weapons against you.

      So it’s implied that these new camps are full of guys who’s SOP is to just flat out murder anyone who comes through their territory. In a setting where any corpse that isn’t very carefully disposed of becomes a nuke in what is implied to be a very unpredictable time frame (mechanically it’s 2 days IIRC, but story-wise it’s more like “could happen at any time, but the more time passes, the more likely it is”). And there’s only 2 ways to safely dispose of a body, both of which… are not something most of those camps would have access to.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        To be fair, those terrorists MO is pretty explicitly end of the world stuff.

        Being a bit vague to avoid spoilers, but they’re pretty clear they want cities off the map, and every corpse they get their hands on, is another super-nuke landmine for them to use that way. After all, that annihilation only happens when somebody living stumbles into a BT that formed from said earlier corpse.

        So… yeah, pretty weird, but personally found it made sense in context as previously mentioned.

        1. Shufflecat says:

          Yeah, that’s true. Dunno why it slipped my mind, as it wasn’t actually that long ago I played the game.

  14. Syal says:

    Don’t play that many games with deaths, so I’m going to have to go with the bad ending of Tactics Ogre. If you mess up a conversation midway through part 4, your sister kills herself, and the closing credit is the hero flashing back to all the times he told his sister he’d protect her no matter what.>

    There’s a few that made me angry at the game, which may or may not count. Vampire the Masquerade and Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass both kill the main character in the end and my reaction was “Oh God Dammit game, fix yourself right now!”

    The Bravely Default games have faceless NPC deaths that are memorable for the sheer pointlessness of them. Without warning you suddenly run across twenty nameless bodies in a pile, and the villain is like “yeah, that was fun, but I’m bored again now.”

    And I guess Omori. Still only watched that one, but the whole plot revolves around the death of a character, and everyone reacting to it.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Are you talking about Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines? ‘Cos while that game did have a way for the main character to die, it was one of several endings and was a great example of just giving the player real consequences for their actions.

      1. Rho says:

        And also, the player and character can’t say they weren’t warned of the consequences…

        1. Syal says:

          The choice is “kill the villain and also, unrelated, do the thing you were explicitly told not to do multiple times”, or “let the villain do what they want, making it pointless to have even shown up.” It’s also after a really annoying boss fight with no chance to save. I have no sympathy. Only anger.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Each to their own, but I remember it very differently. You fight Lacroix’s muscle as the final battle, (which yeah, the combat in that game was bad. When ‘but you can break it with some builds’ is the best thing you can say about it, that’s not good), bust into the main room and effortlessly overpower him. By that point, you’ve won.
            I also remember the player’s dialogue as they left being ‘you of all people deserve what’s in the box’ or something, so leaving him to his devices never seemed like a bad idea. Might be because I played as a Malkavian?

            Still, I think having Lacroix be all talk, and eventually killing himself through his own greed was pretty perfect, and far, far better than yet another boss fight in that combat engine. It’s not as funny as the ‘side with the other Camarilla character’ ending, though, where the box gets locked away in a vault by superstitious people…

            1. Rho says:

              I’m not sure we really need spoilers for a 20-year old game. However, yes, exactly:

              The player is told emphatically not to open the box, several times I believe. In leaving it, you’re leaving LaCroix to his fate. I suppose in theory the player should have just killed LaCroix and then dumped the box in the ocean anyway. And the dialogue is very clear that the player is trying to take the power if they choose to open it. Or you’re allying with LaCroix which, well, you should’ve known that wouldn’t end well

              Also, I’ve been somewhat wondering why people had a tough time with the preceding boss fight. I always found that one rather easy, although mildly irritating in phase one.

              1. Syal says:

                Part of it is that I was a pure punch build.

              2. Sleeping Dragon says:

                Oh I’d say VtM:Bloodlines deserves those tags. Anyway, my canon playthrough is as a Malk so I can further justify just stepping out by having insight and probably knowing on some level that it’s not going to end well for the Jester Prince while at the same time will not unleash some eldritch horror.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Well, in none of the endings of Redemption Christof dies, so I think V:tM-B is the only eligible candidate.

    2. Shufflecat says:

      The Bravely Default example makes me think of Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2.

      Like, sure: the Borderlands series is an ultraviolent free-for-all where life is cheap and everyone around you is either kind of cartoonishly terrible, or cartoonishly chipper about how terrible their world is, and gameplay largely consists of finding newer and cooler ways of making people explode. And Handsome Jack is kind of the apotheosis of this: a brilliantly annoyingly snarky over-the-top villain you love to hate.

      BUT the mustard on that hot dog of a villain is a thread of genuine horror. You keep finding these moments in the game where his behavior is genuinely, non-comedically horrifying, even amidst it’s own cartoonishness. Like the time you find a recording of him casually ordering his cyborg minion to massacre a train full of refugees (including a named character from the last game), just because they didn’t happen to have an item he was looking for. Or when he tells you a story (which he thinks is hilarious) about this one time he gouged a random villager’s eyes out with a spoon while his goons held the man’s family at gunpoint, in order to prove to you that “I’m the good guy”. Or literally everything about the way he treats his own daughter.

  15. Mye says:

    Robotech reputation is kinda scorched because harmony gold was being, let say nicely, a bit of a dick with copyright and essentially preventing macross from being release outside japan. Although they relented last year. I don’t remember what happened with the robotech sequel they were trying to make, haven’t heard anything about it in awhile.

    If you want to try another show where they took Japanese anime footage and repurposed it, you can try samurai pizza cat. On the flip side if you want to try macross, you can give macross plus a shoot, it’s a movie/short OVA series so it doesn’t take that long to watch and is pretty darn good.

  16. Syal says:

    You know what game could be anime-ified? Pokemon.

    1. tmtvl says:

      But then they’d have to turn the doughnuts into rice balls or something, that’d just be weird.

  17. Chad+Miller says:

    By the way, I just finished Mass Effect 3 (remastered) right before listening to this podcast and noticed a funny randomly annoying fact:

    On Thessia, when you fight Kai Leng, the quest objective is “Fight Kai Leng”. Not “Defeat Kai Leng”, because the narrator isn’t even going to pretend that you can win the fight. (even though I was an infiltrator and blew through all of his phases with one bullet each)

  18. Dreadjaws says:

    I didn’t know there was a Detention film. I played the game and found it very atmospheric, unsettling and genuinely scary at times. I ran into it by virtue of the whole controversy about the developers’ other game, Devotion, that was removed from Steam due to some hidden picture that compared China’s president to Winnie the Pooh, even though that picture was patched out. Then GOG announced that their planned release of the game was canceled “after receiving many messages from gamers”. This ended up stirring quite the PR disaster because of course it was absolute fucking bullshit. No one outside China cared about it and GOG simply could have made it unavailable to buy in that country.

    I haven’t played Devotion yet, which the developers had to release in their own website. I did buy their game to support them but man, my backlog is unending. And guess what? I just started another playthrough of Deus Ex. Again. I just can’t help myself.

  19. Philadelphus says:

    Death and Relationships within Games

    The one that immediately came to mine was in Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. Spoilers, obviously.

    ST:BotS is a real-time tactics game about a group of plucky ninja/a samurai/an awesome old gunsmith and his pet tanuki in Edo-period Japan, acting as spies to protect an unnamed shogun from a mysterious and powerful rebel who’s been moving against him in the shadows. The samurai, Mugen, is deeply, fiercely, loyal to the shogun, while everyone else is sort of a mixture of loyal and “he pays well”. But they have great character dynamics together, and the voice acting really sells it.

    Anyway, as part of the build up to the reveal that the mysterious rebel is—dun dun dun!—the shogun’s brother scheming for the throne, he (the brother) gets his son to murder the shogun’s son after capturing the characters and forcing them to watch. Mugen is heartbroken, feeling he’s failed his shogun (even though he realistically couldn’t do anything to stop it) and commits seppuku in a really gut-wrenching scene with everyone else around him (including his lover) saying their goodbyes or turning away unable to watch. (I do think it was done quite well, with everyone understanding that this is about Mugen’s honor and treating it with the same weight he does, with only the youngest member of the party trying [unsuccessfully] to argue him out of it.) The absolute worst part is that, as he’s kneeling in the gently falling snow with his dagger out…he doesn’t go through with it until you actually click (it took me like 15–20 seconds of waiting to figure that out the first time I played, and I felt like I’d been punched in the gut when it happened).

    This isn’t some story-and-gameplay-segregation thing, either—Mugen (1/5th of the party) is gone for the remainder of the game. And while all the characters are balanced with various skillsets, Mugen has some unique abilities (like being the only character who can overpower enemy samurai [the most dangerous opponents] in a straight-up melee battle), so his absence is keenly felt. The other characters are either subdued or angry for the next few missions, and their renewed quest to bring the shogun’s brother to justice in revenge for Mugen really resonated with me as a result.

    A few months ago the developers released a smaller stand-alone “expansion” (Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – Aiko’s Choice), which adds in a handful of new missions set just prior to the disastrous mission in the original game where the characters get captured, and it’s been really bittersweet playing and having Mugen back again knowing what’s in the character’s futures.

    1. John says:

      Ooh! I just finished Shadow Tactics for the first time last week.

      I was under the impression that the shogun was supposed to be Tokugawa Ieyasu, given all of the “Finally, we have unified Japan and achieved peace!” talk going on. A quick check on Wikipedia reveals, however, that Ieyasu definitely didn’t have a brother named Noboru or a son named Ryunosuke. I suppose he must a fictional shogun after all.

      I don’t think I felt Mugen’s death quite as keenly as you did, although I will say that his actual act of suicide went on seemingly forever and was deeply uncomfortable to watch, even as zoomed out as the camera was. I did miss Mugen intensely in later levels any time I had to deal with yet another @$%#$% samurai though. I agree with you that the way the other characters reacted to Mugen’s death was very well done though, especially Hayate’s near-inarticulate anger. I also liked the way the group effectively breaks up at the end of the game after they’ve achieved their revenge now that they no longer have Mugen to hold them together. That seemed very realistic to me.

      I’ll have to keep a look out for Aiko’s Choice. At present, I’m going back through the game and replaying certain levels to try for some of the optional objectives, but all-new content sounds even better.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        I figured the shogun is left unnamed because he’s just supposed to be an archetype of “the good king” (everyone other than the rebels seem to at least respect him and don’t have anything bad to say, Noboru is portrayed as wanting to take the throne from personal ambition rather than legitimate concerns about his ruling of the country, he’s quick to believe his own spies protesting their innocence when they burst into his personal tent holding his nephew, etc.). It’d be like setting a game in “High Middle Ages England” and wanting to use tropes associated with that and the monarchy without naming a particular monarch, I suppose.

        Ah, yeah, I think I’ve got all but the timed objectives, and one or two achievements since I got partway through the final level for a second time, got interrupted by something, and haven’t gotten back to it yet. Aiko’s Choice is pretty good. It’s smaller than the main game but also priced accordingly; I’m on the fifth level and haven’t quite finished it, but I’m pretty sure it’s the last. It plays pretty similarly, though does shake things up slightly with level design sometimes. It gives you two levels with all 5 characters present (and the final level is the first where Takuma is free to move around with everyone else instead of cordoned off in his own little area), and a neat level where you only have Takuma and no bullets, so have to rely entirely on Kuma and sneaking around (and environmental hazards). One thing I would’ve liked to see and didn’t is a level where Aiko prepares ahead and starts with a disguise instead of spending half the level acquiring one, but I suppose it is one of the more powerful abilities (instead there’s a level where she never gets a disguise, forcing you to rely more on her other abilities).

        (If there’s one game I’d love to see a good level editor released for, it’d be Shadow Tactics.)

  20. Gautsu says:

    I remember watching Robotech on tv back in about ’84/’85, and the the Clash of the Bioroids vhs release, before Macross dubs made their way over to the states. I was disappointed for many years in my childhood; when my mother would take me to get my hair cut I would ask for the stylist to cut my hair like Rick Hunter’s. They would look at me blankly, so eventually I cut a picture out of a magazine and brought it with me. They again looked at me blankly, and then said “How about we cut it like Rick Springsteen?” That happened so often I should have had Jesse’s girl

  21. tmtvl says:

    I think I would like a Ghibli take on Spyro. Especially with the Gateway to Glimmer cast.
    There’s plenty of room for Miyazaki flying scenes and the characters are universal enough (the Hero, the Tough Chick, the Sports Ace, the Money Grubber, the Professor) that they can slot well into any type of adventure story.

  22. RFS-81 says:

    I liked Detention! (The game; haven’t watched the movie.)

    It’s great supernatural and surreal horror. I don’t know if it’s for you, Shamus. At it’s core, it’s a personal story, but politics have a heavy impact on it. Specifically, anti-communist paranoia in post-civil-war Taiwan. It contains (not terribly graphic) descriptions of people being executed for reading banned books. If you can stomach it, I really recommend the game! It’s like Silent Hill, but even stranger.

  23. eaglewingz says:

    Best. Mess. Effect. 3. Rant.


  24. Moridin says:

    “Who runs a game at 40fps or 70fps”
    Many new monitors (possibly even most gaming monitors that aren’t sub-$200) come with Freesync (or G-sync) and it’s not uncommon for the variable refresh rate to range from ~40-144. Also, I would assume that the performance increase depends on your hardware and 70 fps means you can get 60fps with v-sync.

    I could also go on a rant about FSR, but that’s probably better left for another time. Essentially, instead of running the game at 1440p, you run it at 1080p(or what have you) and then apply a really fancy upscaling algorithm to it. So you get almost-but-not-quite native picture quality, and much better performance. In theory.

  25. PPX14 says:

    The ‘deaths’ I remember most keenly in video games are Agro in Shaddow of the Colosssus, and the situation at the ending of Prince of Persia 2008. They were ‘plot-related’ but seemed to carry plenty of a certain kind of weight given they were about companions and not just that but gameplay companions. A similar thing in The Last of Us I suppose too.

    1. Shufflecat says:

      Yes, that first one! They’d done such a good job of making Agro feel like a living animal rather than a horse-shaped motorcycle. And coming at that moment at the entro to the final Colossus really cemented the general feel the game had been ramping up since the beginning that Wander’s quest was a one-way trip that would end up tragically claiming him one way or another.

      1. PPX14 says:

        That’s a great point I hadn’t thought of! About making him feel “like a living animal rather than a horse-shaped motorcycle”. He seems to exert his own will or personality in how he gallops and rears, and moves his head or stops and neighs before huge drops. As you say it already felt like there would be tragedy, but it was only approaching that bridge in the cutscene that it crossed my mind that it wouldn’t be just Wander who would have to make the sacrifice.

  26. Fizban says:

    This event in Life is Strange seems to me to be the big reason people cared about it, with all the further games being inherently incapable of pulling the same trick, basically having jumped the shark in a way. I didn’t actually play the game myself, and after that point in the let’s play I knew there was no point, because there was no going back (so these spoiler tags mean business):

    In Life is Strange, a narrative “telltale-ish” or whatever game, you have time-rewind powers which you immediately use to save the friend you haven’t seen in years from being shot in the highschool bathroom. At the end of episode 2 (IIRC), out of 5, a different character attempts to commit suicide, and thanks to apparent overuse of your powers (while hanging out with your old friend of course), you can’t rewind while attempting to talk them down. Their survival depends on you actually having paid enough attention to them, a side character who offers no direct benefit to you (and whose more religious nature is likely to make many irreverent gamers less interested), and in the let’s play I was watching the host failed, miserably.

    And the thing is, I’m pretty sure I would have done better, but only by like one question. I was mostly guessing. I didn’t pay attention to Kate either, was not interested in the little details about what Bible quotes she liked because I’m generally “eww” about religion, and would have been absolutely expecting my rewind powers to be absolute because videogames. I probably would have failed and had to watch her die- and then angrily save-scummed or replayed from the beginning if that was what it took to avoid it because it’s a videogame and I’m meant to save people damn it! But the whole point of that sequence is what happens when your magic protagonist infallibility fails and someone’s life depends on you rather than your powers, and replaying the game doesn’t change what happened when you weren’t expecting it. The cat was out of the bag and I’d never be able to really say I could have saved her, because I didn’t play it myself, and I most likely would have failed if I did. She’d have gone off that roof and I couldn’t have stopped her.

    So yeah. It hit me like a truck hard enough I can’t bring myself to actually buy any of their games. The first one would have had me hooked, but none of the rest will ever compare, and the paradox of my only knowing about it via let’s play but that also spoiling me so hard on the experience means I missed the boat on even that one.

  27. Pineapple says:

    Death and Relationships within Games

    Favourite game dealing with both, by far:
    Acting Lessons by Dr Pink Cake

    It’s a “choose your path” visual novel / dating sim. Yes, I know…
    It’s also an “adult” game containing awkwardly animated explicit sex. YES, I KNOW…

    BUT it’s not really what one usually expects from the genre, which actually made it somewhat infamous in it’s corner of the gaming world.
    Because the game tells a story not just about the joys but also the pains that come with relationships, both romantic and otherwise. It tells of personal growth and stagnation. It tells of every-day and not-so-every-day violence and death and their survivors. And wraps it all up in a message which, depending on where you are in your life, might just as well sound trite as it can be truely life changing.

    For me it was without a doubt one of the most emotionally intense experiences I ever had not just within video games but entertainment in general. (So far I averaged one pack of tear-soaked tissues per ~4 hour playthrough, and I’m not that weepy.) And what it said about life was what I needed to hear at the time I first played it.

    People’s milage obviously varies. I’ve seen some get seriously, irrationally mad at the game and its author for the intensity with which it induces emotions that weren’t expected and / or wanted.
    Others completely bounce off of the experience.

    But if you get into it at all I can almost guarantee you will feel something.
    As the game’s single author Dr Pink Cake has the somewhat rare gift of being able to write characters you can actually understand and relate to and empathize with. Which makes the plot so much more engaging, especially when it starts to twist.
    (Or in other words, it’s a much needed relief from the endless stream of featureless, meta-constructed plastic people that come gushing out of Hollywood and the AAAs nowadays…)

    So to anyone not put off by the “adult visual novel” label I’d heartily recommed risking a look.
    (If you are lucky enough to live in the right parts of the world you can buy the game from Steam’s adult section.
    Otherwise it’s not too hard to find it *cough* elsewhere *cough*. Consider shooting Dr Pink Cake a few bucks on his Patreon in that case.)

  28. Christopher says:

    Robotech was a bit before my time and never made it over here. By the time I started seeking out anime in my teens in the 2000s, I wasn’t going back to watch dubbed mecha stuff from the eighties, you know. I know several Macross fans, at least.

    I think it’s tough to ask games to portray relationships as well as life does, it’s obviously not high on the list for most 2D platformers or whatever to give you a long-lasting relationship with some grandpa. It takes a specific mindset to want to make really gamey games and also have a story focus in the first place, and if it’s from a game with a big focus on story like some indie experience game, well, what else is gonna be in them besides relationships and death and all that? Which can make it feel like it doesn’t count, since it sort of sidestepped the problem, but whatever. For me it’s definitely those story games like Persona, Ace Attorney or Tsukihime that really get you to feel for a character, just by spending a lot of time and focus on them.

  29. Nate A.M. says:

    I can give a millennial viewpoint on Super Dimension Fortress Macross, but not Robotech. As I think other people have mentioned, Macross survived substantially intact, albeit that Mari Iijima’s performance as Lin Minmay is better than Forstadt’s in ways which partially explain why the Japanese mostly like her and the Americans mostly don’t. Maybe the biggest generational divide is that millennials have no attachment to Robotech as a concept, however interested they may be in the component shows.

    Before I go any further let me mention that Kazutaka Miyatake, the more senior mechanical designer on Macross and truly one of the all-time greats, is recovering from a terrible tragedy and could use some assistance.

    In short: yeah it’s good. The parts where it’s a space opera about cultural soft power are great; the parts where it’s a love triangle are less so. It’s impossible to view SDF Macross as anything but an ode to contemporary Japanese consumer culture, but I’m guessing that wasn’t at the front of most American kids’ minds in 1985. Idols, shopping arcades, walks in the park with ice cream, cute girls and boys: these are the things which matter to Noboru Ishiguro and the friends at Studio Nue. When humanity runs to space, they take a complete vertical slice of their civilization, and this is ultimately how they survive. Do You Remember Love makes the cultural angle less complex (and like 10e69 times more sexist lol), but even more vehement: pop idols aren’t just a feature of a particular culture, they’re an ancient pancultural concept that girded all known civilizations!* Zentradi defect to the humans to defend the Idea of the Eternal Pop Idol: truly the ultimate gachikoi. Has historiography has largely moved on from the idea that Macross – and especially Do You Remember Love – were key events in the development of otaku culture? Yes. Are they nonetheless a tremendous artifact? Also yes.

    The emotional appeal of the love triangle rests partly in Haruhiko Mikimoto’s incredibly strong character designs. In fact, I don’t think its popularity can be understood any other way. Comiket in the early to mid 80s was absolutely full of Minmay fan goods for a reason. Mikimoto’s influence can be felt throughout the era, especially in the Lolicon Boom alongside Hayao Miyazaki (yes seriously) and Hideo Azuma. The term “lolicon” had a very different sense back then, meaning something closer to what in the 2000s was called “moe,” and what today we’d simply call “cute anime girls.” Appealing character designs are a core part of anime’s strength in general and Macross’ strength in particular. Midbrow anime fans in the Anglosphere have historically been embarrassed about this fact as a sign of somehow being unserious and brushed it aside, but I think the zeitgeist has changed.

    Kazutaka Miyatake and Shouji Kawamori’s mechanical designs are, of course, equally appealing in 2022. The general design sense in Macross was at the spearhead of anime’s artistic development. Do You Remember Love is both more polished and more refined in this respect.

    It is traditional to backhandedly complement the animation by saying “it was fine for the time,” but I think this is both unkind and unhistorical on both ends. However, you’re looking for a millennial opinion, not an academic one. I don’t think SDF Macross moves particularly well outside certain scenes, but those scenes are what define its animation. The mecha combat is the work of passionate, mostly complete newcomers. Much of Gainax’s most important staff – most notably Hideaki Anno and Hiroyuki Yamaga – got their start here under the guidance of Noboru Ishiguro and only slightly older peers like Ichiro Itano. Do You Remember Love, on the other hand, is a breathtaking movie with excellent animation, backgrounds, compositing, color design, and general designwork throughout: a fact which transcends any possible generational gap.

    Oh, one more thing: the timestamp is wrong, the question begins at 47:57

    *I recommend The Last and First Idol by Gengen Kusano for the ultimate apotheosis of this concept

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Thanks. I’ve updated the YouTube chapter.
      And… welcome back.

      1. Nate A.M. says:

        Thanks! I think I’ve only posted one or two comments here though – you might have me confused with someone else ^^;

  30. PPX14 says:

    The best death mechanic is the Prince telling you that “no no, that’s not what happened”. Stop messing up his story!

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