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This Week in Games
Switchin' It Up

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Welcome back, folks! What a wild week this has been for the gaming industry. We'll go further into it, but jeez. This past week also saw the disappearance of CAPCOM's Dark Void and Dark Void Zero. Dark Void was CAPCOM's attempt at a big, open-world action game back in the Xbox 360/PS3 days, with the central hook of your character having a jetpack to fly around on. Think of it as a darker sci-fi take on The Rocketeer. Dark Void Zero, on the other hand, was an early example of what people refer to as "demakes": a side-scroller done in a retro 8-bit style attempting to capture what Dark Void would have been like in the NES days. I never got around to playing either, but I picked them both up on Steam while I still had a chance. I want to think that CAPCOM wouldn't take them down unless they planned some kind of remaster in the future...

This is...

Art by Catfish

Holding Out For Retro Game Challenge? Bandai Says, "Not Happening"...

Last September, we reported on the announcement of GameCenter CX: Arino no Chousenjou 1 + 2 Replay, a Japanese port of what we in the United States refer to as the Retro Game Challenge games. For the uninitiated: GameCenter CX is a 300+ episode comedy series about Japanese comedian Shinya Arino trying to beat classic games. Hilarity ensues. GameCenter CX eventually received a pair of video games on the Nintendo DS wherein you, the player, are sent back in time to 1989 by Arino's weird 3D face so that you can help a child version of him beat ersatz copies of classic NES titles. The first game was brought over as Retro Game Challenge, and it was hoped that the game could be successful enough to justify licensing and releasing the GameCenter CX series to the US. It didn't pan out, but it did create a small but dedicated group of GameCenter CX fans and the game itself led to fans referring to the series in general as Retro Game Challenge. GameCenter CX: Arino no Chousenjou 1 + 2 Replay, which has been given the fan title Retro Game Challenge 1 + 2 Replay, was a collection of the two Nintendo DS titles with some extra goodies like a new platforming game. Bandai, sadly, has some bad news for us...

In a recent interview with Famitsu, developers Midori Sugiyama and Masanobu Suzui (representing Bandai Namco and indiezero, respectively) discussed the game and its prospects for localization in the US. Both were unanimous in that it wouldn't be possible for fairly clear reasons. As Suzui pointed out, the Retro Game Challenge fanbase isn't huge in the US, and the process of localizing either title would prove too labor-intensive to justify the cost. Suzui pointed to the effort needed to translate the game and redraw certain graphics or in-game logos to accommodate English script. There's also the added complication that Retro Game Challenge 2 was never released in the US; it's possibly a stretch that XSeed has the assets to Retro Game Challenge laying around, which could facilitate that game, but Retro Game Challenge 2 would have to be reworked from scratch. And that's a lot of effort for a title that never did well for them in the first place; back in 2012, XSeed's Jimmy Soga went on the record that Retro Game Challenge's poor performance in the US made it "close to impossible" to justify licensing and localizing it. Even the prospect of a digital-only release was a tough sell, given that the license for the game sat not only with Bandai Namco of Japan but also with Fuji TV (who produce the GameCenter CX television series.

It's not all bad. indieszero's Suzui has spoken positively of US fans who've brought him copies of Retro Game Challenge to sign, stating that he "welcomes those core fans". But for those of us who held out hope that Retro Game Challenge could make any comeback in the US, the message from Suzui is clear: "I am sorry, but if possible, play the Japanese version this time."


I'm not going to lie; this one hurts. I am also a big fan of Retro Game Challenge, and one always likes to hope for the best. But sometimes, the harsh realities of the game industry settle like a millstone around your neck. Sometimes, love just isn't enough. It's certainly true that the state of gaming isn't quite what it was when the first Retro Game Challenge was released in the US. For one thing, Japanese culture is far more mainstream, and Arino himself is far more widely known abroad—be it because people are more aware of GameCenter CX or because Arino is such a loveable meme. Also, weird Japanese games are no longer the Kiss of Death; we've seen many Japanese games like the Rune Factory series, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, or Trace Memory be historically vindicated or even re-released in the US to significant acclaim. It's also true that the Nintendo Switch has sold what the scientific community refers to as "a metric buttload" (that's "a crapton" in Imperial units) of units in the US. The Nintendo DS was no slouch in sales, but it's a candle in the wind to how widespread the Switch is. That's an install base several magnitudes larger than Arino was dealing with way back in the day.

And yet, it all comes down to the numbers. How do you tell a company, "Okay, the last time you did this didn't work out for you, but this time we'll show up and buy your stuff?" when they already lost out on the deal the first time around? (I like to call this the "Earthbound Problem.") Even with Retro Game Challenge 1 + 2 Replay being a much smaller proposition than, say, remastering Dark Void or making a whole new Vanquish game, there's still a ton of effort that needs to be put in.


Of course, there's no need to fall to despair; fans can still (respectfully) make their voices heard by the powers that be. Do what you can to grease those hinges. Remember: a lot of "can't happen"s turned into "Let's try this"s by people sounding the call and responding. Xenoblade Chronicles wouldn't be what it is today if it weren't for Operation Rainfall (which led to Gamestop importing the PAL version of Xenoblade Chronicles to the US—which is how the series came to be reflected by British casts). Don't look at having to import GameCenter CX 1 + 2 Replay as a last-ditch effort. Look at it as a way to let folks know that you're there. I used to think I was the only guy who gave a rip about Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, but in my time writing This Week in Games, I've been lucky enough to meet a handful of other folks who also love it and are happy to meet like-minded folks. (Not RebelTaxi, sadly, but fingers crossed!). And if you can find those folks, maybe Bandai Namco and indieszero can too.

I don't know, but I think nothing is truer to the spirit of a middle-aged Japanese comedian powering through busted 8-bit games by whatever means necessary than US fans keeping their spirits up.


SHIFT UP Rolls VShojo Talent For Goddess of Victory: NIKKE Anniversary

So, Vtubers! I always enjoy having a chance to talk about VTubers; for once, we talked about VShojo. I won't claim any corporate preference; my favorite VTuber left VShojo a while ago. I'm just familiar with the remaining talents. And I nevertheless have a degree of affection for them! VShojo doesn't get talked about much compared to the other major VTuber agencies like Nijisanji or Hololive, but VShojo has good folks. Projekt Melody broke walls by becoming one of the first and biggest adult VTubers, Zentreya has continuously proven that you don't even need to use your voice to stream, and Henya... well, you can take the kettle out of the "dayo," but you can't take the "dayo" out of the kettle.

Another thing I like is SHIFT UP's Goddess of Victory: NIKKE. SHIFT UP has broken into the AAA space with Stellar Blade, but they made their money (and reputation) with their mobile games. NIKKE has the reputation of being "that game with the jiggly asses," and it's not even remotely undeserved, but NIKKE is a cut above by mobile game standards. The Live2D animations are, well, they're Live2D, there's no getting around that. But the action is a good stand-in for stuff like Sunset Riders, and the story genuinely goes places. A lot of pathos gets wrung out for your army of cyborg women in wild outfits. And May marks NIKKE's... er... "1.5 anniversary"? "First-and-a-half anniversary"? Not sure what to call it, but they've been around for a year and a half. That's no mean feat for a mobile game, especially in this cut-throat industry where scores of games die within their first year. SHIFT UP was sure to roll out the red carpet for NIKKE's anniversary, ranging from a wealth of in-game goodies for players to a fancy anniversary stream this past weekend, featuring a selection of covers of NIKKE's music by VShojo's talents!


I'll never complain about any of Zentreya's outfits (dressing her up as the similarly-red-haired Nihilister is smart). However, I'm still kind of bummed out that none of the streamers cosplayed as any of my favorite Nikke. (At least Mira Pink has a Viper cosplay. Anyway! VShojo debuted their collaboration with NIKKE in a stream on May 4. VShojo's resident villainess, Geega, hosted with the help of Trash Taste Podcast's CDawgVA. Five of VShojo's talents debuted music for the event; Zentreya performed We're Never Giving Up (where her TTS voice works really well with the autotuning), Projekt Melody covered Boom's Day, Hime Hajime popped back from her trip to get cigarettes for long enough to cover Hold You Tight, newcomer and maternal cockroach Matara Kan handled We Rise and Iron Mouse covered Headless Angel.

It's a bummer that the songs themselves don't seem to be available in NIKKE proper (especially since SHIFT UP gives players plenty of chances to unlock in-game music for your in-game jukebox at no cost), but it's nevertheless cool to see VShojo get more credit among game studios. Early last year, we covered former VShojo member Nyatasha Nyanners cameoing in Like A Dragon: Ishin!, while she and several other VShojo talents were later given promotional skins for Smite late last year. There's lots of room for VTubers all over to make their mark, and I hope we can also see some indie VTubers get their flowers soon.

Nintendo Formally Confirms Switch Successor, Also Shares Sales Figures (And They're Wild)

There have been a lot of rumors and announcements for Nintendo's next console that I haven't discussed. It's for a simple reason: it's just rumors. Nintendo hasn't even confirmed the actual console, let alone its name. I have a simple basis for covering stuff: I need sources. So much of what has come out about the console is unverified. "It's shaped like a tablet! It's got a glass screen! It'll smell like strawberries, make your parents get back together, and fix the global economy!" I could spend my time chasing dragons with writing, or I can cover confirmed announcements. I love writing This Week in Games, but this column does take time—let me write about stuff that matters or might inspire folks to try old games they'd never played before. Also, let's just say I'm sick of nine years of people yapping about the Switch Pro and how it's totally coming out soon.

Anyway, Nintendo has formally announced the Switch's successor! So now we can talk about it!

Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa took to Twitter this past week to formally announce the Switch's successor. He also announced it rather dramatically, almost like he was announcing a natural disaster. But he's also surprisingly tight-lipped about the console. He's confirmed it exists, and... that's it. "More to follow." For all the folks claiming that 2024 is a "dry year" for games (what is Unicorn Overlord, chopped liver?!), Furukawa has also confirmed a Nintendo Direct for June that will announce Nintendo's remaining titles for the back half of 2024. Furukawa also clearly states, "There will not be any news on the Switch's successor." Now, I know reading is hard for some folks: the words "there will be no mention of the Nintendo Switch successor during that presentation" are mighty long, but I'll break it down for folks: there won't be any Switch 2 news at the next Direct. There won't be any "Just one more thing!" announcement before someone snaps their fingers and shows off the Switch 2. There isn't going to be any bait-and-switch. I hate being pedantic like this, but sometimes you need to underline these facts for some folks because everyone thinks that there's a bait-and-switch with these Directs, then gets upset when there isn't one after they were told there isn't going to be a bait-and-switch.

Furukawa's announcement says the formal announcement for the Switch's successor will be "later this fiscal year." This means they could feasibly announce it as late as March of next year. Fiscal years in Japan run from April to March—and the original Switch's reveal was done in March of 2015. And really, Nintendo isn't in any rush. They've got millions of consoles they could sell. Sony might have informally pulled out another five million PS2 sales without any actual hard numbers to back them up, but it's pretty clear the Switch can and will reach 150 million units sold by the end of this fiscal year.

That's a good segue into the next bit of news. Nintendo also released its first-quarter report this past week; the numbers are inspiring. To paraphrase the immortal words of Dave Mustaine, "Games are Nintendo's business... and business is good." Plenty of Nintendo's releases have hit the million mark in sales; the Mario Vs. Donkey Kong remake hit 1.12 million in six weeks, while Princess Peach: Showtime! broke 1 million in ten days. Outlooks are good on more Princess Peach games if you ask me! Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has reached almost 62 million sales, cementing it as the best-selling Mario Kart game in the series—small wonder Nintendo isn't in a hurry to make Mario Kart 9, there's no need to kill the golden goose. Super Mario RPG's remake has hit over 3 million in sales; I'm astonished; I never thought that game would do quite so well in today's day and age. Good news for Pikmin fans: Pikmin 4 has sold almost 3.5 million units and is currently the best-selling title in the series. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has solidified itself as the best-selling fighting game in history at over 33 million in sales. I could go on, but here's a handy-dandy chart breaking down the numbers.


That's a huge list! An understated bit is how many of those multi-million sellers aren't what you expect. Peep Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics's 4 million sales, or 1-2 Switch's 3.74 million units sold. Each of those has outsold any of the Xenoblade Chronicles games (none of them have sold more than 2.74 million units—which is still nothing to blow your nose at). The important takeaway here: it's important to remember that typical "gamers" are not the end-all, be-all audience with games. Yeah, Clubhouse Games is a ton of fun (as is watching Vinesauce Vinny struggle to beat their off-brand "Connect Four" game at the highest difficulty), but it's also a game that gets zero discussion on Twitter from capital-G "Gamers." And that shows the Switch's big strength: its mass appeal. I hate the word "Normies," and I wish it didn't come from such horrendous gatekeepers. That said, there are way, way, way more "normies" than there are people who would identify as a capital-g "Gamer." Hell, many people likely identify as gamers who don't play anything more involved than Candy Crush Saga. And the Switch has managed to appeal to that massive, massive demographic. The result? This is the best that Nintendo has done in the past 40 years. The takeaway isn't that Nintendo can "afford" to make a "stronger" console—the takeaway is that Nintendo's approach is mind-numbingly successful. Keep things simple, keep things affordable, and make it easy to port your games to your console. Make stuff for the masses, not the classes. The Switch isn't just successful because it has good games—it's also affordable to produce.

And that's likely the philosophy Nintendo wants to take to the Switch's successor: less of a revolution, more of an evolution. Making a console stronger than the Switch is a low bar to cross, but also, they're not likely going to go whole-hog on tech because that adds one heck of a charge on production costs. President Furukawa has echoed those remarks with his statements in an earnings call: "Switch next model is the appropriate way to describe it.” Nintendo has a good framework with the Switch, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel with the next console. The form factor might change, but the tools won't—and that's good for developers since the new console won't be any different to develop for than the old one. And lookie here, the late Satoru Iwata even pointed to that as a goal three years before the Switch was released:

I think it's pretty clear that Nintendo isn't "off in their own corner" or "doing their own thing"; at this point, that sounds like diminishing just how much Nintendo has achieved with the Switch—and how much its competitors ought to start taking notes. Make an affordable product, ensure its value by not slashing its long-term prospects in the name of short-term profits, and nurture your talent and invest in them. (Also, have good labor laws that keep you from laying off thousands of people so your executives have enough pocket change to buy a nineteenth yacht.)

Of course, there are some bad news. Not all of Nintendo's recent titles have been successful. You'll note that some of Nintendo's recent releases like Famicom Detective Club, Advance Wars: Re-Boot Camp, and Another Code: Recollection haven't managed to hit the million-sales marks. More's the pity. Advance Wars fans were rallying for Re-Boot Camp, and that game continued the series tradition of coming out at the worst moment, what with the Ukraine invasion and the Israel-Palestine conflict, making games about colorful wars fought with toylike armies somewhat awkward. Famicom Detective Club has likely proven too obscure for widespread success in the US. And Another Code, man, this one is a bummer. I'm exceptionally soft on that game, considering how much of a tiny miracle it was to see it remade in such detail. The upside is that these games were on smaller budgets and, as such, had smaller profit margins: these games selling under 1 million units is not as big of a loss as, say, a Xenoblade Chronicles game failing to reach that mark. That's the upside to making AA games: you can afford to take a few losses here and there (especially when your coffers are as well-stocked as Nintendo's).

There is a lot we can and should criticize Nintendo for. Their draconian protection of their IP is heavy-handed, and their contractors need better treatment as of yesterday. But things are looking good for The Big N. They've turned things around with the Switch in ways nobody could have foreseen a decade ago. A decade ago, people were convinced of Nintendo's demise. But it looks like Nintendo's future does on its hardware.

Microsoft Shuts Down Tango Gameworks

Man, what a weekend we had! First, Sony had its entire kerfuffle with Helldivers 2, forcing folks to link their Steam copies to a PlayStation Online account to play the game online. Players reacted negatively to such an extent that Helldivers 2's Steam rating plummeted. Someone did a good job pointing out that PlayStation Online isn't available in 177 of 190 countries worldwide (including my native Puerto Rico), so this effectively shuts out hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of possible players worldwide. Sony wisely recanted the decision at the end of the weekend, narrowly avoiding a marketing disaster on the level of New Coca-Cola. I bring this up because it was a tempest in a teapot that drew tons of ire from people everywhere (I saw someone in Discord claim this was proof of Sony being "the worst company ever"). It also resolved itself just as quickly as it started—even the negative Steam reviews have reversed themselves, with Helldivers 2 back at a strongly positive stance.

And then Microsoft walked into the room and shouted, "Hey guys, look how badly I can stain my pants!"

The news of four studios getting closed at Microsoft under the Bethesda banner was a seriously sour pill for fans worldwide, not the least because all of these studios had some significant successes. Arcane Austin's Redfall landed with a splat, but they were also responsible for the beloved Dishonored and 2017's incredible immersive sim, Prey. Alpha Dog Games (incorrectly referred to as "Alpha Dog Studio") mostly did mobile games, which makes me wonder why Microsoft shut them down (more on this later). Roundhouse Games is getting folded into ZeniMax Online to work on The Elder Scrolls Online. But the one that stuck in people's craw was the closing of Tango Gameworks. Started by the luminary Shinji Mikami, Tango Gameworks made their name with horror titles like The Evil Within and Ghostwire: Tokyo. They also saw massive acclaim for creating Hi-Fi Rush, winning a Game Award, a BAFTA, and several other awards for their stylish rhythm-action game.

The shutdown of Tango Gameworks is particularly galling, as many have pointed out that Microsoft had nothing but wonderful things to say about Hi-Fi Rush's success, to say nothing of it being a much-needed Japanese studio for the painfully America-centric Microsoft. Microsoft has had a very long history of doing very poorly in Japan and not having much to offer, and as we've covered before their handful of attempts at courting Japanese creatives were rather slap-dash and half-hearted compared to their efforts with the likes of Halo or Gears of War (alas, poor Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey). Heck, even Microsoft themselves called Tango Gameworks a "great step" towards their constant failure at courting a Japanese market.

The studio closure they needed for their prolonged business plan was stupid. The closure of a game studio that had delivered such a widely-celebrated title is galling. The apparent need to pinch pennies so severely that even more employees need to go jobless just for that last goddamn percentage is infuriating. That we're scolded and asked to "please think of the poor executives" who've lost nothing but caused the lives of thousands of passionate workers to be imperiled from loss of wages, health insurance, and the stability of a freaking regular job, is insulting. And to add salt into the wound: Microsoft turned around and later claimed their need for smaller, award-winning titles... like Hi-Fi Rush—the game from the studio they just 86ed.

Microsoft has been having a seriously bad 2024. The Activision-Blizzard acquisition was a terrible move for anti-trust laws and nothing but an exercise on their behalf to monopolize gaming in the US—and from the looks of it, it was too big a purchase for even them since they have to pinch pennies so badly in its wake. And it seems that even that acquisition wasn't very well thought-out because Microsoft doesn't even know if they should put Call of Duty on Gamepass due to the possible loss of revenue. Crimeny, Sega made tons of decisions that led to them bailing from the console industry, but at least they went out with some decent games while they were at it!

Microsoft's current status is requiring that they emphasize studios with actual games in development. But how do you trust them? How do you trust a company whose current condition is in such shambles? We joke that the PlayStation has no games, but can Microsoft even afford to make games?

The most infuriating part is that there isn't much that we can do. Voting with your dollar is utterly worthless for a publicly traded corporation—the shareholders and their sacrosanct "value" will always triumph over all. I wholly expect a lot of this anger to fade like wet sand the moment a handful of screenshots of The Elder Scrolls 6 start circulating. And I do not have some kind of conclusive point to these matters. But man, things are bad at Microsoft. If I were the FTC, I'd start re-examining things. The upside, I guess, is that hope is still there. Ikumi Nakamura, the beloved character designer formerly of Tango Gameworks, shared a good tweet responding to the news of Tango's closure. I think it's a good vibe to take with you.

Interview with Sawaki Takeyasu

Sawaki Takeyasu is best known as the original character designer for classics like Devil May Cry, Steel Battalion, Okami and Infinite Space. His iconic character action game, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, has recently been released on the Nintendo Switch. In honor of the occasion, we sat down with Takeyasu and asked him a few questions about El Shaddai.

Anime News Network: What does El Shaddai mean to you as a project after all these years?

Takeyasu: I think it's something that users will decide after another ten years. If it remains in the memories of many people at that time, I believe it will have significance in society. I don't know right now, as I'm just serving as a martyr. I think it's something I'll know when I reach the end of my life. For now, I just hope it will be meaningful for my life.


How has the industry changed in the years since you first created El Shaddai? Do you feel like that's affected how El Shaddai is viewed by fans?

Takeyasu: Since then, the industry has disliked me for creating El Shaddai. Except for a few highly literate creators, I think everyone really hated it. I was seen as someone who creates incomprehensible things. I felt this very strongly in my work. However, behind the scenes, the enthusiasm of the fans significantly grew. I believe that without the power of those fans, El Shaddai would no longer exist.


El Shaddai strikes a curious balance between simple controls and intense action. Most character action games tend towards much more sophisticated controls. What was the impetus for maintaining simple controls for El Shaddai??

Takeyasu: Creating Tekki (Steel Battalion) was a significant accomplishment. Seeing Kazumi Kono's creation, which made over 40 buttons interesting, I felt it was unbeatable. Additionally, since I also had the perspective of a very casual user, I wanted to create a game that would be understandable just by fiddling around with it.


As many have pointed out, Enoch resembles American actor Brad Pitt. Was this intentional? What other celebrities inspired the cast of El Shaddai?

Takeyasu: It's an honor to be told he resembles such a cool person. Indeed, Ignition asked me to use Brad Pitt as a reference. While the truth is that I faithfully followed my employer's request, I intended to inject a bit of irony to make it look interesting. This approach was very well received in Japan.


The Nephilim are disarmingly cute. Where did the idea for their design come from?

Takeyasu: I would like to say it's from heaven, but I chose that design because I wanted something symbolic that anyone could draw. When I went to England, I saw many picture books about the Nephilim, and most of them had terrifying images. So, I decided to create a design that even children would enjoy.

With The Lost Child's release and El Shaddai's remastered port, where do you see yourself taking the El Shaddai series in the future?

Takeyasu: I would like you to try playing Starnaut on Steam, which is currently in early access. It's a project that transforms the survivor genre into 3D. While the visuals differ from El Shaddai, it shares the thrilling sensation of rushing around like Sonic the Hedgehog and the exhilarating feeling of wiping out up to a thousand enemies at once. Furthermore, it will eventually tie into the story of El Shaddai.


Do you have any parting words for fans of El Shaddai in America?

Takeyasu: People who see El Shaddai for the first time are either moved or feel a sense of discomfort. It is commonly said that it was made for a niche market. However, I intended to present a vision of the future. It is beautiful, timeless, and without nationality. A world that continues to change. Now, 13 years have passed. Does it look old to you? I think there lies one answer.

Thank you to Takeyasu for taking the time to answer our questions! You can read more about El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster in our review of the game.

Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • As an Etrian Odyssey fan, I've failed everyone on this one: as it turns out, the foundations for Metaphor: ReFantazio had been set as early as 2018. Atlus had recently featured Hulkenberg, one of your future party members in Metaphor. As Tony Coffey pointed out on Twitter, Hulkenberg is a DLC character portrait that was available for purchase for Etrian Odyssey Nexus. Sadly, the DLC no longer exists (scuttled along with the rest of the 3DS's digital offerings), but it goes to show how long Metaphor: ReFantazio has been in development.

  • Earlier this week, Nintendo confirmed it would be sundowning its Twitter functionality; as of June 10, there will no longer be any Twitter integration on the Nintendo Switch. You also won't be able to send friend requests to friends on social media from within the Switch's systems.

  • That will do it for this week. It's been a bit since we had one of these longer columns! I think we will see a lot more news as we transition into summer. There's been a lot of bad news lately; I hope folks put their energy into constructive efforts and not just raging on social media. It's easy to dunk-tweet on out-of-touch executives or the like; it's a lot more helpful to rally around the creatives who need our help. The people who make the games we love are the folks who need our attention right now. We owe it to them to help them out. Be good to each other; I'll see you in seven.

    This Week In Games! is written from idyllic Portland by Jean-Karlo Lemus. When not collaborating with Anime News Network, Jean-Karlo can be found playing JRPGs, eating popcorn, watching v-tubers, and tokusatsu. You can keep up with him at @mouse_inhouse or @ventcard.bsky.social.

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