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The Phantom: Why ‘Metal Gear Solid V’ Refuses to Die

September 28, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

At the beginning of August, a 2GB update to 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain sent a jolt through the internet. The final Hideo Kojima-directed Metal Gear game was panned at release by fans, formed a large part of a campaign against the game publisher’s (Konami) shocking business practices, and left what had been a legendary series on a rather sour note. That sour taste still lingers in many fans’ mouths, and to some, that update was a rude reminder of a memory best forgotten - and yet, MGSV refuses to die.

In many ways, it’s hard to blame fans for being disappointed. The promotional material for the game promised many things, and it failed to deliver on many of those promises. Firstly, the game was supposed to show Big Boss’ transformation from a man to a “demon,” and therefore how he would become the antagonist that we first encountered all the way back in 1987’s Metal Gear. Secondly, in showing Big Boss’ descent to the dark side, it was supposed to serve as “the missing link” between the two halves of the franchise - those being the Big Boss games, and the Solid Snake games. But more importantly, it was supposed to end the series on a high note, after what had been a mostly positive 30 years of releases.

Yet, Big Boss was largely static as a character throughout the game, and seemed to act more like a hero than a “demon” - one mission even saw you go out of your way to save several child soldiers. Really, if there was any character that we truly saw become a “demon,” it was Kazuhira Miller - who would go on to betray Big Boss to work for FOXHOUND later in the series anyway. And even though the promise of “the missing link” was addressed in the game’s meta ending, this was executed in such a poor way that many fans were left unsatisfied - with some even believing that the true ending, or the true “missing link,” lay waiting to be uncovered. As a result, MGSV’s story sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of the deftly woven narratives of previous games.

All of this meant that fans were very disappointed, to say the least, and frustration at the game was only heightened due to how well the game scored during pre-release reviews. Critics from all corners of the internet were giving the game perfect scores, calling it the best game in the series yet, and with the hype this generated, it’s only natural that fans felt frustrated and betrayed. It would only later be revealed that the critics playtested the game in a “boot camp”, only being given a short amount of time to complete what would end up being a 100 hour plus game for those aiming for 100% completion, which didn’t allow them to encounter the major story developments in the second chapter that disappointed so many fans once it was available for general release. No doubt, if time wasn’t so limited for the reviewers, they may have come to much different conclusions - perhaps ones that more actively expressed the flaws in the game’s story.

It’d be foolish to suggest that such a move wasn’t intentional on Konami’s part, who knew full well that the game story was being cut short to rush development forward for an earlier release. Konami is no stranger to such practices, and the treatment of their employees working on MGSV only reinforces their willingness for shady business practices. Several sources close to the company came forward to talk of their mistreatment by the company during the development of the game, with Japanese broadsheet Nikkei detailing the Orwellian practices put in place by the company to monitor its employees (https://kotaku.com/report-konami-is-treating-its-staff-like-prisoners-1721700073), and American YouTuber Super Bunnyhop detailing a series of leaks sent to him via an anonymous source (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMK-kajdgMA) - which only seemed more viable once Konami tried to take down the video. And although Kojima himself has stayed quiet on the subject, he’s not exactly denied it either - and sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

Konami’s frankly disgraceful treatment of their employees fed into the outrage surrounding the disappointment of the game, as now fans had a viable target towards which they could direct their hate - but it’s not as if Konami was acting the villain on purpose. Rather, rushing development was a natural course of action for the company to take considering it’s financial state at the time. Not only were Metal Gear games becoming less and less profitable, but this game was also costing more and more as the game stretched out for five years of development, including the development of a new in-house engine called the ‘Fox Engine.’ Considering that the game wasn’t even finished after the eventual five years of development, imagine how much longer it would have taken to fully complete to Kojima’s standards - that was simply something the company couldn’t take, especially since it was hemorrhaging key staff and IPs left and right, including the mastermind behind Castlevania, Koji Igarashi. So while I won’t condone Konami’s harmful policies towards their employees, strawmanning the company for the game’s flaws wouldn’t be accurate, either.

But it is a reality that Konami was made into a strawman immediately after the game’s release, and as a result, Hideo Kojima was painted as the victim in all of this. And while he definitely was affected by Konami’s practices, Kojima also has to take his share of the blame in sowing the seeds for disappointment among fans. He has always had an eye for flashy PR through trailers, and it was from these trailers that the ‘promises’ fans expected to be fulfilled emerged. Of course, he probably expected to be able to finish telling the story he set out to tell in full, but perhaps creating such lofty goals for himself as presenting the “missing link” between 30 years of video game history was a bad idea in the first place. Even now, Kojima’s ambitions threaten to get the best of him as he builds anticipation for his upcoming title Death Stranding through flashy trailers alone, leaving many frustrated that we still don’t have any specifics on the title, nearly 3 years after it’s announcement.

In another sense, perhaps it was foolish to try and give the Metal Gear series a proper ending, anyway. In fact, Kojima has developed every game since Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty to be an end to the series, and each time he came back for a sequel, he only ended up complicating the series’ timeline further. That came to a head in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which bombarded the player with lengthy cutscenes in an attempt to sort out its own timeline and put an end to the series once and for all. In this sense, while it is incredibly flawed, Guns of the Patriots is the closest thing to an ending that the series has seen. It even features a “missing link” between the Big Boss and Solid Snake storylines in the epilogue of the story - already fulfilling one of MGSV’s promises. In addition, when it comes to how Big Boss become a “demon,” the precedent for this was clear in the epilogue of Metal Gear Solid 3: Peace Walker, following the emotional impact Big Boss’ betrayal left on him, as well as the player. This, therefore, begs the question - was there even any need MGSV to serve as an “end”?

I’ll admit, I was one of those infuriated fans back in 2015. I’d played through the whole series again in preparation for that September 1 release, I woke up at 4 am to begin the download on Steam, and woke up promptly at 7 am to play it for almost 15 hours straight before my eyes could take no more. I was shocked by the ending, by the game’s broken promises, and the whole thing meant that I couldn’t even take one more look at what had once been one of my favorite franchises of all time.

But that update changed everything - I realized that the game was still alive. I reinstalled it and found myself surprised. The game was not dead. Despite the bad press and fan backlash, it was still being updating and had more content now than it did on launch.

Even though Konami have been made out to be the bad guys in the past, they haven’t done anything bad by MGSV post-launch. The servers still run, they still update it, and events are still going on. Far from abandoning the game, they have continued to stick by it and deliver on the gameplay that the critics were so enthralled by, back in the days of the boot camp. Metal Gear Online was even added, which while I’ve never been a big fan of, represents a sizeable dedication of time and resources into a property nearly universally loathed by its fanbase.

Or is it universally loathed? Just taking one look at the MGSV modding scene challenges that notion. It’s one of the most active communities on the Nexus mod site, with the Snakebite mod manager allowing easy development and installation of mods - many of which iron out the glaring gameplay flaws of the vanilla version, refining what was already a solid gameplay experience. Online multiplayer in the form of FOBs still goes on, with fans still striving to rid the world of nuclear weapons and trigger the hidden “PEACE” cutscene. Konami has helped keep this mode alive as well, thanks to the constant events that they schedule and organize.

All of this is because, at its core, MGSV is a good game. It might not have the best story, particularly compared to other entries in the series, but it’s gameplay still makes it the best game to play in the series, and one of the best stealth games ever made. There’s endless replayability to it, whether it be through trying to S rank every mission or completing a European Extreme, no tranquilizer, no kills run, or just simply trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons. 

In this sense, it’s not hard to see why MGSV lingers on. The aforementioned 2GB update was innocuous enough, simply adding Quiet as a playable character for FOB invasion. But for me, who was blinded by the flaws in the game’s story, it was a wake-up call. MGSV is a damn good game, and because of this, it will continue to linger on - despite everything.

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Kenshi Yonezu Releases Latest Music Video 'Flamingo'

October 22, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Earlier this week saw the release of Kenshi Yonezu's long-awaited ninth single, a sadistically playful tune by the name "Flamingo". Accompanied by an all-new music video which debuted on the rapidly-rising talents YouTube channel, "Flamingo" was joined by the announcement of two other songs composing the three-track single release that is set to drop on October 31, 2018. 
 


Shot in and around the parking lot that plays host to the adorably hidden Chinese restaurant Derika, the music video for "Flamingo" is the perfect match for the tone set by Kenshi Yonezu's lyrics. Getting straight to the point, "Flamingo" is very much a Yonezu song, but that's by no means a problem. Much like previous releases, "Flamingo" is a story expressed not just through song, but also Kenshi Yonezu's expressive movements and off-color music video.

It's totally questionable whether Kenshi Yonezu himself, or music video director Tomokazu Yamada, is an avid follower of Twitter trends, but I found myself immediately grabbing my phone when I noticed the filming location for this video -- it was all too familiar. As it turns out, this exact spot was the center of a recent viral tweet in Japan detailing the restaurant and sharing praise for its off-trail location and cheap prices. Well, either that or he's a diehard fan of Hiroshi Fujiwara, given it was this exact store that inspired him to launch his The Park-ing pop-up store in Ginza following his chance encounter with Derika while returning to his car.

Either way, there remains no doubt to the testament that Kenshi Yonezu is one of the biggest talents in Japan right now, and that's a trend that isn't looking to slow down any time soon. Several months ago the airwaves were filled with "Lemon", Yonezu's eighth single and a major turning point for the artist. Whether it was on television or the streets of Tokyo, your favorite music stores, or even arcades, you couldn't step anywhere without hearing Kenshi Yonezu's infectious life-after-loss ballad.

While it remains to be seen if "Flamingo" will have the same lasting effect, this certainly won't be the first time I've had a song called "Flamingo"  stuck in my head for weeks on end. 

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PlayStation Releases Lineup Video ft. Taku Takahashi, YUC'e, hy4_4yh, Kamura Micau

October 22, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There's no denying it when I say that PlayStation Japan absolutely kills it with their lineup videos each and every time they're uploaded, regardless of what console you have your hands on. Consistently bringing on some of the biggest names in the Japanese music scene, we've seen anybody from banvox to tofubeats, with this latest four-person combo taking things to new heights. Bringing together the respective talents of Taku Takahashi, YUC'e, hy4_4yh, and Kamura Micau all together for a four-and-a-half-minute fever-dream, the video can be checked out below:
 


Filled to the brim with rave stabs and other high energy elements, we're sped through nineteen upcoming and currently available titles at lightspeed to the flow of rap duo hy4_4yh and Kamura Micau layered over Taku Takahashi and YUC'e's signature sounds. If you're familiar with these trailers, you likely already know what's going on, PlayStation Japan throws their most anticipated upcoming titles at you all at once while you're left bouncing around your room to whatever incredibly produced track they bring forward this time. It's a formula that's still yet to disappoint, though this certainly does raise the bar.

We're of course seeing a number of titles in the lineup that I can't wait to get my hands on, including SEGA's upcoming JUDGE EYES, as well as Square Enix's much-anticipated Dragon Quest Builders 2, so that ends up amplifying the hype by about a million. With such a flavorful mix of both veteran and up-and-coming musicians brought together for this video, it'll definitely be interesting to see how PlayStation Japan one-up's themselves next time. Now we just wait and see who's next.

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Kindan no Tasuketsu Release 'Early Years 2012-2016' Compilation Album

October 22, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Alternative pop music group Kindan no Tasuketsu are a difficult group to digest, and an equally difficult group to understand. Their music is seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and it remains truly difficult to really describe their activities with any level of comprehensive understanding. I've attempted a few times in the past to share their music, most of which I listen to a whole lot, but I just genuinely couldn't put words together to describe the group. But here I am once again, giving it a shot, following the release of their latest compilation album "Early Years 2012-2016". 
 


For a band that's constantly evolving, four years is a massively expansive time to compile; yet across a tracklist spanning twenty-six tracks, Kindan no Tasuketsu piece together a semi-coherent image of their history through sound. I had most definitely not heard every single one of those aforementioned twenty-six tracks, which honestly made the whole listen-through all the more exciting. There are a few tracks that the group obviously want you to direct your attention to, including the fittingly dreamy single "nemui" which originally released in 2012, having received its own music video earlier this week.
 

It'd be slightly odd for a group to suddenly drop a compilation album like this, were they not teasing a "season 4" of Kindan no Tasuketsu via their various social media accounts. So with an entire "season" of new music on the way from the group, it's cozy being able to divulge in their history via the "Early Years 2012-2016" album. We're sure we'll be seeing more music in the coming months -- if not weeks -- so we'll be sure to keep you updated when it finally drops. Until then, you can check out even more information on the group via their official website.

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Latest Pokémon: Let's Go! Trailer Reveals Post-Game Master Trainers

October 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It was just earlier this week that I was sharing some news about the release of a new trailer for Game Freak's upcoming Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! titles on Nintendo Switch, but it doesn't look like The Pokémon Company is ready to stop dropping teasers just yet. Uploaded to The Pokémon Company's official YouTube channel, the latest trailer gives us a look at some of the post-game content we'll be able to enjoy, namely the "Master Trainers" system that's being implemented.
 


I'm not really sure how cool I am with post-game content just being shown like this, I actually like a bit of surprise, but none-the-less it's pretty neat to see in action. The new "Master Trainers" system effectively introduces a master for each of the original 151 different Pokémon, a trainer that specializes in that Pokémon exclusively, who you can battle with that same Pokémon to earn the title of "Master Trainer". It's a really interesting system, though I really hope that the game doesn't provide you with the particular Pokémon for the battle and leaves trainers catching and training their own. 

Set to release exclusively on Nintendo Switch on November 16, further information on both ​Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! can be found via the games' official website. Those interested in getting their hands on the upcoming games, as well as a limited-edition Pokémon: Let's Go! Nintendo Switch, be sure to check out our ongoing giveaway, here.

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NASA Announces Designated 'Godzilla' Constellation

October 19, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

One of the more interesting pieces of information to cap off the working week, NASA has officially announced an all-new constellation that you can spend your time looking for in the sky -- the King of Monsters itself, Godzilla. The pop cultural icon joins numerous other characters in the sky, bringing just a little more light to our night alongside Hulk, The Little Prince, Mt. Fuji, and mythological legends Hercules, Perseus, and more. I've never been too good with constellations, but a full visualization of the new Godzilla constellation can be seen below:



Made up of numerous likely blazar, a definite blazar, a starburst galaxy, a gamma-ray pulsar, and an unknown entity, the lining is much like other constellations in the fact that you'll definitely have much of your imagination do the work. NASA states on their official website to describe how the constellation came to be " Godzilla's trademark weapon is its "heat ray," a fiery jet. This bears at least a passing resemblance to gamma-ray jets associated with black holes and neutron stars."



Obviously there are a lot more technicalities to the Godzilla constellation that I'm not even going to bother trying to wrap my head around, but for those who are interested in checking it out, NASA has created a page to detail it all on their official website.

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Funimation Annoucnes End of Licensing Agreement with Crunchyroll

October 19, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

In a somewhat shocking turn of events, it was announced today that Funimation will be ceasing operations with Crunchyroll beginning next month from November 9, 2018. The announcement comes just a year after the acquisition of the anime distributor by Sony Pictures Television, to which Funimation CEO Gen Fukunaga shared that the acquisition directly correlates with the decision to stop collaborative efforts between the two companies. Originally announced in 2016, the partnership brought together the catalogs of both anime giants and allowed customers to reap the rewards of both services in numerous ways.

While subscribers to both platforms are likely to feel a little bit of a hit, it was shared by Funimation's Gen Fukunaga that FunimationNow subscribers will have access to several hundred subbed series, but are going to be losing a handful of dubbed series. In addition to this, some content licensed during the partnership will remain on both platforms for now, with currently simulcasting series such as My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan remaining on both platforms. Both platforms have shared that they will disclose what content will be removed at a later date.

While this is quite a substantial loss for Crunchyroll, it's been reported that the breakup was executed on good terms between both companies. In addition to this, it's been detailed that Crunchyroll's sister company VRV will be replacing FunimationNow on their streaming platform with content from anime streaming service HIDIVE in the next few weeks. While the timing for this new HIDIVE partnership seems like far too much of a coincidence, Forbes reports that insiders have stated it was unrelated.

It'll be interesting to see over the next few months how Sony plans to proceed following their withdrawal of Funimation from the Crunchyroll/VRV partnership. It wouldn't surprise me if this withdrawal is Sony's way of showing that they mean serious business when it comes to taking Funimation to the top, and that is something that will certainly prove interesting from an industry standpoint. Until we find out, however, you'll be able to keep up with everything Funimation on Crunchyroll until ​November 9, 2018. We'll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed. 

Source: Forbes, Funimation

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‘Kaiji’ VR Game Heads to Smartphones

October 18, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

While fearing for my life isn’t usually my idea of fun, when it comes to Nobuyuki Fukumoto’s gambling series Kaiji, I can just about stomach some immobilizing dread. Indeed, nothing allows you to do so more than the Kaiji VR game, which has been a constant staple in Japan’s many “VR attraction” venues in recent years. Now, that attraction is making it’s way to smartphones - giving even more people the chance to experience Kaiji’s dread first hand.

Titled Kaiji VR: The Nightmare Bridge, the game seeks to replicate Kaiji’s experience crossing a bridge suspended between two buildings, as was one of the ‘gambles’ featured in the second part of the series. Simply reading or watching the arc was nerve-wracking enough, and I can promise you that it’s even more terrifying in VR, having had the opportunity to test it out for myself last year.

It’s worth noting that the VR game has already seen two ports for PlayStation VR as well as Nintendo Switch last year, but the game’s port to smartphones means greater accessibility, especially for those who can’t simply go and experience it in the VR attraction venues. And what a perfect time to do so, with Kaiji spinoff Tonegawa currently airing, and the manga having just entered a new arc.

The difference between the various ports over the years are interesting, as although the PSVR version of the game was more or less exactly the same as the original version since the Switch doesn’t support VR, the version available on the console uses a third person camera in some instances as well as gyro controls. I sincerely doubt that the non-VR version on Switch can capture the same dread you’re able to feel when playing the game in VR, so it’s great to see that version available on smartphones is the VR version - for which you’ll, of course, need some sort of VR goggles/phone strap.

The recent activity in properties related to Kaiji is curious, with both spinoff manga Tonegawa and Hancho receiving an anime adaptation, and now with this surprise smartphone port of the VR game. I can only hope that this is to gauge interest for a third season, so if you haven’t checked out the VR game yet, then I’d recommend you do - if only to tell MADHOUSE that we want a third season already. Kaiji VR: The Nightmare Bridge is available now on the App Store and Google Play for 360 yen.

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