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.
If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck
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.
There's a big change since 2000. From now on I'm starting to block visual novels by certain criteria (fandisk, nukige, shounen ai, yaoi, antology, demo, non-Japanese, EVN, otome, doujin) which means I'll still note them at the back of the post, but will only provide a synopsis, an opening song and review links where possible. But there is also a good news - I'll be making reviews and video walkthroughs of at least one route from the games of the month.
Gensou no Artemis, Lien ~Owaranai Kimi no Uta~ and Treating 2U are the masterpieces of the month. And VN of the Month January 2000 is Lien ~Owaranai Kimi no Uta~. That's a very solid start of the year.
1990s are over. And to commemorate that I've made a video playlist of all the openings/demo/endings with singing/energetic instrumental from 1990s here
I'll be making such playlists for each new year starting with 2000 since each year is going to have over 100 such opening/ending/demo themes.
Second Windows era year is behind. It failed to bring such a game that I'd announce Vn of the year 1999 right away. Instead, it brought a number of quality galge and some quirky cryptic games that I personally had a good time unwinding.
Let's prolong the chart.
Windows years show a rapid increase in number of games, almost 50% total growth overall compared to 1998. In 1999 there's a shift towards blocked games, mostly because of nukige number increase.
Let's look at year 1999 highlights:
To choose the game of the year 1999 let's observe the masterpieces presented:
So, thirteen. A very solid selection. I don't really have a personal favorite here. And there is no such work that I'd say - yes - it' perfect. Taking out cryptic, simulation, rpg, bakage and ero-centered works we basically left only with Captain Love, Kanon, L no Kisetsu, Memories Off, Refrain Love 2 - a bunch of pretty normal galge. And among those Kanon quality level is significantly higher and thus Kanon is the Vn of the Year 1999.
Well, I'm already back. I decided not to restore 80s and 90s (maybe with time) for my wiki and just to move forward right from December 1999.
There are surprisingly many masterpieces this month. There are three: Elemental Arts, Green and SPARK! My personal favourtite would of course be Vist, but even I understand that it lacks the masterpiece level. The game of the Month December 1999 is Elemental Arts since I would not like to compliment eroge'ish Green and bakage'ish SPARK!
It's going to be pretty much my first off-topic post, but I feel the need to inform on the matter why all the links are inaccessible.
My free hosting (http://tigrimigri.com/) died on me on November 6th and I've been waiting for it to show up ever since. I can't do monthly overviews without it since I initially fill in data through the wiki.
I don't really have any backups save for very early crude version so I felt reluctant searching for a new home. But it's finally the time and I've tried some free services only to find out that I need a paid hosting.
First my requirements. I needed Semantic Mediawiki with a bandwith over 5gb. Here is my list of free services with evaluation why they did not work for me.
1) http://www.shoutwiki.com - they provide semantic mediawiki extension only on request, but I sent that request over a week ago and there's still no answer and ticket status directs at 404 error since the very beginning so I guess that's it.
2) http://referata.com/ - it returns error on the very basic create template choice so it looks abandoned for some time
3) https://www.gamepedia.com/ - has Semantic Mediawiki in its extensions but hosts only wikis on one certain game, not other around gaming wikis
4) https://byet.host - is actually the only service that I was able to comfortably test semantic mediawiki after the collapse, but it has quite strict policies and my fresh semantic mediawiki has been banned twice already - for load spikes (I ran shell scripts to upload pages from .csv files faster) and for some 2ch/4ch content (I guess links to vndb.org were considered as that since there is literally nothing else on that wiki). There are tonns of noname other free hosts who actually are byet resellers. They are easily identified by unlimited everything for free, the same signup pattern and nameservers actually looking at byet.
5) https://x10hosting.com/ - can't say much about it, since it says right away at signup that signups from my country are not allowed, unwise to try and violate that.
6) https://www.heliohost.org/ - i tried to register on both available servers and it's it's just unmanagable with very slop operating speed on a fresh installed mediawiki
7) https://viewen.com/ - they look legible, but they demand to like and share them every month on facebook and stay constantly in touch. Upon registration they provide a list of eight (!) segments where you need to give out pretty much all your personal data, vow to worship them as facebook god and some other sections that I did not read up to. Can't stand that much intimacy from a hosting. Their TOS is quite strict as well, so such site as vndb on semantic mediawiki could fall under child porn, scripts abuse and copyright infringement.
8 ) https://aws.amazon.com/ - they refused to accept my card information - guess it's because they are USA-centered.
9) https://www.000webhost.com - they're well known for leaking millions of private data records recently but even without noticing that there are some obvious shortcomings. There's an automated script only for wordpress site, otherwise manual uploading the site and configuring database needed. There's a lot of negative feedback about sudden violating the terms of service notices, so Semantic wiki with its background data update services would be in the vanguard of violation.
10) http://www.host-ed.net/ - company is an old one and there are a lot of issues piled up around it - the most pressing one for me is that PHP version is as low as 5.4 and only quite old mediawiki versions would be able to start here.
11) https://www.freewebhostingarea.com/ - php version is only 5.2.6 and most of pages go into 404 redirects
12) https://www.5gbfree.com/ - site's down for last few days, probably dead. In past I tried it and I remember some severe limitations like inability to have own domain name.
13) https://googiehost.com/ - actually a reliable choice, but I had my first Mediawiki there and once a month mediawiki was just dying with pages loading for 5 minutes/initiating an error. Support ticket improved the situation each time, but after several months of such torture I moved out afrom there.
14) https://www.atspace.com/ - has some real limitations on the MySQL database with just 30mb storage and only 15 tables allowed.
That's actually it. All the others are the resellers or/and offer too little disc space (I need at least 300-400mb) or severe limitations on bandwidth/database.
So far I've set up with one of the the cheapest possible web hosting (and I'll be making .xml exports of all pages periodically) and I really hope I would not ever need to make a 1$/month web hostings review after this free hostings review.
Foreword: It's a C's Ware story game so I'm in. I have not read reviews prior to playing the game. I followed three different walkthroughs though - and still failed to get even a single happy ending. You can read about my torments below.
Developer: C's Ware
Length: 20 hours.
Game type: Map selection ADV.
Difficulty: Pretty insane. Some mazes are ridiculously difficult and twice I failed to find a way within an hour and had to precisely follow walkthrough. Another my huge disappointment is that I failed miserably to get any happy ending. So here how it was. I followed walkthrough accurately for the first time aiming for Rin ending. For some reason I got only a normal one no matter how many times I reloaded the last two battles. Then i dug two more walkthroughs and one said that simultaneous capture was possible so I flagged every heroine twice and saved before the final 3rd flagging... and no matter how many times I followed that choice to the end I still got only same normal ending. So my guess is that
1) simultaneous capturing is impossible and it's needed to strictly not flag any other girl
2) you probably need to make sure you win all the battles (it's very unclear in the game whether you actually got hit or made a successful counter-attack)
3) C's Ware turned into complete sadists after very very torturing Kazeoto, Chirin. There are a lot of choices and hundreds of map and items interaction so even with skipping whole playthrough for the heroines ending scene is going to take at least two hours (more like three). And there are EIGHT heroines! There's just one CG for this final scene so it's a very short one. After a full day of replaying trying to get good ending I just got so sick of the game that I don't the will to keep trying.
Synopsis: Takuto, the protagonist, is a sickly highschool student with a heart disease. His father is a scientist and researcher who is traveling overseas. Even thought he is alone in home, his neighbor and university student Rin come visit him every day, and every night his father call him and they talk by phone.
But one day, his father stops calling and they lost contact. Takuto wonders if something happened to him and contacts the laboratory where his father works. But the staff members dont' know anything.
Takuto is worried, until one day a strange girl called Eryu appears in his house with a letter from his father.
"I'm sorry ------" - Says the last words of his father.
And something who don't look to be human starts to approach the hero, who little by little get caught in the case of the bizarre murders.
Structure: There are 5 chapters each containing on average 8 days.
Character Design rating: 8/10
Protagonist rating: 8/10
Story rating: 7/10
Game quality: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Rating comments: I'm biased here since watching all the good endings could melt my heart a bit. But overall characters don't look too likable. Out of 8 heroines I liked Reiko the scientist woman the most and she's pretty much a standard office lady. So there aren't really likable characters. Protagonist is too weak at first and in the second half he fails to control himself repeatedly and looses memory of what happened more than once. Can't really say that he's moving the flow of the story. Game looks and feels quite cheap - mostly thanks to character design and only female cast voicing. Don't get me wrong - CG and interactive part are awesome. Game also has a number of very colorful enemies and side-characters... but they are males and thus not voiced. Story was a firm 9 up to the last fifth chapter where it suddenly changed the location and got too cryptic leaving a lot of loose ends behind.
Protagonist The transformation from a weakling into superhuman was quite well done. He's beaten bloody for the first half of the game by other hooligan students and is only occasionally saved by girls who happen to be around. What differs him from other students is his high metabolism and ability to stay close to the infection fog without being infected. What I like about him is how he takes the beatings by the hooligans. He hardly says a word and just tolerates everything with the thoughts "If I do as they want the beatings will only get worse". Apart of that he hardly knows and does not have his own will - it might be for the best since it's easy to associate oneself with him.
Characters: As I've mentioned there are a lot of cool bad guys in this game. Later game is based on fights, but there is only one capable of fighting heroine.Apart of the bad guys there is one very impressive "Scarred man" - he's basically of the same source as yourself and thus he just terminates his enemies. You hardly manage to fight one beast and then just walk and see rivers of blood and guts left behind that person. He showed up at different moments in the game and was a great guy to look up to. But again, last chapter prepared a hasty resolution for him as well and this trump card was poorly played. Since there are 8 heroines it's supposed to be a gal game? Well, absolutely not. Every girl has three flags and flagging is basically done by the end of 4th chapter. There are no girls in 5th chapter (well, almost), but after the final battle the girl suddenly appears and you see her ending with just one CG and some phrases. It can hardly be called a "route" and especially an "ending". It's a story game. What's nice in the heroines is that three of them are grown-up ladies in their 30's and the other half are of the same or close age to Takuto. So there is a childhood friend, a meganekko, a hooligan girlfriend, a mysterious girl who is sent to you from your father, a half-native african girl, scientific researcher, news reporter and some superstrong mysterious woman.
Story: So for the story. The most stunning fact is that first two chapters last for 18 days and literally nothing happens during that time. You just go to school and go to sleep at home, that's it. What's that - a slice of life? Whenever I got slightly bored with it I just rewatched the cool opening and and kept on waiting. Chapter 3 is where girls start to show up and story finally starts to form. By the end of Chapter 4 the story is over and heroine route is finalized. I would actually prefer finishing the story there with maybe one additional fight. But it goes on in some forgotten African country laboratory. But it's actually Chapter 4 that gives us all the answers. Chapter 5 throws genetics, superhuman entity, clones and superficial myths together and only tells us the story of our father (and mother?). There are only couple locations here, development is hasty and there's little meaning in what's going on anymore, then it gets even more confusing and - bam - battles - battles - the end. Battles are done pretty well so you only choose the part of enemy to attack or the defend action for each turn. Enemy may choose to block one of these three parts and counter-attacks if you choose the same body part. Saving helps, but there are also some tricks involving using special items against special enemies. Some enemies attack animations are pictured clearly, but some can't be seen in advance. Some don't have attack animation and they retaliate every round. It's quite ok as it is. So my greatest complaints are to the story and especially this final chapter. Also the first four chapters were quite lively for the most part with frequent mysterious events happening. Chapter 5 has a totally different, decadent atmosphere - grim music, cold pictures and the hero who does not care about his survival, but needs this last chain to break. Ending is the most important part of the game and here it's just wrecked mercilessly which inevitably hurts the evaluation a lot.
CG: Character designs are not too exciting, but CG truly are. Somehow HCG are especially beautiful.
Sound: Only female voicing. BGM is fine, at times slightly irritating.
Themes and symbols: As you might have already guessed, the story does not feel integral. There are a lot of actions and cool scenes, but there is not much talk behind them. And there is no afterthought either. The mind is blank and is helplessly trying to put the pieces together rather than think it over.
Overall comments: It's a good C's Ware game and I'm in no way disappointed. The impression reminded me the one after most of Nitro+ earlier games - WTH was that just now? It's not a bad way, but it does not suit C's Ware. Previous games had a satisfying resolution, but here I got only main answers while the fates of the side-characters and even their true nature remained in the dark. A true route would really fit here well. So I'll try to remember Vist and a colorful breathtaking game with a vast amount of beauty and gore.
Foreword: If you do not know of EVE:Burst Error, you better stop here right now and go watch video playthrough of that gorgeous game. EVE the Lost One is a direct sequel to that game and there will naturally be spoilers on the prequel content. That being settled - I did not pay much attention to the Lost One right away and did not review it properly while observing year 1998. Japanese reviews failed even to give an outline of the plot and were generally not too favorable. Only after playing it myself I found out the perfect answer "why" and that will be covered below.
Title: EVE: The Lost One
Developer: C's Ware
Length: 21 hour.
Game type: Command selection ADV.
Difficulty: Easy but command bruteforcing required at times
Synopsis: 3 years after EVE:Burst Error. Prisia is the new queen of Eldia but her rule is challenged by radical nationalists headed by archbishop. Marina retired from investigator duty to become newcomers instructor. Kyoko is the newcomer investigator just after severe course of training and her first task is investigating circumstances of death of a young scientist.. Snake is a mysterious figure who is blackmailed to find "memories" of former Eldia king to bring back to life sleeping EVE/Mayako Mido. Somehow everyone hunts for the "memories" and the truth lies in Eldia.
Structure: Game takes place from June 2nd to June 6th, then from June 9th to June 10th with an epilogue on June 16th.
Character Design rating: 9/10
Protagonist rating: 9/10
Story rating: 10/10
Game quality: 10/10
Overall rating: 10/10
Rating comments: I like it when the game is easy to evaluate. I try to find flaws whenever possible and now just can't find anything. It's not a flaw, but my tiny complaint is that protagonists aren't as fun as Kojiro/Marina pair. Those two were just insanely charismatic. Kyoko compared to Marina is quite a plain investigator young woman and her messy hair really hurt her image. Snake does some very ambiguous action, but overall is not a bad guy - still compared to the endlessly funny Kojiro Snake does not stand a chance. But there is one huge BUT. The japanese reviews are mostly based on the initial Sega Saturn version and game evaluation is average. But Sega Saturn and PC version have one HUGE difference - PC version has Marina route crammed in from June 4th to June 6th. This is a huge 3-hour story that gets all the loose ends together and not only that! Marina investigates together with Kojiro, so we're provided with loads of fun scenes and awesome comments. Marina route flips the table and gets the game from just a good straightforward adventure story category to the perfect sequel and eternal masterpiece one.
Protagonist:Kyoko I already tackled on protagonists in rating comments so will elaborate a bit. Kyoko is ok, she is normal. She is a diligent investigator, but she does not mind quality girl-time going shopping and relaxing idly all day long.with a cup of coffee au lait. Her first case investigating the death of a young scientist gradually reveals that he was connected with the former Eldia mad king "memories" that everyone started searching. She's does not have that much sex appeal, so there are much less funny jokes and commentaries on the way compared to Marina in Eve:Burst Error. To the left of her is Yuji, a quiet student with a part-time work. He only wants a quiet life, but reluctantly helps her couple times and gets involved into a big game facing charges in crimes himself. For a good half of the game he gets to accompany Kyoko, so her side of the story gets a social boost and feels good.
Protagonist:SNAKE This picture is the best view we get of him during the opening and I would not like to spoiler his identity which remains unknown up up to the middle of the game. The first minutes of his route show us how he places a bomb and blows up clothes boutique in a big trade center. How can this monster be protagonist?! But almost right after that we get to know that the instructions to create a hand-made bomb that were sent to him were deliberately diminished the effect with the listed amount. It was supposed to break one chair at maximum. So SNAKE was contacted via pc by some ADONIS who showed him the recording of him setting the bomb in the trade center and blackmailed him into getting "memories" of the Eldia former mad king. It's still very difficult to sympathize with this character since he continues to take some
Characters: This is not a galge and there aren't character routes so there's little point in talking about characters individually. At first sight I thought they were overall less likable than those from Eve:Burst Error - it has very cute Mayako, libririan girl, young Himura, affectionate Yayoi, mysterious prime-minister Lloyd. Here there are less characters, but they are shown in development and gain lots of appeal as story unfolds - bartender student Mina, alcoholic Monica, Rena and her president mother, turned on dolphins Ayano, ever-young Natsumi - they are all a curious bunch. And of course the game shares a good number of common characters like Chief, Himura, Prisia, EVE, crazy ministry supervisor woman. They create a pretty cozy atmosphere.
Story: That may be considered a spoiler, but I'm going to draw a very faint structure of the work since I failed to find it in japanese reviews. Game is roughly divided into two storylines. The first half is about finding "memories" and discovering why everyone needs them (there is more than one reason, actually). The second half is three days after first story is over. It's about the sudden spread of biological infection all over the world and the key points here are also Japan and Eldia. Both stories are closely connected and second story relies heavily on the events of the first half. And in PC version there is also Marina story which takes the last two days of the first "memories" story. Marina and Kojiro get to find the real culprit over the caused crimes and even investigate the studies that laid foundation for the events in second story. Without Marina story it would not be really a coherent narration and I can totally understand Japanese reviews based on Saturn version.
CG: I've checked all the CG again and - surprisingly enough - there's ain't much to show since most of those 150 CG are for story related events or items rather than for characters to show off.
Sound: Everything is voiced except for the acting at the moment protagonist. BGM is very good.
Actually, there's not so bad humor in here not even counting Kojiro funny streak. Humor is event-based and this type of humor I find the best. So here are the three occasions that come to mind. Oh and I did not find not a single Bill Clinton joke here! That's an accomplishment in itself! (Those who played EVE:Burst Error will get what I mean).
1) At some point of the story Kyoko has to hide, but she's greatly disappointing by the fact that her friends drew a beard over the wanted posters.
2) There's a small serious meeting discussing the ADD project and how it gets into effect. Yuji who is not strong into genetics adds the bottom drawing and when he's asked what it means, he answers: "anus". It was very unexpected ease of tensions and that's why it was pretty great.
3) Only the dolphin saw the criminal and it's invented how to transform dolphin thought impulses into an image to the fax (PC-98 game My Eyes! nervously smokes in the back). Now the dolphin lies in the bathtub and here's what we get when he ask him to picture the event he recently seen. Just awesome!
Themes and symbols: It's more of a straightforward game that tries to explain everything under the question so that there was no afterthought behind.
- One of the strongest motives of the game is that of the sacrifice. Eldia is full of patriots, that's one thing that does not change.
- There's a very nice developed theme of siblings separated in the early childhood.
Overall comments: It's a surprisingly interesting game series full of vivid characters, animations and it's just a really twisted story with lots of deaths. If command selection gameplay looks troublesome - just watch my video walkthrough of the game. I'm really weak to good game series, so I'm getting to the bottom of it. The next stop is Eve:The Fatal Attraction.
I don't feel eligible to write a full review since I only listened to the voice parts of the game. And the reason for that is that the game is unhookable by any instruments. No threads are found at all. Still I'm confident enough on the grappled content to write my thoughts of it.
First things first: game has very poor systems.
1) Full-screen only. My try to launch it in window-mode with Dxwnd succeeded, but menu top started to fly separately from the main windows and mouse cursor started being distorted in space so full-screen is the only comfortable way to play.
2) There is no skip function. The closest thing to it is CTRL which draws a full wall of text and you need to press CTRL separately for each such wall of text which amounts to thousands of hits of this key.
3) Sound volume is outrageous. Voice is way too low and sounds and bgm way too loud even when voice maxed up and other sounds minimized. I had to pull sound volume to the limit of speakers to hear voices well, but each time BGM stroke there was a shock feeling. BGM only sounds for one minute and calms down so that minute was the most painful time over and over again. Maybe it was different for win98 but no compatibility helps. By the way, installer only launches with win98 compatibility.
4) CG viewer is one of the worst I ever seen. Out of five heroines it shows CG of two first heroines fairly well and there's the beginning of 3rd heroine and there's no way see the rest with game means.
That being covered you can probably guess my irritation with the game even though the game was not started yet. But there are some positive sides of the game:
1) Full voiced, including protagonist.
2) Beautiful clean graphics.
3) Good structure - 2 girls available from the start, then consecutively three more girls open up and then there's the true route.
4) Longevity - all six routes take about 40 hours of time to read properly.
Let's touch the story a bit.
Matsunaga Yoshihiro is a young man given the task of watching over a group of students from Touyou School on their summer break to a beach. One of the students, Morisawa Nao, has had sadness in her heart from her past - something Yoshihiro can relate to, having his own issues arrising during the trip.
That's the rough synopsis with the only remark that it's for anime made the next year. Morisawa Nao is the main character only in anime. In the game she's just one of five ordinary heroines. She's one of the two started heroines, so I guess she's chosen for the main part in anime since first two days mostly focus on those two starter heroines in game while the path to the next ones is branched off much further. Morisawa Nao is a much better choice over the other starting heroine Iwasaki Chinatsu since the former one is much more attractive and has the most dramatic story among all the non-true heroines.
I don't really feel like covering heroines or even the true route heroine since I like the anime short version much more than those routes.
New Elf is different. Old Elf works were challenging and playful. This work is stripped of any playfulness and it's a mere imitation of other successful nakige with true route structure. Heroines routes are vastly meaningless and only true route has some meaning. The locked forced structure makes us play the same story for six times with the branching only done by the middle of it without a good skipping feature. This monotonous flow is extended to excessive 40 hours without any satisfying conclusion.
Shizuka is the most bashful heroine, but her route included childhood memories scene of her sitting and covering the head with hands while other children get in a round-play and sing the exact "Kagome" song from Kazeoto, Chirin. I get that it's not C's Ware that invented the song, but it looked just like a shameless plagiarism to me.
So one more faint question remains - why the hell this crap of a game is VN of the Month November 1999?! Well, with all the flaws of this work it's the modern type work with nice characters and true route. When I look at other November 1999 VNs there are even more irritation factors like SIM, bakage, hetare protagonist, H-focus, shortness or lack of info. Refrain Blue is the only one that's not defiled by those factors. And it's not that bad of a story, just overextended one and lacking in excitement. This is actually the 2nd case after Interlude (2003) where I liked anime version much more than the game. Interlude changed the plot to clear the mess of a setting and Refrain Blue just gathered the most interesting heroine path together with true route, cut everything else and set the table with a nice one hour long work. If you want to taste Refrain Blue, just watch the anime version, really.
The VN of the Month November 1999 is PARTS. The only really serious work.
Since there are so many reviews of it, there's no need in full review, so I'm just explaining my choice for this game to be the game of the month October 1999.
The game is painful with a lot of text, characters, interaction with the scenery, puzzles and seemingly unrelated cases. Up to the middle of it I really struggled through painfully.
Game is about five cases of a heinous crime unit 1. But what's cool about it is that it's not about finding and catching the culprit. Those are just stories that have a beginning and some resolution, mostly sad resolution, actually - pretty much failing the case.
Case 1 is about a swat team being massacred by some legendary criminal Kamui and eventually finding this Kamui as a totally emotionless shell of a human.
Case 2 suddenly shifts the focus to some homeless children who live in the shelters - one of the boys is lost and we discover the story about his disappearance.
Case 3 is about two syndicates rivalry and kidnapping of one syndicate's director.
Case 4 is about illegal surveillance and streaming of private moments of life of a pop idol.
Case 5 returns us to the mystery behind Kamui and all the cases finally get connected into one satisfying resolution.
The gist of the story is presented in a fairytale told by one of characters and since it has great importance and great charm I'm giving the direct dialogue:
- You know, recently... some people say fantasy is like brainwashing. Giving kids sweet dreams for the purpose of controlling them.
- When you put it that way, that sounds right.
- Originally they were pretty messed up stories.
- Like "messed up" how?
- Realistic stories, without all the happy stuff.
- Well, that sure sucks.
- That's why they got turned into happier stories.
- Is that all?
- No. Here's where it starts. So anyways, when I was a kid, there was this fairytale I heard. It's an old folktale from my hometown, but...
- Once upon a time, there was a princess. A beautiful princess. A terrible giant serpent fell in love with her. The serpent ruled the land ... no, he had taken over the land.
- He invaded it?
- Yeah. The serpent turned the king into stone. The greedy serpent wanted the princess... So he took her away...
- Pretty standard shit. Go on, go on.
- Then came a band of heroes. To rescue the princess they ventured to the huge castle.
- Well of course. I'd do the same thing.
- The heroes combined their powers and fought the serpent. And then...
- What happened?
- They defeated it.
- Fuck yeah!!!
- Everything was fine and good.
- Is that the end?
- Well, mostly...
- What the fuck? That's just a normal-ass fairytale. That sucked.
- You liked it, right?
- No, that's no good. There's no twist.
- It's not over yet.
- Think of the story I just told you. It's been tweaked to make it nice. The realistic parts have been obfuscated.
- Well then what the hell happens?
- The princess was dead...
- What the fuck?! What do you mean?
- She was killed by the serpent.
- Man, FUCK that serpent! The fuck kind of story is that?
- And one more thing... There is no serpent.
- No? Why not...? That stuff comes up in stories all the time.
- Of course there isn't. There's no such thing as a "giant serpent"
- Well. yeah...
- It wasn't a serpent, but a human. The heroes were people, too. Humans killed another human, for revenge.
- That's just a crime...
- Yeah... Fairytales are crimes. The unrealistic fantasy that happens in real life is crime.
Rereading this dialog after finishing the game actually bears a lot of sense, it's the shortened version of the game's theme and meaning. The game does not really tell much directly and there's still the need to think up the rest of it, just like in this dialogue.
Let's get to the bad points. It's long (over 15 hours), slow-paced, low on events. It does not have voicing. It's mostly in sepia tone. Art is of specific and quite shy style. It's quite hard to guess who's talking since you just get the sentences appearing in one window one by one. It has a lot of interactivity. There's one hundred-questions spree with only 10 seconds for each answer and questions are mostly on history-sciences-media topics. Interface and controls are confusing. Dialogues are dodgy and make no sense. Characters treat each other poorly, trade in homophobic and sexist slurs. There are some puzzles. Game can be repetitive - at one case you need to search 80 separate and identical rooms in order to find five items.
Now to the good ones. Game is great because it has cool charismatic characters each with distinguishing personality. Characters-like it reminds me the Unit from Ghost in the Shell the most. The atmosphere is quite like that as well. Heroes smoke, curse like hell and talk in a cryptic way. The dialogues are just awesome with constant verbal abuse towards each other. But as for the story twists and mystery it resembles Metal Gear Solid series the most, as for me.
What makes a masterpiece for me is being memorable, no matter how many suffering it brings in the process - just need to treat them as trials. And there's no need to get tortured - there are a lot of great video let's plays of it without the commentaries. But in the end we get a mature, rich in details story that leaves much for the afterthought and lots of precious memories to cherish.
The game of the October 1999 is Silver Jiken. I wanted to write in couple sentences why, but I failed at that miserably and I'd better post a non-structured review of it in order not to overburden this post.
Foreword: It's a C's Ware game and these guys have not let me down even once. Unlike Re-Leaf which has quite a clear synopsis and multiple endings, this work is much more mysterious. I thought I'd get just another rural slice of life with some side mystery, but what I got was an ancestor of Cross†Channel with a global anomaly and looped story.
Title: Kazeoto, Chirin (I'd translate it as "Sound of bells in the wind")
Developer: C's Ware
Length: That's tricky. Some 5 hours for first playthrough, plus some 4 hours more to get other routes to the end. It actually took me more that 15 hours due to a complicated walkthrough and confusion of the true routes.
Game type: Global mystery rural story.
Difficulty: Medium when you get how it's organized. For me it was very high since even choosing locations in wrong order can lead to falling out of heroine route.
Synopsis: Satoshi, the protagonist, and his best friend, are both college students who came back to their old town to spend their summer vacation. But residents suddenly start to disappear without any reason. The most optimistic versions are that people are being spirited away or aliens abduct humans or that an ogre comes down from the mountain or that yakuza sell people into slavery because of debts. Hero does not care till the closest people to him start disappearing as well.
Structure: Game takes place for 8 days from July 31st to August 8th when the Obon festival is held.
Character Design rating: 8/10
Protagonist rating: 7/10
Story rating: 9/10
Game quality: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Rating comments: It's a good game with great atmosphere, main idea and nice events. But heroines aren't charming enough. Out of six heroines I liked only Ageha, because she's a diligent student, hard-working keeper of a boarding house, loving older sister of Kanako and tsundere-ish at the beginning and very reasonable later on. Protagonist is a university student, but he's quite passive and he does not care about disappearings till his friends get missing, so it's a minus for him. Game quality is high, but I had to undergo through a lot of repetitiveness since heroines don't have their own routes and the difference is mainly just in several choices. If you watch my video walkthrough, you won't see that repetitiveness since it's cut there, so I hope you get to like this game even better.
Protagonist: Satoshi-san is your ordinary megane university student. As he admits himself, he just goes with the flow and never really gives attention to studies. When Ageha asks him to help with the university summer homework on maths, Satoshi says he's in humanitarian division and that he "avoided" math entrance exams to the university somehow. And he has amnesia and is trapped in the eternal loop of 8 days, so he has all kinds of memory flashes all the time which does not help to concentrate on something. To the left is Satoshi and to the right is his brother Bozo (such is name when he's called in game) which i ended up calling Boshi and synopsis writer on VNDB called him Takeshi. Bozo is more of a playful type. He's fast to know the news and always eager to help.
Characters: I wanted to talk about heroines in bulk, but there's no good joint CG, so let's run through them separately. First of all, there are no separate character roots. Secondly, there are no romantic feelings at all here - all H events happen on August 6 out of desperation of two last people in the world. Six main heroines routs are paired by two: sisters Ageha+Kanako, sisters Satomi+Shihori, nurse Midori+patient Ayane. It's difficult to call even those branched routes separate ones since the flow is the same aside from several events and the people who get to disappear first.
Ageha is a diligent university student, keeper of a boarding house and a kind sister to Kanako. She's depicted as an angry comic person in the beginning of the story since Satoshi has not payed for the stay for quite a long time, but she gets to be the most attractive character for me - responsible, intelligent, kind.
Kanako is a school student, but she runs the soba dining hall almost by herself. She's cheerful and childlish.
Ayane is the most mysterious person since unless we follow her route we get to see her just once occasionally. She visits the local doctor since she's having pains, but the doctor claims that those are psychological ones after the death of her husband. She's the oldest of characters and she has a complex about here age - she even calls herself obaasan. Well, but she's the most experienced one and she's actually quite a nymphomaniac.
Midori is the nurse in the local hospital. Since she's the most typical character, the writer really tried to pull her out of her role giving her lots of very nice events (in the sunset etc) outside of her working clothes, in casual - at those times she's cheerful and likes to set pranks.
Satomi is Satoshi's cousin. She's always together with Shihori and they have the coolest CG together. Again, the writer tried to give her traits discerning from her sister. So Satomi is cheerful, creative, and workaholic, but she's quite irrational.
Shihori is Satoshi's cousin. The more rational of the two, but she hates cooking and working - more of a city girl. Together with sister they came for several days to rest and see their cousins and their theme is to get out of the town as soon as politeness allows.
Hibiki is the joker of the game. She only appears on sunset before the end of the day to say some cryptic stuff about the time, the universe etc. Her route is the true route that opens up after clearing all the six heroines. A lot of questions are getting answered in it, so any additional information would be a spoiler.
Story: Satoshi and Bozo don't have real plans. They just wander around the town that's very ordinary rural town without any discerning feature. There's an Inn, a Soba shob, a souvenir shop, a marketplace, a river bank, a bridge, a clinic, a shrine, a bus stop, a small square with a bronze statue and that's it. Then their cousin sisters arrive and they get a full-scale investigation of the time once more. Here and there there is information that some people get missing, but it's usually neglected as people might just go to hot springs or somewhere. Then their important person disappears (who - depends on route) and start searching around. Eventually everyone disappears but Satoshi and one girl by the day of the Bon festival and after visiting this spirit festival the world resets. That's the loop that keeps on repeating. Composition-wise Cross†Channel is better since the hero works towards getting out of the loop by trying to remember things or writing them down in the diary. Here Satoshi is the same each time - first he's pulled in some merry adventures and then he's on the brink of despair. Through next five routes it's monotonous gameplay since very few events change and there's a lot of movement on the map, so skipping is not fast. Hibiki route that comes with everyone cleared finally puts some dots and breaks the loop without any active actions from Satoshi side. Thus Cross†Channel wins by all the parameters - the charm of characters, the humor, the protagonist, but it is a perfect 10 by my standards, but it came four very saturated years later and had some predecessors - including this work - to fix its flaws.
CG: Well, I loved its CG. Heroines are gorgeous there. Best to see for yourself.
HCG: What I appreciated was that every heroine got only one H-event (with some exceptions) - in the end of her branch. Those events are short and involve mostly talking in the beginning and in the end so it's the best type.
Sound: Full voicing except for Satoshi protagonist. Just as in Chiruhana the tunes in the first half of the game are absurdly merry, some sound like parade ones. And C's Ware still can't get sound volumes even since both BGM and Voice for different occasions differ a lot.
Themes and Symbols:
1) Unfortunately there's nothing deep in the main theme of the game - that's just remembering the truth about his deceased mother and thus breaking the loop. Well, there is some cool twist in it, but I won't spoiler.
2) What's much cooler is the mystic atmosphere that's created. There are sounds of bells heard all of a sudden in this town - some say it's the air, some invent more fancy explanations like plazma. And at some point it gets clear that each time the bell rings a person disappears and then it gets scary. This goes very well wit the Obon festival theme - the most pagan and spiritual festival celebrated. There a lot of impact in spirits roundelay. And when your heroine gets sucked it in it's horrifying.
3) There is a bridge in the town. When Satoshi asks what's on the other side of it - noone can answer. Well, that's weird, but we get to forget about if till the situation with the disappearings gets critical. There's a great scene when Satoshi and Bozo set off through the bridge... and the bridge ends and beyond it there is nothingness. Just insane. What's happening? Is this world not real? AM I ALIVE? That's just a wonderful mindscrew.
4) But the deepest theme is quite unnoticeable. It's when doctor says that he wants this damned rural town to disappear with all of the inhabitants. This hate grew strengthened in him each day. He wanted to break free of it, but was forced by his parents to return after studying. He even had a girlfriend in Tokyo and they had to divorce because he needed to return to this dump. And this is scary, because it's a social reality. Japanese society in some places remains quite archaic. Oldest son has to inherit the house and even the profession of the father and devote his life to whatever miserable life his father had. Well, in case of this game it was not the Doctor who was the source of the disapperings and notes it himself - at first only outsiders and tourists started to disappear and if it was in his power the whole basis of the town should have rot with its core inhabitants.
Overall comments: This game is very good. It has very nice characters, great global mystery and unique strong atmosphere. It's not an S-class work like Eve:Burst Error, but this little cursed game is definitely a masterpiece for me, something that has an ability create memories.
For me the best VN of September 1999 is Kazeoto, Chirin. There's such well known game as Memories Off as well, but a I place a good midscrew over a good slice of life in most of cases.
There's not much to talk about this month. L no Kisetsu: A piece of memories is the only masterpiece of August 1999. Alas, it's only for PS1 and its sequel for PS2, so it's difficult to hook.
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.