A new year of the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Welcome back and, halfway through the month, one final happy new year to you all. The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page is back once again to afford you the opportunity to have your say, speak your brains, grill us on various topics or simply share something cool that you found on the Internet.

You may notice that we’ve changed the way you submit letters to us — so let’s take a moment to talk about that first before we get into the submissions we have received.

Previously, you submitted letters to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page by clicking a widget that floated over on the right-hand side of the screen. You’d fill out a form, post your message and that was that. It worked quite well, but it wasn’t perfect — notably, in the latter months of 2021, we were starting to get a fair amount of spam, and that’s not an ideal situation for anyone. The widget also occasionally got in the way a bit on smaller mobile screens, so we wanted to find an alternative solution.

That solution is right now! To submit a letter to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, you can head on over to the dedicated Letters page and simply fill out the form. Each edition of the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page will also include the same form at the bottom for you to fill out, so after you’ve read the letters for the week, you have the opportunity to immediately post something in response, too.

The new form requires you to submit your email address, which the old widget did not. Your email address is not shared, sold or abused in any way, nor will it be published alongside your letter (unless you specifically request us to, for example if you’re working on a project and would like people to contact you). Your email address is only used for us to help see when the same people are writing in multiple times — and in case we need to send you a private response for some reason.

Aside from that, simply fill out your name (it can, of course, be a pseudonym or pen name if you prefer, as always), the subject of your message and the message itself and we’ll get to it the following Friday.

This way of doing things should be quicker and easier for everyone — and should help keep our inboxes a bit more spam-free than they have been!

Anyway. Onto the letters — just a couple this week.

Art by Buun Ko. Original source no longer online.

Helter skelter

Dear Rice,

Is it true that Mary Skelter 2 on PC is censored?

DRPGDude


[Update on this, 21/1/2022: after working with Idea Factory, Ghostlight has been able to bring a restoration patch to both the GOG and Steam versions of Mary Skelter, which restores the cut content. They didn’t want to say anything earlier because they hadn’t hammered out all the details, but it’s happened now. More details here. Original response follows!]

Unfortunately, it seems that in some part of the porting process to bring Mary Skelter 2 to PC, some content has had to be cut. As Isaac noted in his first impressions article yesterday, it’s a relatively minor part of the game — it’s the Purge Corruption minigame, in which you have to “rub” blood off the characters, and this sometimes has an effect on their clothing. The actual Purge Corruption mechanic is still there, but the interactive, visual element is gone.

We haven’t seen an official explanation for this from anyone as yet, but chances are good it’s down to Steam’s inconsistently applied content policies — those same policies that have caused grief for visual novels and niche-interest Japanese games such as The Expression: Amrilato, Bokuten and Evenicle 2 in the past. In other words, don’t get mad at Ghostlight, who ported the game to PC, or Idea Factory International — the whole thing was likely out of their control, since Steam can be exceedingly strict on such things sometimes, and in many cases being rejected means a game can’t be resubmitted, even with edits.

This is the problem, though; Steam lets some things through and not others. At the moment, the situation very much appears to be that someone at Valve who is in charge of reviewing potential inclusions on the store has a raging hateboner for any anime-style content that is vaguely lewd, and if an anime-style game with anything the slightest bit lewd comes across their desk, it gets slapped down.

Mary Skelter 2 Purge Corruption - Letters page
2hot4steam

Numerous visual novel writers, publishers and localisers have commented on Twitter than if there is any combination of something that relates even vaguely to “childhood” or being “underage” — such as an apparent school setting, even if it’s described as being “college” or “university” — is combined with anything even a little bit sexually provocative, a game will often be hit hard by Valve to such a degree that there’s no hope of it ever being released on the platform. And, like it or loathe it, Steam is still absolutely critical for discovery, particularly for smaller companies.

Ideally what we need is for Steam to be completely up-front and clear with their content policies: state clearly and obviously what they absolutely will and will not allow on their platform — along with whether or not official off-site patches to restore cut content are “allowed”, since this is still a bit of a murky area — but I think we all know that’s never going to happen. Sony is still yet to officially acknowledge their prudish content policies to this day, after all, despite their effects being obvious — so I suspect Valve are going to be the same.

For now, if you want to play Mary Skelter 2 uncut — and indeed, if you want what is typically the best experience with modern Japanese games featuring ecchi content — you should nab yourself a Switch, since that’s by far the most permissive platform out there right now outside of specifically adults-only storefronts on PC. You don’t have to deal with shitty PC ports then, either, since most of these games are designed for console first and foremost!

Strictly come waiting

Dear Rice,

Do you have any experience with Strictly Limited Games? I ordered some stuff from them ages ago and I still haven’t got it. I want to support physical releases of stuff like Clockwork Aquario, but not if a company’s just going to take my money and run.

BigBoxLyfe


Strictly Limited are notoriously slow to deliver on their physical releases for some reason. I’m not 100% sure why, but yeah — as you say, it takes a very long time from when they start taking preorders until you actually get the finished item in your hands. This has been the case for absolutely everything I’ve ordered from them, right from Gundemoniums and Sayonara Umihara Kawase on Vita up until more recent stuff like Clockwork Aquario and Witch Spring 3 Re:Fine.

It’s not down to the games not being finished, either, since the digital versions of these games often come out much earlier than Strictly Limited’s physical releases — and in many cases you can often also get an Asia English version of a game well before Strictly Limited’s version arrives. The more recent Cotton games such as Cotton 2 are a good example of this — they’ve been available via sites like Play-Asia for a while, but there’s no sign of the Strictly Limited releases as yet.

It’s understandable that this can lead to a lack of confidence in the company, particularly if you’ve been really looking forward to getting your hands on a particular game for quite some time. But having placed numerous orders with them over the years at this point, I can confirm that despite often being a tad tardy, to put it mildly, their stuff is absolutely worth the wait — particularly if you plonked down the extra cash for their collectors’ editions.

Letters page: Clockwork Aquario
Clockwork Aquario: good, but we’ve been waiting a long time!

Strictly Limited collectors’ editions are, without a doubt, the most high-quality, beautifully presented yet reasonably priced collectors’ editions I think I’ve ever seen, and it’s always an absolute pleasure to finally receive one after waiting for so long. So don’t worry about them taking the money and running — they do consistently deliver, just rather slower than I think everyone would generally like. I’d like to say this will improve over time, but… well, they’ve been around for a good few years at this point, and it seems this is just how they do things.

Given that the majority of my game purchases these days are Asia English or limited-run physical releases, I tend to take the approach that I preorder something and then promptly forget about it almost immediately. That way it’s always a nice surprise when something plops through your letterbox unexpectedly; just be careful you don’t make the mistake I did on one embarrassing occasion and order the same thing twice because you forgot you’d already ordered it! Props to Idea Factory International for not laughing at my foolishness and providing me with a prompt refund.

In other words, you can safely order from Strictly Limited with confidence — albeit with what is a fairly major caveat for some: it may well be a year or more before you get the thing you actually paid for! If that’s a problem for you, I recommend keeping an eye on Play Asia for Asia-English versions, as although shipping for those still takes quite a while sometimes, you can typically get them a bit closer to the games’ digital release date.


And that’s your lot for the week. If you’d like to be part of the next Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, just fill out the form below or on the Letters page and it’ll go safely into our inbox — we’ll publish and respond to your letter the following Friday. You can submit at any point in the week — everything goes safely into a dedicated mailbox, so we review everything we’ve received when it’s time to compile the Letters Page for the week — so don’t feel you have to wait until the last minute to make sure you get “seen” or anything.

Anyway! That’s us for the week. We here at Rice Digital hope you’ve all had a thoroughly pleasant week and that you have a nice relaxing weekend ahead of you. I’ll be spending some time catching up on Final Fantasy XIV, myself — along with a fair bit of retro gaming, if my last few evenings are anything to go by…

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