I've been playing Picross S: Genesis and Master System. The best aspect of it, compared to other Picross games, is that the puzzles don't get unmanageably large as difficulty increases. I've played Picross titles where the endgame puzzles were expected to take over 2 hours, so to have difficulty hinge on, well, difficulty instead of attrition is refreshing.

The big problem is that part of the joy of Picross is seeing what you're solving come together as the puzzle progresses, but, frequently due to disparities in the original pixel resolutions vs. grid size, the puzzles don't really look like anything, even when you've solved them. For example: what is this?

If you like the games about which I post on my main site, you've encountered the subject of this puzzle before!

You'd be forgiven for not recognizing Wren, though. How about this puzzle?

The likeness is better but still not great.

That's not his portrait, of course.

(Taken from Modern Retro Gamer; sorry, the wiki doesn't have it for some reason.)

They're using these weird...derezzed recreations, I guess you would call them, to fit the Picross grid. Sometimes they stray a bit further from recreations. Wren's looking a different way from his original portrait:

And then there's Rika:

I've wished they'd make new art for these puzzle titles that draw from pixel games instead of just giving you freeze-frames of well-known art you've seen countless times, but this stuff seems like splitting the difference to no one's satisfaction. It comes off as lackluster approximations of better art, which is what it is.

Keep your eyes on Rhys & Rolf here while I lodge some miscellaneous complaints. There are ten pages of regular black-and-white Picross but only three of full-color Picross, which is a shame considering the brights palettes of the Genesis's standout titles. The game includes a third mode, "Mega Picross," where lines and hints for said lines bleed into each other, but it layers so many rules upon unintuitive rules upon Picross's elegant structure that I couldn't keep track of them all. (That Mega Picross actually *recycles art* from the other modes didn't help my engagement.) The game provides dozens of hours of entertainment, but I had to complain regardless.

Finally, an accurate likeness.


Meteorological summer, that is, which is what really counts; no one goes outside on December 20th, amid the snow and carols and Christmas lights, sniffs the frigid air, and thinks, "ah, autumn."

A couple summers ago, I had the pleasure of playing through most of Boku no Natsuyasumi 2, a '70s Japanese childhood summer vacation simulator for the PSP. The game reminds me, counterintuitively, most of A Christmas Story in that the painstaking specificity with which it recreates a very particular time and place paradoxically gives it a universality: its brings its setting to life so vividly that it enhances audience identification with the commonalities of childhood experience. (Man, that's a mouthful for a simple technique used to wholesome effect.)

You play a young elementary-school boy who's been sent to a relative's back-country island inn for a month's retreat while his mother delivers his new sibling. During your backyard summer-vacation adventures, you can buy ice cream treats from the freezer from your allowance, have beetle fights with the local kids (no one, human or insect, gets actually hurt), swim around the island and discover sunken treasures, chase & catalog bugs, make crayon pictures chronicling discoveries like a secret waterfall or the remnants of a young engineer's rocket experiment, and, of course, pester neighbors. The only problem is the day is never long enough to pack in everything you wanna do. But that's the problem with real-life summer days, isn't it.

But there are several other guests at the inn, one of whom bears a resemblance to someone from a manga that's been getting much attention here as of late. Gruff and unsociable, Taniguchi (the names are even similar) is always found alone, seeking solitude in nature, brooding at the edges of the young hero's story, alluding to the nature of the troubles weighing on his mind only vaguely - confident, correctly, that the boy won't understand the full extent of his problems. I have no idea of Tagak's criminal past, but Taniguchi's woes lie in an old robbery he helped mastermind - one for which he saw no payoff and for which he is about to, as he says, "pay the piper." My time with Boku no Natsuyasumi 2 came to an end the day he made an ominously sudden disappearance from the story, failing to turn up despite an island-wide search party. I had no appetite to see his story end at the hands of suicide or the shallow young-shit investigator shacking up at the inn under the barest of who-cares-you-hicks pretenses. Even if we didn't talk much, though, the summer days I spent with Taniguchi on the periphery were a little like seeing an old friend.

I've been divorced from Tumblr for a while now, but recent events have gotten me looking back through the tag of fanart I commissioned from the platform's artists. Much of it is of little-appreciated characters who have some sort of foothold in my heart - many of my commissions were attempts to redress the balance on that account. It might seem odd that I didn't gravitate more toward commissions for the characters who are dearest to me, like Ghaleon: the answer there is that I didn't want to give them bad fanart in case something went awry. (This hardly happened, and looking back, I see that I got downright criminal bargains for the work I purchased.)

So here we go. Artists Tumblrs etc. are linked when possible, but a few folks are lost to time, it seems. (But speaking of which: Tumblr and I might be getting back together for a brief period if I can make that Funato commission happen. That work will demand a wider audience.)

Further updates on the wondrous discovery of Skeb: Funato's posted two more pieces of art in the past couple days, so she's still active on the platform, but commissions are still listed on her page as "stopped" (as opposed to "seeking," which I think is Skeb's version of "commissions open"). I hope that isn't just a placeholder for when you're not signed in to the system via Twitter; a stealth "you can't see actual commission status if you're not signed in" function would be very much in line with the Japanese internet's worst gatekeeping tendencies. Given recent events, I'm paranoid about missing one of the fleeting opportunities during which you're allowed to give artists money, so I'll have to sign up for the glories of Twitter today or tomorrow. (One of the benefits of having your own domains: you can create all the throwaway e-mail accounts for intrusive sign-ups you want.)

Another discovery: you name your own price on Skeb. The platform suggests an amount to offer, yes, but the actual bid for your commission is entirely up to you, and from what I can see, the suggestions don't take into account composition complexity, backgrounds, no. of characters, etc. like the tiered price lists in the world of Tumblr commissions do. I obviously am more than OK with erring way on the side of generosity here, but I know absolutely nothing of pricing in these matters, so I have no idea even what "generosity" constitutes in this case.

Given recent shopping experiences, I probably shouldn't use my own blatantly-Western name when ordering, should I. I feel guilty about that, though. It's Akari Funato! I don't want to lie to Akari Funato!

Back on topic: upon reflection, I realize that I might have only one shot here. There's a huge amount of love invested in that Ghaleon pic (compare the background to her other commissions), but Funato has pretty much shunned Lunar for over 20 years given the initial reception of what is the goddamn masterpiece of the series and overidentification by prospective employers of her own art with the franchise. Given that she's long since carved out an independent reputation as a mangaka, she might have limited tolerance for commissions related to her licensed work, particularly Lunar. So, cost aside, I'm most likely not going to be able to request every Vheen Hikuusen character. I might get through one request, if it's not considered excess after the KSK Ghaleon she posted.

What do I try, then?