Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
    3
  • comments
    15
  • views
    1,034

About this blog

I hate video games. 

Entries in this blog

solidbatman

Hello. I am the guy who wrote that review of Little Busters that everyone hated because I did not like the game. Those poor people are doing just fine, however, even with my evil, vile, disgusting review out there still. I, on the other hand, have never been worse off. You see, I've been overwhelmed with guilt. I feel bad for what I did. I took a beloved visual novel, one that has changed the lives of many people, and slandered it with my negative review. Then I continued to ride that infamy I gained into relevancy allowing my hatred of Little Busters! to manifest itself as a false representation of my true opinion of it, much like I am doing right this moment. 

The truth about my time with Little Busters! is that I enjoyed the VN. It had some bad routes (like all of them) and had a really unremarkable ending. But can I say I did not enjoy my time reading it? Not really. The 24 hour stream was a blast, and subsequent streams were a lot of fun, especially when people were involved in the jokes and discussion of the routes as I read them. For example, Lewycool's Sexy Seagull Legs during Mio's route was light in an otherwise forgettable, boring route (protip: a character with no personality other than "I like books" is not a recipe for a fun route) and allowed me to actually have fun with the route. Likewise, discussions of Kurugaya's Balloon Tits carrying me off into the sky made her Bill Murray wannabe route more enjoyable. Refrain was a blast to read right up until the ending. I didn't hate Rin and simply wished we saw far more development from her than what we got. She was a fun character. 

 

The experience of reading Little Busters! was good. I had a good time. While my opinions on Little Busters! remain the same, that it is a bad VN (not horrid at least), I do not regret the time I spent on it and I sometimes wish I could read it over again on stream with everyone like I did before. 

 

So, I owe everyone an apology. I'm sorry your favorite VN is so shit I had to bring in friends to enjoy it instead. I can't wait to get my hands on the official Rewrite release in 600 years. 

Also, a review of an InvertMouse VN is coming very soon to this blog near you, assuming I'm not blocked first. 

solidbatman

Studio Elan, and I refuse to copy and paste the accent mark like they do on their Twitter account, bursts out onto the EVN scene with their long awaited debut visual novel, Heart of the Woods. A mix of Ghost Adventurers, fluffy yuri relationships, and a magical elements, Heart of the Woods is an ambitious showcase of talent wrapped up in a tightly woven tale of love and sacrifice.

 

From the very beginning of this roughly 4-6 hour long VN, Heart of the Woods sets a tense tone that persists throughout the entire run time. Tara and Maddie, the team behind the viral paranormal internet show, Taranormal, are on their way an isolated town located in the woods at the behest of Morgan, a fan of the show who tips them off at paranormal activities within her town. Conflict is bubbling, though, as this is the final episode that Maddie will be working on, and this month long trip to produce the episode has pushed their now strained friendship to the breaking point. What follows is a series of rapidly escalating events where the very lives of the characters hang in the balance.

Spoiler

3W1Xx29.jpg

 

The story itself is generally solid with a few hiccups due in large part to how the passage of time is handled in this VN. Events progress at a whiplash pace in the VN which leads to the relationships between characters feeling more than a little contrived. This is something many VNs suffer from, however, and might be the most difficult aspect of writing a romance VN without feeling it completely with fluff pieces to flesh out character relationships for the sake of believability. While normally I despise long periods of fluff, Heart of the Woods would have benefited from a padded run time with more light hearted character interactions without the main conflict looming overhead. One half of our main cast, Maddie and Abigail do get far more of this type of treatment when compared to Tara and Morgan who are relegated more towards the advancement of the plot at the expense of a more evenly paced relationship.

 

The light hearted moments that do exist are tender and well done generally. Tara is a magnificent goofball, Abigail is a not so pure cinnamon roll, Morgan (my personal favorite character) features a great amount of excellent character growth, and Maddie is versatile, able to smoothly interact with every character in an interesting way, even when the interactions are less than amiable. More often than not, the interactions between couples, is incredibly cheesy and I feel that once again, the lack of establishing scenes for the relationships is the main cause of this. With that said, just because they are cheesy does not mean that they are poorly done or bad. Perhaps my inexperience in reading yuri VNs is showing here and the purpose is to create a more light, fluffy feel, in which case, the cheesy love dialogue achieves its goal.

Spoiler

po1RXeO.jpg

 

Setting aside the character interactions, the storytelling is an improvement over the standard skeleton that director Josh Kaplan’s previous work, Highway Blossoms, follows. Far more ambitious and fantastical, Heart of the Woods’ story features some unexpected developments that caught me off guard. Aided by a writing style that seamlessly switches from whimsical and comedic to foreboding and brooding the story rarely misses a beat and when it does, its due to the previously mentioned passage of time. Of special note is how the writers successfully pulled off narration perspective changes in seamless fashion. Usually when a VN switches the narration character to tell a different side of the story, I find that one character’s side of the story is far stronger, more engaging than the other character. This is not the case in Heart of the Woods. Each perspective shift is treated with equal amounts of effort and I never found myself wishing I could go back to a different character’s narration/story.  

 

The VN features phenomenal artwork from Adirosa and Rosuuri which establishes the magical world that the reader enters and also gives each character a highly unique appearance to match their personality. For example, just what in the hell are Tara’s hair clips? This question will inevitably lead you to “Why can Tara not even cook toast without nearly burning down an entire ecosystem of magical creatures.” Each character’s look matches perfectly with their personality. Once again, I have to show some love to my favorite character, Morgan, who’s sprite work is downright unsettling at times giving her a very mysterious feel which helps establish the magical strange setting for this VN.

Spoiler

w5jVBv8.jpg

 

The final piece of the puzzle for establishing this world is the music, which I am pleased to say is top notch. Featuring the talents of Sarah Mancuso and Astartus, the soundtrack is heavy on the use of stringed instruments but never overpowering which gives the reader the same level of comfort, or discomfort as the characters in the VN. When a soundtrack can assist in the world building and storytelling as the soundtrack in this VN does, that is the sign of great composition and direction.

 

The characters, art, story, and music all come together magnificently in creating the world of Heart of the Woods and therein a major hindrance to the VN comes into play. It is quite literally too fantastic of a world and story to be told in a VN. The limitations of the VN medium are on full display as despite all of the efforts taken to create this magical world, it never really feels like it is used to its full potential. Technically the VN is sound, utilizing clever camera movement, character positioning, and particle effects to bring this world to life, but I still felt it did not quite reach its full potential because it felt too static. This is in no way a knock on the team behind this work, but rather a criticism of the medium as a whole. This story and world would be far better suited in the form of an animated movie to allow the environment to truly come to life. I want Studio Elan to take this as a compliment, rather than a criticism. The work they did was too good to be trapped within the VN medium.

Spoiler

gbK3S4R.jpg


Heart of the Woods is a welcome entry to the EVN scene injecting a strong dose of professionalism into the market. While it does feature a couple of flaws, the overall package is an well polished work that is well worth the time to read if you want to spend a few hours in a world of yuri and magic. This is a fantastic debut work and leaves me excited to see just what Studio Elan has in store for the future.

Rating: 4.5/5

solidbatman

About a year and a half ago, I completed the Suda51 title, Killer is Dead. I honestly am not sure what happened but I will do my best to sort it out. Despite me not knowing really what was happening, something aside from the mediocre gameplay kept me going. It was the aesthetics. I'm done with that bit now btw. 


Spoilers ahead.

 

The whole point of this post isn't to discuss the story or the quality of the game Killer is Dead, but rather to examine the art style and how it made me want to complete the game. Killer is Dead is a hack and slash game from the mind of Suda51. Opinions on his ability to craft a good game aside, his art direction tends to be on the more creative side. The art of Killer is Dead is why I set aside my qualms I had for the gameplay and story and found myself continuing to play it to completion. Take David for example...

 

Spoiler

878463C7B86470968C859FA8990EE214B61067FB
maxresdefault.jpg

He some sort of king or something living on the dark side of the moon. But what stands out to me isn't his story. It's his god damn gold clothes. When the first major boss of the game looks like this, I cannot help but be intrigued. I honestly remember nothing about David except that the little shit shows up and ruins breakfast at one point in the game while wearing a stupid shit eating grin as shown here.

 

Spoiler

7955E29F8056329EB7FA25B40995A5CCB66E7C86

This is a man set on ruining your breakfast. I think he might have been your brother or something but he time traveled and killed your mom at breakfast [citation needed]. But lets take a look at some of the other screenshots from the game.

 

Spoiler

B47C7236C2BE34C7E213FB07556657F64ECCE732

F4C96922903D9F32E8DFF337357D77CCC226E55A

74F6E5A557ACBF0BC0010CA28E90F436840E0CE8

I honestly don't remember what any of these are from in the game, but the actual visuals of the game are what stick with me after all this time. Not the gameplay, or the story, but just the visuals. That leads me to my rambling point that I haven't argued. Graphics can totally be the only thing a game has going for it and that is fine. Killer is Dead is a prime example of this. The gameplay is forgettable, while the story is only memorable because it is driven entirely by the unique art direction of the game. Killer is Dead was entirely worth the time and money I spent on the game for one reason: it was so damn interesting to look at. 

Now I want to look at a more mainstream example of a game with a strong, unique, direction of art. Persona 5. Now now, I am not shitting on the game right now. That is for an upcoming blog post. But, when we get down into the nitty gritty details of the gameplay of the sequel, it really isn't much of a step forward for the Persona series as a whole. Some interviews from the development team likened to jump from 4 to 5 like the jump from the P2 duology to Persona 3 [citation needed]. What we got, however, was just an expanded 4 with most mechanics renamed and a mild rehash of the story from 4. What makes the game seem as if it is a completely new leap forward for Persona, in my eyes, is the amazingly slick visuals and art direction. The art sets the game completely apart from Persona 3 and 4 with character cut ins and super stylized labels and text. Persona 5, unlike Killer is Dead, has much more solid gameplay that actually does hold up on its own without the eye popping art direction.

I'm not so sure that if Killer is Dead featured a more bland style of art, that I would remember it, or even finished it. Lets take another Suda51 game as an example; Lollipop Chainsaw. I never could finish the game. The game's poor frame rates and some what repetitive gameplay killed it for me, but what had kept me going was the candy popping colors of the game. Then I got stuck on some part and stopped caring, but before that, the art direction, once again, had kept me going in that pretty mediocre game.


What is the final point I want to make? Well, that I am a fucking idiot that lets pretty colors dictate what games I finish and what I set aside. Also look at this unicorn from Killer is Dead


 

Spoiler

FBDC79526B59E7768210D365999BBF4B54CF01C4

 

Sign in to follow this  
×