Y'know, I originally envisioned this section of the site as a collection of short musings, observations, and other things I wanted to write about that didn't have the meat for a full section in the File Cabinet. But I guess it's now the WaterMelon Stupid Bullshit Happy Funtime Hour, and joining us for the first time is their latest game, Paprium.
Now no doubt some of you are thinking, oh for fuck's sake, Codie, have you seriously been obsessing over this bullshit for the last seven years? Hell no, I was happily mount farming in WoW when somebody on Twitter tagged me into this clown show. I'd only remember Paprium was a thing when a WaterMelon newsletter (yeah, I'm as surprised as anyone that I was never removed from the mailing list) appeared in my inbox roughly once a year, think "Have they still not gotten that out yet?", and go back to my Cloud Serpent dailies.
I have not played Paprium and don't care to because one, it's a side-scrolling brawler, the armpit of video game genres, and two, it's from the creators of Pier Solar, which is still to this day the worst technically functional game I've ever played*. So why would I expect it to be anything but terrible? There's also the issue of price, but we'll get to that later.
* At the risk of imploding the universe, I truly believe YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG could unseat Pier Solar. But two of the head honchos on it are colossal pieces of shit and I refuse to play that game unless I can acquire it in a way that doesn't see one cent of my money going to them, like if it appears in a Humble Bundle and I can give everything to charity.
I had no idea what a dumpster fire the actual development was until I was introduced to @Paprium_Fiasco, a Twitter account documenting the whole, well, fiasco. Skimming through the Paprium Fiasco blog showcases a rabbit hole of mismanagement, delays, corporate and financial talk that's over my head, several people leaving WaterMelon including Mr. SNES-is-8-Bit himself, and a release party that was held two years before the actual release and showcased what could charitably be called a beta build. WaterMelon pissed around so long Streets of Rage 4 came along and torpedoed whatever reason Paprium had to exist. But come December 2020 people finally started getting it along with this batshit bonkers rant from the man leading the show, who goes by the moniker "Fonzie."
If you can stomach the level of self-indulgent "everybody who criticized Pier Solar never actually played it and they're just regurgitating each other" denial and the bizarre obsession with China, you might be able to dig out a few comedy gems. My favorite is "To pursue the SEGA 16 Bit legacy, only new 16 Bit games matter, anything else is gadgets or commentaries" which I guess is supposed to be a dig at retro-inspired games on modern platforms like Freedom Planet? Or those traitors who made Xeno Crisis and had the gall to release it on systems besides the Genesis? What the fuck does "commentaries" mean? Why is this thing dated "16/16/20"? I know most of Europe writes dates Day-Month-Year, but that's still the 16th day of some mysterious 16th month. I'm pretty sure France still uses a 12-month calendar, so maybe Fonzie is really living on Mars.
And that black box at the end? That was Fonzie's honest-to-God bank information. That he freely shared with each copy of Paprium. Fonzie has basically doxxed himself, but I didn't want to be accountable for hosting that information.
And yes, he really does go "Notice men Sega-senpai" at the end.
I'm somewhat reluctant to pick on the grammar and spelling mistakes because the guy's native language isn't English and nobody was going to proofread this insanity, but maybe don't write nonsensical rants in English if you don't know the difference between "below" ("underneath") and "bellow" ("a deep yell")? "Ween" is an outdated word for "think" or "imagine" which makes no sense in the context it's used, so I'm assuming he meant "whine." Or maybe he's picturing all his critics as little piggies "wee wee wee"ing all the way home? He doesn't capitalize the S in "Pier Solar" at one point, or the J in "Judas." And at the end he writes "butt" instead of "but" which produces this (unintentional?) hilarity that perfectly sums up the wall of nonsense you've just witnessed:
Then late Februrary WaterMelon sent out an equally bizarre email (that I found in my Spam folder) and uh... yeah, this sure is something...
If you went crosseyed and heard your own frontal lobe cry out for mercy after reading more than a paragraph of that, don't worry, that means you're sane. From what I've been able to piece together from people with more tolerance for bullshit (or whatever you want to call this word salad) than me, WaterMelon got their Paypal account frozen, either because they weren't getting the game out or communicating with their customers and Paypal had enough of their shit, or because the influx of orders for the second printing tripped an algorithm. Maybe both? And instead of trying to work it out with Paypal like functioning adults, WaterMelon threw their toys out of the pram.
@Davescook highlighted some choice bits I'd like to point out a few other things.
- Fonzie still doesn't know what "AAA game" means. Or maybe he's just that deluded and truly believes his games are big-budget, mainstream titles comparable to Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed.
- If I was more conceited I'd read some of this as pent up anger at me personally and my in-depth review of Pier Solar. Note the constant use of "mediocres" and "trolls" to insult critics and calling them "jealous" (honey, I would rather get eaten by wolves than be responsible for Pier Solar). And I could interpret "we defined and shaped our own market with quality and - although retro - innovative products" as a response to me calling Pier Solar's story a pick-and-mix of plot points lifted from other, better RPGs and anime cliches that were already worn out when Dominic Deegan dredged them up years prior, all stuck together with Elmer's All-Purpose Bullshit. Then I remember nobody at WaterMelon ever actually read anything I'd written and just threw a fit when they saw somebody saying mean things about them, because if they had read my shit they'd have known I am not a man. That's also assuming Fonzie actually cares about story and the innovation he's talking about isn't referring to getting a Mode 7 effect on the Genesis.
- WaterMelon is selling off their IPs, including Pier Solar. If anyone's wondering if I'd buy the IP to just to be a massive troll, that'd be hilarious but I'm sure Fonzie wants more than five bucks for it, which is all I'd be willing to pay.
In response, Fonzie has been showing up in Twitter threads shouting... what I could charitably call nonsense? Ranging from insults of "little man" to whining about how he's not making money selling Genesis cartridges, which is like crying about not making money selling whale oil lamps: I'm sure there's a niche market for them as a novelty, but the mainstream market has shifted and if you want to survive you need to have a sustainable gig alongside it. Tanglewood and Xeno Crisis were both developed for Genesis cartridges (and Dreamcast discs for the latter), and as well as releasing timely and without any drama, digital versions were released alongside the physical. It's almost as if those people actually knew what the fuck they were doing.
I have no interest in looking up prices at the Paprium store because I can't take any more of Fonzie's masturbatory rhetoric. But from what I've gathered off Twitter there are several versions at different prices, including one that comes with a comic book which I can't imagine being above 90's Image quality. Most people are citing a 100£ price tag (roughly $139), but there's also a 129€ ($153) version, and some people are paying as much as 170€. That's about $203. I didn't pay that much for Radiant Silvergun*. And they're charging this much when Streets of Rage 4 is on Steam for $25? Less if you wait for a Steam sale? And a new Ninja Turtles brawler was just announced. And Steam is full of indie 2d brawlers like Foul Play and Castle Crashers.
And the coronavirus pandemic is still a thing and most people probably don't have $200 sitting around to blow on one game.
And before anyone points out Phantasy Star IV cost $100 when it was released, which would be about $170 in today's money, yes, cartridges are expensive, but WaterMelon's games do not need to be on cartridges in 2021. At least not exclusively. This is like writing a book and instead of releasing it as a .pdf, you insist each copy has to be hand-lettered and -bound because that's how it was done in the Middle Ages. Then crying because people aren't buying your $200 book. Sure, you could make up some lavish physical editions for people who want a premium collectible, but most people just want to play/watch/read the thing. You can argue people should be allowed to make a living doing whatever the hell they want but hey, welcome to capitalism.
Also, Phantasy Star IV is currently on Steam, and it costs a buck.
* If I may be allowed to go off on a tangent for a minute, the most I've paid for any games in my collection are $120 for Panzer Dragoon Saga (I got it a little cheaper than normal because the seller didn't accept Paypal and it was missing the manual, which I managed to get for another $15 later), and $170 for Radiant Silvergun. This was in '07 or '08, and at time of writing PDS goes for a thousand dollars (!!!) while Radiant Silvergun is "only" in the $240 ballpark. I'd wager Radiant Silvergun's price hasn't risen as dramatically because of its Xbox 360 Arcade release, while PDS is still limited to the Saturn.
But how about the actual game? A few people are gushing over it, probably the same people who enjoyed fighting the same handful of enemies all through Pier Solar. I've seen some criticism calling it "mediocre" to "bad", and at least one Tweet from somebody saying they *still* haven't received some of their Pier Solar Kickstarter rewards. But most Tweets are just flabbergasted surprise at WaterMelon's behavior, as if they're just realizing the developers who thought anybody wanted to read this shit turned out to be douchebags:
Some Tweets are of dodgy shit in Paprium. Here we see some redrawn sprites from other games, because ten years later WaterMelon hasn't learned a fucking thing since Pier Solar swiped a joke from Zero Punctuation.
Side note, why are the feet so tiny on the rightmost sprite? And is it just me or is his left leg going in a different direction from the rest of his body? Maybe WaterMelon is channeling 90's Image because that's some Rob Liefeld shit.
And here's another image depicting - as well as more fucked up anatomy, seriously, what is that arm? - an enemy with buck teeth, a conical hat with what I'm guessing is a hanzi character on it, and a Huolongchushui.
Somehow I'm not surprised that a company named "WaterMelon" turned out to be racist.
And can anyone tell what that character on the hat is supposed to be? Because it almost looks like a manji, which I know was a religious symbol before the Nazis ruined it, but if that's what it's supposed to be, yikes.
Oh, but don't worry, Fonzie is here to assure us there's no racism in that image, it's just some good ol' misogyny, that's cool!
Seriously, what the fuck.
I'd like to take this moment to share something I was sent a couple years ago but never found an opportunity to post. Somebody opened up a Pier Solar cartridge and discovered a misogynistic Easter egg printed on the PCB:
Oh I know "Better than women!" doesn't mean the game is "superior" to women (smarter, prettier, or however you compare a video game to a woman), it means the game is "more fun" than women. Because us bitches ain't nothing but giggling titty delivery units that exist soley to pleasure men. As if we didn't already know WaterMelon is basically a frat house.
Youtuber st1ka tried to calm the air by interviewing Fonzie, which I have not listened to because I still remember the Jim Sterling/Digital Homicide interview. But a question people have been asking before and after the interview is, why not sell the game on digital platforms like somebody who isn't stuck in the early 90s? Fonzie's only answer is "because we don't do digital."
Translation: pure bull-headed arrogance.
When Pier Solar was limited to cartridges, WaterMelon were convinced they were the saviors of the Genesis, and by trying to keep the game in the hands of the most, let's say, invested customers, they built up a following assuring them Pier Solar was an innovative, emotional, world-changing epic, especially what that lemming asks you how many times you've farted in your life. It was widely criticized outside of that circle, but that was easily ignored, dismissed as trolls and Nintendo fanboys, and drowned out with blowjobs.
Outside of that bubble, though, they were just another indie developer, selling to an audience that does not care about Mode 7 on the Genesis. On PC, Pier Solar took two years to sell just 36,000 units on Steam and it was much more heavily criticized by people who aren't impressed by jokes about breastfeeding gradeschoolers. At one point it had a SteamSpy userscore of 26% which I believe is a percentile thing, meaning only 26% of all Steam games were scored below it (for reference, Undertale has a userscore of 96%). That was five years ago and SteamSpy only shows estimates now, so who knows what the real numbers look like (and it appears the deluge of unplayable shovelware pouring into Steam over the past few years has bumped the userscore up to 57%, putting it slightly above YIIK). And keep in mind when counting sales Pier Solar was part of an RPG Humble Bundle so you know, piggy-backing. Even those mediocre sales made them far more money than the Genesis version ever did, but it wasn't the 500k copies sold with Overwhelmingly Positive reviews they were expecting. They've taken their ball and gone home instead of taking a long, hard, introspective look at themselves and improving.
If Fonzie/WaterMelon actually gave a fuck about games and/or art they'd license Unity and make retro-inspired games for modern platforms like everyone else. Instead they're set on wanking off to hardware and tech specs, as shown in that Paprium insert where Fonzie keeps banging on about libraries and framerates instead of, I don't know, story and game design?
I feel like mentioning Pier Solar was about a team of people with messiah complexes who saw their creation as the perfect gift to the world, and had it rip out a huge chunk of their collective ass. Not sure why that seems relevant here.