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About this blog

This is a blog primarily focusing on but not limited to VNs.  It is primarily designed to express my opinion on otaku media (jrpgs, anime, manga, LNs, VNs, etc), individual VNs, and otaku community issues.   Most of the posts are related to my VN of the Month and Random VN columns, originally started in threads in the forums. 

As of March of 2017, I'm also looking for people to help with VN of the Month.

Entries in this blog

Clephas

Now, I'm well aware that most people don't play VNs twice.  Visual novels are a static media, similar to one of the old 'choose your own adventure' novels in interactive terms, so this is only natural.  To be blunt, the main reason I go back and play old VNs is because nothing is satisfying one of my itches amongst the more recent releases.  That said, there are some pieces of advice I can give for those who habitually re-read their favorite books and rewatch their favorite anime.

1- Wait long enough for your memories to fade: The human brain has a tendency to 'compress' old memories, and it is rare person who, through training or at birth, possesses an eidetic memory.  As a result, details do fade over a period of time that tends to vary greatly with the individual.  In my case, the base runs from a year to a year and a half for VNs that made a good impression and four months for ones that didn't. 

2-  Pick your paths: When it comes down to it, most of us are going back for a particular heroine or path.  We aren't that interested in rehashing the heroine paths that we didn't find that interesting, and this is only natural.  Sagaoz and other sites with complete saves can let you go to the true ending without bothering with the heroine endings, if that is what you want. 

3- With gameplay hybrids, make full use of your save data: Most VN hybrids have NG+ built in, and as a result, you can breeze through the game portions of most of them rather easily by simply using your own save data.  This is immensely helpful in games with a particularly tedious bent (like srpgs), where re-leveling would take forever.

4-  Limit replays to your favorites: While I occasionally get a junk-food-like craving for something crappy that nonetheless remained in memory, in most cases I only really enjoy replaying my favorite VNs (in my case, a list of about fifty). 

5- Nakige and utsuge work, but pure charage don't: I'm not kidding.  Pure charage are agonizing to replay, no matter how long after you go back.  I can still cry for the sad scenes in a Key game, but if you asked me to replay anything by Feng or most games by Navel, I'd rather cut off my balls and hang them out to dry on my windowsill.

6- If you fall asleep, just stop- In my experience, nothing is worse than getting bored of your favorites and then forcing yourself to continue.  If you can't pay attention or if you suddenly lose interest, it is time to stop.  If you force yourself to continue, there is a distinct possibility you will ruin your own impressions of the game in question for future playthroughs.

7- Stay away from pure mindfucks- I shouldn't have to explain this, but I will... the value of a mindfuck is in its surprise.  Games centered on a mindfuck, with the sole purpose of trying to fool you into thinking one thing while something else is going on, are terrible for VN replays.  This is because they are probably the  most spoiler-vulnerable genre out there.

8- Highly emotional or intellectually stimulating works will often gain more depth: This isn't a fanciful statement.  In my experience, a VN that is trying to get across something else besides pure story or something that is trying to make you cry will inevitably make for a better replay than something that is just shoving sex, romance, and comedy in your face.  I could probably replay Houkago no Futekikakusha, for instance, three or four times in a year without the emotional aspects fading significantly, and I find new things out about Dies Irae, Vermilion, and Devils Devel Concept with each playthrough. 

9- Infodumpers take longer to recover from: Bradyon Veda, I/O, Muramasa, etc... VNs that infodump seriously as part of the storytelling tend to leave a lot of info inside your brain.  As a result, it takes significantly longer for your memories of them to fully 'compress'.  Don't expect to be able to enjoy anything with frequent infodumps at less than one and a half times that of any of your other favorites. 

10- A good night's sleep is your friend: Why am I emphasizing this?  Because to get the best out of a truly great VN, a well-rested body and brain is necessary.  Nothing kills enjoyment of a good story like being unable to grasp it due to brain-numbness from sleep deprivation.

Hope yall enjoyed my little lecture, lol.

Clephas

VN of the Month March 2017

After discussions with the other contributors to this month, we decided that the VN of the Month for March 2017 is Haruru Minamo ni by Clochette. 

The reason is fairly simple... nothing else met the standards for a VN of the Month pick from the March releases we played.  Now, Haruru isn't a kamige (except that the heroines are kami, lol), but it is an excellent 'charage with a story', and it is definitely the type of VN I'll remember years from now.  As such, I didn't really have an reservations about picking it.

As I mentioned, I am still looking for contributors to the VN of the Month.   In particular, I'd like at least one person besides myself to play Amayui in May, so that I can have a counter-opinion.  My opinions on Eushully's games tend to be either endless praise or harsh condemnations, so it would be nice to have someone to provide a nice companion or counter to my point of view.

For April's releases, I'm also looking for people to provide alternative points of view on the two candidates set for release on Friday... in particular, the one written by the same guy who wrote Nanairo Reincarnation and Akeiro Kaikitan, made by Palette (the one with all the nines in the title).  April is pretty bare, but what is there looks interesting, lol.

Understand, I can work from bare opinions, and the more opinions I have, the better a post I can make.  My personal opinion is all well and good... but I'm not going to be playing everything personally from now on.

Clephas

I've been friendly with the Shin Megami Tensei series for over twenty years now, since the release of the incredibly crappy localization of the original Persona on the ps1 (believe me, it is one of the worst localizations of all time).  That said, I saw the series as just a darker than normal jrpg series... until I played SMT: Nocturne for the PS2.

Nocturne is frequently referred to, both seriously and derisively, as 'Pokemon with demons and a cohesive story'.  Seriously.  While the Persona series has some of the same atmosphere (collect all the Personas! lol), it is Nocturne that introduced me to the extreme difference between the series and the common ruck of jrpgs out there (which were almost universally swords and sorcery at the time).  I was blown away when, in the first half hour of the game, the world is destroyed, turned inside-out, and the protagonist gets a centipede-like bug planted in his eye, giving him demonic powers.  To say the least, this was an... unusual turn of events in my experience.  The game wasn't about saving the world... it was about determining what came afterward... and everyone in that world wanted you to jump on their bandwagon.  The game also introduced me to the staple scenario of the series...

****WARNING, the following is offensive to some of the more sensitive religious types out there****

Spoiler

God was the enemy, Satan is your would-be mentor, and saving the newborn world to come involved starting a rebellion against the established order.

To say the least, I was shocked.  I mean, as I dug deeper into the optional dungeon (which is how you access the true ending), I was forced to a realization of just where things were going... and it was more than a bit of a shock to the system.  The game itself was enjoyable, and it was the very first game I literally leveled up to the max... and still had trouble with the final boss (lol).  It also introduced me to the harsher battle mechanics of the main series, which was the main reason why the 'in-crowd' tended to refer to the Persona series as 'Kiddy-Tensei', both for the less mature themes and the more brutal difficulty levels.

The next two shocks to my system were Persona 3 and Digital Devil Saga... Persona 3 hit me just as I began to take an interest in VNs on the periphery of my vision, so it is no surprise, in retrospect, that I enjoyed it so much.  However, it is Digital Devil Saga which, in my eyes, still represents the best qualities of both sides of the SMT series.  It had the high difficulty levels of the main-series games, along with a story that still, even after I just finished P5, leaves every other game in the series in the dust.  It was dark, interesting, and brutal in the extreme. 

Persona 4 was kind of a letdown after that high... though it was still good.  To be blunt, when the original version of P4 came out, my basic standard for SMT was DDS, period.  P3 was, to my mind, an interesting game in its own right but inferior in comparison, despite its social links.  The somewhat goofy nature of some of the characters (the party members) only emphasized that attitude on my part.  Persona is the only SMT sub-series that tends to make me feel like I'm playing a 'normal' jrpg, albeit one on a tight schedule.  Understand, it is all relative, in the end.

Last but not least, we come to my most recent experience (SMT IV was something of a dud in comparison to Nocturne, so I'm ignoring it), Persona 5.  Persona 5 embodies both the best and the worst of the last three Persona games.  It allows you to form deep personal bonds with various interesting characters (ironically, the non-party ones are much more interesting than the ones you fight with, for the most part), and it also manages to combine imagery of rebellion and imprisonment with deep themes of self-determination and personal justice.  In addition... it shows rather blatantly the worst aspects of the Japanese legal system (for those who played the game... yes, Japan's police and judicial system really can be that messed up, if you get on its bad side).  Japan is a country where almost all convictions come from confessions and plea deals... that should tell you a lot about what it is like behind the scenes.  Not to mention that it is a country where it is extremely hard to argue self-defense (if you give someone a defensive wound, you can be sued), insanity defenses earn you permanent social stigmatization, and even a single smear on one's record can lead to a permanent inability to get any job that pays above minimum wage outside of day labor. 

As a game, it makes some improvements on the Persona formula as defined by Persona 3... in particular, the benefits of a social link are more clearly defined and useful in the game.  The Tower Confidant, especially, has an ability you'll be extremely happy to have when hunting rare personas. 

Story-wise, it is at its strongest near the end.  It is sadly predictable throughout much of its length, in comparison to 3 and 4, and the last boss was not that hard to predict given the tendencies of the series.  That said, I honestly felt a much larger emotional connection to even the most annoying characters (all of whom were party members, incidentally... which is probably the worst aspect of the Persona series) than I did in 3 and 4.  I played the game without using walkthroughs, and as a result it consumed ninety hours of my time to finish and I missed finishing three of the Confidants.  However, I find myself feeling rather satisfied, over all.  The way the last part is done, however, gives me definite feelings they'll probably do an FES-style sequel.  They simply left too many openings for it, and, while the big bad dude is no longer around, it isn't like the SMT universe is the kind of place for pure happily-ever-afters...lol

 

Clephas

Played and written by Dergonu, edited for grammar by Clephas

Amanatsu Adolesence is a moege that might seem very average at first glance. And, well, I'm not going to lie, it kind of is. But, at the same time the game has quite a few fun aspects that breaks away from the norm that is the "standard moege". This, alongside a fairly enjoyable cast, made me like this game more than I expected to. You won't find any seriously engaging drama, or super intellectual writing in this VN. But it does a good job of making you laugh with its goofy humor, smile at the rather enjoyable romance and cringe from the... less than good usage of Russian, lol.

The game is centered around our main character, Akira, and the light music club that he is a member of. Or, well, was a member of. The light music club gets disbanded at the start of the game because of a certain incident with a guitar/ flamethrower that kinda sorta burnt down parts of the school. (Yup.) As the members of the light music club gets scattered over several different clubs, a stunning exchange student from Russia enrolls at Akira's school, and moves into his house due to a deal with his parents who currently resides in Russia. Turns out the girl, Sasha, is a very talented guitar player, and the president of the light music club, Ryou, sees this is as a perfect opportunity to rebuild the club. If they could snag someone as talented and well liked as Sasha, surely the school would have to approve of the recreation of the light music club.
And so they start trying to make Sasha join their club while ... other thing starts happening. I don't want to go into any more details about what comes next plot wise, as the little plot this VN does have should be left unspoiled.

Like I mentioned above, I liked the heroines in this game quite a lot. Although all four do go under the "standard moege heroine" templates, they have some unique quirks that make them feel less like stereotypical heroines you have seen a trillion times before, and more like actual people. Because the game doesn't have that much plot, the main focus of the game's routes lies with the characters themselves, and I therefore don't want to talk too much about what makes them all "unique." So, I'll just give a very short introduction to the characters. (I mean, at the end of the day this is still a moege, but I do think each heroine has some pretty nice aspects to them that sets them apart from most of the standard heroines I have encountered before, at least.)

First, you have the goofy and energetic childhood friend, Natsu, the vocalist of the light music club. Not a tsundere, believe it or not. (Thankfully.) Bit of an idiot, but an adorable idiot.  Then, there is the president of the club and Akira's senpai, Ryou. My favorite heroine of them all. She is actually a refined lady, though she rarely plays the part, and she mostly spends her time coming up with new idiotic stunts for the club. The mix of an ojousama and a crazy daredevil is pretty damn great.  Third is Amane, a weird little girl with a thing for electronics. Bit of a closet pervert. Super adorable VA that is basically made for her character.   Last of all is Sasha, an intelligent and talented exchange student from Russia who doesn't exactly blend into the goofy group at first.

Another nice quality to the game is the confession scenes and the introduction to the romance. The main character is actually not a complete moron (Clephas: In other words, he isn't as dense as the average charage protag, lol) when it comes to his own and the heroines' feelings, believe it or not. The confession scenes in the routes actually took me by surprise, as they were surprisingly enjoyable and well done. Sadly, the game does fail a bit at the follow up to the confession scenes, and rushes the romance in all the routes flat out, which is a shame. After the confession is over, the game has a real strong urge to shove H-scenes down your throat without more than a few minutes of reading, which I don't really like. I think having some more build up is nice before jumping into that aspect of the relationship. Another issue I had with the routes was the frequency of H-scenes. Like, don't get me wrong, the art in the game is great and the H was nice and all, but they just kept on adding H-scenes in the routes without adding any real depth to the relationships. This was particularly a big problem for Sasha's route, because Sasha is definitely the character that has the best potential for enjoyable romance and plot among the four heroines. This "plot" is sadly not pursued at all, and it is just kind of thrown out the window and overshadowed by sex left and right. If this was a nukige, I'd be all for that, but it isn't... so it was a bit too much for me. In a game where the main focus lies with the characters and their interaction, they should have put more focus on actual interaction beyond just H.

The last complaint I have about the game is the musical element... Or, should I say, the lack of it. This is a musical themed VN, and, as one would expect, there is a lot of musical scenes scattered throughout the game. However, for some strange reason, whenever the bands perform in the game, we don't actually hear anything else than some boring guitar tracks left on in the background. The VAs don't sing, and we don't hear any of the songs they talk about in the story. They just skip over that element, despite it being so relevant (Clephas note: This is actually almost universal to all games where the characters are musicians... one of the big weaknesses of the sub-genre). Moreover, what is even more confusing is that they actually have several songs made for the game, in the form of unique outro songs performed by the heroines' VAs, that plays after you finish their respective routes. These songs are quite good; so I don't understand why they couldn't put half the effort put into those songs into something for the actual band performances in the story. This isn't a low budget game, based on the other aspects of the game, so it really is quite puzzling why they just cut out the music in this musical themed VN (Clephas: Sounds like a lack of forethought plus the usual failure to properly use the tools available that you tend to see in most charage).

Overall, if you are looking for a fun and lighthearted game to read, this is definitely a nice pick. You won't find any seriously heavy drama or a super intriguing story in this VN. Instead, you can just turn off your brain and enjoy the goofy and silly ride. The main character isn't so clueless that he makes you want to rip your own eyes out, and the heroines have some personality to them, making the cast pretty enjoyable overall. Despite the romance feeling a bit rushed at times, it does make up for it with some nice and unique confession scenes, and a pretty enjoyable common route leading up to the routes.  As long as you don't go into this game with overly high expectations, Amanatsu Adolesence should definitely be a good pick if you just want something lighthearted and fun (Clephas:  Though, just reading this, I get the impression that there are a hundred better-executed charage out there that I've read in the past... I'm so glad I shoved this off on someone else, lol)

 

Suisou Ginka no Istoria (Canceled)

Well, I tried.  A lot of the reason I couldn't get into Suisou Ginka no Istoria is because of timing... to be blunt, combining a game this depressing with playing Persona 5 at the same time was seriously making it impossible to enjoy either one properly. 

This game starts out depressing and continues that way up to the path split (where I basically dropped it and couldn't go any further).  I'm not saying the story is bad... at any other time, I probably would have made it a priority to get through this.  I would have enjoyed the suffering of the characters immensely, and I would have been waiting with bated breath for the inevitable ruin of the characters (which is constantly foreshadowed by Kureha, who is the protagonist's sadistic employer/slave-master).  Unfortunately, trying to play this put me into overload on depressing stories when combined with Persona 5. 

If someone else is willing or has already played this through, please give me detailed comments... as I can't bring myself to play it this month (considering how few in number April's releases are going to be, I might get around to it sometime in the beginning of May...). 

Clephas

Trinoline

Written by Kiririri and edited by fun2novel  and Me

Trinoline

If there ever was a time when the quality of a story was judged purely on its aesthetics then minori’s games would be tough opponents to defeat. Trinoline continues in the same tradition as many other minori games. High-budget top-quality visuals with a ridiculous level of attention to details. This includes blinking eyes and well done lip syncing, top-notch high quality CGs, and unusual camera angles, where you walk and look to the side at a character walking next to you while a long non repeating background scrolls by.  All that and more put this at the top of one of the most visually polished games around. Fortunately, visual novels aren’t judged purely on how good they look. Not usually at least.

Trinoline asks valuable questions and explores some very interesting themes and ideas. It is set in a world where the science has advanced far enough to manufacture real, lifelike androids. Events become more complicated when our protagonist’s little sister dies only to later come back as an android. She is just an android and not his real sister of course, only an illusion of the real thing. However, the twist is that she has all of the little sister’s memories inside her, and the question is, 'does it matter if she is real or not?' Do memories make her his sister or is she just a replacement for what was lost to tragic events? What happens if your loved one comes back in android form? Are they the still the same person? Are androids even capable of love, even if they don’t have a heart? Do they dream of electric ships?

Trinoline features three heroines. Yuuri, the childhood friend, skips school often.  However, nothing is what it seems on the surface. What does she hide behind that cheerful upbeat smile of hers? Her route was the least interesting, and it is a bit of a downer for much of it.

Shirone, plays the role our protagonist’s “little sister”. She is the Trino (android) with the protagonist’s little sister’s memories inside her. It explores how and if love can bloom between a human and an android.

Sara is the other childhood friend. She had a leading role in developing the Trino, a new kind of android. Because of her work, she and the protagonist haven’t seen each other in a long time. Her route is considered the true route and it explores the difficulties of developing an android and the problems in their thinking.

The game is pretty equally divided between the common and all the other three routes, and it touches on very interesting issues.  However, at the end of the day I don’t know how I really feel about it.  I can't help but wonder if I actually enjoyed the game or not.  It doesn’t help how stupid the protagonist acts in some scenes and changes his opinions about androids from one route to the next with no consistency, with no regard for his personality. I wanted to like the game because I thought the heroines are really great. In addition, if it wasn’t iterated enough previously, the game is really beautiful. Unfortunately, the constant depressing atmosphere kept up throughout the game pretty much crushed me and every false hope I had for it. I don’t want to further elaborate on that to avoid spoilers.

The game has a lot of great moments, but it also has many points that will split opinions. If you’re looking for a deep and exhilarating science fiction story, you won’t find it here. The narrative is slow-paced and takes its sweet time to build up. This is a game for those looking for a character driven nakige with some light sci-fi elements. However, it might keep you depressed most of the time, so take care if you don't like that sort of thing.

Clephas

First, I should probably say that this isn't a nukige.  It looks like one, it has all the outward qualities of one, but it isn't one, strictly speaking.  The ratio of story and character development to H-content is too high, for one thing. 

This game focuses on a young salaryman named Touma, who has just completed his training period, and he is given his first trial with one of the departments of his company.  He is assigned to a more experienced senpai, a capable young woman named Mai, at the orders of another heroine named Shinobu, and gets addicted to the lunches from the small lunch-making business Mikoto (the final heroine) works for. 

I should warn you that there is sex in the common route.  To be specific, there is drunk sex in the common route, lol.  Anyway, the protagonist is a nice guy who is generally capable, though not a specialist by nature, and the two fully adult heroines (Mai is in her mid-twenties, Shinobu in her late twenties) are both immensely capable and more experienced than him.  Mikoto is a sweet, innocent genkikko who helps her mother support her little sisters.

The three main paths are fairly straightforward love-romance types, save for the fact that he has sex with both the older heroines before getting into an actual relationship with them.  This isn't a long game, so don't expect hours of endless slice-of-life... but there is just enough detail to properly develop the characters and their relationships.  As a result, this game comes across as an enjoyable experience in general, even if it isn't something that is going to make it onto anyone's list of absolute favorites.

There are 3p stories for each heroine route and a harem route... but they are all fantasy-dream types, so it isn't a big deal.

Anyway, this is a decent VN if you want something nice with adult heroines and an adult protagonist.

Edit: Sorry if it is a bit excessively short, but I'm trying to cram as much activity into my off days as possible, so I'm a bit fried.  This VN was a fun experience, reminding me of why I liked Pulltop Latte's first game despite its huge faults.  This isn't VN of the Month material, but it is worth a read if you want something with adult main characters.  The biggest sticking point is the 'have sex and forget' attitude in the common route (incidentally, the 3p extras are basically if the girls didn't choose to forget) for the average reader.  Since the protagonist has sex with both Shinobu and Mai in the common route (Mai has two versions of her route with minor differences, depending on when you branch it off), I can almost guarantee that someone amongst those who read this will inevitably complain about the protagonist's moral fiber... *sighs and wonders at the ridiculousness of caring about the moral fiber of adults in an eroge*

Clephas

This entry was written by fun2novel and edited by me.  As in the previous post, I have only made grammatical and stylistic changes, as well as eliminating unnecessary spoilers.  As such, the content is essentially fun2novel's review of the game.

tl;dr: If you’re a fan of the Phoenix Wright series then stop reading. There’s nothing more I can say to make you want to play Ouka Sabaki. Go play it now. The rest of you keep reading.

In the ancient Japan during the Edo period, under the firm far reaching rule of the Shogun, much of the work of keeping law and order was relegated to the magistrates of the lower towns and prefectures. Every town was responsible for the upkeep of peace and order, and policed themselves using authority delegated to them by the Shogunate. Most criminal activity that did not present a threat to the Shogunate was handled locally. The magistrates were also in charge of keeping the crimes of their town from tainting and flooding over to other towns. Each town or even a region of a city had a Magistrate assigned to it. Magistrates were the ones who carried the duty of overseeing and currying out justice, capture of criminals and prevention of crime. They had no power to tax people but they did hold the power of life and death over them. Ouka Sabaki begins when Shimei, the new young Magistrate, is assigned to oversee the Nakamachi district of Ouka Town.

Ouka Sabaki is the first visual novel by a fresh new company Irodori. For their first effort they developed a great and a very entertaining story full of fun characters and exciting moments. Unfortunately, it is impossible to talk about the game without talking about just how similar it is to Phoenix Wright. It’s not that it’s a rip off.  If it was, then you could say that Kara no Shoujo is also ripping off Phoenix Wright. Instead, Ouka Sabaki takes advantage of those gameplay ideas and uses them to tell a very interesting and compelling story. Visual novels with gameplay have a huge potential to grab gamers with their awesome stories and get them invested through great and addicting gameplay. In this regard I think Ouka Sabaki does everything right.

The similarities to Phoenix Wright are astounding, structurally at least. Every chapter starts with characters just enjoying their time together. These are some of the better moments in the game because this is the only time you get to know the characters. In the second half a crime occurs, sparing the beginning of the chapter's main story.  At that point, you start inquiring, gathering evidence, and asking people questions about what they know. Physical evidence is gathered by clicking on the objects on screen with the hopes to find something useful. And then there is the court room (in this case, an open-air situation where the defendant or defendants is made to kneel on white gravel to plead their case) where you ask questions, find contradictions, and present counter evidence. It is all very similar to Phoenix Wright, but this is not where Ouka Sabaki will win you over (Clephas note: The biggest difference is that the magistrate serves as prosecutor as well as the judge, and there is no jury nor means by which the average person could appeal).

What will win you over are the characters. Once again a comparison to the Phoenix Wright series is in order. The main cast in the Phoenix Wright series are all a bunch of fun and great characters, however it is the rest of the characters that make things very painful to play these games. All the non-main characters are, for a lack of a better word, absolutely stupid. They act like little children with over the top hyperactive personalities instead of acting like believable adults. There is nothing wrong with being quirky, as it gives characters a sense of charm, but in case of Phoenix Wright everyone acts like they are on a sugar high. As a result many gamers hate the gameplay outside the courtroom scenes, and many players use a walkthrough to quickly get them to the court sections of the game as these are the best moments in the game. Ouka Sabaki is a complete opposite of that. The characters have their own quirks, but they never go so far from land you barely see the horizon. Every character is charming, has a great personality, and as a reader you want to learn more about them. There is the fun and energetic childhood friend, the cutest tsundere I’ve ever seen, and even the male characters are all wonderful and great. The characters are so good you’ll be disappointed to know that the game never gives you enough time to get to know them before you are thrust into the main plot. This is really the biggest thing going against Ouka Sabaki.

This sounds really strange, especially from someone who prefers story driven visual novels over the slow and often boring (in my opinion) charage and slice-of-life visual novels. It just goes to show you how  good characters and good writing can go a long way. However, if you don’t mind that, then what’s waiting you is one hell of a ride of trust, betrayals, twists and turns, and some interesting but not over the top drama. The story never forgets about humor either, and there are some very funny situations. These moments help the reader to get comfortable with the game before the plot starts showing up and things heat up.

The game is almost completely linear. There is mostly just one single path through the main story. Obviously the writers were focused on telling a story rather than making an eroge. This is also were the game fails. The writers didn’t plan on having h-scenes from the start so, throughout the game, from the beginning to the grand end there are no h-scenes. Somewhere in the middle if you make the wrong choice you will be treated to an h-scene, but it feels too forced and out of place. After completing the game, you can go back and get endings (including h-scenes) for each girl if you so desire. However, these are the least interesting moments of the game, and besides, once you’re get the grand end, you have witnessed the best parts of the game. So, there’s just no incentive to go for 100% in my opinion.

On the presentation side, the graphics look really good. Characters are drawn well with great smooth lines and good use of colors. Character design is great as well. The voices all sound very familiar and could be professional anime voice actors (I did not check the facts myself, so it is all just based on my ears, lol). The music is of high quality and has a very oriental style and sounds as if it was performed by a live orchestra. But only few tracks are memorable, it’s still very good music and fits the game perfectly.

Overall Ouka Sabaki is a great visual novel and really entertaining. It’s hard to fault it for keeping most of the focus on the plot but it would have been great if it explored the characters and had a few more comedic scenes. If they ever make a sequel I’ll be sure to be there because I know I wouldn’t want to miss it.

 

 

VN of the Month, February 2017

There was never any real contest, this time around... Suisei Ginka is VN of the Month, February 2017.

Clephas

Content Created by Kiriririri and edited by fun2novel and myself (Clephas: I kept myself to grammatical fixes, so the content is pretty much as-is, with me only eliminating some excessive spoilers here and there.

Kamidanomi Shisugite Ore no Mirai ga Yabai.

Hulotte’s previous game Yomeyaba was an unexpected surprise. It wasn’t anything special but it appealed to readers with a fondness for charage with lots of ichaicha and some drama. Hulotte’s newest entry, Kamiyaba, treads similar grounds with identical structure and writing. But Kamiyaba is either too similar or in some case not as good as Yomeyaba and those expecting more of the same might want lower their expectations. Not like the expectations were very high for Yomeyaba anyway.

Our story begins with Hajime and his quest to find a girlfriend. The poor guy even goes to every marriage related shrine he can find, visiting and buying good luck talismans... All in the hopes to finally find a girlfriend for himself and maybe even get ‘lucky’ in the end. As it happens his life is turned upside down when a cute kami Urara takes pity and decides to help him with his fateful encounter. Urara picked 3 partners for Hajime and tells him he needs to get his “fate-counter” with each of the girls to hit zero. It’s an interesting premise actually and can lead to lots of interesting and even hilarious situations.

The thing that makes this game interesting and keeps it a few levels above other similar titles is that the female cast is interesting and have great personalities, it’s a must for people who are into this genre.

Nanami is Hajime’s classmate and she is also the daughter of the prime minister of Japan. It’s a premise we’ve seen many times before. The girl is a snobbish high nose tsundere who thinks she’s better than anyone but the protag wins her love…. Oh wait. What?? She’s NOT??? Well, that was quite a surprise. You see, she is actually a nice girl and pretty awkward at times. Her father is concerned about her as well and wishes for her to live the life she really wants and for her to be happy and has no problems with her dating and socializing. Hajime starts to care for her and tries to ease her loneliness, which is bad enough that she eats her lunch alone on the schools building’s roof (with the other two girls, the roof is their sanctuary). She gets a good development in her route. Unfortunately, the potential drama in her path, the usual 'introduction to the father', never happens, resulting in it sort of falling flat in the end.

Suzumiya is a clumsy senpai of the group. Hajime’s first encounter with her was when she fell down the stairs on top of him.  Little did these two know that fate had bigger plans for them. She is also a very popular idol in Japan. She is good at cooking and spends time making benrous for everyone once a week. On other routes she even teaches the girls how to cook. So she’s a pretty nice and interesting character. Hajime’s fate counter with her is the closest one to  zero, as it is down to 15 (Nanami had 900 million). Her route is about her dealing with being an idol and dating someone at the same time, a common theme in idol heroine routes, and by the end everything is resolved. However, out of all the girls she is the only one who changes little throughout her route. Nonetheless, the ending was very beautiful and shows them together in the future.

Yukari is the mischievous kouhai of the group. She is also a detective but they never say why she wants to be one. She just does. Perhaps they tried to give her some special quirk, but it is never explored much, with means it ends up just being 'flavor' for her character. Her fragile body doesn’t mesh with her detective occupation. Most of her route is her and Hajime spending their time in the school infirmary and many scenes have Hajime carrying her there. There aren’t any real conflicts like Nanami and Suzumiya routes. The ending was nice too, but I couldn’t help but think that something was missing.

Urara is the kami that took a liking to Hajime and wanted to help him find a girlfriend. They were not supposed to be partners in fate. But Fate seems to be perfectly happy breaking its own rules sometimes. She doesn’t change much in her route, but that might not matter much, since she’s best girl in Kamiyaba. She is a hyper energetic girl and says ‘maji’ too much (Clephas: gyaru kami heroine?  lol). She also demands a reward for every good thing she does (usually ice cream), and she is very cute when she’s embarrassed. She really is best girlfriend material our of all the heroines in Kamiyaba. She is disguises herself as Hajime’s imouto,7 and this causes problems when it leads to them dating. However, things are resolved with the usual ease seen in the average charage. I don’t want to spoil her route because it’s the best one.

All the routes are full of ichaicha and any focus on something dramatic is resolved very quickly before anything really major can happen.  There are two shorter side routes as well, but they are also just ichaicha with one h-scene each. Overall the characters were great and enjoyable but they don’t do too much with them, which is a little disappointing. Yomebaba wasn’t highly rated and Kamiyaba is scored a few notches lower so don’t expect the same quality from this game. But if all you want is ichaicha this game is good for consumption. Did I say icha icha already?

Clephas

Hataraku%20Otaku.png

This is the second game in the Hataraku series by Akabei Soft3, the company made when most of Akabei Soft2's subsidiaries either went out of business or merged together.  This series is about adults and adult romance in the modern world, and could be categorized as a 'non-moe charage', as the heroines aren't moe heroines, really.

For my thoughts on the first game:

My thoughts on this VN don't differ terribly from the original, though I do have a number of additions I would like to make.  One thing I perhaps was not clear about in the Hataraku Otaku post was that I liked how both games dealt with adult lifestyles and adult characters, as opposed to the usual teenagers that plague the average charage like an ear infection that just won't go away.  Not only that, I thought the romantic aspects were handled really well in both games, despite the way the protagonist can (if you choose to let him) cheat on at least some of the heroines during their paths. 

This game, like the original, is not suited for everyone.  The issues involved differ somewhat from those people who love regular charage are accustomed to, and the relationships tend to occur almost in isolation due to the nature of an adult's life in a modern city.  In that sense, there is a lot less byplay (teasing from friends and relatives and the like) than is common to a standard charage. 

For we otakus, it is relatively easy to empathize with the main characters, as they are universally otakus dealing with the usual issues that come up when you obsessively follow your hobbies in the modern world.  The protagonist, for instance, gave up a really good job at a good company to become a taxi driver so he would have time to watch anime and play games.  Sound familiar to anyone here?  Did I hear a collective wince from a few of our members? (lol)  Anyway, this game is, in many ways, a bit of a fantasy for adult otakus... a group of heroines who are themselves adult otakus (still a rarity, though a growing demographic) and beautiful on top of that.

There are various types of otaku heroines in this VN, including the open-minded omnivore with a taste for niche titles (Amane), the wannabe mangaka with a fascination for hot-blooded shounen comics (Riko), the otomege-loving OL (Akira), the hot and trendy girl who obsessively hides her hobbies from everyone around her (Nanase), and the two-faced bar owner and cosplayer who acts a part in daily life, only occasionally showing her real face (Minori). 

In addition, the setting for many of the game's most important events and the place where the protagonist gains a new lease on his social life is the anisong bar, Blue Comet, where eroge openings (as seen in the pic above) are constantly showing in the background (Anything Akabei, though G-senjou and Inochi no Spare were the ones I remember seeing off the bat).  What a dream place for an adult otaku, lol.

Anyway, similarly to Hataraku Otaku, this is much about the protagonist choosing his new path in life, with romance as the object.  As such, it is heavy on romance, heavy on sex, and heavy on the short-on-time-so-let's-squeeze-as-much-out-as-possible ichaicha.  If I have a complaint about this game, it is that it perhaps shifts too quickly to actually seeking a particular heroine, as I would have liked to have formed a more solid impression of each of the heroines before entering their paths.  However, this is a relatively minor complaint, considering how much this game did right.

Overall, this is a game that will pick its readers... but the people that go in looking for a different sort of modern romance will probably go out feeling fairly satisfied, if not completely so. 

Clephas

Kanau.png

I first encountered Clochette with Suzunone Seven, a game recommended to me by a friend who lives in Japan.  Suzunone Seven is one of the more memorable charage I've played, both for the depth of its story and the depth of its setting and characters.  Now, Clochette is frequently jokingly referred to as 'oppai central' or 'The Oppai Corporation'... or any number of other similar names, with good reason.  Their style has it so that all the heroines are either close to flat or... the opposite.  It is a source of ironic amusement to me that this company produces some of the best fantasy charage in existence on a completely consistent level.  In other words, I've yet to see a kusoge from this company, though Amatsu Misora ni wasn't memorable compared to its fellows.

Speaking of Amatsu Misora ni, this game utilizes the same world setting as that game... a world where the kami of Japan exist and have a close relationship with the Shinto priests (guuji) that enshrine them.  If you want a crash course in Shinto concepts, this and Lovekami are two of the best non-dark VNs to turn to, in that way.  The protagonist is the descendant of a long line of such priests and is the older brother of an arahitogami, which is a kami that possesses the form of a living human being (in the legendary histories of Japan's Imperial family, the founding Emperor was also an Arahitogami).  His little sister is the 'kami of the mountains', the second generation to possess that title, and as a result both of them have been bound by her fate as a kami.  The protagonist, as a result, has become an overly serious, immensely capable youngster who is far too wise for his age when it comes to the doings of supernatural beings.

At the beginning of this VN, a new 'Umigami' (kami of the sea) has been sent to take up the role in the town below the mountain, and it is Tatsuiki's (the protagonist) job to help her settle in.  Unfortunately, Kanau (her human name) is a bit... immature as a kami and is only barely able to use her powers and completely incapable of fulfilling the role demanded of an ubusukami/tochigami (a kami who protects a region and its people from harm).  As a result, he gets stuck helping her mature as a kami... a role he is surprisingly willing to take on. 

The heroines of this VN are:

Kanau- A girl who lost her parents in a traffic accident and was deified in the process.  She is kind-hearted, gentle, and extremely strong-willed.  However, she is also more than a little clumsy and slow on the uptake.  Nonetheless, her ability to keep going on in the face of suffering and misfortune is definitely a positive.  She is the game's true/main heroine, so I seriously suggest playing her path last, as it is the deepest of all the paths.

Miori- The protagonist's little sister and the second-generation kami of the mountains.  Raised as an arahitogami and worshiped almost from birth, she carries out her role as a tochigami seriously but with the ease of long practice.  She is also immensely powerful, as she is also the overall tochigami for both the land and sea, though an ancient vow made by the first generation binds her to the mountain.  She is definitely a brocon imouto, but she is also very similar to her brother in her wisdom and perceptiveness, so she isn't one of those little sister heroines who does her best to seduce oniichan from beginning to end.  Her path is full of tribulations, though not the ones you would expect from an incest path.  In her path, the origins of the dual tochigami system in place in the region is revealed, as is the reason why the protagonist has such extreme effects on the various supernatural beings there.  I suggest reading this path after the other three heroines but before Kanau's path.

Ema- Ema is Miori and Tatsuki's osananajimi.  Kind-hearted and intelligent, she almost instinctively does her best to help those around her.  The only downside is that she and Tatsuki have one of 'those' osananajimi relationships...

Asumi- The daughter of a fisherman's family, she is an atheist by choice, despising all kami while doing her best to ignore their existence... kami of the sea in particular.  While she is apparently quiet and stand-offish, this is revealed to be a simple function of the fact that she is terrible at showing how she feels on her face.  She is very perceptive and instinctively grasps concepts that others take months or years to figure out in moments.  However, when she doesn't have any interest in something, she can be unnaturally ignorant about a subject.  Her path delves pretty deeply into the concepts of enshrining the dead and natural disasters to turn them into 'nigimitama' (the gentle side of a deity) from aramitama (the wild side of a deity). 

Mei- Mei is a young raijin (kami of thunder) who comes to the city to help Kanau.  However, soon after arriving, she ends up wanting to be enshrined by Tatsuki (a phenomenon that is by no means unique to her).  She is a bit of a tsundere, with the typical extreme deredere mode that most tsundere obtain after they reach a certain point in a relationship.  She is also extremely innocent and naive when it comes to humans and interacting with them, as she was born from pure lightning.  Her path explores some of the pitfalls of the aramitama and the duality of the nature of a kami, and her personal growth is rather pleasing during the path.

Now, let's discard the Shinto jargon for a moment and go back to what this game is all about... I'm going to be straight when I say that if you've played any of Clochette's games you probably have an idea of their style.  Their heroine paths have some of the best balance between ero, ichaicha, character development, and story that I've ever seen in the genre.  As a result, they are extremely easy to read, if you aren't made incredulous by breast size issues.  That said, the writer's fetishes definitely come out in the h-scenes (he definitely has a thing about impregnation), and I had to rofl at some of the sexual references during the heroine paths.

The endings in this game are exactly what you'd want from a story-heavy charage.  They are reasonably detailed and extend far beyond the 'present' in which the main story is based, giving you a good idea of where the characters are headed and the happiness it has brought them.  As such, if you want to see what my idea of an ideal charage ending looks like, this is a good company to look at.

Overall, this is a first class charage... one that reminds me of why I still dig through the rubbish for the gems. 

Clephas

I'm going to be blunt.  As soon as Persona 5 comes out, I'll probably drop everything and stop talking for at least two or three days.  As such, you can pretty much be sure that the time from now until the fourth is the time for me to play VNs, lol.  This month is, however, extremely heavy on the number of releases, if not the level of excitement that follows them (Minori's style is antithetical to me, so I really do want to offload Trinoline on someone else, despite their high quality productions).

As such, I'm making a list of the VNs from this month and my priorities.

Currently playing/finished

Omoi o Sasageru Otome no Melody

Haruru Minamo ni!

Priority to play (in order)

Hataraku Otaku no Ren'ai Jijou (same series as Hataraku Otona, which was awesome)

Suisou Ginka no Istoria

Noroi no Maken ni Yamitsuki Otome

Kamidanomishisugite Ore no Mirai wa Yabai (the newest Oreyaba game)

I badly want to offload onto someone else (low priority)

Trinoline

Amanatsu Adolescence

Full Kiss

 

Other (not sure if nukige or something else)

Office de Sasou, Ecchi no Kanojo (looked interesting, lol)

Clephas

About the February Releases

Currently, fun2novel is reading Ouka Sabaki for me, and he has a fondness for mystery games and the Ace Attorney series, so he is a good fit for that game.  When he completes it and I post his commentary, we'll make the decision on the VN of the Month for February at that point.

Omoi o Sasageru Otome no Melody

This is the newest game in Ensemble's ongoing trap protagonist series of ojousama-ge (charage where all or most of the characters are rich girls).  In this one, the protagonist dresses up as a girl to both attend school and teach music at a girl's school.  He does this because he wants to play the piano his father tuned that is only played during the school festival.

Now, I should say that this VN shares the singular flaw that all of the VNs in this series after Koi no Canvas have made... primarily the lack of depth in the heroine settings and the weak endings.  So, in that sense, this isn't an improvement over any of those, which I generally rated between a 6 and a 7. 

This game's common route is short and to the point, splitting off into two differing arcs based on your first choice, then into heroine routes based on your second choice.  The differing arcs also represent differing experiences with the characters in general and the heroines specifically, since the circumstances differ greatly. 

Now, setting aside my displeasure with the endings and the weak character settings (all character settings save the protagonist are 'confined' to the school, with almost no reference to their lives before or their formative experiences), I can honestly say that they did the protagonist well.  This is despite the fact that he is basically the same protagonist as in the previous games in the series, based off of Koi no Canvas's protag, who was kind-hearted and giving but more than a little passive outside his areas of expertise (this has become a series tradition, to mixed results).  In this protagonist's case, it actually fits really well into his role as a teacher, so it isn't as much of a downside as it was in the previous games.  

Now, the focus in this VN generally lies with the music and the development of the relationships with the heroines, rather than the heroines themselves, if that makes sense to you.  That decision, as in previous games, to ignore the 'history' of the heroines, means that character development is based entirely in the here and now, with no information on the 'why' of things in depth.  It also means that you won't see outside influences dropping in to create drama, which is rather a waste considering that one of the attractions of ojousama-ge by other companies is the way the parents or circumstances almost always intervene to interfere in the romances. 

Don't expect a strong conflict in this VN... for the most part, the girls all end up accepting the protagonist in their paths with relatively little worrying, a fact that left me feeling a bit bemused.  Mia, in particular, seemed like the type to at least go to another teacher with it (I was kind of looking forward to it), so I was a bit let down in this sense.  Generally speaking, while there are 'moments of drama' there aren't any drawn out drama elements in it, so tension tends to be limited to one or two scenes before it is resolved. 

Romantically, since this is a relatively short VN, things move really fast, as they always seem to in this type of VN.  Because the protagonist is in an 'upper' role to most of the heroines, it actually works better than it did in the previous games in the series, even if it shared some of the same elements. 

The big attraction of this VN is the protagonist's teacher role, at least for me.  For the first time since Koi no Canvas, I actually felt like the protagonist was playing an interesting role... and at the same time, he is also a brilliant and devoted pianist, which is a huge positive.  In this sense, this game escapes the 'pale and useless' protagonist box that almost every charage falls into. 

So... is this a good VN?  It will probably pick its readers.  First, you have to be fond of or at least tolerant of trap protagonists.  Second, you'll have to bear with the lack of in-depth character settings.  Third, the endings are even less in-depth than the normal charage.  This is a decent VN, in my opinion.  However, it isn't VN of the Month material, unfortunately.  It is an improvement over the last few games in the series, though.

Edit: Just a bit of information...  all of these VNs after Koi no Canvas were written predicated on the future release of a fandisc.  That seems to be at least part of the reason for the weak character development, though it is inadequate as an excuse. 

Clephas

As usual, I spent a lot of time thinking over this before I even considered making a decision.  The original list of candidates at the end of the year (after the initial series of in-brain eliminations) is as follows:

Tokyo Necro

Akeiro Kaikitan

Amatsutsumi

Karenai Sekai to Owaru Hana (knocked Inochi no Spare out of the running)

Tokyo Necro

Tokyo Necro is Nitroplus's first masterpiece outside of the Science series (Steins;Gate, for those who don't know what I'm talking about) since Muramasa, all those years ago.  As such, it is an obvious favorite, being the sole chuunige kamige of the year, as well as a solid story from beginning to end even without considering my personal tastes (if anything, the presence of zombies is a negative for me, normally).  It is brilliantly written from start to finish, with a masterful twisting of the elements of the setting to create a fascinating variance between the paths that made for some really interesting endgame story paths.  In addition, the characters themselves were awesome, acting out their roles within the story in a down and dirty way that you generally don't get in most non-rapegames.  In other words, this is Nitroplus at its dark and dirty best for the first time in over half a decade.

Akeiro Kaikitan

Like its predecessor, Nanairo Reincarnation, Akeiro is a brilliant blend of supernatural darkness with everyday life... and with real consequences rather than the moe goofiness that defines most such mixtures in VNs.  It has mystery, it has horror, it has catharsis, and it has great characters.  Depending on what path you choose, the protagonist's path through life is dramatically altered, as is the fate of the heroines.  This reminds me of why Nanairo won the incredibly competitive 2014 competition so easily, despite the presence of Bradyon Veda and a number of other awesome games.

Amatsutsumi

Amatsutsumit is a game for those who want a good cry, and it shows.  It lost out to Floral Flowlove in its VN of the Month competition, but the truth is that it should have been a dual winner, when it came down to it, since they were equal in quality from beginning to end, with only the ladder-style story structure causing me to rate it somewhat lower.  Seen apart from that, however, it is an ideal example of Purple Soft's evolution from a third-rate charage maker to a brilliant maker of fantasy nakige since the release of Mirai Nostalgia.

Karenai Sekai to Owaru Hana

This is 2016's biggest surprise, an overwhelmingly powerful nakige that doesn't bother doing much more than stabbing your heart with the plight of the characters and their travels from the depths of despair up the staircase of hope.  In terms of emotional impact, I can honestly say no other VN in this year even got close, which is why Inochi no Spare got knocked off the list by this one.  I'll be straight... I'm a sucker for the heroes drunk on their own heroism, and the protagonist in this one fills that bill perfectly.  As such, I literally spent hours in tears playing this game. 

VN of the Year Announcement

Those four were the final candidates when I moved to my inner-brain semi-finals, and they fought one another viciously for a place in the finals, then the golden Pocky of VN of the Year.  Karenai Sekai shattered Amatsutsumi in a battle that lasted only a few moments, and Tokyo Necro and Akeiro Kaikitan fought a brutal fistfight that ended with broken bones and Tokyo Necro's heel on Akeiro's head.

In the end, there came a brutal month-long battle in my back-brain between Tokyo Necro and Karenai Sekai, the two kamige blasting entire imaginary cities away in their attempts to claw out one another's guts.  Again and again, they shattered swords on one another's bones and regenerated from seemingly fatal wounds in an instant.  A continent sank beneath their feet, yet they continued to war with one another, even as their armies of followers drowned in the onrushing waters of the world's oceans.

In the end it was a matter of overall brilliance of design as a victory over pure emotionalism that resulted in Tokyo Necro being victor over Karenai Sekai, thus becoming VN of the Year 2016.  Unlike 2015, where there were few to choose from, 2016 was excellent, with numerous candidates from various genres to pick from.  While I won't go so far as to say the year was awe-inspiring, it was indeed a pleasure to read the VNs listed above, as well as those below.

Honorable Knockouts/Worthy of Memory

Floral Flowlove

Inochi no Spare

Senren Banka

Gin'iro, Haruka

Akiyume Kukuru

Ryuukishi Bloody Saga

Signalist Stars

Yomegami

Sora no Tsukurikata

Lamunation (this and Signalist were the best comedy VNs of the year)

Sakura no Mori Dreamers (knocked out of the running by Akeiro Kaikitan)

Soshite Hatsukoi ga Imouto ni Naru  (knocked out by Floral Flowlove and Amatsutsumi for nakige candidacy)

World Election

Koi Suru Otome to Shugo no Tate - Bara no Seibo - (sequel, so not a candidate)

Ou no Mimi ni wa Todokanai (two great games by AXL in one year...)

 

 

Clephas

Recently, I've had reason to consider precisely what it is that makes the difference between a strong charage and a kusoge charage.  There are a lot of important elements involved, from levels of character development to the overuse of the non-person protagonist.  However, there was one element - or rather a tool - that seems to get overlooked a lot, despite its ubiquitous presence in almost every first-class charage.  That tool is the heroine perspective.

The heroine perspective is where the narrative switches from following the protagonist to following one or more of the heroines.  To be blunt, this is probably the single most powerful tool a charage writer has to make you fall in love with the heroine as a person, rather than as a one-dimensional talking doll.  If a charage writer is failing to drop you into heroines' perspectives on a regular basis in the common route, it isn't a good sign.  A single twenty-line peek into a heroine's head can often mean the difference between a wonderful, round heroine and a flat, boring heroine.  Few heroines have the personal charisma necessary to leave memories inside your heart without at least one scene like this one, whether it is in a charage or otherwise.  Whereas the everyday interactions between them and the protagonist provide you a broad outline of their character, it is the heroine perspective that is often needed to provide a drop of paint to the canvas, aiding in the process of filling in the lines.

I mean, cute only goes so far. 

Clephas

https://vndb.org/v20314

https://vndb.org/v20339

The games linked to above are the ones I would prefer to leave to someone else for March's releases.  For Giga's new game, the reason is that I can't bring myself to play anything non-Baldr by Giga.  For the other, it is because I don't like the theme (a k-on club).  Anyone who is playing one or both of these anyway, could you do me the favor of sending me your opinions when or if you complete them? 

Clephas

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've simply reached a point where playing four VNs from every month's releases is now unfeasible.  However, at the same time, I wish to ensure that the role I set this up for in the first place continues to be fulfilled.

The Original Purpose of VN of the Month

The central purpose of VN of the Month is to give people a general idea of what they can expect going into a VN that is untranslated.  Is it enjoyable?  Who would it be enjoyable for?  What kind of genre is it a part of?  Is there something that makes this VN special? 

The current situation

I no longer have the energy to do everything I have been doing. Doing VN of the Month takes up amounts of time I'd rather be spending asleep, being social, or helping with translation projects.  Moreover, I'm currently in the middle of an apparent rush season for my work, so keeping up with it has become burdensome in the extreme.  However, I remember when all opinions of VNs were basically given off-hand in instant messaging and chat platforms, and no one really had any idea if a VN was any good, because of the troll voting that plagues all database sites.  While there are some English language VN bloggers out there, they mostly concentrate on translated entries and titles by companies everybody is already familiar with (such as Favorite, Pulltop, Yuzusoft, Minori, etc). 

My solution

I want to ask some of the people who regularly play new VNs on Fuwa to take some of the burden off my shoulders... in particular, I'd like to at least offload two of the charage from each month on some people so I can concentrate on VNs I have a standing interest in.  Preferably, I would like four or five people to do maybe one of these VNs each every two months (accounting for other people's reading speed and time constraints).  To be blunt, I have no interest in aiding and abetting another person's burnout by forcing them into handling a VN or two every month on schedule, so that is why I want the greater numbers.

The issue

Japanese readers are still a vast minority here, and I don't know if it is even realistic to expect anyone but me to even consider helping with something like this.  I know a few people who read fairly fast, but I honestly don't want to make a request directly that is fundamentally burdensome.

If you are interested, comment on this blog post and we'll work things out in a PM.

Edit:   Keep in mind that what I want are opinions.  To be blunt, I can write up a blog post based on someone else's opinions in under ten minutes if I need to, even if they themselves are terrible at writing or organizing their thoughts.  It is what I do for a living, after all.  In this way, the focus will shift somewhat... because I'll be handing things over to people who have a preference for the genre they are playing.  That's why I'd like to get some charage players on board.  While I personally strive for as little bias as possible, the fact is that charage reviews should be geared to charage lovers, and that is something I can't provide, sadly.  The same goes for mystery, sports-focused, and denpa types.  I have no taste for those genres, so it is best that I leave them to someone else who does like them. 

Current new Members-

fun2novel: Specialties are mindfuck, mystery, and chuunige.  I'll be depending on him primarily for mystery VNs, which I dislike.  For a start, I've asked him to take over Ouka Sabaki, since I can't bring myself to play it.  He's got a decent level of experience, and he is reasonably fast. 

 

 

Clephas

My VN slump

Due to work in recent weeks, I wasn't able to play any VNs for about a week straight... and when I tried to pick up Ouka Sabaki to finish Feb's releases, I found I had no urge whatsoever to play a VN... any VN. 

Understand, I've been playing VNs constantly since 2009.  I literally have not gone more than a day without playing at least a little bit of a VN (even if it was only a half hour or so) since then.  So, to my shock, I've found I don't have the energy to pick one up for the first time in almost eight years. 

I'm an addict, it's true... but apparently, somewhere in the last few months, something broke me out of my fixation and I found myself uninterested in playing VNs outside of my personal obsessions.  I still plowed my way through despite that in January and February, but I felt like a kid going back to his homework after a few hours playing video games when I tried to play another after that delay. 

This might seriously be the effective end of VN of the Month, if I can't recapture my desire to continue...

Clephas

Traveling to other worlds is so common a plot element in otaku media that it has actually become a fantasy sub-genre in and of itself.  This is actually one of my favorite plot elements... if it isn't screwed up magnificently (like in RE:Zero) by putting the wrong sort of person into the mess.

The first otaku media that hit me with this was The Vision of Escaflowne, followed by Fushigi Yuugi.  The latter isn't one of my favorite anime, but I did like it up to a point.  The former is one of my oldest favorites, about a girl named Hitomi who gets sent to another world where she gets wrapped up in a conflict between a massive fantasy Empire and those opposing its might.  This is actually the standard for most of the early stories of the type, in this way:  Most early anime and manga at the time and up to the turn of the century that used this kind of concept tended to plop a protagonist into that other world either as a virtually helpless piece on the board, acting more as a catalyst than as a true mover and shaker.  This is the reason why the concept didn't really take off in the minds of fans until much later.

Another type is based off of the archetype from Maze, an anime where the protagonist gets sent to another world as a 'savior/messiah' character who is immensely over-powered and somehow manages to bumble their way into saving the world.  In both cases, about 70% of the anime and manga of this type and the one above have the protagonist choosing to 'go home' at some point, though there are exceptions (such as Maze itself). 

The third type is one where the protagonist is thrown into another world with a concrete role... but not necessarily the power necessary to survive on their own.  Twelve Kingdoms falls into this archetype, as the protagonist is essentially cast adrift, possessing an important role in her new world but not the power or the personal maturity to carry it out.  Twelve Kingdoms is a classic example of the type, in that the protagonist is unable to fulfill her role until she matures greatly in a personal sense and grows into her role somewhat.  Depending on the role (ranging from 'hero', to 'dark lord', to 'king') they mostly tend to choose to remain in their new world, because of the sense of purpose it provides them (which is a contrast to the two types above).  A more famous and long-running example of the type, with a somewhat lighter air, is Kyou Kara Maou.

The fourth type is the one that has become most popular... 'the comedic traveler'.  This type, which began to appear en masse after Zero no Tsukaima initiated the concept, has relatively 'normal' protagonists being sent to other worlds to blunder their way to fame (or not) and generally amuse us with their antics, while also providing a serious story alongside.  A more recent example of the type is RE:Zero or Kono Suburashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo.  Generally speaking, the protagonists in these VNs are overconfident, vaguely idiotic, and generally ignorant individuals who have just one or two redeeming qualities.  Depending on the anime, VN, or game, they can be immensely annoying as characters, too.

Of course, there are ones that don't fall into any of these types... but those are relatively rare.  I like this genre, but I'm beginning to grow tired of the comedic traveler type, lol.

 

Clephas

It has been a while since I bought a new jrpg and played it all the way through in under six months...  To be blunt, most new jrpgs just aren't worth finishing these days.  I gave up on Atelier shortly after Mana Khemia, Square hasn't produced anything interesting in ten years (for a story-addict), and most of the best old series are dead or in semi-permanent hiatus stasis. 

Before this, I played Zestiria, and if you read my comments on it, I mostly liked it, though there were some aspects I wasn't particularly impressed with (the Armatization system, the translation of the skits, etc).  If I were to give Zestiria a 7 out of ten for making a good effort and keeping my interest to the end, I'd rate Tales of Berseria a 10/10... the rarest of things, a modern jrpg kamige. 

I almost never give 10 ratings, whether of VNs or of Jrpgs.  The reason is simple... even kamige rarely get everything right.  In the case of a JRPG, this is even harder than with a VN, since it not only has to have an impressive story and presentation... it has to reach a level with the gameplay, music, and visuals that is impressive as well, if not perfect.  Tales of Berseria is one of those rare games that manages all of that.  Since I'm not a technical critic, my impressions of the visual and sound aspects are emotional reactions more than anything else. 

For character designs, the only character design that set my teeth on edge besides the Normin characters (returning from Zestiria) was Magilou... I have a serious distaste for jester costumes, and Magilou's is just plain ugly to me.  This is an aesthetic comment, based on my personal sense, and I realize it won't be shared by everyone else.   On the other hand, Velvet is... perfect.  The visual change from the village girl, to the ragged prisoner, to the vengeance-seeking daemon in a ragged black coat, red bustier, and skirt was visually striking and very definitive of her in her roles in the early story.  Most female character visual changes during a JRPG tend to be... unpleasant (I love long hair, so that tendency for some of the females to all of the sudden cut their hair drives me insane).  Velvet was a rare exception in that.  For fans of Zestiria, seeing Eizen not as a giant man-eating lizard but as a bad-ass pirate in black was a nice intro to the guy who had so much influence on Edna from the previous game.  His fist-fighting style, his voice (Japanese), and his visual design are all as I would have imagined them, considering how Zaveid refers to him in Zestiria.  In addition, seeing a younger Zaveid, before his Zestiria way of living was established, was a nice treat... and getting the background behind his words in the first game is also nice.  Laphicet, who is essentially Velvet's biggest partner throughout the game's story, has a fairly mediocre design (someone has a shota-complex in that studio), but his magic is fairly awesome to see, and his voice is actually pretty good, for a child-styled voice (most are too high or too low, even in Japanese).  Eleanor has a personality that will grate on some people, and her visuals fit it quite well, since she has a very straight-laced personality (though she does loosen up as time goes by).  Rokurou is probably the third-best design of the group... his facial design, the movements of his eyes and expression during combat scenes, and his hybridized Japanese-style clothing all fit together nicely with his psychotic personality to create a solid character who partners up well with Eizen as one of Laphicet's male role models.

Story-wise, this game is essentially a long revenge story... it isn't about saving the world.  The enemy is 'saving' the world.  No, Velvet doesn't give a flying bit of monkey poo about the world.  She is far more interested in murdering her step-brother for his murder of her younger brother in the incident that stripped her of her humanity and destroyed her village.  She is cold, ruthless, and filled with hatred that, when combined with her daemonic hunger, makes her a pretty scary character.  She would make an excellent second-to-the-last-boss in most JRPGs, simply because of how intense she is, retaining a level of humanity that strikes to the heart while acting in a manner that is almost too focused on the results to be a fully functional human being.  Oh, she has her soft moments... but as the saying goes, even the worst of villains will sometimes be kind to a child or save a puppy. 

That is perhaps what is most exhilarating about this game.  Most of the player characters are unabashedly selfish in motive, acting solely for their own sake, regardless of the cost to those around them.  For a world being consumed by a blight that is actually worse than the one in Zestiria in some ways, this makes them true villains, even if their enemies are just as bad in their own way.  Velvet's fighting style is visceral, brutal, and it perfectly fits the action-oriented battle system of this series.  Feet, fists, and blade all in one ball of fury (literally) that sometimes strikes out with a demonic claw to devour her enemies.

That brings me to the battle system... except for two major elements, this can be considered to be functionally the same as most other Tales games since Abyss.   The first of these elements is the 'souls' system.  In this system, you can gain more action points (SP) for future combat actions by inflicting status ailments or killing enemies, thus strengthening you at their cost... but in exchange, if you let them inflict ailments on you, you lose souls, and this severely limits how you can act once it gets down to one or two.  The solution to this is the second element... the 'soul break', where you can, at three souls or above, sacrifice a single soul to use a special move that has various effects on how you fight.  Since I fought with Velvet throughout the entire game, I'll just speak about hers.  Her ability allows her to strike out with her 'claw' and 'therionize' (eat) a part of her enemies (incidentally also breaking their guard and leaving them open to further attack) and gain a boost of some sort based on the type of enemy she ate.  The primary advantage of this state is that she can continue attacking until the effect runs out, ignoring her remaining number of souls.  It also heals all status ailments and debuffs and some HP, as well as making you invulnerable to ailments and knock-backs.  Unfortunately, it also immediately begins to drain HP, and if you maintain this state for too long, it is entirely possible to run yourself down to a single hp, if you aren't careful about getting hit.  Since killing enemies can also restore hp, this isn't an entirely bad state to be in, and if you have enough souls stored up, you can maintain this state by 'eating' an enemy whenever it is about to run out.  On Normal mode, I felt like I was playing a Tales version of Dynasty Warriors at times (with a greater variety of attacks), lol.

Second in importance for gameplay, at least as far as I was concerned, is the equipment skills... basically, every equipment type has a single skill that the equipable characters can learn permanently by earning enough Grade while wearing it.  I had all of the ones available by the end, and I hate to imagine how much harder most of the game would have been without them.  Why?  Because stat increases due to experience gaining are insanely minimal in this game, leaving you reliant on equipment-enhancement and equipment skills to make up the gap... oh and player skills, but that goes without saying.  On harder difficulties, it only gets worse (believe me, I had some horrible experiences when I set it to the harder modes for the hell of it until I got used to the changed rhythms of battle). 

In any case, now down to the story... to be blunt, no other Tales game even gets close to this game in terms of story and presentation.  Vesperia was good, but it didn't have anywhere near as much of an impact as this one did on me.  I cried, raged, and laughed with the characters from beginning to end, despite having weeks-long gaps between my playing sessions.  That is how deep an impression this game left on me, that I could pick it up after a fairly long hiatus and get just as absorbed into the narrative as if I'd never left.  By the end, I was weeping for both sides of the conflict, while agreeing from the heart with Velvet and her crew, it was easy to empathize with Artorius, despite his inhumane actions and manner.   As revenge stories go, it was far deeper than you'd expect, while retaining the essence of how it began from start to finish... a feat that is greatly impressive to me.  Not to mention that Velvet and crew's journey was never, at any point, about saving the world... a huge advantage over other jrpgs in and of itself.

A few Linguistic comments

In the Japanese language terminology there were some really interesting (for me) differences in how the same elements were referred to between games.  Whereas the Japanese term for the Malak in Zestiria had nuances of divinity to it, the term used in this one referred to them as 'spirits', with a nuance of something that could and should be used as a tool.  As for the daemons, the difference in terms was even more telling between the games.  In Zestiria, they are 'hyouma' (Hellions), a term which can be translated as 'possession demons', divesting the individual in question of built-in responsibility for what he has become.  However, in Berseria, they are called 'gouma', a term which can be translated as 'sin demons'.  This simple alteration of phrasing marks a drastic difference in attitudes between the Shepherd-equivalents (the exorcists) of Berseria's age and Sorey in Zestiria.  This difference in attitude is reflected throughout the story, creating an atmosphere that is drastically different from the one in Zestiria.  'Subtle' isn't a quality you usually ascribe to JRPG makers, so I was all the more impressed with this game for the linguistic aspects.

EDIT: Ah, if you didn't figure it out from the text above, this game made me back into a fanboy for the first time in a while.  Sixty hours across one and a half months plus complete satisfaction in how it ended and the process of how it reached that ending... such a rare experience for me these days.

Clephas

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Suisei Ginka is the latest VN made by Akatsuki Works, the makers of such classic VNs as Ruitomo, Comyu, and Devils Devel Concept.  This was written by Morisaki Ryoto, the writer of multiple kamige including Hapymaher, Komorebi no Nostalgica (as an assistant writer), and Re:Birth Colony.  He is one of the most flexible and skilled writers out there, and I've yet to fail to enjoy a VN he's had a hand in.

This VN is based in a port city half-owned by a company that caused a disastrous chemical spill there ten years ago.  It begins with the reunion of Izana, a young woman with a rather unusual attitude toward life, and Tetsuo, a straightforward young man with an utter disregard for his own safety and survival.  Naturally, this being an Akatsuki Works game, this is the beginning of numerous troubles and tribulations.

Structurally, this VN is pretty 'to the point', in that the story uses the bare minimum of slice-of-life to give life to the characters and setting, while constantly keeping a laser focus on what is moving in the shadows... and the disastrous potential it holds. 

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Maria

Looking at it in retrospect, I probably should have done this path second or third.  However, I followed my instincts on the game's first major story choice, and as a result I got into this path.  Maria's path is focused on the company that caused everything to go so horribly wrong, so it reveals details of some factors that spoil the other paths a little bit.

Maria herself is a classic 'expressionless loli' of the type that is common to a lot of chuunige that have loli heroines.  Normally expressionless and nearly emotionless, she is very much like a cat, acting sweet to those few people she cares about and disregarding just about everyone else based on their use or lack of to her.  Edit: That isn't to say she's completely devoid of emotion... but with the guy who acts as her guardian being the kind of guy he is... she's naturally a little warped.

This path has a lot of violence to it, primarily because of what the characters face in it.  It is a solid path though... it is just one that I really should have waited on.

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Seika

Seika is Izana's best female friend and more than a little bit prickly toward anyone who approaches her with ulterior motives (and because of Izana's easy manner and physical beauty, that is pretty common).  She was raised by a strict asshole father who sees her only as a convenient object to augment his own ambitions for the family line, which is a lot of the reason why she is so prickly in general.  Her sole point of softness is Izana, whom she would probably do anything for. 

Seika's path is wrapped up in dealing with the plot element that drives most of the protagonist-side characters, in a very intimate manner.  It's a fairly standard path for a game like this, serving as a fitting intro to the ins and outs of the story while setting the stage for elaborations in future paths.  I liked how it turned out, though a lot of people might find it an odd ending.  It is more solid than say... Benio's path in Comyu, which was fundamentally unsatisfying (for some reason, Hino Wataru sometimes chooses to drop a single weak heroine path in some of his games). 

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Momo

Momo is Tetsuo's guardian/oneesan/coworker.  She is a heavy-drinker and a heavy-smoker and she is actually thirty, though she looks twenty.  She is also a brilliant (genius-level) individual as well as being highly perceptive when it comes to people in general.  She and Tetsuo have lived most of the last ten years around one another, and they know each other about as well as it is possible to know another person without being them. 

After playing this path, I definitely realized there was a play order... Seika>Momo>Maria>Izana.  The reason is fairly simple... Maria's path reveals too much about the 'causes' of all this, removing a great deal of the mystery about what the protagonist is trying to do at the end of Momo's path and the 'why' of certain elements of Seika's path.  Seika's path, on the other hand, paves the way for things that are elaborated on in Momo's path.  Izana's path is, of course, the true one.

Momo's path focuses on one of the more obvious, if mid-boss type antagonists.  This antagonist is a 'rationally insane' type who has no morals whatsoever outside of their personal ruleset.  In addition, this path has more death than the other two paths combined, lol.  I will say I liked the ending of this one, as well.

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Izana

 

Izana is the true heroine of this VN.  She is also one of those 'always involved with the protagonist's life' heroines in the style of Kagome from Comyu or Suzu from Ayakashibito (meaning that even if they aren't lovers, they never really separate).  Izana is a very odd young girl... she seems at first to be something of a tomboy, but when you get to know her, she also shows a kind of quiet wisdom that the average tomboy heroine just doesn't possess.  Rather than being intelligent, she really is just 'wise'.

Her relationship with Tetsuo is so strong that it is unchanged by the ten years of parting between them.  They both care deeply about one another and trust each other absolutely, without reservations. 

Her path, true to the form of true paths in chuunige, is the most exciting of the paths, bringing together all the elements of the other paths with a focus on the central conflict that isn't resolved in the others.  Tetsuo shows off his manliness quite nicely in this path, as well as his own bit of wisdom (If he was a D&D character, he'd be a true neutral barbarian with an intelligence stat of 9 and a wisdom stat of 16), though it is born of him having such a solid sense of who he is, where he stands, and how he intends to live and die. 

Neither Tetsuo nor Izana is the type to hesitate or stand around worrying about consequences, as they both have very distinct senses of priorities. 

I honestly wept at the climax of this VN.  I couldn't help but cry for a certain character who got the sharp end of the stick from beginning to end throughout this story (even mentioning her name is a spoiler).  A toast to those who suffer so that others can be saved! *Clephas smiles sadly and clings his glass of rum against an empty one*

 

A few extra comments

One thing you should keep in mind when reading this VN is that neither this writer nor Hino Wataru produces 'standard' romances.  Their romantic elements are generally good, but they are almost universally 'romance born out of a stressful situation', so don't expect a charage-style romantic element in here.  What romance is in there is good, at least from my point of view, and Tetsuo is straight-out one of the manliest protagonists I've seen in a chuunige (since most chuunige protagonists tend to have issues that make them fall a bit short of that standard). 

I'm glad that this VN kept up the four year tradition of good VNs coming out on or near my birthday, hahaha...

Clephas

One of the single biggest elements of most VNs in existence is slice-of-life.  This entire post is based on this fact, and it isn't one that can seriously be argued against by anyone who has read more than a hundred VNs.

So what is slice-of-life?  With VNs, it is a type of scene where bits and pieces of daily life, without any particular conflict, are portrayed.  These can be humorous, mildly touching, or informative. 

So what is the value of slice-of-life as a tool for storytelling?  For one thing, it provides an opportunity to portray and develop the characters in their most 'natural' setting.  Do you want to know what a character is like in peaceful times?  Slice-of-life scenes are generally the tool used.  Do you want to slowly develop a mild romance between two characters?  Then slice-of-life is your friend. 

In this sense, slice-of-life is a highly valuable tool.  While extreme scenes, such as violent scenes or ones with psychological or intellectual conflict, are also valuable for developing characters and their relationships, it is the slice-of-life scenes that form the skeleton to which the conflict and/or drama adds flesh later on. 

However, the problem with slice-of-life is that it is basically an exclusion of extremity.  It is difficult - virtually impossible - to give flesh to a character with only slice-of-life.  For better or worse, people bare their true strength and value (or weakness and uselessness) in situations where they are being tested by circumstance or opposition (whether intense or mild).  This applies to VN characters, as well. 

Slice-of-life is your friend... unless that's all there is.  Sadly, a lot of writers make the mistake of thinking otherwise.  I can't count how many VNs I've experienced that make this mistake, to one extent or another.  Slice-of-life as a tool is a valuable friend and ally... but as the sole tool for constructing a story, it falls pathetically short all too often.

Edit: Understand, I came to these conclusions as a result of playing numerous VNs that made that particular mistake... and I'm including 'standard Vn romance' as slice-of-life.  Romance is something I'll touch on separately in the next entry.

Clephas

Why did I pick this game to play?  Because, when I went into Shugaten, I was actually wanting a bit of charage goodness.  So, it seriously pissed me off when I got a mindless loli moege.  As a result, I decided to pull out one of my favorite fetish games, Otomimi Infinity. 

Otomimi Infinity is based on island in a world where beast-people and humans live side by side (it isn't mentioned often enough to reinforce this, but the beast-people were originally artificial creations).  On the island, prejudice against the beast-people has gotten so bad that a right-wing politician has managed to get a segregation law passed.  The protagonist, Segawa Yamato, is a beast-girl loving guy (in the sexual sense, and not limited to their humanoid forms, lol) who gets seriously pissed off at the new law.  After a series of events, he ends up working for Otomimi Transport, a company that basically takes care of shipping packages all over the island and from the mainland.  This company is all beast-girls, except for him... (so naturally, he is in heaven)

There are a lot of laughs in this game... in particular the pirate group led by Sango (a side-character shark-girl) and Dr. Forest (real name: Hakumi), a mad scientist who keeps trying to use her high-tech AI android to steal bbq meat from Otomimi Transport's trucks (and failing miserably) stand out as absolutely hilarious.  Not to mention the company's 'mascot', Akuta (which uses the kanji for 'garbage'), a do-M AI implanted in a fat squirrel stuffed animal who can't resist making perverted statements.

I was also surprised in retrospect at how seriously the game handles the elements of prejudice... and the negative elements of Japan's society that show through.  The position of the beast-people is pretty weak, mostly because the average beast-person isn't that good at thinking before acting (those that are are the exception, rather than the rule).  Humans call them 'worthless burdens on society' (it bears an eerie resemblance to the attitude of the US right-wingers to immigrants) and it was apparently really easy to get the segregation law passed.  Also, falling in love with a beast-person and vise-versa is considered perverted, lol.

Anyway, as well as jokes there are some good feels in here... as well as some really good endings (considering that this was written by the same guy who wrote Shikigami, Shiden, and Pretty X Cation 2, that is actually pretty surprising).  For some reason, fetish games sometimes have stories a lot more interesting than the average VN, lol.

The game's heroines are:

Chachako- A clumsy and airheaded dog-girl who somehow always manages to land on her feet, anyway.

Tetora- A tiger-girl who is a scientific genius but categorically incapable of admitting when she doesn't know something or is wrong... or when she is lost (she has no sense of direction).

Kon- A fox-girl whose first love in life is teasing others and getting her way through fast talk.  She is highly intelligent and has a solid grasp of people in general.

Hanemi- A bunny-girl who gets lonely ridiculously easy... and is a speed-demon whenever she gets behind the wheel or control stick of any vehicle whatsoever (thankfully, she is also a genius at using them).

Chizuru- The protagonist's older sister... who has an insane, obsessive brother complex that extends to waiting half-naked in his bed and stalking him whenever she isn't running the family corporation.

Mayoi- A cat-girl and the game's 'true' heroine.  She is a lazy gamer who hates working, has a foul mouth, and who only really cares about the people working at Otomimi Transport. 

Overall, this is a VN for people who love their mimikko.  My first fetish was neko-girls and my second was kitsune, so naturally this game fits me well.  It also has a good, well-told story with a fun set of characters even if you ignore the heroines.

Clephas

Sadly, I couldn't bring myself to finish this one... for a certain type of person (moe-addict plus lolicon) this is a heavenly game, but... it so boring for someone who actually wants some substance under the fluff.  This is one of those cases where there is no possibility whatsoever that an ending could justify me going through twelve hours of torture (four hours was enough for me to want to sell the game on Ebay...). 

The biggest problem was the fact that there is no balance to the reality that the game is almost entirely dialogue, with even less narration than in your standard charage, making me label this as a 'pure' moege, in the old sense.  What non-dialogue lines there are are minimal and immensely frustrating, and the humor is so... fourth-rate.  There are a lot of points where they were trying to make the game funny, but I honestly couldn't laugh, as I wasn't able to care about the characters (again, the sparseness of the narration is the cause).

Sadly, for people who are into VNs in order to be able to read a story, this VN has little to offer that I could see.

Clephas

Because I'm a mystery-hater, there is an even chance I'll drop this VN somewhere along the line, so I'll describe what those who are interested should look at when it comes to this game.

For lovers of the Ace Attorney games who don't mind or like ero content, this game is looking to be an interesting one.  Each chapter has an evidence-gathering part, followed by a part where the protagonist and his allies (I say allies because several of them are backed by outside influences or are outright under the control of individuals hostile to the protagonist) talk about who they think the culprit is.  Last of all is the judgment stage, where the protagonist uses evidence such as physical objects, the shapes of the rooms, the statements of the suspects and others, and other issues to figure out who the culprit is in a public forum, preferably gaining a confession of guilt in the process (this is fairly standard for Japanese police even today, as there is a strong preference for confessions over going to trial). 

There is also violence involved, since not all suspects are willing to come along quietly, lol.

Clephas

For a lot of old fans, this is Softhouse Chara's defining masterpiece... and with good reason.  It has superb, complex gameplay that rewards careful forethought and strategic thinking and more than thirty unit types to play around with, running from common infantry to dragons.  It also has a solid story with decent storytelling (though, true to Softhouse Chara form, it isn't the focus of the game).

First, I should say that the first time I played this game, I seriously screwed up in my early unit choices and ran out of money halfway through.  About the time Qoenis becomes available during the main story, I ran out of money and most of my 'normal' (generic) units were dead before I noticed.  I managed to drag things out to the end and barely beat the game, but I can't say that I actually enjoyed the process all that much.  As such, I never rated the game, because I came to the conclusion that at the level of Japanese I was reading, I wouldn't be able to master the battle system (also, I was doing it without the walkthrough). 

In this, my second playthrough, the first thing I did was purchase three supply units (the best healer units, in the shape of a horse and wagon) and concentrated on putting together a solid attack force for three full squads.  This worked out far better than my previous playthrough, which was miserable, to say the least.  This time, once I got access to Dungeon 2 and grind-maxed three full squads of units (including a Black Knight and two Dragons for the firepower for each) I was basically able to ream the rest of the units in the game (though I tended to rearrange things for lower costs during side-mission and ones that only  needed two squads). 

In other words, i went around happily breaking the game balance in precisely the way I've done with every other Softhouse Chara game I played, lol.

In any case, some comments on the story... I'll be straight with you.  This game's story falls more than a little behind Eushully's Ikusa Megami series and most of its related games.  The best parts of the story are during the formative stages and the epilogue, with most of the rest being consumed with raping heroines into loving (pfft) submission in a style reminiscent of Bunny Black.  In fact, Darcs and Jin have almost identical personalities, which shouldn't surprise anyone, lol.

I will say that the ending scenes were nice, in that they provided a short after-story for all the characters whose endings I'd fulfilled the conditions for.  A lot of them made me rofl.

Overall, it is easy to see why this game is a classic... depending on how you play it, you can either sit back and enjoy strategic battles where a single slip-up means ruin, or you can play it as an evil, overpowered, balance-broken overlord of the battlefield who knows not defeat.  This is standard to SofthouseChara, since in most of their games, they've built a way to make the game easier into it, while making it difficult on the surface.