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About this blog

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This blog is devoted to popularization (and discussion about) western-produced VNs. My main goal is to present notable non-Japanese visual novels that didn’t receive attention in the Fuwa community and, whenever possible, giving voice to people behind them. Doing this, I hope I’ll be able to give these projects and their creators the appreciation they deserve and oppose some negative stereotypes about non-JP VNs that circulate within our community.

I’m also going to talk about failed VN projects and review newly-released titles of various quality, using this opportunity to discuss the most common flaws and problems characteristic for the western VN development scene and realities of the OELVN market. 

Entries in this blog

Plk_Lesiak

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Incest is not a rare theme in visual novels – many titles, even very serious ones, have romance routes involving protagonist’s sibling in various different configurations, while nukige are full of taboo sex in every conceivable form, including that between family members. Still, this topic is very rarely done in a deep, compelling way, usually leading to a cliché conclusion like “we’re not blood-related after all, we can be together” or simply ignoring the deep social stigma connected to it and delivering an unconvincing happy ending. Even pieces of Japanese media that tried to get away from these tropes, like Oreimo, authors of which wanted to lead brother/sister romance to its logical conclusion, were cut short by the producers wary of negative reactions such story development could gather.

            Love Ribbon, a yuri visual novel developed by Razzart Visual and published on Steam in January 2017 is a rare exception to the trend I’ve described above – it not only offers a rather unusual sister/sister romance scenario, but also gives its full focus to the theme of an incestuous love affair and explores it in interesting and rather realistic ways. It’s also an example of OELVN that offers very explicit erotic content, but implements it as an optional feature that fits rather well with the story content, but isn’t in any way essential for experiencing it and doesn't affect the "SFW" version of the game in negative ways.

Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com

Plk_Lesiak

For the last month, we were going through the impressive catalogue of free VNs by ebi-hime, one of the most celebrated creators within the Western VN scene. As a conclusion to this series, it’s my great pleasure to bring you a short interview with none other than ebi herself. During our conversation, I’ve focused on the dominating themes in ebi’s works and topics directly connected to the freeware titles I was reviewing lately – if you want a more general overview of her inspirations and questions connected to her other work, consider reading the interviews done in the past by The Yuri Nation and Sekai Project. Also, if you’re not familiar with ebi’s free VNs, check out my previous posts about them (Part 1; Part 2) – they should give you the context necessary to understand what we’re talking about in the more context-specific questions. So, here it comes – hope you’ll all enjoy it!

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Plk_Lesiak: Thank you for accepting my invitation! I don't think there are many Western VN fans who wouldn't be familiar with your work, but can you share something about the person behind the ebi-hime label?

ebi-hime: I’m ebi and I like cute things, maids, and magical girl anime... And that’s about it! Honestly, I’m not very interesting.

PL: As you talked about your inspirations and interests in other interviews, I would like to focus on the dominant themes in your games. You're one of the few EVN authors that frequently set their stories in the West. Do you have a favourite setting to write about?

ebi: I think England is probably my favourite setting to write about, because it’s the country I live in and I’m reasonably familiar with it (though I don’t know everything about England, of course). It’s easier to place my characters in a setting I know relatively well, as I don’t have to do as much research, and the end result feels more ‘authentic’.

I also like setting stories in Japan because I got into VNs through reading a lot of Japanese VNs which were (what a surprise!) set in Japan. I also watch a lot of anime, and I went through a period where I exclusively read Japanese crime fiction, so I’m fond of Japanese settings! If I don’t feel like setting my stories in England or Japan, I’ll usually pick a European country I’m somewhat familiar with, like France or Italy.

PL: Much of your work is yuri-themed, including some unusual setups for f/f romance. How did Samuel Taylor Coleridge become a woman?

ebi: I love Romantic poets (especially Coleridge) a lot, and I really, really, really wanted to write a VN featuring him as a character, but dropping a real, historical figure into a fictional story felt kind of weird. Changing him into a cute girl made him feel distant enough from the real person that I could write about him without feeling too awkward.

Turning male historical figures into cute girls is also pretty popular in VNs, so I thought I might as well! Girls are cute! Although I think the real Coleridge you can see in his personal letters/diary entries is cuter than Samantha…

PL: Girls are cute indeed, but especially in Asphyxia, you ended up creating a really “heavy” story with a very cute exterior. Was this contrast something deliberate?

ebi: I wanted a very soft, almost doll-like art style for Asphyxia because I thought it would complement the mannered, flowery writing style. The character designs themselves are quite cute, but I think they’re drawn in a style that’s enough of a departure from a more traditional ‘anime’ style that most people would realise Asphyxia is not a ‘moe’ VN based on the screenshots?

I wasn’t trying to use the art to trick anybody, or make the story seem cuter than it is. I chose the art because I thought it enhanced the story’s gloomy atmosphere.

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Asphyxia

PL: Still, Yuri romance is also pretty commonly associated with something light-hearted and a bit saccharine, like Kiss for the Petals series for example. Were you worried about the reception of your early yuri titles, considering how much they deviated from this formula?

ebi: The first yuri story I ever read was the manga Gunjo, which is very grim and dark and lots of horrible things happen to all the characters, so maybe that’s where I drew some of my initial inspiration from.

Initially, I wasn’t worried about the reception Asphyxia might have because I didn’t intend to release it. I wrote it solely for myself, and I made the prose as pretentious and the content as depressing as I wanted because I figured nobody else would have to suffer through it. Then, I stumbled across SillySelly’s art, and I thought it would be so perfect for Asphyxia I decided to commission her. I still thought about keeping the story solely to myself, but I thought her art was so gorgeous it would be a shame not to release it and share it with people. My reasoning was, even if people hated the writing and the story, they would probably still like the art!

PL: Even beyond Dejection and Asphyxia, many of your protagonists are writers or poets. Do they reflect your personal passion for writing, or is there something else that draws you towards this archetype? Have you done much writing beyond visual novels?

ebi: The characters in Dejection and Asphyxia write poetry because they’re all based on poets. I’m pretty terrible at writing poetry myself, and I don’t like doing it. Moreover, my interest in the Romantic poets mostly stems, not from their actual poetry, but from their lives and their personalities, since they were all very melodramatic (apart from maybe Wordsworth) and they did a lot of ridiculous things.

I’ve written a few original characters who are authors (Blake from Where the Sun Always Shines and Eiji from Six Days of Snow are the best examples) because I like writing, so it’s a hobby I can understand and talk about somewhat credibly. Still, I try not to make all my protagonists writers, or even interested in literature, because I’m afraid it might get boring.

I used to write my own ‘original stories’ in my notebooks when I was about six or seven, and I wrote a lot of fanfiction between the ages of 12-18, so I did a bunch of writing before I got into VNs. Unfortunately, most of my old writing is awful, so I’m not going to share it!

PL: Another prevalent theme in your work seems to be depression and mental illness, with a culmination of sorts in Lynne and its gruesome portrayal of teenager's anxiety. What makes this topic attractive to you as a writer?

ebi: They’re interesting themes to write about, and I imagine a lot of people have experience with these issues, but perhaps don’t always feel comfortable talking about them? I’d like it if some people could read my stories and relate to some of the characters, and maybe feel a little bit less alone with their worries.

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The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns

PL: And one more notable trope – ghosts and afterlife, including lovers, doomed in life, being reunited after death. It seems that most of the romances you write can only ever work out "on the other side", if at all…

ebi: I don’t think I agree with this. I’ve written a lot of sad/depressing stories, but I’ve also written several cheerful stories, too! Strawberry Vinegar and Blackberry Honey have happy endings! I also don’t view my romance stories where people die and reunite as ghosts as particularly ‘tragic’. Emmeline Burns and Windswept Night were both intended to have uplifting, optimistic endings, even if the characters suffer a bit to get there.

I know people can’t really come back from the dead to reunite with their loved ones, but that’s why writing scenes like that in stories is so satisfying. It’s nice giving couples in stories closure even after they’re dead, especially because it’s not possible in reality.

PL: Visual Novels are often a medium of escapism and wish fulfilment, quite akin to the trashy romance novels you sometimes ridicule in your writing. Yours... Rarely so. Do you ever feel like you should spoil your reader's a bit more, giving them more control and a chance for happier endings?

ebi: Well, I don’t know if the first statement about VNs is entirely true. There are lots of really, really good VNs there that aren’t all about escapism and wish fulfilment. The first VN introduced me to the medium was Umineko, which is pretty… not like that. And there are VNs which have fanservice and sex scenes that still tell interesting stories, like the Kara no Shoujo series. I don’t really think the stories I write are all that different from many existing JVNs, with the exception that I set a higher percentage of mine in Europe.

Though some of my characters poke fun at ‘trashy romance stories’, I have no real problems with them myself. Generally, I think people should be free to like whatever fictional media they like. I know there’s a scene in Empty Horizons where Lyon makes fun of Mireille for reading Totally-Not-Twilight-But-It’s-Actually-Twilight, but the scene concludes by saying there’s nothing inherently wrong with wish fulfilment stories if they’re not harming anybody and they make people happy.

Anyway, with a lot of my kinetic stories, I have a very clear idea of what I want to happen in the story and how I want the characters to act. If giving the reader choices gets in the way of the story I want to tell or the message I want to explore then I won’t include any.

Conversely, if experiencing multiple possible outcomes is the ‘point’ of the story, then I’m fine writing that too (like The Way We All Go). Really, it depends on what I think is best for the story I’m writing. Sometimes I think a story benefits from having multiple routes and different endings, and sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I think a story benefits from happy endings, and sometimes I don’t.

PL: One of your VNs I've personally enjoyed greatly, and which surprised me a lot was Lucky Me, Lucky You. Are we going to see other queer stories in a modern setting from you, or was it more of a one-time experiment?

ebi: Oh, I’m glad you liked it! I really enjoyed writing Nanami’s character – she was a lot of fun. Her ‘voice’ is also really different than most of my other main characters, since she’s more abrasive and assertive (but still kind of a sweetheart deep down).

Lately, I’ve been pretty fond of writing historical stories because I feel like I can get away with being more exaggerated and melodramatic with my vocabulary, but I want to write more modern stuff too! It’s fun to experiment with different styles.

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Sweetest Monster

PL: In other interviews, you mentioned that you have many ideas for light-hearted, cute stories. Still, very few of them turned into actual games. Will there be more of those in the future?

ebi: Well, hopefully! I’m sitting on a bunch of scripts in various states of being finished right now, and some of these are very light-hearted and goofy. I’d love to make them all into VNs at some point (especially my very cute magical dog girl story, which is a full 26 episodes long!), but I don’t have enough time or money to develop too many things at once...

PL: A few months ago you wrote on Twitter that you'll most likely stop making freeware games, as they drain too much of your time and resources. If that really happens, should we hope for more frequent commercial releases from you?

ebi: I hope so, but I doubt it. Like I said, I’m sitting on a lot of scripts for unreleased projects in various states of completion. I’d like to release these more quickly, since I’m very fond of some of these stories and want to share them with people, but it’s not always possible. I’m not the only person involved in making my stories, and the production can sometimes get slowed down by various factors beyond my control.

It also doesn’t help that some of the scripts I’ve finished are quite long, have a lot of characters, and I haven’t started looking for artists or composers for these stories yet. I’d really like to release 3 commercial stories a year, but I doubt it will be possible this year. I’ll do my best, though! >_<

PL: Is there anything you would like to share about your current plans and the projects you're working on? Will we learn more about the yuri with bunnies in near future? ;)

ebi: Well, my latest VN, A Winter’s Daydream, will be releasing soon! It’s quite a light-hearted slice of life/comedy story set in Japan, that features an elderly grandmother being magically transformed into a cute girl.

I was inspired to write this story after stumbling across the ‘grandmother x grandson incest’ tag on VNDB. I was surprised this tag existed, and I thought it was funny such a niche fetish featured in enough VNs to warrant a content tag in the first place. After looking through some of these VNs, I saw that the grandmother love interests looked rather young and good-looking for grandmothers, and I thought, ‘what if I wrote a story where a more traditional-looking grandmother transforms into one of these impossibly cute “anime” grandmothers overnight? How would her grandson react to that?!’ Some of my ideas are kind of weird, I guess. :I

In the end, A Winter’s Daydream ended up being a little more serious in tone than I originally intended, though it still has some goofy moments. I’m quite fond of it, and I hope other people enjoy it, too! (Sadly, while the grandmother character is the main heroine of the story, in the sense that she’s the female lead, she’s not a love interest. I hope this doesn’t disappoint anybody haha…)

As for the ‘yuri story with bunnies’ I mentioned on twitter a while back… I actually finished writing the first draft, but I’m not sure when/if I’ll release it. It’s quite a cute, fluffy story (I suppose it’s similar to Strawberry Vinegar in tone), but I have other scripts I’d rather work on before I get around to polishing this.

PL: Thank you for your time!

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And this concludes my ebi-hime series, for the time being. I want to give my utmost thanks to ebi herself, for putting up with the somewhat-prolonged process of preparing this interview and some of my purposefully-annoying questions. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with her on this and I'm extremely happy that I can share her insights with all of you through this article. Obviously, this is not the last time her VNs are present on my blog - in two weeks, you'll see the first part of my Yuri Game Jam retrospective, which couldn't possibly be complete without mentioning Ebi's work. Also, I'll definitely work on covering more of her commercial titles in the future, both the old and the newly released ones.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this content and will join me again in my adventures through the world of EVNs. Until the next Friday! :)

Plk_Lesiak

While Time Tenshi, which I covered two weeks ago, is definitely the flagship franchise for Silver Cow Studios, the company never settled for only producing new iterations of their breast-expansion/time-travel formula, releasing two other ecchi VNs since their debut in 2015. Those games, while they didn’t abandon the giant boobs and over-the-top storytelling that could be considered Silver Cow’s staple, offered their own twists to the fanservice-filled and trashy, but hentai-free format. The first one, Burokku Girls, appeared just three months after the first Time Tenshi game and… The lack of reasonable development time definitely showed, in a few ways. The second, Battleship Bishojo came out in early 2017, after Time Tenshi 2’s Special Edition and proved that the devs had their formula figured out much better by this point in time. Still, what exactly are these games about, besides exclusively-kyonyuu heroines and are they as good serviceable as Time Tenshi proved to be?

 

Burokku Girls

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Burokku Girls (the first part of the title apparently represents the Japanese pronunciation of the word „block”) is quite possibly the most bizarre VN I’ve seen since Legends of Talia: Arcadia. Although it’s not as devoid of humour as the Winged Cloud’s unfortunate “dark fantasy adventure”, it still manages to mix incredibly trashy fanservice and character designs with a rather grimdark story about a last bastion of light in the world besieged by darkness – a conflict so hopeless that the people of the last town standing are pretty much just waiting for their final battle and inevitable demise. Our generic protagonist enters this world-ending scenario through a full-immersion VN machine, constructed by his father. The virtual reality set goes haywire in an inexplicable way and transports him to a reality built with the titular Blocks – voxel-like elements, which were used in past immemorial to create an artificial paradise for people to live in, but was since invaded by the “Underworlders”, exiles trapped in the dark chasms beneath the “Overworld” and sealed away with the Blocks.

            This fairly elaborate, even if the cliched setup is coupled with a few other decent ideas. The execution of the story, however, is… Less than ideal. The first sin is the writing, which reaches the absolute highs of repetition and absurdity, clashing constantly with the brutal story playing out in the background – the authors’ borderline-unhealthy obsession with boobs and limited vocabulary to describe those get pretty mind-boggling, with awkward phrases such as like “feminine flesh” repeating in every other sentence. The second major issue is the heroines, which are just as uninteresting as their designs are trashy – the only borderline interesting characters were the villains, but they, on the other hand, received very little screen time and development. With typos, some poorly-drawn CGs and no real humour, Burokku Girls ended up being one dreadful VN, pretty much from start to finish – and it really didn’t have to be that way, considering the fairly interesting aesthetic (voxel-based backgrounds) and the general outline of its isekai setting. Sadly, as we’ve seen so many times before, you need more than an idea to produce a decent game after all…

Final Rating: Smelly Poo smelly1_by_szafalesiaka-dcbhwas.png

 

Battleship Bishojo

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Possibly taught by their previous experiences, Silver Cow approached their second non-Time Tenshi VN in a very different manner, creating something similarly dumb, but much, much more enjoyable than Burokku Girls. Battleship Bishojo starts with our protagonist, a navy sailor named Daiki, drinking away his last day of leave with a friend and falling into the water. Soon after, he wakes up on a strange ship, sailed by four women with giant boobs (after all, some things never change in the Silver Cow universe – and probably shouldn’t change), quickly realizing he was transported to another world, full of mythical creatures. Having no obvious way of returning home, he teams up with the crew that saved his life in a borderline-insane hunt for rare, legendary specimen.

            While the story only becomes more absurd later on, with elements like giant monster-girls (it seems that giantesses are a primary theme here, along with the usual kyonyuus) or borderline-mentally-challenged rival of the main crew, there are a few things that make it work. The first one is the protagonist, who’s a bit of a smartass, never getting flustered by the women surrounding him and constantly poking fun at the craziness of everything that happens. He also rarely loses his cool in the more intense situations, making for a fun lead character, much less bland than other protagonists in Silver Cow titles. The game also focuses on humour, never trying to take itself seriously or overdoing it with the dark undertones within the story – while it has a bit of a plot and some rare touchy-feely moments, its main purpose is definitely silly fun and it succeeds in delivering exactly that. Also unlike Burokku Girls, it has an actual conclusion, rather than baiting a pointless sequel – and a pretty adequate one at that. So, if you’re looking for an ecchi VN that is simply pleasant to go through, look no further – Battleship Bishojo have you covered with its whole, unapologetically dumb glory!

Final Rating: Golden Poo! gold_by_szafalesiaka-dcbhwal.png

 

 

Going through the Silver Cow’s catalogue was quite a wild ride, both similar and different from the other ecchi developers I’ve tackled so far. The absurdity and trashiness of their VNs are coupled with a surprising amount of restraint when it goes to implementing overused harem tropes and fanservice – elements which make many similar titles, such as Sakura games, quite obnoxious after a bit of reading. The lack of h-scenes and toned down romance elements are also very unusual, going pretty much against all the common conceptions of what really sells on Steam. For me personally, all this contributed to a quite satisfying experience, with the sole exception of Burokku Girls – a game simply poorly put together and poorly thought-out, but thankfully being an outlier in this respect. I wonder, however, if there’s even a market for this kind of “softcore” VNs anymore? Time will tell. Personally, I will definitely continue to observe this studio’s work and hopefully, take just as much trashy amusement out of their upcoming titles as I did while making these two posts.

And once again, my special thanks go to Bosskwar, whose videos are the light of my miserable existence of a VN-trash-eater. ^^

Plk_Lesiak

Today, we’ll be continuing our agon… I mean, out adventure through the world of free VNs by ebi-hime. While the earliest games we’ve covered, like Dejection and Is This the Life? were very visibly ebi’s early works, simple on the technical side of things and featuring minimalistic artwork, today we’re jumping straight into very recent projects, all released not earlier than 2017. Mostly staying true to the general climate of heavy, existential topics and endings that are never the typical happy, wish-fulfilment scenarios, these games are once more not far detached from ebi’s commercial projects and while smaller, could easily have a modest price tag attached to them, with few people being able to claim they didn’t get their money’s worth (especially in the cases of Lynne and Six Days of Snow). But what are they exactly about?

 

Where the Sun Always Shines

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Where the Sun Always Shines is another bittersweet story, although in a wholly different climate than Lucky Me, Lucky You. Featuring a 32-years old writer, suffering from a deep depression after losing his wife, and a teenage girl from his neighbourhood with whom he forms an unlikely friendship with, the game explores themes of grief, inspiration and moving on after losing one’s feeling of purpose, but is also maybe the only title on this list that provides a truly positive, hopeful conclusion. Before it gets to that point however, it presents to the reader rather convincing descriptions of writer’s block, anxiety and self-pity of the leading character, along with interesting interaction with Sunny, the aforementioned teenager, who first visits him out of pity, but then forms a bond of sorts over their mutual interest in musical – all that accompanied by very decent artwork. In a way though, it’s maybe the least impactful of the ebi’s stories, being overall solid and enjoyable to read, but lacking any interesting twists or highly emotional moments from the previous games. Definitely a worthwhile VN, but not necessarily a must-read.

Final Rating: Recommended

Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com

Plk_Lesiak
While this situation is changing significantly nowadays, as the Western visual novel market is professionalizing both when it goes to development and publishing, in the past EVN scene was primarily a world of extremely short, freeware titles, created by countless enthusiasts as minor passion projects or game jam entries. While these games, often very simple and minimalistic, rarely deliver sufficient material for full reviews, many of them are still worthwhile and artistically pleasing titles that I would like to cover more consistently. For this reason, I’ve conceived this new format – mini-reviews, that will provide the basic outlook of the VNs in question and rate them on a simple, three-point scale:
- Highly Recommended: for short VNs that provide an exceptional, memorable experience despite their limitations
- Recommended: for titles that are enjoyable, but significantly flawed or advisable mostly for people enjoying their specific subgenre/dominant themes they use
- Not Recommended: for titles that in my opinion simply fell flat or were misguided to the point they’re most likely not worth your time – a rating I expect very rarely to use, considering the games and authors I’m going to cover
In the next few months, I hope to deliver a few posts in this formula, while I’ll also be redacting the old Yuri Game Jam/Free Yuri EVN lists according to it. As a starting point, however, I’ll take a look at a developer with maybe the most impressive catalogue of short, free VNs, some of which I’ve already covered in the YGJ series. While The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns and Once on a Windswept Night might be ebi-hime’s best-known freeware titles, since late 2014 she released 8 other free games of varied scale and quality (I am skipping the earliest ones, not listed on her Itch.io page – those were mostly humorous experiments with the VN formula rather than legitimate stories).
Recently, ebi announced abandoning freeware projects for good, as they were draining too much of her time and resources – and while it might be a sad thing to hear, it’s both understandable from the viewpoint of any commercial developer and a good opportunity to look back at her extremely generous contributions to the EVN scene. Today, I’ll cover the first four games from the eight mentioned before, in the chronological order, starting with Dejection: An Ode, released on November 2014 and ending with Round the Mulberry Bush from the mid-2016. In two weeks I will complete this list, starting with Where the Sun Always Shines and ending with the 2018 April Fool’s VN Learning in Love!. I hope you’ll be willing to accompany me on this little journey and enjoy reading my reviews!
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Dejection: An Ode

Taking its title from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, this VN is a direct predecessor to Asphyxia, taking the same themes of gender-bent romantic era English poets, depression, substance abuse and unrequited love. Samantha, female version of Coleridge is placed here as the protagonist, with an unhealthy obsession about her best friend and fellow poet Lillian (William Wordsworth) and constantly struggling with what we can assume is a bipolar disorder – episodes of extreme agitation and inspiration, followed by extreme depression and inability to work. Her struggle is shown through simple visuals, with just sprites and a few backgrounds, but the dynamic and stylized prose makes it a very enjoyable and convincing read. The abrupt, inconclusive ending felt slightly disappointing, but the story makes it clear that any proper resolution of the plot would be even sadder and harder to accept. While it’s definitely a simple and minimalistic game, visibly from the very early period of ebi’s activity as a developer, it’s still very much a worthwhile read, especially for the fans of her characteristic style of writing and storytelling.
Final rating: Highly Recommended
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak

Wait… A nukige review? On this anti-porn blog? Well, I should probably start with saying a few things about my view on porn in VNs, to avoid potential misunderstanding – this will be a bit of an essay, so be sure you don’t mind a (small) wall of text not completely related to the game itself. My actual stance on pornography in games is very… Ambivalent. I deal with porn extensively in my university studies, wrote a whole thesis on fan-made erotica and I’m on principle anti-censorship. I’m also very disillusioned with porn and personally don’t really enjoy hentai animation – and while I try being open-minded, I have yet to encounter a piece of Japanese 18+ media that would seriously undermine this stance.
            What do I mean exactly by “disillusioned”? Porn, including that in the cartoon form, is oriented purely towards the sexual pleasure of viewer – the uncomfortable, voyeuristic sexual positions, extreme close-ups, unrealistic variety and length of the scenes have little to do both with how actual people have sex and with any kind of meaningful storytelling. The theme of sex and even explicit sex scenes, when used well, can add to realism and depth of a story, but porn as a formula is essentially hollow, apart from its purely “pragmatic” functions. Expecting it to be anything more, in my opinion, is delusional, both because it goes against its most basic principles and because people that actually want more from it are in minority and porn creators most often don’t see them as a viable target group. Hentai adds to this already problematic mixture a significant amount of cultural and genre tropes I personally can’t stand – including fetishizing virginity, the abundance of loli characters etc.
            Why do I even bother approaching a porn VN then? Well, Cute Demon Crashers, a free game created for the 2015 NaNoRen0 contest, is not a typical eroge – more than that, it’s more or less an anti-nukige, promising a focus on consent and intimacy that’s lacking in many Japanese erotic games (and, obviously, many Western ones as well). It also reverses the typical setup, with a female protagonist and predominantly male romance options. But, does it really succeed in delivering something significantly different?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak
Two weeks ago I've brought you an interview with Reine Works' Jackie M., where we talked about realities of OELVN publishing and the specificity of women-oriented western VNs. Today, I have an immense pleasure of bringing the spotlight onto one of my favourite western VN creators. Nami is an indie game developer and author of highly appreciated yuri titles, such as Her Tears Were My Light and Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet. If you observe VN contests such as Yuri Game Jam or NaNoRenO, or you read my post about the best YGJ VNs, you should probably be at least somewhat familiar with her work – and if you’re not, I hope reading this short interview will convince you to change that ASAP. 😉 Enjoy!
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Plk_Lesiak: Hello and thank you for agreeing to this interview! Many people interested in the OELVN scene might know your Itch.io handle NomnomNami or at least recognize the style you use in your projects, but probably not much more. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Nami: When I’m not making my own games I’m usually screaming about Disgaea, but most of my time lately goes into working for Lab Zero on their big crowdfunded RPG, Indivisible. Right now my life is work, work, work, so I’m afraid I don't have much interesting stuff to say about it.
PL: Usually, developers that try their strength in the visual novel format have a strong connection to otaku culture and borrow various ideas and elements of style from Japanese media. How is it in your case?
N: I've been a huge fan of Japanese anime/manga/games since I was like 10, and I’ve loved a lot of games that use a visual novel style format so it seemed really natural to me. I think my subconscious goal is to write things that feel like a Disgaea cutscene - I just really love Disgaea!
PL: Disgaea is, above all, a strategy game series. Are there any visual novels that you think influenced your work? Do you read any Japanese or Western VNs nowadays?
N: While these aren't pure VNs, I really enjoyed the original Ace Attorney trilogy, Hotel Dusk, and 999. Nowadays I don't play games that often, but I browse Itch.io a lot and try to check out what other people make for NaNoRenO and Yuri Jam!
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak
Winged Cloud’s early hentai VNs appeared at the moment of company’s greatest creativity (obviously, speaking in the relative terms) and during what could be described as a slow improvement in the overall quality of their titles. The two latest ones, however, came as a syndrome of an exact opposite tendency, one which becomes very clear when we look at pretty much any of the Sakura releases after Nova – the whole formula becoming increasingly stale and cynical, and WC’s games turning into little more than low-effort cash grabs, feeding on the loyal fans of the series.
            Still, while they might represent the lowest moment in Winged Clouds' history, did these games at least keep some of the entertainment value you would hope for in a trashy fanservice VN? Spoiler: Not really…
Sakura Agent

A prime argument for my thesis that if you don’t want to put actual resources into creating an interesting setting, you’ll be better off just sticking to high-school SoL drama – at least then your laziness and corner-cutting won’t be completely obvious. While Sakura Space managed to make the theme of space mercenaries unbearably unexciting and generic, Agent achieved something maybe even harder – making an alien invasion and a secret agency fighting it completely dull and laughable (not to be confused with “funny”), mostly by never showing anything but fanservice and presenting the whole plot through WCs typical, cliched and bland narration.
             Beyond that, the game offers a protagonist with no presence or charisma whatsoever (but who was, I guess, meant to be a badass), no routes, unconvincing heroines, distinct lack of humour and Sakura Maid’s levels of random fanservice (including a hentai scene with a kidnapped heroine in the middle of an enemy base and possibly the dumbest tentacle sex scene in the history of VNs). As a result, Agent is one of the saddest entries in the whole Sakura series, in which WCs attempts to give context to the porn CGs does not add any kind of appeal to them, but rather makes you cringe from how bland and stupid the whole setup is. Also unlike some of the Sakura games that preceded it, like Fantasy, Nova or Dungeon, it simply feels cheap, missing the visual flair and assets necessary to communicate its theme and storyline properly. In the end, it's a highly unfulfilling experience – find the pics online, save your time and money.
Final rating: Smelly Poo
Sakura Magical Girls

The first example of Winged Cloud reusing a whole theme in something that isn’t a direct sequel (if anyone needs a reminder – Sakura Angels was a magical girl story with no actual angels involved) might suggest the studio running out of ideas, but is definitely a proof of it running out of creative powers. With two main heroines so shallow and similar to each other it’s seriously hard to differentiate between them, and a third one only remarkable by being their vague opposite (and whose darker philosophy is strangely also reflected by being black – though, as bad as it sounds, it’s at least a piece of visual variety previously rather absent from the Sakura franchise and I wouldn’t mind it becoming more common), this game already missed out on the most important part of the ecchi formula – appealing female cast.
            Without it, there was already little Magical Girls could do to stay memorable, but it didn’t make itself any favours by also being short and linear. And while it might only be my impression, even Wanaca’s visual designs are among the poorest in the whole series, with magical girl outfits looking like a random, overly colourful mess (and this is made even worse by the ability to contrast them with relatively good-looking sprites from Sakura Angel). The aforementioned “dark magical girl”, Ayame, might be the closest thing to an actual “positive” here, but in the end, she is also way too over-the-top and one-dimensional to hold any serious appeal beyond hentai scenes. With a bland, "delinquent" protagonist and nonsensical plot added to the mix, it's another thoroughly skippable Sakura game, which only makes the cliffhanger ending, signalizing a possible sequel, laughable. Of all VNs in the series, this is probably the last one I would like to see continued and I wholeheartedly recommend avoiding it at all cost.
Final rating: Smelly Poo
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There’s no escaping from one simple fact – the latest straight hentai games by Winged Cloud are terrible. And they’re not terrible in the meaning that would apply to pretty much all Sakura games, with their thin plot, pretty much just pretext for fanservice and h-scenes, poor writing, short length etc. They’re simply devoid of any kind of entertainment value that usually accompanies WCs stream of anime boobs – the bare minimum of characterization and humour that make these VNs more appealing than just writing “Wanaca91” in a Google search or browning random anime fanart. And this time, even Winged Cloud’s fans seem to agree with me in that assessment – both games received relatively poor reviews on Steam and VNDB, and most likely had their role in the company’s move towards hiring a new scenario writer and focusing on yuri content. 
            Will the het-porn formula come back in the upcoming Sakura titles? I have no doubts about it, but hopefully in a much, much better style – at least within the WCs scale of being “good”. After all, no miracles will happen within the world of trashiest Western eroge, even when magical girls are involved.
PS This time too, my special thanks go to Bosskwar, whose videos made preparing this post much less painful then it would otherwise be.
Plk_Lesiak

In my previous review I was writing about a NaNoRenO OELVN-contest entry that definitely bit slightly more than it could chew – a large scale project that, due to its short development cycle, came out rushed and deeply flawed, not reaching the full potential its premise and characters offered if handled properly. Today, however, I’m dealing with a game that could be seen as a bit of a counter-argument to my thesis on what can and cannot be done within NaNoRenO’s tight timeframe – a visual novel made mostly by a single person, which used the event as a starting point, delivering an extensive demo and expanding on it afterwards in a rather spectacular fashion. 
            CUPID, created by Fervent Studio and released for free in March 2016, was a rather unusual and surprising addition to the OELVN niche. This gothic romance/horror story with a female protagonist is pretty far detached from any established subgenre on the VN market, probably owing the most to the classic Western literature. However, its mature, dark themes and extremely competent execution makes it potentially attractive for many types of readers, as long as they’re not easily discouraged by highly unsettling and potentially depressing content. It also introduces a few spins on the typical visual novel formula and unusual storytelling techniques that make it stand out from most Western and Japanese titles, creating a unique, memorable experience on a market dominated by rather generic, trope-driven products.
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak

Disclaimer: This was the first purely GxB otome game I’ve ever played and my experience was most likely very different from that of a fan of the genre. While I stand by my conclusions, they’re definitely written from an unusual perspective.
Locked Heart is a game I’ve encountered pretty much by chance, while randomly browsing VNs available on Google Play. As a nice-looking, free title it quickly found its way into my wishlist, but belonging to a genre I usually don’t play (and apparently following a very standard otome formula), it was never very high on my to-read list. Only another coincidence, leaving me stranded in a café for multiple hours with nothing but my tablet to accompany me, compelled me to run it and discover that I’ve stumbled upon something rather exceptional – definitely when it goes to Android games, but maybe even in a broader sense.
            Developed by Dicesuki, a small studio which later created the highly-regarded Cinderella Phenomenon, and published for Android in July 2016, Locked Heart quickly became one of the highest-rated mobile VNs out there, gathering an impressive 4.9/5 score among Google Play users and a decent VNDB rating. Of course, standing out positively on a marketplace full of horrible shovelware and shameless cash-grabs might not be a huge achievement by itself – in the case of this small otome however, this enthusiastic response from the readers seems to indicate a bit more than just contrast from the absolute trash that dominates mobile platforms.
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak

The Sunrider series is one of the most successful OELVN franchises – one which not only spawned two highly-appreciated VN/strategy game hybrid titles, but even made a rare attempt at expanding to the Japanese market (at least successful enough that the games’ developer, Love in Space, apparently works on making their upcoming title, JP-idol themed Shining Song Starnova, into another export product, with Japanese voice acting and other elements rarely seen in western-produced VNs). Both the freeware Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius and it’s commercial sequel, Liberation Day, got much recognition for their space-opera storytelling, solid game mechanics and good production values.
            One thing the mainline Sunrider games definitely lacked, however, was satisfying romance – while the cast followed typical harem tropes, with male protagonist and vast, female-only crew more or less visibly in love with him, the character development for most of the girls was extremely basic and, at least in the first game, player was left with no ability to pursue any of them. To remedy this sorry state of affairs, Sunrider Academy was created – an alternative universe dating sim spin-off, placing the protagonist and the main four heroines of Mask of Arcadius in a typical high-school setting (although without abandoning the sci-fi elements or the Sunrider universe itself). So does this game, published by Sekai Project on April 2015, really remedy mainline Sunrider games’ omissions?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak
An amazingly contradictory example of both ambition and trashiness, this Canadian company managed to create some of the most memorably-bad games available within the Western VN market. While they definitely never showed the kind of contempt for their audience and lack of dignity that emanates from pretty much every new Winged Cloud title or the Steam asset flip/achievement spam VNs (yes, those are a thing – I will get to them one day), their utter failures and misguided elements in their projects are not something you see every day – and, as they belong to commercial products that ask money from their readers, they’re open even for the more cruel kinds of scrutiny. And that’s exactly what I’m going to deliver upon them today.
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A Wild Catgirl Appears

Yuri Game Jam entries usually are published for free, even though some of them offer quite impressive production values and interesting stories. A Wild Catgirl Appears is a double exception in this regard, as, sadly, it's neither free nor in any way compelling to play through. With extremely basic and mostly nonsensical plot, clunky dialogue and a plethora of technical issues, it's one of the least competent commercial VNs available on Steam (at least among actual games and disregarding the aforementioned asset flips and achievement spams). It might also be the only VN in which I count inclusion of catgirls as a negative, considering how superficial the reason behind their appearance is and how they take the focus from the only somewhat-interesting characters in the game. Even yuri romance couldn’t redeem this title to me, considering it’s generally miserable state – sadly not worth your time, and especially your money.
Final rating: Smelly Poo
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak
Hello again and welcome to the second part of our journey through the world of Winged Cloud's yuri shovelware!
The release of the Legends of Talia’s was undoubtfully a small disaster for Winged Cloud, not only failing to kickstart the new non-ecchi franchise, but also being quite harshly rejected by WC’s already-existing fanbase. It didn’t, however, end the yurige streak which made the straight Sakura porn, once definitely the dominating format, surprisingly rare in last year and a half (and the het games that actually did show up in that time were all very much underwhelming, even by the series’ standards). Still, whether this “Golden Age of Yuri” translated into us customers receiving anything of quality is, as always when we’re talking about Winged Cloud, a bit more complicated issue. So, what exactly the latest yuri Sakura games have to offer, apart from an unreasonable amount of boob-centric CGs?
Sakura Gamer

A Sakura game about making a Sakura game, Gamer is one of the first examples of Winged Cloud trying to include what would normally be the basic component of any ecchi VN: actual comedy and humour. This development undoubtedly connected to the hiring of a new writer, Waffle, who replaced the veteran Liberty, whose track record was progressively getting more and more awful. In the case of Gamer, the satire is mostly directed towards WC's own products, resulting in some highly-amusing and accurate episodes of self-ridicule. Although it might be slightly hermetic to an outside reader, with a lot of references to other Sakura titles, it’s probably the first instalment in the whole franchise that on occasions was genuinely funny to me – and still remembering the jokes and references in Sakura Spirit, dryer than the Karakum Desert, this was a very welcome change.
            The plot of the game, if you can call it that, seems more like a semi-random set of interactions written to fit previously-drawn character sprites and CGs, but also features a fairly amusing cast of female characters (the protagonist, Nekohime, is probably my third most favourite Sakura lead after Dungeon’s Yomi and Fantasy’s Raelin) all of which receive traces of actual development and, when it goes to heroines, can be seen as serviceable romance options. Inma’s character designs, while rather absurd, are also among the best ones she’s ever made for Winged Cloud – those buying Sakura titles solely for the CG’s (as much as I’m puzzled by that practice) will definitely have something to look at here. While this might not be, objectively speaking, one of the best WC titles ever, it was one of the most enjoyable ones for me and I can recommend playing it as strongly as it is ever possible with a Sakura game (that is, just watch Bosskwar’s playthrough of it, it will be a lot of fun).
Final rating: Golden Poo! 
Sakura Cupid

Winged Cloud’s 2018 Valentine’s Day surprise is, putting all the possible Gabriel Dropout inspirations aside, a relatively competent VN, once more utilizing the arcane art of comedy to make the Sakura formula slightly less stale and generic – this time mostly in the form of some over-the-top CGs and character interactions, that, especially in the opening segments, give the whole game some actual personality. Cupid also stands out by, very surprisingly, throwing the fanservice and hentai scenes at you in a way that is both logical and fits the story, and it's probably the only time I’ve seen this particular feature in the whole series.
            The actual plot and characters, however, are more on the bland side of the spectrum, mostly due to lack of any interesting development – especially Mitsuki, the waitress that out protagonist teases constantly in the café she frequently visits, starts as a pretty amusing, snarky heroine, but quickly turns into an over-the-top deredere, whose only clear quality is her obsessive love for our female lead. The endings also are among the more anti-climactic and dumb ones I’ve seen lately, making the whole VN rather hard to recommend. I have to admit though that the CG presented above and the scene associated are among the funniest things I’ve seen in WC’s games – thanks to it and a few other highly-amusing moments I don't actually regret reading through the whole thing.
Final rating: Rabbit Poo
Sakura Sadist

Sakura Sadist is another gloriously contradictory example of Winged Cloud’s simultaneous progress and regress when it goes to quality – an initially nicely written and fairly funny VN that pretty much completely falls apart later into the story and is incapable to capitalize on its best assets. The game, following a female pervert protagonist, starts quite amusingly, with our lead constantly teasing and bickering with her childhood friend, Mari, who serves both as a straight man throughout the story and as one of two love interests (the second one being a certain beautiful, dignified star of the school, who we can instantly identify as the titular [closeted] sadist). The actually competent dialogue and nice chemistry between the main girls made me at first quite optimistic about the game and the possible direction it might go to.
            Sadly, if you thought that anything interesting would be done with the BDSM theme or there would be any kind of twist to the story that you couldn't easily predict after first 15 minutes, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Not only the main premise is realized through a few episodes of pet-play and the second heroine trying to control the protagonist in vaguely BDSM-esque fashion, but it can also be… Skipped completely, by choosing not to be a total creep and in that way reaching Mari’s route, with its 10 minutes of dialogue and 20 minute-long hentai scene (at least I have to admit it might be the most extensive porn segment in all of Sakura games, whatever that’s worth to you). The already short game, ending an hour early in one of its main conclusions is not a thing I see every day, but also not something I ever want to see – just like I don’t want to ever see more of Sakura Sadist.
Final score: Rabbit Poo
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So, as we've reached the most recent instalment in the whole Sakura franchise, what the future might hold for these trashiest among trashy Western yurige? I would expect them to keep coming out, more or less, till the end of times – while not all Winged Cloud fans are happy about the switch to mostly f/f smut, the company’s dedication to the theme shows that it’s a viable niche and sells at least well enough to justify constantly spewing new iterations of the formula. I’m also pretty sure that Winged Cloud isn’t going anywhere, considering it’s stable Patreon support that at least partially compensate for possibly dropping Steam sale (obviously, with the effective death of SteamSpy it’s very hard to say what the numbers look like for their latest titles). I’m very sure that before I’m done covering the whole already-available roster of Sakura games, they’ll be new ones coming to keep the Shovelware Adventures alive.
SUCH JOY! SUCH HAPPINESS!
PS Once more, my special thanks go to Bosskwar, who made this series possible (or at least much more enjoyable to make) through his let's play videos.
Plk_Lesiak

Warning: Heavy spoilers ahead! If you want to play this VN yourself, stop reading now. I don’t really recommend playing it though…
As much as I’m a fan of independent VNs and appreciate the possibilities that crowdfunding opened for the western visual novel market, it’s not completely rare for these projects to end with spectacular disappointment, for various reasons. Carpe Diem: Reboot is an especially interesting example of a visual novel that ultimately failed to live up to the expectations, but not because of lack of effort or poor production values, but through the sheer “virtue” of horrible writing. As I’ll be treating this as a case study of how to screw up a good concept and waste a lot of work, unlike my normal reviews, I’ll be revealing many major plot-points, including some details of the games’ endings. As Reboot mostly relies on its plot twists and mystery elements to keep the player interested, if you want to play it yourself, ignore this review or read it after you’ve completed the game.
             While the title we’re talking about was released on Steam in September 2017, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, its history starts a bit earlier, with a free VN from late 2015 simply titled Carpe Diem. This very short, but nicely written visual novel served both as a prologue of sorts and an advertisement for the crowdfunding effort which later spawned Reboot. In it, a simple story about two friends (lovers?), Jung and Ai, deciding how to use a rare opportunity to spend a full afternoon together, ended with a twist – the girl was actually a computer program, an object of delusional love of a shut-in trying to escape from his real life. The Steam achievement for reaching the end of the game, “What are you doing with your life?”, served as a somewhat ironic punchline, making clear the main themes the author tried to tackle. Good dialogues and decent execution of Carpe Diem, while in no way breath-taking, definitely showed promise and made many people (including me, although I've discovered it after the Kickstarter campaign was already over) somewhat enthusiastic about its continuation. So, what went wrong?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak

Mobile phones and tablets, especially Android devices, are strangely underutilized as a platform for VN publishing, with few high-profile titles being ported to them (especially when it goes to English versions) and underwhelming selection of dedicated mobile releases. Also, existing Android versions of famous visual novels, such as Narcissu, suffer from technical issues that you wouldn’t expect from what is ultimately a very simple application, based on text and still images. Occasional Ace Attorney spin-off or an original iOS title such as Fragment’s Note doesn’t change much in this general picture.
            This apparent disinterest of JP VN producers in the mobile market (not counting the literal dozens of mass-produced, free-to-play otome romances) makes the western-produced VNs dominate Google Play store, and while most of them might be tiny, amateurish-looking games, there are also a few notable titles that could deserve some attention even from an experienced reader. One of the most popular and interesting among those is Stellaren, a simplistic, but surprisingly enjoyable sci-fi VN, at first released in episodic form throughout 2015. This review will be based on a complete, paid version of the game, that became available in March 2017. 
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak

The western otome scene offers a decent amount of hidden gems – small, often obscure titles, that nonetheless offer impressive artistic qualities and/or interesting, unique ideas. It also never stops being surprising to me how many of those games are published for free, sometimes even without any Patreon support or other direct forms of monetization on the part of their creators. 
            Magical Otoge Ciel and Magical Otoge Anholly, developed by Batensan and published for free on Itch.io in 2015 and 2016, are among many high-quality, free otome VNs produced by the booming indie scene in recent years. Still, their author was able to establish a fairly interesting, distinct style both when it goes to art and the storytelling, very consistent between instalments and likely to be continued this year with the upcoming Magical Otoge Iris (with major hints at other, future projects). As both games are fairly short and simple, I've decided to review them together – the very similar writing, art assets and even shared elements such as UI structure and parts of the soundtrack make it justifiable to treat them basically as episodes of a single game. But what are they really about?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
 
Plk_Lesiak
While not nearly as famous as Winged Cloud’s Sakura games, Silver Cow Studio’s Time Tenshi is one of the longest-running EVN series, following a single storyline and consistent cast of characters since late 2015. So far, its developers published three, fairly substantial entries in the franchise: Time Tenshi, Time Tenshi 2 (released in mid-2016 and later expanded significantly in the Special Edition version) and Time Tenshi Paradox – an episodic game, with two parts already available and most likely more coming in the near future. All of them, unusually at this day and age, follow a relatively tame, ecchi formula with no actual hentai scenes – a choice Silver Cow seems to be quite dedicated to, despite the general trend of inserting 18+ patches into everything that can even remotely justify the full-on adult content. But, enough of history lessons – how’s the story of busty time travellers and sexy side effects of temporal dislocation holding up in the current, competitive market of anime boob slideshows? Surprisingly well, I’d say! Or at least, to a certain point...
 
Time Tenshi

Time Tenshi starts with a bang and soon after, follows it up with a few extra ones. The first scene features our male lead, Kenji (the usual faceless, high-schooler protagonist-kun), witnessing his house burning down along with his parents. After being hospitalized for a few months because of the shock, he’s picked up by his only close relative – maternal grandfather, an elusive scientist who was barely present in his family’s life. He invites Kenji to live in his laboratory complex, where he hides… A time machine, obviously! And while this might be quite predictable, there’s another important twist, which will be a leading theme in the Time Tenshi games from this moment forward: time travel has a fairly peculiar side effect when used by women, making their hormones go out of control, their boobs and butts grow enormously (until they return to their time) and turning them… Eager, for a brief times after they come back from the past (that’s the one direction in which the time machine works). And the professor’s assistants happen to be three gorgeous women in overly-revealing uniforms! Who would’ve thought!
            The game is, thus, a real treat for all kyonyuu fans and uses the trashy idea surprisingly well – the absurd notions are inserted into a fairly consistent storyline about the dangers of manipulating time, having a few fun plot twists and some borderline-interesting moments. While it never reaches the levels of serious science-fiction storytelling, it’s also not as brain-dead and superficial as it would be in a typical Sakura game. The two primary heroines are typical cheerful & energetic vs. serious & refined tropes, but their light-hearted bickering and different reactions to aforementioned side effects of time travel are mostly fun to read. I was also quite fond of the protagonist, who’s made to be a rather resilient individual, never taking advantage of the girls despite their vulnerable state many time throughout the story and rejecting unwanted advances from the game’s antagonists (obviously, also a bunch of attractive women). While this means he keeps the girls at a distance throughout the game (which ends up with a cliff-hanger BTW, leading straight into the sequel), his respectful attitude feels a bit refreshing in an ecchi game and leaves space for some genuine romance later on.
            Of course, as you could probably deduce from what I’ve written so far, Time Tenshi is rather tame, even among other non-porn fanservice EVNs. However, it’s relatively well-produced and fun – while I don’t think it could be considered a prime source of fapping material (unless you’re REALLY into giant breast), it’s simply enojyable to read and look at, in exactly the brainless, relaxing manner you’d expect from ecchi stuff. Quite recommended!
Final Rating: Golden Poo!
Time Tenshi 2

Time Tenshi 2 picks up directly where its prequel ended and follows a nearly identical formula. After creating a time paradox in the first game’s ending, the team deals with its slightly-disturbing aftermath and prepare to face new challenges, as a new iteration of their old antagonists show up in the newly-formed timeline. Disrupting slightly the previous bliss of the Time Tenshi squad is a new heroine, a rather abrasive and deceptively-cute former cheerleader named Tessa, who openly comes into conflict with the old cast. While she seems rather unlikeable and her behaviour is slightly confusing at first, she receives probably more backstory and development than any other character in the series, making her quite an interesting addition and creating some fairly-believable drama. While the general plotline quickly reaches purely absurd territories, the character interactions and dialogues are at the same, relatively solid level they showed in the first game.
            One completely new feature, however, is the romance, which was added with the Special Edition release in the form of heroine-related choices, extra scenes with additional backstory and interactions with the protagonist, and romantic epilogues, one for each of the four girls. The romance is tame and cute above anything else, but faithful to the characterization of both the protagonist and the heroines – it might not be what you would expect from an ecchi VN, but is pretty satisfying nonetheless, also because the game really never goes overboard with trashiness and harem tropes, so the build-up to the love story aspect feels surprisingly genuine. There’s even no “obligatory harem ending”, which I applaud, as it would simply fit poorly with the characters – this is kind of basic consistency that very few fanservice games ever try to bother with.
            In the end, it’s more Time Tenshi though, so it might not be for those not willing to cope with obnoxious technobabble, pseudo-sci-fi storytelling and infinite amount of breast-expansion CGs (it also adds quite a lot of size-altering/giantesses to the mix, so I finally have a non-JP VN that I can recommend to my macrophile acquaintances). Still, even though its gimmick is in no way my personal fetish, I’ve enjoyed the let’s plays of it quite a lot and probably wouldn’t have the worst time reading it by myself – among the pure ecchi EVNs available on Steam, it’s definitely among the better ones and on that ground, I can quite genuinely recommend it as a source of mindless, kyonyuu-filled fun.
Final Rating: Golden Poo!
Time Tenshi Paradox

Time Tenshi Paradox continues what pretty much seemed like a concluded story from Time Tenshi 2, in an episodic manner. While the first two games could be considered relatively content-rich, this time the story is spoon-fed to us in a bit over hour-long bits – this is already a bit of a bummer, considering the long distance between releases of every new chapter. Paradox is also quite a mess story-wise, starting a pretty grand new intrigue and further exploring some of the events from the first games (including strangely pointless flashbacks to the characters that are effectively removed from the story at this point), with a pace that doesn’t hold much promise to get anywhere before 2022. And even beyond that, it completely ignores the Special Edition romance endings and while romance wasn’t ever the main focus of the series by any means, this makes the new chapters feel disjointed – pretty much a step backwards from the narrative point of view.
            The weird feeling doesn’t end there though. The new characters, coming from a future with vastly more advanced time travel technology, seem to be resistant to breast-expanding side effects of going to the past, making the game’s primary gimmick strangely underemphasized. While I never expected I’d be missing this kind of contrived, trashy plot element, the “does it even qualify as a Time Tenshi game at this point?” thought was very much alive in my mind through much of the playthrough. While the art, writing and music are at pretty much the same level of quality they always were, the whole game simply feels a bit pointless, without clear direction and any kind of conclusion in sight. While it might be worth it for the most devoted fans of the series (if those are a thing...?), it’s generally very skippable, at least until all of the episodes are out and the story properly concluded.
Final Rating: Rabbit poo
 
Time Tenshi series is not what I expected it to be – while I thought I’d encounter a particularly cheap and trashy mass of ecchi fodder, I’ve actually found something genuinely amusing and decently-put-together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very much ecchi trash – but ecchi trash that has fun by telling cheesy stories and playing with its cast of characters, rather than just give a paper-thin excuse to constantly show off fanservice CGs and call it a day. This might seem like quite a low standard, but that’s what this series is – looking at the bottom of the barrel and sometimes findings things worthy of the dubious honour of being “the best of the worst”. The cream of the crap. And Time Tenshi, my dear readers, is exactly that.
            In two weeks, we’ll continue our adventure with Silver Cow Studios, taking a closer look at the ecchi games they made outside of the Time Tenshi franchise. And once again, my special thanks go to Bosskwar, whose videos proved an invaluable help in the process of preparing this article.
Plk_Lesiak

Zetsubou, a developer and writer involved in many popular EVN titles is someone whose work many fans of the genre might be very familiar with, but not necessarily even knowing about it. While have made a few relatively successful projects of his own, such as Sickness or Tomboys Need Love Too!, many of his commissioned works, such as Razzart’s Love Ribbon gained even more recognition. For this reason, among others, there was relatively little fanfare around the release of his latest project, Sable’s Grimoire, in May this year. However, there are many reasons to consider this project as a particularly notable one – the 350k-words-long, modern-fantasy tale about a young mage entering an academy filled with demi-humans is rather far-detached from the usual EVN formula, both by its scale and its dominant themes. 
             Of course, scale by itself does not have to be a positive, just as unusual story elements don't automatically make a VN interesting to read. Does Zetsubou's largest project to date have other merits beyond its impressive word-count and interesting premise, and does its overall quality justify the 25+ hours time investment that is required to fully read through it? In my opinion, answer to all these questions is: yes.
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak
Before the era of Steam adult patches, Winged Cloud established their brand by creating ecchi VNs, full of partially-exposed anime boobs, panty shots and flirty female characters in highly inappropriate outfits, but nothing that could effectively earn them that appealing “sexual content” tag on VNDB. In late 2015, however, utilizing progressively more widespread techniques of circumventing Steam’s censorship, WC made their move towards becoming an actual eroge developer – and year after that, the devoted themselves completely to creating full-on Sakura nukige that we know and love(?) today. Today, I'll be taking look at those early iterations of Winged Cloud's porn in their whole, glossy-boobs-filled glory.
Sakura Swim Club

Featuring Japanese voice acting in a game that never had a Japanese version, Winged Cloud’s first venture into the world of fully-fledged eroge is definitely one of the most “weeb” things out there, but this didn’t prevent it from being one of the most successful and well-received Sakura games. It was also, believe it or not, a pretty drastic step backwards when it goes to storytelling, when compared to what we saw in Angels and Fantasy, with a barely-existent, linear plot and little entertainment value not coming directly from porn. It seems that implementing a novelty in the form of hentai scenes took much of the development team’s energy, without any to spare on character development or giving a proper conclusion to the tiny bits of SoL drama that the game introduces. This is especially painful in the case of Swim Club’s heroines – while the protagonist has a typical “being bound by your parent's expectations” issue that is revolved during the story, the girls have elements of painful, potentially interesting backstories introduced and then quickly forgotten for the sake of fanservice and unavoidable harem ending. Who would care about their mother dying of cancer if they can have a threesome with our “average guy” protagonist?
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Plk_Lesiak

Ithaqua Labs, named ominously after a Great Old One from the Lovecraftian Cthulhu mythos, is one of the more unique studios on the EVN scene, not following closely the tropes and aesthetic of the Japanese VNs. While their fantasy and horror games did not really break into the mainstream of the visual novel market, they definitely stand out among the generic romance and ecchi visual novels most often found on Steam. On June 14 this year, the two-man team added another interesting title to their catalogue – Perceptions of the Dead 2, sequel to a collection of 3 short horror stories which was Ithaqua’s earliest VN project, dating back to 2015. Before I go into details of the new release, it’d be a good idea to take a closer look at its prequel (which, by all standards could be considered as a short prologue to the “proper” story told in PotD 2).
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Plk_Lesiak
Welcome to another episode of Shovelware Adventures! This time, we'll take a break from our favourite, the Sakura series, to take a look at a much more obscure corner of the OELVN scene. The venture into commercial visual novel development by the German fan translator working under the label Yume Creations effected in some of the strangest VNs available on Steam and beyond. Combining competent art and interesting ideas with trashy ecchi, pieces of absolutely disastrous, bizarre writing and straight up failures in the English language, these projects are all experiences that will defy your expectations – just not necessarily in the ways their authors would want them to.
Aozora Meikyuu

A nukige without sex scenes, this little VN offers a rather charming heroine, who sadly gets involved in a totally nonsensical plot and various sexual scenarios that are never shown to the player. In the game’s story, our shut-in protagonist is forced to go out on a rare quest to buy groceries and on his way back home is nearly crashed to death by a (nude) girl falling from the sky. What follows, is a series of rather amusing interactions between the main character and the mysterious woman that invaded his life, which sadly can lead only to some literally incomprehensible and abrupt bad endings, or to a single positive one. The latter, admittedly, somewhat won me over by the virtue of being heartwarming, but was also based on some highly-questionable logic, making in turn everything that happened earlier rather hard to understand.
            The bad endings, which make little sense even after discovering the mystery central to the story and the true conclusion of the plot, along with the sexual tension constantly present in the game, building up towards non-existent hentai scenes, most likely suggest some heavily problematic development process. Because of all this, the final product is rather hard to recommend, even though I seriously enjoyed certain elements of it and ideas the author tried to implement – it is, indeed, a particularly unfortunate hunk of rabbit poo, not really offensive in any way, but hardly worth your attention.
Final rating: Rabbit Poo
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Plk_Lesiak

Although a significant portion of VNs produced in the West is published for free on platforms such as Steam or Itch.io, most of them are very short and simple projects, often made by starting-out developers or as quickly put-together entries for contents such as Yuri Game Jam. Still, from time to time, it’s possible to find a VNs on a completely different scale also available as free-to-play releases – AIRIS, created by Ebullience Games for NaNoRenO OELVN event and published on April 2017, is definitely among the most expansive games of this kind, with proper route structure and impressive story variation, that will require you many hours to fully experience.
            While at first glance this otome might look like a generic fantasy romance, it offers a few fairly unique ideas (which I will not spoil in the review) – and those go far beyond its loudly advertised inclusivity, expressed through various LGBT+ themes. While not straying far from the typical formula of the genre, AIRIS indeed offers both a fully-fledged yuri romance route and another one focused on a non-binary character. More importantly though, it takes the somewhat overused trope of MMORPG and gives it an amusing spin – one which created some really interesting storytelling opportunities, even if their execution often left something to be desired.
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak

Note: While I didn't plan on tackling Japanese-produced OELVNs on this blog, this title is a perfect representation of mobile game market's business practices implemented in a VN and for this reason was worth a closer look. More than by itself, it's interesting as a negative example of scammy policies that aren't in any way endemic to JP developers and are sadly used by many different companies with various backgrounds.
I don’t think many people have any doubts about how horrible the mobile game market is nowadays, both when it goes to quality and dominating business models. Generic, borderline plagiaristic games, ridden with pay-to-win mechanics and exploitative microtransaction systems are a sad standard in most genres popular on smartphones and tablets, swarming the AppStore and Google Play in a way that makes it nearly impossible to find actual quality products just by browsing these storefronts.
            Considering the absurdly-high revenue that many mobile games bring their developers, often through relatively small investments, it shouldn’t be surprising that the plague of exploitative business models dominating the Android and iOS market would find its way into the world of visual novels. Still, how can you make an ultimately single-player, story-driven formula “pay-to-win”? Moe! Ninja Girls, a mobile OELVN produced for the western markets by a Japanese company NTT Solmare inc. shows that it’s absolutely possible to turn a text adventure with anime drawings into one of the most predatory, scammy games available on mobile.
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak

While Loren: The Amazon Princess, which I reviewed two weeks ago, if fairly well-known among western VN fans and did a lot to establish WinterWolves studio as a respected OELVN developer, the second RPG placed in the fantasy world of Aravorn, Seasons of the Wolf, flew very much below the radar of most gamers and VN fans. Published on Steam in January 2015, this game pushed the series in a slightly different direction, with a smaller cast, more casual story and far fewer romance options, to a very mixed reaction from the players.
            However, Seasons of the Wolf was also the title that made significant improvements to the core gameplay mechanics of the series and refined the whole experience in a way that created a standard for future WinterWolves RPGs to follow and build upon. How then this “less of a dating sim” (citing the developer himself) looks like three years after its initial release and is it worth attention from VN fans, especially those that are more interested in the story, rather than RPG gameplay?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Plk_Lesiak
Yuri as a fully-fledged main theme came a bit late to the Sakura Gaming Universe (they’re all connected, I tell you!), but for the last year, it absolutely dominated Winged Cloud’s production, with their last het hentai game, Sakura Magical Girls, released in early 2017. That transition, however, was a long and inconsistent process, which produced both the absolute best among Sakura games (especially Sakura Dungeon with its never-ending stream of good-quality f/f porn and fanservice CGs) and some… Less fortunate projects. Today and two weeks from now I’ll take a closer look at WC’s iterations of Girls’ Love, without ever hiding my intense bias for the genre – one which makes me that more excited when the formula is applied well and that more furious when it’s desecrated by really crappy, uninspired VNs.
 
Sakura Fantasy, chapter 1

Fantasy, one of WC’s most ambitious, but never-finalized projects, proved above anything else the biggest advantage of yuri-themed ecchi VNs – having a protagonist who is more than just a faceless self-insert, given the minimal amount of character development and as few significant traits as possible, to not disturb the player filling this hollow husk with his own fantasies. Realin is not only an actual character, with a sprite and proper personality (and a convenient, voyeuristic gift of “farsight”, mostly used to peek at people in baths), but even gives out traces of interesting backstory and compelling relationships with the other heroines. The game also, as one of the very few entries in the Sakura series, does some effort to build a setting and a linear story of sorts, predictably based on fairly common fantasy tropes, but nonetheless semi-serious and interesting. The biggest problem is, however, that we’re unlikely to ever know what happened with the crumbling Empire, besieged by magical monsters and the quest to retrieve the Fallen Star – as much as anyone can tell, after the first chapter (which is still rather worth reading by itself, but obviously doesn’t conclude the plot in any way), WC buried this series forever.
Final rating: Golden Poo!
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