If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck
Foreword: I don't believe Alice Soft - they can only make eroge and bakage. But this game was highly praised overseas. Who knows, maybe it's the game that can overcome my aversion.
Developer: Alice Soft
Synopsis: In this world, here are two kinds of intelligent beings. One are humans and the other are Diaboliques. Diaboliques possess power, violence, intelligence, and eternal life. Their life form was categorized into four levels, the lowest division lacking intelligence, reproduction ability and beauty and the fourth being very intelligent and able to change form.
For thousands of years, human race has been suppressed by the danger of diabolique. However, a legend has passed on through generation that there's diabolique that kills its own species. This diabolique was Azulite - one of the only five Lord Diabolique (the ones of highest category). Being known as the "species killer," Azulite has come up to kill diaboliques. At here, he met a girl named Letticia. Her innocence and tragic background has attracted Azulite, and soon Azulite fell in love with her. However, the two lovers were separated after Letticia was killed. They promised to see each other when she was reincarnated. Carrying with the promise, Azulite once again set off on a journey looking for Letticia.
Structure: There are roughly five big parts corresponding to five different time periods.
Length: 16 hours
Game type: Command selection adventure
Difficulty: Easy. Story is one way road and bad ends are possible only if make a bad decision in battle. Even then the game kindly suggests to load from the beginning of the battle rather than finding your earlier savegame.
Character Design rating: 8/10
Protagonist rating: 10/10
Story rating: 10/10
Game quality: 9/10
Overall rating: 10/10
Rating comments: Two games in a row with a 10/10... either my standards are that low or the games are that good. I actually stand for the latter. My only complain to game quality is that it's not voiced and music only lasts for couple minutes and fades before the next scene is reached. And I did not particularly like the way the five Lord Diaboliques were presented. We get short scenes with them between the main Azurite story parts and only by the mids of fifth final part we're told their names and their governing elements. So through the game they are just random guys and when we get acquainted to them, there's already a climax part pending. I'd like to get more of Lord Diabolique characters.
Protagonist: Azurite is absolutely fabulous as a protagonist. He lost most of his memory, but he knows that he's the strongest of Lord Diaboliques. He remembers he's searching for something and wanders around killing his kin and getting food and shelter for that. He travels in a human form and he looks like a very tall elf with his long hair, slender body and big sword. But in this cruel world drowned in blood he's the only gentelman. He's very polite, kind, good-mannered and modest. He never drawn his sword against any human no matter how bad he's bullied or hunted (well, not in human state at least he-he). And he's a one-woman man. From the moment he met Leticia in humiliating conditions he felt a deep sympathy towards her. He's never laid an eye on any other woman and when one woman throughout the story tried to force herself on him, his manhood could not react at all. He's very loyal and that makes the story unique. Well, he's quite sensitive too and he can afford to cry when he's with Leticia. He's a great cook and at mornings he always greets Leticia in an apron and with a ladle inviting her to have breakfast.
Characters: Each of the five story parts has its own set of characters. I adore party adventures and story part 2 and 3 were about adventuring in two different parties and that was absolutely cool. I really liked those different party members with fancy characters, but they don't play significant role. Only Leticia follows throughout all the parts (actually, even she's absent in one part) and enemies. There is also Aria girl that has an important role in 4th and 5th story parts, so let's look at those two girls.
Leticia: Well... she's different. Part 1 shows us canonical abused scary girl. Part 2 is an absolutely different, bold and picky personality and a different appearance. Part 3 is again totally different from those two, but I would not like to spoil here. In Part 4 she's absent and in Part 5 she's basically canonical Leticia again, but she remembers all the previous reincarnations as well. Well, she's quite a typical heroine like in many single heroine stories. Sensitive scared crybaby who knows next to nothing about the world and that gives Azurite an opportunity to act protective and teach her basic facts about the world. But as for me, Part 2 and Part 3 Leticia reincarnations are much cooler, totally different personalities and great stories.
Aria: She's a usual native Indian girl, curious and brave. She recovers Azurite body when he falls into a trap and takes care of him while he recovers. But Azurite falls into the same trap for the second time (well, he's not wisest man) and she dies stepping up and getting all the blows that were ment for Azurite. That's an inevitable spoiler because there's not point discussing Aria as human. Azurite makes a misfortune (intelligent creation) of her she stays protecting those ruins and waiting for Azurite. Well, that's the biggest charm about this girl. She's becomes a killing machine, but she regains her memories - she looses humanity, but she has intelligence and senses. She's condemned to wait for Azurite for hundreds years in that dark den and eventually he comes... not alone, but with Leticia. There's a very touching scene of jealousy risen inside Aria towards Leticia and that and her damned fate make her a very memorable character.
Story: Story is superb throughout first four story parts. There's a lot of diabolique fights, lots of death, lots of adventuring. Part 2 and 3 features adventuring inside two different parties and that's just the best moments of the game. Part two is also a perfect slice of life on top of that. So we get to know Leticia in part 1 and eventually lose her. In part 2 after 60 years we discover her soul in a different girl and eventually lose her. At this point I already thought I knew what would happen in leftover parts. But part 3 is totally shocking - there's no Azurite in it, there's no Leticia in it - main three characters are a pub girl, a huge warrior woman and pub girl's brother who wishes to go adventuring and joins that huge warrior woman. For two hours the story lingers and you start to put up with the fact that's it's a totally different story when - BAM - Azurite appears in a totally unexpected way - BAM - Leticia appears and the chapter shortly ends. Ok... now I adjusted my expectations and the leftover stories were bound to be the same Azurite is searching for Leticia, but in other humans forms, easy as that. And fourth chapter gives another shock - there's Azurite in his usual for throughout the whole chapter, but Leticia does not make appearance in this chapter at all - not her soul, pretty much nothing! Just wow. So fifth chapter should finally be about meeting of two heroes, right? NOT. For one and a half hour you watch a slice of life about 7-year old reincarnated Leticia and her 7-year old friends. And I'd like to assure you that watching a slice of life about 7-year old first graders is not fun in any way - that was the most torturing part of the game. But fifth part is the longest one (about 5 hours long), so there is enough time for heroes union and new confrontation setting and final resolution. I'll tackle the fifth chapter in Themes more.
CG: There's a lot of CG, actually. I'm totally satisfied by is quantity and quality. Here are some gore CG for the taste of it. There's a lot of CG, actually. I'm totally satisfied by is quantity and quality. Here are some gore CG for the taste of it.
HCG: Believe it or not, but there are only two and a half hentai scenes in the game. Two scenes for 16 hour long gameplay. I'm sorry, is this really Alice Soft? Well, it is. In order to make up with just two H-scenes there are a lot of half-naked/naked shots. A lot of enemies are drawn the way to amplify eroticism. There are a lot of flashbacks and occasional nudity scenes, so don't worry, it's very much Alice Soft, just adapted to fit the pure love eternal reincarnation story. And the only Azurite and Leticia H event is one of the most memorable in my gaming experience. There's no music and no voice during that. Only the rising and fainting gusts of wind are heard. The scene is maid as manga scrolling strips overlapping each other with up to 4 small screens deployed at one time. Very beautiful and touching.
Sound: Sound is my biggest complain. I'm used to unvoiced games, that's ok. But each bgm fades after some two minutes and during the rest of the scene there's dead silence so I really often had to check whether I forgot to turn on sound or something. Actually, there are also nice sound effects during actions, but everyday life scenes lack them a lot.
Themes: So first four chapters were pretty much brainless merry adventures with some sad resolutions. I loved those the most. But then came final fifth chapter and game suddenly turned into a nakige. The great diabolique/human war broke out and our heroes are hunted from both sides as well as by four Lord Diabolique. Leticia shakes in hysteria crying that's she's tired of running and hiding asking to leave her alone. Azurite is totally depressed as well because he can't give anything besides his feelings to the woman he loves. Those are very depressing scenes that last throughout the whole fifth chapter. But at the same time a lot of serious questions are raised.
1) Time brings change. Leticia was hiding in the forests with Azurite for 11 years and now she's 18 and she's tired, she wants a normal life. Feelings alone aren't a solid basis of relations.
2) What's better - to reincarnate, lose memory and start anew or to keep on living? Surprisingly, I feel like the game says that reincarnating even with memory loss is much better. First four chapters are a vivid example of it. It used to be a great romance story, but once heroes got together and Leticia turned 18 things have changed. She'll soon get old and die of boredom in the forest. Bearing the burden of past lives memory is already difficult. So when fire kings visits her alone in the forest and suggests to wipe her memory she's pretty much ready for both memory wipe and even death and reincarnation since reality has turned into such a heavy burden.
3) What's good and what's evil? Diabolique Lords are almighty cruel creatures that enslave humans, but with the story flow we start to see their characters, their griefs, their losses and they aren't seen as evil anymore. Humans used to be on losing side, but with the invention of firearms the balance shifted and humans started to kill even 24 Diaboliques getting very close to hunting Diabolique Lords. While diaboliques mostly used humans for sex pleasures, humans started to torture diaboliques just for the sake of revenge and those tortures were inhumane. At fifth chapter we're given the ultimate choice - shall we support the Diabolique Lords or shall we keep on hiding and fighting diaboliques. Supporting Diabolique Lords leads us to the first game ending with Azurite regained memories and power of Lord Diabolique of darkness and Leticia happily living with him. This is not a true ending, but I don't see it as a bad ending either. Humans with their lowly desires are hardly better than diabliques. While they were weak, they used to humiliate their own kin. And the story of Leticia in Part 1 is a vivid example of that. Now they got the power and they start to torture and humiliate even diabolique gods. Under diabolique lords dominance the Earth survived for thousands of years and they never really cared much about the humans, never tried to wipe them. And there's big question whether the human dominance going to be better. Azurite understands that and he chooses the third way. No spoilers.
Humor: I don't really need humor to enjoy the story, but it can be a very nice addition to the story. In this game those seldom humor moments present were of Alice Soft bakage heritage. Here's one example of its "humor". Chapter 2 Leticia takes Azurite's clothes and gets to wash it while Azurite sits covered with a blanket. He wants to get breakfast and set coffee, but Leticia notices that it's dangerous and he could get a scorch. Azurite suggests that he wears an apron to prevent that. -But you don't have anything to wear, all your clothes is being washed! -I can wear an apron as I am! -NO! PLEASE! NO WAY!
Overall comments: Atlach-Nacha was the first game of Alice Soft to shake my beliefs in Alice Soft as a sucky company. But it's Diabolique that made me surrender and shake off all the grunts. Diabolique is really an astonishing adventure and pure love story. It's ever surprising, mysterious nature keeps the thrill on all the time and I finished this 16 hour story in just two sittings. It has plenty of touching moments and an ultimately satisfactory ending. It's a waste to bury such story just because the game is old, has command selection gameplay and meciocre sound support. You can always glimpse on the game through my video playthrough as well.
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
Youtube walkthrough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4ivg044iMI&list=PLENAECnNmAq-I8SGBuae4loVKdMDk6axP
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
And here's what's wrong with Shizuku:
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.
First of all, Death Trap is not included in the masterpieces list because it does not feel exciting to me. But we're still left with as many as 10 masterpieces on our hands! Lots of novelties and good stories this year, but the VN of the year 1984 is Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin: Ohotsk ni Kiyu. And one of the reasons for that is that this work both used command selection AND allowed to use only a short list of commands. Another reason is that the game feels very realistic both in characters, dialogues and landscapes. The mystery is great as well since the three consecutive murders seem completely unrelated. No other work in 1984 is same engaging. It just feels like a professional AAA class game like no other game of 1984.
The masterpieces of the year are:
1. Joshi Ryou Panic,
2. Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken,
3. Star Arthur Densetsu I ~Wakusei Mephius~,
4. Mio no Mystery Adventure,
5. Dezeni Land.
The VN of the year 1983 is Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken, because it introduced command selection that was used for many years to come. It's a huge step from text parser. There was another revolutionary game Star Arthur Densetsu that introduced point-and-click elements for the first time, but the main part remained with the text parser there.
Well, I've been around VNs for about 15 years. As far as I can remember, my first game was MS-DOS Three Sisters Story, what we know now as San Shimai. At that time such games were the first erotic games along with Snake games and Poker ones and were referred as forbidden fruit. That game was a shock - what should have been a light experience turned out to be a really difficult story. All the characters were so nice that I really did not want to blackmail their father and looked for ways to stop my brother from revenge. Risa was so young that the only feeling I had was to protect her. The scene of fire and confrontation with brother was very well set. So what's the blog purpose? I'll get there... eventually...
So over this time I've played a lot of VNs, mostly in japanese with Translation Aggregator and sometimes with machine translation just because I missed VNDB appearance and kept thinking that TLWiki had the full list of english translated VNs... how I was WRONG. I've even looked through all the titles on Getchu just to pick several companies which art I especially liked. One of those games was Katahane by Tarte and I just played all games of that company since I'm kind of completionist (like I've watched over 1000 anime titles till had absolutely nothing left to interest me, watched all the doramas that interested me at d-addicts wiki etc etc) and those were very weird games, but at least I got a quite different outlook. So, the purpose of the blog? I know, I know, any time soon I'll be there...
So my purpose is to know absolutely all of VNs great stories. But I see some difficutlies in there (you see them too, right?). Anime has only about 3500 TV titles (and there's just a handful of really interesting OVA) and the majority of them have subs, so watching 1000 tv seasons of anime is not that big of a problem. So what should I do with over 20,000 novels of average 10 hours length with my still limited knowledge of japanese and greatly limited time? I've got and easy answer - just get rid of bad VNs and read good thorough reviews on the plot of good VNs. Phew, case closed... Well, not really. So the purpose of this blog... no, not yet! But I promise it wont take long!
So VNDB actually discovered the world of translated VNs for me but description tells us quite nothing about the game, only about the synopsis and no matter how many times i reread it, I don't seem to understand anything about the game. And discussions either show the everlasting 0 or some unanswered question and almost never a review, let along a thorough one. And since there are a lot of VNs there without the needed tags, I can completely miss some titles, which is inappropriate for such a completionist. Reviews are scattered around multiple blogs and forums and google tends to forget to render a great deal of them. Visual novels are virtually books, books = stories, that's the most important aspect of them and can't be ignored. So I really need a review section on VNDB. And since it might not come in our lifetime, I've promissed ( https://vndb.org/t950.310 ) to make my own vndb for reviews till such section comes to life. And here it is http://vndbreview.tigrimigri.com
Since I've zero experience with web design I had to use a ready solution - semantic mediawiki (and grind through that). There are quite some annoying technical restrictions which are gracefully avoided in VNDB and no beauties of custom css and such, but it does the job and allows me to gather reviews and show the result in a comfortable way. That's what really matters. Even though it's on a free hosting with free domain I really hope you can add some links of reviews and impressions in there as well since I can miss smth from 98,000 posts of VN talk in here.
And since I hate to waste other people's time here's my review of one of antique VN oddities Cosmology of Kyoto to make the whole post useful.
First things first - mechanics of the game. Cosmology of Kyoto is and interactive adventure and most of the time we spend wondering the streets. Turning only allowed by 90 degrees. There are only three things that are worth mentioning here. We need a katana to defend from multiple vagabonds. We need to learn Sutra to defend from demons. We need special outfits to be allowed to special places.
The example of extinguishing demons with Sutra
Character Summary: There are only several named characters in the game and all of them are covered well by encyclopedia. Half of them are mad, the other half are priests and warriors who actually help us defend from devils in some events. Protagonist has no character at all. Despite the fact that we create our body and face at the beginning of the game - with each death we're given a random body.
The most useful character in game
Wow, there's a mortal combat between such titans as Team Baldrhead, Alice Soft and Studio e.go this month. Well, Men at Work is the second RPG offspring of Studio e.go and it's just too simplistic to compete yet. Baldrhead is also the first part in the series and suffers from some technical problems and short duration. Mamatoto ~a record of war~ on the other hand is quite a polished rpg that even has English patch and it is the VN of the Month July 1999.
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.
Title: Tsui no Sora
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Developer: C's Ware
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...
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
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.
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.
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.
Foreword: I just had to try Elf adventure title. Now I joined the army of Hiruda scenario fans.
Original Title: エル
Release Date: 1991-06-23
Summary: Post-nuclear world last survivors dome city. "Black Widow" organization is trying to obstruct plans for human survival while anti-terror organization along with lady sniper Elle oppose them.
VNDB Link: https://vndb.org/v2293
Video playthrough: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq_KMeaBzd3g0HXL2znhn-eQ
Game Type: Point and click adventure visual novel
Addictiveness: I'm hopelessly addicted to early Elf works now. And ELLE is awesome mostly because of point-and-click style. Now it's really interactive experience and you really feel like playing, not clicking every possible variant in each location over and over. Just talk and walk.
Humor: Yes! I'm distinguishing a special column for humor here. Game treats everything unseriously. Just look at this picture. Nurse whipping patient to make him drink medicine properly. One guy hanging on a rope. Another one in speed wheel chair. 3rd one smells a pile of poo. Next pair are having sex. Next to them is a nurse who's masturbating with a sofa. To the right is the guy who holds his own eye. Just below is the guy with his head in his hands. This nice grandpa in lower right corner has a dick showing up from his head and cumming on clicking. Every object is clickable and everything produces fantastic commentaries and/or animations. This no restraint humor is the best!
Foreword: I do not believe in AliceSoft. As for me, they can only do that pornographic rapist Rance series over and over. So any work outside of Rance franchise is of interest to me to support or demolish this statement.
Title: Prostudent G
Original Title: ぷろすちゅーでんとG
Release Date: 1993-05-15
Summary: By the end of the 20th century, radical educational reforms have transformed the Japanese society. Students were split into opposing groups, and the more aggressive of those eventually formed a dominant organization named Order of Black Phoenix, centered on the cult of a mysterious person known as "The Queen". Outcast students have escaped to a secluded island near Okinawa. A wandering lazy and lecherous manga and anime fan named Gorō Endō teams up with a female teacher and a few students to lead an opposition force against the oppressive governing circles.
Game Type: Command selection absurd bakage
Story Length: 6 hours
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Easy!
Comments of Difficulty: One-way road with several choices affecting the ending
Character Design Rating: 6/10.
Story Rating: 2/10.
Protagonist Rating: 5/10
Game Quality: 4/10
Overall Rating: 4/10
Rating Comments: I had to force myself to finish it. By the mids of the story nothing sane was left and it got really difficult to follow that farce. For that reason I don't have the right to produce a structured review - it would rather be graphical impressions of the story with comments. Another thing is that game is a very crude port from PC-98 to Windows-95 dated by 1995, so it's same PC-98 edition, just with windows text extraction capabilities. No voicing, no remastered CG, no improved systems... nothing. I'm sorry, but there will be spoilers since the chances that anyone else gonna play this game are very close to nil.
Structure: One whole part.
We start as hooligan Goro (he claims to have sent to hospital many dozens of students) exiled with other outcasts to an island beyond Okinawa. He has really nothing to do and is dying of boredom. So when weird Noriko-sensei suggests he serves as her bodyguard in her trip to Ministry of education to propose two-weekend school plan, he reluctantly agrees.
But ech, she's ugly. Two other students join then on the ferry to mainland
So from left to right they are Noriko-sensei, ever-hungry karate-kid Choko and gun maniac Saori. But at the ferry eternally horny Goro sneaks into Noriko-sensei room and finds her with her usual glasses.
He immediately swears to always love sensei. But when Choko visits him the next minute in his room, he makes a woman of her. Sorry, sensei! Actually, the decisions to comfort plot girl characters is optional and it affects the ending we get.
So we get to the mainland and just go sightseeing. Since this is the part I was still reading attentively, here are some examples of game humor encountered.
After all the sightseeing Goro wants to visit adult store very much, but does not want Noriko-sensei to go there, so he suggests ladies go to a boutique and he visits the X place. And this happens when he returns.
Some elite guy from Black Phoenix captured sensei. And a good third of the game we just trying to get her back... We save some girl on the street from molesters just before that and now girl attacks presumably to let this guy get away with sensei.
Anyway, we interrogate some punk from the Black Phoenix on the street and learn that sensei was taken to Osaka.
We find the bridge blown down and need to swim over the river and by the mids of it Goro feels that he's got more difficult to breathe.
Saori uses revolver and even SMG agains the pink head enemy. Oh, well, must be some special underwater arms, really. I should not even mention what happens to the enemy the next scene.
And it was still ok till some huge mech attacked our heroes with cannons and blasters.
Since there was nothing to do agains a giant robot, Goro just... summoned himself a new robot from the sky. REALLY?!?! What's wrong with this game, I wonder?!
After we deal with the pilot in an additional scene the kidnapper of sensei shows up and whatever we do we get defeated. At this point resurrection angel only offers us to resurrect as a girl... and at this point I completely lost it.
Next Goro girl was getting lots of harassment, some transsexual also showed up on the scene to support such a cute baby.
In our travels we bought or picked up some items that weren't of use not even once. So now is the chance to try all those items to defeat the boss.
The mighty boss is defeated with the banana peel and we get rape the queen scene. Game over. AAAAH! What the hell was that? We get a CG featuring afterstory of most of plot characters and that's it. I was not asking for a good story, but I'd appreciate at least a coherent one. And I can't stand rapist protagonists for their inevitably ugly moral image. That sums it up. My attitude towards Alice Soft has not changed, but i'm looking forward to next AliceSoft non-Rance game to prove me I'm wrong.
1995 did not bring as many masterpieces as previous years while increasing the total number of visual novels significantly
First of all, let's prolong the chart
There's been a steady increase in total number VNs by 16% compared to year 1994.
The aftertaste is bitter as if I witness an overall decline in quality.
So let's see what year 1995 brought:
Let's count the masterpiece level games of 1995:
Just twelve works? That's a definite decline from 1994. Eve: Burst Error is an unbeatable giant this year. It is the best known old game that has not lost a grain of its charm to our days. It has all the rights to be the VN of the Year 1995.
Oh, and some final words. The era of pc-98 is actually almost gone. Year 1996 will the transition one and 1997 will have only some leftover slowpokes on pc-98 systems. So let's say thanks to the magnificent beautiful world of pc-98 and dive into... very crude and ugly works of beginning of windows era...
The best year so far, actually. I really hope that I'll be able to say the same about every forthcoming year. 84 works during the year amounts for an average of 7 works each month - a very saturated year.
Let's prolong the chart.
There's roughly the same number of visual novels in 1996 as in 1995. Romance games are everywhere this year, especially in the second half of it where Windows games preside. First half of 1996 is quite traditional mixed pc-98 representation familiar by previous years.
Let's see what year 1996 brought:
Let's count the masterpiece level games of 1996:
Sixteen it is! Just note that some of the games are included for sheer concept originality or impact they made on further works. But the game of the year can't be just an important game. It should be the best from the best and definitely not a dating sim. Nothing stands close to a girl who chants love at the bound of this world, YU-NO. I played it some five years ago. Both the real world maze and the fantasy world beautiful ending are still vivid in my memory. It's a great adventure with most memorable characters and a huge impact. Hands off, the best work of Elf and it's probably the last time Elf hosts the game of the year. Windows era shall have its own champions.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Foreword: This is Kanno-san's scenario and I could not miss on it. There are a lot of good English reviews on the game so I'll try to just add some additional thoughts I have on top of those reviews.
Title: Exodus Guilty
Synopsis:The year 2000. Kasumi Shindo is at first glance a run-of-the-mill high school student in modern-day Japan. However, beneath his normal appearance, Kasumi is in fact a top-notch treasure hunter. This time, Kasumi is aiming to seek out the lost 11th Commandment of Moses. Kasumi discovers that his childhood friend, Reina Tachibana is in southern Europe participating in an archeological dig. Pretending to be a tourist, he visits the excavation area and manages to get put on the excavation staff. But he is not the only treasure hunter looking for the Eleventh Commandment of Moses and before he knows it, he's embroiled in a dangerous adventure.
Structure: There are three stories - one 1200 B.C. fantasy story, one 2000 A.D. treasure hunting adventure and 13,800 A.D. future anti-utopia fantasy. Story-lines exist pretty much separately only to be loosely connected by girl Will and flashbacks from the other time to help on puzzles. All the lines coincide in the last chapters of last "Future" Volume 3. So basically I consider first two stories to be preparatory and I'll focus only on 3rd Future story. I feel that the chosen composition is wrong - it's 1st chapter of Past, then 1st chapter of Present, then 1st chapter of Future, then full Present, then full Past, then full Future. In my video walkthrough I went for showing full Past, then full Present, then full Future. This really feels more logical to me since all the roots and the Will story are in the Past. And when seeing all those first chapters one by one and then Present my head was already blowing up from the characters and the kind of mess it created.
Length: 21 hour
Game type: Epic multi-story ADV with minimal interaction (speaking of DVD version only, ofc)
Difficulty: DVD version is supereasy, but I got stuck once at a puzzle that was not properly described. I left a link at VNDB discussions page of the game to prevent other people from wasting time.
Character Design rating: 10/10
Protagonist rating: 8/10
Story rating: 9/10
Game quality: 8/10
Overall rating: 9/10
Rating comments: Why such a high score again? Well, VNs are akin to literature, what matters is whether I like it or not. And if I like it, there's no point thinking which one is better. I really loved the story here - arigato, Kanno-san! And that might easily be 10 if I played Japanese pc version. There are a lot of protagonists in this game and I have grudges to some of them. I think I'll develop on it in characters section. I also blame the structure as video is not as engaging as game and pouring all three story lines all at once was very confusing and only belief in Kanno-san actually made me unwind this mess. But when things get clear, it's a very engaging story - thus the high scores.
Protagonist: There are too many of them.
Characters: There are three sets of characters. The setup of characters on the screen changes a lot with the story. Let's look at characters in bulk, according to their epoch.
Past: Main characters cast are a swordsman Ales and his foster mother Masa. Masa bears some strange tattoo and she sends Ales to find Will - another girl with such tattoo since their fates were linked and Mother Spirit was calling to do that for some reason only Gods could understand. But in order to pay a visit to the God one needs to gather sacred books of elements and oracles of those elements. That's pretty much what we do during the whole Past chapter. Of course we find Will as well under strange circumstances. So Ales is a pretty straightforward swordsman who fulfills the will of his mother and who protects those who are dear to him and... pretty much everyone else, even his enemies, lol. This is a traditional fantasy story, so there's no need for quirky characters, but without some gameplay it's quite boring to watch. Well, some of the four oracles are pretty cool/funny so they ease the tensions and their interactions basically save the narration. This part is seinen enough, but it gets to be pretty dull due to very serious characters and lack of fights.
Present: From left to right we have Kasumi, Ai's sister Reina and fiance Ai. Reina is much older and already divorced - she is always flirting making Ai mad. Kasumi and Ai actually only met 10 years ago and they they fight all the time over everything. Kasumi is basically interested in money and treasures and he does not really encourage Reina moves. Ai is also quite stingy and only Reina moves bring her tolerance to the brink and she starts acting aggressively to any "oppai" girl near Kasumi. That creates some comical situations, but at the same time is an eternal source of drama. And the further it goes, the more drama it is. So at times it was really nauseating. And at some point I got somewhat disappointed in Kasumi as well. It was at one scene where Kasumi was getting down to the den on a rope. Ai threatens to jump down from that insane height if Kasumi does not take her with him. Here's the exact extract:
- If not, I'll kill myself.
- Then die.
- I will die.
- Die right now, here. In less than 10 seconds.
- Meanie. I'm going to cry.
- Cry if you can. Cry.
It's presented in a comical manner, but it was not funny for me. Too much relations hustle, predictable characters' behavior and lack of intelligent talks did not let me enjoy this volume. So it's a great shounen story, but I can only appreciate seinen stuff.
Future: The cast from left to right is scientist Titi, secret royal family descendant Sui, self-supporting town boy Tatsuta and Sui's bodyguard Laily. Oh, and don't foget this animal... something (squirrel?) Railulu. Sui basically plays the role of straightforward and cheerful bakagirl while Laily is reserved and she does everything right. Titi is a chatterbox, she usually supports Sui in everything and provides scientific advice when needed. Tatsuta is a usual town boy who lives alone and who this time allows girls to have food and shelter for a mere trifle - wedding Laily! He's pushy and manages to win her heart little by little and this sideline is really nice.
Story: I seem to have tackled a lot on story already, so let's finally focus on the main part as I see it - Future 13,800 AD. For 40 years earthquakes and acid rains devastated the Earth burying the scientific civilization and the remaining humanity declared science outlaw in order not to repeat previous mistakes. The royal house monopolized the right for science as people needed to survive somehow in this barren wasteland. Royal house suffers from a spree of coup d'etats and this last king is a very cruel man who's seeking for descendants of former family and especially for a girl matching Sui's description. Sui and Laily's foster mother asked them to find some Uu person and give him the Key of Will. And they have no idea where to search for those. That takes first half of Future story and the second half is meeting the guys from Past and Present and together facing their fate.
CG: I seem to be not demanding towards CG quantity but this game has a whole ocean of CG - even many small actions have one. Game really tried to look like an anime so it has some animated sequences and a lot of screen changes. Outside of my habit, I'm not going to post gore CG this time since there aren't many of them and they can be spoilers.
HCG: None since it's initially a PS1 and dreamcast game and only much later it got PC version version. It's a very funny version to see since usual CG have low resolution and PC HCG are of very high resolution.
Sound: The good part is that it's full voice even with all the protagonists voiced. The bad part is that some lengthy conversations with side characters aren't really voiced or voiced up to 3-4 phrases. It does not hurt at all, but just for the justice sake let's say that it's only about 85% voiced.
Humor: Future part is culmination and it has quite much humor in it. One example is that Layla always apologies to Sui and says "It must be in my character". For the first times it looks ok, but later she tells the same thing to the very little notices like you look moody today or is it you stomach growling.
There was one fabulous joke when Titi, Sui and Laila with Railulu needed to see guards out and they consequently tried to use sex appeal on them. First Titi failed with her charms, then Sui was ignored and sent off and then came this.
Game also uses repeats wisely. In this very scene the fourth try was Layla's and her appearance actually melted men's hearts and maybe something else as well. In another scene later on the three girls were trying to get food and shelter from Tatsuta and he asks a girl to become his wife. Titi and Sui blush and say they're not ready and here's the except:
- But let me tell you something, I have no interest in cow breasts or eyeglasses monkeys.
- ....Raylulu? What, are you...?
That was pretty awesome.
Themes: It's mostly and adventure work with pretty straightforward characters, but there are couple themes that I was able to discern:
1) God's will VS human logic. This is the major theme of the game. All the time we're asked to do weird things. Seemingly horrible events occur due to some god's will without much explanation. The future part is the one where this conflict becomes the culmination of the game and heros are confused what to do - blindly follow God's will or send the Gods to hell and try to preserve humanity as it is. You can guess from the game's title which side wins.
2) Sacrifice. There are quite a lot of sacrifices in the game. Sacrifices are the least logical thing to do and yet so many characters choose it over persecuting their own goals. As one of the character explains: "Death is not the end. It's the beginning". Well, it falls in perfectly with the first theme. After all, it's the game about God's will and it's a difficult topic to develop since irrational actions won't get much appeal. Still the game does its best in that and sacrifices are seen as fulfilling some selfish-less desires for the greater good of others and at least look organic with the setting.
Overall comments: By now it should be evident that Guilty Exodus was much to my liking even though I tend to dislike religion and shounen stories. My first reaction was akin to that depicted in beliar review. Too much information poured at once, seemingly meaningless dull talks, false drama, religious preaching, random events, lack of gameplay. It's a different work that we usually get to see in visual novels. We got the worst release of the game translated - DVD video one. If it was a different release - it'd be a perfect game and I would not need to rant at all. If it was a different release, we'd need to pay great attention to game progress because it would be a gameplay issue. DVD release is basically a video with just a few meaningless choices so it's easy to get distracted, listen to it only as background and inevitably compare it with compact and fast-paced anime works. Guilty Exodus is very demanding to the player right from the start. It's easy to get confused with all that information. But if you take it seriously, you'll be able to enjoy one of the best stories written by Kanno Hiroyuki, on par even with YU-NO.
Lipstick Adv.EX does not have rivals this month for me since.
The only masterpiece of February 2000 is Phantom of Inferno and thus it's the VN of the Month. I already made full video walkthrough of the game, but it got wiped with the channel, and I'm not doing it again.