Having to go back and talk about Vanguard Princess in the year of the lord 2024 feels like an anachronism. If this name doesn’t ring a bell, let me give you a quick summary: Vanguard Princess (also known as VanPri) is a free 2D fighting game made by one developer known as Tomoaki Sugeno (Suge9) using our friendly coelacanth engine 2D Fighter Maker 2002 back in 2009. More info about the game and its systems can be found on its Mizuumi Wiki page.

Notably, Vanguard Princess is well known in the poverty circles for pushing 2D Fighter Maker 2002 to its absolute limits and to be widely considered as a reference point of what can be achieved with the engine. This past week at Evo Japan 2024 a new arcade-only revision of VanPri announced by exA-Arcadia has resurfaced the ongoing efforts by publishers seeking to turn this dated anime classic into a jewel in their crown.

A screenshot from the game Vanguard Princess, showing two characters fighting on the backdrop of a ruined city.

Vanguard Princess is widely regarded as a milestone in what could be down with 2DFM02, by breaking and twisting the engine in ways that feel like black magic. The art style can be a turn-off for some players, but one cannot deny that this game is a small technical marvel.

Rightsholder Chaos

VanPri creator Tomoaki Sugeno disappeared from the scene in August 2011, after publishing version 1.08e of the game. He was rumored to have been a casualty of the Fukushima disaster, but that was debunked by himself on his own blog. This could have been the end of the story – except it isn’t. In October 2012, a company called eigoMANGA published a paid version of Vanguard Princess first on Amazon and then, in March 2014, on Steam. This version included modifications to the original game, such as censoring some of the character cut-ins (that were not family-friendly to begin with) and, according to one of my sources, breaking some of the character’s super moves in the process.

However, rumors started to transpire that eigoMANGA didn’t – in fact – own the rights to the Vanguard Princess IP or that Suge9 wasn’t involved at all in the port, a position still held in several comments and reviews on Steam. eigoMANGA answered the allegation with a laconic “Yes, Suge9 gets his cut“, without ever getting further into details. It then proceeded to release a couple of paid DLCs for the game, adding a difficulty selector and making the arcade boss playable (though not without technical issues).


Come April 2024 and Evo Japan rolls out. exA-Arcadia, a company whose main business focus is selling custom arcade cabinets and exclusive versions of niche games, announces a new version of Vanguard Princess for their platform. This version comes with modifications by development studios BVTaisei (known for Angels of Battle) and FK Digital (the makers of Chaos Code), which commented on the announcement enthusiastically.

Only a few days later eigoMANGA issued a copyright claim on YouTube, removing the trailer from exA’s account. On their account, exA-Arcadia allegedly counter-struck eigoMANGA, causing their YouTube channel to be suspended for multiple copyright violations. At the time of writing the account is simply missing, but @mrmkl_ on Twitter/X captured a screenshot noting the account was taken down due to claims of copyright infringement:

Who owns the IP?

This is where things get dicey. According to a Japanese blog post that summarized the chaos, it is likely that exA-Arcadia didn’t manage to get in touch with Suge9. The copyright notice on exA-Arcadia’s page for the game contains the following section:

『ヴァンガードプリンセスR』に含まれているORIGINALモードの内容は2009年に日本のPCゲームとして配信した『ヴァンガードプリンセス 先陣の姫君』の復刻版である。 『ヴァンガードプリンセス 先陣の姫君』は令和6年3月28日に著作権法第67条の2第1項の規定に基づく申請を行い、同項の適用を受けて作成されたものになります

Translation by Google Translate:

The content of the original mode included in “Vanguard Princess R” is a reprint of “Vanguard Princess Vanguard Princess”, which was distributed as a Japanese PC game in 2009. “Vanguard Princess Vanguard Princess” was filed on March 28, 2020 based on the provisions of Article 67-2, Paragraph 1 of the Copyright Act, and was created under the application of the same paragraph.

According to the blogger cited as a source here,


Translation by Google Translate:

There is a description. This “Article 67 of the Copyright Act” states that “If the copyright holder is unknown even after considerable effort, instead of obtaining permission from the copyright holder, the Minister of Culture must obtain a ruling and deposit a deposit equivalent to the normal usage fee.” It is a system that allows users to legally use the system. In this case, we were unable to contact the rights holder, so we have followed the proper procedures to make Vanguard Princess available for use.

So now what?

Currently, it’s unclear who own the rights to publish a new version of Vanguard Princess. From what we can learn from online commentary and the new exA-Arcadia page listing it is possible that exA-Arcadia has done its due diligence and, not being able to contact Suge9, appealed to Japanese copyright law to obtain permission to use the IP. On the other hand, eigoMANGA may have a valid distribution contract with Suge9, despite rumors of the contrary. Figuring which side has the right to both release a new revision of Vanguard Princess and promote it online is what will surely be argued over by both sides in the coming days, weeks or months. We’ll be sure to update our readers on any updates should they become public.

In the meantime, the original freeware version of the game is still available on the developer’s own blog, so if you are confused by this whole situation or simply curious about the game in question, feel free to check it out.