Doing the Doujinshi Thing, Part 1: Getting it Off the Ground

Where did this wacky idea of mine to go into doujinshi publishing germinate, exactly?

Let’s start by going back a bit, to around the mid-90s or so. I was in my teens, obsessed with anime and things like Virtua Fighter and Final Fantasy VI, and loved writing stories and doing drawings about the games and shows I was a fan of. Unfortunately, I lived in the American Midwest and was surrounded by people who could not give less of a rat’s ass about the weird games I did, so I wound up keeping all of the stories and doodles to myself. The internet is really just starting to become a thing, so it gave me a bit of an outlet to meet and talk with other people who like the same sort of games and media I did… but since it was still just building steam, it was pretty limited.

Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be able to talk and share my creations with others! Clearly, there must have been some folks out there who would love to hear me tell them the stories I had in my head about Virtua Fighter characters.

It’s around this time that, somewhere — I forget where, exactly — I encountered an article describing doujinshi and doujinshi subculture. Upon reading it, I was in complete awe. The article — complete with pictures — described a convention where people went to sell and buy their own stories and comics about their favorite anime, manga, and games. The pictures showed so many things that I longed for: photos of fan comics based on Virtua Fighter and SNK fighting games, people dressed as characters from Final Fantasy and Darkstalkers, stalls lined with artists showcasing their work.

Reading this article was revelatory to me. What it described was something I desperately, desperately longed for. A place where many people came together to trade fan work about the media they loved… it sounded like something out of a dream to a lonely girl in the Midwest who wished she could share her creations with others who liked the same nerdy stuff she did. But such a magical place was far across the ocean, seemingly forever out of reach to me. For years, it felt like I would never be able to see what these doujinshi conventions were like.

I did, however, continue to do research on the world of doujinshi, and what I discovered fascinated me. I was able to obtain a few books — some through resellers on places like eBay, others through a few friends in Japan I had made contact with — and seeing other people’s creations based on games and characters I loved felt nothing short of wonderful.

Eventually, however, I did manage to make my way over to Japan in 2002. It was that year when I attended Comic Market for the first time. I’d heard of Comic Market talked about as the king of all doujinshi events, and I knew that if I wanted to finally see what these gatherings were all about, I’d have to go myself. What I experienced exceeded all of the expectations I had. This was a place free of shame and stigma where I could meet others who loved the same sort of stuff I did, where I could form a personal connection with a creator by buying physical copies of their work, where I could find crazy, wonderful things that I never imagined. I came out of that Comiket absolutely exhausted and having spent far too much money, but my god, I had never felt that sense of belonging and the freedom to be my profoundly nerdy self so intensely before.

That’s when I absolutely knew that, somehow, I wanted to engage in the creation of doujinshi myself. It took 16 more years for it to happen, but after years of attending events, buying books, and forming connections with other creators, I finally achieved a lifelong dream.

But, dear reader, I know I’m not the only person who feels this way about Japan’s fascinating and wonderful doujin subculture. I know that there are others who, like me, long to participate in this scene. And to help those folks out, I’m going to talk about my experience of doujinshi creation — and try to advise you on how to set foot into your own self-publishing endeavors while doing so.

Step 1: Deciding what the hell you want to do

The first thing you need to do when making doujin is figure out what it is you want to make. Which can be just about anything — you can base it off of an existing property (provided the owners aren’t unusually litigious), write original comics or stories, make informative books or self-published reference guides… the doujin world is your oyster! It doesn’t matter if it has a logical reason for existing or not, what matters is that it’s something you care deeply about and want to share with the world.

For some people, deciding on a subject is really easy. Do you have an OTP you draw every day, maintain a tumblr art archive for, and want to sell a book of your comics of them smooching overseas? Cool, there’s your doujin, move on to step 2. If you’re like me, however, and you have a whole mess of different obscure interests… well, narrowing things down a bit more difficult!

I’ve been thinking about doing doujinshi of my own for over a decade and a half now, and the subjects and ideas I’ve had have changed constantly over the years. I’ve wanted to do something about Vanessa from Virtua Figher (still do, in fact), something about Fighting Vipers, books where I talk about my favorite male and female game characters, books about various obscure retrogames…

So how’d I eventually settle on a subject? Well, when I was in Japan over the 2016-2017 New Year, I met with my friend Pin, another doujinshi creator who compiles amazing books about important titles from Japan’s gaming history. I’d just finished my Raimais article, ran it at Arcade Superplay Expo, and acquired the PCB from a store in Osaka, so Raimais was very much on my mind. Over dinner, I had a thought come to me, which I promptly blurted out:

“You know… I think I’d really like to make a Raimais doujinshi.”

And that was the spark. In a sudden burst of thought, I’d managed to settle on what would be the subject of my first doujinshi. Of course, I still had a lot of work ahead of me to actually make it a reality.

Step 2: Figuring out how you’re going to make this happen

Congratulations, you’ve figured out the subject of your book! Now, you want to stop and make a preliminary plan of what your book is going to be like. There’s a lot to consider here!

  • Is it a comic? An illustration collection? An informative book?
  • Will it be black and white? Color? A bit of both?
  • Are you going to be the sole artist and/or writer, or will others be involved?
  • How big of a book do you want this to be, both in terms of physical size and number of pages?
  • Do you want any cute extras for the book, like a fancy-schmancy cover or some sort of insert?

I’ll go into more detail about choosing various print options when we get to the next part of this article, where we’ll discuss getting the book printed. For now, just make a general plan of what you want to do. This plan isn’t a permanent thing, but just a general idea of the sort of creation you want to make. Keep in mind that, as things progress, your plan will probably change, as they did for me.

Initially, my plans for the Raimais book were quite grandiose. I’d seen doujin by my friends Pin and Zekuu, two folks who go into some amazingly detailed research about fascinating retrogaming subjects and bind it all in gigantic, 100+ page books. I’d seen guidebooks from Mind Maker, who published some very detailed guidebooks about games like Strider Hiryu and The Ninja Warriors. I wanted to make a book that combined a guide and a deep dig into the material, discussing everything I’d found in my research on the game, along with an overview of all of the game’s stages, and some guest art of the game’s characters.

I eventually came to realize, however, that this would be a tremendous undertaking. Carefully playing through and documenting strategies for 120-some levels, even with the custom stage-analyzing tool I had1, was going to take quite a long time in-between my normal work obligations, I’d have to write a lot of stuff for the guide in Japanese, and I’d need to rope a translator friend in to help proofread and edit the Japanese since it’s a second language and I’m prone to mistakes. This was starting to look less and less feasible.

Thinking about it further, doing a big, ambitious book as my first venture into the world of doujinshi publishing… well, it just felt like it wasn’t the best idea. I’d need a lot of money upfront for printing, I wouldn’t know how much of an audience it would attract, and a project of that size has a lot more that could potentially go wrong. However, Raimais’s 30th anniversary was approaching, and dangit, I felt like I had to make something for it, even if it wasn’t the big thing I had originally envisioned.

I eventually made the decision to heavily cut down my original concept: the guide and analysis weren’t going to happen. Maybe I’d save them for something to come in the future if this project was successful, but for now, I was going to focus on putting together an illustration book instead. It’d be an anthology, and I’d get together several artists to contribute work based on the game. I already had contact with a few folks I wanted to work with for commission stuff, so I figured approaching them for potential doujinshi publication would likely work out well. That seemed like a good head start!

Step 3: Figuring out when and where you’re going to try and sell your doujin

Planning a doujinshi — especially a doujinshi with numerous contributors — takes time. You’ll want to give yourself some breathing room to work on the book before it goes to print, so now’s a good time to look at various doujinshi events and figure out where you would like to debut your work. You’ll want to find an event relevant to the subject matter you’re focusing on that’s at least a few months away.

Most doujinshi make their debut at some sort of doujinshi event. There are hundreds of these events, usually a few every week, at different locations across Japan. Some, like Comic Market and the various Comic City events, are more general in what sort of subject matter you can exhibit. Other doujin events tend to have some sort of theme, ranging from more general, to more specific, to very specific.

For example, there are events focused on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure doujinshi, but there are other JJBA events focused on certain parts of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (i.e. Part 3: Stardust Crusaders), and then you might have a very specific JJBA event that’s all about doujinshi involving Jotaro and Kakyoin smooching. (This sort of specificity is one of those wonderful quirks I love about the doujin scene.) Depending on how popular the subject matter is, these sort of events can range from small little gatherings to very big events. Take a peek over at ketto.com, a Japanese site that lists numerous current and upcoming doujinshi events, to get an idea of the amazing variety of these gatherings.

The small-to-mid-size themed events make for great places for first-time doujinshi sellers to cut their teeth and start building a name for themselves among peers with the same interests. See, when people dream of selling at a doujinshi event, their mind usually goes straight to fantasties of hawking books at Comic Market to the unimaginably huge horde of nerds that go there twice yearly. But as big a deal as Comic Market is, you probably don’t want to make it your first selling event, for several reasons:

  • It’s really big, crowded, and stressful, which — if you’re new to this whole publishing and selling thing — can make your anxieties a lot worse.
  • The odds of you getting in aren’t as good as a smaller event. There’s a sort-of-lottery every Comiket to figure out which of the circles applying actually get picked to exhibit, and its inner workings are a complete mystery. Even big, well-known circles and artists fall victim to the whims of Comic Market RNG every so often.
  • You’ve got the Steam problem of having to fight to be noticed within an extremely crowded marketplace. If you’re selling stuff based on something big and popular, you’re going to struggle to get noticed among the many, many other people who are doing work based on the same thing. If you’re doing something more obscure… well, you still have to compete with the big blocks of more popular stuff. Best hope somebody took the time to notice your tiny little circle cut in the catalog buried among the other obscure-media circles.

So yeah, Comiket is wonderful, but a smaller event is likely a better place to start your doujinshi career. Less stressful, less struggling for attention, and a better environment to interact with customers and other folks who share your interests.

As I was planning for the book, I had an event in mind I wanted to debut it at: Game Legend, a doujin event in Tokyo that focuses primarily on retrogaming-based creations. This seemed like the ideal place to offer up a book about a 30-year-old Taito game: they might see a Raimais-themed book and say, “Holy crap, Raimais! I loved that game! I can’t believe there’s a doujinshi about it!” It was held twice yearly, in May and November: May is usually an expensive month to travel to Japan (and a fairly busy work month), so I planned to try and offer the book at the November event.

It’s probably a good idea to contact a few artists/authors you’d like to have contribute at this point in planning to let them know what you’re planning on doing. A lot of artists can have pretty harsh schedules, so getting an advance commitment can be a big help. At the early stages of planning, I knew I wanted Nina Matsumoto and Nemi to do something for the doujin. I also knew they were exceptionally busy, so I asked well in advance if they’d be able to find room in their schedules for a contribution to the book.

Alright then, that’s our initial preparation down. Now it’s time to apply to the event, work on planning the book out further, and research how to get our stuff printed. Stay tuned for Part 2!

  1. Thanks Jed!

Adventures in Doujin Land: How I Self-Published a Book About an Incredibly Obscure Video Game at a Japanese Convention (and so can you!)

It’s been quiet here lately, I’m afraid. It’s due to a combination of things: one is that I have been having some health issues as of late. Nothing too serious, thankfully, but still enough to put a dent in my activity. I have some surgery scheduled for early December so it should be taken care of soon.

The other thing that’s been eating up my time, if you’ve paid attention to my Twitter or Patreon feeds, is that I published a book. A doujinshi, to be precise.

Yes, I finally turned my decades-long dream of doujin publishing into a reality! Some people want to write gaming books to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but me? I want to sell directly to my core audience: the hugest nerds on Planet Earth who absolutely love obscure stuff, and that’s exactly what Japan’s doujinshi scene offers. If you can dream it, you can sell it.

But how did this go from pipe-dream to reality? Well, it was a long and interesting journey, that’s for sure. But I know I’m not the only Westerner with Japanese doujin dreams, so I’d like to share my adventure so that others may learn from it and embark on their own self-publishing endeavors.

Part 1: Getting the idea off the ground

Part 2: Printing a book overseas (Coming soon!)

Part 3: The Game Legend experience

Every Classic Sonic Special Stage, reviewed

Hey, I reviewed Sonic Mania Plus recently! Some people seemed to take issue with the fact that I said the new content was a bit of a letdown — which I think more people might be inclined to agree with now that the game’s out. I mean, the team had the opportunity to put the Love Tester back into Studiopolis and they didn’t. I had to dock a point immediately right there. (It’s a joke, people.)

But some folks seemed unusually incensed that I said the special stages were bad. I don’t know why this point in particular seemed to get folks all in a huff, because… well, yeah, Sonic Mania special stages are pretty miserable. They’re absolutely the weak link in an otherwise spectacular game, and having to play more of them was not a fun prospect, made worse by the fact that the special stage rings are still a royal pain in the ass to find (and farm in postgame).

Here’s the thing, though. I’ve played a lot of classic Sonic. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in these games’ special stages. I think I have a pretty damn good idea of what makes for a fun Sonic special stage. And, my friends, Sonic Mania’s special stages are absolutely not fun, especially in comparison to some of the other great special stages Sonic has offered us.

So, readers, I would like to once again present you with a painstakingly compiled list of mini-reviews. This time, we’re not reviewing games, but games within games. We’re going to be looking at all of the classic Sonic series special stages1 and evaluating each type… and maybe tell a fun story or two of youthful obsession.

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  1. Except the SMS/Game Gear stuff. Those games aren’t very good, I didn’t own a Game Gear/SMS, and I don’t care.

Konami versus the fans of Tokimeki Memorial: A Legal History

Hey, did you hear about the PUBG vs Fortnite legal case getting withdrawn? Boy, that thing was a complete disaster, huh? But ours is an industry filled with legal shenanigans… many of which, like Capcom v. Data East, Silicon Knights v. Epic, and now this, have ended disastrously for the plaintiffs.

However, it’s not always like this. We only really see these cases from a Western perspective — and, indeed, many of the most important legal cases in gaming, like the infamous Tetris debacle, were decided in US court. But there have also been plenty of legal issues surrounding games in Japan — see the recent spate of game bar closures — and one Japanese company is quite notorious for its use of litigation.

Long before #FucKonami was a trending hashtag, long before Western music game fans and developers cowered in fear of Konami’s legal threats, there were incidents in Japan involving one of Konami’s most popular (at the time) game franchises. These incidents earned Konami a great deal of notoriety among game fans in Japan as a litigation-happy tiger of a company that would happily devour its own fanbase. Somehow, though, these stories never drifted overseas, likely because the game involved was seen by the west as “some weird Japanese dating sim thing” that was of little interest or importance.

It’s time to change that. It’s time to take a look at Konami’s legal actions against one of its most fervent fanbases. Let’s examine Konami’s legal battle against Tokimeki Memorial fandom.

Before we start, perhaps it’s best to talk a bit about what Tokimeki Memorial (frequently abbreviated as Tokimemo) was, and why it was such a big deal.

Tokimemo is considered to be one of the defining “Gal-ge,” or games centered around fostering and nuturing a relationship with one of several eligible virtual women. In this game, you play as a high school boy going through the school year, meeting various girls and finding one you eventually want to win over. By paying attention to the girl’s likes and what she wants in a partner, you budget your time and raise stats to become more appealing. You also have to make sure not to annoy any of the other girls, because they’re catty bitches who will spread damaging rumors about you. Eventually, you’ll reach the end of the school year, where one of the girls — hopefully, the one you were aiming for — confesses her love for you under the tree of legend.

(If you want a slightly more in-depth and fun look at the gameplay, I’d highly recommend the Game Center CX episode centered around the game.)

Tokimeki Memorial did well when it debuted on the PC Engine CD in 1994, but it was the eventual enhanced ports to PlayStation and Saturn that really made the game blow up in popularity. Shiori Fujisaki, the pink-haired girl-next-door archetype on the PS and Saturn covers, became an instantly recognizable face across all of gaming. Konami had a huge hit on their hands, and merchandised the everloving hell out of it: to this day, you can wander into any Japanese secondhand stuff store and likely find various Tokimemo knickknacks.

Of course, with a hit game comes sequels and spinoffs, and they were numerous. The first sequel, Tokimeki Memorial 2, was a huge game spread across five CDs, and is widely considered the best in the franchise in terms of gameplay and presentation… yet it didn’t stick around in gamers’ hearts like the first game did. A disastrous move to 3D visuals on PS3 with Tokimemo 3 upset many, and Konami opted to focus instead on the growing otome market with Tokimeki Memorial Girls’ Side, which had you playing as a girl trying to impress a bevy of hot dudes. The last Tokimeki Memorial game, Tokimeki Memorial 4, was on PSP in 2009, and its very existence seemed like a surprise to many.

(A fun fact shared to me by my late friend Andrew Fitch — who formerly worked at Konami’s US branch — was that the weird PSP game Brooktown High was meant as a testbed to see if an “American Tokimemo” would work. We miss you, Andrew.)

Since then, Konami hasn’t done much with the series, aside from putting out the occasional bit of Girls’ Side content. Love Plus on the 3DS was seen by many as an evolution of the game’s concepts, though Konami basically destroyed that series as well. Currently, there’s a game called “Tokimeki Idol” on smartphones that looks like a really bad attempt to cash in on the Idolm@ster/Love Live! wave by using scraps of an old IP. The decline of Tokimemo itself is worthy of its own article, as it’s due to a variety of factors, but one thing that may have played a part was Konami’s antagonism of its own fanbase through legal means. Such as… Continue reading

The Amazing, Unrecognized World of Japanese Arcade Quiz Games

Quiz games. They’re one of the most basic forms of game out there, going a long, long way back to the days of game shows on radio and television, persisting to this very day. They’ve also been a part of videogaming from the early days: as soon as ROM chips could feasibly hold a decent amount of text, quiz games started to appear in arcades and on consoles.

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Nowadays, when you think of arcade quiz games, you probably think of something like the multiplayer setups you see at trivia nights in a local bar. This is the direction Western quiz games evolved in: they never really eschewed a game-show/board-game style format, and evolved to implement either real-money gambling mechanics or large-scale multiplayer, competitive functionality.

AdventureQuiz

In Japan, however, things played out very differently. Arcade quiz games started to appear there in the mid-late 80s, through companies like Sega and Nichibutsu. As the 90s came along, a renaissance of quiz-game development created a unique, fascinating genre with an abundance of different thematic elements.

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The genre first saw significant advancement through games like Adventure Quiz: Capcom World, a trivia game loaded with 80s Capcom fanservice, and Mitchell’s Quiz Sangokushi, which melded the question-and-answer format with strategic, territory-conquering gameplay. These games utilized elements of visual novels and strategy games to make the quiz experience more appealing and engaging. Other games put quiz elements into fun new genres: Taito’s Quiz Chikyuu Boueigun (“Quiz Earth Defense Force,” no relation to the current Earth Defense Force games by D3 Publisher) has you saving the planet in a story that’s chock-full of classic sci-fi parodies, while SNK’s Quiz Daisousasen (“Quiz Big Criminal Investigation”) is a detective story that morphs into a weird sci-fi/horror thing at the end. You still had game-show style quiz games too, but they were quickly losing ground to more ambitious efforts.

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In some cases, publishers adapted existing properties but added a quiz-game twist, hoping the familiar name would draw in customers. This is how we got games like Saurus’s Quiz King of Fighters and Taito’s Quiz HQ, which combined existing game properties with a quiz-game element. As time passed, however, more and more experimentation happened. The mid-late 90s were really a golden age for arcade quiz games, resulting in a stunning variety of thematic and gameplay genres mixing in with traditional quiz elements.

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Interestingly, quiz games tend to be very lengthy, sometimes taking an hour or more to complete from start to finish… which, in theory, goes against the short, focused play experiences arcades want to offer. You want to get people off that machine as quickly as possible, right? However, with these new thematic ideas, players became more committed to seeing the games through to the end. It doesn’t hurt as much to abandon a gameshow you feel like you’re not doing well in, but when you’re in the middle of a story about saving the universe? Hell yes you’re going to brute-force your way through with yen! Add a second player into the mix and watch earnings double!

qtheater

Unfortunately, most the appeal of these games is lost on the West. Japanese quiz games might be the most culturally impenetrable games out there: not only do you have to be fluent in the language, you also have to be fluent in a variety of cultural elements. Sure, you might know the multiple readings of thousands and thousands of kanji, but unless you lived in Japan during the early 1990s and remember which popular talent of the time appeared in a specific ad campaign, you’re probably not going to get very far. That is, unless you cheat. Thankfully, emulating most of these games allows you to cheat through the quiz portions, making the games somewhat more accessible… though it does result in the game losing a big part of its inherent charm. (Plus, even if you do cheat, if you don’t speak the language you can find yourself making very poor choices.)

You don’t hear a lot about quiz games nowadays — the genre saw a sharp decline in development and interest after the 1990s. Currently, the big name (and basically the only name) in Japanese quiz games is Konami’s Harry Potter-inspired Quiz Magic Academy, which has a new arcade version releasing soon (along with a mobile version that is no doubt raking in plenty of money). Right now, it’s practically the only arcade quiz game in town, unless your local game center has an older game installed in a cabinet somewhere.

But where does someone who doesn’t know anything about Japanese arcade quiz games go to get a good sampling of what the genre has to offer? Well, that’s why I’ve taken the time to write this. Today, we’re going to take a look at some noteworthy Japanese-style arcade quiz games: One that, against all odds, got a localized release, and three others that showcase some very interesting experiences. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Hideo Yoshizawa and Keiji Yamagishi

Few games are as fondly remembered by NES kids as the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these games put the small publisher Tecmo on the map and set a high bar for many action games going forward. Of course, part of the reson why these games were so good was the talented staff behind their production, which included director Hideo Yoshizawa and composer Keiji Yamagishi. But their exemplary work in games continues far beyond the adventures of Ryu Hayabusa: Yoshizawa has helped in the creation of fan favorites like Klonoa and Mr. Driller, while Yamagishi is involved with game music production company Brave Wave.

I was given the opportunity to interview both Yoshizawa and Yamagishi at MAGfest 2018, and was eager to get some insight on the creation of these games. I was joined in this interview by the wonderful Jonathan Wheeler, alias ProtonJon, who is one of the biggest classic Ninja Gaiden fans I know. (His questions are notated by italics.) Read on to learn plenty of surprising details about the origins of some of the most beloved games of all time (and a few notable obscurities)! (I also suggest watching the official panel they had at MAGfest, too!)

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Game Music Highlight: Neon-FM

Hello, folks. It’s been a while! I’ve been chronicling some of the issues we’ve been facing here on gaming.moe over the past couple months over on Patreon and a bit on Twitter, but we’re almost, almost in the clear now! Older pieces may be looking strange for a while until I get all the kinks ironed out, but thus far, our move to a different image server is going well. Nothing can put a stop to true gaming love. Nothing!

I have a ton of stuff in the backlog that I’m going to trickle out over the next couple weeks (including one fantastic interview I’m super hyped for), but I feel like the best way to get the ball rolling again is with the kind of utterly weird stuff this site is (somewhat) known for. Brace yourselves, folks — this one’s a doozy.

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The other day, I was chatting with LordBBH about videogaming stuff, as I tend to do. I forget what the subject we were originally on was, but eventually conversation turned to a particular song from a music game called NeonFM.

I actually wasn’t aware of NeonFM until BBH told me about it, but as I’m prone to do once some random game catches my interest, I began to research the hell out of this thing. As it turns out, NeonFM is game with a long and interesting history. See, back in the early 2000s, hype for all things Bemani was at a fever pitch and arcades were overrun with groups of players who loitered around to play whatever versions of Dance Dance Revolution and Pump It Up were available to them. Dance Dance Revolution was the game that would help keep arcades on life support for a few more years: it was a tremendous hit in North America and drove a lot of interest in early music games, even inspiring people to import other Bemani titles that hadn’t been released Stateside.

There was a lull, however, between 2002 and 2006, with no new versions of DDR hitting arcades as Konami’s Bemani team focused on games that were doing better in their Asian markets: Pop’n Music, Beatmania IIDX, and GuitarFreaks/DrumMania.  Seeing an opening in the market for a new arcade dance game, a group of rhythm game fans got together under the name Pop’nko (later changed to Unit-e Technologies), planned out a new dance game called NeonFM, and attracted investors and distributors to help finance and manufacture the game.

Of course, you can’t have a music game without music, can you? Well, the NeonFM team had a few connections throughout the rhythm game community, and they managed to put together a bunch of original songs to feature in the game. There’s one song in particular, however, that I think deserves to be highlighted, because its very existence baffles me.

I’m warning you now, readers: there’s no going back from this point.

If you’re prepared to experience real music gaming tunes, then click below.

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INTERVIEW: Daichi Katagiri of Sega-AM2 (2011)

When I first started gaming.moe, one of the things I wanted to do was republish a bunch of interviews that appeared in foreign-language magazines. That kind of fell by the wayside in favor of the endless fountain of writing ideas that seems to erupt from my brain — republishing old stuff I’d already written kind of felt lazy when there was so much else I wanted to create.

Of course, sometimes circumstances get in the way of actually accomplishing what you want, and that’s exactly what happened this month. So,once again, I find myself going back to the well of interviews to republish.This one, though — this is something I’ve been saving for a special occasion, like a fine wine waiting years to be uncorked. So I say, what better way to top off 2017, a remarkable year for games, than with a 2011 interview with Sega-AM2’s Daichi Katagiri, one of the people I respect most in the industry?

This interview was originally published in IG magazine, a French publication that also ran the IKD interview I posted here a while back. This interview is a little over six years old at this point, so it’s rather amusing to look at some of Katagiri-san’s comments and go “I think I see what he was hinting at there!” So grab some champagne, get your noisemakers ready, and ring in 2018 with one of Sega’s best and brightest.

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A DEFINITIVE, CERTAINLY CORRECT AND INARGUABLE ranking of classic-style Pac-Man games

Guys. GUYS. Did you see that list ranking all of the Mario games? Holy crap! New Super Mario Bros. U at number one, for reals??? Why, clearly this is a horrible judgement that I must take to the internet to express my displeasure over– oh, no, wait, everybody else has already done that. Dangit!

But… hmm. This list has generated a lot of attention and discussion. Clearly, Gaming Dot Moe needs a real kick in the pants, an article that will drive vistors to the site in droves and make them read about Raimais and spur heated debate and conversation! We need to make a ranking list involving a popular, long-running videogame character!

Let’s see… Mario’s been done… Sonic? Oh jeez, that’s a debate I don’t even want to wade into, what with the differences between Classic and Modern Sonic… I mean, hell, even if we just limited it to Modern Sonic, nobody can agree which ones are actually the good games and they will hate you for whatever you say! Megaman? I mean, that’s pretty cut-and-dry, the debate is basically between 2, 3, and X.

Wait… I’ve got it!

Yes! Pac-Man! Nobody’s done a comprehensive list talking about the best Pac-Man games yet! We’re going to have another GAMING DOT MOE EXCLUSIVE on our hands here!

But lay something down first, because there’s a lot of Pac-Man games out there covering different genres. The main rule in this ranking is that the game has to adhere to the basic tenets of classic Pac-Man gameplay, which means roaming mazes while collecting objects. So no, no Pac-Man World, Ghostly Adventures, Pac-Attack, or Pac-Land. Sorry if you’re looking to see if Pac-Man Party is better or worse than Pac-In-Time, but someone else will have to make that list.

That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about a few other Pac-Man games first, though…

Special Mentions

Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

Out of all the games Pac-Man’s ever starred in, this one deviates the furthest from the concepts established in the original, meaning that there’s no way I’d put it on the list with the rules I established. However, it’s worth mentioning because it’s a game you simply have to experience, preferably vicariously.

It feels like somebody at Namco woke up one day and said, “Hey, we have a beloved videogame icon here, but the style of game he pioneered is just too old for the purple-stuff addled kids of the 90s. We need to make something unique and original to make Pac hip and relevant again!”

And the result was… a point and click adventure game. No, scratch that — it’s a point and click adventure game with an added layer of obfuscation. Pac-Man is not under your direct control — instead, you have a slingshot to hit objects (and Pac-Man) with and the ability to yell “LOOK!” in the hopes that you can direct his attention somewhere. Unfortunately, Pac-Man rarely does what you actually want him to do, resulting in amazing moments of frustrating as Pac-Man winds up in stupid, stupid situations that would have been wholly avoidable if you could just tell him what to do. This is where the “smug asshole Pac” meme began, and once you see the game, you’ll understand why.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to play this yourself, but you absolutely should watch somebody else suffer through trying to get Pac-Man to do very simple tasks. It’s a good time for everyone… except the player.

    TRUTH

Pac-Man Battle Royale

This one’s tough to slide into the list just because how much fun you get from it is wholly dependent on how many players you have. If you have a full group of four people, then yes, this is going to be one hell of a time. However, with every player you subtract, Battle Royale becomes noticeably less enjoyable. It doesn’t really seem fair to fault an inherently multiplayer game for being less fun with less players, so I’m going to exclude this one from the ranking.

Anyhow, that’s enough preamble, let’s get to

THE RANKINGS

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Astonishingly Awful Gaming Merchandise: Consumerism is Scary Edition

Happy Halloween, everyone! But considering the world we’re living in is an apocalyptic hellscape, it’s like every day brings us fresh, Halloween-like horrors!

…Okay, that’s a little too negative for this site about gaming love. After all, no matter what happens, we’ll always have positive gaming experiences and the friendships and bonds they help create to get us through things. I got a firsthand glimpse of this at the recent Portland Retrogaming Expo, a yearly convention that celebrates the rich history of gaming. It was a fantastic show, filled with arcade games, classic consoles and games, an interesting variety of vendors, some great panels, and museum exhibits that included unreleased NES games and the Sony Playstation Super NES CD. The show was great, the people were great, everyone was happy, and good times were had all around.

Of course, a lot of the vendors were selling old games and consoles, and I’ve come to realize I’m almost completely over my game-collecting phase: with so much making the transition to digital, I’m more inclined to collect things where physicality is more important. Most of what I bought at the show was game-related merchandise, books, and crafts from local artists — I didn’t acquire any actual games. Not to hate on people who do collect games: I just find collecting things related to games more interesting in general than owning a whole roomful of titles for every console under the sun. (I’m more about acquiring and holding onto the games that really mean a lot to me.)

There was no shortage of merchandise at PRGE. Lots of cool stuff could be had from a variety of sellers, but I also saw a lot of random crap that left me scratching my head, pondering why it even existed. Do companies really believe we, as fans, are so lacking in taste that we’ll buy anything with a familiar game character on it, no matter how ugly or devoid of value? Well, um… yes. And the fact that this crap keeps getting made is proof that someone — many someones, in fact — are falling for it.

So today, on this most frightening of days, we’re going to be looking at some of the worst pieces of gaming-related merchandise out there. Truly spooooooky!

I didn’t want to make this too easy for myself, though, so I put some rules down for this feature.

  • No T-shirts. As painfully terrible as many gaming T-shirts are, I already ranted about them at length.
  • It has to be at least somewhat retro-flavored. There’s some really bad Fallout merch, I know,  but I’d like to keep this more focused on the commercial exploitation of nostalgia.
  • No Funko POPs. Fish, barrel, you know how it goes.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some merchandise that’s so bad, it’s scaaaaaaaary! (…okay, I’ll stop)

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