Having come to the realisation that most games covered by pre-2010's YouTubers are nowhere near as bad as they are made out to be (see: Daikatana, Simon's Quest, Takeshi's Challenge, Sonic R, etc.) it continues to astound me how reviled Castlevania: The Adventure still is. By no means is the game objectively great or anything, but it's spoken about in the same hushed whispers as Bubsy 3D and Superman 64. This feels a disservice to the first portable Castlevania and an outright overblowing of its shortcomings. My own rating of the game at five stars might be an over correction of this scorn, but I genuinely adore this game.
I first played Castlevania: The Adventure as a gaff when it was included in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. I bought it purely for the first NES game and Kid Dracula but dipped my toes in The Adventure's waters to at least see what the hubbub was about. Back in 2011, JonTron uploaded a 'Drunk Gaming' video on the game where he derided it just as he would Black people and medical realities in the years to come. His misrepresentation stuck with me as I worked through The Adventure and found his criticisms to be either unfounded or hyperbolic. And when Dracula was felled the only thoughts in my head were 'what's the problem here exactly?' and 'that kicked ass.'
What people get caught up on the most for The Adventure is its movement. Christopher Belmont moves laboriously at a pace identical to most of his enemies. His jump is a commitment, his swing so rigid as to betray the flexibility of a whip. In another game this would be a fair point of contention, but as Vee already highlighted in his excellent Castlevania review, "Belmont movement fucking rules." The name of the game here is intent rather than reaction. This is apparent from the first stage's floating bricks. The pixel perfect precision demanded for progress leaves no room for error even as an enemy swoops towards you. Should you fail, you tread back to the start of the section and try again. The enemy returns every time. This is not a cruelty on Konami's part, but a deliberate test of the player's skill and ability to stay calm under pressure. The stakes are low here, they will be debilitating later.
The Adventure does have areas of insidiousness, particularly in stage two's ropes. If the player chooses incorrectly at the first set, they meet a dead end and are forced to use a continue. I have little defence for this, but its position near the start of the level means little time is wasted; it feels like a little joke. The gauntlet in the third stage is downright dismaying in its scope yet remains one of my favourite parts of the game. Here too does The Adventure insist upon keeping your cool. There is room to make up for a few scant mistakes, but there is no time to dilly-dally. March forth with confidence, your leaden feet like the unceasing momentum of a steam roller. This need to persevere is seen as well with the few instances where the only feasible way forward is to use your limited invincibility powerup maximally. Reviews decry that these sections necessitate the pickups as poor design, but I see it as deliberate, conscious design. It operates similarly to segments in Mario titles where you pickup a Star and a plethora of enemies lie in your path. Certainly one could eschew this boon and risk harm, but the creators wanted the tool provided to be used.
The lack of subweapons might hurt the game if it weren't designed around their absence. The fireball shot from the whip effectively functions as a knife, however, so I don't believe we're missing out. The Adventure's reduction in the Belmont repertoire asks for a full understanding of the most basic elements of a Castlevania game: jumping, whipping, moving. Even the removal of stairs in favour of ropes is in service of jumping gameplay as seen in stage three. Having enemies generally perish in a single hit from the upgraded whip is in service of the intended unabated path. The hesitant player is hit, the hesitant player gets a weaker whip, the hesitant player has to abide by the game's stricture to get back to an optimal state. The bosses in The Adventure aren't amazing by any means, but they too crumble into dust if the player avoids letting things get too hairy. The Under Moles of stage two are a great example. They appear at a perfect pace where they can be dealt with individually without issue. Should the player dawdle or miss their mark, their problems have compounded and made the fight all the harder. This isn't a test of proficiency, this is a trial to see how steadfast a Belmont can be.
I love this game for what it is. I don't bemoan it for what it isn't.

1986

CW: Sexual assault, sexual violence, bestiality, incest, pornography, victim-blaming/shaming, misogyny, sexualisation of minors, gore, obscenity, descriptions of the aforementioned. The four-letter 'R-word' is also invoked repeatedly without censoring or obfuscation.
This review is split into sections. While you can read them all at once, I advise taking breaks as necessary due to length and subject-matter, as well as to better digest the text.
I also wish to stress I am not endorsing these sorts of games. I am just presenting my own understanding of media in a culture different from my own, with my own Western perceptions and biases. Draw your own boundaries when it comes to the media you consume.
Introduction
On the 'List of controversial video games' page of English Wikipedia, there's an entry for a 1986 PC-8801 game by Macadamia Soft titled 177.¹ It has one incorrectly archived citation. The only article for 177 itself is on Japanese Wikipedia. Given that 177 allegedly "ignited a public furor that reach the National Diet of Japan," this absence of concrete evidence puzzled me.² However, as there remains an abundance of media of its ilk in contemporary Japanese culture, I was also curious as to what that furor achieved, and the why of 177's production. In this review, I will argue that 177 and similar such works represent gendered power dynamics in Japanese culture, operate in intentional contradistinction to moral sexuality as an extension of nation-building and family-making, and that these titles reflect Japan's interpretation of ethics -- in relation to pornography -- in a manner incongruous with Western perceptions, necessitating a knowledge of their context.
Rife
There's an undeniable prevalence to rape and sexual assault in eroge generally not seen in Western produced erotic games. The obvious keystones include AliceSoft's Rance series and Illusion's titles like RapeLay and Battle Raper. However, these works are not anomalies in the sea of eroge. Searching the Rape tag on VNDB gives 5,125 total results. 1,572 have a tag score above 2.0, meaning a step up in importance above "the tag certainly applies."³ 507 garner a 3.0 meaning "the tag applies, is very apparent and plays a major role."⁴ These numbers do not account for the plethora of doujin works on platforms like the NEC PC-88 and PC-98, or contemporary releases on storefronts like DLsite. Furthermore, this only quantifies visual novel releases. A cursory search of DLsite bears 282 eroge titles tagged Rape. And this says nothing of Rape anime/manga hentai or erotica. ExHentai has over 60,000 doujinshi, manga, and CG galleries tagged Rape in Japanese, even then only representing uploads from 2007-onward. That's out of 700,000 total works in those categories. Though a wider and more thorough analysis would garner more accurate numbers, what I am trying to convey the presence, prevalence, and pronouncement of rape in Japanese pornography.
None of this is new, as the 1986 release of 177 would already intimate. Depictions of rape in Japanese visual art go back at least as far as the late 18th century, seen in the ukiyo-e prints of [Koryūsai](https://ukiyo-e.org/image/famsf/5050161212810079) and [Utamaro](https://ukiyo-e.org/image/bm/AN00601086_001_l). Even as far back as the Heian period, rape plays a prominent, if not important, role in Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Monogatari. Widely considered one of the first literary novels, Genji Monogatari is a critical work in its detailing of aristocracy in Heian Japan, including its moral code. Furthermore, its role in the cultural zeitgeist of Japan to this very day has it informing other works from nougaku theatre to television adaptations to manga to women's gossip magazines. Rape is by no means the primary focus of Genji Monogatari, to the extent that most discussion of the work either eschews mention of it or relegates it to a footnote, but I bring it up because it is undeniably a part of the work.
Esteemed translator of Genji Monogatari into modern Japanese, the late Jakucho Setouchi, noted that the clandestine and tasteful acts of sex therein were "all rape, not seduction."⁵ English translator of Genji Monogatari, Royall Tyler, takes umbrage with this assertion of rape, stating that in this time period, no woman could properly give consent in a decent or proper manner, thereby making any first-time sexual encounter within established social bounds meet our contemporary definition of rape.⁶ The particulars of a 'correct' reading here are far too complicated to dive into (and I don't consider myself well-read enough to argue one way or the other), but the chapters following Genji's death are so fervent in their description and criticism of rape that even if Genji is not a rapist, Murasaki's world is still abound with rape. Returning to Tyler's position, Genji can be understood to not be raping his victims because they are seduced prior to, during, or after sex. Regardless of if this is valid for those women, the work and this reading thus perpetuate a litany of rape myths we still deal with contemporarily, and that are still seen in the pages of hentai manga or the scenes of eroge. I bring this up because the claim of 'alleged' rape being a preliminary step to marriage is critical to 177, as well as RapeLay, the Rance series of titles, and a large swath of eroge.
A Post-Mortem Review of Morimiya Middle School Shooting
In my review of Morimiya Middle School Shooting, I intentionally avoided an in-depth discussion of its gameplay as I thought putting play into words was a gratuitous and unnecessary act for such a heinous work. As the total number of plays, reviews, and visitors to the erikku Discord rose following that review, I realise that by omitting that gameplay discussion, I was in effect fostering a morbid curiosity for something I argued people should not see for themselves. That was by no means what I wished to have happen, and to some extent that perusal of ammorality would happen irregardless. What I will highlight in the next section is how 177 actually plays, with full discussion of its three endings. It is my sincere hope that will, if not dissuade people from playing it, demonstrate that the game isn't engrossing enough to warrant play. It should by no means be lost to the annals of history, but I want to assure you, you are not missing anything by reading about 177 rather than playing it. This is not like Morimiya where I argued it was mechanically novel. 177 is rather vapid by comparison. I recommend watching a longplay rather than playing it, if engaging with it at all.
An Overview of 177 by Macadamia Soft
「強姦…ゲームなら罪になりません」⁷
「Rape... it's not a crime if it's a game」
On the title screen for 177, we see a young red-haired woman flanked by trees on either side of the path she walks. The path splits into three branches. The woman wears a white sleeveless blouse and red skirt. She looks over her shoulder and breaks into a jog, accelerating to a rapid pace. The internal speaker of the NEC PC-88 clicks in time with her footsteps. As the game loads you hear a deep heartbeat. There's no build up to the chase here, it happens before the player even gains control.
The manual (emblazoned with 177 and an all-caps RAPE beneath it) stipulates that to enjoy the game, one must 'become' a rapist.⁸
The game screen features an animated sprite of the woman in the top left, constantly looking over her shoulder. Beside her is a map showing the start point, winding and branching paths, her home, and a graveyard.
The woman's name is Kotoe Saito. She is a 21 year old pink-collar worker for a foreign computer company. She is 160.9cm tall. Her blood type is A. Her three sizes are 82-60-83 (if, for some reason, you need to be able to visualise the figure of a fictitious rape victim, these match Yuuki Asuna's measurements in the web novel of Sword Art Online). She has a bright personality and a partner named Akira Shindo. Her parents approve of their relationship.
The player character is a 26 year old man named Hideo Ouchi. He has been working at an automotive factory for eight years. His hobby is browsing manga in convenience stores at night. His personality is serious but taciturn. He is poor at socialising. The other tidbit of biographical insight we get is that his 'target' is Kotoe Saito. This is a premeditated rape, as Hideo has been scouting out Kotoe's commute to and from work to determine how to chase and rape her. Hideo doesn't want to enact a sexual violence onto any woman, he wants to hurt this specific woman.
The bottom of the game screen shows Kotoe and Hideo in a mad dash to the left of the screen. Stumps, stones, graves, fans, cats, skunks, turtles, dogs, and moles stifle your chase of Kotoe. The player can throw bombs to increase their score, destroy obstacles, and slow Kotoe down. Picking up street signs changes Kotoe's escape route to keep her from getting home. Everything in your path hampers your movement, and the closer you get to Kotoe, the less time you have to react. When you're within striking distance of her it's a pure gamble as to whether or not you'll succeed. When the player reaches Kotoe, they strip an article of her clothing off as her portrait shrieks. First the blouse, then her skirt, then her bra, lastly her panties. The difficulty is obscene to the point of frustration, perhaps deliberately to make the eventual 'reward' of rape and sexual gratification all the more satisfying. Catching up to her a fifth time has Hideo pin Kotoe to the ground as the heartbeat returns. Thus concludes Act One of 177.
The screen goes black and shows us Hideo raping Kotoe. In the top we see percentages assigned to the four cardinal directions. Next to it is a Power metre rapidly counting down. Below that, a Desire metre changing its reading rapidly. Underneath the percentages is a pink orchid which slowly opens its petals fully in bloom. Drops of water land on it. The bottom left corner displays the four cardinal directions the player can maneuver themselves as they rape Kotoe. Assuming a position which obfuscates the penetration, we see Kotoe's distressed face and sometimes an exposed breast, the rest of her covered by Hideo and his undulating hips. Kotoe lets out the occasional yelp.
Should Hideo's power metre reach zero, he is arrested and Section 2 of Article 178 of the Japanese Criminal Code is quoted, which altogether states:
"Article 178. (Quasi Forcible Indecency; Quasi Rape)
(1) A person who commits an indecent act upon a male or female by taking advantage of loss of consciousness or inability to resist, or by causing a loss of consciousness or inability to resist, shall be punished in the same manner as prescribed for in Article 176.
(2) A person who commits sexual intercourse with a female by taking advantage of a loss of consciousness or inability to resists, or by causing a loss of consciousness or inability to resists, shall be punished in the same manner as prescribed in [Article 177]."⁹
At the time of publication, the punishment outlined in Article 176 was imprisonment with work for six months to ten years. The punishment outlined in Article 177 was imprisonment with work for a minimum term of three years. Demonstrating an all too comfortable familiarity with the Japanese Criminal Code, 177 decides to argue semantics. This act of physical and sexual violence is not technically rape, it is only quasi rape, as if that makes it somehow less egregious.
This ending comprises one of two 'bad endings' in 177, the other happening if Kotoe reaches her home. In that event, she jumps for joy and the game ends, no punishment for battery or attempted rape.
If the player instead gets the Desire metre high enough for long enough, the orchid will quiver and Kotoe screams in a pink speech bubble instead to indicate her orgasm. The Desire metre isn't Hideo's own lust, it represents Kotoe's growing attraction to Hideo, suggesting continual rape eventually crosses a boundary of becoming ordinary, consensual sex. The screen fades to black again before we see a photograph of Kotoe in bridal attire with a demure expression. The sun rises behind Mount Fuji, and Hideo lays on the ground in the same clothes from Act One, propping his head up and wearing a weary expression. Below the picture reads "Well, I'm beaten." The implication is thusly, similar to Genji Monogatari and representative of rape myth beliefs, the victim's orgasm means they weren't raped, that she wanted it, and that this is an act of seduction rather than assault. Considering her protestation throughout the course of her rape, the genuine terror in her eyes during Act One, and her incredible glee if she makes it home successfully, her alleged enjoyment is a laughable falsehood, perpetuating rape myth acceptance by wrapping it all in a happy bow. So supposedly smitten is Kotoe that her relationship with her partner Akira is called off so she can wed her rapist. Hideo is meant to be an target of pity, doomed to domesticity with a woman he lusted after but perhaps did not love.
The 'Story' of 177
Across all discussions of 177, not a single one makes mention of the manual. Photographs of the physical release on PC-88 and Sharp X1 are few and far between, and a scan of the manual was only made available in February 2022 on the Internet Archive. The scan is in dreadful quality to the point where complex kanji are nearly illegible.¹⁰ After much hardship I managed to at least transcribe the 'story' of 177 presented therein, and machine translate it with some light edits for readability:
"強姦…ゲームなら罪になりません
[Rape... it's not a crime if it's a game]
「177」物語
このゲームを楽しむには、強姦魔になりきることが大切です。気分をもりあげる意味でもこのストーリーを読みましょう。クリアするためのテクニックもお教えします。
[177 Story - To enjoy this game, it is important to be a rapist. Read this story to help life your mood. We will also teach you some techniques to clear the game.]
[強姦]。 美際の行為に及ぷ者はいない。なぜならば刑法第177条「強姦罪」に触れる事になるからだ。しかし、ゲームなら可能である。このゲームは、世の男性・女性諸氏の健全かつ正常なる愛の営みを願い開発されました。あなたの心に潜む、その危険な願望をゲームの世界で存分にお楽しみください。決して現実の世界に足を踏み入れないために。
[[Rape.] No one should engage in the act of rape. This would be a violation of Article 177 of the Penal Code, outlining the crime of rape. However, it is allowed in a game. This game was developed with the hope that men and women in the world will have healthy and normal love lives. Please enjoy the dangerous desires that lurk in your heart to the fullest in the game world. Never bring these acts into the real world.]
Chapter 1
21歳のOL斉藤琴恵は、残業で帰りがすっかり遅くなってしまい、いつもの道を足速に家へ向っていた。ガサガサと、後ろの草むらから音が聞こえる。振り向いた琴恵の顔のすぐ近くに、目をギラギラさせた男の顔があった。「ねーちゃん、ええことせえへんか」男は琴恵のふくよかな胸を鶩づかみにした。琴恵は男の手をふり切って、一目散に逃げ出した。
[Kotoe Saito, a 21-year-old office lady, was heading home along her usual path at a quick pace after working overtime and leaving late. She heard a rustling sound coming from the grass behind her. When she turned around, the face of a man with glazed eyes was close to Kotoe's. The man grabbed Kotoe's plump breasts. Kotoe shook off the man's hands and ran away at once.]
Chapter 2
琴恵は必死に走った。今はとにかく逃げるしかない。あんなのにつかまったら何をされるかわからない。考えるだけで鳥肌が立ってくる。男は一瞬ひるんだが、二ヤリと不敵な笑いを浮かべるとまた、琴恵をめがけて追ってきた。だんだん琴恵に近づいてくる男の足音…。「追いつかれる…」男は琴恵の服をつかむと、カー杯引き裂いた。
[Kotoe ran desperately. Right now, she had no choice but to run. If that man grabs me, I don't know what he will do to me. Just thinking about it gave her goosebumps. The man flinched for a moment, but then he gave a wry grin and ran after her again. The sound of the man's footsteps gradually approached Kotoe... The man grabbed Kotoe's clothes and tore them off.]
Chapter 3
男は一瞬自分がが引き裂いた服に見とれていた。琴恵はその隙に逃差点まで来た。右側はいつも通っている近道だったが、琴恵は迷わず左へ曲がった。この男はつ琴恵を髪うのも計画的犯行だった。男は数日前から秘かに彼女の後をつけ、この辺ー帯の地形を把握し、スイッチを操作すれば、自動的に動く標識を交差点全部につけていたのだった。
[The man looked for a moment at the clothes he had torn off. Kotoe took the opportunity to run to a crossroads. On the right was a shortcut that she always took, but she did not hesitate to turn left. The man's attempts to rape Kotoe were premeditated. He had been secretly following her for several days, and he knew the topography of the area and had placed signs at all the intersections that moved automatically at the flick of a switch.]
Chapter 4
琴恵の必死の逃走も空しく、スかート、ブラジャー、パンティー、次々と脱がされ、全裸にされてしまった。「次で最後だ」男は期待に胸と下半身を膨ませて、こう思った。琴恵はもうこれ以上速く走ることはできなかった。だんだん男の荒い吐息が近付いて来た。琴恵はついに押し倒されてしまった。
[Kotoe's desperate attempts to escape were in vain, as she was stripped of her skirt, bra, and panties one after the other, until she was completely naked. "The next time I catch you will be the last," the man thought, his chest and loins heaving with anticipation. Kotoe could not run any faster. Gradually, the man's rough breathing came closer and closer. Finally, Kotoe was pushed down.]
Chapter 5
男は素早く服を脱ぐと、ぐったりした琴恵に乗っ掛ってきた。愛のないセックスは琴恵にとって苦痛だった。そんな彼女をよそに男は腰を動かすのに必死だった。なぜなら、「腰をうまく使って彼女が温れてしまえば、このセックスは同意の上ということになる。もし起訴されても罪に問われないだろう」男は患かにもそう考えたからだ。
[The man quickly removed his clothes and climbed on top of the limp Kotoe. The loveless sex was painful for Kotoe. The man was desperate to move his hips in spite of her. "If I use my hips well and make her cum, it means that this sex is consensual," thought the man. Even if he was prosecuted then, he would not be charged with a crime.]"¹¹
The (Hi)story of Macadamia Soft
The specifics of development studio Macadamia Soft are difficult to pin down precisely, not only due to most resources being in Japanese, but also because early computer software was seen as ephemeral and inconsequential enough to not warrant extensive documentation. This section is my attempt to piece together the origins of Macadamia Soft and 177.
In 1980, a Sapporo-based computer shop was founded under the name 'Computer Land Hokkaido' (株式会社コンピューターランド北海道). As was typical of many developers in the infancy of the home computer revolution, 'Computer Land Hokkaido' was a store which sold computer software and hardware, with software development happening behind the counter as a secondary commercial endeavour. That department, under the name '7 Turkey,' released at least seventeen titles for the NEC PC-6000, PC-8000, and PC-8800 series of 8-bit home computers.¹² Around 1983, '7 Turkey' changed their name to dB-SOFT alongside the release of one of their most important games, Flappy.
dB-SOFT's first adult title, Don Juan, was released in March 1984. A 'game of debauchery,' it tells the story of a casanova trying to seduce a woman named Madoka while avoiding debt collectors.¹⁴ Madoka can be sweet-talked into sex with a highly difficult pickup line guessing game. Eventually presenting her 'flowers' to Don Juan and having sex with him, her buttocks undulate similarly to Hideo's in 177. Don Juan is of low quality in terms of its gameplay and graphical goods, but this anti-social function of holing yourself away with a woman paved the way for dB-SOFT's later eroge releases.
By 1985, as recalled by Yasuhiso Saito in a 2013 interview, 'Computer Land Hokkaido' was still operating as a general computer store in the front of their building.¹² Behind it were the administrative and sales departments, then a planning division, a Japanese-style work area (desk all together, no cubicles), and lastly a cordoned off area known as the 'secret development room.'¹⁵
That year saw the publication of Macadam: Futari Yogari [Foreplay for Two] under dB-SOFT's new Macadamia Soft imprint, created to further differentiate their adult works from their other titles as Don Juan had failed to do.¹⁶ Not all reputable software firms created such imprints (though Koei did create their own "Strawberry Porno Game Series" label, for one), but what cannot be understated is how pervasive eroge was for those firms. Browsing databases for the era's Japanese home computers, and retrospective review sites like erogereport, show countless erotic works developed and published by the likes of Hudson, Enix, Square, Nihon Falcom, Championsoft, ASCII, JAST, and Pony Canyon. It should come as little surprise that the team that brought us Flappy also made Don Juan and 177; their contemporaries who would create Dynasty Warriors released 1984's My Lolita, an erotic surgery simulator; the makers of Dragon Quest slapped their publisher label on a contest winner's Lolita Syndrome in 1983.¹⁷ There wasn't much shame in creating these works as a company as they satisfied a market niche and helped fill corporate coffers.
Macadam tasked the player with using vibrators, candles, their mouth, a feather, and a whip on four different women to bring them (and presumably the player) to orgasm. Each women presents herself in seven poses (stages), with their pleasure being increased by targeting their weak points (marked by stars) with their preferred implement. The astute reader might already be drawing parallels between Macadam's gameplay and Meet and Fuck flash games of eld. The comparison is apt given the strict progression of pleasure therein, though Macadam has actual challenge to it, particularly in the 'final action scenes' for each woman which involve rapid keyboard presses of increasing difficulty.¹⁸ This same style of quicktime gameplay reemerges in 177, just as the presence of candles and whips betray the softcore nature of Macadam like an ill portent of what was to come.
Macadam was allegedly a bit of a shock upon its release partly due to its novel gamification of foreplay, earning it the description of a 'touch game' (similar mechanics had actually been seen earlier in CSK/LOVECOM's 1983 卍 MANJI for Fujitsu FM-7 and NEC PC-88).¹⁹ By pure coincidence, Macadam released in close proximity to Mike Saenz's MacPlaymate, wherein players similarly seduce a woman with different 'toys.' Though MacPlaymate took off like wildfire, Macadam was relegated to a more quiet interest as it required players to have a mouse back when they weren't standard with home computers.
In 1986, with two moderate eroge successes under their belt, dB-SOFT's development team sought to create another title for their new label. One employee who specialised in adult software, described by Saito as an ojii-san "who used to be a taxi driver," came up with the proposal for 177, with Saito charged as main programmer and composer, and graphic design being headed by an unnamed female employee.²⁰ Also known as Shibata-san, this employee, in addition to the core game, came up with the idea for the 'good ending'. Throughout development and following 177's release, there was allegedly never an air of concern at dB-SOFT. As Saito puts it, "We didn't think we were making something bad. It just happened to become the topic at the diet. But of course none of us were able to tell that to our parents, and even now my parents don't know that I was involved in creating 177."²¹ That lack of worry towards their craft was purportedly due to the work culture of dB-SOFT, with employees working on a litany of software from word processors to games to erotic works. Their rotational schedules meant they regarded the work on 177 less as making a game about rape, and more as just programming, combining audio and visual parts with code. Takaki Kobayashi noted that "even female staff were debugging 177, and [they] would just do it without any particular emotion. [There weren't] embarrassed, and would say "Why can't I take her clothes?" ," this would-be condemned title was internally considered fundamentally no different from working on productivity software.²² "It was what they did, and even the package was created by a female member of staff in the advertising section," recalled Kobayashi, just as female art students had reportedly made the scenes in Macadam as well.²³
The 177 Controversy
On October 10, 1986, Councillor Shozo Kusakawa, member of the religious-conservative New Komeito party presented 177 to the Japanese National Diet to demonstrate that hurtful software should have its sales restricted. The lack of restrictions already in place, as he argued, had children effectively competing with one another for the purchase of eroge, to the point of children shoplifting them at times.²⁴ He asked the Diet to open the sealed plastic bags containing the software he had brought, and spoke firstly of 177. This was the first time eroge had been brought up in the National Diet. In Kusakawa's eyes, the title coupled with the packaging's claim that the rape experience is thrilling manifested a mockery of Japanese criminal law.²⁵ With computer use skyrocketing in the mid-1980s to the point where most Japanese households owned a computer of some form (including game consoles like the Famicom, SG-1000, PV-1000, and Sega Mark III), the concern was that this space was unregulated and, in part, unknowable.²⁶ Independent doujin releases could be made in the privacy of a home or behind the closed doors of a computer shop's backroom, copies could be made rapidly and cheaply, they could be sold with little to no scrutiny by those same computer shops, they could be illegally duplicated with basic equipment; when a title like 177 released, it could theoretically spread like wildfire, including publication in magazines catered to computer users, long before parents could even be aware of its presence or content.²⁷ Worse yet, children and teens seemed to have more interest in using computers for games (including eroge) rather than what they were being pushed for, education purposes.
Kusakawa's issue with 177 and eroge was not merely its content, but its context. His argument centred on the notion that, "while people can read about or look at illustrations of such situations, the context of rape transformed into a game was far more problematic."²⁸ The manual may have stated that not to bring the contents of the game into the real world, but that required one to actually read the manual (resplendent with complex kanji without accompanying furigana) if players even had the manual. If a player had a copied version, they might not have the supplementary materials. Further still, one would have to read the manual's text without seeing it as a sarcastic afterthought, taking its stress on leaving rape purely in the game at face value; given the lighthearted tone and argumentation of what is and is not rape, such a serious reading seems unlikely. Kusakawa and Shiokawa Masajuro, then Minister of Education, firmly stated that, though these works were protected due to freedom of expression, there still needed to be an onus on developers and retailers to refrain from promoting and selling such software titles to minors. Concrete steps were not taken at first when the Ministry of International Trade and Industry implored the software industry self-regulate its content. It would not be until the arrest of Miyazaki Tsutomu, the 'Otaku Murderer' in 1989 that the issue would re-emerge for debate.
The team at dB-SOFT never thought 177 would become a topic of national concern, particularly due to the anarchic state of software development in the early to mid 1980s. If anything, the ending was intended to ebb any consternation as Hideo was, in effect, 'taking responsibility' for what he had done by marrying Kotoe.²⁹ Even in the wake of the furor surrounding 177, dB-SOFT was largely unaffected. The national moral panic partly influenced their decision to pull out of the eroge space, though Konyamo Asama de Powerful Mahjong in 1988 would still bear light erotic elements. dB-SOFT was in fact pleased with the media coverage as it led to increased sales and notoriety afforded to them.³⁰
The controversy might itself seem minor and quaint compared to the United States' 1993-1994 congressional hearings on video games in the wake of DOOM, Mortal Kombat, and Night Trap. That moral panic saw tangible effects with the development of the ESRB and countless other rating systems self-imposed by publishers, but the same was not the case for Japan. Even when eroge was under scrutiny in the 1990s, little firm action was taken, and CERO wouldn't be established until 2002. The RapeLay controversy did not stymy the development of rape-centric eroge either, instead Japanese publishers chose to deny access to their works to those outside of Japan. What the 177 incident demonstrated was an intense reluctance on the part of the Japanese government to impose censorship outside of what laws were already in place. The moral panic asked parents to be mindful of what content their children were or might consume, rather than punish the industry or its intended customer base more broadly. The following section goes into why Japan wasn't as concerned with the production of rape-centric work as the Western world has been.
Commodified Sex & Rape (Culture)
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Japanese erotic works knows the abundance of rape, bestiality, scat, gore, incest, and sexualisation of minors therein. It would be irresponsible to say it applies to a majority of works, but the point is these aspects are hard to miss. As demonstrated near the beginning of this review, rape plays a prominent role in innumerable Japanese-language works, but rape hentai and eroge have entered the zeitgeist outside Japan as well; consider the popularity and awareness of the aforementioned Rance series by Alicesoft or ShindoL's Metamorphosis. These 'disgraceful' works, be they about sexual disgrace, sexual assault, or rape, certainly stand out as Nagayama Kaoru highlights in their history of eromanga, but 'pure disgrace' works like 177 are a relative rarity, at least in theory.³¹
To understand the cultural context that permitted then condemned works like 177, we need to look at how erotic content is consumed in the Japanese market, particularly before the advent of the Internet. As Yakuza 0 players are likely aware, vending machines did (and still do!) carry erotic works and sexual paraphernalia in a rather open context, as did (and do) konbini. These materials were not cordoned off in the same way they were in the western world; arousing items were everywhere to the point of their visibility effectively being an invisibility. While erotic photography was made to abide by strict guidelines vis-a-vis production, consumption, and promotion, ficticious works like eroge and eromanga were more openly tolerated and gazed upon.³² The partaking of eromanga was thereby common, with a market saturated and open enough for prices to plummet and to breed a culture of rapid, consistent purchase. With skyrocketing land prices in the 1980s and 1990s, most Japanese workers in cities lived in the suburbs with potentially astoundingly long commutes by train. Those commuters were easy to convert into consumers in no small part due to the liminality of transit; a commuter train car is not conducive to a maximally realised relaxation, nor productive labour in a pre-Internet landscape. It should come as little surprise then that those commuters accounted for sixty percent of all printed mass media sales around 177's release.³³ This mass consumption would thus suggest a commonplace standing of the typified male dominance, female victimisation, and sexual violence/assault in Japanese eromanga and erotic works more broadly. As cultural anthropologist Anne Allison argues, this generalised and universalised reading of pornographic material as (re)producing male dominance, chauvinism, violences, and privileges -- proferred by anti-pornography radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon during the feminist sex wars of the 1980s -- ignores and erases cultural contexts and that non-cishet-males "have found pleasure and empowerment in particular pornographies [...] which has the effect of moralizing against, rather than advocating, the sexual agency of women."³⁴
Erotic works consumed in this mode by no means account for the totality of these sales, but they operate in service of a similar goal as other printed mass media. Consider the plethora of Japanese print mass media works dealing with the relatively mundane: slice-of-life, romance, sports, drama, mahjong, comedy. These are often as popular as more outlandish, bolder, fantastical works. What journalist Shinichi Kusamori claims regarding those grounded light novels, manga, and magazines, is that a lack of time for substantive engagement in hobbies or socialising necessitates the consumption of this material. As a fan of mahjong unable to make time for actual play, Shinichi partook in the Baudrillarian simulacrum of mahjong, playing the game vicariously through manga. Counter to the notion that increasing popularity of mahjong manga would correlate with rising popularity of the physical game, Shinichi demonstrates that their relation is inverse, the simulacrum in effect supplanting the real.³⁵
We can extrapolate this to other genres with ease and validity. Japan's birthrate has been on the decline since the mid-1970s, with the rigors of capitalism demanding ever more time and energy be devoted to work rather than the home life. With less time to enjoy non-work life, slice-of-life manga fills that void. With less time to pursue romance, romance manga fills that void. Without time and energy to engage in sexual relations, eromanga brings satisfaction without the actual act. It stands to reason that this is not unique to print media either. Mahjong, sports, romance, and sex are all time and energy commitments that can be approximated through play. Eroge thus serves a similar purpose to eromanga and pornographic works as a whole, but bringing it into the confines of the home (or computer cafe) without the additional effort and labour of the act. Skip the foreplay, get to the point of release. This can be taken even further with the popularity of soaplands, image clubs, pink salons, deriheru prostitutions, nuru/sumata massage parlours, compensated dating, fashion health shops, peep shows, mistress banks, and salacious karaoke bars. Sex and romance have and had become commodities in and of themselves, a labour on the part of the 'product,' paid for with the spoils of labour by the purchaser, the fiduciary cost being offset by the lack of time investment.³⁶
Japanese commentators (as quoted by Allison) Kusamori, Takeru Kamewada, Tadao Sato, and Akira Nakano argue that sex fit the medium of manga better than anything else because the content depicted, usually of an 'offensive, secretive, dark, violent, evil, dirty, and lewd' nature reflects the attitudes in Japan towards sex as a whole.³⁷ It is not some unconscious, accidental by-product that was willed into existence. Japanese erotic works are, as visual culturalist Sharon Kinsella puts it, "the end product of a series of complicated conscious social exchanges and intelligent cultural management," a deliberate realisation and commodification of acts which might not be attainable due to time, anxiety, or social knowledge.³⁸ The hows and whys of sex didn't stay in eromanga either. One of the first erotic games ever, Koei's 1982 Night Life was marketed not just for its lewd imagery, but as an aid for sexual education for couples, including a period tracker and questionnaire to suggest sex positions. Night Life and erotic works should thus be understood not purely for personal sexual gratification, but for sexual knowledge and the promotion of intimacy as well. Not that that stops the consumer from seeking pleasures off the page or screen, however, as the phenomenon of chikan on public transit demonstrates.
It would be disingenuous to describe eromanga or eroge on the whole as elucidating and informative to the public, or as some wholesome if lascivious body of work. It is a fact that erotic works largely recreate the male gaze, the Freudian fetish, the Lacanian objet petit a. What is placed on the page or screen is a recreation and representation of sexual fantasy and desire, reinterpreted, reiterated, and reproduced by and for a culture. The female body is frequently transgressed upon, be it through molestation, harrassment, being gazed upon voyeuristically, rape, or sadomasochism. Whether these fictitious women are shown enjoying this transgression or not, they bear physical, mental, or spiritual marks of violence imposed upon them, as men see, possess, penetrate, and hurt them.³⁹ Should women demonstrate their own will and initiative, they are often put back in their place as subordinate to men, subservient to the gender order. And yet these works were and are available with astounding openness compared to the Western (particularly, American) compartmentalisation of sex into the realm of privacy.⁴⁰ In the mid-1980s there was more clamouring from the government and advocacy groups about depicting pubic realism than there was about showing rape, or the sexualisation of minors.⁴¹ By 1993, it was reported by the Youth Authority of Somucho that approximately 50% of male and 20% of female middle and high schoolers frequently read eromanga, yet the Liberal Democratic Party's 1991 introduced legislation to reduce sales of eromanga to minors floundered.⁴² Japan at the time had a Child Welfare Law which prohibited child prostitution, but no law against child pornography; even the consumption of pornographic materials by minors was more a moral concern than a legal one. Maybe it really is no big deal. Japan has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world after all; perhaps this openness and contextualisation of sex actually serves its purpose as a sort of release valve for frustration. Perhaps they know something we don't.
The (In)Visiblity of Rape in Japan
Allow me to problematise the notion of Japan's low rape rate. A reading of sex crime statistics done at face value shows a clear downward trend for already obscenely low numbers:
1972: 4,677 rape victims | 5,464 rape offenders | 3,139 sexual assaults
1975: 3,692 rape victims | 4,052 rape offenders | 2,841 sexual assaults
1980: 2,610 rape victims | 2,667 rape offenders | 2,825 sexual assaults
1985: 1,802 rape victims | 1,809 rape offenders | 2,645 sexual assaults
1990: 1,548 rape victims | 1,289 rape offenders | 2,730 sexual assaults
1995: 1,500 rape victims | 1,160 rape offenders | 3,644 sexual assaults⁴³
This downward trend from 1972-1985 seems concomitant with rising sales and production of sexually explicit material, including that which depicts rape. Similar trends were historically seen with the rise of sexually explicit materials in Denmark, Sweden, and West Germany following the legalisation of pornography therein in 1969, 1970, and 1973, respectively.⁴⁴ Sexologist Milton Diamond and cultural anthropologist Ayako Uchiyama emphasise that rape has always been taken seriously in Japan, and that inhibiting factors for the reporting of rape (and other sex crimes) have diminished, thus making this trend reflective of an actual decrease in rape cases.⁴⁵ Furthermore, the Japanese Ministry of Justice espouses its own rationale for Japan's low crime rate, citing, among others, a highly law-abiding citizenry, a web of informal social control in local communities, a highly cooperative spirits of the citizenry towards the criminal justice system, and efficient, just, and effective investigations and functions by criminal justice agencies.⁴⁶ If we work with the numbers for 1985, when Japan's population was 120.8 million, that means there was only one rape victim for every 67,000 citizens. In the United States that same year, 88,670 forcible rapes were reported, or one per 2,680 citizens. That Japan could have, per capita, only 4% the number of rapes as the United States should raise eyebrows, particularly when so much sexually explicit material caters to sexually violent proclivities.
It is difficult to outline the situation for rape victims in 1985, but we can look at the situation in other years to see how Japan's still low numbers do not add up. A 2000 survey by the Gender Quality Bureau founds 48.7% of women over the age of 20 had at least one experience of being groped.⁴⁷ Similar surveys in 2001, 2003, and 2004 found a wide range of between 28.4% and 70% of young women being victim to chikan incidents.⁴⁸ By all accounts, chikan constitutes sexual assault even according to the Japanese Criminal Code, but a mere two to three thousand chikan are arrested annually. Immediately we see a phenomenal discrepancy between the number of incidents, and the number of reports/arrests; chikan is such an epidemic in Japan that women only trains have been operating in Tokyo since 1912. Such settings were not exclusively to limit the incidents of sexual misconduct - there was belief that women were unsuited to crowded commuter trains - but it was informed by it nonetheless as their rise in prominence came after the newspaper Yomiuri reported on chikan incidents.⁴⁹
Sexual violence too has been tremendously underreported according to the Japanese government's own statistics. Around 2015, over 95% of such incidents were not reported to the police, in so small part due to the culture of shame around rape in Japan, typically placing blame on victims rather than their rapists.⁵⁰ In a period before 2017's reform of Article 177, rape was also difficult to prove and only constituted violent, force vaginal penetration by a man's penis. Oral or anal rape, or forced penetration with implements thus didn't constitute rape, making it more difficult to report and to see justice served. Returning to 177 and Genji Monogatari, there remains a popular misconception that rape is part of the courting act, that it is a flattery, that it is not rape if a woman 'enjoys' it; Kotoe was in effect seducing Hideo rather than Hideo enacting a sexual violence upon Kotoe. Even when rape victims do try to seek help, they are subjected to ridicule, trauma, and apathy. By way of example, when Carrie Jane Fisher, an Australian woman, was raped in 2002, she was brought back to the scene of her rape, questioned relentlessly by male officers, and denied the opportunity to go to a hospital as rape victims did not constitute urgent patients.⁵¹ Following her gangrape in 2000 Mika Kobayashi sought from and provided support to other rape victims, finding that only 1% of them had made a report to the police.⁵² When Shiori Ito was raped in 2015, the Japanese legal system undermined and ignored her, unable to get information on where to get a rape kit without going through a preliminary in-person interview. Police discouraged her from filing a report, she was told her career would be in jeopardy, she was told she didn't act like a victim, she was discouraged from pursuing legal action, she was forced to recreate the scene of her rape and the act of the rape itself while investigators photographed her.⁵³ In the wake of Ito's story, a 2017 survey by Japan's central government found one in thirteen women said they had been raped at some point in their lives.⁵⁴
Make it make sense, make it add up
It is my sincere hope that I have demonstrated that Japan's widespread plethora of rape-centric sexually explicit materials do not, in fact, represent a release valve for societal frustration, and do not explain a 'shockingly low rape rate.' The prevalence of 'disgraceful' works seems to have no direct causal effect on rape rates at all, and certainly not to the extent that advocates for Japan's pornographic leniency would have us believe.
It is currently 4:06PM, Saturday, November 26th, 2022. The sun's already going down. I feel hollow. Over 7,000 words and I don't have a conclusion. I thought my research would give me an answer to the prevalence of rape media in Japan that was more nuanced than that people enjoy it. It didn't.
I was paralysed by fear of what talking about 177 would entail. How can I talk about a culture that isn't my own and impose upon it my own morals and ideals? The answer is that I can't without coming across as aggressively neutral, and so I'll put aside that hang-up for a moment. This is off the cuff so forgive the brain dump.
I don't personally have a problem with rape playing a central role in works of fiction. So long as it is not overly glorified, I consider it akin to any other fetishistic representation of depravity in explicit material. I don't think it should be readily available with the same openness as, say, PornHub's frontpage content, but prohibiting its circulation and creation only breeds an atmosphere of want. We want what we can't have. When I read that 177 had caused a controversy, I thought it would be substantial with wide-reaching effects towards an ethical betterment of Japanese society. Rape itself is bad. Rape is deplorable. Rape should not be enacted on anyone. The carefree attitude the Japanese government and Japanese society had (and largely still have) towards rape and rape victims is appalling. Not only does it perpetuate the same patriarchal notions of male dominance over women, but it reinforces the stifling of progress for and by anyone who is not a cishet-male. Call me an SJW if you'd like, if it means not being on the side which is defending rape, I'll wear the label with pride. It isn't that I want Japan to be more like the Western world. Far from it. It is that I want women, queer people, and minorities to be afforded the same opportunities, the same privileges as men have. It is that I don't want my heart to ache when I read some unrepentant weeaboo defending rape or lolicon or guro as evidence of an 'enlightened culture'. What I want more than anything is for people to consider the cultural contexts of that which they consume. I want people to understand this being considered okay, that not looking at these works critically is itself abhorrent and ignorant. I want people to be able to live their lives without fear.
I want there to not be hurt in this world.
Is that so wrong?
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1. "List of controversial video games," Wikimedia Foundation, last modified November 14, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_controversial_video_games.
2. Ibid.
3. "Tags & traits," The Visual Novel Database, accessed November 26, 2022, https://vndb.org/d10.
4. Ibid.
5. Kaori Shoji and International Herald Tribune, “Setouchi Jakucho Takes Japan Back 1,000 Years,” The New York Times (The New York Times, January 23, 1999), https://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/23/style/IHT-setouchi-jakucho-takes-japan-back-1000-years.html.
6. Royall Tyler, "Marriage, Rank and Rape in The Tale of Genji," Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context 7 (March 2002): note 2.
7. Macadamia Soft, 177 Manual, 1986, https://archive.org/details/177_manual/page/n6/mode/2up.
8. Ibid.
9. Japan, Penal Code: Act No. 45 of April 24, 1907, Tokyo: Ministry of Justice, https://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/en/laws/view/1960.
10. Only after doing this transcription did I find someone else had already done so here: https://g16.hatenablog.com/entry/2021/08/03/095735.
11. Macadamia Soft, 177 Manual.
12. See PC-6001活用研究 プログラミングの基礎からマシン語の応用まで (Dempa Shimbunsha: 1983).
13. John Szczepaniak, The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers (United States: Hardcore Gaming 101, 2014).
14. "『ドンファン』 概要," エロゲ調査報告書, accessed November 26, 2022, http://erogereport.blog.jp/archives/1301698.html.
15. Szczepaniak, The Untold History.
16. Ibid, note 282; "『マカダム』 概要, エロゲ調査報告書, accessed November 26, 2022, http://erogereport.blog.jp/archives/1301712.html.
17. Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon and Martin Picard, “Beyond Rapelay: Self-Regulation in the Japanese Erotic Video Game Industry,” in Rated M for Mature: Sex and Sexuality in Video Games, ed. Matthew Wysocki and Evan W. Lauteria (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 30-31.
18. "『マカダム』 概要," エロゲ調査報告書.
19. Ibid.; "Macadam 二人愛戯 (マカダム)," Macadam 二人愛戯 (マカダム) - 1985年発売 (美少女ゲーム マイヒストリー, January 11, 2022), https://bishojoghist.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-271.html; "『卍(まんじ)』 概要," エロゲ調査報告書, accessed November 26, 2022, http://erogereport.blog.jp/archives/1301696.html.
20. Szczepaniak, The Untold History.
21. Ibid.
22. Ibid.
23. Ibid.
24. Japan National Diet, "First Meeting of the 107th Members' Committee of the Balance of Account of the National Diet [第107回国会 衆議院 決算委員会 第1号 昭和61年10月21日]," Kokkaikaigisen kesna shisutemu, October 21, 1986, transcript, no. 169.
25. Ibid., no. 169-171.
26. Pelletier-Gagnon and Picard, "Beyond Rapelay," 32.
27. Japan National Diet, "First Meeting," no. 173.
28. Pelletier-Gagnon and Picard, "Beyond Rapelay," 32.
29. Szczepaniak, The Untold History.
30. Ibid.
31. Kaoru Nagayama, Patrick W. Galbraith, and Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto, Erotic Comics in Japan: An Introduction to Eromanga (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021), 169.
32. Anne Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics,and Censorship in Japan (S.l.: Routledge, 2019), 54.
33. See Lawrence Ward Beer, Freedom of Expression in Japan: A Study in Comparative Law, Politics, and Society (Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd., 1984).
34. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 54-55.
35. Kusamori Shinichi, "Mizu no Ranpi," Juristo 25: 235.
36. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 59. See Nagisa Oshima, "Bunka.Sei.Seiji," Juristo 5401: 39.
37. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 59.
38. Sharon Kinsella, Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japanese Society (Routledge, 2015), 14.
39. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 62, 64-65.
40. Anonymous, "Racy comics a labeled lot now in Japan," Sunday Honolulu Star Bulletin and Advertiser, March 31, 1991, E-7.
41. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 150-151.
42. Anonymous, "Racy comics," E-7; Milton Diamond and Ayako Uchiyama, “Pornography, Rape, and Sex Crimes in Japan,” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 22, no. 1 (1999): pp. 1-22, https://doi.org/10.1016/s0160-2527(98)00035-1, 6-7.
43. Diamond and Uchiyama, "Pornography, Rape, and Sex Crimes in Japan," 9.
44. Ibid., 11.
45. Ibid., 12.
46. Minoru Shikita, Crime and Criminal Policy in Japan from 1926 to 1988: Analysis and Evaluation of the Showa Era (Tokyo: Japan Criminal Policy Society, 1990), 353.
47. Gender Equality Bureau, Danjo-kan ni okeru boryoku ni kansuru chosa, 2000.
48. Mitsutoshi Horii and Adam Burgess, “Constructing Sexual Risk: ‘Chikan’, Collapsing Male Authority and the Emergence of Women-Only Train Carriages in Japan,” Health, Risk & Society 14, no. 1 (2012): pp. 41-55, https://doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2011.641523, 42.
49. Ibid.
50. Teppei Kasai, “Japan's Not-so-Secret Shame,” Sexual Assault | Al Jazeera (Al Jazeera, July 29, 2018), https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2018/7/29/japans-not-so-secret-shame/.
51. Karryn Cartelle, "Victims finally learning to speak out against Japan's outdated rape laws," (Japan Today, April 21, 2008), https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/victims-are-finally-learning-to-speak-out-against-japan%25e2%2580%2599s-outdated-rape-laws.
52. National Police Agency, "Notes of crime victims," Fiscal Year 2009: Measures for Crime Victims, 26-28.
53. Julia Hollingsworth and Junko Ogura, “Japanese #MeToo Symbol Wins Civil Court Case Two Years after She Accused a Prominent Journalist of Raping Her | CNN Business,” CNN (Cable News Network, December 18, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/18/media/japan-shiori-ito-legal-intl-hnk/index.html.
54. Ibid.

It's good! It's not great, it's not bad, it's good. For a $5 micro soulslike you can beat in an hour and change, it's as good as it could reasonably be. Like a lot of Sokpop's other titles, White Lavender is carried somewhat by its artstyle but this go-around it isn't doing all the heavy lifting.
White Lavender, as such a small game, is begging the player to bust it apart. It doesn't have time for a meticulously planned build or incremental upgrades. Stats come hard and fast, with stupendously generous scaling. A Might build made bosses melt near instantly, especially when I discovered you can animation cancel your heavy attack into 2(!) light ones. I doubt this sort of glass cannon approach was fully intentional, but it made even basic enemies rather harrowing at times. It lacks the eccentricities and mechanical je n'est ce quoi of an actual Souls title, but it satisfies a craving without committing oneself to the dozens of hours of a FromSoftware work. And it was good enough to warrant a second playthrough to get its speedrun achievement, that's gotta count for something.
Also there's a Big Hat Logan bug who wields, yes, a comically large spoon. And your boots look like they belong in RuneScape. There's a cotton swab weapon.
Cute!!!

I love the Columns III guy. I think about Columns III guy all the time. Columns III guy's bizarre pose on a pile of jewels astounds me. Columns III guy's legs are comically long in relation to Columns III guy's torso, like a bizarro inversion of Tim Conway's Dorf character. Is it because Columns III guy's shirt is too big or of a weird cut? Are Columns III guy's pants too big? Is Columns III guy just relaxed and slouched atop his jewelled throne? On the cover, on the cart, on the manual, in the advertising materials, Columns III guy shrugs with a lackadaisical attitude which betrays the apparent mastery over Columns III that Columns III guy has, the jewels encircling him like the Chaos Emeralds in the hands of Dr. Eggman. Columns III guy does not need to sneer at us to convey his power, however, as his smile, wristwatch, and trainers let us know he is above traditional signifiers of strength. This is not to suggest Columns III guy lacks his own struggles. Columns III guy collaborates with his four doppelgangers in vague cooperation in a print ad for Columns III demonstrating Columns III's five-player multiplayer. Columns III guy labours therein while still being so sure of his victory that one Columns III guy recreates the cover Columns III guy's pose. Were his quintupled presence not enough to show the magnitude of Columns III guy's skill and importance, a sixth Columns III guy appears in the corner of the advertisement on the cover for Columns III, blown up to comical proportions so even this small representation can impart the critical role Columns III guy plays. Yet as necessary as Columns III guy is to the enjoyment of Columns III, he does not appear in any form in the game itself. His physical presence is not necessary, as Columns III guy has no doubt infiltrated the mind of the player already, leaving them knowing on a subconscious level that the game's AI is not some artificial faceless construct, it is Columns III guy. And despite the omnipresence of Columns III guy, we know nothing of Columns III guy. The only lead for an identity for Columns III guy is a single Reddit comment by a liar trying to besmirch the good name of Columns III guy. Columns III guy, my beloved, who are you, who were you? Are you there Columns III guy? It's me, Detchibe.
The game's okay.

Given my stance on Vampire Survivors it might surprise folks to find out I actually rather enjoy Soulstone Survivors in its current iteration. I don't feel it necessary to go super deep into it so here are some jumbled thoughts as a comparison to VS:
The addition of attacks outside of bullets and contact damage is fantastic, especially with telegraphed AOEs. Coupled with your dodge there is an actual skill floor here, even if it can be reduced to 'don't stand in red'.
Skills are incredibly diverse and allow for a wide array of builds. That you can swap out your six active skills as desired lessens the possibility of thinking you made a poor choice. Having theoretically infinite passive skills also makes builds more flexible if needed.
Breaking those skills into sub-categories makes it easy to understand how they might interact cohesively. If I get a passive skill that increases the area or damage of my Slam skills, I'm more compelled to get more Slam skills which themselves might synthesise well through their Physical typing or Hemorrhage debuffs.
The focus on getting run times down, rather than just surviving for thirty minutes encourages more offensive-oriented play which is more engaging and wastes less time. With less focus on defence and more attention given to offence and dodging, skilful play is more important than turtling.
Curses (at least below 25) lead to a more dynamic game session that also lets you power up faster in a way that's very fun. Having multiple elites spawn at once makes them delicious XP sources. I've read that curses get out of control at the high end but I haven't yet encountered that.
Getting your run time down lets you continue the run in another level with far greater difficulty and rewards, but also a lowered enemy kill requirement for bosses. I can't say how much this is offset by the increased stats of enemies but it seems to get faster and faster.
The rune system, though laborious to fully unlock, allows you to mix and match different characters' skill sets and generally mix up your playstyle much more than VS ever did or does.
On the whole, Soulstone Survivors is pretty damn good (for a Survivors-like) thus far. I find it kind of similar to doing Nephalem Rifts in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, particularly as your build snowballs into absurdity. That it circumvents my two biggest gripes with Survivors-likes (time investment and lack of player agency) has me hopeful other developers chasing this trend follow in Soulstone Survivors' steps rather than Vampire Survivors'.

GeoGuessr is the greatest feat achieved in games for reasons entirely external to the game itself. I think that's something realised by all its players on a (sub)subconscious level, but is rarely mentioned in discourse about the game, or even its constituent parts. It exists only because of an incomprehensible amount of photographic data being readily available for almost anyone on Earth to use. And this access is borderline mundane to us, alongside so much borne of the Internet age.
That I can get live information on traffic and see the outside of a restaurant across town in seconds is already dumbfounding on its own. However, I could do that for anyplace, anywhere on the globe. We have this asset which lets us see anywhere on the entire planet in crystal clarity, and instead of exploring the sheer boundlessness of our world, we use it for our local sphere the vast, vast majority of the time. I can see a dirt road in the middle of the Australian outback with the same amount of effort I consistently put towards checking for street parking near my doctor's office.
Where GeoGuessr excels is in showing you an elsewhere without requiring input. The sheer near-infinity of possibilities in global exploration vis-à-vis Google Street View can instill a decision paralysis, even when actually committing to a choice. The local sphere pulls even here not as a magnet to your present place, but to one starkly similar or dissimilar. And in seeking, however inadvertently, a (perhaps misguided and miscalculated) maximal boon of knowledge and culture and worldliness, there is that gravitation to the noteworthy. Similarly, there is a repulsion from the non-place, defined by Marc Augé as an anthropological space of transience and anonymity. This dissection of the world into places and non-places is perhaps semantically valueless, but it is a truth as, in being dropped into a non-place, there is a feeling of disappointment because one's perceived worldliness does not expand. The non-place thus remains necessarily transient and anonymising as this information of the non-place remains bounded to the non-place; there will not be talk around of the globe of a random Albanian fence post, or the interior of a suburban shopping centre in a town of 50,000. This is, in part, due to perceived worldliness being denoted by visitation to places of supposed import. In contradistinction and in theory, one's worldly knowledge should be the sum of familiarity with non-places distant from actualised places, as non-places are most void of knowledge. Through memetics and mimesis, places of import can already be, in essence, visited without physical travel, but a non-place cannot. Yet with GeoGuessr, they can be.
As mentioned above, GeoGuessr shows its players an elsewhere determined at random from an enormity of data (unless one plays a fixed map). I am equally as likely to land in Jardin des Tuileries or Ngorongoro Crater as I am to be placed on a barren strip of highway in Uruguay. In the case of the latter, perceived worldliness approaches uselessness compared to an understanding of non-places. This is due, in large part, to the identifying features of a space meant for anonymity. In the absence of signifiers we might know through cultural osmosis, the mundane becomes an invaluable asset. This is multiplied exponentially by how transient the non-place is. A highway, as a non-place, is identified with ease should it be near a roadsign indicating distance and relation to real places. Increasing obfuscation of the relation to actual places renders the non-place more anonymous and unknowable. Consider an approximated heirarchy of identifiers in GeoGuessr: place label, landmark, flag, TLD, language, country telephone code, architecture, license plate, street sign, flora, cars, utility pole, bollard, resolution, relation to sun, road composition. Some of these are considered of greater value than others in determining (and establishing) a place due to their applicability to a specific place (or non-place).
By being thrown into a non-place, that hyper-specific knowledge of no real value (for the vast, vast majority of the population) becomes essential in achieving a high score. And even without it, locating a place or non-place, however approximated, remains fun as one learns deliberately of subconsciously those signifiers. Consider and compare the play of an amateur entertainer, a speedrunner, and the high-scoring player. They play the game with vastly different knowledge and technique, and indeed for very different purposes. But they're all having fun and honing their skill while doing so. They are all analysing the properties of the non-place to render it into a place.
What I am long-windedly trying to convey is that GeoGuessr, as an extension of Street View, demonstrates the (un)knowability of the world in a way allowed only by our attempts to make it known. In a cynical sense, corporations try to make the world knowable for its exploitation. Optimistically, in quantifying what is or can be known, we are made aware of how much we do not know, and how much there is left to know. In its random presentation and in asking the player to locate themselves, GeoGuessr implores us to consider the non-places of the world as places unto themselves.
Minus one star for increasing feature bloat and the effective need to subscribe. If the reduction of value for something so miraculous by something so petty doesn't show you how underappreciated our contemporary miracles are, nothing will.

BACKER

on

again

A technical marvel of computer wizardry by Steve Wozniak. However, as I have seen it reiterated time and again, most recently in the (so far) excellent ATARI 50, I wish to stress that Steve Jobs had minimal (read: no) involvement with the development or design of Breakout.
I think it's an interesting enough tale that you should dive into it yourself, but here's the basic rundown:
Wozniak was working at Hewlett-Packard, and got a call from Jobs about the work he was doing at Atari. Jobs' job was to give Atari's games a final test for any tweaks necessary. Bushnell assigned Jobs the task of making a single-player Pong-like where the player would break bricks. Jobs was to receive a ~$750 bonus for every chip under fifty since Bushnell disliked how many chips Atari's games were using. Bushnell offered the job to Jobs because he had heard Jobs' friend Wozniak had made a Pong-clone using only 30 chips. Jobs only told Wozniak that there would be a $700 bonus for getting things under 50 chips, and $1,000 if they were under 40. Jobs told Wozniak they would split that $700/$1,000 fee. To meet the four day deadline, Wozniak worked four nights straight at Atari while performing his main job at Hewlett-Packard. Jobs would breadboard Wozniak's designs and wire the chips. Jobs and Wozniak ended up with mononucleosis. With a finalised design at fourty-four chips, Jobs paid Wozniak half the $700 he told Wozniak they would earn. The actual bonus earned was $5,000, and Wozniak wouldn't find out the truth until years later. In his own words:
"[...]we were kids, you know. He got paid one amount, and told me he got paid another. He wasn't honest with me, and I was hurt. But I didn't make a big deal about it or anything. Ethics always mattered to me, and I still don't really understand why he would've gotten paid one thing and told me he'd gotten paid another. [...] I never let stuff like what happened with Breakout bother me. Though you can disagree -- you can even split from a relationship -- you don't have to hold it against the other. You're just different. That's the best way to live life and be happy."
For further reading, I suggest Steve Wozniak's biography iWoz, this interview from the December 1984 edition of BYTE magazine, and this Q&A from Wozniak's website.

I have 63.5 hours in Vampire Survivors, 9.6 in Seraph's Last Stand, 4.1 in Soulstone Survivors, and 3.5 in 20 Minutes Till Dawn. I've played these Survivors-likes a lot, and I daresay I even like them. However, they represent one of the greatest issues of contemporary gaming and media consumption more broadly. With little exception, Survivors-likes are about pleasure rather than enjoyment.
That these games are pleasurable is hard to deny, they're perfectly tuned to tickle the brain through large damage numbers getting larger, (theoretically) overwhelming odds, the pseudo-random element of choices on level up, and pitch-perfect dings and chimes when getting XP. Vampire Survivors in particular adds on the pleasure of opening something with its treasure chests with resplendent animations and music. The first few hours of any Survivors-like are the best because of the sense of mystery, not knowing what's behind the curtain making it tick. You're left wondering how long you can last, what evolutions are possible, what maps you can unlock, what new systems lie in store. In that sense it's not entirely dissimilar to a 'regular' roguelite like The Binding of Isaac (1,031.9 hours), Slay the Spire (282.7 hours), or Enter the Gungeon (217.9 hours). Like those games, Survivors-likes have an overarching progression with gradual unlocks for doing tasks. Like those games, there's a feeling of becoming better at the game over time. The problem is that in nearly all Survivors-likes, you aren't actually improving at all, nor are you facing an actual challenge. You simply think you are.
The three roguelites I mentioned above have a lot of their enjoyment stemming from 'breaking' the game, finding out how to effectively use its mechanics and synergies in the most advantageous way. But figuring out how to break the game requires, at least in part, some knowledge of how the game works and how to manipulate play to increase the odds of breaking the game. In TBoI, a player has to know to avoid damage to get a Devil Room. As such, getting some of the best items in the game demands mechanically perfect play. You can fail forward into some synergies for sure, but to actually unlock access to potential advantages, you have to earn it. Even the items that would allow one to overcome the skill requirement are themselves tied to a skill requirement for their unlocking. StS, as an engine-building game, lets you demolish its challenges with a well-maintained deck, but you have to know how the mechanics work and how to deal with enemies that can render your engine moot.
Survivors-likes, on the surface, have that same game-breaking with their item evolutions/syngeries. You might feel clever for discovering an evolution, and like a badass for wiping out hordes with little to no resistance. But you didn't get that power through knowing how a fight works (unless knowing to move slightly away from an enemy is intricate knowledge), you got it by picking two items from a very, very limited pool. A limited pool that allows you, with progression, to remove items from it or skip the choices until you get what you want. It's similar to holding R in TBoI to get a good first item room, or waiting at a traffic light, trying to predict when it will turn green, and saying 'that didn't count' when you got it wrong. You're sinking up to thirty minutes per run into something solvable and solved. Without the ability to choose when you use what attacks, and with enemy attacks amounting to 'go where they are thinnest' and 'move up a little bit to avoid a slow projectile,' there's no skill ceiling or skill floor. There's no consequence for a poor (read: mathematically incorrect) decision outside of your numbers not being ideal; picking up Ipecac when you have Broken Mirror this is not.
To be abundantly clear, there isn't anything implicitly wrong with the Survivors-like formula, and there's nothing implicitly wrong with finding pleasure in them. They are purposely designed to elicit pleasure, after all. The issue is that players are largely uncritical of what they are consuming, why they find it pleasurable, and whether or not it is actually enjoyable. Pleasure and enjoyment are not mutually exclusive, but pleasure is something that happens to you, and enjoyment is something earned by you. To keep things in the realm of gaming, those broken runs in TBoI are pleasurable because of a sense of accomplishment, and enjoyable because that accomplishment was meaningfully earned. Survivors-likes are pleasurable because of a sense of becoming stronger and doing well, but not enjoyable because there is minimal effort put in and no actual skill. Playing a multiplayer shooter with your friends is pleasurable and enjoyable because you are exercising your skills and spending time with people whose company you enjoy. You are lost in the moment so actions like imperfect play do not hamper your pleasure, and since you are still being tested no matter how you perform, it remains enjoyable. Playing a multiplayer shooter alone has varying pleasure tied directly to performance of play, and enjoyment derived from trying your best.
Again, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with deriving pleasure from these games. You should, however, stop and ask yourself from time to time if you are getting any enjoyment from what you're doing. Maybe you're not, and that's alright, but a life lived in pursuit of pleasure above all else is probably not a very fulfilling one. And companies know that we love pleasure. It's why social media exists in the way it does to keep your attention indefinitely. It's why Marvel movies follow the same formula time and again. It's why reality TV was and is such a massive market. It's why viral marketing and the media tell you you have to watch the new Netflix original film, lest you suffer FOMO. It's why Survivors-likes demand a large investment of time so you feel more emotionally attached to the experience and will tell your friends they have to play it.
Take a step back and ask yourself, why?

What a lot of people either fail to realise or refuse to believe is that the best Sonic games are the flawed ones. The games that try to innovate with bold ideas unbecoming of a Sonic game, or any game. We've had 'perfect' Sonic games before like Sonic Mania or Sonic Generations and those games are great but they can't hold a candle to the way-too-serious tone of Sonic Adventure 2, the quaint but pointless Adventure Fields of Sonic Adventure, the audacity to make half the game a slow beat-em-up in Sonic Unleashed. People love Sonic for its ambition, not its accomplishments. People love games for their imperfections the same way they love people despite their flaws. Sonic Team has, for decades now, dared to do things that are new, bold, and weird. Sonic Frontiers is a continuation of that vision, and to reduce it to petty statements of "open world 🤓 sega hire this man 🤓 serious plot in cartoon rat game 🤓 the controls 🤓 but he's slow" is a pitch-perfect demonstration of how Sonic is doomed to fail. Look at your favourite games and try earnestly telling yourself they're flawless.
Credit to smaench for planting this seed in my brain, actual review when I'm done playing it and can let my thoughts digest rather than spewing unfiltered drivel onto your webzone.

ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
You're probably never going to play Yosaku. Nobody will. It appears only in scant screenshots, an arcade flyer, mention in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, as an easter egg in The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise, and demonstrated in a single YouTube video. Releasing shortly before Safari Rally and Ozma Wars, Yosaku remains undumped (if not entirely lost) alongside SNK's earliest 'Micon Kit' Breakout clones. In spite of its obscurity, Yosaku is a foundational game not just for SNK, but for the early Japanese games market as a whole.
ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
The premise of Yosaku is pretty simple. The player is a lumberjack, toiling away in the forest while branches fall, birds defecate, boars charge, and snakes slither. Avoid danger, chop the trees, get a high score. It is by no means groundbreaking but for a 1979 release it seems to be decently fun. What is fascinating about Yosaku stems from what inspired it: an Enka song popularised by Saburou Kitajima in 1978.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
One of Sabu-chan's most famous works, Yosaku similarly tells the basic tale of the titular Yosaku chipping away at a tree while his wife performs domestic duties. Written by religious scholar and critic Kiminori Nanasawa, Yosaku was a submission to the long-running NHK musical variety show Anata no Melody. The conceit of the program was that amateur songwriters would submit their work to be performed by professional musicians. Yosaku's sparse lyrics are abound with onomotapoeia, and it's just a great track overall. In fact, the game Yosaku features part of the melody of the song Yosaku as sung by Sabu-chan, and it's officially licensed from the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, one of the first video games to bear their legal blessing.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
Lest we forget, this was the era of the arcade clone. Perhaps in a cruel twist of irony then for a company founded on Breakout clones, Yosaku is known less for its arcade release, and more for the unlicensed, unsanctioned copycat which released at the launch of the Epoch Cassette Vision. Kikori no Yosaku sees the detailed SNK original reduced to its barest geometries and most base elements. The much chunkier graphics reduce the playfield to just two trees instead of Yosaku's three. Unable to litter the space with smaller but more plentiful hazards, Kikori no Yosaku's dangers are the unhewn log to Yosaku's two-by-four. Rather than allow Yosaku to hide behind trees, Epoch's version leaps over boars. And even without the legal go ahead, Kikori no Yosaku has a crude rendition of those same bars from Sabu-chan's hit song.
ホーホー ホーホー
「houhou, houhou」
The Epoch Cassette Vision held 70% of the games console market in Japan by 1982. 'Video Games Console Library' makes the unsubstantiated claim that Kikori no Yosaku was the game that made the Cassette Vision as successful as it was. It's impossible to concretely corroborate this, but considering it was a launch title (and labelled as #1), it would certainly have drawn some customers in. Furthermore, Cassette Vision game releases were glacial, being made in-house by only three developers with a new title hitting shelves every quarter. An interview with Epoch designer and supervisor Masayuki Horie similarly asserts that Kikori no Yosaku is the first game people talk about when the Cassette Vision is discussed. Horie mentions that industry shows saw developers trying to discern which games would be popular, and thus fit for cloning, so Kikori no Yosaku's significance may well be true.
ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
With such a storied past, one might want to play Kikori no Yosaku for themselves. Well, you're probably never going to play the Cassette Vision release of Kikori no Yosaku, and not for lack of trying. A key quirk of the Cassette Vision is that the console itself is effectively just an AV passthrough. It lacks a processor. Unlike with other cartridge-based systems, Cassette Vision games house the software and hardware which allowed vastly faster operation. This means emulation is, while not impossible, entirely too cumbersome for anyone to have meaningfully tackled it thus far - ROM dumps for all eleven releases do now exist at least. Barring the purchase of antiquated hardware, Kikori no Yosaku is just as playable as Yosaku.
ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
Or so I thought. As it turns out, an unofficial port of Kikori no Yosaku came to the Sharp X68000 in 1991 thanks to IJI Team. This clone of a clone is a near-exact recreation of the Cassette Vision original, down to the graphical quirks of diagonal sprites. The only substantial difference I was able to spot has to do with the colours themselves, which are more pastel on Cassette Vision than they are on X68000 - this may be due to the oddities of RF connections.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
All told, Kikori no Yosaku is a pretty fun romp, albeit a pretty easy one when not playing on the higher difficulties. The circumstances of its creation as a clone of an oddly seminal title, which itself is only accessible thanks to another clone, make it noteworthy. Furthermore, the X68000 version is the only such recreation of an Epoch Cassette Vision game. Even the absurd Pac-Man clone PakPak Monster remains bound to the original hardware.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
Yosaku is a hit enka song written by an obscure amateur.
Yosaku is one of the only lost SNK titles.
Yosaku is one of the first games to have music licensed by JASRAC.
Yosaku is perhaps responsible for the success of the Epoch Cassette Vision.
Yosaku is emblematic of the wild west of early video game (non)copyright.
Yosaku is a chunky, shameless copy.
Yosaku is a near-perfect recreation.
Yosaku is simple but elegant.
ホーホー ホーホー
「houhou, houhou」

CW: Murder, gun violence, child death, sexual violence, cannibalism, suicide, gore, eroticism of gore, knife violence, glorification of tragedy and crime, misogyny.
Preface
First, I would like to make abundantly clear this is a heinous work. On a surface level it is reprehensible. Digging into it makes every aspect of it worse. If it could only be played with a critical eye that would be one thing, but as I will get into this isn't just some curiosity to dissect.
The United States has had 27 school massacres since 1927. 16 of these occurred after Columbine. All but two were carried out with the use of firearms. Since 2000, there have been 388 school shootings in the United States.
Canada has had three school massacres ever (ignoring the genocide perpetrated by the Residential School system). One of these occurred after Columbine. It was carried out with a firearm. Since 2000, there have been 8 school shootings in Canada.
Japan has had one school massacre ever. It occurred on June 8, 2001. Eight children were murdered. All but one were girls. The perpetrator used a kitchen knife. There has never been a school shooting in Japan. There have been two multiple fatality shootings in Japan since 1952.
Potential
I think this is important to bring up because, from a Western and particularly an American perspective, school shootings are a dark reality that happens with shocking yet numbing frequency. The Onion's perennial publishing of their "No Way to Prevent This" article is testament to that. While it would be disingenuous to say school shootings have had no resonance in Japan, it is true that they have not happened there. The distance from tragedy lessens its emotional impact.
This is to say that, in a vacuum, Morimiya Middle School Shooting (MMSS) reads as intensely insensitive but not outright malicious. It is, in a vacuum, akin to Postal or Hatred, mimicking real world tragedy without outright reference to any specific event. An argument could even be made that there is some merit to MMSS in its commentary on the why of school shootings. The unnamed player character walked in on her mother's suicide, her father was an abusive alcoholic who disappeared. Her rage turns outward towards those who do not give her the attention she was missing from her parents. It ultimately manifests as a desire to commit murder after the game's fictionalised Japan reports on regional mass killings.
Like Super Columbine Massacre RPG, MMSS appears then to be a work which asks for a societal introspection alongside our abject horror. By not referencing a specific historical event, MMSS has the potential to make commentary without inflicting direct emotional harm. Its gamification and unnamed player character have the potential to instill a sense of being complicit with the act, as with Brenda Romero's 2009 board game Train. Even its arcade gameplay loop, high scores, and unlocks have the potential to increase engagement for some grand payoff of self-disgust that one would invest so much time into becoming good at murdering teachers and children. A part of me held out hope in my few playthroughs that there would be some message at the end of it all, that this glorification of violence would have a point. Instead, MMSS is closer to JFK: Reloaded. It teaches nothing. It has nothing to say. It exists to shock. It exists to hurt.
Play
On a technical and mechanical level, MMSS is something of a marvel. It is an RPGMaker game with gunplay. There is an undeniable element of strategy to it. Suffice it to say that every aspect of school shootings are on display here. If you have seen coverage of new schools in the United States being built to 'confuse and frustrate' school shooters, you can intuit how the prototypical Japanese school might facilitate mass murder with firearms and explosives. The player needs to slow down to increase their accuracy. I leave it to you to put two and two together. The unlocks amount to different weapons the player can use, as well as cheats. The player needs to manage the loaded ammunition between their weapons so as to not end up reloading while students wielding poles lunge at them to stop their advance. The player has a very strict time limit before the police arrive to arrest them. The player gets the most points for killing female students. None of this is particularly fun, even if it were removed from what it is depicting, but that it has been done on an engine meant for traditional JRPGs is impressive. That it is mechanically more than pointing and shooting is noteworthy. It is just barely engaging enough to warrant a couple playthroughs.
Precedent
Discussion of MMSS necessitates consideration of its creator and their niche. MMSS was developed by エリック aka erikku aka eric806359 aka kata235. They are an ero guro artist. Their depiction and obsession with the macabre is not in line with an H.R. Giger type, however. It comes across as more similar to the work of the Marquis de Sade. Reading through erikku's Twitter feed and scrolling through their Pixiv feels like trawling through The 120 Days of Sodom; it is a display of an amoral libertine.
Some choice textual excerpts from their Twitter (roughly translated):
"Drawing muscles makes me want to eat them."
"A touching coming-of-age story in which a young girl who has just lost her father gets a gun and grows up to be a splendid mass murderer."
"If I'm going to die anyways, I want the human race to perish while I'm still alive."
"I'm not a monster. Even for someone like me, I have human likes and dislikes. ...For example, what I love is 'Decapitation'"
I think you get the idea.
Their Pixiv is similarly naught but ero guro. Ero guro is not some 'release valve' for erikku, it is their sole purpose.
Perusal
Despite this, MMSS contains zero erotic elements. ConeCvltist stated in his review that MMSS probably exists for someone to get their rocks off. I think he is at once right and wrong in this assertion. Without explicit eroticism, MMSS is only a guro work, and thus cannot be said to be primarily for sexual gratification. However, it is also inextricable from its creator's main body of work. His illustrations of MMSS's main character are surrounded by nude women's stomachs being cut open, by school girls being strangled to death, of raw human flesh being consumed next to bare corpses. MMSS is not explicitly sexual, but it is implicitly erotic. The primary demographic is not you or I, but those already familiar with erikku's portfolio. And while not in the game itself, erikku has made numerous animations of the player character shooting school girls, their inflated chests jiggling, their panties digging into their crotches.
MMSS is unable to depict this level of fidelity for gore or lewdness in RPGMaker due to the rapid pace of gameplay. What illustrative art is present shows up in the introduction, endings, and when in the apartment at the start. For erikku's intended audience, however, those depictions don't need to explicitly exist within the game. One's familiarity with those short animation clips, those illustrations allows them to, in part, fill in the gaps during gameplay. In researching erikku and being exposed to the supportive art for MMSS, subsequent playthroughs have been marred by more accurate depictions of the violence and murder rendered in pixel form. Furthermore, I have seen that his illustrations and animation snippets are released in packs with other, non-MMSS related works of an ero guro nature. The mind fills in the gaps, the mind construes all of this as sexual.
Pang
In MMSS, during the news report on recent killings, one scene shows a middle school girl being escorted by police as her victims clutch their stomachs. This murderer committed their acts with a kitchen knife. They primarily targetted girls.
As mentioned at the very start, there has been one school massacre in Japanese history. It involved a kitchen knife. The perpetrator primarily targetted girls.
This is odious enough on its own, this unveiled allusion to the Osaka school massacre as tasteless as anything making light of the mass murder of children. erikku's fanbase will recognise this as a direct reference to his other game, Rouka de Onigokku (Tag in the Hallway). You sprint through hallways and stab students before you can be caught. It operates like an endless runner. The William Tell Overture plays the whole time. While MMSS references tragedy broadly, Rouka de Onigokku references it precisely. In MMSS one can even unlock use of a knife to carry out the game's mass murder in the same manner as Rouka de Onigokku's main character. It is despicable. It gets worse.
Perturbed
There is very scant documentation of MMSS on the English-speaking clearnet. I myself only came across it by chance on Backloggd. What I have found is deplorable.
Following the release of MMSS, erikku started answering fan questions on Twitter. Most of these are in Japanese, but some have been translated by erikku himself.
"Q: [...] how do you deal with negative feedback or criticism regarding the sensitive nature of 'taboo' nature of your art?
A: [...] I try not to care too much about negative feedback and so on :)"
"Q: [...] what do you use for inspiration before making a picture? Do you read about some real life murder cases?
A: I often read about real life murder cases, and watch a movie and TV series about murder. But I don't use anything for inspiration. I just draw what I want to draw."
His tweets continued in their perturbing statements. Above the aforementioned illustration of Rouka de Onigokku's main character, he writes "I was caught by the Thought Police and was temporarily suspended. It was caused by the cannibalism animation, but I think all the zombies are gone now. ...By the way, the situation in the picture is a very, very, very healthy illustration of a student playing a prank with ketchup and being taken care of by the police."
They also started answering questions on peing.net.
"I'm just painting 'imaginary violence against non-existent people.'"
"Murder, abductions, and transportation of body parts over long distances are very hard work, but it's better than repeating the incidents in a nearby area and narrowing the scope of police investigation towards you."
"I think there are various reasons why the culprit in Morimiya didn't commit suicide (including suicide by police). One of the goals is to know the suffering of the victims, including the survivors and bereaved families. It may also be the result of hatred towards the mother who took her own life. No matter how many people you kill, the hatred toward your mother, who took her own life and became a 'suicide statistic' cannot be cleared, but 'I won't die like that!' Is that the result of trying to persevere?"
"I have been drawing pictures of killing people since I was a child, but it was when I was a teenager that I start having interest in killing (anime) girls."
MMSS and Rouka de Onigokku are not just gamified depictions of perturbed minds. They are the machinations of a fucked up pervert. It gets worse.
Perverse
When looking up MMSS, one of the only results is the RPGMaker Fandom wiki. It provides the Google Drive link I got the game from. Far above that download link lies a link to the 'Official Discord,' with the blessing of erikku.
The rules for the 'Morityu Community Server' notably state the following:
"Rule 3. Don't be a weirdo. Keep edgelording to a minimum. If it's TMI, don't post it.
You can love seeing girls suffer all you want, just don't tell everyone, because nobody wants to hear about it.
Don't be that guy who idolizes mass shooters. It's cringe as hell and a sign that you should probably go outside for once."
"Rule 5. Do not talk about planning any mass murders or crimes of any form.
You may talk about previous cases of mass murder, but do not talk about the possibility of yourself or others committing crimes.
Even if you're not going to do it and are just posting it as a "what if", it is punishable by a ban.
This is the one rule you don't want to break."
The server is a cesspool of racism, homophobia, sexism, and generally making light of school shootings as a topic. Users have /k/ommando avatars and names and banners. They share gameplay clips and compete for high scores. They share links to movie clips of school shootings, they share DOOM WADs for school levels. They pontificate about whether or not women get aroused during shootings. They cheer for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, for police murdering black people. They hide behind the thinnest veneer of respecting Discord's ToS.
Searching for MMSS information led me to a danbooru post making light of the Christchurch mosque shootings. The artist's commentary notes the inefficacy of focusing on the victims of mass murder rather than the perpetrators themselves, particularly when those criminals understand how to effectively use the memetic nature of modern media.
It was also on that Fandom wiki I learned that the art room in MMSS has portraits of several school shooters. Real school shooters. If this is not glorification, I don't know what is.
The citation for that art room tidbit took me further still. A forum dedicated to Columbine and other school shootings and crimes. A thread titled Video games about Mass Murder. Users laud MMSS as one of the best games about mass murder. Avatars depict children holding guns threateningly. The Similar topics at the bottom of the thread ask what games school shooters played.
It's then I decided I had had enough.
Perpetuity
I wish there was a conclusion I could make here. Some hopeful message about erikku realising this is fucked beyond belief. That Discord being banned. The host of the Columbine forum shutting down.
There is no conclusion. There is no takeaway. This is revolting. Researching put knots in my gut. Writing evoked constant self-doubt.
I believe there is room for societal introspection on serious, challenging topics through games. But when the act of playing tragedy is not contextualised, is not condemned, then those games will function as just that, games. Tools for amusement, not for learning. Something to strategise about, not think critically about. A pedestal for amorality, not a mirror reflecting it.
Irredeemable.

Another exceptionally well realised home run from Narayan Walters.
From the moment you cauterise your wounds, Endoparasitic makes it apparent how much one can do with less. The remaining arm is as much a resource as time and your bullets. It is your sole means of movement, of fighting, of managing your inventory, of interacting, of healing. The careful player will ensure their weapons are loaded before an encounter so as to not fumble around with reloading in a fight. Yet fumble you will as you juggle your guns for maximum efficiency. And one cannot even be too cautious due to the ticking clock element of the parasite in your system. Just as in Wrought Flesh, battles have a wondrous balancing act of risk and reward, where clearing an encounter more quickly offsets gradual degradation, but it can lead to an exacerbation of disadvantages. When shit hits the fan, you are stuck with the decision of crawling away or standing your ground, and never feel like quite the perfect option.
And I love that nothing feels like the best choice! In stealth segments on the brink of death you wonder if you should make a break for it, or pray you have enough time, or simply shoot those watchful sentries. Is it better to leave cocoons untouched along with their spoils, or should you crack them up for loot and risk enemies spawning who might start a domino effect? When the hunter arrives, will you run? Shoot? Use it as a weapon? Which ammo will you keep on you for the trials ahead? Do you really want to potentially endanger yourself by using your crossbow with its cranking reload?
It all synthesises beautifully, and once you get a hand on the mechanics your triple amputation hardly feels like a burden. Being controlled entirely with one hand on the mouse makes everything feel so natural, the digital body becomes an extension of the self. Maybe you were the parasite all along 👻

I would like to commend Magical Company for making the only game that has ever looked and sounded so much like a panic attack that I had to make sure my Ativan was nearby the whole time I was playing.

My doomer phase is largely over by now.
I used to doomscroll endlessly on r/collapse.
I was enamoured by arctic-news.blogspot.com, a site which has baselessly claimed for over a decade that within four years, global temperatures will rise up to 18°C.
I cried at the Arctic death spiral.
I refreshed the NSIDC's charts daily, fearing that descending line would plummet below the 2012 threshold.
I watched carbon clocks in terror.
I checked Climate Reanalyzer and was agog at global hot zones.
I devoured Peter Wadhams' A Farewell to Ice, Extinction Rebellion's This is Not a Drill, Nathaniel Rich's Losing Earth, and David Wallace-Wells' The Uninhabitable Earth.
I scared my therapist with my talk of climate catastrophe.
That's not to say that I'm entirely past that phase of my life. I still regularly check the NSIDC and Climate Reanalyzer. I read IPCC reports. But I'm a little better informed now on the realities of climate collapse. I know shit is currently hitting the fan. But I also know that, no matter what happens, I lived, and I was here. I know it isn't my fault. I know that my efforts to save some fragment of the planet might be in vain, but it can still make me feel better. I do litter clean-up on the side of the roads near me. They still fill with trash after, but for a brief moment in time they look beautiful.
And while I can push to the side of my brain those qualms about sea ice and desertification and microplastics, I can never get the smoke out of my head, out of my nose, out of my lungs.
Living in southern Alberta, I've been used to rapid changes in the weather my whole life. Our proximity to the Rocky Mountains means chinook winds are frequent in the winter, raising the temperature from the low -30s up to the +20s at times. The dry air means hot summer days can quickly cool off. This semi-arid air comes with a caveat though. It's perfect for wildfires. And we have swathes of forests (many of which are awash with trees killed by mountain pine beetles). The same is true of Eastern British Columbia.
Every summer there are at minimum a few days where smoke fills the air. It can be downright cozy at times, when the skies remain clear and blue but you get that whiff of seared wood. It's as if someone is brewing a delicious cup of lapsang souchong (coincidentally my favourite tea). But it isn't uncommon for the smoke to linger for around a week, to make the skies overcast, to reduce visibility so that you cannot see downtown from the outskirts of the city.
With increasing frequency, the smoke has gotten worse. And it has stayed for longer.
In 2015, wildfires in Washington state and western Canada drove air quality in Alberta to be the worst on the planet, shooting to an AQHI of over 28. On a ten point scale.
In 2016, Fort McMurray was partially destroyed by wildfires. It was the most expensive disaster in Canadian history. Fort McMurray is very far from where I live yet the skies were nonetheless a miasma of smoke.
In 2017, 100 Mile House, British Columbia was the site of what would become the largest single fire ever in British Columbia history.
In 2018, the AQHI soared past 10 again. I remember the deep red sun, turning darker as it set. I remember it being the first wildfire season where I had an N95 mask. I had to wear that mask indoors. It was the year I got my cat, and I was horrified at what the air quality would do to her tiny, new lungs. I remember the non-stop headache. And even after the smoke dissipated, the smell remained.
In 2019, the AQHI reached 18 in May. You could see maybe a kilometre into the distance.
In 2020, despite COVID restrictions on activities as distanced as camping, smoke rolled in again. This time it was much less of a danger than previous years (we never broke an 8 on the AQHI).
In 2021, we got the heat dome. A somewhat novel meteorological phenomenon, temperatures in my city reached 36.3°C, only 0.2°C away from the highest ever recorded here. Lytton, British Columbia rose to 49.6°C. And despite the crushing heat, there was almost no smoke. It made it seem almost tame. People were dropping like flies of heat stroke. It felt like being in the fires of hell. But at least there was no smoke. Air quality still became dreadful, but at least there was no smoke.
In 2022, the AQHI only rose past 10 briefly in August. There was some smoke in September. The other day I smelled it on the wind again.
I know the smoke will be back. I know the smoke will be worse. I know the climate will get worse. I know everything will get worse. I know the smoke will be inescapable. I know the air quality will be worse even without the smoke. But as long as charred pine does not poison my lungs, does not burn acrid in my nose, maybe I can hold onto the fragment of hope inside me that thinks things can get better.

HELLO! THANK U FOR SUBSCRIBING TO SCIENCE MT. GUIDE TO LIFE AND SCIENCE!
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THIS NEWSLETTER COMPRISES ESSENTIAL AND INTERESTING SCIENCE UPDATES FOR INSTRUCTION AND EDIFICATION OF ALL SCIENCE LIFE, EVERY BEING THUS DRAWN FORWARD IN SCIENCE AND UNITED IN THE HEAT OF COMMON SCIENCE, ACTIVATING SELF AND OTHERS IN THE CAREFUL JOB OF SCIENCE EYES, NOTICING ALL FORMS AND SOMETIMES INHABITING THEM. -- TRUE SCIENCE VISION
READ ON::::
FOR LATEST SCIENCE AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR OPERATION:
It's pretty easy to forget how much of a wild west the late 2000s and early 2010s were for indie games. The separation we have from this epoch has seen the chaff decomposed and rendered inert for the prosperity of a chosen few. What we are left with is arguably the best of the best, but only by the standards of the day and of the now.
In time, those works which dared to do the oblique and the unique resurface as internet weirdos, myself included, try to find and claim some dustcaked artefact as a harbinger of great things to come, of tremendous unseen influence. For me it's Geograph Seal, for others it might be Ultra Resort Keroncuel or Otocky, perhaps Ryan Trecartin's feature-length video I-Be Area or Ingrid de Kok's poems collected in Terrestrial Things. It might not even need to be something we think is intrinsically good. Our encomia need only point at these figureheads and say 'this did it first, this did it best, this did what we love but look how neglected it is and was and shall always be'. In reality this praise often amounts to little more than a celebration of a trivia nugget which will no doubt be unsheathed whenever it is most apt and most pedantic.
The reason I bring all this up is so I can now be that asshole and laud FJORDS for being so forward thinking in the miasma of Obama-era indie gaming.
IT IS OK!!!
SCIENCE PRACTITIONER!!!
☻ IT IS OK ☻
The game-breakery of Baba Is You is clearly on display in FJORDS, although without the same player-authoritative wanton illogic seen in Arvi Teikari's work. This seemingly stiff platformer effectively pushes the player to a wall where they're forced to close out of the game or interact with its in-universe terminal. The commands available are sparse and obtuse. TRAVEL is a fast travel with two locations, the starting Pizza Place and right outside the Pizza Place. SET allows the player to toggle on and off certain aspects of the world with some options being inscrutable. SETting WATERFALLS to F is intuitive, but at no point has the player encountered a BOMB, or a GHOST, or MAGIC, or an ESCALATOR.
So maybe you change the settings of some of these just to see what will happen and proceed apace. ESCALATORs litter the landscape now. WATERFALLs have run dry. Grapple your way up and
W̶͍͊̄͋͘͝A̴̧͓̭̫͚̲̎̈̇̏̄̂R̸͚̹̦̠̻̗̋̎͛̉P̶͉̻̩̱̆̈͋
̶̧̮̗̯̤͆̀̀͂̃̈͐
you are levitating in a miasma of desaturated blues and browns, deconstructed sprites surround your bubble, stay calm and find your place and
G̴̤̈́O̵͓͋ ̴̨̋Ā̷̻N̵̟̒Y̷̪͒W̷͖̓H̷͉̀E̶͙̓R̵̭̿E̵͈̿ ̷̥́Ẃ̷̨I̶͚͌T̴̨̑H̸̼̄ ̶͍͆S̷̥̈́C̵̺̈́I̴͕͆E̴̝͝N̶̥̈C̷͕͐E̵̛͕
What follows with this revelation is that the water hazards and ferries and blocks are mere suggestions of where the player can go. With DOORS, water is a non-truth. With MAGIC, ascension does not depend on a ceiling. With WARP, the world is ripe for exploitation and exploration.
U KNO WUT I LUV ☻
P I Z Z A ☻
And with enough faffing about you come across another pixel person and get teleported back to the start. And you do it some more. Maybe you fall into an endless hell abyss where you who are not you ceaselessly spews the letter K as a plea of self-destruction.
In time your exploration of the world suggests...
THE WORLD, BEING IN REALITY SEVERAL WORLDS, AND UNITED ONLY TENUOUSLY, THE PRACTITIONER OF SCIENCE INHABITS ALWAYS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SEVERAL, AND IS SEVERAL AND MANY.
The self has been lost in dead ends with no escape, logical ends for a journey in the quest to explore and deliver pizza. Or maybe it hasn't, maybe these aren't you, maybe they are just signifiers of progress.
U KNO WUT I LUV ☻
P I Z Z A A A A A A A A A A A ☻
This is only half the story, however, and if anything this self-made ruleset isn't even the most interesting aspect of FJORDS.
This is a SHARECART1000 game. A brief flicker of an idea with minimal documentation online, with no explicit creator, with a bizarre purpose. SHARECART titles all use the exact same savefile, meaning your progress in FJORDS affects your save for Michael Brough's POST-FUTURE VAGABOND, for Theta Games' A Colored Topology, Andy Sum's ap drive, Damian Sommer's YOUAREABOUNTYHUNTER. Your play order of these titles thus affords you a wholly different experience to everyone else. FJORDS is not limited to how it can be broken in-game, but across games. The SHARECART1000 idea is the hypothetical notion of blockchain gaming a decade before your mom asked you what a bitcoin was. It's a crossplay not for one game across platforms, but for one platform across games. And like those blockchain games from the beginning of the 2020s, a lot of those SHARECART1000 titles are effectively lost to time.
For as much as I love Michael Brough's work, I might never get to play POST-FUTURE VAGABOND. I can't even get some of the still-online titles to work with FJORDS. There is this incredible idea of an indie landscape that is non-accessible to me and will probably never be accessible again since it withered on the vine.
What else are we missing out on?
IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT OF TERMINAL WORLDS DISSOLUTION
IT IS THE EXPRESS RESPONSIBILITY OF ANY SCIENCE PRACTITIONER TO MAKE IMMEDIATE AND TIMELY REPAIR TO THE FOLLOWING VARIABLES
As a queer historian, my research has operated at the far periphery of a history that society sought to erase entirely. What is available is largely circumstantial, or self-referential, or operates on assumptions, or makes up a truth where one is absent. It is a pain in my heart. Of course information must inevitably be destroyed in an increasingly unstable world and universe. Nothing will survive the passage of time.
And yet, you and I and all of us should take the time to exhume those forgotten soldiers, to look at our past with reverie and curiosity.
Look for the weird, the esoteric, the obscure, the forgotten, the misconstrued, the auxiliary.
Dig deeper.
Write about it.
Share it.
U KNO WUT I LUV ☻
P I Z Z A
U KNO WUT I LUV ☻
U R P A S S I O N ☻
[Recommended by roboSteven as part of this list]