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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

Puramai Wars

Aah... to be honest, this VN is really nostalgic. After about an hour, I felt like I'd begun an old-style love-comedy anime, full of whacky antics and blushing girls who pretend they don't - or don't realize - they all like the same guy... I only played three of the routes - mostly because it is a straight-out love-comedy with no real story at all. However, I can say that this VN has a few major attractions for someone looking for something light to play.

1. It really is just one big laugh-spree. It is comedic twist after comedic twist, with almost everything being an excuse for a joke.

2. The heroines actually aren't template (ohmygod!)... well, I'd say that at the very least the Jinguu girls aren't.

3. This game's atmosphere in general is a reminder of what old-style otaku love-comedies were like. For those who want to indulge in nostalgia, it is a good choice.

Clephas

I'm an obsessive VN player, and I doubt there are many here who could match my experience. However, there is one issue I've more or less deliberately closed my eyes to when it comes to VNs... and that is the sheer amount of anti-feminist propaganda inserted into untranslated Japanese VNs in general. There are a number of major, really obvious examples of this, and I'll go ahead and describe them for you.

1. The 'female teacher who never gets married because she acts too much like a guy' archetype. This isn't even a heroine archetype. It is just a side-character archetype... but literally the most common non-heroine, non-protagonist one in existence other than the 'idiot friend' one. How is this anti-feminist? First, it assumes women with certain qualities - hard-working, focused on their jobs - aren't attractive. Second - and more insidious - it assumes that all such women should want to get married, so it is something of a double-whammy.

2. The 'strong-willed heroine who becomes completely submissive the second she and the protagonist become lovers' archetype. This is perhaps the most insidious of the heroine archetypes when it comes to this issue. This is more or less a manifestation of the hidden widely-held Japanese male belief that even the strongest woman secretly wants to be dominated by a man. Yes, there are plenty of otherwise strong-willed women that use mild SM as stress relief, but the same can be said for men...

3. Otome games. Yes, I know some would protest this, but it is really obvious, when you play them. First, almost all otome game protagonists are easily-dominated wilting lilies or women who become so the second they meet a strong, handsome man. Second, even those that aren't spend a ridiculous amount of time being 'rescued' by men (Damsel-in-Distress Syndrome). Third... exactly how many otome games do you see that appeal to women who prefer to be dominant, in general?

There are any number of such themes, archetypes, and concepts that demonstrate this little reality, but it is something you should probably keep in mind when you think you are going a bit over the edge playing moege, thinking real women might be like those on the screen. Remember that while some women really do fill the archetypes, they are exceptions, not the rule. At the same time, assuming that they should fulfill those roles/archetypes is one habit we probably shouldn't import from Japanese otakus, despite our taste in games, lol.

Clephas

Bansenjin: Final

To be honest, except for the end of the VN, this one is fairly disappointing. It was like they mixed a fandisc with a real sequel... there is way too much slice-of-life mixed into the VN, and the fact that they reused the Hajun concept again (anyone who plays this after having played Dies Irae and KKK will understand what I'm saying) was immensely irritating. I mean, the biggest complaint every last person who played the original had was that it was too much of a Dies Irae imitation, without the power that Dies Irae possessed.

*sighs*

From a simple raw quality standpoint, this is - in the end - a Masada VN, and it shows through in the quality of the narration... it just grates on the nerves for me, because I expected better from Masada than a pale copy of his other works.

The last few hours are, of course, classic Masada battle narration and story advancement... which still didn't quite make the overwhelmingly irritating slice-of-life segments worth it.

Clephas

Bansenjin so far

I'll be frank, Soushuu Senshinkan Gakuen Bansenjin feels more and more like a 'worthless sequel' the more I read. I don't say that out of cruelty but simply because I have no attachment left to the characters from the original, except a general feeling of 'that story was over, for god's sake move on!'. Some people already know my feelings about sequels in chuunige VNs, and Masada is particularly bad when it comes to returning characters. One of the problems is that Masada tends to actually complete his stories inside that one VN in such a way that you are left exhausted and satisfied... and thus you can't help but feel a little betrayed when he up and creates a sequel.

Moreover, this is a time when I would really have preferred them to just create a new cast of characters from scratch. Yoshiya is Masada's most boring protagonist - I can say this with absolute certainty - and the other characters are similarly bland in comparison to his other works. The fact that the first VN was still a lot of fun was simply because Masada is good at telling stories in general. To be honest, I was a lot happier when I was only thinking of the possibilities for this game.

Worse, because I know where it is going - Masada's hints are more blatant than usual - I'm starting to be unable to retain an interest. 有体に言いえば。。。白けた

I feel like I feel when watching a zombie movie... something that shouldn't be moving is moving, blech. I don't care really what Masada planned from the beginning, because this has been a singularly unpleasant experience so far.

Edit: I just figured it out. I wanted Shizuno (the white-black haired girl) to be the protagonist, with only minimal interference from the old cast. To be honest, her weirdness would have made her an excellent new protagonist, and I hate that I'm spending so much time in boring old Yoshiya's head when a more interesting brain is nearby, lol.

Clephas

Everything in this post is spoilers, so I'll be treating it as such. Don't look in the box below unless you played the first Senshinkan VN, Hachimyoujin.

The basic concept of the original Senshinkan was that individuals can, through a special mystic technique, go into a dream that forces them to experience innumerable versions of the past, present, and future in preparation for them to make a connection to the collective unconscious of humanity. Those who have done so gain the ability to manifest powers in reality that would normally be impossible, such as summoning and controlling demons and gods from the sea of humanity's collective unconscious. They can also grant a lesser version of their ability to their 'vassals', which lets them bring their own 'dreams' into reality.

The prime antagonist of the first game basically wanted to become the eternal antagonist of humanity, in order to keep us from rotting to the core, losing that which is best and worst about us. Yoshiya, the protagonist, wanted something similar, but his was directed to having others inherit the will of those who went before. Yoshiya's dream had him repeating the same period of time, focused on different antagonists, until he had faced all of them and was then forced to face the memories, emotions, and experiences of all those within his dream. This was part of the process of enlightenment (in the Buddhist sense) and eventually resulted in him facing off with Amakasu, the antagonist of the first game. In the final ending of the first game, he defeats Amakasu, and in the end he and his friends are reborn in 2015, one of the futures he 'saw' in his dream.

Bansenjin is based in this period, with the granddaughter of Don Karuma (a lesser antagonist from the first VN) arriving at the reborn (with no memories) Yoshiya's home, where he and his parents are living in relative peace. Since the prologue hits on the important points of why this is so in a vague way, I won't bother explaining.

That is a very vague summary of the basic outline of what went on in the first VN, and no one should play Bansenjin without having played Hachimyoujin.

Edit: At the same time, people who are used to Masada's style will have time getting into Bansenjin, simply because you have already experienced the majority of the characters in this VN. You know their root nature, you know their essential worries, their personalities, and how they will react. This is one of the reasons I hate sequels in VNs... but it is a lot worse with Masada, at least for me. I can see why he normally put two or three years between each release of VNs in a series (like five years between Paradise Lost and Dies Irae and three between Dies Irae and KKK) and why he made sure they shared as few obvious common points as possible, when it came to the characters.

To be blunt, Masada's skill when it comes to reusing characters without massive warping (ie KKK) is a bit... lacking. Not to mention Yoshiya isn't exactly the kind of protagonist you'd want to experience twice. His story was complete, so it really shocked me that they bothered with a sequel... and I'm just finding I can't enjoy it, despite the fact that there are some cool scenes already. There is just no sense of freshness for me... so I might or might not continue this, but it probably won't be for a little while.

Clephas

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Dorothy

Dorothy is a foreign exchange student, as well as the protagonist's new maid and his fiance (sort of). To be blunt, I dislike her character so much outside of her route that I wanted to smash her head in with a steel rod. Nonetheless, her route was actually pretty good. I was surprised at how good it was. I cried for it almost as much as I did for Michiru's, if for different reasons. If you can stand her, this is an excellent route to choose.

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Kuro

Kuro is the female version of the god of time, Chronos, who is connected to the protagonist's watch. She is one of the game's two resident lolis (who are incidentally the true heroines *laughs dryly*). Her route is the most out there (fantasy), in terms of overall content, and it shows off the best of the protagonist as well (though Michiru's route also shows off his good qualities). Kuro is also really adorable as a heroine, and her personality changes a lot as a result of the events in the route. I will say that the actual progress of the route is rather predictable... so predictable that I was reminded of a Key nakige route.

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Miu

Miu is a clumsy genius with horrible luck (to a ridiculous degree at times). She is honest, kind-hearted, and also brilliant... she is also the focus of the first half of the common route, so most of the development leading up to her ending occurs there. As a result, her 'ending' really is only an ending that you get by going back to the first choice. That it is heart-warming is because of how all the events in the story are connected. Along with Kuro, she is one of the two seemingly 'true' heroines (to be honest, calling them true heroines is probably inaccurate in this case).

Overall

My final thoughts on this game are... that it is nowhere near Hapymaher or Mirai Nostalgia in terms of impact or quality, but for those who wanted a generally heart-warming story about personal growth with some fantasy mixed in, it is actually an excellent choice. For those who hate explicit sexual content, it is also a good choice because the H-scenes are set aside in a corner where you don't actually have to read them.

Clephas

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Common

First, I should say this VN isn't like Purple Soft's last few works. The common route is straight comedy and heart-warming antics combined with some minor drama and with a bit of personal growth for the protagonist on the side. It is good comedy and the personal growth is actually quite nice, since the protagonist as he started out would have driven me insane inside two hours. It is also relatively short, as are the heroine routes so far. I managed to finish the common route and one heroine route in around seven and a half hours...

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Makoto

Makoto is a very straightforward girl, the daughter of a local yakuza group who has been ordered to live as a normal girl by her family. The funny thing is, she isn't one of those template heroines who dislikes her criminal family, but rather respects and loves them. This results in a rather hilarious personality that comes out a great deal in her route. This VN's route structure is really unusual, in that there is literally no H in the routes themselves, though there are a few nude scenes. As a result, this route passes by with relatively little ichaicha and most of its focus on the drama, which is one of the reasons why it is so short... there is no time wasted whatsoever.

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Michiru

Aaah... Michiru is probably the most blatant example of the 'adoring little sister' I've seen recently... and combined with her being a total yamato nadeshiko and blind, this makes her the standout amongst the four heroines available at the beginning of the VN. One of her most hilarious aspects is how she sounds like a 'niisama-cultist' when talking to others, and how aggressive she is in her pursuit of her older brother... so naturally you'd expect a 'oh, I'm not sure if I can cross the line!' kind of route, right? Fortunately, my expectations were betrayed quite nicely on this, and the route itself is highly emotional, following a track I can guarantee you won't guess without spoilers. That said, it is mostly heart-warming and tear-jerking stuff, and that is one of its biggest draws.

Because of the policy they are using for this VN - no H in the actual routes - it is really easy to focus on the plot flow, and there is none of that sense of 'you interrupted the story for a pink-colored scene?!' that comes so frequently with many VNs of the type. To be honest, I'm really surprised that no one has done this before, as having the choice as to whether to pursue the H in the extras section rather than go through it in the main game makes it a lot easier to enjoy the character interactions and story in general.

Edit: Adding Misaki

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Misaki

Ummm... I'll be frank, I was disappointed with Misaki's route... but that's because I went for the two most unique heroines - and least annoying - amongst the four starter heroines first. It isn't that it is a bad route. Indeed, if you go by the standards of your average VN (cutting the low and high ends off the curve) I'd say that it was in the upper ranks as individual heroine routes go... but after Michiru it just lacked impact. Misaki is one of those heroines who is a lot better as comic relief than as a heroine... or at least, that is how it felt to me. A big issue is that they reused Alice's face and voice (from Hapymaher) for her, and I was always a bit frustrated that Alice was the true/main for that one (I liked her the least, though I still liked her). Cutting out those emotions, her struggles are actually interesting, if a bit overly familiar for those who have seen (this really is a spoiler, though indirectly)

various music anime and VNs where the characters really are competing to climb to the top.

That said, the theme for this particular one has been touched on so often in VNs lately that it seems overly dull...

That said, if you weren't me, you'd probably be able to enjoy this route just fine - actually, you'd probably enjoy it a great deal - as long as you made sure to play it first or second (I'm not really interested in the annoying foreign girl heroine, since her speech patterns make me want to punch her).

Clephas

I know many people have chimed in on the debate about what precisely VNs are to them... but the three main schools of thought pretty much come down to 'story-delivery system', 'pretty picture delivery system', and a mixture of both. To an extent, I can sympathize with all three... but I fall mostly with the 'mixture of both' school of thought with a leaning to the 'story-delivery system' end of things. Why? Because, when it comes down to it, all forms of otaku entertainment are story-delivery systems, when you get right down to it... even if that story is somewhat out there, disjointed, or so mixed in with pointless moe that it is hard to recognize. Of course, that is in the larger sense, so it is basically playing with sophistry on my part to think that way... *loves making it impossible for anyone else to win the argument*

Nonetheless, it is a valid point. I love stories, in general. I live for fiction in all its forms, though the written word is my preferred way to receive it, preferably with narrative, not just dialogue. More than anything, my taste in VNs is shaped by this simple root cause... in the end, I'm a narrative junkie who needs his fix. Chuunige like Dies Irae give me that in the most obvious form, and every once in a while, a fantasy masterpiece like Ikusa Megami Zero comes along and revives my love of world-building and deep settings. Even more rarely, I hit gold with something like Konata yori Kanata made, which burns so deeply into my soul that it causes an epiphany.

The last half-decade of my life has been pretty much shaped by my addict's pursuit of good VNs. As a result, outside of my work I'm pretty much the picture of the hikikomori erogamer (actually, since I work from home...). At the same time, I've more and more come to realize that almost no one across the water has any real idea of the potential of the medium in general for storytelling, despite having the best of all tools in all areas relatively easily at hand.

If I walk through a section my local bookstore (any fiction section), I can pick out at least a dozen titles I've read and left their mark on my way of thinking and expanded my mind in general. Going through all the VNs I've played, I can name only about forty out of the five hundred that left their mark in a significant way on my mind and spirit... and that is seriously a small number, even proportionately speaking. Less than a tenth of all the VNs I've played have been something worthy of remaining for the future... and how sad is that? This is despite the sheer potential the medium has... When I think of it objectively, I'm sometimes driven to despair.

Clephas

Yes, I hate trophies, achievements, or whatever you choose to call them. Why? At least part of it is because I was a gamer back in the NES era, and I liked that sense of private accomplishment it gave me for beating a game on my own. Another reason is simply because I hate the way achievements and the like break immersion, particularly in rpgs and games with a good story. I can say this outright... I almost never finish games where I can't disable trophies. I'm not interested in showing off, and I'm even less interested in people knowing my gaming habits. I hate that someone can look at my steam profile and know which games I own. I hate that people can look at my psn profile and see which ones I've played or am playing. I hate it even more that it feels like the game itself is reporting to the companies that produced it whenever I have the online function on.

If you hadn't figured it out, I am a gamer that likes his privacy. I had a nightmare about some moron including achievements in a VN last night, so I felt I had to post this...

Clephas

First, I should say that the last part of this game was actually worthy of Eushully in terms of dramatic flair. For those who probably think I was bashing this game out of hand, let me also say that there were lots of hints of what is best about Eushully. There are great characters/companions, some truly excellent character interactions, and even a few really stand-out scenes scattered throughout the first three fourths of the game... but the problem is that they are spaced out with a ridiculous amount of map-grinding for very small gain and a definite feeling that you are screwed by hitting maps too early (since you want to grab as many companions as you can before you hit the extra/optional ones, in most cases).

I can't help but praise the way they do their best to immerse you in the previously only hinted at animalistic demi-human races and hints of their culture, and there are also plenty of references to the ongoing themes of this particular world (such as the unending conflict between the Living Gods of Light and Darkness and the results of it amongst the mortals and not-so-mortal denizens of the world). At the same time, there is so much more that could have been done with this. Rather than wasting all those maps as story-free, they should have made an effort to add side-events specifically for those maps, filling in the gaps of why we should care about this region and what happens to it, rather than assuming that we do. This speaks to a laziness that is characteristic of many of their games outside the main IM series, in that they have a tendency to only really go into depth in games like Zero, Genrin, and Verita. I absolutely loathe place-holders for when a company just wants to milk the setting rather than really going through the effort to birth a new saga in the same world. The sheer lack of ambition that is represented by this game is a bit ridiculous, considering the amount of development cash that had to have gone into that battle system. Another three months with this, adding in more story events and expanding the cultural and religious elements, would have gone a long way to making this game feel like a worthy companion to the IM series.

Needless to say, I found this game to be a disappointment, especially considering this was put out in place of the IM2 remake I was hoping for this year. So much wasted potential in a single game... it reminds me of what I felt about Kamidori after playing Zero.

I probably won't go through a second playthrough of this anytime soon. That is primarily because of overplay-related exhaustion, though there is also a definite feeling that I'd be wasting my time if I bothered to continue, at this point.

Clephas

Ok, for those who read my first post on this game, you probably have a good picture of how I see the gameplay in this game. There are hints of really excellent possibilities in the actual battle system... if you can ignore the fact that you have to equip skills (as medals) - even the personal ones - and the fact that many of the characters you get access too later are at one of two extremes... either way too weak or way too strong for the time in which you get them. As an example, the angel is way too strong when you get her, and Tsumugi is really weak when you get her... it generally goes that way throughout the entire game, as you get various characters. Making it worse is the fact that all the advantages of the game system go to the characters you got earliest, meaning that evolving your party past a core of characters you got relatively early on is fairly difficult... Another issue is that the orbs you get as you go along are way too slanted in how they appear (each map completion gets you a certain orb or two), and this means that characters whose own ability grids are slanted in a different direction - mages in particular - are pretty much screwed as far as growth goes. A final issue with the battle system is actual skill use... all magic skills have to be activated without movement and archer attacks are the same. Of course, considering the way some of the environments are put together, the ability to use high level magic or archery after moving would be a bit of overkill, but for large time-limited maps, this pretty much eliminates the usefulness of mages and archers entirely. This unbalance is a huge problem in making mages useful at all...

As for the story... it takes a really, really long time to get going, you have to choose one of two heroines relatively early on (neither of which is all that attractive, in comparison to some of the non-human girls)... but things do start to pick up a bit about the seventh and eighth chapters. Unfortunately, considering that means there was nothing but hints of what might happen and repetitive fights with predictable 'oh Eld is such a mysteriously great guy despite being weak' events. To be honest, that gets old really quickly...

Edit: Understand, I'm not hating this game. However, considering how good they did on the side-events (many are amusing, some are exciting), you would think they would have done a better job with the main story so far... There just isn't that much impact to it, and the atmosphere just isn't one conducive to emotional involvement as well as intellectual, which is a big downer with a high fantasy setting.

Clephas

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Ok, first I should say that this is based in the Ikusa Megami (Battle Goddess) series world. I haven't checked to see what time period it is in, but judging by the statements so far, I'd guess it was after the events in Madou Koukaku but before the second half of Verita.

That said, this is based in the most fleshed-out fantasy world in all of VNs, so there is plenty of lore to draw on and add to, and Eushully is definitely milking the setting's popularity for all it is worth.

Unfortunately, the gameplay aspect is a bit disappointing.

First, there is no way to get stronger except during initial completions of a mission/map. You basically get orbs from killing certain enemies and the initial finishing of a map for each character that you can plug into their individual grids to increase their stats and - when you complete a bingo-like line of five - their levels. Equipment comes in the form of medals that have skills, stat-boosts, and other effects that can make the game easier... but because each level counts for an equipment point and some medals can take up to six points to equip, you are very, very limited in what you can equip, especially at first. Worse, when new characters come in, their grids are completely blank and they have no - and I mean none - orbs to plug in. This makes them fairly weak compared to your first four or five party members, whom you get fairly early, at least so far.

To be blunt, because there is no way to grind for anything, there is no point in fighting battles multiple times once you've completed all the hidden map objectives (which grant you medals as a reward.

As for the story... so far - in the third chapter - it is waaaaay too vague. There is a bit too much focus on character interaction and not enough on serious story progression, considering how little of interest there is to the actual gameplay.

Why am I bashing this? Because I know some idiot is going to come out raving about how wonderful the game is, even if it isn't... and flaws should be pointed out mercilessly.

There are some positive points... the protagonist is generally likeable, and there are a lot of characters with backstory that would be interesting to explore... if you weren't so limited in what events you could see, lol.

The hexagon-shaped srpg battle system suffers from being designed to be playable with a touch screen - I know you smartphone lovers might think this is a good idea, but it is far better to have a solid keyboard and mouse gameplay than have half-assed, crappy touchscreen-capable gameplay. I am going to finish this game, but I'm already feeling like I want to drop it, despite that determination... Every once in a while, Eushully puts out a stinker, and this might very well be it.

Edit: While things have begun to pick up a bit in this chapter, one of the problems is that the enemies and allies are a bit too comical, so it is hard to take things seriously. Of course, I'm sure some terrifying boss-characters will pop-up later, but so far most of the enemy characters have been either Disgaea-style 'Mid-Boss' types (overconfident but trip themselves up regularly) or small-fry bad guys (the gigantic half-breed orc).

Clephas

I am completely done - though without playing Mirai Kanojo - and I'm not interested in continuing (the new month's releases are already coming out, lol). For those who are interested... the contest between the VNs came down to a four-way fight between Shirogane, Hanasaki, Valkyrie, and Utakata. Naturally, I considered them all as fairly as possible, but in the end I picked Hana no No ni Saku Utakata no as VN of the Month March 2015

For those who were expecting me to pick something else... sorry. I honestly felt it was the best of the crop, though there was nothing god-level in the group.

Clephas

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Kotobuki Hikari

Hikari is the most apparently 'normal' of the heroines that have routes splitting off from the common route. She is in love with the protagonist from the beginning, so them getting together is mostly a matter of the protagonist getting over his self-derision. Her route's drama is intensely personal, though it isn't a relationship problem... The route itself has a lot more ichaicha than any of the other routes, so I felt like puking sand several times during it... but for people who like that kind of thing, it is an ideal route.

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Hanasaki Nonoka

The protagonist's little sister by marriage, an adorable girl who is referred to as a ダメ人間製造機 or a machine that makes men worthless, due to her tendency to spoil her older brother rotten. To be honest, since her route is listed as an afterthought, I thought it really would be... but it was easily the most emotionally touching of the routes so far. At least part of this was the fact that so much of her route is written from her point of view, rather than just the protagonist's with a few parts at key points. The route starts a year after the events in the common route, and it assumes that the protagonist didn't choose any of the four main heroines. Like many imouto routes, this one's drama is in the actual formation of the relationship, rather than after it.

In terms of the ending, this one is the most satisfying so far, if only because Nonoka gets developed at least a little bit throughout the rest of the VN, including the other heroine routes...

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Koutsuki Kanna

Kanna is Wakaba's maid. She is a bit two-faced... or three. First is her 'gentle-mannered maid' persona, second is her yuri-yuri 'I love Wakaba' persona... and last of all is the delinquent, rough-talking side she only seems to show to the protagonist. Her path was the most surprising of the heroine paths, which was a good thing in some ways. I'd expected a more conventional plot path, but this was a good change, considering how predictable the other paths tended to be.

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True Path

It isn't so much of a path as a means of giving closure to the protagonist's own personal issues without the intervention of a heroine and H. Precisely because of that, this blasts all the other routes combined out of the water in terms of emotional impact... but it also highlights how completely Saga Planets failed to bring forth its usual flair with the heroines. Nonetheless, this also gives the best ending in the game, with them showing the heroines and the protagonist quite a bit after the story is over and describing in detail what the protagonist, at least, is doing with his life and his attitude toward it.

Clephas

A few thoughts

I think those who follow my blog might be aware of this, but I've played waaaay too many VNs this month. To be blunt, once Hanasaki is done, I'll have played seven.

I know that might not seem like much, just saying it... but it still makes up about 100 hours of play/read time in under a month. What makes it worse is that several of the VNs I played were horrible disappointments, despite being from companies I normally liked.

What am I trying to say here? It is fairly simple... no matter how much I like VNs, playing as many as I did this month is a source of real stress and almost physical pain. Several of the releases I wouldn't have bothered with at all, if it weren't for the fact that I'm committing to continuing my VN of the Month column.

Think about it... in terms of content, each one of those VNs was, on average, about at the same level as Da Capo (for those familiar with the game), in terms of length... and some were quite a bit longer. Now think about actually slogging through that many heroines, that much template romance... and really think about whether you could stand it, even if you like that sort of thing.

Basically, I'm at my limit, when it comes to charage... I've had enough laughs and innocent couples... I want something dirty, violent, and shadowy... I want people with serious, irreversible emotional and psychological scars. I want some intelligent plot twists and twisted motives... in short 'just why did every single popular moege-variant company choose to release a VN at the end of March?!'

Sorry, I just needed to blow off some steam. I'm trying to take full pleasure in Hanasaki Work Spring... if only because it is good for what it is - despite its huge flaws and the fact that Saga Planets really is wasting its people's skills.

Clephas

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Kuon Ayano

Aaah... to be blunt, Ayano's path blows Inori's out of the water in some ways, if only because the sheer impact of her unusual approach to being the protagonist's lover can't help but make you rofl. Let's just say - as they do in the game - that Ayano is the 'best woman to make your wife but the worst as a woman'. There was almost no date time in this route, though there was plenty of ichaicha... fortunately, it was immensely humorous, so I didn't feel the need to puke sand. The drama in the route is kind of contrived (though it is sort of interesting), but overall it results in a really nice 'happy ending', so all's well that ends well.

Speaking of endings... this one's path epilogue was much better than Inori's, if only because it shows them a year later, rather than the next day.

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Soramori Wakaba

Wakaba is one of the two idiot friends of the protagonist, an obvious replacement for the usual osananajimi heroine. To be honest, her route made me a bit exasperated at first. For one thing, the way they get into the relationship is... sigh-worthy, and not in a good way. A combination of the 'whoops, we crossed the line' and 'friends>lovers transition's traditional hesitation' tropes. I was kind of hoping for them to use her background setting in the formation of the relationship, but they went in the other, less interesting, predictable direction, lol.

Incidentally, I realize I'm a bit of a buzzkill on romance, but VN romance is frequently exasperating. It starts out cute, then falls ever downwards from there.

Probably the best part of this route, at least for me, was the flashbacks about their first meeting, since it shows off some of the protagonist's better aspects. This route is fairly comedic, as a whole... mostly because Wakaba herself is a comedic relief character (one of the baka-trio) from the very beginning. The drama is very... light. The problem is that it comes out of nowhere, and even though they explain where it is coming from afterward, it still feels awkward and unnatural. For that reason, I can't really give this path a passing grade, lol.

Some extra comments

This is about Saga Planets and their apparent new way of doing things... to be honest, I feel like they are wasting all that was good about their early games with Karumaruka and this one. To be blunt, Saga Planets is at its best when it is making you cry, though making you laugh isn't a bad thing. Unfortunately, these last two games have managed to fail utterly at this very simple task. Moreover, this obsession with the faceless protagonist is getting a bit old, considering how much money this company puts into its games... Hatsuyuki Sakura benefited from the extreme emotionalism that previously defined this company the most, in my opinion, but Natsuyume Nagisa also had a huge helping of this, which is what makes those two the best games by this company. I hate it when companies stop doing what they do best...

Clephas

blog-0130411001429665334.jpgSo far this VN takes the form of a straight-out high-quality charage, with some nakige elements. The protagonist, Yuuma, is like the ultimate lazy guy... so much so that he researched ergonomics solely so he could create the ultimate pillow for sleeping in class.

The heroines are Ayano - the much-older senpai who is a genius but has been held back more than any other person in the history of the school -, Inori - a lone-wolf girl who hates people who ask her personal questions -, Wakaba - the protagonist's best female friend, who acts more like a guy than a girl-, and Hikari - the 'traditional' normal girl who fell in love with the protagonist at first sight.

Common

The common route is surprisingly short, with the story splitting off relatively quickly after a set if meaningless formalities in the form of 'choices' (choosing girls off a map for their scenes is a horrible way of picking your path). That said, it is generally amusing, and it does serve the purpose of introducing you to the characters without taking up three quarters of the game like many charage do.

Inori

Inori's path was pretty emotional, at least partly because the protagonist and her are complete opposites in nature, while being similar in certain aspects. I did find it a bit irritating how the protagonist took forever to figure out he was in love with her and the way Inori spent so much time fighting her own realization. However, the actual relationship and path were good - though I did find it really, really predictable when it came to the drama. Fortunately, it manages to avoid the crime of being a series of endless ichaicha scenes, limiting it to a few events and one serious date.

Once again - like many charage paths - I felt seriously dissatisfied with the epilogue, due both to its short length and lack of content.

Clephas

Yuki Koi Melt

This VN is by the makers of Pure Girl, Innocent Girl, and the Grisaia series... Front Wing. As such, I couldn't ignore it, since it turned out not to be a nukige... though it feels like one toward the end of the heroine paths.

To be honest, I didn't have any hopes for this game, so it was nice that it had such good humor in it - think Pure or Innocent if they weren't nukige. I'm keeping this short because playing this game got really stressful in the heroine paths, and it is a bit hard for me to be spiteful here.

To be blunt, the structure of this VN is classic 'normal' charage. The common route is about two thirds of the game, and it is used for introducing the characters and building the overall dynamic and character relationships... and the heroine routes are straight 'fall in love>ichaichaichaicha (insert infinity sign here)'. The sad part is that the common route is really high quality... but the heroine routes are so unbalanced toward the newborn couple making out that I wanted to puke sand.

While this isn't VN of the Month quality, it is more than enough for your average charage/moege lover.

Clephas

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Yakushi Ryouko

To be blunt, Ryouko is a sub-heroine, so there really isn't much to say about her. Her path quality is lower, the details are less involved, and the drama is so mild you almost have to ask yourself if it even exists. Despite this, she is a fairly cute character, and she does fill the 'adorable kouhai' slot nicely.

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Fujimiya Shione

This path, in terms of quality and nature, is something of a hybrid of Shizuku's and Reina's. Similar to Reina's, it is an osananajimi's path, with the assumption of past relationships and the reliance on them to form the protagonist-heroine dynamic. However, at the same time, it also possesses the kind of depth of introduction and character development that made Shizuku's path so satisfying overall. It makes sense that you have to have played at least one of the previous paths to access this one, when you consider the quality of this path.

That said, I think a lot of you will be a bit shocked at how their romantic relationship gets started, so feel free to look forward to it.

A few comments. This path and Ouka's are set on a story branch that is separate from the previous three, which has a slightly more intense focus on the fantasy element than was the norm in the main story of the other branch. Because of this, the two paths that follow feel a bit less like charage paths, which should be satisfying for those who prefer the more intense experience that came from Tasogare no Sinsemilla, though it still doesn't reach those heights.

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Ouka (True Path)

Ouka is... a complex character. She has a number of roles: ghost, advisor, armchair detective, confidante... but in the end, she is the true heroine. Ouka's path is... the most complex and 'complete' of all the paths, with the most powerful emotional impact.

The first half of Ouka's path alone is as strong as Shizuku's or Shione's paths as a whole, and the second half (started from the title screen) is easily the densest drama in the entire VN. That said, all of the drama is intensely personal. There is no element of 'save the world' or 'cut the ties of an ancient, dark fate'. Rather, this is a romantic story, focusing on the relationship between two people who are as close as it is possible for two beings to be.

All the aspects of the protagonist's ability (including what is only hinted at in the others) is revealed. In addition, the hidden truth about Ouka is revealed, which is never even really touched upon in the other paths (deliberately). This is the only route I cried for, and it is worth playing this VN solely for this path...

Final thoughts

First, a few things I left out above. Ouka's route has two endings. One is an Tsukihime/Akiha-style 'normal' ending and the other a 'true good' ending.

Despite the fact that I raved about Ouka's path above, I do have to say that if this had just been a normal romance between normal people, I probably wouldn't have been so into it. I'm a fantasy freak, and I love out of this world romances.

At the same time, I felt that the writer's indulgence in 'the protagonist gives up his abilities' trope of Japanese fantasy fiction was a bit annoying. I generally dislike the way the Japanese tend to try to get rid of anything outstanding about the characters in fantasy stories.

A major flaw of the story is that there is no ending where Michitaka uses his ability as part of a career (it would be really easy to do so, and it would be interesting as an ending), and most of the heroine endings other than Ouka's left behind a definite feeling of incompleteness, despite the H-filled after-story 'fragments' you can access from the flow chart.

A major advantage to the way they construct the flow chart is that you can access the extra scenes along the way that enhance the story... or you can just live with the characters' casual mention of the events that happen in those stories. Little things like the protagonist's first meeting with his best friend's little sister, and certain people's reactions to Ouka are in such scenes... so it can be a good idea to look at them. At the same time, this is a VN of respectable length, so you might feel that it is better not to do so, due to your own personal time constraints.

On the whole, this is a good VN for those who like fantasy, and - while this is no Tasogare no Sinsemilla despite having the same writer - it is still a well-written narrative.

Clephas

blog-0351786001428869987.jpgKasasagi Shizuku

Shizuku is the student council president, an intelligent young woman who appears strict and unbending but really just interprets matters through her own unique psychological 'lense'. She is the only heroine who doesn't have a past relation to the protagonist before the story begins (one way or the other), and obligingly, her route seems to be the longest of the four heroines other than Ouka.

She also possesses three endings... though two are basically 'normal, nothing happened' endings that avoid the drama of the third one. Her pragmatic nature and tendency to look at herself objectively make her an attractive heroine, and her path reflects that part of her nature, as well as lending her a more human element. I'd say that her raw, moment-to-moment character development is deeper than Reina's, though that is at least in part because Reina and the protagonist are so close from the very beginning.

The pacing of the path and the drama at the end are very well orchestrated, and I was impressed once again at this particular writer's capabilities (also the writer of Tasogare no Sinsemilla). Similar to Reina's story, this also reveals more about the background of the protagonist's abilities and hints at what might be the cause of them, which probably will lead into Ouka's path (since that is the general pattern this writer seems to prefer for true heroines).

An extra Comment

I should note that I really like the music in this game, though it lacks the sheer emotional hammer that games like Chrono Cross and Hapymaher possess. There is a tendency to use hybrid Japanese instruments and classical ones, which results in some really pleasant BGMs.

Clephas

blog-0394571001428804538.jpgThis is a VN by Applique, the makers of Concerto Note and Tasogare no Sinsemilla. Like most of their other VNs, this one has a layer of the supernatural mixed in with slice-of-life, wherein the supernatural becomes integral to their daily life.

There are two major supernatural aspects present from the beginning. One is the protagonist, Michitaka, and his ability to see the traces of other human beings as colors, both on they themselves and the objects they touch or own. The other is Ouka... whom I'll deliberately avoid explaining so as to avoid spoiling a really funny scene early on.

Common Route

The common route is really straightforward, with Ouka being something of an armchair detective for figuring out events that happen in Michitaka's daily life. His interactions with his two osananajimis (Reina and Shione) and the other people around him are well-described and serve well in introducing you to both the heroines and side-characters. The actual split for the first three heroine paths is relatively early on (this game uses a flow-chart style, which decides where you split off the common route) and the events leading up to it are, if not exciting, at least interesting enough that you can feel yourself developing a sense of the heroines' personas and how they might react during their own routes.

Inoue Reina

Reina is one of the protagonist's two osananajimis, the daughter of a realtor who is known, for the most part, for his honorable behavior. She herself is presented as a straightforward, serious girl with a somewhat boyish way of talking and acting. Because of some events that are deliberately not made clear in the common route, she and the protagonist were somewhat estranged before the VN began, but they quickly regain the relationship they possessed before. This route isn't a firestorm romance, but rather a simple case of two people who cared about each other already deciding to take it a step further, triggered by the events in the early part of the route. I do think that things move a little too fast once they get together, but the emotional events left me satisfied with the main path...

... even though I felt a little miffed by the short epilogue.

Clephas

Shirogane Spirits

To be honest, I generally dislike Giga's non-Baldr VNs, simply because the dip in quality (outside of visuals) is so sharp it isn't even funny. From dialogue and narration to voices and music, it is unbelievable how little comparative effort this company puts into its non-Baldr games.

That said, this is actually quite a decent charage... though I do have some serious complaints. I'll go ahead and get those complaints out of the way first.

Cons

First, for all that the sound effects are great and the actual slashing effects are good, that isn't a substitute for good combat narration. I found it really hard to get into the fights, simply because the writers quite obviously either didn't have the capability or the desire to add in the kind of detail that is exciting to fans of action stories. Making it worse was the degree to which several of the ending fights were anticlimactic or made deliberately comical. After all the buildup to those battles, I was hoping for something truly exciting... but what I got was an excuse for comic relief. Last of all, the endings... to be honest, they needed more after-story for Mei's and Masaki's routes...

Pros

First rate visuals, first rate characters, and first rate comedic character interactions. To be honest, the latter two are areas in which all Giga games excel to one extent or another... though some fail in that area anyway. The first is generally true, with some exceptions. I was actually surprised at the degree to which the character models were utilized as part of the plot in this story... the variety of expressions, the poses, actions, and even their atmosphere.

Overall

A few last comments... first, this game would have been a lot better if at least Hibana, Marisa, and Alice had routes of their own. The over-focus on the protagonist's fellow student council members spoke of a laziness in story-construction that made me cluck my tongue with disgust. Making the protagonist choose between Oubu (his school) and Akatsuki (the rival) would have made for some interesting twists. If they come out with a fandisc later and add in paths for those girls, they'll probably be half-assed and dissatisfying, so I can't say I'd be interested even if they did, at this point. The decision to split at three different points (choose one group of two heroines or the other, then another heroine later on) was a good one, adding a lot of content to the story. Unfortunately, the weakness of Alice as an antagonist and the somewhat disappointing fights on the Akatsuki-side route spoke of a weakness in scenario design that shouldn't have existed, considering how well the early stages are put together.

With all that said, though, this is still a high-ranking charage in my mind, easily pushing aside the common muck that I generally have to slog through... it is simply that they didn't go far enough or slipped humor or weak progression at a lot of the wrong points near the end. The relatively high combat to slice-of-life ratio for a charage is also a huge benefit. The fact that the combat is so... light is a bit of a flaw, unfortunately.

Clephas

blog-0005531001428227160.pngYeah, I know, this picture is actually nothing like the protagonist, lol.

True Ending

Ok, first this game stops well short of being a kamige, so don't expect me to give hands-down praise of it... but I will say this is the first VN I've played that uses the G-Senjou story structure and doesn't short the heroine routes. I can say that conclusively, having finished all the paths. Those who have encountered my virulent hatred of Aiyoku no Eustia will probably be surprised to hear this, though.

Second, the true route is decent... actually, while it doesn't match my favorite VNs of the type, it is more than enough if you want to indulge in a fantasy story with some mild action (save for the relatively high-quality last battle) and a generally warm atmosphere. This is contrasted with the desperation and sometimes tragic events that occur at or near the end of each chapter. Airu's and Nono's are actually the worst, emotionally speaking, this way. However, once the true route is locked in, there is enough tragic impact incoming that you won't be dissatisfied if you've managed to form an emotional connection with the characters already.

Final Comments

Considering what the protagonist says at the end of the prologue, you'd expect this to be a lot darker than it is. However, since the protagonist is rather obviously a softy who utterly fails to be ruthless, you can forgive the game for not being as dark as it might have been, given the themes. Still, this is probably the weakest point of the game. The way it sort of went for a half-assed protagonist whose style of appearance is like Lelouch from Code Geass and whose personality is your average kind-hearted harem-master was kind of... *grimaces* iffy to say the least.

That said, this game's story is very character-focused, and I have to say - primarily because of the heroine paths - that it is mostly a charage. Yes, it has action, it has conspiracy, and it has betrayal... and there is a solid backbone to the story. However, the way the game consistently shifted focus onto one or the other of the heroines as you got close to the path splits, the fact that the characters spend about half the game in cosplay, and the sheer number of archetypical interactions in the character dynamic just screams 'charage' to me.

Clephas

blog-0469594001428218564.pngSena

Sena is another active type of heroine... the lazy martial artist heroine. With anything other than pursuing self-training, she is lazy, and she is also a glutton. Generally speaking, she's good if you like boyish heroines with a tendency toward sexually harassing other girls.

Her path split is shortly after Kokone's, so there is not really much in the way of extra character development... but in exchange, her route is probably the most detailed of all the heroine routes. Not only that, but there is some extra drama in there that made it an interesting story in and of itself, rather than feeling like a charage appendage to the main story (which the others barely edged past being themselves).

Some comments before the True Route

One thing I've noticed about this game is that it stops just short of being good at describing the action. Oh, they do describe it... but they avoid details, and there is no flair to the narration. I don't expect something on the level of Dies Irae, but if you are going to include the abilities and martial arts these people are displaying, it is downright wasteful for the combat narration to be so spartan.

Clephas

blog-0906704001428213200.pngKokone

Kokone is the strict but gentle 'older sister' of the group. She is very devoted to her duty, as well as to the safety and happiness of the 'family'. Her character archetype is really easily recognizable from the beginning, so I'm sure most will find it easy to understand her.

Her path, much like the two before it, starts from a split at the end of the next chapter. The events leading up to the split are - again - saddening and painful for the protagonist, and again he has to give up on his objective. The big difference is that the previous chapters have altered his way of thinking enough that he is able to give up more easily...

Again, her path is a straight charage path, utilizing the information built up in the main story as a background for a budding romantic relationship. I will say that I thought her path was more humorous than the other two (or rather, contained more humor).

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