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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Konami: Boobs or Bust?

By VORTEXICA - It's not what it sounds like.

The corporate boobs at Konami have no idea what they're doing. The company has aroused stiff criticism lately for cancelling Silent Hills (plus attempting to erase its P.T. demo from existence), implementing micro-transactions in the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and continuing their history of driving away their core talent.

After all that, more Konami bashing must come across as beating a dead horse by now. But you know what I say?

A report earlier this month in Japanese newspaper 'The Nikkei' (who compile the stock market index of the same name) gives an impression of just how easily and far Konami have gone down in recent years.

That article's in Japanese, but you can read the gist of it all over the Internet; translations aren't hard to find on social and gaming media. As an aside, if you CAN understand it yourself, the position of KoopaTV Japanese Marketing Manager is an opening we would love to have filled as soon as possible. Here's one very good summation of the allegations.

Anyway, it contains an account of Konami workplace horror stories such as employees being endowed with generic, regularly-rotated e-mail addresses to limit outside communication, staff computers at the former Kojima Productions studio being denied access to the Internet, and non-security-related cameras watching employees' every move. Time cards are used to monitor absences during lunch breaks, and those that get back late are publicly named and shamed over the company's Tannoy system. Konami devs (including both junior and senior production staff) whose games fail to meet expectations are at risk of being relegated to jobs as security guards, fitness club janitors (eww), and pachinko factory workers. "Liking" or approving of statements from former employees or general anti-Konami comments posted on places such as Facebook can also get you reshuffled within the company structure. Oh, and apparently blabbing about any of this outside the company can get you fired, fined, or even jailed. Yikes, these people-control methods are worthy of North Korea!

Now, given what actually goes on in North Korea, yes, that's hyperbole, but only just. If you replace each instance of "Konami" with "North Korea" and "workers/employees" with "populace" in many of these English translations, they read like reports from Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. I should know, I researched conditions there for one of my previous articles.

And when Konami's not abusing their staff, they're pandering to the lowest common denominator. Enter Castlevania: Erotic Violence, the racy new pachinko machine from Konami!

Personally, I'm hard-pressed to think of anything erotic about violence...

That's right, they turned Castlevania into a sexed-up gambling apparatus. Why? Because sex sells of course! Even on KoopaTV.

Here's the trailer so you can examine the merchandise for yourself. Yes, it even has a trailer:

 Bear in mind, this is not a video game on show here.

Richter Belmont returns to face down the imposing edifice of Dracula's towering castle, but instead of thrusting his way inside and beating off the demons within, he soon spies several salacious succubi sporting sizable, um... "personalities". It's all very PG-13 in this trailer, but whether there'll actually be any full-on nudity brought to bear in the final product remains to be seen.

Instead of a new, fully-developed, well-rounded Castlevania game, Konami focused on this. Fans must be racked with disappointment.

What is pachinko?

Now, if you're inexperienced with such things, pachinko is basically a kind of pinball machine with a three-way spinner like on a slot machine, only it's vertical, so it stands fully erect. They're immensely big in Japan, with parlours all across the country dedicated to them.

Here's a basic rundown of how they work: You insert your cash or cards into the machine's slot in exchange for handfuls of steel balls. You then insert your balls into the machine's ball tray, which are fired deeper into the play field by pulling on a lever or round knob. The balls shower down through various obstacles such as pins and bumpers (in the process earning more balls if some end up caught in certain hazards like cups and crevices), until they penetrate the opening at the base of the machine, which starts up the slots and releases yet more balls. The more balls you have to play with, the longer you can last, with the overall goal being to end up with as many balls as possible.

This Matrix-style dodge of Richter's dagger displays the trailer's "jiggle physics".
No matter how often I put that phrase in quotes, it never sounds any less silly.

For "added excitement", animations called reaches (or super reaches for longer ones) may start playing on screens if the first two symbols match. Getting three-of-a-kind on the slots results in a jackpot and begins a "payout mode". In this mode, another large opening appears and balls must be shot into it to release copious amounts of even more balls. After this, a machine may enter a "kakuhen", where the chances of hitting further jackpots increases considerably after the first has been "hard earned", becoming an ecstatic string of multiple jackpots known as "fever mode". Alternatively, it may enter "jitan mode". Slots spin faster and faster, and the base opening dilates further to provide easier access for more balls. Both these modes climax once jackpots stop coming.

Many pachinko machines also sport alternate, rare, and hidden play modes that variously affect the chances of winning, from almost no change, to near-guaranteed wins or second-chances. It can sometimes be hard to tell what mode the machine is in as only subtle hints will be given. The position of the "optimised ball stream" on the field may also switch position depending on the game's mode.

I can't read Japanese, but going by the colour, I bet that's something risque.

Once you feel you've got enough balls and are fully satisfied from the experience, it's time to remove your balls from the machine and exchange them for sweet booty. A member of staff will typically carry your balls to be weighed and exchanged for a valued card, which is then exchanged for prizes. Gambling straight for cash is illegal in Japan, however certain "special prizes" can be won and exchanged at ostensibly independent establishments for cash. Don't ask me why that's permitted, it just is.

A form of casual pachinko, with the gambling aspect removed, also exists in establishments more similar to traditional video arcades, and is popular with children. Regular pachinko connoisseurs may sometimes take new machines for a spin in these arcades before trying out the real thing in a pachinko parlour. Somehow, I doubt Erotic Violence will be available in this manner for pachinko gamblers to get a feel for.

Even their legs are fetishised with those thigh-high boots. Of course, my thoughts are above such things.

Please don't think all this gets my dander up because of some prudish, no-sex-please-I'm-British attitude. Those aren't the first scantily-clad succubi we've seen in Castlevania. As coarse as it might sound, you'd expect succubi to look provocative; they're succubi. But Erotic Violence making that the selling point is just a shameless sexploitation of a beloved franchise that makes me cock my head in confusion.

What's the future of Konami?

Konami's exposing themselves as a company that's long ceased giving a damn about games to any real extent. It's fairly obvious they want to pull out of the real gaming market altogether, sacrificing quality and integrity for "free-to-play", in-app-purchase, mobile nonsense with bare minimum effort. So fans of Metal Gear, Silent Hill, Castlevania, Bomberman, and Contra (amongst others) can expect harrowing experiences in the coming years as Konami starts to turn each one into a cash cow and milk those plump udders for all they're worth. Yeah, remember those franchises? I'm sure many of you have your own favourite piece of the Konami IP pie. It's a pretty nice spread worked up over decades. Konami was riding high in the 90s, on top of their game. It's been a long time coming, but they're now a shrivelled mockery of what they were.

Konami is satisfied with abusing their Solid Snake and slapping those Silent Hills around just so they can come up with more money as fast as possible, and when that happens it's the fans that get shafted, leaving Konami with a mess on their hands in the PR department. Silent Hills had one of the most innovative marketing moves in recent times with the P.T. demo, played like a genuine return to form after some limp entries in the series, and had both Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro on board. "But no, we can't have any of that competence! Let's rub our fans the wrong way some more!" I might as well mention that a Silent Hill pachinko machine has also been announced. I'm sure that'll go down well(!), but at least the shameless erotica is absent.

Konami reducing Castlevania to this sort of thing will have fans crying "how can you leave us behind like this?"

In many people's eyes right now, Konami is in a hole, one which they just seem to keep sliding deeper and deeper into. But rest assured they're not going bust any time soon. Phantom Pain will be a hot seller, I'm sure. I even frequently hear those who say they're "done" with Konami also say they still intend to purchase the game. Even if their gaming forays did go belly up, Konami has successful health clubs, pachinko machine lines, and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards to fall back on. So yes, they can keep this up indefinitely. But creatively speaking? They're already bankrupt.

Recently we've had Sega issuing an apology for the years of fan betrayal (their words, not mine), and even Capcom consulting with fans on what they would like to see from their franchises. Konami seems determined to make up for all that though. It's situations like this where you need a real hero like Richter to save us from corporate cash grabs...

"Die, Konami! You don't belong in this world!"

Vortexica knows his articles can be quite lengthy and hard-hitting, but he was practically bursting at the seams to get all this out. He could've banged on all day, but he wouldn't want it too long for you to handle. He hopes to at least stimulate some discussion in the comments, and stay tuned to KoopaTV to keep abreast of all the latest gaming news!

This article was voted to be the most humourous KoopaTV article of 2015!


  1. Bravo. It must be hard to write an entire article composed of double entendres and innuendo.

    1. Yeah, I'm actually jealous of Vortexica's writing skill here.

      ...not that I'd ever, y'know, degrade myself to write about this in this fashion. :o

      This article is definitely going into the Top 5 recommended articles for August though.


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