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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

First, I should mention that this was an awesome month.  There are multiple releases worthy of consideration for the winner and there are two releases that will be added to overall consideration for VN of the Year 2017.

The actual twin candidates were: Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary and Imoten

The runner-up was: Junjou Karen Freaks

For various reasons, I avoided playing several VNs this month, including Boukyaku Shitsuji and Tsugihagi Make Peace.  The biggest one with the former is that it is yet another VN in the same setting as the 'Uso series' by Campus.  With the latter... it is that it is a relatively high-end charage appearing charage by a new company.  To be honest, Tsugihagi is not something I want to play right now.  It will probably take me until the end of the month to be human again after trying out Giga's massacre of that game.  If I played it now, I'd take my anger out on it, and that would be... unfair.

Imoten and Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary are both great games... falling somewhat short of kamige level, but then, there haven't been any kamige releases this year anyway so far.  I actually struggled a lot when considering the two.  Either one could be VN of the Month for October... and in the end, I couldn't decide.  As such, I announce the rarest of the rare... a tie for VN of the Month October 2017 between Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary and Kanojo wa Imouto de Tenshi de!

Clephas

Understand, I loved the Baldr series, before Heart... even Heart still retained a lot of what was great about the series, though it placed too much emphasis on the less interesting elements.  The Baldr series is literally Giga's only good IP, and as such, it is the only reason I even bother with this company.

Unfortunately, it looks like Giga has set out to destroy its costly but greatest IP, ending it on a sour note.

Baldr Bringer, from what I have played of it, has very little story in comparison to the amount of battling you do.  I have so far spent twelve hours in battle and a bare thirty minutes of storytelling.  Moreover, most of that thirty minutes were meaningless conversations with the flat, two-dimensional heroines who are partial copies of people from the various game settings of previous games of the series (Elmi is from Zero's world, Carol is from Force's world, and Toiro is from the Heart setting). 

Worse is that the only part that has felt like story so far is the very first part, where Hyuji is waking up and meets Eris. 

Like all the games in this series, the battles take a lot out of you, because they are fast paced bullet hells... without the lock-on function of previous games.  Without the lock on function, the controls become excessively complex, and the slow movement of your mech makes it even worse (literally, you are moving at a slow walk the entire time).  Moreover, in order to progress heroine events, the solution is to kill enemies with the weapon they are associated with... a task that can be painfully time-consuming, depending on the weapon.

I'm going to be blunt, Giga went all-out in order to disappoint the fanbase here.  It had to have been deliberate, because Giga knows very well what people seek from the series.  The interface is junk, you only have the auto-save function, and choices only serve to create slightly different conversation flows.

In other words, as a VN, this is undeniably a kusoge.  It requires too much battle time to reach sparse story segments that generally last less than a minute each, and then you get tossed right back onto the battlefield.  In previous games, the ratio was a lot more even, with story segments often going on for hours, depending on what kind they were. 

Edit: To be a bit clearer, the original Baldr battle system, in its final form as seen in Baldr Heart, is something like a beat-em-up with fighting game combos, guns and cool OP special attacks.  While it is easy to play, it is far deeper than it seems on the surface, requiring high levels of player skills to beat the most powerful bosses on normal and masterful skills to beat any of the bosses on the harder difficulties.  The sheer variety of potential combos based on what moves and weapons you have stickied to the buttons made it fun to play, in and of itself.  The system seen in Baldr Bringer is greatly simplified, with you basically equipping one main firearm, one back weapon, and one close-ranged weapon.  Instead of overheating when you use too many moves in a row, you run out of ammo if you use the same weapon too much... but firearms can be recharged just by using the close-range weapons.  There is no lock-on, but the system as a whole is basically a third-person, top-down shooter.

Unfortunately, in order to make that manageable, both your speed and the speed of your enemies is greatly reduced from what you would have seen in Heart or Sky, and as a result, you end up fighting long running battles that extend across multiple maps, taking far more time than is reasonable for a VN hybrid.  I'd say that the average series of battles in Bringer takes about seven times as long as a series of battles in Heart or Sky.  As a result, you end up spending massive amounts of time fighting, to be rewarded with relatively little, considering the lack of a strong ongoing story. 

Edit2: One of the biggest problems with this game, besides the overwhelming amount of gameplay, was the way they handled heroine interactions (let's set aside issues with how two-dimensional the heroines are in the first place).  Heroine interactions can be chosen at any point of the game if you have the necessary level with their associated weapon type.  Linking the affections of the heroines to weapon experience is, in and of itself, annoying, seeing as firearms in general take longer to level up than close-range weapons.  However, even more annoying is the way heroine interactions have no place within the story itself.  This 'un-moored romance' leads to even more disconnect with the story aspects mentally and emotionally, and as a whole, makes it feel irrelevant.  I managed to get up to the eighth event with Carol (not a hard task, considering how fast the knife levels up) before I dropped the game, and the disconnect only gets worse the more you progress with an individual heroine.  Overall, the whole thing feels like a regression, even compared to charage.  It feels like the tacked-on romances of some jrpgs that experimented with the like back in the middle of the previous decade, where it was somewhat less than satisfying for similar reasons.

Clephas

... *weeps like a small child*

Seriously, I haven't run into an utsuge/nakige hybrid like this since Karenai Sekai last year.  Imoten (the nickname for this one) is the latest production by Alcot Honey Comb, the mid-priced subsidiary of Alcot responsible for Satsukoi, 1/2 Summer, and Hatsugamai. 

For some reason, in most years, the larger majority of the high quality VNs for the year tend to be put out in the first or last three months of the year... at least, that's the way it has been since 2011, when I first started playing most of the games released during the year.  A 'good month' is a month with two VNs that are VN of the Month quality, and of the three I've played so far from October's releases (setting aside the fact that I'm reserving the rest of Freaks for a later date) two have been of that level of quality... and I haven't even started Baldr Bringer.

This VN is based in the same universe as Satsukoi, which was itself a first-class utsuge/nakige hybrid (I won't tell you about the link, since it is a spoiler for both games).  Now, this game technically has heroine paths... but by the nature of the way the game's story is told, this game is more focused on the protagonist's struggles than on the heroines.  In fact, in order to see the true ending (Touka's), you have to make a rather sad choice near the end of the other three heroine paths.  The 'happy endings' of the first three heroine paths are rather short and end abruptly... which makes a lot of sense, in retrospect. 

This game's protagonist, Yuki, is the son of two famous actors, who present a good face in public but have been living separate from each other and him since he can remember.  After discovering that his  mother only birthed him for the sake of putting forth a good social image, he briefly considers suicide, but upon meeting the archangel Touka, who convinces him life is worth living, he agrees to sign a contract to become an angel candidate, with the intention to one day take over from the present god, who is at her limit after a century and a half of keeping humanity from destroying itself and the world.  Unfortunately, after a year of living together (Touka having altered reality so that she is seen as his little sister), he has yet to become a true angel, much less reach god's throne.  As such, he is regularly scolded (verbally and physically) by Touka and has to endure regular meetings with two other angels... a shinigami (Shizumi) and an angel who is also an idol (Mia) where they try to figure out why he hasn't become an angel yet.

The VN starts out humorous... and indeed, the typical fourth-wall breaking humor Alcot abuses is present constantly here, but things get grim really quick.  This is not a kind world, after all.

I'll be straight with you... if you just want normal romance with a great happy ending, this VN isn't for you.  The world in this VN is as cruel and cold as the real world, in its own way (think about it... this is the same world where mermaid sisters have to eat their oniichan in order to live... and humans in order to extend that life)... all the more so because the characters are in a position to know, to an extent, why the world is the way it is.  If you have a heart, each of the paths will reduce you to tears, each for a different reason... and the choices of Yuki (the protagonist) in order to reach and complete the true story lead to a bittersweet ending which will be hard on those who absolutely need a happy ending.

Clephas

Junjou Karen Freaks is based in a future world where all the mysterious creatures of human mythology have turned out to be real, and, after some twists and turns, have begun to coexist peacefully with humanity as part of a larger society.  The protagonist, Mikitaka, is the child of two 'diplomats' who work at trying to bring together the many races, and he lives alone together with his cousin oneechan Shizumi.  Suddenly, one day their osananajimi Yuuka appears before them as a ghost, they meet the young nurarihyon Riou and the tsukumogami Tsukumo, and suddenly they find out Shizumi is a Freaks as well (as usual, the Japanese ear for English nuance is nonexistent, lol).

Generally speaking, I consider this to be a 'honwaka' (gentle and filled with smiles) charage, with mild romance, mild comedy, and just enough story to keep me from getting bored.  In fact, as charage, this is one of the few I've encountered in the last few years that can be considered to actually have a decent balance between its slice-of-life, romantic, comedic, and story elements... most tend to over-focus on the romantic and slice-of-life parts, resulting in even the heroine stories being neglected almost completely.

Tsukumo

I'm a kitsune freak (no pun intended).  So, as such, it was destiny that I would immediately pick Tsukumo as my first heroine for this game, since she is the game's resident kitsune, born from a century-old fox mask owned by Riou's family.  She is a kami (some interpretations have tsukumogami only being considered to be youkai, whereas others consider them to be kami in truth) of the lowest rank, and she is working to help others in order to gain the necessary virtue to one day reach a higher tier amongst the kami (if you don't know the difference between kami and the polytheistic gods of Greece and Norse mythology, I can explain it later if you want). 

This path is... sweet.  Tsukumo, like most true immortal heroines, has an inherent setting that only comes into play when she deals with mortals (poor use of a true immortal heroine is failing to touch on this issue at all), and as such, the issue of difference in lifespans is very important to how her path plays out.  Tsukumo herself is a mature, dedicated, and self-effacing individual who honestly enjoys helping others... and is very affectionate (in subtle ways) toward her lover.

As for the Rest

To be honest, I want to leave the rest for another day... this time not because it sucks, but because non-human heroines that don't suck are rare these days.  Given that Tsukumo isn't one of the two main heroines (Yuuka and Shizumi), I figure that I've already read the weakest of the paths.  As such, I want to save this one for stress relief, since I can't see it going above Yami to Hikari for this month's releases.

 

Clephas

Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary is a VN made by Azarashi Soft, a company that I’ve ignored up until now due to its obsession with the Amakano series (a series which is aesthetically uninteresting to me). It is written by Kizuki (of Tasogare no Sinsemilla, Gurenka, and Hanono) and Onsen Daisuke (of Kon Kon and Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort). Kizuki was responsible for the writing of the common route and the central heroine route (Alice’s), as well as the character settings. Apparently, Onsen Daisuke was responsible for the non-Alice heroine paths.

The game begins with Himegami Alice and Izumo Souji coming to a mysterious island to attend the school where Alice’s older sister apparently vanished years in the past. Souji is there as Alice’s bodyguard, to protect and aid her as she seeks out the truth of her sibling’s disappearance.

The common route of this game caught me from the very beginning. Souji and Alice’s relationship, Alice’s reactions to the island, Souji’s odd personality and history… it is all pure gold for a chuunige fan.

There are three fight scenes in the common path… all of which are a bit crazy. Souji is unbelievably strong… and I think I should make an explanation of him as a character before I go any further.

Souji was raised as the successor to a fighting style that has existed for at least a thousand years (recorded), known as the Izumo Style, designed solely for the purpose of killing nonhuman threats. Used against humans, it is effective enough that he can overcome the shock absorbency of carbon nanotube armor, toss adult men around like toys, and launch an attack from just about any kind of footing.

His personality is… a bit strange. First, his interactions with friends and the heroines tend to be that of the average, somewhat naive, martial artist protagonist (dense at first, awkward after, bed yakuza and obsessively protective last). However, his first reaction to any threat is ‘kill’. Not ‘fight’, not ‘defend’, not ‘rescue’… it is to kill. If he sees a monster threatening a human, he kills it. If he sees a human threatening a friend, he doesn’t hesitate… and yet there is nothing cold or hot blooded about it. He might consider consequences afterward, but his reactions to threats are pretty close to mechanical in some ways, hardwired into his psyche by his grandfather’s training.  As normal to him as breathing is killing monster threats.

I wrote Yulie’s and Claudette’s paths’ commentaries before the common route’s while putting this together because I wanted to see the difference between what was written by Kizuki vs Onsen Daisuke. Kizuki, the writer of Tasogare no Sinsemilla as well as several other kamige, is far better at drawing you into the action and the story as a whole. Sadly, Onsen Daisuke’s heroine paths, while interesting, also seem to be reliant on the dominos Kizuki set up during the common route, at least to an extent. Considering Onsen Daisuke’s previous works (of which I’ve played three), he is a bit less consistent and has a tendency to fall back on common patterns in the industry when he runs out of ideas. This was borne out to an extent when I read Julie’s and Claudette’s paths, as the setup for Yulie’s, at least, was a bit sloppy at times.

Yurie

Yulie’s path is done in a style that is quite familiar to me, having read Tasogare no Sinsemilla (this game’s scenario design was done by the writer of that esteemed game), though the writing style differs (this path, Claudette’s, and Yuuri’s paths are done by a different writer). This game’s setting makes for some interesting twists and turns, and Yulie’s path is no exception. While it is subtly obvious that she takes a backseat to Alice in the VN as a whole, Yulie’s path can in no wise be considered a second rate one.

There is some slice-of-life and ichaicha in this path, but it is kept mostly to a minimum, focusing on Yulie’s personal issues, as well as those of the non-humans in the setting. You also get to find out what she is hiding, which was something that bothered Alice and Souji in the common route. Her path’s story is solid and interesting… but I have to say, I wish they’d done at least one of the after-stories outside of the island.

Claudette

Claudette is Alice’s long-standing rival (self-proclaimed) and a generally capable young woman (like all the heroines). Like Yulie and Alice, she is also a natural schemer, and, having experienced life at the top of high society, she traps people with words as easily as she breathes.

That said, she is actually quite likable… you just shouldn’t say anything careless in her presence.

Her path… is interesting. Compared to Yulie’s path, which is focused primarily on Yulie’s personal issues, this one touches on the issues of the island itself. There are some interesting battle scenes in this path (though I still love the common route’s battle scenes the most), and I was actually mildly surprised a few times, which is unusual for me.

I liked her ending a lot more than Yulie’s, mostly because Claudette’s path’s epilogue actually shows what she and Souji are doing several years after graduation. Not to mention that what they are doing is interesting, to say the least. I’d really like to see a VN with one of their kids as a protagonist, lol.

Yuuri

Yuuri is Alice’s childhood friend, who came to the island as a rare childhood transfer (most transfer around middle school or high school age). She is a gentle, shy girl who is a perfect foil for the more active heroines. She is also an extremely skilled practitioner of kyuudou (the competitive archery sport from Japan which incorporates ritual and meditative elements into the sport as a whole).

Yuuri’s path… is frequently frustrating. I say frustrating because the romance between her and Souji is a classic ‘too shy on both sides’ situation. An inordinate amount of time is spent building up to the formation of the actual relationship, in comparison to the other paths (though the others had their own troubles during that stage).

The climax of her path is actually quite excellent… but I felt that the ending/epilogue and after stories were unsatisfying. In this way, it left me feeling similarly to Yurie’s path, sadly. That said, if I were to compare it to the average VN heroine path, it would win by several hundred miles.

Alice

Alice’s path, like most true heroine paths, is dramatically different, both in scale and content than the others. However, to an extent this is because the writer has such a different approach to the characters and the writing itself than the writer of the other paths.

To be straight with you, the combat and battles of wits in this path are incomparable with the others (the battle of wits thing is not a major thing, but it does pop up with a certain antagonist). Souji shows off his general awesomeness repeatedly in this path, making it immensely fun to read.

There are three endings to this path… an early ‘normal’ ending (in the Tsukihime sense of the word), one ‘good’ ending, and the true ending.

The normal ending, again in the Tsukihime tradition, is actually quite good and interesting. I can’t actually say anything about it without spoiling it, but I will say it is at least worth playing for the after-story, though those who like Alice will be hurt somewhat by how things turn out.

The good and true endings split off at a later point and involve the deepest (surprisingly non-dark) secrets of the island. You find out why the characters, regardless of who they were, were invited to the island in the first place, and, regardless of the ending, it is a more or less satisfying resolution. Lastly, the true ending is easily the most emotionally satisfying of those three endings, which is fitting (obviously). However, I could have done with a more extensive after-story… perhaps an encounter with the protagonist’s grandfather (since, regardless of the path, you never get to meet the frequently mentioned grandparent).

Noa

Noa’s path isn’t a path, as such. It is just an h-scene followed by a quick ending… with Souji condemned to the path of the lolicon and kicked off the island, his new and adoring loli fiance in tow.

Overall

Overall, this VN startled me with its quality, and I feel that this is one of those rare VNs that is both story-focused and has a pretty wide appeal. The characters have depth, the setting is interesting, and the protagonist is generally capable. Moreover, despite my complaints about the after-story/epilogues, I really did enjoy this VN as a whole.

Clephas

This is the list, as it currently stands, of VNs being considered and those previously considered but disqualified for VN of the Year 2017.  While this year hasn't been good for producing kamige, it has succeeded in producing a number of memorable ones.

Being Considered

Ojou-sama no Hanbun wa Ren'ai de Dekiteimasu

Oni ga Kuru. ~Ane ga Hinshi de Pinchi Desu~

Haruru Minamo ni

Suisei Ginka

Eliminated/disqualified candidates

Silverio Trinity (Disqualified for being a direct sequel incapable of standing on its own)

Shin Koihime Musou -Kakumei- (ditto to above... with the addendum that it is also a remake)

Hataraku Otona no Ren'ai Jijou (realistically, this VN just hits my sweet spot and really isn't VN of the Year material)

Fuyu Uso (similar to Trinity and Koihime)

Hikari no Umi no Apeiria (funny, interesting, but ultimately falls short)

 

Clephas

Farnese

This review was written by fun2novel and edited by me.  fun2novel's tastes run to complex settings and stories, with a strong preference for mysteries and a fondness for chuunige.

Let me start of by saying that Farnese is a good game. It has all the elements that make a great Phoenix Wright style mystery game. Much of the story is inhabited by murders, corpses, clues, trials, murderers, witnesses, and other characters involved. The game is divided into several chapters with route splits at certain points. So the game is above average to good.

On the other hand, the game doesn’t do anything different or even better than any other game with a similar bent. The problem is especially compounded by the fact that many other very similar games that were already released this year. 2017 is definitely not a good year for Farnese to come out, as the market is already a bit glutted for this type of mystery. From an objective perspective it’s a fun and good game, but if you'll forgive me being subjective for a moment...  I have to say is that I feel like I’m already burned out when it comes to these these murder mysteries and Phoenix Wright style games, and, at the end of the day, Farnese is as basic as they come.

To be fair, the characters are pretty fun and there’s some funny comedy in Farnese. Though, very little of it actually made me more than smile slightly. If all you want are some fun characters you could do worse than Farnese. Each of them are voiced by good voice actors as well, which makes the experience of hearing their voices very pleasant.

Like any other game of this type the game starts to tell a story, then murder happens, you gather clues by clicking around the crime scene, then go to trial and present your case. Which will hopefully help you convince that the witness is lying or telling the truth and win the case. The more you progress with the trial and get closer to proving your case the more undressed the witness gets until she is (or in one case she and he) completely naked (Clephas: I thought he was joking when I first read this). While they are naked you get to touch them in various places, yes, you heard me right. In the middle of a court, a witness, depending how suspicious they are, will be in various stages of undress until they are completely naked and you get to touch them (Clephas: Yeeew... I am glad I left this to him). Now, to be fair, you need to do it to find a certain mark on their body. However, you are also allowed to touch their tits, pussy, and asshole. The places you can touch depends on the character but… WTF?! REALLY??? The developers couldn’t think of anything ELSE?! Trust me guys, it sounds better than it really is. It really isn’t worth to play the game just for those naughty moments. It’s more shameful than arousing.

The game also has a TIPS system, called Astropedia here, with information about items, terms, people, and the constellations. You’ll need to use the Astropedia to solve some mysteries and answer the questions correctly.  The game also has system voices. System voices are a voices that play whenever you do things like save/load or turn of the game. In games like Grisaia the voices are quick and short. Games like Vermilion and Electro Arms also used system voices but the developer decided against that in their subsequent games, even if the voices were very short and unobtrusive. In Farnese on the other hand, the system voice talks for far too long and it gets very annoying, you save a game and the voice talks for like 10 or 16 seconds while you want to continue playing and listen to what the characters are saying, but you are forced to either wait or hear both the character and the system voice at the same time. Same thing if you just loaded the game, the system voice keeps talking for a few more seconds, you're just forced to sit there and wait for the voice to finally shut the hell up.

The presentation isn’t that good either. The main characters are well designed, but they still don’t look that great. However, if the main characters are passable then the other characters are just hairy ass ugly trolls. The designers didn’t even try to make them look presentable, and, in fact, I don’t think they ever drew a human in their life. The difference between the main and non main characters is almost like the difference between night and day. The backgrounds are ok, not bad but nothing that stands out as special. 

The music on the other hand is good... but it also sounds like a generic copy of something from Phoenix Wright.  To be specific, the music during the court scenes.

Farnese is not a bad game. In fact, it’s average to good. If you hunger for more of this style of game and you already played Ouka Sabaki then you should go ahead and try it. But if you haven’t played Ouka Sabaki yet then go play that first... and if you still want more, you can try Farnese.  However, there are much better alternatives out there.

VN of the Month, September 2017

First, to address the two VNs reviewed by fun2novel... I'm going to be blunt.  His reactions, both in private and in the reviews were lukewarm at best.  Mono no Aware suffers from ambitious overreach and Farnese from the Japanese 'virtue' of complimenting something by imitating it.  As such, I more or less eliminated them from the running after reading their reviews.

The three main candidates that survived to the final choice were Omokage Railback, Yuganda Uso to Koi no Letter, and Oni ga Kuru.  To be straight with you... I knocked off Yuganda Uso rather early on.  While I rated it the same as Omokage Railback on vndb, my opinion of Omokage is somewhat  (clearly) higher.  I did rate Oni ga Kuru higher than Omokage on vndb... but I did so because it gave me precisely what I wanted... a nostalgic trip into my early days playing untranslated VNs.

Now... there are reasons that could have pushed either one to the top, but there is one huge reason Omokage falls somewhat behind even when I set aside my rather perverted preference for the incestuous oneechan and onigami girl of Oni ga Kuru.  To be blunt, I never did figure out what Omokage Railback's protagonist was thinking.  No internal monologues, very limited speech from him, and a general lack of insight into what lay behind the eyes of the characters were reasons to be both attracted and repelled by the VN.  Oni ga Kuru, on the other hand, takes what the charage genre does best - slice-of-life - and combines it with some seriously twisted heroines and a protagonist who has enough issues to make him interesting.  Moreover, the entire setup is almost constantly hilarious, save for when it goes completely insane at a few points along the way.  As such, Oni ga Kuru. ~Ane ga Hinshi de Pinchi Desu~ is VN of the Month, September 2017.

Clephas

The Poll

To be straight with you, this is a suggestion that has been brought up numerous times by the small number of people I recommend books (in English) to.  I am a bibliophile, with a focus on history, anthropology, fantasy, and science-fiction.  It has been suggested to me that I should add book reviews/commentaries to my blog in addition to my posts on VNs.  While this is in some ways a good idea... I'm unsure if it makes sense to post about non-otaku content in this blog.

Fantasy VNs

My first love has always been fantasy.  When I was a kid, I found reality to be boring and had my own bout of chuunibyou, which lasted almost to the end of high school.  That love of fantasy never went away, and I honestly have no desire for it to do so.  Fantasy VNs make up approximately fifty-five percent of the VN of the Month quality VNs I've read over the years... a fact that is partially a function of my personal tastes and mostly a function of the fact that fantasy is 'flexible' in a way that most other genres aren't.  To be blunt, the biggest selling point for the writer is that they can do whatever they want with a fantasy setting, as long as it is internally consistent. 

For the reader, nothing beats the escapism provided by fantasy.  Fiction, to one degree or another, is about escaping one's own life to experience the life of another person or persons.  Fantasy is, in many ways, the penultimate genre for escapism... but in exchange, it demands certain capabilities of the reader.  One is 'suspension of disbelief', a skill/capability that allows you to take the setting seriously, as long as it maintains its internal integrity.  Another is the ability to see fantasy characters as people.  Sadly, some people are incapable of either, and those are the type of people who generally can't understand or enjoy fantasy... even the 'grittier' and more 'realistic' stuff.

Science Fiction VNs

There is that infamous Clarke's Third Law, that any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.  This is the primary reason why fans of fantasy and science fiction find it so easy to go between the two... and also why the two genres tend to be in the same aisle at bookstores.  Science fiction VNs again make up a disproportionate number of the best VNs out there, though to a lesser extent than fantasy (for the purposes of this argument, I relegate science-fantasy to the fantasy genre). 

Science Fiction, however, is interesting to a much wider audience than fantasy, in some ways.  It is less flexible than fantasy, because the writer ignores established theories at his/her peril, and science fiction readers are often popular science junkies, leading to a somewhat higher standard when it comes to consistency at times.   The main reason for the popularity of this genre is that it is the 'genre of hope and despair', the Pandora's Box of fiction.  In the mind of an idealistic sci-fi fan, the visions given to us by sci-fi writers are prophecies of a potential future, and in the eyes of the more cynical, they are warnings against future perils.  Either way, this genre is immensely fun to discuss with others, and it can lead to some truly interesting... and long arguments. 

Charage

The people who began producing the slice-of-life focused genre of VNs that eventually became the single largest umbrella genre in visual novels other than nukige have a lot to answer for.  Because this 'genre' takes in bits and pieces from other genres at need, it makes up roughly one quarter of my highest quality VNs list (most of them fantasy or sci-fi ones)... but, on their own, charage are a poison pill for the Japanese end of the industry. 

To be blunt, as Japanese society has begun to shift its attitudes, fewer and fewer people are playing non-nukige VNs in general, because charage are the 'face' of the medium.  As older fans depart, fewer new fans take interest, and as a result, the medium itself suffers.  That's not to say the VN industry is doomed... it's not, in the short term.  Charage have momentum, and there is a solid core of people on the other side of the big salty puddle who absolutely adore even the most puerile moe-infested kusoge among them who will ensure the genre's survival for at least another decade.  Unfortunately, profits are probably going to continue to drop from the medium's heyday all that time.

I do like charage... but the sheer mindlessness of a lot of the ones produced in the last four years or so has left me exasperated.  This genre sometimes produces some truly excellent games, but the sheer amount of filth I have to wade through comes very close to making it not worth searching. 

 

Clephas

September 2017 Releases

I'm delaying VN of the Month September 2017 while fun2novel finishes up Farnese.  I honestly don't know when to expect him to be done, but I don't think it will be much more than halfway through the month of November.

My schedule for October's releases.

October is chock full of first-class releases in appearance... and I'm just going to mention the ones I'm most excited for.

Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary (playing this right now... it is terrifyingly good, considering who made it)

Baldr Bringer (supposedly the conclusion to the mainline Baldr series.  Who knows if Giga will actually stop their most profitable series, lol?)

Junjou Karen Freaks (yay!  A kitsune heroine!! lol)

Kanojo wa Tenshi de Imouto de (After last year's thing with the ancient deities, this year they've gone for angels and shinigami... yay!!!  lol)

Clephas

Gokudou no Hanayome was released by Galactica (a sister company of Baseson and one of the many subsidaries of Nexton) back in 2011.  I originally played it around the first time I started getting tired of charage... which was horrible timing, thinking about it in retrospect.  To be blunt, I hadn't yet developed my current style of evaluation, and I didn't have as much appreciation for the good points of charage at the time, so I basically judged it based upon what it wasn't... an action chuunige.

Needless to say, judging what amounts to a love-comedy charage by the standards of a chuunige is fundamentally ridiculous.  The two genres are about as far apart as it is possible while both are still VNs.  However, at the time, I didn't have the right state of mind to properly evaluate this game.

Gokudou no Hanayome centers around Gokudouin Yuichi, the soft-spoken heir to the world-famous Gokudouin yakuza family... of which there are only three members (his father, Tokiko, and himself).  Yuichi, having been distanced from the daily business of the family by his overprotective, somewhat yandere oneechan Tokiko, is living a relatively normal life until a young woman named Asahi, from another yakuza group that was once subordinate to the Gokudouin, arrives at his door, informing him that she is his fiance.  Soon after, she is joined by the Italian mafioso Fran, Yuichi's cousin Sarasa, and the airheaded American sniper, Amelia.  

This VN tends to borrow the older style, with a combative relationship between the heroines (the current trend is toward friendly, non-violent rivals or 'only falls for him in her own path' styles) and a protagonist so dense he puts the anti-radiation shielding in a nuclear reactor to shame. 

The heroine paths are split into three arcs... one centering entirely on the mafia/yakuza aspect of things, contains Sarasa's and Fran's path.  The second, mixing bits of science fantasy in, contains Asahi's and Tokiko's paths.  Amelia's path is... a bit out there.  Once you've played it, you go 'wtf', but I can honestly say I enjoyed all of the paths this time around.  While the romantic aspects are mostly limited (the girls are pretty obvious about their feelings in the common route, so I guess they felt they could ignore that aspect in the actual routes) that didn't really break the VN for me.

Overall... this VN is generally amusing, with decent comedy (mostly slapstick) and a wacky story.  I honestly think that, with a little more attention to the details, they could have made this into a first-class VN, but as a charage, it is still worth playing.

Edit: I meant to say this during the main post, but if I had to compare this to a VN or VN series, it would be the series that began with 'My Girlfriend is the President' by Alcot.  The generalized atmosphere and some of the back and forth between the characters is very reminiscent of that and Naka no Hito.   As a result, it made me smile more than once.

Clephas

When I first started playing untranslated VNs (right about the time Obama got into office), I had the luxury of cherry-picking some of the best titles in existence at the time for my initial lineup.  In some cases, I just randomly grabbed stuff that met my tastes, and in others I went by recommendations by established vets like Accany.  However, at this point in my VN experience, I had yet to start VN of the Month and I was basically seeing VNs solely by how they met my expectations and tastes, a tendency that most new VN players have. 

About a year ago, I began looking over the VNs I played when I first dove into the sea of untranslated VNs, and I came to a rather embarrassing realization... I probably hadn't given a number of them a fair shake, in retrospect.  Sometimes, my opinion didn't change after playing them again, and in those cases I didn't bother blogging about them or changing my vote on vndb.  However, occasionally I encountered VNs that I really had judged unfairly at the time in light of my current experience with VNs in general.

As such, I've been picking out VNs from my initial set of votes (the first two years) and considering whether it is worth it to replay them.

Hanachirasu I voted extremely low at the time... and that vote was quite correct.  It is quite possibly the second worst VN I've played from Nitro+, behind Sumaga.

After an initial re-sampling, I intend to replay Utatemeguri to confirm my impressions back when it was released.

Lovekami I probably would have voted higher (an 8.5) under my current system.

11Eyes I actually wanted to give a lower vote to (A 5 or a 4)

Kanojo-tachi no Ryuugi was something I really didn't have a taste for at the time, and in retrospect I should probably go back and at least see if my impressions back then were flawed.

The list goes on...  Whether positive or negative, I found that a number of the VNs I re-sampled quite simply were improperly rated under my current system or my impressions at the time were skewed by the fact that I was playing so many kamige right alongside them.  It is interesting how much an opinion can change with experience... and it is surprising to me how many of those games I actually have a much better impression of all these years later.

Edit: Below is a list of VNs I plan to do for Random VNs when I have the time for this project.

Gokudou no Hanayome (Yakuza love-comedy)

Lovekami (The original, not the shitty ones that came out recently)

 Kanojo-tachi no Ryuugi (dark vampire incest love story)

Boku ga Sadame Kimi ni wa Tsubasa o (Chuunige)

Shuumatsu Shoujo Gensou Alicematic (Cthulhu Mythos action fantasy chuunige)

Utatemeguri ('Gakuen Battle' type chuunige)

Gekkou no Carnevale (Werewolves and living dolls, oh my!)

Itsuka, Todoku, Ano Sora ni  (I am about 90% sure I misjudged this VN based on what I was looking for at the time...)

Duelist X Engage

Ones I've already replayed or re-dropped

Hanachirasu

Kurenai no Tsuki (see my blog post)

11eyes

Swan Song (If anything, my impressions were even worse this time around)

 

 

Clephas

Why I made this post.

Devils Devel Concept is one of my favorite VNs and has one of my top 3 VN settings.  The setting is so ridiculously complex and explained only in fragments along the way, so it is difficult to gain any real grasp on what is going on just reading any one path... Not to mention that there are a ridiculous number of details that can be lost along the way as you read.  Sora is fundamentally an indifferent narrator when it comes to such details, because he doesn't have any interest in them, and the heroines aren't much better that way, only dropping tidbits along the way that can be easily misinterpreted without being able to see the whole picture.  There are unavoidable spoilers in this post, but they aren't so much for the story as for the infrequent explanations of the setting the writer inserts along the way.  In particular, I recommend skipping the part of the post covering the Genryuu, Old Ones, and Others and their servants until you've at least read both Kanata's and Mutsuki's paths.  Mutsuki's path, in particular, takes on a lot of new meaning if you know the stuff about the contracts.  This is mostly a glossary, drawing some base info from the in-game glossary but also adding parts drawn from the explanations within the story itself. 

 

 

 

Possible Spoilers if you go any further

 

 

 

 

Demons- Powerful beings capable of rewriting reality at will.  They are fundamentally inhuman in both appearance and motivation.  They are the descendants of the creations of the Old Ones, possessing Devils Organs passed down directly from that source. 

Spoiler

They are separated into clans by which Old One was responsible for the creation of their ancestors.  Demons can live for centuries, with the 'purest' of them sometimes living for thousands of years.  Demon society has lost most of its knowledge of its past, as the original generation after the Old Ones is long-since dead.  Demon procreation is rare at best, and so most Demons are 'recycled', the souls of the dead retained by the Sage of their Clan until it can be implanted into a new body.  The difference in power between Clan Monarchs and Sages vs the average demon is equivalent to a master swordsman vs a peasant armed with a toothpick.

Spoiler

Colors- The Clans of the Demons, each led by a monarch who rules/organizes them, and possessing a Sage that serves as a repository of souls and Organs to be passed to a new generation.  The clans are: Blue, Red, Gold, Black, and Green, based off of the five Old Ones from whom they are descended.

Enja- The descendants of humans implanted with Devils Organs and an instinctive need to kill Demons by the Old Ones upon their defeat.  They breed slowly amongst themselves and are extremely short-lived (with rare exceptions for those who rarely use their abilities, most don't live beyond the age of forty, with the most powerful tending to die or Fall in their twenties).  The imperatives in their DNA have a lot of subtle psychological effects on them, ranging from mild social disorders to outright sociopath behavior.  Their desires and hungers tend to be several degrees stronger than the average human, as well as being somewhat more... earthy.  Out of self-protection, they tend to gather in clan groups based on bloodline or association. 

Hunters/Karyuudo- Enja who have chosen to pursue a life hunting and killing Demons.

Henshitsu- As an Enja wields their Organs and live their lives, gradually they begin to alter, in fashions both subtle and not so much so.  This can be displayed in strengthened instincts, vulnerabilities to certain types of food or light, the need to drink blood, or even the ability to live on sunlight and water.  Once this change surpasses a certain point, an Enja falls and becomes a Stray Sheep, a monster without rationality or conscience that is driven by the most powerful impulses of the Enja from which they were born. 

Stray Sheep/Predator/Hosokusha/Itsudatsusha- Individuals whose Henshitsu has gone beyond the critical stage.  Such individuals lack rationality or conscience and are often cannibalistic.  They are also often driven by strong suppressed desires or obsessions from their life as a human.  Sometimes they are born when an Enja dies in a conventional manner (of age, starvation, etc), but most of the time it tends to occur during battle or another extreme situation.

Ro- Unique Devils Organs, usually based off a concept or element, that consume the concept or element they were named for and grant power to their possessors. 

Spoiler

A possessor of a Ro is one of the two most powerful Enja types in existence.  All Ro users are female. Ro users are the second most psychologically broken types of Enja (Genryuu being the most broken) and share very little with normal humanity beyond a few basic emotions.  Ro users tend to be impulsive, selfish, amoral, and extremely yandere.   Enja Ro are extremely short-lived, as their intense desires combined with the uncontrollable need to use their power inevitably cause them to self-destruct.  It is generally expected that the average Ro user won't survive to hit their thirties, and their fertility rate is extremely low.  As such, it isn't uncommon for them to be encouraged to find sexual partners early and produce children as young as possible.   All Demon Sages and female Monarchs possess a Ro.

Genryuu- A type of Enja, created by the Others rather than the Old Ones. 

Spoiler

They, unlike their fellow Enja, are bound by a strict contract determined at the origin of their bloodline, and if they fail to fulfill its terms, they become 'normal' Enja, losing much of their power.  Genryuu do not suffer from Henshitsu, nor do they fall and become Stray Sheep.  All Genryuu are marked by a peculiar organ 'gifted' to them by the Others known as 'Hakai no Mugen Bunki', or 'the Infinite Branching of Broken Commandments'.  This ability forces on them 'dreams' (waking or sleeping) of all potential futures, pasts, and presents, giving them immense knowledge that potentially allows them to subconsciously alter the vector of fate. As a result, Genryuu are generally considered to be the most powerful of all Enja by several degrees.  Genryuu personalities are shaped to some extent by the necessity to survive possessing Mugen Bunki, and they tend to be defined by a tendency to live in the present, be indifferent to most matters, and to be almost mechanically driven to seek out and destroy demons. 

Furuki Mono- The Old Ones, otherworldly beings who survived the void to arrive on Earth long ago. 

Spoiler

They destroyed their own homeworld due to their aggressive, combative instincts, and even on this new world, the 'originals' found themselves unable to control these impulses.  In an attempt to weaken these impulses, they created 'children' based off of a mix of the native intelligent species and themselves (the Demons), but this merely resulted in them ultimately being killed by their own children, their corpses dismembered, and the remains sealed away in Mausoleums all over the world.  They created the Enja as a final revenge against their descendants. 

The Others- Otherworldly beings who preceded the arrival of the Old Ones. 

Spoiler

All lifeforms on Earth are descended from them to some degree.  Out of revenge, they created the Genryuu bloodlines, and those few that survive have done so by living on a different plane of existence, from which direct intervention is difficult, if not impossible.

Spirits-

Spoiler

Servants/slaves sent to watch over Genryuu by the Other with whom the said Genryuu is contracted.  This seems to apply primarily to the initial contractor rather than later contractors within the bloodline, but there are some hints that such spirits follow around the descendants as well.  They are invisible to even Demons, save those with special 'eye' Organs, and they seem to primarily serve as a spiritual mirror to the Genryuu most of the time.  They have no combat abilities and are rarely physically present in the mortal realm. 

Spoiler

Shinigami- Sora's half-insulting name for the Other with whom he is contracted.  A cruel, cold, faceless feature who seems to be female (uncertain). 

Solid pot- A discriminatory term used by Enja to refer to themselves.

Hollow Pot- A discriminatory term used by some Enja to refer to normal humans.

Soujou-Soukoku- A reference to the natural magnetism/compatibility between individual Enja and Demons.  This is the first and most powerful determiner of how a relationship between them will form, and it isn't uncommon for those with a high compatibility to fall into bed on first meeting or those with a low or negative compatibility to try to kill one another at first sight.  Individuals with high compatibility enhance one another's abilities, whereas those with low or negative compatibility make one another weaker over time. 

Masou- Weapons created by the Enja to allow them to more effectively fight the Demons.  These enhance their users' abilities (though usually at a cost in lifespan or psychological damage) and can provide new methods to corrode reality.  Many have fallen into the hands of the Demons or have been partially broken over the millennia, though. 

Shinshoku- A term referring to the ability to corrode reality that defines both the Demons and Enja.  The only limits to this ability are the individual's Organs, the amount of power they can produce at a given time, and the size of the area they can comprehend with their spatial awareness.

Battle Flow- Battles between possessors of Devils Organs are a competition to see who can overwhelm the other's ability to corrode and alter reality.  It isn't uncommon for Enja and Demons to die multiple times during a battle, resurrecting themselves as they go, and fatal blows generally are merely minor turning points in the battles of the most powerful.  To achieve victory, it is necessary that one 'rewrite' the opponent into a 'deceased' state at a point where the balance of power in the battle has tipped irrevocably against the opponent.  At lower levels, one or two deaths is often sufficient to end the battle, as resurrection and bodily repair require an iron will and a decent grasp of one's own physiology before it was rewritten or destroyed.  More intelligent opponents prefer to create a situation where their enemy has no possibility to turn the tables in advance by choosing the field and 'corroding' its reality in advance (creating a branch world for that purpose).  Kanata, Misora, and Mei are all three of this type, whereas Sora, Mutsuki, and Akane tend to be straightforward 'smash the wall down' types. 

Relationship between Demons and Enja- Demons and Enja instinctively hate one another on sight.  This instinct is literally beyond their ability to control or suppress, and it is only through the mediation of a third party that the few 'rules' of the conflict between them were put together.  The reasons for this instinctive hatred are generally considered to lie in the nature of the Enja's creation. 

Spoiler

The Old Ones (Furuki Mono), when they were being killed and sealed away by their own descendants, the Demons (with the help of an unnamed third party), implanted seeds of their own nature inside of humans, who then evolved into the Enja (those that didn't die or turn into Stray Sheep).  The Devils Organs given to the Enja fall into two categories... those 'stolen' from slain demons and those that come directly through descent from the Old Ones.  Demons consider Enja to be thieves and blasphemers, as Demon society has warped badly in the time since the Old Ones passed, causing them to lose full knowledge of their origins and the reasons why the Old Ones died.  Enja despise Demons because that was inserted into their ancestors along with the Devils Organs, imprinting an unstoppable impulse to kill Demons into their DNA. 

Blood (Demon and Enja)- The blood of Demons is the most poisonous substance in the world.  A human touched by a drop will die instantly, and even Enja often become ill from excessive exposure.  To a lesser extent, the blood of Enja is toxic to Demons, but it takes many hundreds of exposures for this to actually become a problem for the Demon in question.

Devils Organs- 'Organs' that grant Enja and Demons the ability to rewrite reality, adhering to rules determined by the individual Organ.  Most Enja only possess one or two, with a few rare exceptions being born with three (generally destined to have a very short lifespan).  While all Enja and demons can corrode reality, in what manner they do so is determined by these organs.

Cabals- Organizations devoted to the protection, training, and organizing of activities by the Hunters.  The ones most intimately involved in this story are the Isaribi and the Houjou.  Both have a very pre-movie MIB feeling to both their activities and their attitude, as their agents tend to spend as much time disposing of evidence and witnesses as they do actually fighting Demons or hunting Stray Sheep. 

Dolls- Humans rewritten into 'modoki/automata', flesh machines that have been granted immense physical strength, agility, and speed to serve as the hands and feet of a Demon, Stray Sheep, or Enja.  These individuals rarely retain much of their original personality or memories, and most are cannibalistic, needing to regularly eat large amounts of human flesh to maintain themselves.  Ironically, even the least of the Enja can dismember them with hardly any effort, making them no better than a distraction in the battle between the two. 

Fear in Enja vs Fear in Normal Humans- Both humans and Enja are capable of feeling fear towards Demons.  However, when a human encounters a Demon, they are incapable of even conceiving of resistance or putting up a struggle.  When an Enja encounters a Demon, their fear is a simple product of a mixture of threat assessment and jealousy of their power.  Fear of Demons freezes a human, whereas an Enja is still capable of acting.  This peculiar type of half-rational emotion is one of the things that set Enja apart.

 

Clephas

First, yes I decided to write about another nukige... a nukige with story.  Now, the reason I decided to play this one is because of my fondness for kitsune heroines (my fetish is everlasting), and I thought, going into this, that it was going to be a sex fest from day one... but the actual amount of h-content in this game is quite a bit lower proportionally to the story than is the norm in a nukige.  In fact, this game actually has solid heroine paths that impressed me with their quality.

This game focuses on a young wannabe potter who goes to a small country town to study as an apprentice under a skilled potter named Haruakira (incidentally, this was the first name of Abe no Seimei, the famous onmyouji from the Heian era that makes his way into so many fantasy anime). 

This game's unique approach to the story is that, for one thing, there is no pre-marital sex (unheard of in any eroge I've read up until now), and most of the VN's content is about the married life with each of the heroines, as their bonds strengthen and they get to know one another on a deeper level.  This was also what impressed me most about this game... because it focuses on married life rather than a relationship between unmarried lovers.   In addition, the actual time consumed for the formation of the relationships to proposals tends to be a year to several years, and the married life generally lasts a year or more before the ending roll. 

Now, while I liked the other paths, my favorite one in this game was the one for the kitsune, Kuzunoha.  Kuzunoha is a mischievous fox youkai/kitsune who is more like a buddy to the protagonist when they first meet, though their relationship turns into love relatively quickly.  Kuzunoha has her hangups, like any ancient heroine you see in one of these games (past losses and general loneliness being the major ones).  However, all in all she is a somewhat odd blend between the ideal Japanese wife functionally (by the way, the ideal Japanese wife thing is extremely sexist, lol) while never losing that tendency to tease the protagonist every chance she gets.

There are a lot of points in this VN that are emotionally touching, and I actually never felt like skipping the non-H text (which tends to happen in nukige most of the time, since the non-H scenes usually read like they were written by the village idiot). 

Honestly, on occasion it really is worth following your fetishes, lol.

Clephas

The review below was done by fun2novel and edited by me.  One word about the title that might be interesting to you is that 'Mono no Aware' is a term for the 'awareness of impermanence', and it is one of the fundamental concepts underlying the traditional Japanese views on life and death and mortality. 

In essence Mono no Aware wa Sai no Koro is a Japanese take on the film Jumanji staring the late Robin Williams (Clephas: I cried when he died for a week straight...). However, this is doesn’t give you a solid idea as to what kind of a game this is. In Jumanji people who played the a game were experiencing strange things as the game manifested in their own world. In Mono no Aware wa Sai no Koro (MonoAware from now on), on the other hand, the characters are the ones who get transferred into the world of the game and must travel between different squares on the game board by tossing dice.

This new world of the game board brings its own set of problems and mysteries. The main mystery is why are these characters are there and who brought them into the game. The mystery is further complicated by the fact that they all lost their memories and remember nothing of what happened before they started playing strange game. The characters physically disappear and reappear on different squares of the game board as they move after throwing a dice. Each square has a certain objective that the players might or might not do. The board is also non linear in some places and allows the players to move in different directions, and thus some (in game) players will advance towards completely different locations on the board or even reach an ending.

All this doesn’t matter to the reader of MonoAware, because this is a multiple route mystery, and you are forced to get every ending in a certain order. There isn’t any kind of gameplay here, you don’t get to toss the dice yourself, and it is all taken care of for you by the story. When you get to throw the dice you’ll move a certain number of spaces, this will lead you to an ending, which after watching it, will unlock a different result of the dice.  You then reload, toss the dice again, and get a new number and the story moves in a different direction from there. The lack of interactivity doesn’t leave a negative impression, because the reason to play MonoAware is the story, and the only thing that a real dice game would have brought is a lot of randomness and frustration for players. It would have been too distracting.

The story is very appealing and has a great mystery hook. On the other hand, the longer you read it the more problems that will come to the surface. The focus of certain scenes is a complete miss in terms of tone and how it connects to a previous scene, the next scene, or even to something that was said just a moment ago. This drags the story quite a bit, since these moments don’t have any real involvement in the story and mostly serve as wannabe comedic interactions between the main cast. Speaking of which, the cast is not that great either, which might have been fine if the writers had handled the plot effectively.  However, since it doesn’t and the slice of life scenes aren’t really that interesting the story feels like it is all over the place. This is not to say that the game is boring. It’s simply not tightly focused on what it wants to do.

The presentation overall is average. The art is nice but not exactly eye popping, and the same can be said for the music and the voices. It’s all so average. The game uses an eye blink and lip-syncing system that is absolutely terrible. Character designs are good.  That’s about all I can say about the presentation.

I am purposefully trying to avoid saying anything else about the plot, narrative, and characters. Everything you need to know about the game and whether you’ll find it appealing to you or not has already been said in the summary on vndb. It’s an accurate description of MonoAware and if it makes you want to play this game then you don’t need to know much more than that.

Clephas

Anime, if you limit it to Japanese animation (the actual word in Japanese refers to all animated shows, but I'm limiting the definition to J-animation), has been around since 1917, but anime as we know it, in its earliest distinct form, was born in the 1960's.  My personal experience with anime (where I understood it to be anime, as opposed to my Voltron experience in the mid eighties as a kid) began in 1992, with Record of Lodoss War (the OVA series, not the TV series), drawing me in and making me a fan instantly. 

At the time, certain anime were considered to be 'icons' of the medium... Astro Boy, Dragonball, Ranma, Mobile Suit Gundam, etc.  After becoming a fan of anime, I was introduced to them, and by the time I moved to Austin in 1998, I'd already seen three of my old favorites achieve 'icon' status (The Slayers, Tenchi Muyo, and Yuyu Hakusho).  Now, it is really, really weird to see something you watched almost as it came out being referred to as 'iconic'.  Moreover, seeing something you liked become referred to as genre-defining (Noir, Love Hina, Ai Yori Aoshi) can leave you with complicated feelings... it tends for me to be an odd mix of pride and embarrassment.  

Now, most of the time in the US, TV shows are generally only considered iconic when they've run for many seasons or won a number of academy awards... but most of the time, anime that are considered iconic are made so by fan acclaim, and the line where famous ends and iconic begins tends to be rather murky. 

I doubt many with a strong knowledge of the last forty years of anime would fail to consider Legend of the Galactic Heroes or Tenchi Muyo to be iconic.  However, if you were to ask one who had lived through those times at what point they became so, you would probably just get a helpless shrug  in return.  Legend of the Galactic Heroes is considered by many to be the peak of the now-deceased anime space opera sub-genre (since only a few have been made since and none even came close to it in scale or quality).  The fact that it manages to maintain a massive fanbase amongst sci-fi anime fans despite its dated visuals says everything that needs to be said about the artistic value of the series.  Tenchi Muyo, on the other hand, is considered a genre-definer.  It combined one old and time-honored anime genre - science fantasy - with at home slice-of-life antics with a spice of romance, essentially pioneering the idea that action science-fantasy series could also have a strong basis in daily life comedy and romance (If you can't figure out how that has effected things to this day, then you aren't looking hard enough at the trends in otaku media over the last twenty years). 

These are just two examples... even in the last ten years, I've seen anime that I watched out of boredom suddenly become idolized a few years after their release as genre pioneers or an example of what is best in a genre...

In other words, this whole post is just a ramble about how I'm starting to feel old when I look back at how long my otaku live has been, hahaha.

Edit: To be clear, anime was my first entryway into the otaku life as I knew it.  I love anime to this day, and while I'm sad at how the medium has stagnated (like most otaku media have stagnated in the last ten years or so) I have faith it will eventually recover.  After all, I find at least one new anime worth adoring with each year that passes.

Edit2: A few more things... I've also seen treatment of anime fans by society change dramatically since I was a kid.  I don't remember the last time I heard the question 'Are you watching cartoons?' and if you shake three people in an urban area, at least one of them regularly watches the newest stuff on crunchyroll.  It is odd not to be an extreme minority in an extremely niche community, considered to be childish or strange for watching a gory fantasy anime rather than a sitcom, lol.

Clephas

For those who are interested, this VN is the latest production by Parasol, a company rather infamous for its incest charage (most of which are middling in quality).   This is one of the few companies where I've actually dropped most of the VNs they made simply because they were boring, rather than because of some inevitable mismatch between my tastes and some aspect of the game's setting, characters or story. 

To put this in perspective, I rarely drop charage merely because they are boring... most charage get boring once the romance starts.  It is almost a default feature that charage romance be trite and predictable, with pointless ichaicha and h-scenes that make very little sense in the context.  Romance in charage just isn't that interesting *Clephas states this flatly*.

I'm going to be blunt... there isn't a whole lot to recommend about this VN as a whole.  That's not to say that this VN is bad... it is just so... poorly handled that I honestly felt gypped after I finished the first path.

First, this game begins with the protagonist moping about the fact that he was forced to split up with his girlfriend, Saya, who turned out to be his sister by a rather nasty man who immediately splits them up after finding out by bribing the police to see Haruta as a stalker.  After that bit of moping (healed somewhat by his yurufuwa osananajimi) he somehow ends up helping the self-proclaimed child director of his school to fight against the school being absorbed by the school owned by his father... with the help of his little sister and his female friends.

Naturally, this means it is harem time.  All the girls are in love with him to various extents *pauses for sighs of exasperation* and he is utterly unaware of all of them except the yurufuwa osananajimi. 

This VN, despite its trope-filled setting, actually had some potential to be interesting as a story... but the inability of the writer to decide whether he wants to be serious or light and comedic (or rather, to balance both aspects well) ruined it for me.  Worse, once the actual heroine paths start... I honestly can say I lost interest in record time, even for a charage. 

Saya's path was funny.  Her weird rationalization of her sexual adoration for Haruta (a quality that has become standard to most VN imoutos nowadays) is fairly hilarious, and her chats with other imoutos in similar situations across the nation are even funnier.  However... that doesn't make up for how... weak the story became the moment I got to the midpoint on each heroine path.

In other words... this was a game with some real potential that was squandered due to an inability on the part of the writer to escape the limitations of the charage genre.

Edit: A lot of the problem with this game, in retrospect, is in the pacing... given a bit more time with the characters before the heroine split, I probably would have been a bit more sanguine about the progression of the heroine paths.  However, I hadn't really developed any affection for the characters by the end of the common route, and that is always a fatal blow for any hopes of enjoying a charage.

Clephas

First, I should mention that this VN, despite having a different writer, is in a style that is very similar to that of Oni Uta, a VN made by 130cm using the same artist back in 2009.  I say 'the same style', because the character dynamics are eerily similar.  First, there is the ponkotsu oneechan who is open about her desire to reverse-rape the protagonist (though she prefers it the other way around).  Second, there is the stalker osananajimi, who casually steals his underwear, toothbrushes, and chopsticks.  Third, there is the little oni-goddess who appears and serves as the game's true heroine.

Now, first I should say that this artist has a style that is greatly differentiated from the current industry standard... mainly because he has nothing against chubby faces, heroines who make unattractive expressions, and old art cliches like heart-mark eyes, lol. 

Story-wise, this game moves back and forth between emotional scenes and old-fashioned cat-fight filled slice-of-life (the osananajimi and the oneechan are constantly at each other's throats), and the protagonist is about as dense as they get (though part of that is that he is simply numb to anything more subtle than Haruko's blatant attempts to get him into bed with her).  Though the game's title proclaims that this game is about his sister's disease, the reality is that, once it goes onto the heroine paths, it generally ends up being about his personal hangups when it comes to matters of affection and family.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  His parents rank up with the ten worst monster parents I've encountered in a VN (currently the twin tops are the father of Kaito from Akatsuki no Goei and the father of Suu Sasamaru from Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo Yori mo ), and his past experiences definitely explain why he and Haruko are so interdependent (it is actually as bad as the twins from Yosuga no Sora that way... almost worse, really). 

Kohime's path is the exception to the rule... by her very nature, Kohime is a free spirit, and she easily overcomes his relationship limitations... but in exchange, the conflict in her path is definitely a tear-jerker.  Of course, it is also a familiar one to those who have played numerous VNs with Shinto kami heroines.  Koihime's path falls into one of the classic tropes of such heroines, but it is executed pretty much perfectly.  I honestly spent the last hour crying almost constantly... which is a good thing, because that is what I wanted.

Overall, this VN was highly emotionally satisfying, even if some aspects (such as Haruko's apathy toward anyone and everyone outside her small circle of people she met through Haruto and her insane jealousy... not to mention Haruto's denseness) were annoying as hell.  At times, this game feels really 'old' to someone who has played most of the good VNs made in the last ten years (because it uses tropes like the constant catfights), but it was generally an enjoyable read. 

Clephas

First, I should note that, despite how it begins, this VN turned out to not be a nukige.  However, it is definitely not a 'pure love' story from beginning to end.  A literal translation of the Japanese name would be 'The warped lie and love letter' with 'letter' being interchangeable with the word for a stereotyped reputation.

Second, I should warn anyone who plays this to either do Saeko's path last or read only her path.  It is just too hard to pick another heroine after picking Saeko.  I did it, but I can honestly say that I felt like I was abandoning Saeko the whole time.

This game's setting is like this:  The protagonist as a child was a little... mature for his age.  He and his girlfriend at the time (Saeko) even went so far as to have sex (without really understanding how society would see their actions), and eventually a rumor went around that he had raped her, even as she moved away.  This left him bitter and feeling betrayed, the rumors destroying his family life and isolating him.  The young man at the beginning of this story has basically accepted his false reptutation and chosen to act it out, forming relationships with multiple young women (who are the heroines of this story).  Then, Saeko returns, stating a desire for him to 'dirty' her again.

A lot of this game is about the protagonist slowly overcoming his past and forming a more honest relationship with the girls despite the rather warped way it begins (thus the name of the game).  Saeko's path can be considered the 'main' path, because it deals most directly with the protagonist's past.  However, regardless of the path, the protagonist manages to get past his trauma and rise above it, if you pick the good ending, lol.

Anyway, this game surprised me with its quality of storytelling.  I honestly enjoyed the interplay, and the protagonist's change of heart is portrayed with surprising subtlety for a Japanese writer (most Japanese VN writers tend to like the 'sudden overwhelming flood of emotion' way of doing things).  While there is plenty of h content in the game, it is not overwhelming, though it is definitely more than the average charage. 

Overall, this game is not suited to someone looking for straightforward relationships and love with relatively pure beginnings.  The characters in this VN are all scarred or damaged in some way, which becomes obvious as you play.  Nonetheless, I found it an immensely enjoyable experience.

Edit: Oh, and if you dislike sado-masochistic relationships, you should probably avoid this VN.  While it doesn't go to the real extremes like mutilation or electric shock, it does touch on more 'normal' SM activities. 

Clephas

First... I already talked about Haze Man, though you can't really call it a review, lol.  Second... I'm stalling Mono no Aware for now.  After playing it for three hours, I've come to the conclusion that I hate the setting in this game.  It feels like one of those anime episodes in an otherwise awesome series that I drop simply because I don't like how they handled it.  This game has enormous potential to be interesting... if you obliterate player agency.  Unfortunately, I hate the way this game handles choices, so I'm ignoring it for now.

The remaining games I plan to play from September's releases are:

Omokage Railback (Done)

Iyashi no Megami no Marmot (Edit: Turned out to be a nukige, dropping it)

Sakura Hitohira Koi Moyou

Oni ga Kuru. ~Ane ga Hinshi de Pinchi Desu~

Seven Days

Games I'm leaving to the crew:

Dolphin Blade (Nobody willing to play this)

Mono no Aware - volunteers, please?  Honestly, I was surprised at how bad my chemistry was with this game, but I really shouldn't have been.  It was written by the same person who did Unmei Senjou no Phi, and I despised that game.

Hoshi Furu Yoru no Farnesse (most likely fun2novel)

Comments: To be blunt, I don't care if anyone plays Dolphin Blade... its getchu screams 'kusoge!' to my senses, so I honestly don't think it is worth considering.  Mono no Aware, depending on the reader, might have a chance to capture the hearts of people other than me... but it bugs the hell out of me.  Hoshi Furu Yoru has similar vibes to Mono no Aware emanating from it, so I naturally have not installed it.  For those who are wondering, I have no intention of playing the new Venus Blood this month, as it is one of their 'tentacle impregnation' system series, which generally suck massively in comparison to the goddess vs demons ones. 

Edit: Basically updating this to reflect the fact that Dolphin Blade and Iyashi no Megami have been struck from the list, the latter for being a moe-nukige (protagonist with no default name, harem sex scene at the beginning, and other elements made it obvious... with no psychosis to make it look redeemable like Harumade, Kururu, lol) and the former for being so obviously a potential kusoge that nobody was willing to touch it.  Omokage Railback is done.  I'll be playing Sakura Hitohira Koi Moyou I guess....  not that I have a strong interest in it at this point.  

Clephas

First, I should mention that this review is split into two parts.  One covers the free prequel VN released back in May and the second covers the main game, which was released last week.  My personal advice is that you play the prequel first.  Both games are written in a really odd fashion (multiple narrators with the prequel and third-person with no insight into the protagonist for the main game). 

Prequel

The prequel covers the events eight years before the main game, filling you in on how Juri and Masashi (portrayed as the child, Koma) met as children and how Juri ended up on the path that led her to head up the Yoshioka Corporation.  To be blunt... this game is kind of frustrating.  The story is actually pretty fascinating, beginning as it does with a guy being asked to have sex with his best friend's beautiful wife (said guy being Koma's father, a vicious yakuza with an excessive fondness for fighting and drinking).  The story is told with varying characters being interviewed by a reporter serving as narrators, and they are, quite naturally, non-omniscient, knowing only their own viewpoints on what happened.  The biggest similarity in style between this and the main game is that you are never treated to the protagonist's stream of consciousness in either.  Both protagonists are the silent type, only rarely speaking their minds. 

There is some violence in this one, and it deliberately skirts around the edges of the yakuza activities involved.  However, this, quite oddly, did not detract from the experience for m.  I can say quite honestly that the main game would be a lot less comprehensible if I hadn't read this.

Main game

Omokage Railback's main game is set eight years after the incident portrayed in the prequel, and Koma (Shimizu Masashi Jr) has become Yoshioka Masashi, having been adopted into Juri's family and made CEO of the company (though because of the unique structure of the conglomerate, the real power lies in the hands of some really warped older people and Juri).  His first job as CEO is to make a deal for development of the resources of Yagurana Village, a small town that once faced off against the exploitative tactics of the Yoshioka corporation and won.  

I'm going to be blunt... the storytelling style of the main game is uncharacteristic for the VN medium in that it gives you almost no insight into the protagonist's inner workings or feelings.  The fact that I still found the game enjoyable is a measure of the writer's skill, but it was kind of weird playing a VN where the viewpoint kept switching between heroines and side characters rather than primarily revolving around the protagonist's point of view. 

This game is kind of short... and, in my mind, this harmed the game's quality somewhat.  This game could have used a far more extensive stretch of slice-of-life character development, but, instead the game hurries things along in a way that felt a bit hasty. 

Surprisingly, this game tackles some concepts that otaku media tends to avoid, such as transgender (non-comedic) and homosexuality (non-idealized), though obliquely through the acceptance of the said characters for who they are.  I did rofl repeatedly at the fact that the two hulking African-American bodyguards Juri has along with her were in love with Masashi.  The fact that you never get to know whether Masashi is actually aware of the fact that they've been stalking him (on Juri's orders) since he was taken in by the Yoshioka family was one of the many mysteries of the rather warped human relationships in this VN.  More serious is Asuka, the transgender maid who appears midway through the story.  Apparently, Masashi's reaction (or lacking of it) when finding out she was transgender was one of the major factors that led to her infatuation with him.  I don't call her a trap because she doesn't really fall into that 'moe-moe' characterization.

Getting back to warped relationships... there are very few relationships in this VN that aren't warped.  Juri is obsessed with Masashi to the point of psychosis, Lemon gets high on housecleaning (not housecleaning products, but the actual act of cleaning the house), Juri's mother... well, let's avoid spoiling that one.   Even the seemingly innocent Iroha has Aya (another heroine) as her 'poison taster' (who is also required by Yagurana custom to 'test' a prospective lover first). 

Overall, it is impossible to fit this VN into a single genre.  It also breaks Japanese VN conventions in about every way possible without abandoning the otaku style entirely.  That said, I enjoyed this VN, despite the isseus I also had with it. 

Clephas

Yes, I played this.  On the surface, this game looks like a straight-out thematic nukige... but in reality it is a comedy VN that just happens to have a lot of sexual humor and h-scenes, lol. 

Basically, the protagonist Shotarou receives a fatal wound protecting a pretty girl, who proceeds to kiss him, fusing her body with his, covering him in an armor suit and granting him incredible physical abilities while also healing his wounds... and then immediately asks for sex once he is finished beating up her attackers.  He ends up in a '-rangers' type hero vs monster villains type situation where he faces off against plant monsters controlled by a scantily-dressed girl wielding a bow.  This leads to a lot of wacky situations that are generally amusing from beginning to end.

What surprised me was that they actually made an effort to tell a story in this game.  Sure, it wasn't a GREAT story, but it was a decent one, far better than you usually expect from a game so reliant on sex and sex humor.  I spent most of my time laughing, but I was also able to get into the story emotionally to an extent, despite the half-assed nature of the setting. 

While this isn't good enough to be a VN of the Month candidate, if you just want to play a VN with shotgun-fast humor and carefree h-scenes, this is a decent choice.

PS: I know I didn't bother explaining about this VN in detail... but literally ninety-percent of this game is endless conversations that turn into jokes, halfway decent fight scenes, and h-scenes.  The remaining ten percent is the halfway decent story they somehow managed to combine with this.

Clephas

Shuffle! Essence +

Shuffle Essence! + is the definitive version of Shuffle, which was originally released in 2004.  Shuffle was also the first game where Agobarrier, the now-deceased writer of the Tiny Dungeon series, made a claim to fame. 

First, I should note that I originally played Shuffle in English and was not in any way satisfied with the results.  My primary reasons were the low quality of the localization (though it was better than what MG had done up to that point) and certain differences with the anime involving Kaede.  To be blunt, the Kaede portrayed in the anime is a solid yandere, so I was kind of disappointed that she was only mildly yandere in the game, lol.

Anyway, now to the obvious differences between the two versions of Shuffle... Well, the biggest one is the doubling of the number of heroines.  Kareha, her sister Tsubomi, Mayumi, Sakura, the teacher Nadeshiko, and the new divine race girl, Daisy are the new heroines.  In realistic terms, they actually consist four separate arcs... Tsubomi, Kareha, and Nadeshiko are connected loosely, with the remaining three routes standing on their own with extensive amounts of new text.  This is in addition, to adding a second ending onto Shia's path and extensively re-writing it in the particulars.  All in all, the length of the game is more than doubled, since the three heroine arcs are very long.

Anyway, the new routes show off something that was only touched on lightly in the anime and the original version of the game... Agobarrier's obsession with harems.  Basically, the result of each of the paths is that the 'main wife' of the harem gets picked, and the girls basically make the decision to create a harem without seriously consulting Rin, since he isn't good at refusing them in the first place.  If you hate harem situations, this game is pure poison, but if you like your harems, this is good stuff.

Now, to the difference between the English and Japanese versions... it does make a difference, obviously.  Actually, there is a glaring difference in style between the new routes and the ones made for the original game.  While the original routes were decent and tear-jerking, it seems like the popularity of Shuffle in Japan essentially gave Agobarrier license to do what he wanted with the new routes.  More detail is given (including in the original heroine routes) and more loose ends are closed up.  Each of the routes has a number of non-ero CGs unthinkable in a modern charage, and they are all of about as good of quality as could be produced ten years ago, lol. 

Overall, the end result of this is a vastly-improved game with a much more solid cast of characters.  The holdovers from the original version (abandoned stylistic issues like random cameo scenes) are sometimes jarring because of the remade aspects, but the game doesn't suffer too much from that.  Daisy's route, which comes across as a 'true' route (since all the might-have-been-fatal heroine issues are resolved) seems to have been specifically designed to satisfy fans of the original who didn't like the feeling that you were 'abandoning' certain of the heroines (such as Primula or Shia) to their fates by picking another.  Agobarrier loved his happy harems, lol.  May he rest in peace.

Clephas

First, I should define what I consider to be 'old' VNs.  I essentially define 'old' VNs by the 'ten year rule'.  When ten years have passed, generally the cultural references, the artwork, and even the sound styles have changed enough to be almost completely distinct from the most modern VNs.  At present, that means VNs made before 2007.

Now, next I need to make a statement... I am not an art bigot.  One of the most negative issues I've run across in dealing with newer VN readers is art bigotry.  To be blunt, there are lots of people who won't read anything made before 2010 simply because the art style is so different.  To those people I say... 'every era has its own taste'.  While VN art has indeed gotten more refined in the ten years, to the point where it has gotten to where you hardly even notice the characters are drawn in the first place, I can straight-out say that quality art is quality art, regardless of the era.

Now for sound... setting aside music, which really hasn't been refined at all in the last ten years (if anything, it has regressed, especially usage), voice-acting and sound effects have actually evolved a great deal in the last ten years... at least to the point that you are less likely run across the 'comical' sound effects common in a large portion of VNs ten years ago.  Voice acting has mostly evolved in the sense that people that once would have become pros don't make it anymore, so the industry has become higher cost (for the developers) and higher quality (for the consumers).  In that sense, I can understand some degree of prejudice.

However, when it comes down to it... I'm a story addict.  Yes, I became an otaku because of the way the Japanese treated animation art.  However, it is the stories that have kept me going.  Now, in my less than copious spare time, I've been re-reading some old VNs... and I've noticed a few things I probably would have missed a few years ago.

1.  Slice-of-life was less oppressive ten years ago-  I don't think I would have realized this if I hadn't taken this little trip to the past, but the excessively long slice-of-life scenes that define modern charage have been getting longer and longer per scene with every year.  Part of this is probably because of the nostalgia quotient rising for the long-time otakus in comparison with how it was previously.  However, it is a poisonous trend that is actually making the experience less pleasant and more tedious as time passes, unfortunately.

2.  A well-drawn line can be as pretty as any hyper-quality modern artwork if done right- This is something I always asserted in private conversations, but I wasn't sure if it was pure nostalgia until I went back and actually re-experienced a few old VNs.  Yes, the styles were somewhat cruder back then... but the aesthetics were, if anything, more distinct and beautiful in and of themselves.

3.  Ero was weaker... except when it wasn't - To be blunt, the emphasis placed on erotic content and the effort put into it was far lower in non-nukige VNs ten years ago.  Less interest went into making heroines more erotic and more was put into making situations erotic, probably to let the libido-poisoned brains of the average male actually look at the characters before they saw them naked, rather than focusing on projection oppai.  That isn't to say the erotic situations weren't erotic... but there was a far stronger emotional element involved because of the way they handled the character designs outside of h-scenes.

4.  A good story might age badly, but the ones that don't, don't- Some VNs lose all their attraction as they age and more modern VNs exceed them in every possible way.  However, there are still gems out there that are as awesome now as they were the day they were made.  Rejecting VNs simply because they are old is a short-sighted approach that makes me feel nothing but contempt, after my experiences of the last few months. 

Clephas

Anniversary 2017

Well, the fourth anniversary of my VN of the Month series of posts is coming in another week or so... and to be honest, I'm a bit amazed at how long I've kept this going.  Four years of playing most of the non-nukige VNs that came out each month, writing something on them, then picking one to be VN of the Month (or not, if none met my standards)... to be honest, my opinion hasn't changed much since the last time this time of year came around.  VN of the Month is one of the single most grueling tasks I've ever set myself outside of work, and I can honestly say that there are a lot of times when I just want to put it all aside. 

However, I inevitably find myself coming back and playing more VNs.  If I take a week off from VNs, I inevitably tear back into my addiction with insane glee, and it usually at least takes three or four bad VNs before I finally run down and need a recharge. 

I thought about making a poll asking if I should stop, like I did the other years... but the results - and the suggestions - are always the same, so I'm really more interested in what people have to say about this whole thing.

Clephas

For those wondering why I haven't posted recently (two weeks without a blog post is about the longest I've ever gone since the Fuwa blogs opened, save for the Fuwapocalypse periods), I've simply been too busy with work and playing Mask of Truth to bother.  This review was written up by Dergonu before then, and I only just got around to editing it. 

Bishoujo Mangekyou -Tsumi to Batsu no Shoujo- was my first Mangekyou game, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect of it. The limit of my knowledge of the series was that it has nice art and animated scenes. In short, I went in blind.

As I started reading, my first impression was that the game didn't feel like a nukige at all. The introduction felt like one you'd see in a story driven game. The writing, music and backgrounds set up a pretty heavy atmosphere, and the first real H-scene doesn't happen until quite some time into the story. Although H is definitely a central part of the game, I'd honestly say this reads a lot more like a "story driven game" than a nukige.  In addition, the game touches on a lot of things that doesn't exactly get your mojo going, like death, incest, rape and mental illness. Needless to say, the game was a lot darker than I had imagined. 

The story is centered around the twins Yuuma and Yuuri. The main character, Yuuma, harbors some pretty complicated feelings towards his sister. He has spent the last year in a hospital, for reasons yet unknown to the reader, and during his stay, his feelings for his sister only grew stronger.  Clephas: Spoilers contained in the box below.  Since I generally don't post anything that can't be guessed or read from the Getchu or official page of a VN here in terms of actual details, I'm taking the liberty of sticking this section into a spoiler box.  These are minor spoilers, so don't feel like you absolutely have to avoid reading them.  I'm just doing this for the peace of mind of the more obsessive members.  

Spoiler

Yuuma is detested by his own father, and the twins lost their mother several years ago in a fire. In short, Yuuma has it pretty tough.  After Yuuma is released from the hospital and he comes home to live with his father and sister, Yuuri suggests that Yuuma start going to school again. One thing leads to another, and Yuuma ends up enrolling at Yuuri's all-girl's school, cross-dressing as Yuuri's "little twin-sister."

The writing in this game was surprisingly good. It even felt poetic at times, and the true ending really had me thinking for a good while. As you might be able to guess by the title, (tsumi to batsu = crime and punishment,) the story delves a lot into morality. It's the type of story that gets you thinking about right and wrong, and how every person has a dark side hidden within them.  I'll leave it at that to avoid spoilers, but, in conclusion, there is a lot more to this game than what meets the eye.  So, I almost feel bad calling it a nukige.   I'd say this is definitely worth a read. (It made me very interested in the prequels. I'll go ahead and read those sometime soon. Hopefully they are as good as this game was.)

Clephas Note: The Bishoujo Mangekyou series is only technically a nukige series, since it has too much h-content to deny it, but each game has a solidly-written and interesting story. 

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