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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

Ojousama wa Sunao ni Narenai

This is yet another VN from Ensemble, the company specializing in trap protagonist infiltrations and ojousama-ge.  For the first time in a while, the protagonist in this one is actually not a trap and the game actually has something approaching a good story... which was nice.  However, if you ask if it met my expectations for it, that's another story entirely.

First, this VN starts with the protagonist, a part-time bodyguard from a family of such individuals, transferring into a school to secretly serve as additional security for Kuon, the daughter of the head of the powerful Hikami family.  There he meets his osananajimi, Natsuki, who is Kuon's open bodyguard, Kuon's friend Erika, and the wise and somewhat playful senpai Miku.  In addition, his brocon little sister Rikka transfers later on, unable to stand the idea of him being surrounded by other women, lol. 

Anyway, the first thing I should say about the protagonist is that he is very close to the 'classic' protagonist type that plagues charages in most ways... he is sincere, kind-hearted, dense, and indiscriminately compassionate.  However, he is also a trained bodyguard, with all the observational and martial arts skills that go along with that.  Unfortunately, there are rarely few times in the VN where he actually acts as a bodyguard, because most of the VN is slice-of-life focused on reviving the Shuvesta tradition at the school, with him and Kuon at the center of it all, as the first Shuvesta pair. 

Kuon... isn't exactly what you'd expect from an ojousama heroine.  She's bright, enthusiastic, and 'sparkly' (her personality is extremely... bubbly).  She is also highly intelligent, but she has a tendency to jump to conclusions that can drag those around her in her wake at times.  I liked her as a character, and she is one of those rare heroines who actually makes ichaicha romance fun, if only for a brief time.

Erika is your average serious and straight-laced school president heroine, with the usual tendency to be a devoted and adoring lover that comes along with that type.  To be straight, I thought that they could have done more to show off that side of her, since the best part of heroines like her is seeing the mask fall off completely as the story goes on.  This is a rare case where I think they moved from lovers to the endgame a bit too quickly.

Miku is... a compassionate, playful, and mischievous older 'oneesan' type.  Her type is less and less common in recent years, primarily because over 90% of VN heroines are of the same or lower age than the protagonist in non-nukige VNs (in nukige, really older women are making a comeback, for some reason).  As a character, she was invaluable in and of herself, providing a powerful support in the other paths.  In her own path... she's very aggressive.  Very AGGRESSIVE (it needed to be said twice). 

Natsuki is the protagonist's osananajimi and Kuon's personal bodyguard.  She and the protagonist are reunited after ten years apart in this VN, and she is quite obviously dragging her puppy love for him behind her like a lead weight, though she covers it up with occasional tsundere-isms and excuses, lol.  Her path was primarily interesting because it was the first one I played that actually dug into the protagonist's origins (I won't spoil it for you).  I can't really say I'm fond of her type of heroine (I have negative feelings about half-assed usage of childhood friends/osananajimi settings), but I did enjoy her path...

Rikka is the protagonist's younger sister by adoption (he was adopted after his parents' death).  She is a genius, to put it bluntly.  So much so that she has actually already completed her education and is working as a full-fledged bodyguard, while the protagonist is still moonlighting as a student bodyguard.  She adores her oniisan in a way that is rather obviously more 'a girl in love' than an imouto's affection for her oniichan (as portrayed in VNs, as opposed to rl, lol).  Though she manages to cover it up with her acting skills, she is actually very slow to trust and has difficulty getting really close to non-family members.  Her path was probably the most predictable of them all...

The biggest negative point of this VN, besides the fact that it doesn't provide enough action to take advantage of the bodyguard setting, is the lack of comprehensive endings and/or after stories.  To be blunt, the 'drama' at the end of each path feels too obviously like it was made up specifically to wrap the routes up and provide an excuse for a fandisc.  Worse, the 'after-stories' that come after each path are basically just h-scenes... usually based less than a week after the route ends (c'mon, Ensemble... I want to see what happens ten years down the road, not what happens after school the same day!). 

Overall, this turned out to be a standard charage for the most part, if one with a bit more solid of a story than you see in most.  While it is amongst the better games made by Ensemble in recent years, it is pure crap when compared to Koi no Canvas or Gokigen Naname.  I can't help but wonder if this company will ever figure out that it contracted with the wrong writers when it was deciding who would be in the main staff roll...

Clephas

Clephas's comment

I dropped this VN because I couldn't take the sugary texture of the thing... Sweetness and cute without depth turns me off every time.  This game looked to me like your standard yurufuwa food-business moege, and Kiririri's comments haven't really changed my viewpoint, lol.

Kiririri's review (edited by Clephas)

So, I originally played this game because Kasu was the artist for 2 of the heroines and I love her artwork. And well uh, it didn't start well. I started with Fuuka's route, and it ended up being one of the most boring routes I have ever played. Her route was just like her character, very plain. I started regretting I picked up the game, but now I'm glad that I actually finished it, anyway. The other 3 routes were actually enjoyable.

 

Anyways the game is about baking and nothing else. The game is full of sweets and cakes. I'm no expert so I had no idea what those French terms meant, but, luckily, the game has a dictionary that explains most of the stuff to the reader. The game is set in a school that has special courses for students: confectionery course, band course, and something I forgot (Clephas: Numerous courses, including art and technical ones and a multicultural division). So our protagonist starts his harem life in the confectionery course! (very moege)

 

Like said before, apart from Fuuka route, the heroine routes were nice in my opinion. I really liked the lazy Miel, cheerful Nonoka, and serious Yuzuki. Compared to them Fuuka felt just too plain and "empty"... Might be just me, but I don't know. All of their routes were kind of similar though. Just ichaicha, making sweets and cakes, and researching about them. The game had absolutely no drama whatsoever. All the routes had a beautiful ending too, getting married, accomplishing dreams together, stuff like that... except for Yuzuki.  I don't know what they were thinking when they decided to make her ending so different. Well, her ending was not bad in and of itself, and it felt necessary, in the end. It fit her route, but, compared to the other ends, it was "small".  I will say, yet again, that it was necessary for the game as a whole.

 

Anyway, Anata ni Koi Suru Ren'ai Recette is a standard moege. Nothing more, nothing less. It is probably a little better than the average. If you like sweets and cakes and want to know some of the theory behind them check it out. It doesn't go into the making too much... but it still does a lot more than games that also have focus on a special thing like confectionery. Usually themes like that are a side issue, but here it was the focus of the game.

 

VN of the Month, May 2017

There really wasn't much to pick up on this month... Chrono Box gets honorable mention for making Dergonu ooh and aah, but it is somewhat outside of what I'm willing to put up for the actual winner.  In the end, I picked Ojou-sama no Hanbun wa Ren'ai de Dekiteimasu! as VN of the Month, May 2017. 

Clephas

Kouyoku no Soleil was the first Soleil game I ever played... and from a purely action perspective, it was fun... but it lacked something from my perspective because so much of the game is steeped in pre-existing knowledge from the other games (literally, this game pulls stuff in from Shirogane, Gouen, Soukyuu, and even Primary). 

Basically, this story starts with the Norns fighting one another over what to do about the original Norse Mythology world, which hasn't moved on from the moment the fate they predicted came to a close.  Touya, the protagonist of the story, meets the Norn of the Past, Urd and ends up getting dragged into her affairs as she tries to find the Valkyrie who was supposed to spark the new world into existence.  In the process, he bonds with the clutzy newbie valkyrie Rinasoel, ends up partnering with the magical girl (from Primary's world) Palfina, is repeatedly plagued by attempted sexual assaults by the firebird youkai from the Ayakashi realm named Yatohime, and ends up in a rather odd friendship with the girl beloved of the Lovecraftian Old Ones, Celaeno.  

This really... varied cast comes together because the world he lives in, the 'central' world, is a nexus of dozens of worlds, which in turn have connections to yet other worlds (though distant), thus leading to a rather chaotic situation.  Making it worse is the giant immaterial sword plunged into the central world, which stands silently in the background for much of the story.

To be straight about it, Touya is, like most of the protagonists in this series, a serious philanderer.  He falls in love and has sex with all the heroines I mentioned above, and he is rather passionate...  unfortunately, he is also rather incapable of the fidelity some of the more jealous ones (such as Rina and Palfina) desire.  Touya is devoted to protecting Kukuri, the hikikomori girl who is also his landlord and his boss for his part-time job at the convenience story.  His soft side is most often shown with her, in an almost fatherly manner.  He is strong and violent but highly protective of those he cares about and pretty compassionate, though he does have an immense potential for destruction.  His right arm can transform into a beast-like claw, which he can channel power through to sever anything, whether material or immaterial.

This VN is a kinetic novel  - save that it has bad endings - for the most part, with only one storyline, and that is probably its biggest saving grace, because it didn't share out the story between a bunch of routes that probably would have not been nearly as satisfying as it was.  Upon my second playthrough, I honestly felt that the game deserved a higher rating, since I now possessed the background knowledge necessary to enjoy it fully, lol.

Clephas

Primary was one of my earliest fantasy charage... and in many ways it shaped what I was willing to forgive in the genre, rather than how I looked at the genre as a whole.

Primary has a lot of good points... the heroines are interesting, the protagonist's motivations are compelling, and the actual central issues of the overarching story are potentially fascinating.  However... it makes the mistake many charage of the type do, of failing to utilize the setting to its fullest extent in most of the paths.  Part of this is because Hinana's path is the one where everything is supposed to come together to reveal all the 'truths', and I'm willing to forgive a lot in a story where the protagonist isn't just an average dude. 

Unfortunately, the biggest low point of this game is that the protagonist, Rikuo, is not really that smart.  He is a skilled mage-knight, and - with work - he manages to keep good grades.  However, he is dense about women, more than a little ignorant about issues outside of magic and fighting, and he has a tendency to sort of fall into his relationships with the heroines in their paths (usually because the heroine loses patience with him). 

This game contains a few nostalgic archetypes... such as the mild yandere (Lime) and the standard-issue tsundere who is constantly angry (Prim).  Not to mention the brocon imouto (Hinana) and the fuwafuwa ojousama (Maria).  Their characters, in retrospect, are far more predictable to me than they were at the time I first played this.

While this game could have done with a more focused story, for a fantasy charage it is actually in the upper ranks... it just doesn't satisfy the way something more story-focused would have.

Clephas

Soukyuu no Soleil stands out a bit amongst the others in the series so far, in that it is based in a world far more obviously in trouble than either of the first two games or the later games.  The main problem in the world of Soukyuu no Soleil is that all use of magic drains life from the planet itself (as opposed to the user's lifespan in Shirogane).  In that world, most of the nations of the world got fixated on using magic to defeat one another... and as a result, much of the world was destroyed, leaving only a small number of people plagued by Berserks (in this case, normal people whose souls were forcibly encased in a metal body while still alive) that wander the planet.  In addition, the White Planet, one of two worlds loosely connected to this world, is a world of high magic that basically funnels off the magic energy as it gets used, preventing it from cycling through the planet.

The protagonist of the story, Sora, is a young man of immense skill lightning magic (given the code name Thor).  Aside from his interactions with those close to him, he tends to seem cold and pragmatic, but he is essentially your straight-forward hot-blooded hero under all that...  Though, because of his unique upbringing, he is even a worse philanderer than Ryuuhei from Shirogane (though in his case, he doesn't have any moral compunctions about constructing a harem for himself). 

I'll be straight with you... this story wasn't as compelling as Shirogane or Gouen.  Part of that is that the true antagonists are so faceless throughout the story, and part of it is Skyfish falling into its usual bad habit of being deliberately obscure at all the wrong points.  While there is some value in seeing all four heroine endings, I can honestly say that there isn't a lot of difference between them, besides how much gets revealed.  I'd say the most complete endings are Odette's and Shinku's, despite Figua being named as one of the main heroines... but I did love Figua (it is kind of hard to resist an adorable, lonely imouto-type character).  Odette is a bit too cheery and optimistic for my tastes, and Shinku is only attractive on the rare occasions when she lets out her brocon beast.  Yuno... is a bit too manly at all the wrong times, lol.

While magic having a price is normal for the series, I actually liked the one-time 'charge' of the protagonist's life-force in Gouen better than the cost in this one... mostly because it got a bit exhausting after a while how they constantly went back to 'Oh, in order to survive we are killing the planet!!!'.  After a while it got more exasperating.  Even the cost in Shirogane (a constant drain on the contracted partner's destined lifespan) is less persistently emphasized than in this one... 

It is interesting how differently some elements, such as the Berserks, manifest in each world...  In Shirogane, they manifested as souls of ancient einherjar, driven mad by being bound into a body of steel.  In Gouen they manifested only occasionally, as just one more tool in the bad guys' case.  Finally, in this one, they were mass-produced as weapons of war, to the point where they pretty much wiped out human civilization.

I do think they could have done this entire game differently... preferably eliminating the gameplay and lowering the amount of H-scenes (Odette alone has nine... five of them right there in the first quarter of the game). 

Clephas

(For those interested in the gameplay, I used a clear save I downloaded from the beginning to skip the battles, so you'll need to ask someone else)

Gouen no Soleil is the second entry in the Soleil series and the first one where Lovecraftian elements are included.  For those wondering about cameos and characters from other games, the protagonist of this story, Nagare, was classmates with the protagonist of Shirogane, and in some of the endings, you get to see the world and some of the characters of Harukazedori ni, Tomarigi o. 

The game starts with the protagonist encountering a girl that looks like the little sister he sees in his dreams, accompanied by a Deep One (yes, those Deep Ones) in a trenchcoat and hat.  Upon encountering him, his 'sister' gives him a gleeful smile and he loses consciousness, waking up in a ruined building that seems to have once been his school, trapped in the body of his little sister.

What follows is a bit messy, but he ends up contracted to the weaponized spirit, Rin, who was made from a Black Kirin (a spirit whose role is to speak of the end of the world) and forced to join the Seireichou, an organization dedicated to protecting the foreign world he finds himself in from foreign threats.  While he does this in order to find a way to retrieve his body, he ends up seriously helping them out, despite the cold cruelty of the leader (a loli named Mugen) and the general harshness of the world he finds himself in.

This VN is a bit heavy on the gender-bending, so for those who don't like that kind of thing, you might want to avoid it.  There are good reasons why the protagonist's sexuality is so... fluid, but they are mostly used to amuse the reader, lol.

Like Shirogane, this game has a relatively high ratio of serious story to slice-of-life in comparison to most VNs, with slice-of-life being almost entirely relegated to basic character development.  Unlike Shirogane's protagonist, Nagare isn't a natural philanderer... but he has his own issues, since his soul is gradually adjusting itself to his new body.

Anyway, the story itself is typical Soleil... extremely hard on the characters, full of destruction and apocalyptic drama, and deliberately obscure at many points.  Anyone familiar with the typical Japanese take on the Cthulhu Mythos will figure out who is behind the villains of the story pretty quick.  However, it is nonetheless a nice, dark little story with innumerable bad endings and two separate paths to the various heroine endings (Ouka's arc contains all the heroines except Rin and Ruru). 

Don't expect deep characterization... this company generally doesn't waste that kind of effort outside the main heroines of its games (Rin and Ouka in this case) and the protagonists.  As such, the endings other than that of the two main heroines are perhaps not as powerful... but I liked some of them, at least... especially the threesome ending with the two Valkyries. 

Clephas

Shirogane no Soleil is the very first Soleil game, and it begins with Ryuuhei - the protagonist - encountering Soul Valkyrie in the ruins of the Ship of Time in Iceland (fictional).  There, he contracts with her in order to save his sister and her fellow archaeologists.  However, as a result, she constantly drains his lifespan (literally the time he has to live) away in order to use magic, fight, and even just to exist on the mortal plane of existence.   Unfortunately, at the same time he discovers that she is really immature as a Valkyrie... when she is barely able to fend off a mere Berserk (a fallen Einherjar from the world of Asgard, which perished long ago), showing off her immaturity and ineptness.

In addition, within Soul exists Hagalle, an older-seeming Valkyrie who is rather obsessed with Ryuuhei and pretty aggressive... which makes for some interesting clashes with his childhood friend and fiance Miori (who is your typical drill-hair tsundere ojousama with a side of impulsive violent behavior).  Ryuuhei is... a natural philanderer.  I really can't defend him there.  He is the type who gets into relationships with women without really thinking about it and doesn't really think there is anything wrong with it... but hates the resulting jealousy and catfighting that results like the plague.  He also lies like a rug and makes excuses when lies don't work to distract the girls from his faults.

That said, he is also brave, insanely protective of those he loves (though he can perhaps be said to love too many women romantically, hahaha), and is a disciplined warrior with a good sense of situational awareness. 

This series, typical of the Soleil series as a whole, is twisty, full of character corruption, fallen deities, hope followed by despair followed by hope, and plot twists that make even experienced chuuni-lovers blink in surprise at times.  It also is deeply steeped in Nordic mythology, though with its own fantasy twists. 

The character relationships are surprisingly deep, considering the kind of situation the characters are in, and there is essentially only two endings, one of which is shorter and somewhat truncated/incomplete (Soul's), and one that is immensely satisfying for those who fell in love with the characters and setting (Hagalle's).  Really, there are no separate heroine endings, but the walkthrough calls them the Soul and Hagalle endings. 

Did I enjoy this game?  Yes, I did so immensely.  It also helped me make sense of a lot of the background in Shin Shirogane no Soleil, and I'll probably end up re-rating that one after I replay it as a result.  For those who like the darker side of chuuni, this is a good game to look into, and it is also attractive for people who like Norse Mythology based stories. 

Clephas

The Soleil series by Skyfish is one of the weirder VN series out there... all the games are connected, but the connection is so twisty and strange that if you make the mistake of starting from a later game, it becomes incomprehensible.  Part of this is that all the protagonists in the series are fundamentally ignorant of the nature of the worlds they are living in, and another part of it is that the nature of incarnation and reincarnation in the series deliberately unpredictable.

Basically, the worlds in the Soleil series are 'branches' from the world where the Norse apocalypse, Ragnarok, occurred... These can be considered parallel branches, except that it is possible - though difficult - to move between them.  They range from worlds like that in Primary Magical Trouble (another VN in the same universe) where magic is a part of daily life, to the worlds in the first and second Soleil games, where the world is the same as our own, save for the presence of the Valkyries and Berserks (fallen Einherjar).  There is even a world where the Lovecraftian gods play games as their whims take them (seen in Kouyoku no Soleil). 

The primary characters of the 'main' storyline are the descendants - both by blood and by soul - of Siegfried, the legendary hero of Norse legend who was Brunhilde's husband and slew the dragon Fafnir.  Unfortunately, this generally dooms those descendants to horribly tragic fates.   The two Shirogane no Soleil games are direct relations, with Shin Shirogane being essentially the culmination of many worlds where Ryuuhei from the first Shirogane's fate played out in varying ways. 

Other games in the series explore various other worlds and possibilities, with the characters generally suffering from terrible curses, agonizing lifestyles, and various other types of misfortune.  This is not surprising, considering that a lot of the ideas behind the games are based directly off of concepts from Norse mythology and/or the Cthulhu Mythos.  For that same reason, there is a lot of 'corruption of characters' in these games, as well as numerous bad endings.  After all, Loki was a trickster and a master schemer, and the deities of Lovecraft's universe aren't exactly... friendly.

Many of the characters in these games - especially Hagalle from the Shirogane series - are 'multi-layered', in the sense that they are connected in an integral way (though they are rarely conscious of it) to their alternate selves.  As a result, if you start halfway through the series, the games are insanely confusing.  In addition, there are some characters who are reincarnated in multiple universes but are not precisely alternate versions...  in particular, the characters of the original Shirogane game are incarnated as twisted fragments melded together in surprising ways in Shin Shirogane.  A lot of the issues that confused me when I played Shin Shirogane have become clear as I progressed through the original, lol.

Overall, the biggest problem with the series is that none of them are really complete without knowledge of the others, except possibly the side-game Primary Magical Trouble.  This leads to all of them being confusing if you don't have the knowledge the writers built into each story...

 

Clephas

I am bored, so I figured I would note the non-nukige VNs scheduled to come out on PC at the end of the month, for those who are interested.

Ojou-sama wa Sunao ni Narenai - This game looks to be the first serious title by Ensemble in some time (since Gokigen Naname), just going by the descriptions of the situation and the protagonist.  While the setup is definitely a twist on the Shugotate theme (sans cross-dressing), it is nonetheless one of the two games I'm seriously looking forward to from June's releases.

Ren'ai Kyoushitsu - Just looking at this one, it screams 'standard-issue charage, in pretty pink, as usual!' to me.  I read up on it, but the descriptions and the fact that the writer isn't named tell me that this is just yet another newborn company trying to bite into what is left of the decaying mainstream charage market.  Unless this game massively exceeds my expectations, I can't see it going anywhere.

Tantei Seven - For some weird reason, the people who brought us the Illusion-game knnock-off Musumaker are now bringing us a mystery game... and not only that, they seem to have decided adding in downloadable episodes later on (for a price) is a good idea in a game that is focused on story... typical Illusion-imitator.  In other words, I'm not willing to buy this one, since I don't like this kind of company.  However, if you play it feel free to tell me what it was like, lol.

Akane Iro no Kyoukaisen - This is the second game I'm looking forward to from June's releases.  Just from what I've read up on it, I feel excited, since there hasn't been a youkai-VN in a while.  My addiction is rising...

Pure Song Garden! - I used to love Pulltop, but the company seems to have abandoned what made them one of the sharper weapons in Will's armory.  Honestly, for a company that was previously so great at balancing moe, charage elements, and story, it is immensely disappointing that they would do something as puerile as an idol game... two times in a row.  I was hoping their next release would be something heart-warming like Natsuiro Recipe, but I guess I should have known this company's executives are shooting something nasty into their veins before board meetings.

Clephas

I'm going to be blunt... the story of Amayui can be summed up in one word... unimpressive.  The same could be said for Kamidori and Himegari, but whenever Eushully goes off on one of their item-creation rampages, the game's story inevitably takes a back seat. 

Now, that's not to say that this story doesn't have good points.  Toward the end it actually starts to resemble an IM world game... the problem is that it doesn't feel like an IM world game until near the end.  For better or worse, the protagonist and the main heroine are both inveterate optimists (though Avaro is not supposed to be one, he certainly acts the part through most of the game).  For another part, the cast in general is just... small in stature compared to the best of Eushully's lineup.  For a goddess, Fia is just a bit too airheaded.  Avaro can't seem to decide whether he wants to be a moody craftsman, a half-assed priest, or an idealistic kid.  Mikeiu (the white-haired catgirl) is a mage that wields snowmen as familiars.  Ioru is a greatsword-wielding assassin catgirl whose favorite hobbies are cooking and pleasing Mikeiu.  Rish is a scheming local ruler who intends to bring Avaro to her side with her body.  Kisnir is a samurai with no sense of modesty (she and Deet are really the only members of the cast that I liked).  Rosaline is a depressed immortal ghost-wielding oppai-loli with horrible luck.  Katorite is a weak-hearted loli dragon who cringes at loud noises.  Finally, Mikshana is an angel whose stiff manner is due to what amounts to a lack of social experience. 

Compared to the grandness of the characters of the IM series, the Genrin series, Madou Koukaku, or even Soukoku no Arterial, this game's characters were just too quirky and light-hearted to fit into the pretty grim setting that first came into being with the first Ikusa Megami game.

That said, near the end the story actually starts to get exciting... briefly.  I spent so much time trying to get rare materials near the end that I ended up feeling like the story was a mere one-tenth of the game... and a fragmented one, at that.  Not only that, but this game committed several of the largest grind-causing sins an srpg hybrid can commit... indiviidual experience, enemy level scaling, and a failure to scale experience gained from defeating enemies to their levels.  I'm sorry, but when a character defeats an enemy ten levels their superior (near the end, several of my characters had fallen that far behind) I expect enough experience to go up a level or two, at the least. 

As such, evening out the levels of my party toward the end took over ten hours, aside from the six hours to get them all fitted out with the best equipment I could make (primarily due to the lack of availability for most of the major materials near the end).

So... this game is fine if you just want to make items from a list and fight repetitive, grindy battles against uninspiring enemies.  However, it isn't that attractive for someone who wants a good story.

Clephas

Chrono Box

Review by Dergonu, edited by Clephas

 

I just finished this game a few hours ago, and I’m honestly not sure what I should write about it. It left me with so many different impressions and emotions, I’m kinda overwhelmed. One thing is for certain though, this game was absolutely amazing. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and, dammit, it scared the crap out of me a few times.

Chrono Box is a mystery from start to finish.  As a result, one of the things that makes the writing and the story so good is the element of surprise. In other words, twists you don’t see coming. There are tons of these, and they are done very well. The writers really did a fantastic job in my opinion. I was constantly trying to piece together the puzzle in my head.  However, they just kept on taking me by surprise, making me more and more confused. (In a good way. Confused as in, the kind of confusion you want from a good mystery.) 

You are fed information on a regular basis, but it is never enough to come to a complete conclusion. Honestly, comparing it to some of the other mystery stories I have read, this was by far one of the better ones. I often manage to somewhat guess most of what is going on by the halfway mark in these types of stories, but here I was at a loss until the very end. 

To be honest, because of the fact that this is a mystery, where spoilers really can ruin the experience, I don’t want to get into any details about the plot. In fact, I recommend that you do not look into the plot at all, as stupid as that sounds. 

My recommendation is this: if you have some interest in reading the game, just do it. Don’t read any summaries or reviews, don’t look at any CGs. Just read it blindly. Well, use a guide if you want. The guide luckily won’t spoil anything at all, as all the choices are map movement choices, meaning you won’t have to worry about «spoilery choices» whatsoever. 

I will say one thing though. The game has a lot of H. I know some people aren’t really big fans of H-scenes, and ends up skipping them. DO NOT DO THAT IN THIS GAME. Don’t skip any scenes. Read everything, even if it bores you. Trust me, you want to read absolutely everything in this VN. Every little detail matters. 

 

Anyways, Chrono Box is definitely a must read for horror/ mystery fans in my opinion. It's one of those stories I wish I could forget, just so that I could experience it all for the first time again. 

Clephas

... Laplacian isn't a company I had any hopes for, after how much of a kusoge their first game, Kimi to Yumemishi was.  However, Newton to Ringo no Ki is a pleasant surprise, with a lot of nostalgia for people, like me, who were born in the mid to early eighties.

Why?  Because this is, in some ways, a tribute to the Back to the Future movies I watched as a kid.  While the time travel style is switched from a car to a telescope and there are a few minor differences (no vanishing protagonists), the idea is the same.  Time paradoxes exist, you can change the past, and you can never tell what will screw up the future.

This game has a true ending.  That probably won't surprise anyone, seeing how the game is all about Sir Isaac Newton, who is actually a pen-name for a twin-tailed loli named Alice.  Basically, the protagonist and his childhood friend, Yotsuko, accidentally go back to the past and screw up the moment when Newton normally would have gained inspiration for the final part of his theory of gravity.  The rest of the game is about fixing the damage they did to humanity's future by trying to arrange for Newton's work to be published regardless.

To be straight about it, all the other endings besides Newton's lead to failures for science, though the protagonist himself is happy in them.   I honestly enjoyed most of the game... but, similar to the previous game, it is poorly paced at times.  Also, Yuuji is not exactly an interesting perspective... he is the dumbest guy in the room throughout the game (which isn't hard, since everyone there is a scientist), which is depressing in and of itself at times.  These two elements definitely dragged the game down from where it might have been... and the true ending sort of put the final nail in the coffin, taking the game below the acceptable levels for a VN of the Month candidate. 

I did think Lavi's side-stories were hilarious though.

Clephas

This is a theme that actually doesn't come up very often in my reviews/commentaries on VNs these days, primarily because most VNs use what settings - whether those of the characters or of the game itself - to at least an adequate degree.  There are actually very few VNs that include setting elements that are interesting but never end up used... because it irritates the hell out of people who actually pay attention.

The most recent example, which made me go off on a foul-mouthed tirade in private and a bash-post in my blog, is Hanidebi.  Just as an example is Aoi, one of the heroines.  Aoi is from a family that is extremely old (think the tenth century) and powerful/wealthy.  Even today, such families tend to exert a ridiculous degree of influence/control over their kids, especially their daughters.  In VNs, this tends to be even more extreme... so why is it that the only element of such a family that is used in the game is her moral upbringing, rather than her ties to her family or other issues that might have come up as a result of the type of family she was raised in?  Most VNs, even if they don't make it central to the story, at least would deal with the family issues (getting them out of the way) during the course of the game.  Moreover, she also has a yandere yuri kouhai who was supposed to be an ongoing source of humor for her path... but who mysteriously faded into the background early on in her path. 

That is failing to utilize the setting.

The same goes for Eufonie's other work, Koiken Otome, where they dramatically speak about the monsters who threatened the world and the purpose for the powers the characters possess... and then keep the game a fantasy version of a slice-of-life charage from beginning to end.  OK, it is perfectly fine to use such a setting in a fantasy charage... but when you introduce something like that, it is only natural to use it at some point in the story...

This is a relatively rare issue... but when it does come up, it is rarely as bad as the two games above.  Most of the time, it is simply 'not going far enough'.  However, every once in a while, I come across games like these, that fail utterly to use the elements they presented.  I felt worse than the first time I ran across an NTR nukige by accident.

Clephas

I thought so after playing Koiken Otome... but this company is absolutely incapable of properly utilizing their settings. 

Good music, mostly good characters (the protagonist sucks), decent art... but so empty of content it isn't even funny.  The sex obsession from beginning to end is carried out poorly, the actual paths have too much ichaicha, and the potentially humorous elements fall short of where they would have gone in any other game. 

In other words, this is yet another kusoge from Eufonie. 

A lot of the problem is that the game is so sexually-obsessed it might as well be a nukige, while still making pathetic attempts (truly pathetic attempts) at telling a story.  This is a classic example of a game where all the elements of a potentially high-quality game existed but didn't come together in a cohesive whole.  I was more than a little horrified at how incompetent the efforts of this company were in this area. 

This is a game of lost opportunities, and I honestly wish I hadn't paid for it.

Edit: Oh and the protagonist is a total hetare in the slice-of-life scenes, which makes him horribly unsuited to the situation they set up in the story.

Edit2: This game is horrible mostly due to the degree of frustration it creates in me.  Given the same setup of characters and plot elements, any half-decent VN writer should have been able to write a far more interesting story than this.  Heck, even if they did it as a simple charage, it should have been better than this.  If this were a true nukige, it would be par for the course... but there isn't enough H for that, comparatively speaking.  Heck, they even failed to utilize most of the girls' personal settings to their fullest potential, which is just pathetic.

Clephas

Ojomasu.png

Now, this was a game I didn't really have high hopes for, but I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  While this falls short of kamige level (primarily due to the disproportionately short epilogues), it is definitely an interesting take on the trap protagonist ojousama-ge. 

Generally speaking, trap protagonists and ojousama-ge go together like hot fruit pie and ice cream.  While the formula (begun with the original Shugotate by AXL) hasn't changed significantly since it came into existence, it has a lot of minor variants.  However, in this case they took a rather unusual path with the character settings... for one thing, the protagonist is not the timid type in any way, shape or form.  For better or worse, most of the trap protagonists in these games are somewhat timid but talented and deeply kind-hearted or are actually almost afraid of women (for hilarity's sake).  The protagonist in this game, Hajime, is an agent for an organization that primarily involves itself with money and politics, for no apparent goal beyond gathering power to itself.  Is it an evil organization?  The question is hard to answer based on what comes up in the game, but I sort of lean toward yes, considering what gets revealed in Arisa's path. 

Hajime is cool-headed, ambitious, and pragmatic on most issues.  He does have a tendency to help people where he can, but he doesn't go out of his way to help people that aren't actually in front of him.  He is also capable of being coldly manipulative when responding to the orders of the organization.  He also has none of the usual hesitations or inhibitions this type of protagonist tends to have about sex (he rather casually mentions he enjoys it but is quite capable of going without... and proves it).  This makes for some... interesting situations.  This definitely isn't a pure love game, but it isn't a nukige by any stretch of the imagination either.   The common route is seriously long...

While there are numerous characters in this game, there are only three heroines.  They are: Arisa (the granddaughter of his organization's leader), Benio (a young girl from an influential kenjutsu/kendo dojo), and Peko (the princess of a fictional East European country).   The other girls are basically Hajime's targets... he needs to gain influence over them for the sake of his mission, but they aren't love interests in the context of the game.  In fact, he rather coldly manipulates some of them, albeit not in a way that harms them (he actually helps them, in his own way). 

Arisa is... one strange girl.  In some ways, she is reminiscent of Kamio Ami from Semiramis no Tenbin.  However, she is far more open about her nature (she is a mischief-maker who just enjoys making situations more chaotic for her own amusement), and she isn't a near-sociopath.  She simply displays her affections in ways that are extremely troubling to anyone and everyone involved... or even merely in the vicinity.  She is also extremely lazy about anything she doesn't have an interest in.

Benio is Arisa's opposite.  She is simple, straightforward, and rather obvious about everything.  She is a lover of the way of the sword and has no real hesitation about living to become the next head of her rather large clan's dojo.  That said, she is rather blind to anything that isn't on the surface, and she frequently gets into fights with Arisa, who seems to take an endless pleasure in setting her off.

Peko is perhaps the most easy to understand heroine in the group.  She is very kind-hearted and sensitive, with a strong sense of compassion and dignity fitting for postmodern royalty.  That said, she also has a surprisingly strong will hidden under that soft surface, and it comes out in full in her path.

Overall, I found this game to be an immensely pleasurable experience, and while I could have used more action scenes and perhaps more cold-blooded manipulation on the part of Arisa and the protagonist... this still turned out to be a game worth remembering.  I'm glad that this month already has at least one solid VN of the Month candidate, hahaha...

Clephas

Avaro.png

I'm going to be straight about this game... if you liked Kamidori, you'll probably like this game, gameplay wise.  It uses a nearly-identical battle and skill system, and it is all about gathering ingredients.  For those unfamiliar with the battle system, you essentially summon your characters into a dungeon, which you explore and gather ingredients from while fighting off monsters.  Your characters each fight one-on-one for the most part, in a battle system highly reminiscent of Fire Emblem games.  The difference is that the exploration phase usually doesn't end after you kill all the monsters... for that, you have to use the green button in the upper right corner (present in most non-story maps) or wait until the turns run out.  In each map, there are gathering points.  Mineral gathering points (represented by boulders) can only be found and used by those with the 'mining' skill or tanryoshi skill equipped.  Herbal gathering points can be found and used by anyone, on the other hand.  Each map has certain materials that can be gathered there, and what you gather from those points is entirely randomly handed to you after you leave the map (perhaps the most annoying aspect of the system).  Each map also has conditions under which you can win prizes called missions... usually involving getting to all the gathering points in a single playthrough of the map and controlling 100% of the map's territory or similar objectives. 

Movement requires FP, which is used at a rate of 1 per space and regenerates at a rate of 1 per turn if you moved that turn (2 if you didn't).  There are a number of ways to improve on this, ranging from skills and accessories to buildings and usable items.  However, this is the basic element of dungeon movement.

Actual battles occur when you or your enemies initiate combat.  If your speed levels are relatively even, you both get two attacks, if they are uneven, the faster one gets three, the slower two.  There are four ways to define an attack other than elemental affiliation... physical or magical and ranged or melee.  Only ranged attacks can retaliate against ranged attacks and only melee attacks can retaliate against melee attacks.  Physical attack damage is based on a combination of elemental affinities and your phys attack stat versus their phys defense stat... you get the picture.  It is a simple system to understand, easy to use, and it would be as annoying as hell if there was a bigger penalty for characters being defeated.

That said, it is functional, so I don't have any huge complaints about the battle system or the in-dungeon gameplay besides the randomness of materials-gathering and drops, though I do get tired of going back to maps for particular materials that turned out to be vital in large numbers later on.

Perhaps the most irritatingly relevant and at the same time annoyingly useless aspect of the game is the town-building aspect.  If this were a grand strategy game, where building your capital actually had some kind of interesting meaning to it, I'd probably be more forgiving, but the system is annoyingly opaque, despite the values presented on the information screens.  Some materials can only be gathered at higher gathering levels (mineral and plant kept separate), so you have to use facilities to get those levels up, and many buildings provide stat boosts when placed properly...  However, since you essentially can get away with placing stuff as you become able to make it and have it work fine with only minor alterations, this feels like a forced, almost useless side-issue in the game.

I'm getting pretty late into the game, and it is becoming more and more obvious that the usefulness of land-based units is dropping dramatically with each area (more and more have obstacles that can only be cleared with certain movement types or flight).  While super-fast ones like the beloved nekololi assassin Ioru are fast enough to make up for the limitations of a land-bound form, with the others I'm starting to feel I might have to resort to using the single - I repeat, SINGLE - accessory slot for one that grants flight (no jrpg of any sort should ever have less than two accessory slots).  This is actually a flaw that existed in Kami no Rhapsody as well, since characters that couldn't ignore obstacles inevitably ended up getting eaten alive late in the game... or rendered irrelevant because they couldn't navigate the map well. 

Look forward to my story assessment later.

Clephas

First, I should note that this is the first half of the game and as such, it might be wise to wait until the second half comes out in September before trying it.  Second, this game is based some time (around sixteen to nineteen years) after the original Utawarerumono in the much larger nation of Yamato, on the continent across the sea.  For those who don't want spoilers about the original game, STOP HERE.

Second, I will note the differences between the anime and the game.  There are numerous small and large differences in the progression of the story, but the biggest differences pop up in the Uzurusha campaign and later, when almost none of the events with Vurai in that campaign exist in the game.  This leads to the biggest difference between the two... in the anime, Haku goes from looking like a guy who is lazy but reliable in a pinch to a naive idiot due to the events in Uzurusha, but in the game, that doesn't happen, so Haku, from beginning to end, is reliable and actually has an iron will under the surface.  As such, the part of the anime that was most displeasing to me didn't exist in the game, lol.

Now, for the most direct spoiler of the original: 

Spoiler

Kuon is Yuzuha and Hakuoro's daughter. 

That spoiler is the most obvious thing in the world to anyone who played the original, and it is the primary reason why anyone who hasn't played the original should before playing these games... though there are other reasons involved. 

In terms of gameplay, this game is light years ahead of the original, because, while individuals gain experience through attacking, a certain amount of experience (large enough to gain at least a level) is automatically gained at the end of the battle.  This eases the burden of grinding to its lowest possible level while still giving you reason to (for BP to upgrade basic stats like speed, attack, and defense for characters who lack in those areas).  As such, it doesn't feel like the game interrupts the story at all, as there is no real need to do excessive grinding during the course of the game.

In terms of story... this game is pretty good, even as jrpg/VN hybrids go.  While I can't say I was satisfied with how things turned out, that is because this game is split into two parts.  As such, I can just shrug and say that I can't fully judge the story until I've played the second part.  I will say that I was smiling through most of the game, and the emotional moments hit me properly, making me shed tears for the characters.  Perhaps the biggest difference between this and the original game is that this one has a far less grim atmosphere from the beginning.  Hakuoro, in the original, is caught up in the tides of war and strife from the beginning, and as a result, everything he does is colored by that.  Haku is a far more easygoing soul, and that colors the game significantly, taking it in a different direction... at least for this installment. 

Clephas

The Nier/Drakengard series is one of the single weirdest series out there.  It's games range from DW-style man vs armies  with dragon flight simulation elements to heavy action-rpgs like the Nier games.  The Nier series originates with one of Drakengard's endings, where the protagonist and his dragon get thrown into another dimension and end up getting impaled on the Tokyo Tower after having it out with the JSDF.  This leads to the events of Nier, a thousand years later. 

The original Nier's story is incredibly grim, in keeping with the almost Lovecraftian nature of the universe built up since Drakengard (if you want more details, I'd suggest playing Drakengard 3, reading the novellas, then reading a summary of the events in Drakengard, since that game has aged so horribly as to be almost unplayable).  Hope turns to despair, the player's actions lead to mass extinctions, and simple motivations create terrible consequences.

Automata doesn't differ significantly from the original Nier in that sense.  Don't expect a happy ending to the saga told across three separate paths in Nier Automata (first the perspective of 2B, then 9S, then a unified plotline that has you switching back and forth between two characters until the true end).  This game is based yet another thousand years in the future from the original Nier, and, if you go looking for them, it is quite possible to find remnants of the past, though fragmentary.

The story starts with 2B, a battle android from an organization called YoRHa, coming to the surface from a space station in order to begin operations against the machine lifeforms that infest the ground and sea.  No humans remain on the surface, and android resistance fighters desperately try to keep the machines' numbers down, though these efforts are of questionable effect considering the speed with which the machines multiply. 

2B is a quiet female type, who is very focused on her mission and inevitably terse with the more cheerful 9S.  As a fighter, she is a close-up physical combat specialist, and the pod floating around her head provides her only means of fighting at range until you get shockwave chips.  She lacks the inquisitiveness of 9S, as she is a battle-oriented model, and for those hoping for a lively relationship between the two, only disappointment awaits. 

9S is a scanner model, designed for recon behind enemy lines and hacking rather than raw combat power.  It is a great deal harder to fight using him, in my experience, as you end up relying on hacking to defeat most enemies on normal and above.  If you suck at evading attacks, you'll die quick in this game, either way.

Automata has an open world, with all areas being accessible without loading screens, though certain ones can only be accessed after the story progresses.  Battles are frenetic and fast-paced, inevitably requiring that you master the timing of evasion and attacks with various enemies, lest you die with unseemly quickness (with some bosses, I say with guilt that I chose to go to easy difficulty, lol). 

Typical of a game by this team, the music is superb... no game in this series has lacked for a good soundtrack, and this game is no exception.  That said, it does fall slightly short of the original Nier's godly soundtrack, despite making a good effort.

Visually, this game takes decent advantage of the capabilities of a modern console, and I didn't see any of the bugs I'm accustomed to running into in western rpgs (clipping, sudden freezes, falling through the ground, etc). 

This game has a nice jumping mechanic, allowing you to jump twice, use the pod to throw yourself forward, use the evade button to thrust yourself forward, and attack with your weapons to inch yourself forward... making it possible to get across some surprisingly big gaps without too much trouble, though the timing of these jump techniques can be tricky for the action-game incompetent (of which I count myself a member).  I did, at times, long for a character who could jump tall buildings in a single bound, but I found more than enough amusement in hacking giant robots and using them to lay to waste their own allies before using their self-destruct buttons, lol.

If there is one thing this game needed that it didn't provide, it was a more varied series of enemies.  For robots that supposedly self-evolve, there are relatively few differing shapes of enemy in the general sense. 

Story-wise... like most of the series, there is a deliberate sense of 'fill it out yourself by interacting with the world'.  If you ignore the side-quests, it is difficult to get emotionally involved in the conflict, and the revelations on the way will inevitably lack impact.  I cried at several points of the game, almost despite myself... and that was with the initial protagonist being the opposite of talkative most of the time.  The game isn't terribly long... I managed to finish it in about eighteen hours (endings A, B, and C) if you ignore the time I spent sitting there, thinking about what I wanted to do next. 

The chip system, which is essentially your non-weapon equipment system, is fairly deep... but I'll be honest when I say I ignored most of the complex crap.  I stuck with self-heal, attack buffs, shockwaves, movement speed enhancers, and a few other basic chips throughout the entire game.  The only real customization I did was chip fusion to make higher level chips with lower slot costs.  At hard and above, I suppose using everything the system offers is absolutely necessary, but I didn't find it so on normal.

In the end, this game is awesome for fans of the series, but I can honestly say I wouldn't have picked it up if I hadn't been following the series since the original Drakengard.  A lot of the attraction for me was the sense of continuity and the knowledge that easter eggs from the original Nier were lying around to be found in-game.  Don't expect a happy ending to this story... or even a satisfying one.  Too many people have died, too much has been destroyed for there to be any sense of personal salvation brought out from the darkness enveloping the world in this game.  That said, that is typical of the series, since most of the endings for the games have been psychotic, bad, evil, terrible, etc.   I mean, the giant flying carnivorous babies in one of the endings of Drakengard are one of my most memorable moments in my gaming life.

Clephas

Bradyon Veda is one of the hardest to read VNs out there... right up there with Kajiri Kamui Kagura, if for different reasons.  One reason is the frequent usage of internal jargon, obscure (to an outsider) physics terms, and other setting issues.  The other reason is that the writer is, similarly to Masada, in love with spellchants and rarely-used kanji.  That said, Bradyon Veda is science fiction and science-fantasy, not fantasy. 

One of the biggest distinctions between this game and fantasy ones like Dies Irae is that, while some of the feats performed by the Scribes seem magical in nature, they don't have any of the vagueness you tend to see with fantasy (it's maaaagic).  For instance, Naoto, the protagonist, has two favorite techniques... one that involves making metal that he can reform at will, the other where he manifests explosive weapons of various types (such as an anti-tank projectile or a shrapnel bomb).  While the method he uses is extraordinary, what he creates is in some ways mundane.  This game doesn't leave much explained... but as a result, you usually end up either with a headache or information overload, lol.

Now, to explain the most basic elements of the setting (because the deliberate under-explaining of the writer makes the game even harder to grasp in your first path than it needs to be).  First, the Divine Particles... Shinsei Souryuushi are a type of particle that causes alterations to all other known particles it comes into contact with and isn't effected by the passage of time.  Those fighting in this game are utilizing ASCs, devices that allow humans to expend enormous amounts of raw energy to manipulate these particles in order to further manipulate the physical realm.  Those who use an ASC to fight are called Scribes.

There are two types of Scribe... a 'Normal' Scribe and an 'Another' Scribe.  Normal scribes are humans altered cybernetically or genetically to allow them to utilize an ASC effectively, turning their body into a natural conductor for Divine Particles.  This allows them to create limited effects (such as manifesting nanofibers, sound waves, plasma, etc) utilizing their brains in combination with the calculation units in the ASCs.  Another Scribes are another issue entirely.  While they seem human in appearance, Another Scribes are actually Quantum Brains implanted in a humanoid body at the cellular level.  As such, their entire body can function as a 'brain', allowing them to calculate on a level so much greater than a Normal Scribe that they are not even worth comparing.  No, this isn't a spoiler.  Naoto, the protagonist, is internally frank about what he is, but it is fairly late by the time someone explains any of this, except by implication...  Quantum Brains are the final evolutionary step of a race they refer to as the Originals, humans from another parallel universe who discovered Divine Particles at a relatively early stage and discovered how to encode personality and intelligence into Divine Particles in order to allow a human-like consciousness to travel between parallel universes (referred to as time-space fields in the game).  These Quantum Brains, when they manifest on a planet, are generally implanted into an artificial body reconstructed to imitate the genetic pattern of the originals upon arrival in a particular parallel universe, because without a humanoid body, they can't physically interact with the universe around them.

The setting for the two heroine paths (Shion and Kaede) is a Japan about one thousand years in the future, in a parallel world where everyone pretty much had no hesitation about using nukes in war, lol.  Japan, having gone insanely nationalist once again, tried to conquer Asia (again) and was defeated by an alliance of white people (again).  However, the resulting warfare was a thousand times worse, nukes reducing much of the Asian continent to a wasteland.  The game begins with Naoto and the other nine members of the Nephilim unit deserting the alliance army after one-sidedly slaughtering (really massacring) the Japanese armies in Mukden (modern Shenyang), resulting in Japan's surrender and occupation.

The reason why it is easy to be confused is that technology hasn't really proceeded much past what is possible today until relatively recently in that world's history.  The over-use of nukes and a constant cycle of endless wars kept technology and society from proceeding beyond a certain point.  The biggest differences that can be seen in the Japan of a thousand years in the future are the fact that a female Empress is accepted by Japan and nationalism wasn't abandoned after the war's loss... 

 

Naoto.png

Naoto

Fujishiro Naoto is the protagonist of the story, a former member of the Nephilim who is seeking to exterminate his fellow Another Scribes in the belief their kind can only bring harm to the world around them.  He isn't kind-hearted by nature, but he is, in comparison to his fellow Anothers, far more empathetic toward humanity (since the others barring Shion see humans as insects or pebbles in the road).  Naoto is the only all-rounder amongst the Scribes in the game, in the sense that he can step into just about any area of expertise to an extent but can't really be said to be the master of any.  His advantage is his adaptability, more than anything.  He uses hand symbols (Naruto fans rejoice) and Buddhist sutras as codes for his techniques.   He has an inordinate fondness for sweet cocktails and old music, which is laughably absurd considering his youth and lack of a trenchcoat and hat, lol.

 

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Kaede

Kaede is the first heroine... a Normal Scribe who once worked for the Japanese military but now serves as an intelligence agent/investigator for the puppet government.  She is a very straightforward character, still bound by military mores and habits even years after the war has ended and all she knew collapsed.  She falls in love with Naoto almost immediately, mostly because he is just her type, lol.  She is the daughter of a family that once served the Japanese Imperial Family directly, until they were disgraced as a result of betraying the other families to the Japanese government of the time.  As a result, she is even now driven by a need to prove her loyalty to the current Empress (a pre-pubescent girl wise beyond her age called Yomiko) through her actions in service of the Japanese people.

 

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Shion

Shion is a former member of the Nephilim and currently the head of the Japanese police's Scribe unit.  Unlike Naoto, her technique tends to rely on a combination of stealth and misdirection (she can make herself truly undetectable, for one thing), though she also has some pretty bad-ass combat techniques, such as dissolving her body and reconstituting it inside an enemy's body, tearing it apart from the inside (pretty guro, lol).  She has a harsh, unforgiving personality, and she doesn't really know how to display affection properly.  Naoto is pretty much the only person she ever trusted.  Like all Another Scribes, she has a cold, rational way of looking at any situation that disregards facades others try to put up without any need for thought.  As a result, she frequently comes out seeming excessively rude, but she actually has no particular malicious intent. 

 

The story of this game is... complex.  Kaede's, Shion's, and the True path are all pretty complex with the heroine routes possessing enough content to make a VN in and of themselves.  Is it a fun ride?  Yes.  However, this game goes from obfuscation to infodumping at odd times, and I honestly think that the writer's decision to make up such an extensive amount of internal jargon was a mistake.  That said, the fights are awesome, the story for each individual path is well-written, the characters' motives are understandable and internally consistent... and it is all bound together by a writer with a strong grasp of how to switch prose styles between scene types in order to enhance the experience. 

This game also has some seriously emotional moments.. I'll be blunt, don't look for a good ending in this game.  Naoto's lot in life (no matter where and when he is) sucks dog tail, and the same can be said for the other Anothers as well (Viva in particular can't seem to get a break).  There are some seriously bad-ass fight scenes, especially toward the end of each path... and the game as a whole leaves you feeling exhausting and satisfied... if you can keep it all straight in your head in the first place.

Clephas

Like Akagoei, I've previously posted on Semiramis no Tenbin, so I'm going to limit my comments to some generalities and character descriptions.  This game, for the most part, focuses on the manipulative efforts of one Kamio Ami, the game's main heroine, seen from the point of view of Hayami Reiji.  The game starts out with Reiji being tricked into having sex with Ami, who then proceeds to blackmail him into giving her a place to stay.  He then ends up being at her side as she manipulates the hell out of his classmates, friends, and acquaintances.  

Themes

There are a lot of themes in this game, ranging from rather frank descriptions of the nature of the Japanese justice system (namely the poor enforcement when it comes to rape and domestic violence cases) and the negative aspects of Japan's collectivist society to the fragility of democracy as a system.  A lot of this is done through conversations between Ami, the protagonist, and the rival heroine Eru over various issues (usually problems Ami deliberately brought to the surface for inscrutable reasons of her own).

Hayami Reiji

The protagonist of the story.  At first glance, he seems like your classic 'kind-hearted normal guy' protagonist, but he has a much larger capacity for accepting morally questionable activities on the part of those close to him, and he grows a rather nice sense of suspicion by the end (mostly through association with Ami).  Depending on his choices, events in the story can take dramatically different courses, including bad endings (Sunao's ending is the bad ending if you choose to go totally amoral with your choices).  Reiji himself is not so much a moral beast as the type of guy who cares about those who are close to him first and everyone else a distant ninth.

Kamio Ami

'Manipulative bitch' was the description another guy who played this game had of her, and I really can't see grounds to deny that particular curse.  Kamio Ami is a beautiful young woman with a coldly pragmatic outlook on life, capable of using all the weapons at her disposal for the sake of her own survival and happiness.  That said, she does have a limited (and twisted) sense of honor, and she rarely acts out of malice.  Unfortunately, she is a natural troublemaker who manipulates others as easily as breathing.  Most of this game has her manipulating people into situations through devilish machinations that leave no traces for those not in the know to follow.  She rarely shows true vulnerability, and even in her own path, you can't be sure of where her heart lies.  It says a lot about Reiji that he is able to accept her so completely in her path, lol.

Eru

Eru is, in many ways, Ami's opposite.  She is a believer in the rational and 'correct' approach to problems, tending to see matters in terms of correct and incorrect.  Like Ami, she was raised in an environment that warped her personality and that made 'common sense' somewhat alien to her outlook.  However, she chose a different path, becoming an excessively morally upright person, and it is usually her preference to profess belief in man's better nature.  It is fairly ironic that her path has the most horrifying things happening to third parties in the story, lol.

Sunao

A sub-heroine whose path becomes available if you choose nothing but 'red' choices.  Sunao is the leader of the girls in Reiji's class, providing entertaining topics and conversation to the other girls.  While she is a bit eccentric, she makes an effort not to show this on the surface, picking topics of conversation that suit her audience, rather than her own tastes.  Her ending is a  bad/normal ending, and as a result, it is less than satisfying.  Not only that, but the way she gets together with Reiji is deliberately made to feel unnatural, as part of the story.

Fumika

One of the protagonist's kouhai.  She has a speech impediment, apparently caused by some sort of issues with her parents, which makes her vocalizations fragmentary and difficult to hear, demanding a degree of patience and understanding from the listener.  However, once you get past that, she actually has a rather devilish sense of humor and is really friendly to those she feels she can trust.  She is also something of a genius with compute hardware and software.  

Touko

The protagonist's childhood friend and the daughter of a professional writer.  Her favorite activity on the face of the Earth is sleeping, and she can usually be found with her head on her hands on her desk during class.  She seems slow to many, but she is actually quite intelligent.  Her slow manner comes from her preference for pressure-free situations and a dislike of rushing into things.   Because of her retiring nature, she is somewhat vulnerable to more aggressive people.

Edit

A few things I wanted to add... like many of 2014's releases, this is a pretty high-quality game.  I can honestly say that this was one of the VNs with the highest impact from that year, though Nanairo Reincarnation ended up winning the VN of the Year contest that year.  Something that I failed to remark upon in my previous posts on this game was the extremely high quality of the music in the game... in particular the emotional music (sad scenes, dark scenes, etc).  The inclusion of three voiced BGMs for emotionally powerful scenes in three separate heroine paths was a particularly interesting move on Caramel Box's part, and it is one that comes across pretty nicely.

To be honest, I can start myself crying just remembering certain of Fumika's lines from late in her path... her speech impediment makes her few longer lines all the more powerful, since she so obviously has to put an immense effort into speaking every word. 

Clephas

Since I've posted previously on Akatsuki no Goei as a trilogy, I thought I would instead make a description of the setting and a list of characters and their roles in the story, with a personal assessment attached.   I'm pretty sure I missed at least one of the Route C heroines, but there are so many of them... 

Setting

The setting of the Akagoei series (several generations before the events in the Reminiscence series, incidentally) is in a fictional version of Japan.  In this version of Japan, the difference in wealth between those at the top and those at the bottom has reached such a level that the lowest of the low have been essentially exiled for over a generation into abandoned parts of the great cities called Forbidden Zones.  How it reached that point is rarely touched on in the story, but one of the primary reasons given is excessive interference of corporate/moneyed interests in government and social education, resulting in a society that rejects failures and the children of failures absolutely.  Children born in the Forbidden Zones don't have family registries, so they can't get jobs or rent apartments, much less climb the social ladder.  It is a society where it is easy to fall down the social pyramid but nearly impossible to rise, and the wealthy are raised to consider the poor to be garbage and those born in the Forbidden Zones as not being human (the latter also applies to the rest of society).  Obviously, this is a society on the verge of collapse, but like many nations that experienced a long age of prosperity, most people don't realize it. 

The degree to which wealthy people in this world retain their wealth is fairly ridiculous.  Wealthy families tend to remain wealthy, and as a result, wealthy families have become a new aristocracy, with all the privileges such a class can receive (ranging from virtual immunity to prosecution to being able to break anyone below them on a whim). 

The school Kaito attends is one for rich girls and young men training to be bodyguards.  Bodyguard students who make it through the first year of training are assigned to a rich girl as a bodyguard. 

In some ways, Akagoei can be considered an example of what a society that goes too far in holding onto a capitalism as an ideal might end up as.  It is undeniably a dystopia, but the number of people who actually realize it is a dystopia is extremely low due to those most harmed by its social policies being marginalized and forced to flee into the Forbidden Zones in the generations immediately before Kaito's own. 

Asagiri Kaito (Protagonist)

Kaito is probably the single strongest non-fantasy, non-sci-fi protagonist in all of the VN world.  I say 'strong' in both the physical and psychological sense of the word.  This is the kind of guy who can take apart an anti-terrorist squad with his bare hands.  He is also capable of surviving torture with no real psychological after-effects, primarily because none of it is worse than what he experienced as a child.  When we think of protagonists with horrid pasts, I think most VN-addicts who have played the Grisaia series will mention Yuuji... but Kaito's past is far more horrific, without any of the saving graces that transformed Yuuji into the character he was in the Grisaia series.  Physical abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse (from both sexes), he's been through them all.  What resulted is a young man who has absolutely no interest in how people see him and no hesitation about acting on a whim.  Don't expect empathy from Kaito, because in his worldview, the world is made up of the strong and the weak and he is one of the strong.  That said, he has a tendency to show a deep love for those few people he cares about, even to the point of ignoring his own physical well-being. The problem with that is that it is really, really hard to get that close to him in the first place, lol.  That said, to call him amoral is a bit off the mark.  While his basic moral compass was formed around paranoiac levels of suspicion of others and a belief in the value of strength above all other things, he is actually quite reminiscent of Shin Koihime Musou's Sun Ce at times, possessing a wide capability for accepting others - flaws and all - that you don't see in people bound by conventional morality.  This atmosphere of generalized acceptance is what seems to attract so many of the characters in the Akagoei games to him, one way or the other.

Some extra comments on the differences between Kaito in the original and Kaito in Akagoei 3: Kinugasa, the writer of the Akagoei series, is well known for disliking giving his readers a sense of certainty about endings and characters.  As a result, there are some slight differences in Kaito's attitude in the first and third games.  This seems to be deliberate, as he used Anzu's path in 2 to create the base for understanding how Kaito acts in 3... particularly in Route C.

Nikaidou Reika (Heroine/1/2/3)

Though the Akagoei series doesn't have a true heroine, it does have a main heroine... and it is this girl.  This red-headed, twin-tailed tsundere is the central heroine of the series.  She has a full route in all three games (something no other heroine can brag of), and she is the center of Kaito's interest during much of the three games.  She is extremely misanthropic (her active distaste for the presence of other people is real, not faked), considering only a very select group of people worthy of being at her side (her sister Aya, the maid Tsuki, and - sometimes - Kaito).  She is also highly intelligent and generally capable... for a teenage rich girl.  That said, she is no super-woman, and she isn't trained in martial arts, so your first meeting with her involves Kaito saving her from kidnappers, resulting in her choosing him as her bodyguard (threatening him with a stun-gun all the time).  Since her father despises Kaito from the beginning (with reason, though that isn't explained until the end of her path in the first one), her romance is opposed extremely by him.

Nikaidou Aya (Heroine/1/2)

One of the heroines of Akagoei 1 with an after-story in 2.  She is Reika's twin sister and the Principal (the person being guarded) of Miyakawa Takanori, one of Kaito's fellow bodyguard students.  She isn't as openly strong-willed as her sister, primarily because she isn't accustomed to getting her way through raw force of will.  However, she does have an iron core, albeit one wrapped in silk.  Her role in the first game is as a 'jewel', the type of heroine the dark-natured Kaito sees as 'bright' and beautiful from the beginning.  However, in comparison to the other paths in the original Akagoei, hers is somewhat weak.  This is perhaps because she fell in love with Kaito at first sight (a cliche that tends to weaken any decent story).  She is also a heavy gamer, though she believes she is hiding this from everyone else.  She is also surprisingly sharp-tongued when she feels safe to be so. 

Kurayashiki Tae (Heroine 1/2)

Tae is the first Akagoei's resident airhead.  She is the daughter of Kurayashiki Akiko, a genius scientist who specializes in AI, cybenetics, and robotics.  While she seems bright and cheerful on the surface, she actually is very lonely, not having any friends other than the android Yuuki.  She is the type of person who only has two settings when it comes to relationships with others... 0% or 100%.  As a result, you are either her friend/lover or you are a complete stranger.  While she apparently has some degree of hidden talent inherited from her mother, her inherent dislike of studying in particular and thinking in general means that she can barely write her own name, lol.  Her path in the original is fairly straightforward, due to a lack of familial opposition... but it is questionable whether Kaito considers her to be much more than an adorable but stupid pet.

Tsuki (Heroine/1/2)

One of the main heroines of the original Akagoei.  She is the head maid of the Nikaidou Family, despite being the same age as Reika and Aya (there is a good reason for this).  In the story, she frequently serves as an advisor to Reika, while fighting playfully with Kaito.  Her loyalty lies entirely - and obsessively - with Reika and her family, with reasons that make perfect sense, though you won't find out about them except in her path.  She is perhaps the frailest of the heroines, psychologically, with a seriously traumatic past that vies, in its own way, with Kaito's own, though it still loses out in the end.  She is also the only one of the five main heroines of the original Akagoei not to be an ojousama.  She is pretty much the only character that can keep up with Kaito's verbal antics.

Kanzaki Moe (Heroine/1/2)

Moe is the granddaughter of a powerful political and economic figure, Kanzaki Dengorou and a student of Kanzaki-style Kobujutsu.  While she is intelligent, she is fundamentally innocent, politically naive, and more than a little detached from reality.  Kaoru, Kaito's former roommate, is her bodyguard.  Moe loves food and has an endless appetite, and she can be incredibly stubborn at times.  Her heroine path is a split-off from the path in 1 that leads into Akagoei 3. 

Kaoru (???/1/3)

It is hard to explain Kaoru without spoiling Kaoru's secret, so I'm going to avoid any details.  Kaoru was Kaito's roommate and fast friend during their first year at the school for bodyguards, and, after that first year, Kaoru became Moe's bodyguard.  Kaoru's personality seems harsh on the surface, since Kaoru is always yelling at Kaito for various reasons.  However, Kaoru is actually very kind-hearted and close friends with Kaito, despite his rude and crude nature.  Kaoru's path leads directly into the events in Akagoei 3.

Anzu (Heroine/2/3)

Anzu is the closest thing to family Kaito has... the only person living who knows most of his past.  She also loves him with a single-minded devotion that is touching, despite him rejecting her repeatedly.  Her path in the second game is the story of Kaito's past in detail, from his early childhood to the moment he met Satake.  While she has a temper, she is fundamentally incapable of actually hating Kaito or remaining angry with him.  

Kiyomi (Heroine 3)

Kiyomi is one of the Route B heroines from Akagoei 3.  She is Takanori's older sister and a high-ranking detective assigned to deal with a certain case related to the Forbidden Zone.  She, like her younger brother, is a class bigot, with a sense of her own social superiority and a belief in correctness of the 'chosen DNA' philosophy their increasingly oligarchic society is based on.   That said, underneath all that, she is something close to fair-minded despite her prejudices.  She is also a decent cook and a good person at heart.  However, those prejudices are so strong that they blind her.  This is actually a disease inherent in most people in the setting, a sort of enhanced version of the way Japanese regard social outcasts now.

Miyagawa Takanori (Minor Antagonist/Rival/Friend)

Takanori is Kiyomi's elitist younger brother and one of Kaito's fellow bodyguard students.  He is very straight-laced and shares his sister's bigoted attitude toward the lower classes and belief in the system that he lives within.  He is one-sidedly in love with Reika, but he frantically makes excuses whenever Kaito points this out.  He dislikes Kaito intensely, feeling antagonized by Kaito even when he isn't.  He is one of Kaito's favorite targets for practical jokes, precisely because of his attitude and straight-laced nature.  He grows somewhat during the series, though he never does overcome his prejudices to any significant degree.

Satake (Teacher/Ally/???)

The principal of the school and the individual who dragged Kaito into entering the bodyguard training program.  He is a balding man in black sunglasses who was apparently Kaito's father's friend at one point.  His motives are opaque and he has a strong relationship with Reika's father.

Hiiragi Akemi (Heroine 3/Teacher/enemy?)

Akemi is Kaito's homeroom teacher and one of a number of teachers tasked with overseeing the bodyguard candidates.  Kaito dislikes her on first sight, due to, in his words, the murderous intent she constantly directs at him.  She is constantly smiling and apparently cheerful, never showing her true face to anyone at the school.  She is one of the Route B heroines in Akagoei 3.  While she can't be considered a good person, she isn't really an evil person either.  Her feelings toward Kaito are personal and have good reason behind them, though you won't find out why until the third game.

Haku (Heroine 3/watcher/???)

A mysterious woman who has a disease that keeps her permanently in child form.  While she looks like an eleven or twelve year old girl, she hasn't changed significantly in appearance since his early childhood, and from her own statements, she doesn't have long to live.  Her first appearance is in Akagoei 2, during Anzu's path's retelling of Kaito's past.  Her only interest in life is watching over Kaito.  She is one of the Route C (Forbidden Zone) heroines.

Shouko (Heroine 3/Blind)

Ryou's younger sister.  She is blind and apparently frail, with a fragile manner and a tendency to constantly flinch from the words and touch of others.  She is one of the heroines in Route C of Akagoei 3.

Ryou (Antagonist/Old Friend/Bodyguard)

A professional bodyguard that appears on the scene near the beginning of Akagoei 3 to fill in for Kaito.  He is something of a ladies' man, with no real inhibitions or hesitation about doing what he wants.  He is a bit obsessed with Reika and believes the whole world is destined to fall at his feet.  Definitely a narcissist. 

Makoto (side-character/bodyguard student/kouhai)

A first-year bodyguard student from a commoner family.  He has a poor attitude in general, and he frequently lashes out at others without cause.  His role in the story is minor, with him only taking central stage briefly in Akemi's and Sayo's routes.

Sayo (sub-heroine, ntr target)

Sayo is Makoto's osananajimi and is half in love with him.  Her path occurs as part of Path B and getting involved with her essentially means stealing her from Makoto, briefly.  While her path doesn't add much to the game, her presence does help build the setting, since she is pretty much the only 'pure commoner' girl in the story.

Kokudou Kyouka (sub-heroine/2)

A sub-heroine only available during the fandisc, Akagoei 2.  She is an arrogant young woman who shares Kaito's love of reading.  She has two bodyguards, Anzu and Raita.  She is generally foul-mouthed with them and more than a little testy. 

Raita (bodyguard student/friend?)

A bodyguard student from the same year as Kaito, he is Kyouka's bodyguard.  He is an otaku and morbidly obese.  However, he is also the third-ranking student from his year in the bodyguard course.  That said, he is perverted, foul-mouthed, and lazy.  Not only that, but he is more than a little misogynistic... basically the stereotypical scum-otaku (the type that faps to figurines and puts down real women at every turn).  He also stinks... a lot.

Kaede (swordswoman/loli/heroine route C 3)

Kaede is one of several heroines only available in route C of Akagoei 3.  She is a loli, as well as being a master swordswoman (she makes Kaoru look like a wimp).  She is reticent, preferring to talk with her sword, only saying precisely what is necessary to carry out her work.  However, she attaches like a little silent koala to those few people she does care about.

Mai (sadistic serial killer/heroine route C 3)

A sadistic torturer and one of the heroines available in route C of Akagoei 3.  She has a very Bonnie and Clyde attitude toward life, loving nothing more than demonstrating her superiority in combat over others... usually through bloody massacres.  She is also a prolific torturer, drugging and destroying people on a whim, simply because she feels like it.  She has never had a friend in her life, and she is an almost complete sociopath.

Shion (Chinese/cold/side-heroine 3)

Shion is a half-Chinese girl and the sister of Ryuu, a professional bodyguard who becomes Kaito's friend.  She loathes Japanese people (she has good reason) and, outside of her own path, she is generally cold and distant in manner.  Even in her own path, she is extremely thorny.  The only person she cares about is her older brother Ryuu.  Her path is short and she is basically a sub-heroine.

Ryuu (Chinese/Bodyguard/Friend 3)

A professional bodyguard from China who came to Japan in search of fame and fortune.  Like his sister, Shion, he dislikes Japanese people, but he is far more practical and at ease in his own skin than Shion is.  Generally speaking, he is easygoing in manner, but he is capable of a certain degree of cold calculation.

Naoto (Bodyguard)

Naoto is one of Takanori's many siblings, a man in his late thirties who has found success as the bodyguard of a powerful politician.  Like Takanori and Kiyomi, he is very class-conscious and elitist, but he has enough experience of the world to be able to get along with people from other classes to a degree.  He is quite capable, but he is also very well-aware that a lot of his fame is due to good fortune rather than raw ability.  This self-awareness is perhaps his most attractive quality as an individual, even as his elitism is the least.

Nikaidou Genzou (Parent/Wealthy)

Reika and Aya's father.  He hates Kaito on first sight and only puts up with him because Reika is unwilling to tolerate any other bodyguard's presence.  Like many of his class in the current age, he is excessively class-conscious and elitist.  Whether he realizes it or not, he is a living representative of much of what is wrong with his society's upper levels, even as Kiyomi and Naoto are. 

 

Clephas

This review was written by Dergonu

 

Majo to Tsurugi to Sen no Tsuki

Majo to Tsurugi to Sen no Tsuki is the newest game in Kai's mahou shoujo series.
(There is no need to play the two previous games in order to follow the story in this one. I personally did not, and understood everything just fine. The game does a very good job of explaining everything that happened in previous games properly for new readers. Of course, reading a general summary of the two previous games will help a bit with comprehending certain things.)

 

The game takes place in a world where evil beings called Circulars are trying to exterminate humanity and take over the world. The Magus Order, an organization training magicians to fight these beings, stands as the last bastion between the monsters and the fall of humanity.
After the events that took place in the previous game, the Circulars were thought to be nearly defeated. However, it is clear that the war is far from over, as they begin to evolve into a new form referred to as the Evilsed.  A being calling itself Beelzebub has taken command over the Evilised, and aims to destroy humanity once and for all.
In addition, The Magus Order has now lost their most powerful fighter, Ren, as his body got infected by the Circulars, and the order was pushed into making a drastic decision. In their desperation, they created Rei, a homunculus made specifically for fighting the Evilised, harboring one part of Ren's powerful soul, while Ren himself is kept in stasis to prevent the Circulars from completely taking over his body. Rei now has to fight in order to defeat the Evilised, even though she knows this will mean she has to give up her soul again once the fight is over, leading to her vanishing forever.
 

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Despite being a nukige at its core, Majo to Tsurugi to Sen no Tsuki has so much more to offer than what one might think. I almost feel bad calling it a nukige, as it feels like something else entirely when you play the story and the good endings. I think that if you are going to play this game, you have to go into it with the mentality that this is a serious story, not "just a nukige". Your ability to take the story seriously will in the end determine how much you enjoy what the game has to offer.
You can essentially separate the game into two entities, the bad endings where the nukige element resides, and the good endings and true end, where the story and everything else lies. In fact, among the game's 59 H-scenes, I believe only about 7-8 of those actually happen as canon scenes in the good endings. The rest is all in extra content/ the bad ends. (Basically, the good ends has a fairly standard amount of H-scenes, and most of the CGs etc in these endings are story related.)

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The combat scenes in the game gets better as the game goes on. I felt like they were a bit underwhelming in the beginning, with a lot of scenes being rather similar, and a lack of CGs/ effects made them a bit boring. Things really start to pick up once you get into the story though, and towards the end they really dipped into the budget to craft tons of CGs and such that make the scenes much more impactful. I think the VN has a little bit of a slow start, which is a shame, but as long as you stick with it, there is tons of cool stuff to come throughout the game.

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The game has a whole bunch of choices, although they don't branch off into routes. Instead you are given 2 options, 1 of which leads further into the story, and 1 that will bring you to a bad ending. Avoiding the bad endings will allow you to follow the story all the way through the good ends, and finally into the true ending. (Something I personally recommend doing right away if you are going to play the game.) In order to unlock the true end however, you must complete the 2 other good endings first, as these will unlock new choices for you through the story which will allow you to make alternate decisions and move the story into another direction entirely. It is quite a cool system, actually. Also, what choices leads to bad endings will usually be quite obvious if you just take a second to think about the situation, and the possible repercussions of your actions.

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All the girls have their own chant, and their own powers. Besides being able to use magic to fly, and increase their physical capabilities, they all wield their own Artifact that gives them unique abilities. This is obviously no chuunige, so everything is rather simplistic, but I still thought it was cool seeing the different powers the characters have, and how the powers reflect their personalities and fighting styles.

I was a little bit dissapointed that only two of the characters gets a full transformation scene, though. :P Oh well.

 

Overall, Majo to Tsurugi to Sen no Tsuki is probably the best nukige I have ever played. It's rare that I can say with a straight face that I played a nukige for its story, but that is legit what happened here.

If you think the setting sounds interesting, but the fact that it is a nukige makes you a bit uncertain whether or not you should try it, I say give it a shot. You will be able to tell rather early on whether or not you will be capable of taking the story seriously.
This might not be a masterpiece, but it is a very entertaining VN that has lots of cool stuff going for it.

Clephas

Tsuisou no Augment, when I first played it, blew me away.  Part of it was because it was so surprising, part of it because it was just that good.  Thankfully, it turned out to be just as good on a second playthrough.

First, this VN doesn't fall into any of the standard genres.  Most of the game is hilarious, some of it is romantic, some of it is hot and sexual (seriously so), there is serious drama, and there is even some guro, though of limited scale.  The game begins with Hideya, the protagonist, lying in an old folks home at the age of 80, unmarried and looking back on his life, seeing it as empty and meaningless.  So, quite naturally, he takes up a nearby fruit knife and stabs himself in the throat, twisting so that the wound opens nicely, spraying his blood over his room.  To his surprise, this isn't the end... he wakes up in a park, sixty-something years before, in his young body, with a hideous creature calling itself a shinigami floating in front of him.  The shinigami explains to him that it, Augment, wants to take his soul at the peak of happiness, so having him die of suicide after an empty lifetime was inconvenient.  As a result, Augment took him back in time at the moment of death so that he could find his happiness - mainly a romantic life partner - so that Augment can use his soul after death to purify his own.

So begins Hideya's dramatic journey to gain happiness... or not.  Hideya's personality isn't exactly Japanese-standard, so things don't really go the way you would expect with the standard VN protagonist.  Hideya is a fast-talking young man who takes an unholy pleasure in derailing conversations onto random topics (which are disproportionately related to sexual fetishes), which makes most of this game hilarious to read, since Hideya absolutely cannot stop himself from derailing even the most serious of conversations.  A lot of the choices in the game are worth exploring alternatives to, if only for the few hilarious extra lines they grant you, lol.  

The three heroines of the original game are Shiho, Satsuki, and Nami.  Shiho is the protagonist's osananajimi, who began to distance herself from him sometime in middle school.  She is a kind-hearted and generous young woman who studies obsessively.  Satsuki is a girl from the next class over that Hideya meets on the street one day while she is stomping on her older brother's head.  She is the game's tsundere, often saying the opposite of what she means, and she is a brocon that happens to beat up on her brother regularly because he is rather... annoying.  Nami is the younger sister of the protagonist's class teacher.  She seems quiet and mysterious on the surface, but she is actually rather expressive... though that expressiveness tends to come out in reaction to jokes, opportunities to put down her sister, and opportunities to blackmail her sister (the teacher is a total siscon). 

In Shiho's path, you confront the reason why she put a distance between herself and Hideya, and the reason is fairly... traumatic.  It is a reason that is all-too-common but no less tragic for all that.  In this path, there are too endings.  One, the one that is available from the beginning and is the 'true' ending for Shiho, has Hideya borrow Augment's power in order to right the past wrong that so twisted Shiho's life.  The other has the protagonist accept the current Shiho for who she is, loving her including her scars.  Depending on the individual, it is questionable which one is more touching, though.

In Satsuki's path, you find yourself confronting yet another issue common to pretty and friendly girls everywhere... in this case, the endings are slightly less distinctive, because the end result differs so little, though there is a third, bad ending you can get if you pick the path to the true ending and make the wrong choice at the last. 

Nami's path is a little different, and her true path is pretty guro (if you look too close at the CGs, the average person will probably need a barf bag).  Nami is the cutest of the girls when in love with the protagonist, but that just makes the guro parts worse, lol.  Her non-true path involves evading the guro events to reach a normal happy ending, and in that sense, hers has the most disparity between the endings.

The Tsuisou no Aumgent FD (also pronounced Tsuisou no Augment) covers after stories (between the epilogue and the ending of the stories in the first one) for each of the three original heroines, as well as adding on paths for Augment, the protagonist's older sister Youko, and Nami's older sister.  The after-stories are basically a treat for readers who wanted a little extra ichaicha material from the heroine paths and more Hideya doing his level best to prevent conversations from going anywhere.  The Youko and Minami paths are both about two-thirds the length of the original heroine paths from the original game, and while they are good, I honestly preferred the original heroine paths.  Augment's path is basically a joke h-scene.

Overall, Tsuisou no Augment is one of the more memorable games I've played over the years... and one of the few games where I spent most of the game laughing my ass off but could still cry at the important parts.  This is no charage - the paths are a bit too harsh on the characters for that - so this won't attract those interested in that sort of game.  However, it does have nice romance with serious drama attached. 

Clephas

One of the things I've experienced more and more in the last decade as a part of 'the generation gap' is a difference between our interpretations of the word 'inconvenience', especially when it comes to games and devices.

Understand, when I say 'inconvenience', it generally means 'it doesn't have the functions I find useful'.  When I talk to people who were born after the year 2000, it is almost always 'too many functions I don't know how to use/are not intuitive to me'. 

Perhaps the most blatant clash of the generations, at least for PC gamers like me who play games from multiple locales, is the difference between versions of Windows.  A lot of the young people I encounter are perfectly willing to deal with annoying adverts and intrusive programs in exchange for the convenience of Windows 8 and 10 (and I will admit that, from the perspective of someone who likes to keep their brain as unwrinkled as possible, they can be considered more convenient *smiles dryly*).  In my case, those adverts and intrusive programs eat at my RAM, my bandwidth, and record my daily activities to be sent to people I don't know.  I my mind, that far outweighs any 'convenience' gained from the simplification of the system.  In fact, it is that very simplification of the system (which incidentally makes it more inconvenient to purchase and play games from anyone other than Microsoft) that makes it inconvenient for people like me.  Sure, we can download software that modifies certain aspects of the interface to get around these difficulties... but it becomes harder year after year. 

I was extremely shocked a few years back when I played Kami no Rhapsody from Eushully and saw a game that had obviously been designed by some moron who didn't understand why touch-screen functions were nothing more than an annoyance for someone without a touchscreen.  The 'simplification' of the battle system made the game flat-out boring in comparison to other games I'd played by the company, and the highly-restrictive character progression that gave an illusion of freedom (I'm not exaggerating) only made things worse... because the programmer was obviously someone used to working on games with microtransactions.

That isn't to say the game was horrible, but it was horrifying, in that I saw the worst aspects of mobile apps intruding on a PC experience.  I don't and will never like touchscreens.  They get dirty too easily, break too easily, and cost more than your standard monitor.  To be frank, it is far easier to use a mouse on a PC than a touch-screen and less likely to cost you a few hundred dollars every other year.

So what is the meaning of convenience to me?  I am, to be frank, shockingly old-fashioned in the eyes of many because I don't even own a cell phone.  I used to have one, a hand-me-down from a relative, but I disposed of it almost immediately because people were calling me and using money (unlimited texting being a bad word to cell phone companies at the time) to text me on things that could be done more efficiently by email.  I also hated it being possible for people reach me when I wanted to be alone, lol.

So what about a smart-phone?  I honestly have trouble developing an interest in smart-phone gaming, because microtransactions offend my sense of wanting to have things 'paid for and done with'.  I hate subscriptions, I hate monthly payments, and I especially hate having my personal information available to a company that sells info to others (as most cell phone companies do or want to do).  I can't maintain an interest in anything that makes me pay more than once to enjoy the experience.  If I spend $120 on a game and its season pass, I don't want to find out that there are microtransactions in game that nickel and dime me.  I also hate that I have to distrust any game application that cost me less than forty dollars because I can't be sure half the game won't be unplayable without further piecemeal investment of money. 

I also hate the dead-eyed look some of the younger gamers give me when they laugh about having spent their entire paycheck on virtual items in an app they'll forget about a month later. 

 

In other words, my idea of convenience has nothing to do with what others seem to consider convenience now.  My idea of convenience is playing video games on my retinas with signals from my nervous system, not playing drastically simplified games with flicks of my finger.

 

 

Sorry, I rave... but I get tired of all the BS about 'convenient features' that companies use to cover up the building layers of inconvenience in the shit they try to sell me.  Convenience has become such a meaningless term in recent years that it makes me want to scream.

Clephas

 

As you can see above, this isn't the first time I've played this game, and I had a reason for going back to it... a good one.  To be blunt, I thought I hadn't given it a fair review, as it seemed a lot better as the memories soaked into my backbrain than it seemed immediately after.  So, naturally, I decided to play it again after a year had passed (my minimum for replaying non-chuunige).

First, I should say that my view of the common route is pretty much the same as the first time I played it... except better.  While this game isn't a kamige (true kamige charage are almost unknown), the common route is pretty much the ideal of how a common route should be.  In it, you get to know the heroines, side-characters, and the protagonist to a degree that is strong enough for you to feel attachment to them as individuals, and the story is interesting enough in and of itself to keep you amused.  There are plenty of interesting characters in this game.  I'm going to go ahead and describe a few of them for you.

Kururu

The game's true heroine and a self-described God of Destruction... Her first impression is pretty strong, since she basically hits the protagonist's room like a comet, losing her memories in the process, save for the fact that her name is Kururu and that she is the God of Destruction? (question mark is deliberate, lol).  Her hobbies are deforestation (plucking weeds), calling down lightning (using a stun gun on various people), and eating ramen.  She is a fairly hilarious character and one of the two characters who provide the strongest comic relief throughout much of the game.  Her personality is shameless, greedy, and somewhat childlike. 

Solos

The protagonist's self-proclaimed miniature demon sidekick.  This guy provides about 40% of the game's laughs all on his own, with his endless perversion and evil thoughts (thankfully not backed up with the power to enforce his will).  He spends much of the game being punched, kicked, stabbed, or burned by various girls (and loving it the entire time).

Kei

The protagonist.  Despite his fundamentally kind nature, his looks and power tend to leave him isolated at the school.  His power is called Dummy-Maker, and it allows him to copy perfectly all abilities possessed by anyone else for a period of up to one hour, one at a time.  He used this ability to face off with Sophia on her first day of school, and as a result, she fell in love with him, he caused a magnitude 7 earthquake, and almost everyone at the school is afraid of him.  While he is very good at grasping other's worries and isn't particularly bothered by failure, most people don't see this side of him until the election for the student council begins.  His small circle of close acquaintances coincidentally *wink wink* includes the most powerful/influential members of each race in the student body, though he ends up facing most of them as opponents in the election.

Sophia

The daughter of the previous Maou (who apparently set out to conquer the world the second the worlds merged with a smile on his face), she is said to even surpass the power of her father, making her the single most powerful individual on the planet.  She can wield all four elements, can instantly recover from even mortal wounds, and can drain energy from others at a touch... not to mention she possesses the blood scythe that can erase the existence of anything it touches even peripherally.  She spent much of her youth building up a political power base in the Goumakai, suffering from innumerable assassination attempts, betrayals, and attempts to use her.  As a result, her relationships with most people are built on fear and awe, and she finds in Kei the first person who might be capable of understanding her.  She is actually very direct with her emotions, but Kei almost inevitably misunderstands her, causing her a great deal of hurt, though she never loses her smile.  Of the non-true paths, hers was the most interesting, on several levels.

Faura

A wolf-girl and the de-facto leader of the beast-people at the school.  Like most of her people, her personality is aggressive and straightforward in her likes and dislikes.  She took an interest in Kei because of his friendship with Ponko, and fell in love with his subtle kindness and forgiving nature once she got to know him, though she is terrible at expressing it due to her sub-race's customs on courting (the female waits for the male).  Her path is... hot.  Seriously.  If you want love-love to extreme levels with no complicated interplay, hers is an immensely fun romance to experience.  She is a natural leader but she has little interest in holding her power over others' heads.  Her path has the cutest ending, incidentally

Spoiler

Think three adorable wolf-eared daughters that climb all over Papa.

Papheel

Puff, as she is known commonly, is the only angel student at the school, since her race rarely comes down from their floating island home.  She is a love-angel (meaning she gains power from others' romance and has powers suited to encouraging romance in others) and her dream is to become an archangel.  She fell in love with Kei after he scolded her for her judgmental attitude and helped her with her personal problems.  However, like Faura, she is terrible at expressing her emotions, being a pure tsundere.  She is generally kind-hearted and loving, but she has a temper, is overconfident, and tends to be unable to shake off an idea once she gets it in her head.  Her path has a pretty amusing/unexpected epilogue that is worth watching for giggles, though her path is somewhat weak.

Iori

Kei's little sister and a member of the Election Oversight Committee.  She is against her brother staying at the school (because she is worried about him getting hurt by others' reactions) and wants him to go back to the human realm (because she believes nothing but loneliness and pain exist for him at the school).  In fact, it is her call to their father that makes Kei rashly pledge to become Student Council President and starts the whole mess.  She is, like Puff, something of a tsundere.  She is the type of imouto that likes to say 'big brother can't live without me to take care of him' and means 'I want to keep oniichan all to myself), being deredere under the surface.  Her path is pretty interesting and takes a really unexpected turn about two-thirds of the way through when you discover an aspect of hers and the protagonist's past that even Kei didn't know about. 

 

Overall, this game didn't pale at all on a second playthrough, and I felt like I'd actually benefited by playing it a second time, an experience I find quite rare with charage in general.  For people who want a fantasy charage, this game is perfect.