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If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck

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kivandopulus

Foreword: I have very high evaluation of the games of the series and since this is the only Windows game of the series (I'll play Lipstick ADV.4 as well just out of spite, but it's universally despised by the fans of the series), I just had to play it. It took me quite some to realize that wish, but finally it's there. Welcome to the Lipstick ADV world!

Title: Lipstick Adv.EX

Developer: Fairytale

Date: 1999-04-23

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v7334

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq_wBpUoznkGk-MxcM3tBVDt

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Synopsis: Hidaka Koume heads a detective club at an all-girl school. Ichijou Megumi is a detective who got dragged by Koume to be a councilor for the club. Everything starts with stolen underwear at school, but then girls start to be assaulted with a knife right at the school and terrorist acts start to happen around the city. At that moment Megumi gets quite an ordinary surveillance order that turns out to be a much bigger deal. Is it possible that terrorist acts and mysterious case are connected somehow?

Structure: 7 acts with the zapping system of switching between two protagonists.

Length: 10 hours

Game type: School detective story

Difficulty: Very easy, but it seems to be possible to miss couple CG.

Character Design rating: 10/10

Protagonist rating: 9/10

Story rating: 9/10

Game quality: 9/10

Overall rating: 9/10

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Rating comments: Game's absolutely marvelous. Luxurious graphics, full voicing including protagonist, bright palette, absence of character sprites in favor of CGs, intriguing story and quite many mysteries that get unwrapped one by one. So, why not a perfect score? There are some flaws. Story is mostly developed by Deus Ex Machina even though each of protagonists eventually manage to find a clue to the culprit. Between the chapters there are often girl assault events shown right at school, but for some very convenient reason all the girls just keep silent about that till the very last chapters. The ending part is quite pressed with events as we get from total despair and no clues to finale in a mere hour. Ending is too convenient and there is no epilogue (although there are CGs in the ending which show the future of heroes, so it's suffice for an epilogue). Game mechanics is a bit troublesome during the major part of the game as you need to visit some 15 locations and click through all the objects. It gets especially tiresome with people as you need to click on their mouth, face, hair and costume a lot of times till the dialogue goes on - and it's hearing all the same "Don't look at my face/hair/suit so much" over and over again. But I happily clicked through all those moments and some of the plot moments that were in the following as well (since you never know when new dialogue starts - after clicking on face/hair or suit for the tenth time or more). But, believe it or not, all those shortcomings aren't really enough to lower the score. I just did not feel satisfaction from the rushed ending and that hurt the aftertaste.

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Protagonist: Let's make it clear - game was meant to be a new Eve: Burst Error/EVE: The Lost One. It shares a lot of similarities with that great predecessor. But at the same time game had to be in the vein of past Lipstick ADV games. Ichijou Megumi is very similar to Kojiroh. He holds a one-man detective office, also rents it and constantly has problems with money. But Megumi is really young and much less charismatic that Kojiroh. He's also not a genius and spends too many evenings drinking at the bar (how? at the start of the game his wallet only has 930 yen). In the end he makes a stupid mistake of leaving his office door open and he can't recognize a woman who wore big sunglasses even if he sees her everyday. On the other hand Koume is a traditional heroine of Lipstick ADV games, genki long red-haired girl. She also does not show any signs of genius detective unable even to pacify the only two members of detective club besides her. So each day they spend oh a whip following wishes of its member Rie. Koume was able to obtain her clue by doing the very basic police actions that police absolutely neglected to do. Koume part is much bigger than that of Megumi, because it's devoted to relations between many girls in school, I think eight is the number. It looks organic and nice, but it was really difficult to say where the game was going till the 6th chapter. 

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Characters: As I mentioned, there are some 8 girl characters at school and one woman outside of school, plus some male characters - bartender, police detective, school teacher. But since there is just one route, it was difficult to tell which heroines were important and which weren't. In the end only Koume detective club companion girls had an important role - genki and light-hearted Rie and serious reserved Aki, who is not interested in playing detectives and got dragged to this club by Rie. There's also girl Risa who plays a huge part as a rival of Kouka for Megumi and later on as a witness. And there is another girl who plays a big role because all the serious events start with her death. 

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Story: So the outline is set in the synopsis, but I'll try to elaborate without spoilering too much. First two chapters are just fooling around and improvised dates. Someone steals underwear at school, so it's just jokingly search for the pervert. But then one girl which both protagonists met a lot of times during first chapters, is suddenly found dead in peculiar circumstances. There are about two more chapters just about the shock and despair after that event. But actually only Koume was able to find the clue of the culprit. Megumi found his own clue, but to his own case he was given as a part of his job, and those two cases turned out to be parts of one bigger case and bigger person. The whole bombs part is an inheritance from old Lipstick ADV series and looks quite alien here. The reason for bombings remains vague unlike the murder which has a thorough explanation in the form of culprit diary which we again very conveniently are just led to. So it's not a good a good detective story, but a nice mystery with great characters and valid emotional aspect.

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CG: 295 CG. We're difficult to be surprised by this amount with modern games often having 300+, but 295 is a huge number for a game from 1999. I especially liked that there aren't really normal H scenes in the game. Most of the HCG are very episodic and just parts of very brief events between the chapters. So it could very easily be an all-ages game.

Sound: I like the basic midi sound for being ... expressive, but I enjoyed CD-DA BGM even more in the end. Good tunes and great full voicing.

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Humor: There aren't real gags here, but dialogues are often very funny in the beginning and those connected with light-headed Rie later on.

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Title and Themes:  So what does EX in title stands for? In my opinion it was meant to mean that unlike predecessors it has very explicit X content, but X could also mean it's the 10th game of the series, so EX was chosen instead. Another question is why the game was not just called 4th part. In my opinion it's because main heroes are different from Gorou and Otomi, even though the archetypes of the characters are quite the same. 

Overall comments: Lipstick Adv.EX is not a kamige, but is a very delicious treat if you don't expect serious mystery out of it. Point and click sequences may be irritating at times, but bear with it and you'll get one of the best visual novels of the 1990s.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: I never wanted to play this game, but got a request to make a playthrough recently, so agreed to do that since I was quite curious to see how much the original differs from the remake and why actually PC98 version is described as kamige by some reviewers (1) while remake being trampled to dirt.

Title: Ai Shimai ~Futari no Kajitsu~

Developer: Silky's

Date: 1994-09-30

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v1836

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=u8udgdLjN0U

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Synopsis: A sincere older step-sister and a curious younger step-sister are doomed to become love slaves. One day, a house wife named Yukie has a traffic accident. She is ordered to pay a large settlement to the other party, Taketo, the son of the owner/president of Nogawa Industries. Unable to make the settlement payment, Yukie allows Taketo to have her sexually. At the same time, Takato's father, Nogawa, approaches Yukie's step-daughter, Rumi, and blackmails her. His evil scheme even reaches for Tomoko, Yukie's younger step-sister.

Structure: 10 branches with endings, some of which are bad endings and some almost identical. Game takes part during 5 days of Taketo father trip overseas - during that time Taketo must settle the incident.

Length: 2.5 hours

Game type: Nukige.

Difficulty: Quite difficult due to big number of branches, guide recommended

Character Design rating: 5/10

Protagonist rating: 2/10

Story rating: 2/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 5/10

Rating comments: Even posting a nukige review is a high enough score for such a game, so 5/10 is not that bad. There's no real story and MC is just pure evil golden boy. But character design and graphics overall (including animated pieces) are really nice and all.

Protagonist: Taketo can only compete with cruelness with his father, corporate bigwig. Basically he has zero morality, so easily forges documents, drugs the opposite party and blackmails everyone. Don't think there was ever a trace of his humanity depicted anywhere in the text.

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Characters: Main heroines are sisters Rumi and Tomoko, but their mother Yukie and secretary Yumi also play a very big and picturesque part in all this mess and all possible variations including 3P and 4P. Characters are cute, but not developed at all. What I disliked the most was that the interaction between the sisters is minimal, they remain schematic pieces.

Story: It's really all in the synopsis. Taketo's father gets into a crash and imposes dealing with its consequences on his son Taketo (in exchange for giving him pocket money) instructing him using harsh methods and using women weaknesses. And Taketo does just that - invites Yukie to the company office where drugs and binds her making lewd photos of her and forcing to sign a 5 million yen debt receipt. With that document and photos he goes straight to each of the girls at school, violating them as he wants in exchange of partial debt lifting. After 5 days father comes back from the overseas trip and finds out his safe cracked. Basically all the endings differ by the person who cracks the safe and the person who actually gets the safe contents in the end triggering all kinds of good/bad endings.

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CG: Game hugely lacks non-HCG. It should probably be noted that pc-98 version does not contain censorship. Instead it just... lacks detail in some parts which was quite mainstream way of censorship in 1994.

Sound: BGM... I definitely remember there was BGM and I even waited for two minutes for the intro piece to finish. But overall I guess I did not pay enough attention to that.

Title and Themes:  Title reflects the brainless story - only the fruits of those two love sisters matter here.

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Overall comments: I really did not know what to write about here, so let's keep this at minimum volume. Silky's had a great success with Nonomura Byouin no Hitobito and with that established a standart of multiple branches, multiple endings for further generations. Ai Shimai is their next game, so it's natural that it was meant to reap the success of that new experimental structure. But while Nonomura Byouin no Hitobito is an intriguing mystery game, Ai Shimai is made as a brainless nukige where multiple branches structure looks redundant. They could prolong the game time from 5 days to like 10 days to include all combinations of participants and add some bad endings, but instead they developed these 10 almost identical routes that don't even have logical endings. Like in one ending hero gets hit on the head and receives the best possible ending as a result and in other cases he gets to jail after the very same loosing consciousness instead. There's no effort made in any branch, so it all looks like a very spontaneous development. I'm just happy Silky's stopped spamming the same structure in their future games in favor of more variety. But Ai Shimai original is not all that bad compared to its remake that's a parade of ugliness. So is this game bad? Yes. But is this game good and significant enough to get a review? Absolutely yes.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: I did not have much hopes about the game, but its introduction came upon me as a whirlwind. Mechanical dolls? Knights without soul? Three armored musketeers? Great demon king in person? A parade of deaths? Those were only a few things encountered in first 10 minutes of the game. Game has a very strong start and a strong ending with some nice battles and character development in-between. What's not to like here?

Title: Carbon Knight

Developer: Palette

Date: 1998-09-25

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v10914

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq_kUzzqmi57545i6p5b_Dwl

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Synopsis: A world devastated by the battle of gods. The surviving people created inanimate "carbon humans" by using the relics of Gods and sealing the soul within. For several hundred years the war lasted. Now carbon knight needs to deter the restoration of the once sealed demon king.

Structure: 13 short days.

Length: 4 hours for one playthrough

Game type: Eschatological fantasy.

Difficulty: At least moderate, since there are a lot of choices and I only got lonely ending while there are happy endings with a girl as well.

Character Design rating: 8/10

Protagonist rating: 5/10

Story rating: 9/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 8/10

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Rating comments: Overall score might be even 9 if I got some substantial epilogue that should exist in some girl ending. The lonely ending I got was too abrupt, but actually cool in itself. Characters are funny and cute enough. They look simple at the first glance, but each of main heroines carries a huge secret behind her back, so I like how their personalities played out. Protagonist is very straightforward, but he's probably needed like that for story's sake. Game quality suffers from big loading times between the scenes. Autoskip function is implemented very poorly. Backgrounds are mostly implemented in 3D, but that's rather a feature than a shortcoming here since those look immersive. But as for the story, it seems ordinary fight the demon king tale, but bears much more in it as it goes, so I rate story very high.

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Protagonist: Isaak is shown almost always irritated and/or shouting. He is too straightforward and short-tempered. He's not the most pleasant MC to deal with, but he's not voiced, so he can grimace as much as he wants in silence. 

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Characters: There seem to be two main heroines - long red-hair Sheckly and short violet-hair Fortita. Sheckly is our usual child friend, tender and caring. Fortita is much more mysterious since she's very short and never aging. She's actually a carbon knight, soulless relic created to fight demonic invaders. She serves to Isaak and his father. There is also father Balzak's fighting buddy girl Gina who gets a H scene if willing. Possibly she can also get her ending, but according to very few and very poor CG gallery that exists for the game good ending confirmed only for Sheckly, just don't cite me on it. There are lots of very colorful side-characters as well. Everyone but MC is voiced, so it's never really boring.

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Story: So the game starts in a whirlwind of events. Demon king and his army demolish the city and kill the populace. The three armored musketeers are the only ones who try to oppose the demons. Sheckly, Isaak and Fortita try to escape a group of mechanical dolls. Next we're shown the dialogue between the demon king and the three musketeers and how a mechanical doll comes out with three corpses of Sheckly, Isaak and Fortita pierced. Isaak's father who is one of the musketeers goes berserk and demolishes the demon king... Then Isaak wakes up and those events seem to be a dream on the demon king invasion three years ago. Isaak is dreaming of becoming carbon knight master and goes on a journey with Sheckly and Fortita. There they confront demonic underlings who predict the resurrection of the demon king once all his body parts scattered around the world are collected again. These events take roughly first 15-20 minutes of the game, so I would not consider them a spoiler. As you can imagine, all the demon parts are destined to be collected for a grand confrontation again. But what I especially liked was that the battles of carbon knights and demons started out quite plain, but kept on with more and more increasing numbers of fatalities on both sides nearly wiping all the characters in the game. That was absolutely terrific and unprecedented since the time I saw GANTZ. Just so you know, there's much more to the story than just a series of battles. Every hero has a huge secret and uncovering those secrets make the game really exciting. Ending is surprising as well.

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System: So I decided to devise an optional system section since there are issues that don't fall into other sections well. So here I wanted to rant why I only got lonely ending and not going to pursue true ending with a girl. First of all, I value initial game experience very much - and each consecutive playthrough is a torture for me, especially without a guide. Secondly, I know that I like lonely ending the best since it's so cool, a real mortal combat. Lastly, game has very poor skipping feature that has to be turned on in the menu and you can't really stop it till there's a new choice or till a new scene starts. And each scene loads for some 10-20 seconds. It's really not fun doing it again. There are actually two more issues - big number of selections and very poor save implementation. Each time you load, you're thrown away very far back, so it's hugely inconvenient. 

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CG: Absolutely terrific CG. Just loving it with all my heart. So much detail. Sometimes the blend of 2D and 3D looks weird, but mostly it's in harmony. But the best part in the art is dresses of girls. These dresses show so much skin that they look like the prototypes for all the modern Korean mmorpgs. Truly hilarious and breathtaking.

Sound: BGM is decent, but not too memorable.

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Title and Themes:  Game does not tell us much about carbon knights from the start apart of the fact that Fortita is one. But carbon knight theme gets a huge development in the last third of the game and finishes with the absolute domination of this theme, so it's a good choice.

Overall comments: So Carbon Knight has its flaws lying mostly in technical part, but they don't belittle its advantages. I consider it to be the first traditional fantasy chuunige and a huge masterpiece of the time.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: Not the type of work I read usually. But game managed to conquer my heart with its opening song, as well as wonderful and various BGM. Actually, I would call it foreground songs rather than background music since those songs shine during the whole course of the game due to the fact that game's not voiced at all. But of course music alone can't be enough to keep attention. Shunpuu Shoujo has very beautiful unique art style and quite intriguing synopsis about celestial girl emerging in human world - such common synopsis was a base for lots of great visual novel stories of the past. But enough preface, let's begin. I'm sorry for the excessive number of screenshots - it's done because game has no CG gallery available online.

Title: Shunpuu Shoujo

Developer: Aquarium

Date: 1998-10-30

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15331

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq-u71AkUIovdrTzdPdIL0j9

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Synopsis: Takuma Takuma is a college student. One day a girl Sari from another world appears before him. She said that she appeared to purify the conscious body possessed by Takuma and the should live together till that time. Takuma friends and girl classmates aren't really happy about that. Where shall the future take him?

Structure: 13 small chapters.

Length: 3-4 hours

Game type: Celestial beings on Earth comedy

Difficulty: Easy. Game offers a choice from time to time, but those are either flavor choices or additional CG triggers.

Character Design rating: 8/10

Protagonist rating: 7/10

Story rating: 5/10

Game quality: 6/10

Overall rating: 7/10

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Rating comments: I always ask myself first whether the game is of masterpiece level or not. And if it's not, it can only get as much as 6. And I've come to a conclusion that it's a masterpiece, albeit minor. Character design is astonishing, but characters don't get too much development. Protagonist is ok, but in the end he's just a passive girlish student. Story is on par with Viper-GTS level, so decent, but nothing too complicated or notable. Game quality gets a huge penalty for absence of voicing and overall small length. 

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Protagonist: Takuma main feature is that he looks so girlish with his small slender body and long pink hair. That looks a bit weird, but only till HCG come in action. Seeing two small angels on the screen cuddling is quite heartwarming. Overall he's a passive graduating student and can't really move narration by himself.

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Characters: Story does not have branches, so there is only one main heroine Seiri there. But there are also two lively side-heroines - childhood friend that attends the same college and lower grade student who looks up to protagonist as a teacher. Yes... even though Takuma is a college student he somehow participates in practice as teacher for lower high school students. It's relations between these four characters that form the basis of the game and become the stage for lots of humorous situations. Apart of those four characters there are also two more heavenly beings and lots of sub-characters.  

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Story: I rated story the lowest - as 5/10, so I'm not truly content with that. Takuma finds Seiri jumping from the portal and getting to know the cast takes first 5 chapters. Then first celestial being appears and brings some cheap drama followed by bouncing back and merry chapters again. In 10th chapter second celestial being arrives bringing more drama and finishing on Christmas eve sweet date. The very ending is curious though as it gives an answer on the future awaiting protagonists since the default situation is quite sad - Seiri is bound to return to her world and live forever while Takuma has to grow old like any mortal. Happy end is very satisfactory.

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CG: CG here are so gentle and cute. I don't think I've seen art style like that anywhere before. It surely is a treat after today's absolutely the same polished art style dominating in both anime and visual novels. 

Sound: BGM is an important actor in the game. For the first hour I was just listening to the BGM rather than enjoy character interaction. Soundtrack is especially cool because there is lots of singing in it.

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Humor: Humor here is not high quality, but rather in form of funny faces, character sprite emotions, chibi action CG etc. Most of such CG depict someone hitting someone else or such. But same as with CG, even chibi style here is very cute and actually only half-chibi since it's the same body that's deformed and head is proportional to the rest of the body.

Title and Themes:  Title can be roughly translated as "spring breeze girl". I don't think there's a special meaning to it, but Seiri is really so pure and shiny that she's like a breeze among other games' heroines.

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Overall comments: Game's actually better than description above. It has special charm that can't be felt without seeing for yourself. It has unique magic due absence of voicing and unconventional CG and BGM. I'm really glad that Aquarium recovered from the ugly art of its first works Carrot Time and Pretty Cat ~Lily and Kyle no Daibouken~. But I also like that the company does not forget its roots - just look at the very first screenshot - it's Nyantaru Pu himself from Toki no Moto e! I'm happy to see Aquarium made it in the 2000s and will look forward to seeing its further eleven works.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: I have not put a 10/10 score in a while. Psyclone is a classic cyberpunk story with sophisticated plot and great cast of characters. For genre fan it's an ultimate treasure. But game's not hookable, so I had to manually copy each line from the script for video playthrough. It was absolutely worth my time and I hope it can be worthy of yours.

Title: Psyclone

Developer: Vanilla

Date: 1998-10-30

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15546

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq8KWBAvVAymrEDxV6nl3B0E

Synopsis: Psyclone is a cyber-reality city accessed by using bio-interface. Recently it has been under attack of crackers causing anomalies and hurting people, so its inventor "Postman" along with his comrades "Bee", "Peepin Sam" and one of the crackers "Saiko" try to find the source of attacks. At the same time in the real world many young girls get missing in the slums. How can these cases be connected? 

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Structure: There are about twenty micro-chapters, but those are numerated in any manner. 

Length: 5 hours

Game type: Classic cyberpunk story.

Difficulty: Easy. Each time you get a game over, you can press try again and get just before the wrong choice.

Character Design rating: 10/10

Protagonist rating: 10/10

Story rating: 10/10

Game quality: 8/10

Overall rating: 10/10

Rating comments: It's been so long I put any game a full score. Game is perfect composition-wise and characters-wise. But game quality gets a huge penalty for rhytmic but lacking excitement BGMs, non-full size CG (HCG are almost full size). There were also technical difficulties - inability of hooking and game error on windows switch, but launching with Dxwnd and using the text script ripped from the game did the trick in the end.

Protagonist: Postman is a great protagonist. He inherited rights on bio-interface after his deceased father, but he created Psyclone all by himself. Furthermore, he managed to save his father's memories before the brain death, so his father is alive in the form of talking head in the real world and a full-scale actor in the net. The real name of Postman is Thomas Post Stroker. He's got a face and both knowledgeable and cool. 

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Characters: The characters names correspond to the picture above - upper names row to the upper characters and lower names to the row below.

There are two main heroines. First one is Postman's comrade "Bee" who is known for being a fast and tough user. She uses both forms of male and female in Cyclone. Her real name is Vi Rubins. She tries to behave rough like a boy, but she is so sincere and protective over Postman that she managed to totally win my sympathies. For example, in one of the bad endings she keeps nursing Postman in the vegetable state after he got his brains fried in the cyberspace. She also saves her virginity for Postman despite behaving all tough and being mocked by Saiko for that. I could not force myself to look at Saiko ending after seeing Bee's one.

Saiko is a supercute and supertalented cracker. She has a lot of in common with Postman as they both are regarded as otaku with an affinity to old tech. She's energetic and of modern views. She's a very nice person, but I don't like it that her ending requires intimacy twice during the main course of the game.

There is also a third main heroine, but she stands aside of both primary heroines. Kelly is a police inspector with a very important role to play. All I can say is that her ending goes on top of the primary heroine ending and may either happen with any of the heroines or may not happen at all.

But look at this cast. There are also plenty of cool characters. Ange with her bright clumsy personality brings a lot of comic relief into the game. Peeping Sam is one of the coolest hackers with a terrific voicing. Postman's father is not presented here, but he is a worthy addition to the team, both for his constant fights with Postman and for his activity in cyberspace. That's a really great cast in here.

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Story: I don't feel like giving spoilers this time since the story is absolutely worth of reading yourself, but here is what I can share in addition to synopsis. Postman dives into the cyberspace to track the cracker and confronts Saiko there, but she turns out to act all by herself and not connected with the other cases of attack or kidnappings. So she decides to cooperate with the team to find the real culprit. At the same time Postman is being followed by a Cybertech corporation worker Ange who consistently offers to sell the rights for bio-interface. Upon overhearing a policeman we get to know that policemen have to fill quota of bringing two girls per day. So we need to investigate three major facilities - Saiko's information shop where she got information from, police station and Cybertech. And that's absolutely all I can tell without major spoilers.

CG: There are not as many CG as I hoped for and it's a pity that CG only take like 1/3 of screen space. But I really like the old-school style and the quality of each CG.

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Sound: BGM is rhythmic, but without real melody - that can be both plus and minus. Voicing is truly great (only protagonist not voiced).

Humor: Humor in this game is not in the form of gags, but rather situational. Ange is the main source of humor situations. I especially liked how she was offered some tart and each time she sincerely exclaimed "Ah, oishiso!!!", but then remembered of the number of calories and rejected the offer. But the fun part was that the same situation was repeated several times during the talk. And she has such a light windy personality that we easily believe that she sincerely rejoices each time forgetting about previous cases.

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Title and Themes:  I always try to guess the meaning behind the title of the game. And this time there are so many meanings in the title. Psyclone = Psyclone city + Saiko + Psy + Clone. Game incorporates the best cyberpunk ideas, but manages to tell an absolutely unique story.

Overall comments: I praised the game enough, but how could such a wonderful game be overlooked by Japanese audience? Game's got just one impression that's not even accessible now via web archive. I guess game graphics are to blame. In 1998 users could only try to assess the content by the box and box only features non-flashy images and weird phrases like "Cracker", "Bio Interface", "Texture Ripper". And that cost 8800 yen which was the cost of a top-tier game. Whatever the reasons are, game is just too big to be forgotten and I'll give remaining Vanilla games special attention.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: This game's synopsis shattered my imagination from the first second and only the rarity of the game stopped me from playing it at once. Did my high hopes of the game come true? You'll know soon enough.

Title: Lofty Form

Developer: Aaru

Date: 1997-11-28

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15188

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq-EjfsuBaQRr6x65QIhzOeO

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Synopsis: Yakushiji Shion is the eldest son from the clan that punishes bad people. But after he assassinated Empire's shadow Kurobe Akiyoushi, it is regarded as a rebellion against the Empire. He gathers the clan and moves towards the North. Every day they are attacked by pursuers. At the same time he is chased by the girl Hiramatsu Yae who fell in love with Shion.

Structure: No real structure or branches.

Length: 6 hours

Game type: Samurai story with some fantasy elements.

Difficulty: Very easy.

Character Design rating: 6/10

Protagonist rating: 8/10

Story rating: 6/10

Game quality: 5/10

Overall rating: 6/10

Rating comments: Game has quite low production values, but the story was decent and I struggled between 6 and 7 as overall rating almost till the end. I can't deny the coolness of main character Shion who speaks like 5 times during the game total, but the story in the end started to obtain various flaws and ended in a fluke which is unacceptable for a masterpiece level game, thus it's 6.

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Protagonist: Yakushiji Shion is pretty much everything in this game and half of game's (10?) CG show how cool he is. He speaks only a few times in the game with very short one-word phrases and most of the time we just see "..." whenever he is asked anything. That adds mystery. But he's so cool mostly because he's the only strong character and basically he defeats any enemy with just one strike. And we're being hinted that his clan might possess the secret of immortality which raises evaluation of Shion the Immortal even further.

Characters: There is a bunch of characters who accompany Shion. Notably his step-brother Koriyama and step-sister Sayaka. Both of them were found and brought up by Shion's father. Next there a girl Hiramatsu Yae who tags along after she's saved from the hands of country's general who was set to making her a slave doll. There's also the princess girl and the spy girl who accompany the party at the certain point of narration. There is a good number of enemies, but to my regret enemies aren't really charismatic and for the most time that's just some masked ninja.

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Story: So the country of narration has not had wars for some 10 years at least. Everyone enjoys peace and noone carries weapons anymore. Yakushiji brothers on the other hand keep wearing weapons and bring self-justice to the villains of the country. It's going all right till they murder the great commander and first general of the army who lived in vice. But empire did not want to announce the fact of his death and instead sent remnants of warring clans to punish Yakushiji brothers. Yakushiji clan leader understands that killing general-commander will lead to consequences and because of that he sends his sons to the North and tells the reason of it only to Shion who is not really talkative. So first half of the story takes the journey to the North and that's all I can say without spoiling. More under a spoiler banner.

Spoiler

So... as it turned out the only reason to go North was to get the approval of local shrine maiden to become the successor of the clan. There is also something about gaining immortality this way, but it did not really help Shion in the confrontation with all the villains at once upon arriving back to Yakushiji clan village. Shion got his body pierced with spear and his right hand cut off. The companion of that shire maiden is a talking cat... who turned out to be the God of cats. She later could transform to human form with cat ears as well as ferocious fighting cat form. Among the ninja villains there were also God of Mountain and God of Wind in form of mutated beasts. But the main enemy of Shion is fully bandaged mummy-like warrior Ma Lu. And he turned out to be a created in laboratory human with the aim to create an immortal soldier. That Ma Lu wrecked the body of Shion really bad upon the first confrontation cutting his right arm. And in the final confrontation they were just looking silently at each other for a long time, then Ma Lu said follow me and led him to his master allowing Shion to kill him, because Ma Lu discovered some inconsistency in his master's plan. What's even that about? First authentic samurai story, then fantasy elements and finally underground laboratory genetics? As I see it the story went to hell midway. Also it's absolutely unclear how Shion managed to escape first battle with Ma Lu. Basically we were shown that Kuriyama was preparing explosion in the village to get away, then we're shown how shirine maiden says her cat that she has to go, otherwise that person will... Then she puts on a rucksack and goes away instead of teleporting or smth. Next scene is two months later Shion recovering at princess mansion and a bit later Shrine maiden arrives. Reader is clearly taken for fool with all that mess. And it's not the only occurrence. We're hardly ever shown the outcome of the fights. It just ends and we move on...

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CG: For the first 2/3 of the game there are zero CG! There are some small CG which are like 50x50, but that's not even remotely enough. Then we get to see two almost the same CG of Shion fighting and the end gets packed with like 10 CG in succession. That's a very weird CG placement that leaves a very poor impression of the main story events.

Sound: Only BGM and in traditional Aaru style - after melody's over it does not cycle and up to the next story shift there's only silence to accompany you.

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Humor: There is none, if you don't consider humor those eternal games in silence with "..." repeated over and over by different characters. But one case was so absurd that it made me laugh. Koriyama follows rogue Makino to some house and finds there Makiho and two just killed warm corpses of a man and a woman. But Makiho says it was not him and just left. Then Koriyama is asked by a street girl to kill rogue Makino. Koriyama asks what are her proofs. 

- He treated me poorly and commited me on many different occasions.

- Uh-huh.

- He killed Rutarou.

- Uh-huh.

- He killed both my parents.

- Uh-huh.

- After that he killed governor of the town Kirishima.

- No way! A governor? What a horrible person.

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Themes:  I always try to guess the meaning behind the title of the game. Lofty form - what's that even about? Apparently lofty means of imposing height, thus lofty form means something like "high style". The synopsis indeed features high style narration, but the form and the essence are two different matters and should not necessarily coincide. So after all it's only form that remains lofty here.

Overall comments: I probably placed too much hope in this game. Its low production values and plot inconsistencies described under spoiler did not let me really enjoy the game. But it's still a plot driven samurai story with a very impressive protagonist and might be worth your attention.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: I was prejudiced towards this game after reading Japanese reviews blaming it for scrapping story in favor of H-events, but in reality the setting, plot and characters left me no choice but to get to the ending.

Title: Rougetsu Toshi

Developer: Softhouse Bonbee Bonbon

Date: 1997-12-26

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15347

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX9cGamwbB8&list=PLENAECnNmAq9uoqPyBvnAsL7316x1C3bc

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Synopsis: Tokyo at the end of the century got completely blocked from the outside world due to transformation of Kanto plains and emergence of black fog that blocks radio waves. The raise of shady organizations and appearance of strange dreams make people uneasy. Hero acquires mysterious power to oppose those threats.

Structure: There are six chapters roughly one hour long each.

Length: 6 hours

Game type: Mystery end of the world chunige type.

Difficulty: Just one route with some commands to choose action and location.

Character Design rating: 9/10

Protagonist rating: 8/10

Story rating: 9/10

Game quality: 8/10

Overall rating: 8/10

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Rating comments: My rates reflect my hesitation between 8 and 9 as final score. Game felt like a firm 9 during the most of its course and and only in the last third some of its flaws became evident after grasping where the game was finally going. I expected even more epic ending and at least some sort of epilogue. Otherwise it would be 9 since the game is of surprisingly high quality with individualistic characters, old-school charming design and a well-rounded story.

Protagonist: Akira Myouji is an average high school student who starts to see strange drams. However he has a formed personality and no real weaknesses thus he has a cool aura. He does not look for H events, but is rather coerced towards it or does it out of necessity. The reason is that crystal bearers have to compensate their negative destructive energy with some positive life creation act... oh well, at least there's some kind of justification.

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Characters: There aren't main heroines in the game. There is childhood friend Asuka, her best friend Kuriko. There is also police special female team with the following cast: leader and descendant from ancient monsters fighting clan Suzuka, reserved blue long hair beauty Aoto, undercover transfer student Yuka, eccentric burly personality Mai and undercover Health room nurse Shiho-sensei. There are also side characters - strange library girl Kuko and school teacher Biho. Needless to say, they all get H-scene and sometimes much more than one. Most of the characters are grown-ups and everyone is memorable and attractive. My favorite character is Kuriko. We first meet her when she gives Akira a tour around the school - and while at it she badmouths pretty much everyone and gives skeptical comments on everything. Then she suddenly starts to avoid Akira and has a fight with Asuka and in the end Kuriko turns out the the most mysterious person with a huge role to play in the story.

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Story: Story can actually be described in couple sentences. Akira visits school and sees strange wet dreams about opening of the first game at night. One day he sees TV news broadcast about monster rampaging on the main square and hurries there to protect his friend who might be there. As police forces get thrown back by the monster, Akira manages to create a spirit gun and kill the monster with one shot. After that he's drafted to a special police division of spirit gun users unit and together they try to uncover the mystery behind school girls disappearance and prevent opening of the rest of four gates and the end of the world that ensues after all five are opened. But actually there's much more in this game than this dry outline, like development of relations with different characters and side-lines like the fate of the hooligan band or identity of woman who comes in the dreams or mystery behind Akira power (he can't control it and fails to use it when he wants to). Add to then the apocalyptic dark setting of isolated Tokyo standing on the brink of destruction by monsters or environmental disasters and you get more a less a full picture.

CG: Great number of CG and I absolutely love the style and design.

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Sound: Only girls are voiced. BGM is notable, especially the piano composition by the end of the game.

Theme:  Title of the game can be roughly translated as "hazy moon city" and the moon plays a big role in it, especially in the second half. There is almost no sun in this world and outside scenery is inevitably dark, but by the end of the game the end of the world happens literally by the Moon sucking Tokyo city in. That's a great sight and decent metaphor.

Overall comments: Game turned out to be a big deal and a serious chunige story. It lacks the multiple routes diversity or the philosophical basis of the events, but it's an epic apocalyptic adventure story and game tells it brilliantly and logically. Just don't expect complex elements and Rougetsu Toshi will definitely attract you with its dark charm.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: Bell-Da as a company has come a long way in visual novel industry, but prior to Liaison there were only terrible macromedia flash tasteless short games. But Liaison managed to turn the tides by presenting a solid story about working adults that kept my attention for over 4 hours till the end.

Title: Liaison

Developer: Bell-Da

Date: 1998-07-16

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v8155

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dflf6As2eww&index=55&list=PLENAECnNmAq_3TQ0rXcu0n95aygm3PPQU

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Synopsis: Kusanagi Daisaku came to Tokyo to attend art university with a dream of becoming a painter, but he clearly lacked talent. One day he meets two women in jewelry store and that casual encounter greatly influenced his life and his upcoming biggest masterpiece.

Structure: No division, but choices determine the path of one of the two main heroines or the side heroine.

Length: 4 hours

Game type: Love triangle story with some NTR tilt

Difficulty: Flags are evident and there are usually only two variants to choose from.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 5/10

Story rating: 4/10

Game quality: 6/10

Overall rating: 5/10

Rating comments: Probably the lowest rating among my reviews. The reason is that I felt betrayed by the story. The first two hours were wonderful and it was not clear where it all was going, then the poor plot became evident, but it was too late to turn back. I still rate characters quite high here as they are memorable and have great voicing. 

Protagonist: Kusanagi Daisaku is a university art department student. The worst thing about him is that he mostly moves with the flow and after one professor tells him he does not have talent, Kusanagi gives up and gets depressed. It's not fun to look at such a hetare protagonist.

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Characters: So there are three heroines with enging. Long purple hair Jun and short violet hair Minako work at the same jewelry store and compete with each other in sales every day. There's also childhood friend from hero's hometown Shiori who appears only during short stay of Kusanagi at his hometown and also visits him briefly afterwards once. Characters are quite well done as they don't belong to any archetype and are full of inconsistencies and own troubles. When I don't have clear preference I go for the main heroine and that seemed to be Jun since she had the most of troubles from the start. But the most delivering character for me was Kusanagi mangaka brother Naru. He's an egoistic man, but full of surprises and funny moves. He really invigorates the cast.

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Story: Since I rated the story as low as "4" I don't need to hold back. Kusanagi is an absolute failure as a man and protagonist. The story starts with an already stupid twist that Jun phones him while working on her sales list of customers, but instead of saying clearly what she wants she invites Kusanagi to the building which turns out to be jewelry shop. Cunning! He comes only to be offered to buy diamonds and miserably retreats. Then by a weird twist of fate Jun skips work with her friend to go to a countryside and they meet Kusanagi in person again even though Kusanagi was not shown going on a trip or anything. The next day Kusanagi decides to visit jewelry shop again and noone seems to care that he comes just to talk and never to buy anything. Somehow that ends up with a date with Jun. And Minako is so obsessed with sales competition with Jun that she decides to... stalk on Kusanagi and get him to karaoke to seduce him before Jun does so. Is there any logic in that at all? Of course Minako boasts of that at work to her rival which becomes the source of cheap drama. Then the real drama in the figure of former Jun boyfriend Daimon, SM relations apostate, appears. So it's a pretty normal relations story with cheap drama, drawbacks and restoration cycle. Former lover kindnapping of Jun and its resolution bring an end to the game.

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Humor: There were quite a lot of funny moments. While seducing at karaoke Minako asked Kusanagi to guess her cup size. There was a variant of "W" to which she says "What? World cup? Stop fooling around already!". 
CG and Sound: A very good number of high quality CG. There are only few CG that look weird. BGM is solid as well.

Overall comments: I expected the game to move towards artist profession self-realization and creating of a real masterpiece, but there was not even remotely enough time devoted to art. What I got instead is not sophisticated cheap drama without much basis behind it. Even in this state the game is really entertaining for a good half of it thanks to view zapping between the characters, funny sub-characters and fast pace. Later on it does not get worse, but it gets too repetitive and evident to my liking.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: Game had hardy any characteristics but "degraded Kizuato" and I did not plan to make a review of it. However, it managed to keep my attention till the end for over three hours. So maybe it's not really bad?

Title: Touchuukasou

Developer: Petit

Date: 1998-07-17

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15352

Youtube walkthrough:https://youtu.be/adRAHxJVaBo

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Synopsis: In a rural town there has been a series of murders recently. Part of the bodies was lost as if it had been eaten by someone. Toshio Hiyama moved to this town 10 years ago and he was constantly bullied due to his introverted nature to the extent that there might be even another will lurking inside his consciousness...

Structure: There are three heroines each with a route. The whole story takes three days.

Length: 3 hours

Game type: Action mystic beast transformation type.

Difficulty: Very easy, there's basically just one big decision for each heroine to flag.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 6/10

Story rating: 8/10

Game quality: 5/10

Overall rating: 7/10

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Rating comments: In my classification that's a masterpiece. Game is integral. It has simple but clean story-line, nice memorable characters, cool battles and most amusing BGM support. Protagonist is too ordinary though and game quality is lacking due to a really old engine with NO keyboard support and with 5 second freezes on BGM change.

Protagonist: Hiyama Toshio is pretty much an average high school student Joe who sees strange drams. We don't see his face, so that's it for him.

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Characters: There are four main heroines. Short brown hair Yuka is your cute and caring imouto. Short black hair Makoto is your shy childhood friend who you meet after 10 years time. And long red hair Akane is... your fun-buddy, without any obligations. Fourth one is short gray hair girl, but she makes a very short appearance in core game time, so can't tell much about her without playing her route. I only played Makoto route since I'm not a fan of imouto and free love. Furthermore, Makoto seemed to have some early memories important for the plot. It turned out that those memories weren't exactly about Makoto, so any heroine of preference can be enjoyed without loosing much on the story. As for Makoto, her route is very sweet and there's a very nice satisfying ending after the battle. At some point she even abandons her shyness and confesses her circumstances which are rather curious. So I'm very impressed with her route, but I don't like other heroines roles and not ready to manually mouse click through their routes.

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Story: Events develop very fast here. Toshio and Yuka arrive to the school and barely have time to get acquainted with a newcomer Makoto when they get assaulted by a hooligan Shinichi. That's followed by promise to share bento with Makoto daily, some quality time with Akane and yet another same hooligan assault. The next day starts with a hooligan team trap that leads to a massacre. And lastly heroine specific part with a date ensues followed up by old enemy big fight finale. And something to put under a spoiler as well.

Spoiler

Both Toshio and Shinichi turn out to be werebeasts. After their clash on the school grounds the two human guys from the Shinichi gang get massacred - it's not clear by whom from the two beasts though. And after the heroine specific part and the date, she gets kidnapped by Shinichi. The grand werebeast finale battle happens at the shrine site. In Makoto route after that the shrine monk says there's the way to fix that werebeast disease - by making love at shrine site with a girl from this dog clan lineage. Makoto and Akane are definitely from this clan, but I guess Yuka must be as well since she's Toshio imouto. In the epilogue a child is born out of that night heroes are bringing him up happily. Other heroines routes tackle the problem differently.

CG: Very few from the start, but quite numerous closer to the ending.

Sound: Somehow I really enjoyed the tunes and the voicing. Everyone but protagonist voiced.

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Themes:  

1) Game is a bit simplistic and fast paced to suggest multiple themes, but the main theme of the game is werebeasts. It goes back to the story about 200 years before about how the wild dogs got massacred and how a shrine and a clan grew from that event in order to commemorate those beasts. There's a huge stone in the shrine connected to the event and it's the touch of the stone that actually raised the wild urges in males of the blood. It's actually very nicely pictured that the memories of clan ancestor are alive in Toshio Hiyama. Those memories and the mystery of the girl shown at the very first scene of the game were the main attraction point for me.

2) What's right - to suppress the beast origin or to seek more power? Unexpectedly, game definitely chooses the second in contrast to Kizuato. In Kizuato hero is being judged of ill-behavior just for his dreams and headaches. In Touchuukasou hero is just destroyed in a bad ending if he tries to suppress his emotions. On the other hand, hero is the only suspect in the massacre where two people died and... he gets away with it very easily. So it's a very simple answer - kill or be killed.

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Overall comments: Game is not well known and is trashed for being Kizuato clone. And I strongly object to that. Games have absolutely different approach to the beast state. I actually give the preference to Touchuukasou for having an integral fast-paced story with adorable characters over the painfully crumbling structure of Kizuato where nothing big happens in ANY of the routes. Touchuukasou has lots of charming sides and I played the main heroine route to the end. However, I don't see how other heroines can contribute to the story and CG actually confirm that as there are mostly only additional fight CG and HCG of other heroines. [Petit] has grown a lot over the years and I call its last two games Sweepers and Touchuukasou masterpieces. It's really sad to see story-driven works of unique charm overpowered by charage/moege. 

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kivandopulus

Foreword: Game first arouse my interest as alternative version of Subarashiki Hibi. Then I tried to get the glimpse of it by watching hentai OVA... and it was the worst hentai OVA I ever seen, so I was really infuriated since it did not say much about the game. Finally I've picked it up while investigating year 1999 and it struck me as something more serious than a nukige, especially after seeing those demon mind-screw CG. And it's been a while since I enjoyed a visual novel that much.

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Title: Tsui no Sora

Developer: KeroQ

Date: 1999-08-27

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v3246

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq8vJwICEnwWJOz0Yf6ycKz3


Synopsis: Our guy got waked up by his childhood girl for school. Once they got to their classroom, they found out that a girl classmate jumped from their school roof yesterday. Soon, people started talking about end of the world on day 20th. Some even went crazy, lead by one guy. You get to see the events first through our guy's eyes, then his childhood girl's and two more people.

Structure: There are two routes - for Kotomi and Ayana, then there's the route from Kotomi point of view, then the retro-route from Zakuro eyes, then villain route from Takuji viewpoint. And it all finishes with epilogue route for Kotomi and Ayana.

Length: 7 hours 30 minutes.

Game type: Mindscrew end of the world theme ADV.

Difficulty: Easy since there are only 3-4 decisions to make.

Character Design rating: 8/10

Protagonist rating: 8/10

Story rating: 10/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 8/10

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Rating comments: I did not expect such high scores. Characters aren't voiced, but somehow they manage to feel alive. There are so many protagonists in this game that the rest of characters are easy to understand and remember. If it was only for Yukito, protagonist would get a full 10. Story does not seem anything special on the first glance, but with each route it opens up new depths and raises new questions making it a very integral, memorable and personal experience. I can't rate game quality good for the lack of CG, unvoiced heroes and macromedia director engine.

Protagonist: 

Yukita makes the perfect protagonist for me. He cites Kant, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Bible all the time. He looks like a hooligan, but is absolutely faithful and reliable even though he tries to shrug it off with crude words. He's pretty much the only one who stays calm, trusts in logic and comes to everyone's rescue.

Kotomi is Yukita's childhood friend. She is quite nice as a heroine, but when she becomes protagonist we get to see her constant hesitations and anxieties. It's a pain to see her crying "I don't know anything anymore", thinking "I must be alone and get stronger" and running away from Yukita at school.

Zakuro is the classmate of Yukita and Kotomi. At the beginning of the game she's already dead having jumped from the roof. But her story was the most impressive one for me. But more of it in the story part.

Takuji is the villain of the game. A shy small boy who at the same time wants to peel everyone naked and sentence to death. He's really cool as protagonist for having all kinds of hallucinations that make the game a mind-screw.

Characters: Who do we have left? There's classmate Otonashi Ayana who has her own route, but is not a protagonist for she's the most mysterious character in the game and her manner of thinking should not be revealed. There's also classmate Yokoyama Yasuko who enters the same kendo club as Kotomi, but at the same time really sympathizes Takuji end of the world ideas. Yasuko brother is the biggest supporter of Takuji as well. There's also guy Ozawa that bullied Zakuro, but at the beginning of the game he's dead. There's a magical girl Riruro, but her existence is under a huge question, hehe. We also have medical department teacher.

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Story: I can't really tell about the story without some spoilers (although I'll try to hide heavy spoilers under a banner), so be aware. 

I. Game starts from Yukito perspective 7 days before the disaster and he can opt for either Kotomi or Ayana as the main heroine. The choice only determines couple short scenes of each heroine and determines whether Kotomi H event opens up or not. The contents remains the same. First two days are spent in mass neurosis as classmates keep jumping from the roof and rumors about the end of the world keep spreading. Then there are two days of open conflict of Takuji with the school that result in dangerous cult creation. Next two days are notable for Kotomi kidnapping by the Takuji group and her rescue by Yukito. The final day is not clearly shown.

II. Then starts the route of Kotomi which is exactly the same route, but from the eyes of Kotomi. She's there mostly to add girlish thoughts to the narration and of course to show her two days of captivity and torments (read: H events) while kidnapped. So it's kind of non-important fan-service route.

III. Well, when you think that the game is over, the next route opens up. And instead a week before the disaster we go to two weeks before the disaster to the body of Zakuro. She got raped and made photos of by bully Ozawa one day and from that time was blackmailed into intimate relations daily. But once she gets a letter saying "Rejoice, your torments will end tomorrow". Since it's the most impressive route for me I'd only tackle it under the spoiler banner.

IV. The seven days before the disaster are shown yet again, but from the eyes of main villain Takuji. We get to see how his ideas are formed, what pushes him, how he recruits allies and eventually names himself the savior of humankind. From that point it's hard to determine delusions from truth as he sees monsters, magical girl Riruru, her spirit father and gets instructions from them, but most of the time he seems to just be talking with the graffiti wall. He starts as savior of humanity, but through demonic teachings soon recognizes the need to purify humans before the final skies by killing them. The longest and weirdest route, but at the same time it still feels light.

V. Epilogues sheds light on events after the day X and give more questions than answers.

HEAVY PLOT SPOILERS INSIDE

Spoiler

So let's start with the Zakuro route. The next day after receiving letter her offender Ozawa jumps out of the window right in the middle of the class. She hurries to the trash bin to recover the letter and it instructs her to meet the sender at the station. There she meets two cute young girls who say that they were blackened in the same manner. But through humiliation they recovered the memories of the past and shared those with Zakuro now. They are the warriors who keep reincarnation through the time to combat the end of the world. They have postponed it multiple times in great battles of the past, but in order to get enough strength for that they need to revive with superpowers. The next day they all gather at the roof of the school and are deadly terrified to jump down. But as the window of the possible reincarnation presses down, they take each others hands and jump from the roof... the end. Just WoW. The slice of life drama turns into affectionate eternal war of light and darkness, but only IF if you believe in that. They can be as well idiot fanatics to throw away their lives in vain - you decide.

Next is Takuji route. He organizes mass orgies and kidnapping of Kotomi. But what delivers the most is his imaginary talking to the magical girl Ririru and same imaginary sex with futanari Ririru and then futanari Ayana. He makes about a hundred people commit suicide by jumping from the roof, then confesses his love for Yakuto and jumps down the room himself. So here's where SubaHibi yaoi roots originate. Really crazy route where he compares himself to a famous dictator.
The epilogue shows us that nothing really happened after the Doomsday. But as they sit in the cafe on the 20th June Ayana kisses Yakuto, bids him farewell and suddenly Kotomi appears at her place. Kotomi says that it's 1st September and she's never heard of Ayano girl. And as Yakuto and Kotomi decide to stay forever an eternal sadness pierces that promise. 
In Ayano epilogue they talk with Yakuto about the essence of world, its beginning and ending and make love.

 

CG: Too few! But characters standing sprites usually look so good that the lack of CG is not that grave.

Sound: BGM includes few, but atmospheric short cycled compositions and there is no voicing at all.

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Humor: Apart of this funny moment of skirt flipping there was one real joke. Yukito and Ayano stay at the roof. Ayano asks "- What book do you hold in hands?" "- Kant" " Why would you need a book about girl's genitalia?" "Wrong! It's not about that!" "So it's called just CAN'T? Why would you need a book about impotence?" Then he tries to tell her Kant and Wittgenstein theories. "Wittgenstein? Is that the male apparatus?". I don't remember any more moments, but for me it's important to have at least one funny memorable moment. 


Themes: There are a lot of themes. 

1) Is the end of the world possible? Yakuto tries to find an answer in Kant, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard and Bible books. He uses Kant's antimony to make a conclusion that the beginning of the universe is not provable and thus there can't be the end of the world. 

2) The war between light and darkness forces to impede/fasten the end of the world - is it real or imagination of fanatics? One certain route is devoted just to this theme.

3) Who actually saved the world? Was it Zakuro, Ayana or maybe even Takuji? All three came to contact to the higher essences and could influence that. Of maybe the world never needed to be saved and those are just superstition and ignorance? We have to figure it for ourselves.

4) The separate question is who is Ayana? Her every word is mysterious. She does not have parents, but she's always present at the most gruesome events late at night at the school.

5) What this game is even about? Again, you decide, the first two collages of screenshots allow to treat the game as spiritual mind-screw, youth criminal drama or eschatological religious confrontation of heroes and devils.

Overall comments: I have not read Subarashiki Hibi and can only judge it by reviews and vndb. But what I see there is that the core of the plot and the characters are absolutely the same. SubaHibi was enlarged immensely to fit the modern demand, but such detail would not be possible without this little weird gem from the 1990s.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: There is a good number of English reviews on this game (1 2 3 4), but those are all kinda short and non-structured. Now I know why and mine won't be an exception. You'll know why soon enough as well.

Title: Kuon no Kizuna

Developer: FOG

Date: 1998-12-03

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v2773

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq-CHIuWBfnU3DYzNCEcLjcV

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Synopsis: This story starts out from the perspective of a high school student. One day a transfer student comes to his school, and tells him she’ll kill him. At the same time, he starts seeing weird dreams and people mysteriously gets killed in his city. Soon he realizes that them two are incarnated personalities of a man and a goddess that fell in love 1000 years ago. Since then, they have been trapped in a cycle of reincarnation and a battle against an evil god.

Length: Took me 66 hours for all routes.

Game type: ADV with choices and couple easy battles.

Difficulty: I followed walkthrough, so not too sure on difficulty. There are some fake choices, but there are also choices that lead to game over. And there are a LOT of choices, so it must be quite difficult.

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Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 8/10

Story rating: 6/10

Game quality: 9/10

Overall rating: 7/10

Rating comments: This is one of the most ambitious projects I've ever seen. Just imagine - 66 hours. 66 hours of not raising stats, killing monsters or chasing girls over and over. 66 hours of pure text reading time. There's nothing like that in the 1990s and it won't be beaten till 2000s. You know, in many Japanese reviews of the time volume is a very important factor and there's often such criteria as cost-efficiency. Visual novels cost a lot and compared to solid books they used to lose all the time. But everything changed with Kuon no Kizuna. It became a paragon for both volume and visuals. 

I liked protagonist and characters enough, but they don't become cozy. They remain transcendent beings piercing the veil of time in an epic story, not really likable characters who I could respect for their characters or decisions, that's why it's 7/10. The story is indeed epic, but it does not go smoothly. We jump from reality to three periods all the time and the shifts aren't really explained, they just happen. I also did not like it that the first half of the story is pretty much the same for all three heroines and we just have to read it three times with little variation. That makes story only 6/10. But the quality of the game is superb, especially with full voice (excluding the protagonist though). The graphics are stunning and visual effects amazing. No complaints with the quality.

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Protagonist: Mikado Takeru is a strong protagonist as he constantly has to protect those who are dear to him and he's the only one who can oppose demonic forces thanks to his demonic heritage. He's a one man army and hardly ever gets any help from the side. He'd be more realistic with voice, but he's quite cool even as he is now.

Characters: There are three heroines who have their own routes.

Takahara Mayou is our mysterious transfer student who greets Takeru for the first time with words "This time I will definitely kill you".

Itsuki Shiori is a childhood friend who Takeru lives with under the same roof.

Tokiwa Saya is the class teacher.

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Story: The rant part. So each heroine has her route... but it's the same route, at least for the first half of it. In the second half some periods are developed for each heroine, but still there's a very strong feeling that you're watching the same story and it irritates a lot. 

There are four periods: Heian, Genroku, Bakumatsu, and the present. Present and Heian are really the same and those are the most boring parts, especially Heian. Heian focuses on a an ancient period of Japanese history where nothing really happened for dozens of years and that's why it's full of myths and legends - because there was nothing to do there. In Kuon no Kizuna Heian is when beasts invasion starts and it differentiates just a bit in the end depending on the heroine chosen throughout it. I especially liked Bakumatsu period for meeting and fighting alongside Shinsengumi (and sometimes against) and kunoichi. 

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But there is a great problem with these periods - they aren't really connected to each other. People can die there or love there and in next period everything starts from scratch. That creates the feeling of multiple stories and I really dislike that genre. Nothing really happens throughout those stories, then beasts arrive, the short drama and it's over. Heroines aren't really able to hold attention. But what's worse, the heroine of your choice have play very small role till the very end of each part. 

But then comes the fantastic Special route №1 that arrived later with remake as an attempt to tighten the crumbling main story. Special route №1 lasts for some 7 hours, holds a totally new epic story with really great enemies and is a great ending for all the characters, so I can't praise it enough.

The Special routes №2 and  №3 are there for comic relief after all that superserious narration.

So overall the story really sucks, repeats itself in routes and has poor tempo. But the great special route makes up for it.

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CG: Just fantastic. See for yourself.

Sound: I really appreciated full voicing and beautiful BGM. That kept me from sleeping.

Overall comments: This game was created to surprise the imagination. It has huge length and astonishing visuals, but there still was no culture of such huge coherent stories - thus the multiple periods format with lousy links between them. Dialogues are long and not too meaningful, fights are inevitably dull and poorly written, heroines fail to catch attention and the absence of humor makes it all a real torture. The sudden jumps between periods only add to the confusion. But this game bears a huge importance for the industry as it made long story-driven visual novels without gameplay elements viable while only dating SIMs, charage and nukige governed the ball.

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kivandopulus

Will be gradually updating old posts and filling this post with links when finished.

 

VN of the Month December 1998 - Kuon no Kizuna
VN of the Month November 1998 - Exodus Guilty
VN of the Month October 1998 - Sampaguita
VN of the Month September 1998 - With You ~Mitsumete Itai~
VN of the Month August 1998 - Shiokaze no Memory
VN of the Month July 1998 - luv wave
VN of the Month June 1998 - One ~Kagayaku Kisetsu e~
VN of the Month May 1998 - Diabolique
VN of the Month April 1998 - Love Escalator
VN of the Month March 1998 - EVE: The Lost One
VN of the Month February 1998 - Doukoku Soshite...
VN of the Month January 1998 - Machi

VN of the Month December 1997 - Universal Nuts

VN of the Month November 1997 - Moon.

VN of the Month October 1997 - Sweepers!

VN of the Month September 1997 - Comic Road

VN of the Month August 1997 - Kaeru nyo Panyon

VN of the Month July 1997 - Tokimeki Memorial Drama Series Vol. 1: Nijiiro no Seishun

VN of the Month June 1997 - Zoku Hatsukoi Monogatari ~Shuugaku Ryokou~

VN of the Month May 1997 - To Heart

VN of the Month April 1997 - Canaan ~Yakusoku no Chi~

VN of the Month March 1997 - Ruriiro no Yuki

VN of the Month February 1997 - Yatsu no Na wa Diamond

VN of the Month January 1997 - Rookies

VN of the Month December 1996 - Kono Yo no Hate de Koi o Utau Shoujo YU-NO

VN of the Month Noveber 1996 - Mashou no Kao

VN of the Month October 1996 - Bounty Hunter Rudy

VN of the Month September 1996 - Sakura Taisen

VN of the Month August 1996 - Be-Yond ~Kurodaishou ni Mirareteru~

VN of the Month July 1996 - Kizuato

VN of the Month June 1996 - Es no Houteishiki

VN of the Month May 1996 - Rouge no Densetsu

VN of the Month April 1996 - Harlem Blade ~The Greatest of All Time.~

VN of the Month March 1996 - Mujintou Monogatari 3 - A.D. 1999 Tokyo

VN of the Month February 1996 - DIES IRAE

VN of the Month January 1996 - Ryuuki Denshou Dragoon

VN of the Month December 1995 - Lilith

VN of the Month November 1995 - Eve: Burst Error

VN of the Month October 1995 - Trouble Chaser Dai 4 Wa - Saishuukai

VN of the Month September 1995 - Mime

VN of the Month August 1995 - Isaku

VN of the Month July 1995 - Kuro no Danshou: The Literary Fragment

VN of the Month June 1995 - True Love ~Jun'ai Monogatari~

VN of the Month May 1995 - Koihime

VN of the Month April 1995 - Mugen Yasoukyoku

VN of the Month March 1995 - Cybernoid Alpha

VN of the Month February 1995 - Doki Doki Pretty League Dai 3 Wa - Minami no Umi no Kai no Maki

VN of the Month January 1995 - Doki Doki Vacation ~Kirameku Kisetsu no Naka de~

VN of the Month December 1994 - Xenon ~Mugen no Shitai~

VN of the Month November 1994 - File: Kokubou Soushou Jouhoukyoku Jouhou Rouei Taisakubu Josei Jinmonin

VN of the Month October 1994 - Gao Gao! 3rd ~Wild Force~

VN of the Month September 1994 - Ai Shimai ~Futari no Kajitsu~

VN of the Month August 1994 - Shinsetsu Ooedo Tantei Kamiya Ukyou

VN of the Month July 1994 - DESIRE - Haitoku no Rasen

VN of the Month June 1994 - Necronomicon

VN of the month May 1994 - Tokimeki Memorial

VN of the Month April 1994 - AmbivalenZ -Niritsu Haihan-

VN of the Month March 1994 - Mirage 2 - Torry x Neat x Roan no Daibouken

VN of the Month February 1994 - Dragon Knight 4

VN of the Month January 1994 - Fuzoroi no Lemon

VN of the Month December 1993 - Demon City

VN of the Month November 1993 - Ooedo Tantei Kamiya Ukyou Vol. 2

VN of the Month October 1993 - Nooch 2 Remy no Gyakushuu

VN of the Month September 1993 - Youjuu Senki -A.D. 2048-

VN of the Month August 1993 - Houma Hunter Lime Dai 03 Wa

VN of the Month July 1993 - Bunretsu Shugoshin Twinkle Star

VN of the Month June 1993 - Can Can Bunny Extra

VN of the Month May 1993 - Nova

VN of the Month April 1993 - Quintia Road 2

VN of the Month March 1993 - Marine Philt

VN of the Month February 1993 - Cosmology of Kyoto

VN of the Month January 1993 - Mamono Hunter Youko: Tooki Yobigoe

VN of the Month December 1992 - Koroshi no Dress 3

VN of the Month November 1992 - Dracula Hakushaku

VN of the Month October 1992 - Ginga Ojou-sama Densetsu Yuna

VN of the Month September 1992 - My Eyes!

VN of the Month August 1992 - Kiss

VN of the Month July 1992 - Phobos

VN of the Month June 1992 - De-Ja 2

VN of the Month May 1992 - Kurutta Kajitsu

VN of the Month April 1992 - The 4th Unit - Wyatt

VN of the Month March 1992 - Sotsugyou Shashin / Miki

VN of the Month February 1992 - Joker II

VN of the Month January 1992 - Himitsu no Hanazono

VN of the Month December 1991 - Gidyy

VN of the Month November 1991 - Psychic Detective Series Vol. 5: Nightmare

VN of the Month October 1991 - Rance III - Leazas Kanraku

VN of the Month September 1991 - Cosmic Psycho

VN of the Month August 1991 - Kimi Dake ni Ai o..

VN of the Month July 1991 - Nike

VN of the Month June 1991 - ELLE

VN of the Month May 1991 - Ginsei Senshin Guynarock

VN of the Month April 1991 - Psychic Detective Series Vol. 4: Orgel

VN of the Month March 1991 - Jesus II

VN of the Month February 1991 - Akagawa Jirou no Yuurei Ressha

VN of the Month January 1991 - Dragon Eyes

VN of the Year 1990 - De-Ja

VN of the Year 1989 - Imitation wa Aisenai

VN of the Year 1988 - Lipstick. ADV

VN of the Year 1987 - Hiatari Ryoukou!

VN of the Year 1986 - Gall Force - Eternal Story

VN of the Year 1985 - Shiro to Kuro no Densetsu ~Hyakki Hen~

VN of the Year 1984 - Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin: Ohotsk ni Kiyu

VN of the Year 1983 - Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken

kivandopulus

Foreword: It took me a while to get interested in this grandfather of all modern charage and moege. It took even longer to finish all the routes. I doubt I will ever pick a moege for review, but I need to see fundamentals with my own eyes. There are quite many reviews found, but only one of them (7nightstranslations) actually was reviewing a finished game, but still it was too short and only touched a few heroines. I'll have a word about each heroine at least.

Title: To Heart

Developer: Leaf /Aquaplus

Date: 1997-05-23

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v18

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq8UD0quvrBnBr1LySRroX7Z

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Synopsis: In this game, you play as Fujita Hiroyuki, a high-school student who seems to have more interest in romance than in his studies. In his school there are several pretty girls, and his goal is to be nice to one of them, to make the right decisions when talking to her, and ultimately to win her heart.

Structure: Game lasts roughly two months from beginning of March to beginning of May with events happening almost daily.

Length: Took me 34 hours for all routes.

Game type: Map selection ADV.

Difficulty: Only the two main heroines routes are tricky, the others are easy.

Character Design rating: 8/10

Protagonist rating: 5/10

Story rating: 5/10

Game quality: 8/10

Overall rating: 7/10

Rating comments: Let's say honestly - from modern point of view game is trash. It's a very generic school moege without plot or any interesting character development. It's a torture to go through and there's little satisfaction in beating the game. So why did I rate it as masterpiece? The whole point of charage and moege is in characters and this game indeed has two very nice character stories. About that in proper section.

Protagonist: Fujita Hiroyuki is a very generic high school protagonist who can't sneeze without our command.

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Characters: There are 10 characters for capture. I rate the routes from best to worst in the following sequence: Multi > Shiho > Ayaka > Aoi > Tomoko > Lemmy > Akari > Kotone > Rio > Serika.

Serika is our ojousama with interest in magic. Her route is one of the most boring ones, but what actually makes it unbearable is that she does not talk. Well, as I counted, she said 8 phrases overall with most of them being one word phrases. Her final like included as much as three words! "Fujita-san, suki...". It's surprising how she even continued to stand up after such long phrase. Really, her seiyu should be omitted from credits.  The whole route I was feeling that I read 1997 year original work without voicing.

Rio is a poor girl who has to earn money for mother's operation and to take care of her younger brother at the same time. It's the weakest story plot-wise since Fujita did not actually move a finger to help her, only encouraged her to work harder at all her jobs. What a bastard!

Kotone is our esper. Fujita first tries to persuade her that she's a normal girl without powers and when fails at that wants her to teach him to gain same powers. He fails at that either the very minuscule drama resolution of the route really leaves unsatisfactory feeling.

Akari is the main heroine, but she's too much of a failure. First of all, her sprites aren't all beautiful. Secondly, it's kind of a rule that childhood friend should be of genki type, but Akari just nags and cries. The main feature of her route - drums, drums, drums - is changing hairstyle! What kind of drama move is that? Akari does not have her own will and that leads to pretty ugly resolution. 

Lemmy is totally cool half-american heroine, but her route is one of the weakest, it's basically not about Lemmy, but about her big crazy family.

Tomoko is our diligent class representative megane type. It's pretty cool how her snobbish attitude averts class members from her. Even Fujita only gains bad gazes in return at every move. But as her circumstances become evident there's quite a lot of sympathy towards her in the end.

Aoi is our cute martial artist. There's nothing even to add here. Route is full of cuteness and trainings resulting in impressive match. 

Ayaka is our cool martial artist, sister of Serika. Ayaka is the mature version of Aoi and is the only character not available from the start - first Aoi and Serika routes need to be beaten. Ayaka route is pretty cool is there's a change of pace from the school grounds - heroes spar daily at the riverbank. Ayaka is both genki and free spirit. Her sprites are often weird, but voicing is perfect. So Ayaka takes the third prize.

Shiho is our second main heroine as her presence pierces all the other routes and because she's main friend of Akari. Shiho route is also very tricky to trigger since it's the route that has little to do with love and is entered upon meeting seemingly illogical prerequisites. Shiho is of genki type. She also is a rumor house and the queen of karaoke. The three songs she sings during her route are very impressive - those are old opening theme, new opening theme and totally new song. The main feature of Shiho route is love triangle and she's the total opposite of Ogiso Setsuna from White Album 2 if you know what I mean. But what delivers the most is the ending - absolutely cool and mature one.

Multi is the true queen of the game. Her route is compressed to just 8 days and thus feels the most integral. She's an android of new type. Almost every scene with her has some cute element or situation, so it's the only route that I could read without distractions. It's the only must have route to play, so would not want to spoiler here.

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Story: None. Choose the portraits of the target heroine and give good answers when needed. The rest depends on the route.

CG: Each heroine has about 10 CG in PSE version which is quite enough. 

Sound: BGM is fine and praised a lot, but after so many routes it really started to irritate. Voicing is mostly great.

Overall comments: Now that was a short review. Can't say I enjoyed the game, but I definitely feel like I understand eroge history better now. Could not get it before why Comic party anime had so many references to Multi doujins. It's the first fundamental charage and there are some inevitable mistakes made, but at least two routes are worth reading to get to understand the media better.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: Why review a Sogna game? Aren't those just short mindless animated H episodes? Those were my thoughts as well. And that was actually true for the earlier series. Then something happened in 1994. Instead of the usual numbers alongside "Viper", game Viper-GTS appeared and it was a one-story episode based on earlier V6 short story. Then followed titles with numbers, as usual till Viper-BTR which is a one story game based on short V12 story. But same as GTS, BTR is indeed ero-centered. And that concludes PC-98 era for Viper games. First Windows Viper is Viper-CTR ~Asuka~ which is as usual based on another previously featured short story in V10. And I actually consider Viper-CTR ~Asuka~ "almost" a masterpiece. Its only problem is that it only takes 50 minutes to clear it, but it's stuffed with four H scenes.

So why I'm retelling information that's easy to get from VNDB? It's because Viper-F40 is a totally different game and it's absolutely wrong to measure it by past Sogna experience. First of all, Viper-F40 has only one big story. That's not a new thing, of course, after GTS, BTR and CTR. But it is not based on any previous short story which means the setting and characters are created anew. And now the main part - the game takes almost 4 hours. And that's at least three times longer than any previous Sogna game. And I aspire to prove my point by showing that contents-wise it's also an absolutely new game.

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Title: Viper-F40

Developer: Sogna

Date: 1997-11-07

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v977

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GESdVh2RfTY&index=49&list=PLENAECnNmAq_3TQ0rXcu0n95aygm3PPQU

Synopsis: A police investigation unfolds as detective Lilia and her freelancing friend Raika attempt to solve the mystery of three missing persons. Their investigation draws the ire of a small gang...

Structure: Single route divided into 6 days.

Length: Took me 3 hours 45 minutes

Game type: Normal ADV with location choices.  

Difficulty: Easy - one single road route.

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Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 7/10

Story rating: 9/10

Game quality: 9/10

Overall rating: 8/10

Rating comments: The scores speak for themselves. An absolutely superb game where I only missed protagonists depth and additional sub-characters. Game's full voiced and animated and only inability to properly level down BGM volume gets a quality penalty for me. Story also gets a small penalty since it resembles EVE: Burst Error in too many ways.

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Protagonist: There are two protagonists in this game. And the game changes protagonists' perspective from time to time at certain points. First protagonist is a more traditional police woman Lilia. She has her small secrets like an affair at work but overall she's normal. That's basically our EVE Marina and she also works not just in police, but in special investigation unit. The second protagonist is female detective Raika and things have been running slow for her, so she agrees to try and help Lilia with the case. That's our typical Kojiroh, but in female form (since Sogna games need women!) - untidy, careless, but with a spark of detective genius. She also has an assistant Seela who is a daughter of police department chief. Raika used to serve in police, but quit it when the killer she caught was released due to killing under the state of affect. Both main heroes are nice and they interact in an amusing way, but they're not Kojiroh and Marina and the length of the game does not let to develop characters further. 

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Characters: All the other sub-characters are males who represent police station. Pretty great characters. Police chief is a brutal old-school guy. Laboratory expert Lloyd is an intellectual who is surprisingly perceptive (he actually solves all the cases by himself). Police office clerk Mark is the guy Lilia dates, quite a charmer. I really like it when the game has strong male staff.

Story: Game starts quite slow with some not so exciting disappearance case, walking around the town and questioning the people. And all that hardly bears any results so Lilia asks Raika for help. And Raika basically does all the same - visiting the same areas and talking to the same people. She finds some clues, but basically stalls as well. Then Lilia recieves a letter with threats delivered to the police office - the demands are to stop this investigation. And then Seela disappears which is seen as implementation of the threats... It would be a spoiler to say anything more, cut exciting part of the story only begins from that moment. I've counted three big plot twists and treacheries alone. And now the main reason why F40 can't be treated as other Viper games. There is no erotic content for the whole first half of the game which is over one and half an hour. Is not a good enough reason? Then what you say to this - both first main H scenes are shown not as fun interlude, but as disasters with actual deaths of characters happening as a result. It's a very serious drama that traumatizes both main characters. But it's also not an nakige as things smooth up a bit towards the end of the game. It's a very serious story touching difficult social matters. 

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Theme: Main theme of the game is the same as in Eve: Burst Error, but explicit explanation can easily become a spoiler.

CG: I'm fully content with the number of CG. Due to the game relatively big length there is no animation in every scene and sometimes only months are animated, but that's more than enough.

Sound: I already complained about inability to decrease sound level. Well, there is such config option with three different volume tabs, but decreasing any of it lowers down the overall sound in the game, but not voice of BGM sound. Game is fully voiced, but I found couple unvoiced scenes, like dialogues during memories recollection. Also I'd like to not that there is no narrator in the game and narration consists of dialogues that are all voiced.

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Overall comments: I would not consider F40 to be a degraded clone of EVE: Burst Error. In the end those are absolutely different stories with only archetypes of protagonists and main theme being the same. Sogna has a unique approach that is implemented in dialogues driven story and high animation level. There are so many twists in the story that I happened to blame the same persons for criminals then rehabilitated then blamed again for several times. But there aren't extra scenes in the game. If some seemingly unnecessary scene is shown, it has some meaning - and it's satisfying to notice those short scenes upon watching the game for the second time. As I see it, Viper-F40 is Sogna's attempt to go away from fanservice works towards serious stories. Whether Sogna succeeds in it or not we shall know from its remaining games and hopefully my reviews of them.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: I really can't stand multiple stories visual novels. But this is C's ware work and the first story was really sweet, fast (just one hour long) and only included several non-significant choices, so I went for other two stories as well. And I promised myself that I would write a review on any game visual novel that I play to the end and that takes me over three hours to finish. So here it is - my first and hopefully last multiple stories visual novel review.

Title: Ai ga Mie Hajimetara

Developer: C's Ware

Date: 1997-06-27

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v2014

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sV_PLFkOIo&list=PLENAECnNmAq91tN-XYUjNz3EOx6KQw6s0

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Synopsis: 

1. Vice. Katsuyuki is a vampire detective who is a big fan of beautiful women. One day he saves girl Azusa from nanpa guys and she clings to him temporarily as she has nowhere to go. At the same time Katsuyuki is offered a new case by a hot babe. Even thought the case looks like an easy one, there is something fishy about it...

2. B.B. Bridal breaker is the profession of Shin. He specializes in ruining other people weddings for money. There is little demand for his specialization and he accumulated quite a debt. Finally a new job shows up and he dives into a whirlwind of complex human relations during the wedding ceremony.

3. Kyoto love affair. Kyoto, 2052. Kagura is a demon hunter serving in the Department of the Temple government, Demon specialization Section 1. She's in love with a noble Hayato, but his social position is too high for her to have any prospects for him. One day Miyano, one of shrine maidens to goddess Amaterasu, telephones Kagura and offers an opportunity to participate in a divine test with a chance of becoming a goddess as an outcome. Kagura grasps the chance immediately as it's her chance to gain superior social status and confess her feelings to beloved Hayato!

Length: Took me 7 hours

Game type: First story is normal visual novel with fake choices, the other two stories are command selection visual novels. 

Difficulty: First story is a breeze. Second story is a horror as there are at least 7 endings and with command selection formula and lots of locations to visit it's very difficult to notice any branches and there is NO walkthrough around... Third story turned out to be one-way road with command selection and fake choices, so easy.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 7/10

Story rating: 6/10

Game quality: 6/10

Overall rating: 6/10

Rating comments: Stories aren't really bad, but length is unsatisfying. You just get comfortable with characters when the new story starts. There are three protagonists and while Katsuyuki and Kagura make great protagonists, Shin from the second story is a sore loser  and he's plain miserable at times. The same stands for characters - some are superb, some average and some have too little screen time to shine. I rate quality as average for the too loud BGM that has only two states - on and off - as well as for relatively small size of pictures and just for format of multiple stories.
Impressions:  So here I don't really get how to make a proper formal review for three stories, so I'll just write of my impressions as I moved on.

 

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First story is called Vice and that title does not look appropriate. Well, from the very beginning we see how Katsuyuki pays for women and his inner voice constantly tells him to attack Azusa, but the story is not really about it. The story is about tender relations of a mature detective and a mysterious girl who has nowhere to go. It really looks cute how Katsuyuki constantly tries to send Azusa to her home town and how she finds dozens of reasons to prolong her stay or to return back to his apartment under various pretexts. The whole situation looked VERY much like that of Koriroh and Pudding in the beginning of Eve Burst Error. Also the drawing looked so warm and so familiar as it's something in-between Eve Burst Error sharper style and Eve Lost One smooth animation style. I had to turn off BGM after the first 10 minutes since I wanted to hear Azusa cute voicing properly. But Vice is also a great action story from the second half of it. The whole story only takes one hour, so I see no reason spoiling it. First story really hooked me and I thought that if the other two stories were same fast, bright and easy, then why not seeing it to the end!

 

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Second story started plain horribly. For first 20 minutes the guy just stays at his littered flat, sleeps, dreams and has pretty paranoiac thoughts. Then he finally gets a call and gets to the wedding and here I discover that it's suddenly command selection now and I need to click through all the look, speak, think over and over again as well as to pick the locations that I want to visit manually. I'm no stranger to command selection, so I pressed on. Then after some talk with couple characters I just went back to the dining hall, filled my belly with delicious food and upon returning to the corridor I was told that the time was up and I failed which followed with a bad ending. And that ending was saying ending №7! I was hugely shocked by both the fact that there can be time limit on my actions and by the huge number of endings in just one of the three "short" stories! Tried to find a walkthrough and there was none! And I know how horribly difficult it is to try and find different endings in command selection game. Eve ZERO taught me that all right! So I decided just to do things right and not waste time and get at least one good ending. And that was no easy feat. I stumbled into bad endings couple more times before grasped the happy ending with the bride girl. But there are two more girls who you make H with during the main route and who are destined to have their own endings. I've no idea how to get to their endings though, so it ended for me with the bride ending. This second story also required quite a lot of bruteforcing as only visiting all locations and exhausting all the options allows to move further and that must be repeated multiple times. So even though the girls were much to my liking in the second story, the gameplay and the horrible protagonist definitely weren't.

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I was quite sure that the final third story would be just a one hour breeze since the second story was supposed to be the main one. And C's Ware managed to turn everything upside down once again. The third story turned out to be the main one out of the three and it also lasted the record 3.5 hours. C's Ware no baka-a-a! So third story is more like a mix between first and second story. It has few, cut very cute characters and easy to understand plotline just like Vice story, but at the same time it's of command selection type and you need to go through the same five locations over and over exhausting all the options to move forward. Then finally the day finishes and the next day the routine continues. There's no aim in Kagura actions. We just go around outside of the Amaterasu yashiki. And only on the 7th day or so suddenly the trial time arrives followed by game over. But the third story is the main one not just because it's the longest. It has two absolutely fabulous heroines - protagonist Kagura and shrine maiden Miyano. Both are fully voiced with just a gorgeous voicing. They fool around all the time creating a really top notch comedy mood in the air. The talking demon sword and gossiping maidens make up for a huge number of comedy situations and comments. Third story is a great pleasure to read if only not for the constant checking the same areas over and over. The only good japanese review just skips the first two stories entirely and gives a thorough analysis on all the references on other works found in this third story.

Overall comments: So overall I enjoyed the stories united by the love birth theme, but just can't approve the short stories format where many elements have to be sacrificed and H events must be stuffed up tightly. C's Ware again managed to produce a superior game that was too difficult for the general public to like and had faults not in the game elements, but in systems. That BGM that can be either ON or OFF really hurts the game evaluation as you either have to sit in the silence waiting for the characters to speak again or to listen to fantastic BGM that roars and suppresses all the brilliant seiyu work. But it's the C's Ware I love - with bugs, system shortcomings and really challenging gameplay, but nurturing real gems inside that stay hidden from the general public and show up only for you.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: A C's Ware game at the mature period of company development, past DESIRE, Xenon and Eve:Burst Error. That's already enough to hook me. It has other attractiveness factors like title mystery that is Russian word Рабыни for "female slave". But why bother with Russian title in a nukige? Another reason is that cover has absolutely no premise for slavery. So mayhaps it's a sly puzzle that the company prepared for us? I'm more than willing to discover.

Title: Rabyni

Developer: C's Ware

Date: 1996-06-21

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v9048

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq_g_IirpxlYgTVj7C3WhmKz


Synopsis: Reiji is a loser high school student. He likes to peek after girls and girls detest him for that. He only has one childhood friend Misaki who brings him to school and helps him with studies. But everything changes after Reiji is caught by the teacher red-handed taking camera shots in girls' changing room...

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Structure: Single road.

Length: Took me 9 hours

Game type: Command selection ADV  

Difficulty: Easy, but all the command selection moving around the same areas over and over again makes it exhausting

Character Design rating: 8/10

Protagonist rating: 5/10

Story rating: 5/10

Game quality: 4/10

Overall rating: 6/10

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Rating comments: I can divide the whole game into three parts. Beginning part prior to being caught red-handed was actually a blast. First first five minutes of the game hero just decides on a very important question - to go to school or to skip school. That's a very amusing monologue. Next he picks up on every girl discussing their body proportions and each girl gets angry in her own way. It's a very nice comedy in the first part with nice characters and dialogues. I put a firm 8/10 to the first part.

Middle part changes the game drastically. His teacher blackmails him into becoming her slave under the threat of kicking him out of school with making his secret camera shots public. But it's not about sexual slavery that much - she rewards him with intimacy if Reiji has excellent marks and does the home chores like cleaning and cooking properly. In just couple days Reiji evolves greatly and becomes the best student in the class and starts to attract different girls attention. That's a hard to believe change, but still this part is very close to a romance work with getting to know girls better and helping solve their problems. I'd rate this part below the masterpiece level, but still quite highly, at 6/10.

Then comes the last part and the title of the game starts to kick in. Reiji becomes dissatisfied with constant treasons of Yoko-sensei and one day just coerces her to his will putting her to slave position instead. And from then on this master-slave attitude starts to shift to girls. Girls stop being subjects. Even though there is nothing about sexual slavery, Reiji starts to behave like a master easily punishing any of girls for misbehavior. That stopped looking good anymore and ending failed to impress. So this part is worth 4/10 for me.

The sum of those marks is 6/10 and the overall quality of the game prevents it from reaching masterpiece level. Game has no voice, repeating command selection gameplay, few locations and even fewer non-HCG.

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Protagonist: Reiji is a nice protagonist while he's a looser. Then he's suddenly reliable good guy with a secret in his his closet. And then he's a master who treats girls around him like punishable objects. That's a bit of too much change for a single game, isn't it? That quickly severs the link between him and the readers.

Characters: There are some 6 girls, I think. But surprisingly enough two girls don't really have their H events. I don't really want to focus on girls since neither of them has their own route. Still girls are cute and dialogues with them makes the most enjoyable part of the game.

Story: I happened to retell the story in the rating comments section.

CG: Very few CG and few locations make the game look bleak. Animated H scenes don't help much since same scene may repeat over and over at different times and there's no dialogue in the mids. Palette is dim.

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Sound: Nothing special and no voicing really hurt.

Overall comments: Game was not bad while I tried to evaluate it in the beginning and middle part, but final part spoilt it all creating an inevitably poor impression overall. Still I felt C's Ware puzzling feeling. There was even one scene when you suddenly make it from №300-sh to №1 in grades and have to participate in spontaneous test to prove your ability. It took me some 20 minutes to answer 8 out of 10 repeating questions correct, because many of those questions were different each time and I failed to understand how the knowledge of japanese baseball or which coin can be put to an envelope actually qualified as school knowledge. 

Game has a complex nature and is a treat for C's Ware fan like me. I'm really glad it turned out to be a quirky romance comedy rather that fall into fetishism.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: Game has a very strong start and intriguing concept which made me play to the end. It differed from my initial expectations, but it's a very original and good-looking game, so I don't regret playing it.

Title: Angel Halo

Developer: Active

Date: 1996-10-25

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v6958

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c39QbpcwcZs&list=PLENAECnNmAq-m-9QhCmoIlz4DWBEqTwHq


 Synopsis: The protagonist, Kusakabe Makoto, is living a normal school life without knowing he is the reincarnation of Lucifer. One day an angel named Sofia and a demon named Lilith come to him. They are the messengers of Heaven and Hell. The day of Lucifer's judgement is approaching.

Structure: Two routes depending on choosing Angel or Devil side with total number of endings being 5.

Length: 5 hours

Game type: AVG 

Difficulty: Branching is actually very easy as only 2-3 first choices determine the ending, but there are many fake choices, so it can look confusing.

Character Design rating: 6/10

Protagonist rating: 5/10

Story rating: 7/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 7/10

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Rating comments: Game barely makes it to 7 which is still considered a masterpiece by me. The first route story was really impressive worth 8 or 9, but all the others were the very same route with some minor variations, mostly just before the ending. Characters are good-looking, but aren't developed. Protagonist is a pushover, as usual. But naked angel girls with gorgeous wings help the evaluation a lot. And there's some charm in seeing all the endings.

Protagonist: Makoto is an ordinary high school student who gets to know from one of the transfer students Lilith that he's an incarnation of the Satan and is going to destroy all life on the Earth in two weeks on Christmas Eve of 1999. And another transfer student Sofia says that Makoto is a savior of humanity. He does not believe either of them. But Sofia shows him her wings and Lilith introduces him to the world of pleasures, so he ends up taking one of the sides. I did not like protagonist since he was just killing time in school. He was hating his dull life and wanted for this unexciting life on Earth just perish one day even before meeting transfer students. He has an osanajimi Marimo in the same class and with all the otherworldly business he just forgets about her completely only stumbling upon her by pure chance in one of the routes. In Angel route he's passive, in Devil route a total dick.

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Characters: There aren't really character routes, so individual characters aren't developed. We get an angel Sofia, a devil Lilith, a childhood friend Marimo, a teacher Ruida who comes from the descendants of angels and male friend Shinichi. The rest of the characters are one-time thing and no female character stays without a H event. Ruida is actually a character who undergoes a lot of development. She's a natural ally of Sofia, but gets seduced by Lilith in the beginning who amplified her lust. So Ruida gets into a difficult position where she does not want the world to end, but can't resist Lilith's will as well and that leads to unexpected results in some endings. Shinichi is also worth mentioning as he's a stoic and benevolent character - he acts as a sempai in relations with Makoto.

Story: There's actually not much in the story department after the opening sequence. Both Sofia and Lilith invite Makoto to their houses in the evening and this choice determines the side while following sub-choice determines the ending. Then for about two hours goes a fixed part of the story with Makoto finding indecent activities at school and in the part and also discovering a bonded missing girl in the church who craves for intimacy. Only being able to repress this temptation opens up the best angel ending. And the second half of the story depends on the chosen side. As a devil apprentice Makoto is encouraged just to do as he likes and wait for the world demise and following an angel path he needs to get intimate to several school girls who have are angel descendants. Doing that is supposed to restrain the Satan in him from breaking loose. This part is good as girls have their own wills and require some evidence or persuasion. But Makoto is such a failure protagonist that he can only whine. Sofia encourages him to use his super messiah power to make girls believe he is the Chosen one, but she does not know how that works and Makoto is not able to find that out, so the fate of the world depends on a chain of random events mostly. I hope I did not spoiler too much by now, but I also need to emphasize the endings. I started with the devil ending and it was impressive. The second devil ending was of the same pattern, but Makoto got his own malicious will to aggravate things even more. But finishing angel route I also got a bad ending... WTH? Second angel ending was also a failure. I'm glad I left the final best angel ending for the final... and it was impressive and impactful - that's all I can say without spoilers. Since I got a video of playthrough up, it's not difficult to see for yourself now.

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CG: I absolutely liked this dim retro palette and gothic uniform. There's a lot of attention to the dressing and those corsets, black t-shirts, long stockings and church-like gowns impress indeed. There is a substantial number of CG.

Sound: Game is fully voiced (apart of the narrator). I found some exceptions to this rule when Makoto tells a long history of one city district and he's not voiced at that time. But it was really exciting to find a 1996 game with full voicing. BGM are actually nice, but the level can't be adjusted. I had to turn it off at times where the dramatic loud melody prevented from listening to the characters. BGM volume is not adjustable and it's a bit too high to my liking. 

Themes: Game's based on thy hype over millennium shift. I personally like apocalyptic theme in visual novels - I liked Subarashiki Hibi, Shuumatsu no Sugoshikata and will definitely review Tsui no Sora one day.

There is also a nice fallen angel theme with its logical realization in one of the endings. 

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Overall comments: Game of big unrealized potential. My biggest complaint that there is no action in the game even though there all prerequisites for it. For example, there's this Lilith butter servant with a sadistic face. He's destined to be a villain, but he only participates in on rape scene and then shows up several time in Lilith room and... that's all. But Angel Halo also failed as love drama. There this supercute Marimo childhood friend who loves the hero, but she only plays a very episodic role literally occasionally bumping into the hero in one of the evil routes and thus getting her ending by pure coincidence and inside an evil devil route. So it all gets down to listening the explanation of Makoto role and just waiting or trying to fix his fate by mating with angel descendant girls. And Sofia with Ruida act more like pimps to drag girls to Makoto and threaten the girls with the end of the world in case of resistance. That's hardly much different from Lilith approach especially in the light that Sofia uses her body to attach Makoto to the light path and not the Heavenly means or reasoning. But as this unnatural situation gets underlined by all 5 endings the game gets some charm over it, not a logical conclusion type of charm, but that of the chaos solution for the chaos situation. And we also love Japanese visual novels for this impactful and affectionate chaos.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: Game's obscure, but it has one absolutely overwhelming Japanese review (giving 8/10 score btw) which claims that the game has references to dozens of media sources. I'm not good with media of 1996 year and earlier, but even I could discern 5 sources. Visual novel is easy to read and it's a great laugh at times while preserving a solid and intriguing plot with lovable characters, tonns of CG and almost full voicing. I say it's a neglected masterpiece.

Title: Bounty Hunter Rudy

Developer: Scoop

Date: 1996-10-25

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v7168

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUUFqi-M6JU&t=0s&list=PLENAECnNmAq_3TQ0rXcu0n95aygm3PPQU&index=46


 Synopsis: Rudy is a famous space bounty hunter with top notch skills. But she's famous mostly for her ability to fall into troubles because of uncontrolled destruction power. In order to deal with the debts she goes to casino, but drenches down into even deeper debt. She undertakes a top secret military case as her last resort to get big money fast.

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Structure: One route 

Length: 4.5 hours

Game type: AVG with dialogue choices

Difficulty: Game does not have branches, but getting 100% CG is not easy.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 8/10

Story rating: 8/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 7/10

Rating comments: Can't really call it the game for 8/10, but it's decent enough to be called a masterpiece. Main heroine is impressive, characters charming (yet not developed), space opera story grappling and numerous CG and almost full voicing make up in the quality department. It has flaws, but I shall elaborate later.

Protagonist: Rudy is our hermaphrodite strongest in the universe space bounty hunter. She blames in her failures anyone else but her and picks fights in dialogues with everyone. Being of simple and cheerful mind, Rudy enjoys drinking, money, a good company and space adventures.

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Characters: The only other significant heroine apart of Rudy is Anna who is an alien taking human girl form and who is waiting patiently for Rudy to drop her home. But Anna appears quite late in the story, after a third of it passed already. She's helpless and exists mostly as a comic relief - she always acts straightforward and answers honestly ruining Rudy's sly schemes. Other characters only make episodic appearance, although all of them are a colorful bunch and fun to have around.

Story: Much of it is in the synopsis. Rudy gets into a huge debt after a passionate mafia boss chase around the city and being outwit at the casino house. She's only offered poor jobs by the bounty hunter guild leader, so she decides to steal the big job from another guild member Reike. That involves investigating anti-planetary missile weapon. And while on the task, Rudy comes upon an alien in cryogenic chamber who takes the form of human girl Anna. The whole game adventures actually only start from here, but as game adapts to the role of bakage events start to lose ultimate aim. That's the best part in the game - you don't wait for the ending, but just enjoy crazy funny dialogues. And my deepest regret is only that I failed to trigger all the foolish CG and all the extra dialogue lines.

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CG: Game lasts around 5 hours and does not use sprites for the characters... yes - it's all done in CG only. Hundreds of CG! Sometimes such CG would only last for a few seconds! I was really favorably surprised by the effort. 

Sound: Protagonist is a woman and all women in this game are voiced. That actually means that almost everyone is voiced considered that game only has bounty hunter guild boss and robot Freddy as male characters as well as some nameless episodic characters. At times I forgot it was partially voiced since only scenes with girls proceeded. Voicing is done here very well and helps a lot the playful mood of the game.

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Humor: It's just everywhere. Mostly in form of verbal insults and crazy dialogue lines. But I really like it when the game breaks the 4th wall and Rudy does it quite often in hilarious ways. Here's one moment where I laughed out loud and could not stop laughing. Rudy faces a military robot and is presented with three choices. I choose third one with ridiculous phrase "Once upon a time there lived a grandfather and grandmother". Next lines showed on the screen: "Grandfather went to a sauna, grandmother went to a host club". Next we see Rudy getting punched and she shouts "Do not pick this choice"! Then I picked the same choice again. What I got was "Then grandfather went to refresh". And next we see Rudy punched and she shouts "Reality is severe"! 

Overall comments: I have not enjoyed a bakage that much for a long time. The best thing is that you don't need to care for the plot much or for branches or saves - just enjoy what's happening on the screen at this very moment and that's it. It's a game for relaxation. I feel like some of the spice is lost in machine translation and some cultural layers lost since I am not a Japanese native of the 1990s. Also I appreciated that H events are playful, short and totally forgotten a second after. Well, H events aren't usual as well - they are fun and memorably inventive. It's rare to see a game that puts a player first and everything else second. It's a game that leaves a lasting warm impression and is worthy to be called a masterpiece and a hidden gem.

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kivandopulus

Foreword: Who does not know of Leaf company? Who does not know that its games Shizuku and Kizuato are considered the first modern type visual novels? But how many of us actually played those? There are some good English reviews of those (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) and I initially only relied on those as well. But the historical significance of Kizuato made me change priorities. Throughout the rest of 90-s and the first half of 2000-s I encountered quite many story-focused visual novels that are described by Japanese reviewers as "degraded version of Kizuato", so I really needed to see the original myself to get the proper idea. As for Shizuku... it came first and is a curious blend of old and new types of visual novels. Why did Leaf bother to make two remakes of it if it's a plain nukige about radio waves? Or maybe it's a dark-themed masterpiece akin to Moon by Tactics? I hope to answer those questions here. And I decided to make a comparative review to spice things up. Screenshots on the left belong to Shizuku, on the right - to Kizuato.

Title: Shizuku | Kizuato

Developer: Leaf | Leaf

Date: 1996-01-26 | 1996-07-26

VNDB link: https://vndb.org/v235 | https://vndb.org/v184

Youtube walkthrough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4ivg044iMI&list=PLENAECnNmAq-I8SGBuae4loVKdMDk6axP 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ixMxD4DBko&list=PLENAECnNmAq-5p0JujfLT9jK9_CSDAulN

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Synopsis: When one of his classmates suddenly gets mad in the middle of the class, the protagonist's uncle, one of the teachers in the school, asks him to investigate this matter after school. He starts the investigation with the help of one of the girls from his class, an investigation that will lead them to many horrors...

The protagonist is visiting his four cousins' home. He starts to have weird nightmares. Soon, he finds out that their family has non-human genes and the beasts in them want to hunt, and the ones who hunt are the males. Will he be able to help his cousins, will his love be enough or will he be devoured?

Structure: Three routes + Omake with total number of endings being 12  Six routes + Omake with total number of endings being 26.

Length: 25 hours | 40 hours

Game type: NVL AVG | NVL AVG

Difficulty:  Easy as there are few routes and branches, but to get all 12 endings best to follow walkthrough  | Moderate as there are many routes and endings and it's easy to miss some of bad endings and some omake routes

Character Design rating: 5/10 | 9/10

Protagonist rating: 6/10 6/10

Story rating: 5/10 | 8/10

Game quality: 7/10 | 9/10

Overall rating: 6/10 | 8/10

Rating comments: Nukige-like story really hurts Shizuku. All the main events happen during just one day and there's not even remotely enough time to get to know the girls. Girls also aren't too cute or interesting. Protagonist is a faceless embodiment of the player and we make all the decisions for him, so his presence is not felt at all. Still the game manages not to fall into nukige category and maintains its storyline which is worth praising.

Kizuato characters are totally adorable - every one of them! Each route follows a different pattern. Story is a fascinating one and each roots adds new details to the overall story. Protagonist is a faceless one and without much presence, but a good game does not need the protagonist to be great. So the question hangs in the air - why not 9 or 10 score then? As for me the routes are rushed and follow the same pattern - general route up to the half of it, then getting to know one of the girls better, then something bad happens and we hurry to help. And even though some details are added in consequent routes, those don't add much to the story and after first exciting route - second, third and fourth routes look really plain. True route was also disappointing for me as it added finally something new to the story, but failed to present a satisfying finalizing mark just freezing the state of events as it was.

Protagonist: Nagase Yuusuke is quite a failure as protagonist and being called Nagase-chan by the girls makes him even more humiliating. A totally generic high school student.

Kashiwagi Kouichi is a young adult, so he is at least mature. He's also not really a generic protagonist since he has quite a background behind him. He comes from an ancient Kashiwagi clan and his father mysteriously died as well as the girls father. So he has some mystery behind him, but I don't remember his face being shown and he does not show special personality traits in the dialogue, so I'd call him generic protagonist.

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Characters: 

Saori is a red-hair cheerful volleyball team member. Her route comes first and it's a really good route. And not just because of novelty as we see the carcass of the story for the first time. First - Saori has a bright personality and laughs a lot. Second - there is only one H event in her route and it's a voluntary one. Third - her route has the most of life essence as Saori and Yuusuke openly oppose the enemy, put up hell of a fight and emerge victorious from it. If only the other routes were similar. There is also one strong and shocking moment in the route bad ending, but it's the only bad ending that has nothing to do with H events, so it's really nice.

Mizuho is short brown-hair student council secretary. Being the filler mid-game route it is the most miserable route. Mizuho cries often, feels miserable about herself, admits lying all the time and is drawn as a totally self-insufficient personality. She has no friends but Oota and was dragged after her to the student council. Mizuho has no motive to help with the investigation but to help Oota. And on top of that the route is full of helplessness and rape with it ending only thanks to external factors, but not the heroes.

Ruriko is a mysterious short blue-hair girl who turned from a school idol to a weird goofy girl a year ago. She's more like a robot than a girl, but she has a very strong sixth sense, a mysterious aura around her and she gradually gains human traits throughout her route which looks really satisfying. Her route is a true one answering many questions, but it's also a route that features a lot of bad endings with all of the three girls and in that regard is very tiresome to get through.

I would also like to notice the absence of sub-characters in this game. There aren't friends, schoolmates or some external characters. All we have is Yuusuke's uncle and the three girls under influence of radio-waves - one of them being Oota and the others aren't even given names.

Chizuru is the oldest of sisters and the route is the most exciting one as it's full of action and cool-looking CG. Many other people as well as myself call this route a favorite one.

Azusa is a tsundere and has a misfortune to present one of the middle routes - and the result is truly grievous - route is full of H events and adds nothing to the story.

Kaede is a cold-hearted calm sister who devotes her life to a shire. And for the whole route we try to reveal her human traits. Her route tells us the clan story and gets to understand the routes of the problem.

Yumiko is a side-character who works as correspondent. Her route is a very short one (just one hour long!) and is basically a single long H event.

Hatsuno is the true route to my deepest regret. She's the youngest loli sister with bright personality and affection for her onii-chan. I really hoped she would not have her own route, but I guess developers needed an imouto route as well - and Hatsuno makes a great imouto.

Rikka route added only in the last remake of 2009. She's a totally new - maid - character that comes with a totally new after-story with a new villain. And it's a totally good route that adds lots of new cool everyday life scenes for old characters. But just remember that it was not meant to be in the original game and should thus be treated as a sequel with old characters, but since it's just one route it was not wise to release it stand-alone so it was released together with original.

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Story: Shizuku story is almost entirely retold in the synopsis. Oota gets mad one day and goes to the hospital. When uncle asks us to investigate strange gatherings of students at night school we can either investigate it or ignore it. If we choose to ignore, we're showed the graduation ceremony that becomes a huge orgy because of commands passed by radiowaves. So radiowaves use is not the mystery of the game - it's showed in the very first hour of the game. Only the mystery of personality of the villain persists, but it also becomes soon uncovered as we come with one of the girls to the night school to bear witness of the events happening there. Each girl has her own reasons to accompany the hero to the night school, but those don't change anything - a confrontation happens followed by game's end. So the game has no mystery, no story and no likable characters (maybe apart Saori) - what's the game for then? My guess is that the game is a thrilling eroge in unusual conditions, nothing more. It barely manages not to fall in the depths of nukige and presents mostly a historical interest.

Kizuato story is not really special. First half of each route takes nice and warm slice of life with only distant sings of the beast living in Koichi. In the second half something happens - either a mysterious enemy shows up or someone gets kidnapped or like in true route we just get to find an ancient cave and explore it. So it's a simple enough composition. But through the dialogues we get to uncover many secrets of the past and get to know the girls well. The most intriguing question is what about the beast part? I'd say it does not have that much emphasis in the game, actually. We get to have strange visions and people torn apart, but there's no telling if those are of Koichi doing. And thankfully beast instincts aren't used as a pretext for rape scenes - that happened only once. There aren't bad endings when Koichi would wreak havoc and kill everyone. Mostly beast instincts only show up during confrontation scenes. And the main theme of the game is learning to control those instincts. So as I see it Kizuato is more of a charage with a fancy intriguing plot rather than a full-scale action driven story. Rikka route is so big that it can easily qualify for a different game. It has a new serious story with some new characters and and presents a very satisfying development with a lot of interaction with all the heroines.

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CG: I only played the remastered version, and there are only some 10 non-HCG there which is a dreadfully small number. But what I really liked in Shizuku is the use of camera focus and animated camera shifts. Those really help to put emphasis on dialogue situations and show better what's going of from hero's perspective. Overall there are few outdoor daytime scenes in Shizuku and omnipresent dark areas make up for the gloomy pressure atmosphere.

There is a moderate number of non-HCG in Kizuato, but both CG and HCG look great and really refined there. Most of dialogues take part in well lit areas or on sunny days outdoors which contributes to good impression.

Sound: BGMs are very few and I grew tired of listening to the same main tune each time something important happened. Voicing is good, but due to the game nature those moans really get stuck in the head.

BGMs are sufficient and pleasant, but not special. I totally liked the voicing since the four sisters have very different personalities. Hatsuno voicing is just perfect and always enjoyable to listen to.

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Themes: 

Shizuku is not a too complicated game, so it's useless to search for concealed meanings there, but I liked that each character route had a different theme. Saori route has the power of reason and overcoming even hardest obstacles for the right thing. Mizuho route is based on friendship with Oota and has a nice resolution of friendship prevailing all the odds (even though it's the the most weird ending as everyone just forgets about the villain). Rikka route is centered around the inner connection of two siblings.

The curse makes the make theme of Kizuato. The whole clan is cursed with transformation affinity, but the males of the clan also subject to madness at some point of their lives. Koichi is the last male descendant of the clan with the rest of males taking miserable deaths full of suffering. Noone was ever able to cure it or control it. This desperation makes the theme of the game, but on practice the beast problem does not stand as grave in the game.


Humor: 

So Shizuku is not our usual galge, but it has an absolutely awesome part. That's omake. Main game suffers from lack of slice of life part and omake makes up for it. It's a total bakage that breaks the fourth wall constantly. It looks like seiyu and scenarist just wanted to fool around and had their full at it. Basically heroines discuss the game and what kind of character everyone is which leads to forcing Yuusuke to choose the girl he likes the most. And since he can't make a decision girls participate in sport and cooking competitions. 

There was some humor in 2009 Rikka route, but can't remember any of the original. But that awakening scene with two sisters getting embarrassed by the state of Koichi body was nice.

Overall comments: So here are first Leaf visual novels. What makes Kizuato a contemporary visual novel?

  • Different long route for each heroine 
  • Long enough main part with heroines introduction
  • Heroines aren't isolated in their routes but act alongside other heroines in the main course of the story.
  • Text-heavy narration for which NVL system was introduced
  • Has erotic content (which distinguishes from sound novels).
  • Rich sub-character cast.
  • Branched routes and multiple endings including bad ones.

And here's what's wrong with Shizuku:

  • Almost no sub-characters
  • No introduction to heroines (no slice of life part)
  • Too short time period taken
  • Abundance of H events
  • Each girl route follows absolutely the same pattern
  • Game has 12 endings (10 for main game and 2 for omake) and a lot of parts are shared between them, so it gets very repetitive and there's a constant deja vu feeling.
  • Repetitiveness is aggravated by the use of same phrases for countless times with different intonation. There were at least 5 such spots in the game when the characters may repeat the very same phrase for over 10 minutes. It may look fresh for the first time, but later on it only irritates.

Both games systems remind contemporary visual novels, but Shizuku as the first test bullet contains numerous flaws. My plank for masterpiece games is a bit low - 7/10 is enough to get there, so I consider Kizuato with 8/10 a masterpiece. It has great heroines cast, solid intriguing story and it surpasses nowadays charage a long way. 

As for Shizuku, it holds mostly a historical significance, but it still a worthy game if only read Saori route, then the very end of Ruriko route and the hilarious omake, of course.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: Game's totally obscure and there just one quite shallow Japanese review exists, so I'd probably miss this wonderful game unless saw Four-Nine as developer. And I'm really happy I did!

Title: Lilith

Developer: Four-Nine

Date: 1995-12-16

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v8949

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_1nGf0P0-M&list=PLENAECnNmAq8obEJUzYJkNq8XOxyNZ-0s


 Synopsis: An intense night battle between kunoichi clan leader and evil biblical spirit Lilith ends with kunoichi falling into coma state. 

A cat gets into an ordinary student Koketsu room, transforms into a girl and claims that Koketsu got her master kunoichi spirit and must help her master and defeat Lilith. The problem is that nothing is known about Lilith but the name and together they set to uncover its secrets.

Structure: One route 

Length: 11 hours

Game type: Command selection adventure

Difficulty: Challenging since there are gameplay elements introduced with walking on schematic map and triggering events including traps, some of which result in game over. Once I even managed to trigger game over during a H event! And there is no scene replay - you'll have to replay from the last save game.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 8/10

Story rating: 9/10

Game quality: 8/10

Overall rating: 8/10

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Rating comments: I can't praise this game enough. Lilith came a year after Gao Gao 3rd and it fully inherits the spirit of Gao Gao series, just with a slightly different setting. The story is surprisingly solid and long. Protagonist is the strongest compared to all the Gao Gao series games. Characters serve the story purpose mostly, but they spend so much time with Koketsu that we get to know everyone very well. The gameplay elements are really annoying when encountered, but those get easier and easier as story goes on, so the impression gets balanced. Being PC-98 exclusive, game is not voiced and can feel monotonous at times and only for that it's not a perfect score.

Protagonist: Koketsu is a normal student proficient in Kendo. And I can only admire how he manages to beat all kinds of beasts, demons and undead all by himself with his wooden sword! That kitten girl is absolutely useless in battle and strong allies join up quite late in the game. There are strategic retreats at times, but mostly he just beats crap out of anything! It's been a while since I encountered protagonist that strong. He's funny, cool and takes decisions himself. He reminds Wolfy from Gao Gao 3rd-4th a lot.

Characters: I'm not really sure for transcription, but cat-girl is Miya. There is also childhood friend Minoru. Eventually a fox girl comes into stage and kunoichi Sasame comes out of coma, so we get quite a harem here! And most of enemies are girls, of course. What actually delighted me is that not every female enemy gets a H event unlike Gao Gao series. There are also numerous neutral/episodic female characters in the game, so there's not enough time to devote to separate heroines.

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Story: I absolutely liked the story since it was absolutely unpredictable and full of great enemies, battles and blood. There are so many civilians and enemies killed violently that Gao Gao does not come into comparison even remotely on the matter. I also liked that at some point story got some structure as heroes needed to get all three spiritual stones. So each of these spirit stones parts and next fighting parts have each a beautiful legend in the core. Some of those stories are even about our enemies which totally blasts. Since I divided the videos by structural parts, it's well worth to mention those when talking about the story, but without too many spoilers, of course. So Koketsu with Miya just gather information about Lilith from various sources and work out a course of actions in introduction. Then gathering of three spirit stones follows. And second half of the game is devoted to numerous encounters with old and new enemies. That's the gist of it, but there there is a lot of content for 11 hour story.

CG: Relatively big number of CG, but as usual for Four-Nine, only HCG are full screen size. What I especially liked is that there aren't many H events in the game. And H content is filled by inserting many random H events that are peeped while investigating some locations. Quite a lot of H events with Koketsu are packed by the end of the game since he needed to restore a lot of energy and we know an absolutely best way to give an injured bleeding hero energy!

Sound: About 10 tracks, but those are totally different and very nice non-mechanic. BGM really adds to the charm of the game. 

 

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Themes: 

1) Lilith is the supposed first wife of biblical Adam, so religion has an important role in the game.


Humor: I was surprised to see so much mild humor in the game. It's totally the Gao Gao type. Some cases that come to mind to get a taste of it:

1) Christian priest says he studies Japanese culture and he already knows of ninja, geisha and hara-kiri!

2) One heroine was found in the bushes and she just can't excuse Koketsu for stealing her first breast! As it turns out it's the the same thing as the first kiss, but about touching a breast.

3) An exchange student is asked if she knows something about Lilith. It's a girl who went through a mirror to the wonderland (No, it's "Alice")! It's a game where you turn blocks and stick them together (No, it's "Tetris")! It's a fighting game between monsters where king is the mummy (No, it's "Anakaris")! It's shameful to say it as a girl, but it's what men have between the... (PLEASE STOP RIGHT THERE!)

Overall comments: This is a masterpiece and the exact kind of hidden gem that I would like to find in visual novels. A rich event-driven story with very unusual, but appealing characters (most of characters are half-bests as in all the Four-Nine games). So why is it so obscure then? There are many versions: command selection gameplay, trap/puzzle sections, bad endings, slow start of the game. But I also blame December - there are so many visual novels issued each December that it's sometimes difficult to find the place in the top 10 and the rest are deprived of attention.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: I keep exploring the vast vaults of Silky's games. This time it's even more suspicious work - a full scale yuri game. But it has many SF elements and even has genetically modified mutants - knowing Silky's they would not settle with an ordinary yuri work.

Title: Fermion ~Mirai kara no Houmonsha~

Developer: Silky's

Date: 1995-12-22

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v5903

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Btt7mlj8_rI


 Synopsis: The future isn't so bright. Pollution has severely weakened Earth and all of it's children, including humankind. Human DNA is too weak to reproduce itself and scientists are desperately trying to revive the human DNA. But every attempt fails, even the desperate attempt to fuse Human and Animal DNA turns out to create mutants that run amok.

Everything seems hopeless. But suddenly, scientists detect a space-time displacement, a gap in time. The gap will hold for a couple of days, and during which people may be sent through time.

Your mission as a Half-Human, Half-Feline, mutant-hunter Conny, is to back in time to the present (the late 20th century) and recover samples of healthy human DNA.

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Structure: One route 

Length: 5 hours

Game type: Command selection adventure

Difficulty: Easy since there are maximum three commands to select from at any time.

Character Design rating: 6/10

Protagonist rating: 5/10

Story rating: 6/10

Game quality: 6/10

Overall rating: 6/10


Rating comments: This is not a masterpiece, so it can't be 7 or higher by my scaling. Well, the rest depends on whether you play yourself or watch my playthrough with scores of 4 and 6, respectively. Original game has too many (10+) H events and has a very time-consuming and boring ventilation system maze crawler. I've cut those in my video reducing overall length almost twice without hurting the story. The whole first half of the game is packed with H events so densely that I really started to think Silky's made a plain ero-centered yuri game. But after two hours of such struggle finally story showed up making it a worthy Silky's title. Heroines in this game are quite memorable and well done, so characters get a high score. Protagonist Conny has a lower score since she does not even try to think for herself - first she follows orders and then her emotions.

Protagonist: Conny is a so-so protagonist since she has a strong sense of loyalty as a mutant towards humans. She can turn to a cat voluntarily, but she only uses that to prove that she comes from future and to get into other girls beds - only very late in game she actually it appropriately to travel through the vent system (and she manages to carry fuel canisters with her through the vent in cat form - don't ask me how). It's ok for a protagonist to be dense, but this time I felt no sympathy towards protagonist.

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Characters: There are two casts of characters - from year 1996 and from year 2296 - first represented by Kanako, her mother and sister and second comprised of military base crew. There are too many H events in the game, so most of dialogues are scrapped or serve as a prologue to next H scene, but still characters are solid here and dialogues feel alive.

Story: That's the difficult part. Conny arrives to Kanako family backyard in the form of a girl and is brought home by Kanako. During the whole first half of the game only gathering of genetic material happens. First the whole Kanako family cooperates, then Kanako invites a friend and then Conny manages to get into the school as a foreign student and gather genetic material in form of women fluids there. But the second half of the game brings much more in the story department. Conny's superior Dr. Kanzaki suddenly arrives to 1996 and kidnaps Kanako. When Conny flies back to future to save her new friend, she finds herself trapped in a cell-like room without freedom of movement. What's going on there? Why future military needs Kanako? What can Conny do about this situation? There are a lot of mysteries uncovered closer to the end of the game and some of them are totally unexpected and fascinating.  

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CG: Again, quite few normal CG and too many HCG. At least palette now is much more bright and vivid.

Sound: Not too many tracks, but I liked how in crucial story moments all the music stops and couple minutes are spent in a total silence - that benefited the atmosphere.

Themes: 

1) Time travel. As far as I understand the game violated all the logical laws of time travel like meeting yourself in the past. No big complaints here, but it gets an amateurish touch to the story.

2) There are no men in the game. The single time I saw man mentioned is when Kanako wanted to invite her friend and Conny asked whether that friend was a man or a woman. It's pretty weird to have a good dozen of characters with all of them being women.

Overall comments: This is mostly a yuri-intensive work, but the story turned out to be surprisingly good considered limitations of the setting. It's only disappointing that the action part of the story is hidden closer to the end of the game behind the wall of numerous yuri events and then the maze of vent system. It's an interesting and beautiful game with very nice characters, but I would only recommend watching my edited video version of it if you're interested in the story like myself.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: There is a negative English review, but VNDB voting shows a decent 6.72 score atm and this is Silky's story oriented work, same Silky's that I praised multiple times for Kawarazaki-ke no Ichizoku, Reira Slave Doll, Ushinawareta Rakuen and Koihime. So I decided to make it to the end of Jack ~Haitoku no Megami~ no matter what.

Title: Jack ~Haitoku no Megami~

Developer: Silky's

Date: 1995-11-30

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v6387

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3px7_N_hFY
 Synopsis: You are Jack Martin, a drunken, selfish, sex-driven bastard of a detective. You recently received a job to capture the inter-galactic terrorist "Phantom". The Phantom has been confirmed to be heading toward a galactic convention on a transtellar shuttle. This is where you come in.

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Structure: One route with four Bad End branches.

Length: 3 hours

Game type: Command selection adventure

Difficulty: Branching is difficult and following walkthrough is advised in order not to waste time on meaningless endings.

Character Design rating: 4/10

Protagonist rating: 5/10

Story rating: 6/10

Game quality: 6/10

Overall rating: 6/10


Rating comments: Pretty high score still. The introduction was very shallow followed by meeting meaningless characters having meaningless talks and then I entered the wrong branch where Jack just dozed off after drinking session at the bar oversleeping the important meeting and missing the whole murder case at the ship bridge... then there were some random girls encounters and then just something hit him in the head killing him after over 2 hours of play... wow, I felt really miserable at that point and that first impression really hurt evaluation. Then I followed a walkthrough and finally remotely understood what was going on. Other complaints are to be touched in corresponding sections.

Protagonist: Saying Jack is a bad protagonist is saying nothing at all. He's horrible. He does not have a single plan. All that he's doing is drinking in the bar and then drinking in his room occasionally having other girls drinking with him in the bar or in his or their rooms plus occasionally meeting some faces in the corridor. And if he drinks with the right people the story manages to unwind by itself...

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Characters: Characters are my biggest complaint in this game. There are a lot of girls, but they just flash here and there, throw a few dialogue lines and disappear in order to reappear in some spontaneous even leading to a H scene. Reni is the main heroine of the game, Jack's partner. She's an island of sanity in this asylum, but there's an impression that she just sits in the room all the time, so she never actually follows Jack. She does provide some insight, but apart of that she ain't much supportive.

Story: There's little in the story department. Main heroes hunt for mysterious Phantom, then a murder happens and they start investigation which does not bring any results, really. At some point Phantom just pops up and a swift resolution follows. I was greatly misleaded by the line about the dragon in the English review - actually it's not a normal dragon, but a space dragon that hatched from a huge space egg, so there's no shift in the setting.

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CG: Nice, but few'ish - but lots of HCG. Colors are kind of dim like in Reira while I'd prefer something more bright like Ushinawareta Rakuen.

Sound: Tracks are pleasant, but there are some 8 of them which is not enough.

Themes: Ok, this game actually does not have a symbolic theme, but why not mention couple repeating features

1) Oh, what time is it? Let's check the watch. It's 14:10. There is still a lot of time left. Those lines with slight variations are repeated so often, but I don't think there was some deadline ever so all that talk along with the clock integrated in the interface have little meaning.

2) The throat's got dry. I want to drink alcohol... Those lines are repeated over and over at those rare moments when Jack is not actually drinking. At the culmination point of the game in the mids of battle with Phantom he repeats the very same lines... That might be a nice feature of a cool protagonist, but Jack is not cool. He's rather miserable.

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Overall comments: I seem to be bashing the game in every section, so I'd like to focus on good sides in conclusion. 

1) First of all, the game plays as a contemporary visual novel with just clicking through and occasionally picking lines of choice.

2) Secondly, the constant drunkenness of protagonist opens up new opportunities like distorted consciousness and free flow of thoughts. 

3) There are some nice to observe archetype characters like a homo, an obviously super suspicious mechanic, an esper.

4) Jack himself actually gets some character depth by the end of the game - we get to know the circumstances that caused him to drop from an elite military unit and start to drink. 

5) The SF setting is quite interesting, actually, with postwar spies hunt and mysterious space events like that space dragon.

So it's not a masterpiece level game, but a solid Silky's experimental game. I like works with an SF touch Silky's is smart enough to provide an entertaining product. I'm looking forward to reviewing their next game Fermion ~Mirai kara no Houmonsha~.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: Silky's company and Slave doll in title inevitably make us think it's a nukige, but actually it's a scenario oriented game. Moreover, that's retelling of a classic cyberpunk story about an android hunter - the story that was already told in visual novels by Imitation wa Aisenai and Snatcher. Did Silky's ruin the classic concept or was it able to produce a masterpiece? You'll find the answer in this review. That's actually infamous Raira on the screen.

Title: Reira Slave Doll

Developer: Silky's

Date: 1994-04-28

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v9053

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUzNdzCXyhc&index=1&t=0s&list=PLENAECnNmAq8rNJQkjudialEIFqA335Pu


 Synopsis: Early 21st century. The crisis situation created by mass production and mass consumption of the 20th century has aggravated. Extinction of ozone layer caused environmental disasters including acid rains over the cities. Natural resources grew scarce due to explosive population increase. Humanity started space exploration. 

The shortage of labor force motivated scientific society to invent and produce bio-androids. 

2050. A quarter century has passed since start of practical use of androids. Fierce competition among android producers allowed advanced models to be sold for moderate prices affordable for average households. With that increased the number of runaway androids and crimes done by androids. Government obligated android producers to register all the units and new police units involving android crimes were created. Its police officers were commonly known as "Hunters".

This is a story of hunter Kano Ryo. He is looking for a female slave doll serial killer Reira. Out of two weeks given for the task only three days remain. Since android needs maintenance, the only place suitable for living for such a long time is some android factory. Ryo locates a factory near committed murders and just goes inside to conduct a full-scale investigation at the spot.

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Structure: Single route, no parts division.

Length: 7 hours

Game type: Command selection adventure

Difficulty: It was easy for me since I'm used to brute-forcing all the commands.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 6/10

Story rating: 7/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 7/10


Rating comments: A very high score for a PC-98 game. Girls are the gist of the game and they are surely lovely drawn and depicted. They have different personalities and are memorable. But it's impossible to imbue them with depth in a not-so-long game, so it's high score as it can get. Protagonist is an ok guy - not a maniac, but not without perversion if the situation cries for it. He does not force himself on anyone, but does not decline any invitations to H either. My biggest complaint about him is that we're not given his image - and that's supposed to be the coolest thing a cyberpunk story! Story is with a twist, so I was pleasantly surprised. The quality of the game is very good, but greatly degraded by lack of non-H CG and constant command brute-forcing. 

Protagonist: It's actually difficult to say anything else about Ryo. Oh! He has a ray-gun, but he only remembers about that at the end of the game when he desperately needs to open a door. If he remembered about that earlier, I would not have spent 3 hours looking for ways to open previous two doors in the game! Anyway, there are only girls CG in the game and thus poor Ryo looks blank.

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Characters: So, yes, it's a game about girls mostly. But there aren't girls roots and the whole interaction with girls is presented by normal communication with them or finding them in different peculiar situations and reacting by the circumstances. So I don't feel the need to speak about them individually, but here are the names and occupations. Glasses wearing blue long hair Eleanor is an office section manager. Red long hair Alicia is responsible for scrap station. Short green hair Anise governs the warehouse. Medical department has  two similar looking nurses - Silk and Cotton (I know, I know...). Long blue hair Sofia is the boss of a sorting center. Short curly brown hair Mei is in charge of the furnace. Long blond hair Karin governs the chip processing section. So that's it - just 7 divisions and so many girls. But a nice thing is that few of girls are amicably set towards the detective. But still there is at least one H-event of each of them with the protagonist and there is more without Ryo. Oh and there is factory owner who does not get another name, but Owner. And that is because he owns.

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Story: Finally, the story. It's the part that should reinstall the game from a nukige to a decent cyberpunk story if it's still redeemable at all at this point. So Ryo gets a permission from factory owner to explore the factory with the guide Alicia. After the tour Alicia seduces Ryo saying that it's a direct order from the owner that she can't disobey. Because of that attitude a rebellion movement is threading among the staff against the owner. But there are also collaborators who obstruct the investigation and prevent Ryo from entering some areas. Ryo soon finds the traces of illegal android trade, but how is it linked with serial murders and runaway slave doll Reira? You won't know without watching the video walkthrough.


CG: Too few! But at the same time HCG are in abundance. 

Sound: BGM tracks are very pleasant, but not memorable.

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Themes: As pretty much every game about androids, Reira Slave Doll tries to keep with the flow. The main question is whether androids should have rights if their intellectual level outgrows that of a human. 


Overall comments: So it's definitely an ero-centered game. But at the same time it has a serious intriguing plot. So why not have both? The balance here is tilt towards H and the situation is aggravated by command bruteforcing, but the story behind it is satisfying. Recommended for all cyberpunk fans or just for anyone who wants a light cheerful game with beautiful characters and CG in Sci-Fi setting.

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: It would be weird if I reviewed only three games of the serious out of four. So here is the leftover piece - and again a worthy one.

Title: Gao Gao! 2nd ~Pandora no Mori~

Developer: Four-Nine

Date: 1994-04-16

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v8695

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq9jc6oE6uhjsWcOoBDaZg2h


 Synopsis: A biological experiment that began in 1993 led to a terrible disaster in the beginning of 21st century. A virus that turned living beings into mutants and monsters has been unleashed. Soon the Earth turned into a terrifying place of chaos, as more and more human beings became infected. Unspeakable violence obliterated human civilization. Within a few years, humanity was on the verge of total annihilation. The Era of Darkness began.

But not all hope was lost. Humans began building cities known as "Domes", isolated from the wilderness, protected by glass from all sides, cut from natural resources. It was possible to start building civilization anew. 

On one fateful day, the famous scientist couple Mizuhara were killed in what looked like an accident. Their project, which showed new ways of fighting the virus, descended into the grave with them. Their two children were separated and for a long time were unaware of their origins. But the wheels of destiny keep spinning, as the young Mizuhara is about to discover the truth about his parents, and perhaps bring new hope to humanity...

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Structure: One route with 8 chapters.

Length: 7 hours

Game type: Command selection adventure

Difficulty: Easy - there were only couple moments to bruteforce - apart of that the pace is good.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 4/10

Story rating: 6/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 6/10


Rating comments: Huh, the worst rating of all games in the series. The biggest complaint this time is absolutely spineless and useless protagonist. We see his crying face so many times that the desire to hit him arises. Luckily, his female cousin Lucia hits him so many times during the game that even desire to hit him vanishes. Another my complaint is that the game gets very ero-centered by the end of it sacrificing some of the story for the sake of it. I'm glad it was fixed in later installations, but here it left a negative impact for me. And that brings forth my complaint about the story which I'll explain in the story description. Overall game quality stays on the same level as other games of the series which is very high. 

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Protagonist: Jackie makes the worst protagonist in the series and I'm very glad I did not change his name to mine (there is such menu option). He can't make his own decisions, complains and cries all the time. His female cousin Lucia who accompanies him for the most of the game is a typical tsundere - basically it's a less funny version of Rabby from Gao Gao 3rd. When by the end of the game she's asked why she's that much of a tsundere, she answers that she does not really understand herself often and does not know what she wants... jeez. Jackie can't make his own decisions, so Lucia does them all the time! And she chooses kind of the worst options, so they always get into trouble. And both protagonists are powerless, so they are abused for the whole first part of the game and it does not look funny, to be honest. But to compliment the developers there are nice sub-characters here and amplified humor part.

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Characters: As usual, there are lots of sub-characters. The funniest one is Laila who is the genetic parent of Ilia from Gao Gao 3rd which means that they have totally the same personalities, but different memories. Another curious character is glasses wearing Meg who is a friend of protagonist Lucia. The beast girl protagonists encounter first is Lia, but she does not say anything but "Mi" and thus is almost useless for the story. And there's also a half-mermaid girl Nagi. Phew, that finishes the harem of Jackie. As if it's not enough - there also other sub-characters with H-events.

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Story: Jackie was separated from his female cousin Lucia 10 years ago after death of their parents. Now Jackie goes from Pluto-city to Aristo-city to meet his cousin. She meets him at the station, but treats him as a dog which role Jackie joyfully accepts. She is foolish enough to fall for a nanpa and Jackie whines so much that he's taken along on a car ride. The nanpa guy Roy brings them to a forbidden area infected by virus and attempts a rape. The cousins flee from the car and get lost in the forest where they eventually meet mutants and the real story begins. But forest part of the game does not really last long and 6 chapters out of 8 take place at Aristo-city upon their return. In order not to spoil much I'll only say that their return does not really happen smoothly and that the laboratory under the city holds all of its secrets (same as in Gao Gao 3rd and 4th, actually - so it's hardly a spoiler). I actually hoped for a better story - not just a walk to the forest and return back with the remaining story happening in the same city. But Gao Gao series is characterized by some facilities investigations in a company and that's presented here in full volume. Moreover, first two chapters were too boring thanks to featuring only two failure protagonists. But as more characters come to stage the flow gets its usual pace and the game becomes a worthy species of the series. 


CG: As usual, all the full-screen pictures are reserved for HCG which are rather uneven. But half-screen CG are very nice, yet as usual reserved only for event scenes. 

Sound: Great! But I actually think that Gao Gao 3rd inherited too many melodies from this game.

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Themes: It's not really a theme, but a complaint over the plot. At some point we get to know that virus is already extinguished and the governing circles just conceal this information as it's convenient to govern the isolated communities under the domes. But in Gao Gao 3rd and 4th we get a different picture as humanity is eliminated save for very small nucleus communities. And whatever the explanations for that are, I still see a contradiction here. Such big cities as Aristo-city can't just vanish over couple hundred years. The only answer to that might be reproduction problems, but Canaan protagonist human boy Kite was born in the vault without problems, so I doubt that's the case. 


Overall comments: So it's the weakest game in the series, but does it mean it's bad? I consider Gao Gao series to be the best visual novel series in the whole pre-Windows period. Thus Pandora no Mori surpasses a vast majority of pc-98 era games. And it holds much value for the fan of this series. First of all - most of jokes that keep repeating through following games are originated here (like in example "Information is transferred to the central host" "Oh, host is a man who is dating women!"). Here we finally get to know the origins of the mermaid story that goes through 3rd and 4th games. There are a lot of other symbols that get into following games (like Laila comes to a computer and exclaims that it's strange that it has not broken down after her approaching - and that theme repeats a lot for Ilia).

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kivandopulus

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Foreword: I did not expect much of the first game in the series, but was pleasantly surprised. It's a really long scenario-centered game that stands on the same level as Gao Gao the 3rd, just in less intriguing environment. It's well worth a review!

Title: Gao Gao! 1st ~Radical Sequence~

Developer: Four-Nine

Date: 1994-01-07

VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v8694

Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik-oCR-wj2E&t=0s&list=PLENAECnNmAq8SX_gfftcaJs33UPCvY_Lv&index=1 

Synopsis: The protagonist of the game is a college student named Yuuji Shibata. One evening, just after hearing on the news that someone has stolen a tiger, he goes out to a convenience store. On the way back, in a dark alley, he notices a strange creature, a young girl with cat ears and tail. She doesn't seem to remember anything about herself, except her name beginning with the syllable "Mi...", which afterwards earns her the nickname Mi. Yuuji brings her to his house and tries to introduce her to the world of humans. (which, naturally, also involves techniques of human procreation). But will Yuuji be able to keep Mi as his companion (sexual and otherwise), or will he have to face her mysterious past?..

 

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Structure: One route with 8 chapters.

Length: 8 hours

Game type: Command selection adventure

Difficulty: Easy, but triggers aren't clear and bruteforcing required. There were couple very painful moments that took a while to bruteforce.

Character Design rating: 7/10

Protagonist rating: 8/10

Story rating: 7/10

Game quality: 7/10

Overall rating: 7/10
Rating comments: First three games were released almost the same year and they all share the same drawbacks that were partially fixed in 4th Canaan. Those are bruteforcing and obligatory interactive H-scenes. And again hero scores with every female heroine he meets sooner or later - I'm not a fan of such approach. But apart of that I'm really satisfied with the game. I was afraid of abuse of H events with Mi, but there were only two obligatory ones, quite the same as with some other characters. And the scale of the story is much bigger that's presented in the synopsis with a lot of characters to take part. Add here the fact that we're being the witnesses of the very beginnings of virus H1 outrage and I'm sold. I rated protagonist higher than other heroines, because he's truly a great guy - the following section is about him.

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Protagonist: Yuuji Shibata is a normal college student... at least we're told that. But he only attends library to prepare for the test in the game. He's funny and brave. There's a lot of charm about him. Gao Gao series protagonists have personalities, faces and none of them are of perverts. That's a great advantage. There are about 10 H-events in the game, but all of them have decent explanations and are results of some events and conditions. That's really fresh since girls don't really force themselves upon the hero and thus don't have their personalities devalued. Yuuji is the only fighting force till very late in the story (catwoman Mi is totally useless in fights) and I was really astonished by the fact that he defeated several ninjas all by himself and was the only one to effectively oppose virus beast - that's your normal college student! There's a lot of charm in the protagonist and Yuuji's the best human protagonist in the series (he can't beat half-wolf Wolfy, of course ^^).

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Characters: There are really many characters in this game and even though the game starts normally, it soon becomes a two-man party and eventually even three-man party, so it has the roots of the party heartwarming adventure feature that's the feature of the series. It's useless to speak of heroines, because there are only two main ones - Mi and another college student Hanako. Those girls usually accompany Yuuji and thus are able to contribute to many scenes. Other heroines have episodic part in the story.

Story: So Yuuji finds Mi at a waste depot and brings her to his room. From then on they just wander around the town for several days trying to help Mi recover her memories. At some point they start to be followed by different suspicious persons who demand to return Mi, but heroes just run away from them each time. With some of the memory threads linked together, Mi finally recognized the house that used to be her home. But getting to that house does not even cover a half of the story with the most exciting part hidden in the mansion's inhabitants. Things get violent soon with some unexpected allies joining in. But you won't get the real answers till you watch the video walkthrough.
CG: Somehow I found CG here superior to Gao Gao 3rd. And I did not feel as if I was retrogaming at all. But still rare... only for plot important scenes and thus are packed close to the end of the game.

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HCG: Compared to Gao Gao 3rd HCG are finally beautiful with few distorted face features.
Sound: Great! I like it how the themes of the sounds transfer to the next games, but transformed so that those would not irritate.
Themes: I can see one theme to be lingering throughout the game. There is no good and evil, allies and enemies. There are only persons that can be reasoned with as long as they possess intelligence. So far it's the kindest game in the series with pretty much noone dying apart of very episodic sub-characters.
Overall comments: I've already reviewed two other games of the series and thus don't have much to say here. That's a very strong start of the series and characters-wise Radical Sequence does not really fall behind its older brothers. We only get semi-fantasy environment here and semi-party experience, but it's the same stamp of quality that's shared among the games of the series. If you liked Wild Force or Canaan it would not be a waste of time to try Radical Sequence. And no game of the series gives virus origins and development explanation as good as Radical Sequence.

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