If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck
Sayonara o Oshiete has a good number of English reviews (1 2 3), plus reddit comments (4), but what strikes me is that all of them are positive despite some noticed flaws. But as a plotge fetishist and pragmatist to the bones, I demand demolition of fake idols. This bastion shall fall today.
1) Sayonara o Oshiete has a synopsis, but does not have a story. Deal with it. Nothing happens, like absolutely. Protagonist just visits three students out of five after school before going home. He sees some delusions involving the students. Getting into heroine route only tells us about each heroine specific theme. Just as theme starts to uncover there's the same abrupt end for each heroine. Credits.
2) Heroines totally lack charm. Sugamo Mutsuki is presented as a pure angel and supposedly main heroine. But pretty much the first H scene almost made me throw up. There's no realism or depth in the heroines, just specific theme and some cleverly written dialogues paired up with actually eminent voicing.
3) Protagonist is no good. He can be renamed and is an abstract mass of destruction delusions. He's impossible to sympathize with.
4) H scenes. Roughly only half of them are shocking, but the rest are quite conventional. And that's a huge problem for me. It looks like game bears some idea half of the time, but also wants to appeal to as many players as possible and becomes a plain nukige. From idea point of view For Elise ~Elise no Tame ni~ was perfect. H events in delusions were 100% appalling. Sayonara o Oshiete is basically about same horrible delusions, but with very sexy heroines sprites and often appealing H events. There's not enough real trash in H events.
5) Loli abuse. Can't deny - all loli scenes are drawn in a very traumatic way here. But I just detest any loli H events, especially such hardcore ones.
I've seen transformation of nukige genres since the 80s. There has been shift to museum type vns, then to training SIMs, then to devil games, and currently I cautiously try to grasp when the shift to corruption visual novels happened. And Sayonara o Oshiete is the first candidate so far to be grandfather of all corruption games. With the half-measures Craftwork actually managed to depict sexy destruction, and that's no way a compliment considered that I detest corruption games the most.
Horrible as it may sound, I'm relieved to see game translation project stalled, because completion would cause an outrageous reaction and backlash at Japanese developers due to very troubling content involving loli characters.
The only definite strong sides of Sayonara o Oshiete are first-class voicing and great song theme. Visual and textual decisions are questionable. But for me the number of negative elements outweighs it all. The only lingering taste after the game is nausea, and I hope to forget it as a nightmare asap.
The masterpieces of the month are Silent Hill: Play Novel , Gensou Suikogaiden Vol. 2: Crystal Valley no Kettou. Silent Hill: Play Novel is the winner, mostly because Suikogaiden Vol. 1 was already the winner once. But I will play Sayonara o Oshiete ~Comment te Dire Adieu~ , because I need to work out my own position here.
Foreword: I rated Lipstick Adv.EX as 9/10 and I just can't believe that absolutely the same people - Fairytale and scenario writer Notori Shinji - could really make a terrible game after that. I hope to present an unbiased opinion from a person who knows the series well.
Title: Lipstick ADV.4
Synopsis: A small detective office in a non-descript back street shopping center, there is Goro Asami, a private detective, competent in his job, with business going well, but not well enough to live in wealth. There is Otomi Kiyosato, a student of Siratori High and the founder of the "Beauty Private Detective Club, one of the stranger clubs in that school, being an absolute pain in the ass by claiming to be Goro's assistant and inviting herself to his office enough to absolutely drive him up the wall.
During this period of relative bliss, an unexpected incident shatters the peace of Siratori High. Mari Kitagawa, the chief manager for the Creative Literature Club, is found dead with massive doses of tranquilizers and sleeping pills in her body. From the location of the body and the means of her death, the police initially declared this to be a suicide, but by the following day, they abruptly change their stance by issuing a cryptic statement that "Her death was not from suicide." Rumors spread throughout the high school like wildfire, and Otomi and her fellow detective club members began investigating the case. Goro also begins investigating this strange case, after being hired by the victim's father. With Otomi's cooperation, each step of the case gradually comes to light. Yet, before the case could be determined to be murder or suicide, Tomoko Andou is found raped and murdered at the thicket of the high school's rear compound. What is going on? Are the deaths related? Who wrote that mysterious notice, "Who's next?" on the board?
Structure: 6 ACTs
Length: 7 hours
Game type: School detective story
Difficulty: Easy since it's a one road story with only bad endings on wrong choices
Character Design rating: 7/10
Protagonist rating: 6/10
Story rating: 6/10
Game quality: 5/10
Overall rating: 6/10
Rating comments: I don't consider this game a masterpiece, thus can't rate it higher than 6. My biggest complaints are about sudden H events and the story that I failed to see logical development in. About that in relative sections.
Protagonist: Goro has not changed much, but he is not voiced and actually is paid terrifically little time in the story. He can't get any results and is not good even for an advice. What he only manages to do is seduce nurse from the hospital that controls medicaments used with first victim death. So he's portrayed just as gigolo and at the same time all his special connection with Otomi goes to hell.
Characters: Game is a single road story, there there aren't character routes. Otomi is one of two protagonists. The other two female detective club members Rieko and Aki are still there with their personalities totally the same as in Lipstick Adv.EX. There are also some 6-10 girls that exist for entourage/fanservice/as victims.
Story: Scenario is actually as sophisticated as in Lipstick Adv.EX. But in that game both protagonists were able to find the clue that led them both at the same time to the criminal. In Lipstick ADV.4 there is much more chaos and depression and much less logic. If I remember Lipstick Adv.EX mostly by detective club smalltalk and fabulous epic fails of Rie, Lipstick ADV.4 is remembered by crying faces and atmosphere of total hopelessness. The killings continue to happen, the billboard notices concerning criminal next actions continue to be drawn each day, the voyeur cameras are found, but no steps are made to identify the culprit. It is a SPOILER ahead, but without it can't describe the flaw of the game.
The whole detective intrigue is solved by just throwing in three criminals at once - even if you could guess one or two, you would not be able to tell there are three of them, right? And the way these criminals are identified are just laughable. One of the criminals is identified and caught by the 3rd party, so neither Otomi nor Goro have zero progress in this incident. The second criminal just admits his guilt in a long talk himself - is not it stupid? The third criminal is just a wild guess that we have to make among a huge list of names in the end. And since there aren't any clues in the game, it could be absolutely anyone. All three cases are absolutely pathetic and have nothing to do with detective mystery solving.
CG: There are quite many CG, but they all feel bleak. Most of them are just one girl / several girls standing still. Even CG with some activity are poorly done and I can't feel affection for them. Also I'm absolutely surprised by the fact that 8/9 H scenes are shown during the main course of the game and just one as a part of a bad ending. All the other bad endings just present a gore picture of some death. I'd really want to see H scenes only as part of BAD endings.
Sound: All girls are voiced and BGM... not remaining in the memory.
1) Story was the first element that disappointed me, but the second element is Otomi. The whole series was holding on the fact that a sexy girl can be a full-fledged partner in detective office and not an object of sexual manipulation. And Lipstick Adv.EX was surprisingly true to the series. Otomi equivalent Koume there manages to remain a symbol of purity, and her kidnapping in the end is seen as an attempt to defile that purity of the series. Koume remains virgin loyal to Megumi (equivalent of Gorou). But what happens in Lipstick ADV.4 is freaking weird. Otomi interrupts two girls having fun and as a result gets involved into a mild lesbo 3P. After that she thinks it over at home and understands that she was practically raped there. But on the next day she is invited by the same two girls to the karaoke and under their pressure just can not say "no" - and she freaking gets raped for the second time... that's just so humiliating and stupid, really. Humiliating because it goes in contradiction with the whole series experience and stupid because only an idiot would step on the same rake two times!
2) Comparison of Lipstick Adv.EX and Lipstick ADV.4. I've no idea why Lipstick Adv.EX has basically the very same characters, but with different names, probably because of some rights issues or some characters getting an irreversible development. But with both games having the same scenario writer it's natural that games are very much alike. More that that - I see an absolute mirroring in many cases. Both games start with the girl death and have highest depression peak after second girl death. Both games have spontaneous scenes of girls being insulted by an unknown person. And I even see the mirroring in the fact that the core motive of both first murders in both games is justice seeking revenge, but the next murders are only seemingly of the same kind, but actually absolutely different. So games are very much alike, but in absolutely every element Lipstick Adv.EX prevails.
Overall comments: Lipstick ADV.4 is not a bad game at all, but it is basically a degraded version of Lipstick Adv.EX and thus is shown in a bad light. At the same time Lipstick ADV.4 breaks several traditions of the series:
1) It has nothing to do with the bombings
2) It defiles the figure of main heroine
3) It humiliates talents of main hero making story develop by itself
With that I suggest to extradite Lipstick ADV.4 from being a part of the series. Amen.
Foreword: With deletion of boukennonikki blog there's only one review of this game left, so I hope to fill the vacuum, even though it won't be even remotely as good, but should be same critical.
Title: Vampiridzhija Vjedogonia
Synopsis: One night the protagonist sees a beautiful woman in distress; he tries to help her but she bites him. She turns out to be a vampire! And now he will turn into a vampire too, unless he finds her again and destroy her first. So he joins with a group of vampire-hunters...
Structure: 13 days
Length: 4-5 hours x 4 routes
Game type: Vampire wars SF story.
Difficulty: Easy since there are only 4-5 choices in the game. But choices are absolutely not connected with either heroine, so it may be very painful to find the leftover one-tow routes without walkthrough.
Character Design rating: 6/10
Protagonist rating: 7/10
Story rating: 8/10
Game quality: 6/10
Overall rating: 7/10
Rating comments: I feel it's a giri-giri masterpiece, thus only 7. I especially liked that four heroines routes are very different.
Protagonist: Souta is always cool. He's mature, strong, fast to act and reliable. All his CG are superb.
Characters: There are four heroines: childhood friend Kaori, serious meganekko Misako, vampire hunter gothic loli Mora and ancient vampire Leanhaun. The major part of their routes coincides, but in-between battles there are individual developments and often even new enemies or old characters transformation. It can be also noted that Kaori+Mora and Misako+Leanhaun routes are paired up and have relatively few differences between themselves.
Story: I rated story high because of changes in each route. The main story is not as sophisticated as I'd hope it to be. Souta has bites on his neck and vague memories of some girl just before that. He accidentally observes a monster rampaging and getting slain by a pair of vampire hunters. They finally shed some light on the neck bites, and at the next monster encounter Souta is able to release his power. They decide to organize a set of diversions against an organization that executes on the vampire who bit Souta which follows by a front assault on the base. In very crude words, that's it. There are several cool guys, both enemies and allies, and each heroine story adds her perspective, but the core remains intact. Again, quite simplistic story, but well developed in details one.
Technical issues: In order to use 1.03 patch that allows to skip battles it's needed to reach at least one good ending. If you don't want to fight that badly, you'll need 100% savegame, just like I did - then in option there will be a new line to skip battles. Also my preferred capture site foolmaker had a very bad mistake in first action of Misako route, so I wasted 4 more hours of my life that I needed to.
CG: Character design is bad, and eyes melt at times at the sight of those character sprites, but at CG there are - usually - much better perspectives.
Sound: NO voicing! That's very upsetting. What I liked in sound support was that there were some nice full compositions at the place of musical performances. Oh, and song on the base assault timing is just perfect, and very memorable.
Thoughts: Vampirdzhija is a spiritual successor to Phantom of Inferno. It's seen very well in love to weapons and animated sequences. HOWEVER those 3D backgrounds really devalue everything. As if character designs aren't good enough demotivation. But in action scenes 3D is quite a plus - thanks to that we get a very dynamic picture thanks to the same bike shot from lots of different angles etc. So there is some merit in it.
Overall comments: As I see it, there was a revolution with issue of Tsukihime by Type-Moon. It has become evident that it's not necessary to invite Carnelian and polish romance elements for a game to sell well. And it's not needed to make another Phantom of Inferno huge masterpiece each time. Just get a good scenario writer, and even Tsukihime photo backgrounds and simplistic character designs are enough. Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia was exactly the same attempt to reopen visual novels from a totally different from mainstream side, and in my opinion it failed at that due to story limitations primarily. But look at it from another side - game with bad character designs + 3D background and some CG + annoying fighting minigame + NO voicing. And such a game is still a great success, and even considered a masterpiece by me. Truth be told, I just don't like Urobuchi Gen writing as it's always so much fuss about epic setting and action with a very mediocre story behind it. Saya no Uta is a special case since it basically broke Urobuchi life being such an intense narration. So what I want to keep in memory the most in this game is the awesome CG, so here they are.
It took a huge amount of time to finish year 2000, but it's over. The industry has matured to contemporary state, so there's no need to search for novelties this year.
First of all, here's the collection of Visual Novel Openings 2000 with songs.
In 2000 I've made a number of videos with only 1-2 routes, so now is the chance for you to choose one of those games to make playthrough of the rest of the routes. Less than 10 votes in 2 weeks time will mean that noone needs that, and I won't do anything. Some playthroughs contained full number of routes and some (like Treating2U and Heart&Blade) are too torturing for me to return to. So the candidates in 2000 are:
Now let's list masterpieces of the year:
I do not see any rivals to Nijuuei this year, so it's the VN of the Year.
Foreword: I heard about this game couple years ago that it actually had a decent plot, and around the same time got acquainted with the anime version. It's been my longtime wish to show that nukige may have a decent story, but is this exactly that case?
Title: Dorei Ichiba
Synopsis: During the 17th century, the Ronbaldia Alliance and the Holy Aimar are at war for power. Ronbaldia sends its ruler to the royal city of Constantinople for safety. Cathias Gire follows as a clerk. Not knowing anything about the royal capitol, Cathias decides to buy a slave. Cathias heads for the slave-grounds and is shocked to see how they are treated. Nevertheless, he buys a slave recommended by his friend. Cathias can do what ever he wants to do with his salve now. Will this all end when the war finally gets out of control? What will happen?
Structure: 3 days in each route
Length: 3 hours for one route, overall 5 routes
Game type: Middle ages vice city on the brink of war
Difficulty: Low, the number of choices is small and wrong choices usually lead to a clear bad end
Character Design rating: 5/10
Protagonist rating: 5/10
Story rating: 6/10
Game quality: 5/10
Overall rating: 5/10
Rating comments: You can see by the scores that my opinion of the game is not high even though VNDB average score is over 8 atm. I failed to find something worthwhile in the story, and other elements are just bleak to me.
Protagonist: Cathias is quite a normal embassy envoy, we control his actions fully.
Characters: Bianca, Cecilia and Mia are the slaves available from the start, and your friend's sister Katerina afterwards. Remastered version also introduced Harem route which actually is the most interesting story-wise, not just fanservice. I only captured Katerina True route, because game moves from Bad ends to Good ends, and there's too much insult from the start. Also you'll need to grind ducats with a special fundraising route, since some good endings and Katerian true ending require large sums of ducats that transfer to each new game. For me the route of mute Bianca is the best, and exactly that route is shown in anime already. It was impossible for me to feel sympathy to any of the heroines.
Story: Every route follows pretty much the same pattern - arrival on day 1 - city investigation on day 2 - some danger with a link to the target heroine in the day 3. Each route is short, so noone has time to develop, really.
CG: I have huge questions to both character design and CG. The only CG I liked were fighting CG.
Overall comments: I did not like the game overall, thus such inarticulate review. Unfortunately the stories are episodic, and only harem route features more than one heroine. Dorei Ichiba is not something that Venus Blood series could provide - a thrilling story + nukige.
December 2000 is a total ripoff. I have zero interest in almost all its games except for Never7 -The End of Infinity- which ends up to be the VN of the Month. But for review I'd rather choose some nukige over Never7, and that game for review is Dorei Ichiba.
Foreword: I actually knew nothing about the game apart of KeroQ background as a company. There's just one review of the game that blames SCA-JI writing as "feels amateurish and he didn't even try to write characters that would feel fitting to the setting" and theory-crafting as "it wasn't detailed or insightful enough to be interesting alone". I'm speechless. This is an absolutely genius 10/10 work and probably the best visual novel I ever read. The only possible explanation for low scores for Nijuuei is in case of playing PC non-voiced version. I have to admit that my experience of PC version was not too joyful either - the palette was too dark and without voicing I could barely focus attention on characters and the flow. But PS1 version was an absolute revelation for me. This review is based on PS1 version of the game (but screenshots are from PC version due to better resolution).
Synopsis: This game that takes place in Japan in the year 1640. The main character is a samurai that got a sword with a blade with two shadows (one with a human shadow and another one from the world of darkness) that connect with him with the world of darkness. The game begins when the samurai travels to a strange island in which all the children are born twins, he hopes that in that island he can find a cure to his own curse. The adventure starts there, can he come back alive from the island and without his cure?
Structure: 12 days
Length: About 20 hours.
Game type: Mythology samurai horror mystery.
Difficulty: I followed walkthrough and I wound not ever want to play it without one due to slow fast forward.
Character Design rating: 10/10
Protagonist rating: 10/10
Story rating: 10/10
Game quality: 10/10
Overall rating: 10/10
Rating comments: This is a perfect game, thus the perfect score. I adored each element of this game. I'm not giving it even higher score just in respect to the previous few games that I rated as 10/10. Just perfect.
Protagonist: Sougen double shadow is an absolutely awesome protagonist. He's a demon possessed samurai who slaughtered over 200 men and now hunted by shogunate. He's mature, crafty in swordsmanship and very cynical. The first girls he encountered at the island he labled as dimwit, idiot and weak in the head. He can easily torture his opponent, cutting his limbs one by one and then finish him off in the presence of his protesting comrades. We do direct him through the story, but he has a strong personality and acts in accordance to it and not our commands.
Characters: This is a story-focused story, so there aren't individual heroine routes here, but at the same time even all the secondary characters are depicted so lovely and truthfully that I want to say at least a few words about each character. Three heroines get the ending: Kikyou, Mikoto and Fuurei. But those endings are absolutely the same with only difference in some phrases. There is also a non-heroine ending where we get to insult and kill the chosen heroine for the endgame. It's quite a cool open ending by itself, but its main purpose is just to see insult and death of one of the main heroines.
Il and Sui are the heroines that feature on the game's cover, but they don't have their routes or endings. They are just mysterious twin shrine maidens who have spent all their lives in the same room. Il is the more serious one and Sui is more of a kid. Sougen amuses them with his stories about the world, and they become good friends. Together Il and Sui symbolize purity and their connection with the deity is most important for story purposes.
Kikyou is a female bodyguard of Il and Sui, as well as their whole Awajike family. She knows a lot about the curse of the island, but unable to do anything about it, so she's ready to protect Il and Sui against everything (even Sougen) until the very end and meet a honored death in the fight.
Mikoto also protects Awajike family, but she got the ninja training from outside. She's very embarrassed of her outlook and bunny ears, but claims that she got that outfit because her mother was representing the techniques of the zodiac sign of the rabbit. Mikoto is very fun to tease. Her weapon is very mysterious and cool and thus only fits in a huge box that she carries around her shoulder.
Fuurei fights with a quarterstaff. She has he outfit of a jester. Fuurei comes from a poor family and that's a good way to tease her. She's got the coolest voicing among three main heroines with endings.
Mai is a mysterious small girl who stays at the island even after evacuation of all the islanders. She always is in the mids of some job like counting clouds or waves... a weak in the head child... or is she?
Sae is the maid of the Awajike family. Her voicing is absolutely genius and she has some of the best and funniest dialogues lines in her scenes. Character-wise she's my favorite heroine, but - alas - she has no ending of her own. But if you flag all the scenes for her, her female master Shiho is going to punish the servant for paying too much attention to one guest...
Houjou is actually a boy, but he's voiced. He is not one of the main characters, but he gets his pretty fun ending, the only one among the secondary characters. His main theme is that he lacks talents, but is very diligent - he's always looked down by his comrades and superiors.
Aya is a nice bodyguard who has only episodic appearance, but there are still enough dialogues and scenes with her that make up for the culmination of her story, which is very impactful.
Story: I'll try to to spoil it as much as possible. As the story begins and Sougen arrives at the island, new samurai start to come with each new day and we get a clear assignment - to defend the island against the assault of the pirates that's bound to come. So at first I thought it would be a classic samurai story like Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, and it would be pretty cool to see samurai get along with each other and the villagers and then participate in a great battle in the end.
At some point samurai started to have battles among themselves and monsters. There was even a little girl on a shoulder of a masked huge brute which is an evident origin of Ilya from future Fate/Stay Night. So I thought it would be such mortal combat to the end with the only survivor to remain - a cool story too!
Then the fighting among themselves stopped and samurai started to die horribly in the reverse order of arrival. It started with new barely meaningful characters and went on to pretty much the main characters that started to die miserably on your very hands with long farewell scenes. So I thought it would be a story about the curse that reaps all the characters but the protagonist who overcomes the curse in the end somehow. I'd like to see that story as well!
At that point I stopped my theory-crafting and just enjoyed this epic story.
CG: I found and an abundance of CG to my liking. All kinds of horror and gore CG, lots of cute heroines ones. I enjoyed the visual part of the game immensely. Game has actually two softcore yaoi scenes.
Sound: Most of peaceful BGM include bell sounds and most of anxiety BGM include beats in them. At times I got somewhat weary of beat BGMs, but overall it's a nice fresh experience.
Technical issues: I used Pcsxr for emulation because it has its own self-written bios that both allows faster emulation and deeper enhancement of the picture. It's the only emulation that had an option of HQx2 emulation which made text look smooth and finally improved character sprites to the extent that my eyes did not accumulate stress whenever pixelated character sprites showed up. For hooking I used HAT (Hook Any Text) with 00 hex substitution.
1) First of all, I deliberately did not mention a special male character among the character cast. But that male character basically becomes the second protagonist and the best friend of Sougen double shadow. I'm absolutely fascinated by this brutal men friendship story.
2) In continuation of the first thought... that special male character actually gains his own love story with a heroine that has multiple steps in it. Where else did you see a story about a love interest of protagonist's best friend?!
3) We all know that SCA-JI is the master of character design. But look at Aya, Fuurei and Mikoto sprites - those are supercute costumes with pants seen at all times. I'm just in awe at each appearance of these heroines on the screen, really.
4) Game has a lot of infodumping and theory-crafting. The mythology part of it can be mostly safely skipped, but I really liked the historical part. There are a lot of references to shogunate, Tokugawa, Sanada and his curse, Sekigahara battle etc, and all the heroes have a place in this historical context with their own backgrounds and supported factions. A person with a really good understanding of the historical circumstances of the period would get immense pleasure.
Overall comments: I am not going to repeat twice, it's all in the review. But the level of my affection towards the game can be measured this way - it's the first game that I'm going to play a fandisk for, but I'll properly wait for reviewing Nijuubako till November 2001 coverage.
The main shock this month that the number of blocked games surpassed the number of passed games for the first time and instantly by 50%. The only masterpiece of the month is Nijuuei . I also made 1/4 playthrough of Parallel Harmony ... but it was absolutely senseless to go on.
Foreword: Won't lie, I only picked this game since the other notable titles of the month were gameplay-centered. But this one is a mystery story centered around time travel which makes it stand out among the rows of typical charage in October 2000.
Synopsis: Some girl appears before main character and gives him pocket watch. The next day she meets hero once again, but she had no recollection of the yesterday encounter. Strange events start to pile up turning into bizarre incidents that are able to claim one's life. Can he protect the girls?
Structure: Game takes some 5 days, but we have to repeat only last 2-3 days usually through time travel
Length: 3.5 hours for one route
Game type: School crime mystery with time travel
Difficulty: I'd say moderate. Composition is unusual, so it's possible to get lost without knowing how to proceed after bad ending
Character Design rating: 6/10
Protagonist rating: 5/10
Story rating: 7/10
Game quality: 5/10
Overall rating: 6/10
Rating comments: 6 is the best score I can give to a non-masterpiece game. Game is about the mystery, so characters aren't much developed, same as protagonist. Game quality gets a dent for some poor CG, no voicing and constant crashes at win10 at sound effects play (win98-ME does not have crashes, but it's impossible to hook text there).
Protagonist: Nothing much special. A normal high school student who got involved into a mysterious case.
Characters: There are three heroines - Asuka, Haruka and Sakuya, but the main heroine with the most intriguing plot like is Asuka.
Story: Main character receives pocket watch from a girl one day, but when the same girl moves to his class the next day, she has no recollection of giving the watch. There are several incidents targeting girl's life and of course death in the end which triggers time jump with the need to prevent death. There are four cycles of the same events, and each time we get to uncover new part of the mystery and observe different suspects. The ending was very unexpected for me. Great composition and story, actually.
CG: Most are fine. Good thing that there are very few H events in the game, two per heroine or so.
Sound: BGM turned out to be nice and inspirational, especially liked the danger motives.
Thoughts: The motive of the game is that innocent looking persons are usually the most vile. And it was nice to see how that idea played out in each of girl routes.
Overall comments: I liked the story here. It's complex enough and short enough to keep the thrill from beginning to the end, creating an overall positive impression.
Baldr Bullet is the definite winner as VN of the Month, but I'm not up for a gameplay game. But then the question arises - what to review from October 2000? The obvious candidate is Bloomers 2000 , but it also has gameplay elements and its content is quite ambiguous for youtube. So my choice is Kaichuudokei - a lesser known school mystery horror.
Foreword: C's Ware chuunige is always welcome by me. There are only couple Japanese reviews with mediocre scores, but knowing C's Ware... they must have prepared a new exhausting system like Kazeoto or Vist that most of people could not even pass through. Welcome to the elitist club review, since I made it to the end and have much to say about it.
Title: Heart & Blade
Developer: C's Ware
Synopsis: Osamu, the protagonist, is a student whose family descent from a lineage of samurais and owner of a Dojo of kendo.
He was studying and training at the United States, but now is time to go back to Japan.
At this house, where he must protect a sacred milenium old tree, he meets a strange girl who resembles someone he met a long time ago.
But his problems are just starting. His father got him a fiancee from a rich and traditional family, his blond classmate from United States came all the way to Japan after him, and his older female cousin came to help at the dojo.
What is more strange, monsters started to appear in the City. Osamu must wield a sword and fight them to protect the sacred tree and his friends.
Structure: Game is divided into 11 days.
Length: 8 hours for one route
Game type: Small town mystic demon fighter adventure
Difficulty: Well... since game is command selection type it's still best to use walkthrough not to fall astray from the chosen path, but overall there aren't many crucial decisions to make.
Character Design rating: 7/10
Protagonist rating: 6/10
Story rating: 7/10
Game quality: 6/10
Overall rating: 6/10
Rating comments: Well, I could not rate even Vist as masterpiece, so can't rate Heart&Blade higher than Vist - and Vist is more impressive in most of fields, but in other fields like story integrity, heroine route integrity and fights mechanic Heart & Blade actually wins.
Protagonist: Osamu is a normal boy protagonist, but males are drawn very weirdly in this game. It's nice that we don't control Osamu all the time, and he mostly makes his own decisions after we take him to the needed place. I like it that he has a face and some personality, but that's it. He's not voiced ofc.
Characters: There are four heroines that have individual endings, but their routes are almost the same. I chose Alice for playthrough since she's the only one outside of that traditional Japanese spirit that the whole game is soaked well enough already. Can't say that Alice had a good route though... but the story matters much more in this game than some girl route.
Story: So... what's not covered in synopsis yet... actually pretty much everything is there. And nothing much is happening in the game, actually. Osamu arrives, gets acquainted with the girls and then there are several school days with occasional demon attacks. In the center of the story is the sacred tree that grows near Osamu dojo. Some girl vision visits Osamu from time to time near that tree. Girl blames him for not keeping promise. And that girl comes from Osamu past, prior to USA study period...
CG: Where is Carnellian? Or at least some normal artist? Both CG and heroines design is inferior to previous works. Males usually look plain weird while girls CG feel soapy... can't describe well. The number of CG is big at least.
Sound: BGM is absolutely the best, like in all C's Ware games. At first I thought games is not voiced at all and BGM has to bear full weight like in Re-Leaf, but after first hour girls showed up and they are voiced - phew! Voicing is ok, but can feel irritating at times thanks to chosen heroines archetypes.
Humor: In the core of the game there is confrontation of Japanese ojousama Harunako and American Alice. The whole game either of them tries to invite Osamu somewhere and the other girl instantly shows up and demands accompanying them. That produces quite many funny situations like Alice attending nobility evening in her freestyle outfit.
Mechanics: As if command selection narration and mouse-only control is not torturing enough, there is also horrible fighting mechanics. Games tries to give some tutorial on fighting, but reality gets much fiercer. The very first demo fight with Osamu father in dojo took me some 20 minutes, because - as I understand now - I was expected to make some combination of hits out of 10 different strikes or so. In walkthrough there is a list of combo strikes, but - surprise - they aren't usually available in every fight and game should teach you this strike prior to using it and it only teaches these strikes on hero death... But this is still nothing compared to three very long consequent fights with multiple opponents in a row in the endgame. Absolutely every hits kills Osamu and upon load about 70% of the time Osamu gets killed without even an opportunity to strike. I deliberately left all those save/load stuff in the video so that degree of madness can be felt. I'm quite sure that I had to load at least several hundred times during the playthrough. It's a very sadistic game.
Overall comments: Heart & Blade is a very C's Ware'ish game. It uses the same outdated engine, same mouse-only control with torturing gameplay elements. What only improved is the system so that now there's at least understanding of flags and of hit/avoid mechanics in battle, as well as voicing. But graphics is worse here. Story still kicks in, but it's much more simpler than in Vist. There is more attention to heroines and slice of life here, but C's Ware games were always story-centric. I adore it immensely in C's Ware that they stay loyal to their principles and keep on making thrilling hardcore games. As a C's Ware fan I really liked Heart & Blade, but if I played this game without the historical contest it would hardly interest me or make me play it to the end.
There are two masterpieces this month - Air and Gensou Suikogaiden Vol. 1: Harmonia no Kenshi. My hate for Air is too big, so I'd nominate any other candidate besides it, so my initial choice is Gensou Suikogaiden Vol. 1: Harmonia no Kenshi as VN of the month.