How Genuine is the Henshin Engine Kickstarter?

Here at The Dreamcast Junkyard, we've always been one of the first to support funding for indie Dreamcast developers, with both our own hard earned cash and publicity via our website, Twitter account, Facebook group, Facebook page and even occasionally our YouTube channel. You may have noticed that we've been reluctant to do the same for the recent Henshin Engine project, which some of you have championed vigorously through our various channels, both publicly and in private messages. Well today, we'd like to take the chance to explain our various reasons for being less than enthusiastic in our support for the project. Take a look at our reasoning for yourselves and come to your own conclusions.
When one considers giving money to a Kickstarter, in what basically equates to a loan to a third party, it would be hoped that said party could be trusted to be decent enough to represent themselves honestly and in a transparent manner, helping backers to make an informed decision regarding whether their investment is safe in the hands of a team they deem trustworthy. Here is where we come to our issues with the Henshin Engine Kickstarter project...

Rather than place the Dreamcast version of the game within the regular base goal of $16,400, it was instead set as a stretch goal of $22,400. This made it extremely difficult and rather irresponsible for us to promote the project to our readers; should the stretch goal have not been met, the money would be taken regardless and instead said backers would be left with a PC Engine or PC version of the game. Certainly not a deal breaker for some, but something that should be carefully considered by potential backers - especially those expecting to receive a Dreamcast game for their efforts.
Secondly, almost all indie games promote their games on a wide variety of social media platforms, one of which is Facebook. So let's take a look at some of the analytics for various Facebook pages of Kickstarted games to get a sense of what things usually look like.

Elysian Shadows
Elsysian Shadows had a total of 2.282 backers raising a total of $185,322. 

Their Facebook page has been going since 2008 and has accumulated a total of 2,652 likes with an average likes, comments and shares per post of 45 per post.

Their YouTube Channel also has over 12,983 subs.  

Yooka-Laylee had a total of 73,260 backers raising a total of £2,090,104 (Yes pounds, not dollars)

Their Facebook page has been going since 2015 and has accumulated a total of 13,927 likes with an average likes, comments and shares per post of 1,082.

Xenocider had a total of 342 backers raising a total of $24,061.

The Retro Samus Facebook page has accumulated a total of 595 likes with an average likes, comments and shares per post of 22.

Henshin Engine
Henshin Engine currently has a total of 335 backers thus far rasing a total of $24,125. 

Their Facebook page has been going since February of this year and has accumulated a total of 8,038 likes with an average likes, comments and shares per post of 23.

Their YouTube Channel also has 63 subs.  

Sarumaru (lead designer and team leader of Henshin Engine)
Sarumaru has a total of 26,981 likes on his Facebook page.

With an average likes, comments and shares per post of 4.

What's more, posts regularly seem to get just 3 likes or less on both pages and the same names come up over and over: Ruben, Henshin Engine (himself), D.J.Melina (his personal FB account), a friend or member of Sarumaru's family, Alicia, Jesse Hernandez (a team member), Sarumaru (liking himself again) and even the fictional Bit the Robot (his own character that he created for an event, so yeah...that's another like from himself then). It's a rather small pool of people for a page not far off 30,000 followers. You'll notice this even more if you go back a year or so on the Sarumaru page when it still had a miraculous 20,000+ likes.

With this in mind, here are some key inconsistencies with the data:
  • How can a page possibly have 26,981 likes but only 4 likes, comments and shares per post?
  • How has Henshin Engine managed to accumulate more likes than Retro Sumus, Elysian Shadows, Red Spot Games, NG:DEV team, Hucast and Watermelon (developers of Piersolar) combined in the space of roughly half a year?  
  • Why does Yooka Laylee have roughly a third more likes but almost fifty times more engagement with posts?
  • Despite Elysian Shadows' huge number of backers and popular YouTube series Adventures in Game Development, why does it have roughly a third of the number of Facebook likes?
This data is courtesy of the website Like Analyzer

It's fairly well known in the Facebook community that some more unscrupulous organisations are into the business of paying for likes. Usually this involves paying a one off or recurring monthly fee in exchange for the guarantee from a shady third party to supply an agreed number of likes to a Facebook page of one's choice. These likes generally come from third world or developing countries with a weak economy for obvious reasons.

If only we were able to view where these likes came from. Well, courtesy of Likes Check we can!

Elysian Shadows 


Xenocider (Retro Sumus)
All pretty normal so far, as all three had by far the greatest number of supporters in the United States, with the UK coming in second. The Xenocider team are based in Spain which would explain their higher numbers in that territory. Now lets take a look at the results for Henshin Engine and Sarumaru.

Henshin Engine 
Wow! 6,929 of their 8,038 likes came from the Philippines and a further 425 from India. Saudi Arabia, Mexio and Kuwait also place suspiciously high in the table, while the USA accounts for just 3.5% of their total, and the UK makes up a pitiful 11 likes. 11 likes from the UK! Henshin Engine is surprisingly popular in the Philippines though, wouldn't you say? Bear in mind that this is a country that never received an official release of either the PC Engine or Dreamcast. 

It was quite a shock to see that Sarumaru had almost 27,000 likes despite his portfolio consisting of only two issues of a web comic, a character for a gaming event and some work for a small browser-based game. For reference, that's almost three times as many as the popular YouTube channel Gamesack, and over three times the number SEGAbits have managed to accumulate in their decade of existence. What's even more surprising is the huge number of followers he has in Mexico and the Philippines. He's also not doing too badly in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and Puerto Rico despite his page being entirely in English. Oh, and just 802 of his 26,981 likes are from the U.S.A.
I don't think a conclusion is really necessary, you can judge the data for yourself.

EDIT: The Henshin Engine team have been kind enough to comment on the likes situation mentioned above.

David Lee Perry: Okay so I asked about the regional Likes, because that caught my eye as well. As I am not involved with the promotional stuff, I don't really have any kind of input in this aspect of the production, and seeing as how I've gotten plenty of bait-mail from the Philippines in the past, I wanted to know what's up. Turns out that this is a result of Facebook's targeted advertising. Being as Henshin Engine is both an anime and a game, the advertising is targeted to regions high in otaku/gamer culture but that are also affordable. DJ has a very limited budget to advertise with, so he chose regions which were high in relevant exposure but low in cost... that includes places like the Philippines, Mexico, Malaysia, etc. These are also places with plenty of English speakers. Additionally, Henshin Engine is available in Spanish.

D.J. Medina (a Facebook account of Sarumaru)The ad itself reads something like "Check out this free web comic" or whatever. back then, there was no team. Just me and a comic book with a dream of doing something I have always wanted to do. It's now turned into something much bigger. I'm not sure why Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are there because they are not in the ad campaign at all. It's all in the campaign stats though. I can show you whatever you need, just ask. We're really trying here. 

Dreamcast Junkyard: I have a few questions if you wouldn't mind answering them:
Why have you continued to spend $30 a month across both pages if you're asking for money through a Kickstarter? (That's $480 since February.) 

Why spend so much money to promote a free comic?

Was your intention to gain likes for your pages?

The only benefit I can see from paying $30 a month for ads to countries where neither the Dreamcast nor PC Engine were launched would be to gain likes. Is that a fair assumption?

D.J.Medina: Two pages? I spend 30-ish dollars on just the Henshin Engine fb page. And why not? What's 30 dollars if it'll get people to come and potentially read the comic? I think that's kind of the point to advertise. if advertising was illegal, why would fb let you do it? Because it's a business. We are also trying to run a business. Businesses run ads. Even if I am pissing my money away in ads, why does it concern you? 

Dreamcast Junkyard: There's no need to get defensive. So your answer is that you were spending money to promote a free comic book that happens to share the same name and page as the Kickstarter you were running. Building likes for the page had nothing to do with it?

Unfortunately, this is where the interview was concluded because the Henshin Engine team no longer wished to continue. It's worth noting again that the comic ran for just two issues, the last of which was released in July. Sarumaru made no comment regarding his personal page and where the 27,000 likes came from.

Sarumaru's Patreon
Dispite having almost 30,000 supporters on Facebook, Sarumaru's Patreon is rather bare. He currently has just six Patreons that donate a total of $17 per month, the only of which who has ever commented on the page is the aforementioned Ruben, but that's not the biggest takeaway...

Sarumaru himself supports just two Patreons, one of which is Johnny Millenium, owner of the Happy Console Gamer YouTube channel, one of the biggest retro videogame YouTube channels with a total of 132,889 subscribers. 
This is relevant because thus far the most watched YouTube video featuring Henshin Engine is on the Happy Console Gamer channel with over 10,000 views. Johnny does not mention that he is receiving payments from Sarumaru via Patreon.

Please note: it is unknown for how long Sarumaru has been supporting Johnny Millenium. That information is not disclosed publicly on Patreon. Nor can one view the comments on Johnny Millenium's page without becoming a Patreon member. With over 250 Patreon members it is entirely possible that Johnny was not even aware that Sarumaru had supported him or that support began after release of the above video.

Lucretia: The Previously Unfinished Crowd Funded Project
It has recently come to our attention that this is in fact not the first time Henshin Engine team members have used crowdfunding.  David Lee Perry and Jesse Hernandez both worked on a PC Engine indie game called Lucretia. Prepayments were taken for the game that was due to be released in 2013. The game still hasn't seen the light of day, nor has a refund been given to backers. 

Here's a side by side comparison of Lucretia and Henshin Engine.


Henshin Engine


Henshin Engine

The Henshin Engine team claim that the two projects are being worked on simultaneously and that Lucretia has not been cancelled.

Before we wrap this up, there's one more inconsistency that needs addressing.

The missing $4,500 from Kickstarter
Shortly after the announcement of the Dreamcast stretch goal, we noticed something peculiar on the Kickstarter page; if you add up the totals of the backers' pledges, they don't come close to the apparent $24,000 total, not by a long shot.

Pledge          Backers              Total Raised
$1                5                                $5
$5                1                                $5
$15              33                               $495
$39              189                             $7,371
$58              23                               $1,334
$78              13                               $1,014
$80              18                               $1,440
$99              13                               $1,287
$140            36                               $5,040
$220             0                                $0
$299             2                                $598
$1100           1                                $1,100 

Total Raised                                  $19,689

Total Raised according to Kickstarter $24,218

Total unaccounted for $4,529

How is this possible? Well, it's perfectly plausible that it could have come from voluntary donations, but at almost %20 it's a rather high percentage. Remember Xenocider raised $24,061 and if you make the same calculations, the total for voluntary donations comes in at only $354, just %1.47.

I'd like to stress that we aren't making any accusations when it comes to this missing $4529, it's perfectly possible that they were genuine donations or even that an unrelated troll is to blame.

EDIT: It has come to our attention that much of this figure of $4,529 came from shipping fees. With Kickstarter, money taken for shipping is added to your total. Henshin Engine charge between $7 - $15 for shipping on the standard game alone depending on the backer's country of residence. 

So there's the data, make of it what you will. We're certainly not insinuating anything about the quality of the product or that it wont be finished, only that there has perhaps been some manipulation of data, when it comes to their social media presence. Perhaps it was thought that artificially inflating their perceived popularity would help with promotion of their game or give them more credibility, who knows? Either way, the situation at hand makes it very difficult for us to continue promoting the game.
Furthermore, the Henshin Engine web comic is rather average to be honest...the main character, Yuki's catchphrase seems to be the ingenious "Holy Crap!" and only two issues (38 pages total) were ever made available online before the project was seemingly abandoned in July.

Finally, the team have openly admitted their inexperience with the Dreamcast platform; not one of the members has ever as much as programmed a simple tester to run on the hardware. While the lead programmer does apparently have a lot of experience in the field, any examples of his previous work haven't been mentioned publicly from what we can tell. Even worse, the project lead has never been involved in game development before with the exception of drawing some artwork for a simple browser based game.
If this were the Dragons' Den (aka Shark Tank), we'd be saying "I'm out."

All figures were correct at the time of writing (31/10/2016)


straitJacket said...

Cheers for the info, I was considering backing.

David Walker said...

I don't think these are very good reasons to suggest the game won't be made at all, compared to other kickstarters. Only that the team might be a little dodgy in their advertising.

However, everyone is! It seems dreamcast developers charge way too much don't always provide all the rewards first time etc. Microsoft and Sony have their own problems etc. Consoles shipped out with faults etc etc. It's just part of marketing and part of being a developer these days and whatever.

Food companies may have unethical means of sourcing their products however there is no denial they have a product.

Anthony D said...

So what is the point of the article? Dreamcast Junkyard didn't want to mention this game because the DC version hadn't met it's stretch goal and that the dev team advertises it's games? DC homebrew games can't afford negative press like mighty number 9 (excellent game in my opinion). I'm personally very excited for any Dreamcast release and the Dev team needs as much advertising as it can get!

TheProfessorProfessorson said...

You should know there was issues concerning David Lee Perry aka The Old Rover, in the past on prior projects including Mysterious Song. There was a lot of grumblings behind the scenes of the team not getting paid, and a lot of squandering of the pre-order money, a paypal account of Davids suddenly and suspiciously being locked when people were asking for refunds, along with long delays before it finally released.

If you had been on the PCEFX forums over the years you would know that David Perry is a bit of a questionable character. He claimed once before that he murdered someone in his home and was some kind of martial arts expert, whom had major health issues when he was younger preventing him from being very active in life..... has never had stable employment, per his own post over the years about his many self employment choices....

With any kickstarter I'd always advise the backer be hesitant and do their research. In the case of anything David Perry is involved in, I would be even more cautious with your money. And honestly, take a good long look at the gameplay videos of Henshin. Honestly it just looks like a Telenet game developed by the worst of the Telenet workers. Gameplay looks basic and mediocre at best, and nothing about the game looks challenging at all.

David said...

It is truly sad that your hateboner has reached this far, Mike. Once again, you bring your lies and personal vendetta. I've done nothing to you aside from disagree with you on the quality of games by Incredible Technologies. The only thing you're a professor of is a professor of hate. Got any more lies for people?

CanadianKillerKrok said...

Anyone can go on the forums and see all the bullshit you have said over the years if they wanted to dig up dirt on your scummy ass. Unless of course, you go and edit or delete all your prior post (something of which I predict will happen). And all the crap with Mysterious Song is well known. That shit even spilled over to Digital Press's forums, remember dumbass? Honestly I am surprised you even have the audacity to comment here since you couldn't even find enough of your brave pills to finish the interview above lol.

David said...

Go ahead and dig then.

CanadianKillerKrok said...

Taken from Davids own website....

CanadianKillerKrok said...

Also on here:!

You can read along and you will eventually come across the part where Davids paypal account was suddenly and suspiciously frozen, happened to be around the same time people were asking for refunds...

You will also notice a trend with how poorly managed everything was, and how little updates actually came along once David got his money. If you want to view any of his prior issues on you will have to join their forums.

nullity said...

Wow. The author of this article strikes me as the kind of person who would lecture a kindergarten class about Santa not being real, offering pie charts and statistics to back it up. But this simile only works if Santa was real.

Saru has been working on the Henshin Engine franchise idea for a long time. He has made a ton of progress on it in his personal time as a hobby project and is chasing a dream I think we all, as gamers, have had at some point: to be the creative force behind a game, a story, that is enjoyed by the masses. I really don't see the point in conjuring up conspiracy theories and "damning data" to piss on someone's dream. He has made it further than most who share that dream, and I personally have no doubt that he and his team will achieve it.

Team Saru, I salute you. Please don't lose heart over the sour grapes. I have enjoyed tremendously watching you guys make steady progress on this project since work began earlier this year.

CanadianKillerKrok said...

If the "masses" were legit that would be one thing. But it seems the "masses" as it were are a bunch of paid "like" button klikers located in areas of the world where the PCE has little to no relevance.....

CanadianKillerKrok said...

It should also be noted, as I do not think it was mentioned on the Digital Press thread, that David's "port" of Mysterious Song would not have even been pressed and released if not for the fact that Andrew Darovich of had not stepped in and made it happen. David was totally out of his depth and kept screwing things up. Andrew had to step in and fix things to make sure the game could be properly pressed and finally released.

Also people, ask yourself this, if David was so on the up and up, why did Sunteam_Paul abandon him in favor of joining the Aetherbyte Studios team? People behind the scenes know how David handled things with Mysterious Song, and how he tried to blame toss whenever he would fuck things up. It is no big secret.

nullity said...

That does not follow.

You confuse the goal of seeing a "like" count increment with the goal of having real people enjoy a creative endeavor of his.

I'm amazed at the cynicism. I get it, I really do, but I know first hand it is undeserved. I have watched the progress of HE from touch character sketches to the current playable demo. Saru is not some evil corporate overlord trying to pull a quick cash grab on the gaming community. Rather, he is a sincere and passionate artist who has invested heavily in this project in terms of time spent and hiring professionals to handle stuff he can't do himself.

Nobody has to take my word on it, but I do hope some opinions change when HE is released as promised.

CanadianKillerKrok said...

"Professionals" you say? Lol you are joking right? Geez you sound like a straight up shill.

nullity said...

Ok then.

CanadianKillerKrok said...

Here is an idea, how about having the "professionals" finish the interview in a professional manner, instead of running away once hard questions get asked and shit starts to hit the fan?

nullity said...

Maybe he is a believer in "don't feed the trolls"? Much the same way I won't be drawn into a pointless argument with you. It is clear that you've made up your mind and there will be no changing it, even after you're proven wrong.

CanadianKillerKrok said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CanadianKillerKrok said...

Oops, wanted to edit the above and did a accidental delete instead. So anyway, you have not proven anything. Thats the thing. You got presented with a stack full of legit evidence you cant actually refute. So instead you just come on and talk about someones "passion" and label the people he works with as "professionals". Pretty much meaningless empty statements given the evidence above. Come back with actual evidence that supports your argument. As is, everything you say reads off as the exact argument a shill would present.

nullity said...

Label everyone who disagrees as a shill or a liar. Nice.

I still don't see how Saru paying for Facebook ads make him a conman. These stacks of "evidence" are meaningless. Can I refute the way advertising works on Facebook? No. Can you comprehend that someone wanting to spread the word about their project is not inherently malicious? No. Was the moon landing real? You tell me. I'm curious what your evidence suggests.

I agree to disagree.

Anthony D said...

And I thought working in construction was full of sabotage. You game developers need to get along. Homebrew video games have massive delays. If you don't like delays, purchase a AAA game.

CanadianKillerKrok said...

Paying for likes to make something appear like it has way way more momentum behind it then what actually exist is full on 100 percent bullshit. Paying HCG and having HCG not disclose that while previewing Henshin is also shady as fuck all. And you cant refute anything about Davids prior issues, because it all fucking happened, and it is all well known. You coming on here being a full on shill is also 100 percent bullshit. Seriously, fuck off with that crap.

nullity said...

How much did he say gamester81? Oh, also, please discontinue purchasing anything from anywhere, because has run advertisements, some of which resulted in Facebook likes.

I'm not saying anything about David or his past, this is about the project leader and founder, Saru Mary. Nice try to redirect, though.

And your actual "troll" is more bullshit than my perceived shill. What is your endgame? You have beef with David or someone else on Sari's team, so you want to see them fail? Condolences... Not gonna happen. But I invite you to keep spinning your wheels rather than "fuck off with that crap".

nullity said...

How much did he say gamester81? Oh, also, please discontinue purchasing anything from anywhere, because has run advertisements, some of which resulted in Facebook likes.

I'm not saying anything about David or his past, this is about the project leader and founder, Saru Mary. Nice try to redirect, though.

And your actual "troll" is more bullshit than my perceived shill. What is your endgame? You have beef with David or someone else on Sari's team, so you want to see them fail? Condolences... Not gonna happen. But I invite you to keep spinning your wheels rather than "fuck off with that crap".

CanadianKillerKrok said...

Oh, so now its only about the founder ehh, and not the team of "professionals" as you labeled them prior? You cant pick and choose who to defend on this, and flip flop back and forth. They are all together in a package deal dumb ass. As for Sarumaru paying for likes? Likes do not equal advertising. Paying for likes is simply Sarumaru trying to fake hype. Its all an act of deception, smoke and mirrors. None of which was even necessary because they only got what, maybe 300 backers, most of which are located in North America I imagine. Amazingly those 300 backers were able to meet the cash grab request, err, I mean goal, yeah goal lol.

Being a financial contributor to HCG, then having HCG turn around and preview the game and act like he really likes it is simply morally wrong. Unless HGC wants to relabel his youtube show of sorts as advertisements and put on some disclaimers, then fine, but as is, its a show. Other people have already gotten in trouble on there prior for the same shit, including that pewdiepie guy. Oh you dont remember that? Here is a refresher:

Also, the comic as it were looks terrible. It looks like someone trying hard to make his shit look like manga, but is painfully obvious was drawn by and cleaned up with computer assistance by one of those failed yiff artist that you always see get trashed on reddit. You know the guys, the ones that come out of the blue to try to push their awful furry art shit on people. Said people that give no fucks about the weak ass furry scene.

fuckayou said...

The Money that isnt accounted for in your bullshit math is the money that is for shipping. The totals on kickstarter show all money that is received including that for shipping. Maybe if you had done a kickstarter before you would know this.... wait, you did, and it failed miserably just like this pathetic attempt to fuck over Henshin Engine! Get a life you fucking worthless neckbearded troll.

CanadianKillerKrok said...

Lol @ the Henshin group making accounts just to come on here and try to defend the shady bullshit.

PCDenjin said...

A friend of mine had pre-ordered the collector version of Mysterious Song and is still waiting for it. I have sent private messages at PCEFX but the guy never got his copy.

CanadianKillerKrok said...

No surprise there...

The 1 Ross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The 1 Ross said...

The Dreamcast Junkyard has never done a Kickstarter, let alone a failed one. To my knowledge, neither has any of our writers either.

Tom Charnock said...

To be fair, you do have a neck beard Ross haha!

The 1 Ross said...

No comment.

Dean Taylor said...

Loving their lack of professionalism, its a wonder adults like this get anywhere in the business world acting like fucking children.

Jake K. said...

I backed Henshin and I'm excited about the game, they did a ton of work on it before they even started asking for money via a Kickstarter. And they've had playable demos at a lot of recent gaming conventions and the like.

Considering the push DC Junkyard did for that Saber Rider Kickstarter which is basically dead as doornail right now, I'm not sure I consider you guys to be a very credible resource. This whole article kind of seems petty and designed to be incendiary.

The 1 Ross said...

I can't speak for the rest of the team, but personally, I agree with you; I wish I'd never backed Saber Rider. It is one of the games that has made me more wary about any potential Kickstarters. Please don't take me as a credible source, do the research on these things for yourself and make an informed decision. Not just with this project, but anytime you are giving money to crowdfunding.

fanat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fanat said...

Haven't watched a shitstorm like this in a while now. Thanks DCJY xD
The obvious spam accounts praising the Henshin Engine project are hilarious.
As is the team member who decided to comment here (while bailing on the hard talk in the interview).
Also, if anyone needed ANY evidence that this is all bullshit, just look at the screenshots of the Pretentia project (or whatever) and the Henshin project.
It's the same exact "game". No more arguments are needed.

David said...

PCDenjin: I have not received any messages regarding a missing MSR in quite some time, and each one that was received by me got a replacement. If your friend still hasn't gotten one, just shoot me a message on the forum and I'll get one in the mail right away.

Ryo Hazuki said...

Some really good info and insight on crowd funding. A little research before you invest in their company/game. This sort of thing just hurts the chances of legit companies and games. And the PC engine and dreamcast can't share to much in common that one could simply jump from one to the other with 0 experience doing so.

Jesse Dean said...

Wow, this really is just a slanderous tabloid isn't it.

Just negative focused assumptions based on data that could have numerous explanations.

The obvious reason for their success is how heavy the work to get to know those in the retro community. I've traveled all over the US to over 100 stores and nearly every large retro gaming themed expo. Their presence is well known and well received. Why? Because they are decent people trying to bring something we would all like to have in our shared hobby.

I think it's pretty obvious you've targeted them as a publicity stunt. Which, unfortunately, it seems to be working.