I've never had a single iota of interest in Suikoden. The villain of the second installment is routinely held up by Suikoden's boosters as one of the greatest characters in video games, and their rationale rests on one of two arguments: a) there's a scene where he guts a helpless civilian while calling them a pig that gets a lot of people hard, and b) he kills a lot of people. Any franchise where those are the best arguments in its favor is not one I'm compelled to know.

There are many reasons to like villains. They might have style. They might be interesting characterwise, allowing the story to explore neglected parts of the psyche. They might be grappling with challenges and injustices to which a more-naive hero might be blind. (This is particularly true in video games, a medium where adolescents are frequently the target audience and the models for the heroes, who consequently are caught up in adolescent goals like proving their worth and might be oblivious to concerns outside that narrow focus.) They even might actually be right.

Sheer death toll is not among these reasons. Now, with the announcement of a Suikoden remaster, we'll again be regaled with what a storytelling and/or erotic masterstroke it is to tell someone to die like a pig. I look forward to this like getting teeth drilled.

Besides, if sheer murder is the sole metric for great villainy, then I ask you: has Suikoden II's villain ever punched a man's head clear off his shoulders? I submit not.

(That extraordinarily valiant last stand by the deceased deserves more respect than any idea presented by Camp Pig Stick.)

(Search "At last, Nolan" here to read along.)

  • How is it taking four (down from five) individuals to set up a tent?
  • If Barton quit when it "came time" to position the tent poles and hammer in the pegs - which is typically the first and primary thing you do in setting up a tent, outside of feeding the poles through the fabric, which could arguably fall under "positioning," and ground sheets, which involve peg-hammering and thus did not have Barton participation - with what part of the tent-pitching process did he help out? Getting the tents out of the van?
  • Why did anyone feel it necessary to dig a ditch? You do that to draw water away from the campsite. Granted, they're in actual wilderness and not a campground site-selected for optimal camper comfort, but they're also there for *one night.* (I know there's a huge contingent of Oslo academia on this trip and everyone had to have a minimally-taxing make-work job to do, but come on.)
  • Who, when stocking up on groceries for a campfire dinner, thinks: "Ah! Soup!"
  • Or salad? (I was going to say, "well, maybe, it's like potato salad," but Jennifer's tossing the salad, so, no. You'd also have the problem of refrigeration - but you're encountering much the same problem with salad greens.)
  • Why is Beth browning meat over a portable burner instead of cooking it over a campfire? Yes, a campfire involves collecting wood and trying to get it to light on fire and other aggravating activties, but it'd be a more effective use of manpower than digging a ditch. Did the vehicle Nolan rented just come with some sort of portable burner? Since many of the campers came along on the Scissorman Hunt on a "oh, let's tour a lovely English castle!" lark, wouldn't they insist on roasting marshmallows and other fun campfire activities during their impromptu camping stop? Was Nolan, or Helen or one of the cooler heads, just afraid that they'd burn down the whole forest—
    ...Never mind; the burner was a good idea.
  • —Wait a minute; how has the meat been refrigerated?

In conclusion, I think this expedition could have benefited from the Season 1 Supernatural approach to camping provisions:

  • Mexican wedding cookies
  • chocolate chip cookies, but they advertise themselves as being "Montana's chocolate chip cookie," and I used to live in Montana, but the package says they're made in Alberta, which isn't even in the same country
  • *macadamia* chocolate chip cookies, not from Montana
  • macaroons for which the grocery store sent me a free e-coupon. They could have been chocolate chip macaroons, but I chose the standard flavor
  • Stella d'Oro assortment I bought because the brand was popular in my New York Italian neighborhood as a kid; I showed laudable restraint and chose not to pick up the accompanying Stella d'Oro S-shaped pseudo-biscotti
  • knockoff vanilla Oreos with apple cider donut filling

In poking around for that Genesis Mini 2 post, I discovered a ResetEra thread (I know, but bear with me) which delivered some info on how the Lunar franchise is regarded at its current owner, GungHo:

The poster is Robert Boyd from Zeboyd Games, creators of the solid Sega CD tribute Cosmic Star Heroine (among other titles), so the statement is credible. The info is "a few years" old, and this very well might have been something GungHo just made up to turn down a non-Japanese studio seeking to take over a Japanese franchise, but it's the most recent reliable info we have.

This prompted a followup post, though, from an unnamed colleague of his who seems to be a U.S. video game executive (they claim to have pitched a concept for a new Lunar game Boyd had to GungHo numerous times). They offer their own rationale for why the Lunar IP isn't active:

There's also a bit about Metacritic scores that I didn't clip because they don't even have the scores right, and I'm not in the business of knowingly disseminating false info here, especially given how excruciatingly hard it is to get bad info out of the Lunar fandom.

I laid into this post pretty hard, to the point where I found myself subsequently wondering: was I being fair? So I took some time to reflect upon my words, and I came to the conclusion: yes, of course I am wholly correct, and there is no need to revise my initial impression whatsoever. All right, the post kind of set me off, but I think there's reason to be skeptical.

Let's examine each assertion in turn here:

  1. The Japanese execs believe that a Lunar without Game Arts founder Takeshi Miyaji is doomed to fail and can't replicate his magic - that the late Miyaji was as crucial to Lunar as Hideo Kojima is to Metal Gear. The Kojima idea is ridiculous and deserves rejection outright. For one, Lunar has a clear team of strong creatives identified with the franchise - Kei Shigema for story, Toshiyuki Kubooka for character design & art, Noriyuki Iwadare for music, etc. For another, if you're going to put one of those creatives in the role of "defining auteur," it would inarguably have to be Kei Shigema. Putting Takeshi Miyaji in that role is unreasonable even for an executive to believe.

    The question becomes, then, how much of Lunar's success would be attributed to Miyaji by Japanese execs. Miyaji is nebulously credited as a "designer" on the original Lunars, and unlike the more renowned members of the Lunar team listed above, there's not much about his contributions out there. I see random Reddit stuff saying "gameplay," which makes sense considering his job title and what's not covered by other personnel, but let's level here - while Lunar's gameplay is functional to good, it isn't remotely what distinguishes the series.

    Takeshi's brother and Game Arts co-founder Yoichi, who is credited in the also-nebulous producer role on Lunar projects, actually is the one who's more commonly speaking out in interviews. (He has the final slot in the slate of interviews in the SSS Newtype mook, bookending Shigema's leading slot, and is giving interviews on Lunar with relatively frequency in Mega Drive Fan and other publications.) Now, if it were Yoichi being credited with Lunar, I could see his fellow executives thinking, oh, of course the producer was really the one who made this project a success; screw the creatives. The "designer," though? Yes, respect for those who have passed carries significant weight. It's more plausible, though, that this is the bitter conclusion of someone who couldn't convince Japanese execs to give their friend their dream job - oh, they're all hung up on their perfect colleague who's long gone and won't make way for the real geniuses, etc.

    Plus: come on. Regardless of nationality, these are executives. When did reverence for anybody or anything ever stop an executive in pursuit of bucks?

  2. The Japanese execs believe that Dragon Song proved a Lunar game can't be successful without Miyaji. The invocation of Dragon Song made me very suspicious that this was just fan speculation. Obsessing over the inconsequential Dragon Song as the Source of All Ills in the Franchise is a very Lunar fan thing to do. Also, I thought, there have been successful Lunar games after Dragon Song, such as Harmony and the mobile remake - and, as pandorkful points out, executives adooooooore their remakes.

    Back up, though. Do we (meaning: I) know that Harmony was successful? I'm sure there are Japanese numbers out there in the ether, but to my knowledge, we don't have any global sales figures (VGChartz isn't reliable). Determining Harmony's success is complicated by the Eternal Blue rights situation, which would have been a roadblock to doing a sequel regardless of sales, so we can't use the lack of a sequel as a barometer of success. Now, the team behind Harmony was obviously crying to do a Four Heroes Lunar 3. They didn't get to do that (thankfully). Can we use that to gauge success? Again, there are complicating factors: TPTB might have felt odd about jumping right from 1 to 3, or about entrusting this team with a new Lunar, or about the greater outlay required for a sequel. Harmony seems to have been popular enough in its day, but, again, that's a subjective assessment. As for the mobile version: Lord, who knows.

    Which brings us back to Dragon Song, which is the last new Lunar game. The post places undue emphasis on Dragon Song being representative of the series, and that's a very executive-dumb conclusion. I still have a hard time making the jump here, though. While its failure might have contributed to a perception of Lunar as irrelevant (though surely someone, even an executive, would dimly realize that it failed because it was a slipshod production, not because of the name?), and while the multimedia push they attempted for the 32-bit Magic School not working out how they wanted might have helped cement an idea of non-duology Lunar games being tough sells, I have difficulty believing that the performance of a 15+-year-old spinoff in a franchise that's had higher-profile releases since would be the defining factor in it not seeing further activity - surely not over "old IP; irrelevant; also, a pain in the ass legally for a long time."

  3. The Japanese execs believe the Metacritic scores prove a new Lunar game could never be any good. This, I completely reject. Metacritic-watching is a U.S. thing. Yes, it's a hobby among American execs, but Japan isn't going to use a U.S. site as the Definitive Barometer of Game Quality. Also, no one cares about Metacritic scores for 16- and 32-bit games (and you shouldn't, because many of the publications from the day don't have their scores extant in any online form and can't be included in the Aggregated Portrait of Popular Sentiment). Get serious.

Two additional thoughts. One: I enjoyed Cosmic Star Heroine, and I have no doubt that Robert Boyd would approach the task of creating a proper Lunar game with due respect. I'm glad he wasn't handed the Lunar franchise. Beyond any other factors, creating a Lunar game requires a certain...innocence and faith in the better nature of humanity that I'm not sure any American indie dev, or perhaps any individual on the face of God's green Earth, has it in them to give in 2022.

Two: I'm not finding it right now, but in either this thread or a connected one, Boyd shares a nice tale of meeting Victor Ireland at an E3, and him talking about how much he loved Lunar, and Ireland replacing a game that got stolen on him and even giving him an old Eternal Blue pin for good measure. He noted at the end how it was difficult to reconcile the man he met with Ireland's popular image. It recalled a memory of an indirect interaction I had with Ireland back in the day, when I posted casually on an AOL thread about having waited for a while for the Lunar manuals I'd ordered for my secondhand copies. Though it wasn't my intent to get his attention, Ireland had posted in the thread a few times, and evidently, he was still reading, as the manuals were in my mailbox the next week. All right, he was just sending something for which I had already paid, but it was evidence, like Boyd's story, that there is a dude who actually cares in that guy, and it makes me a bit wistful. I wish that dude were in charge of Ireland's actions more reliably.

In other news, this is the 28th post on this site that is in some way related to Lunar. Jesus.