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NaNoRenO 2019 Highlights, part 1

Plk_Lesiak

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For more than a decade now the NaNoRenO visual novel jam is the biggest cyclical event organized by the EVN community, every year prompting dozens of hobbyist and aspiring commercial developers to present their work created from scratch within a strict, one-month timetable. Despite being mostly a non-commercial affair, dominated by both complete freeware titles or various demos and prototypes, it delivered many memorable games in the past, many of which are well remembered till this day (Christine Love’s Digital: A Love Story and NomnomNami’s Her Tears Were My Light are among the best known and most-appreciated ones, but are only two among dozens of memorable entries worth checking out).

                While with the gradual professionalization (and commercialisation) of the Western visual novel scene, it’s less common to find real gems among the jam’s entries, it’s still a unique opportunity to find interesting, free VNs within various genres and themes. At the same time, NaNoRenO is not a contest that would explicitly choose winners and allows VNs of all sizes and states of completion, so it’s not easy to navigate for an average reader – this year’s edition included the record number of 91 submissions and finding the truly interesting ones can be a challenge. For this reason, I’ve decided to prepare a short series of posts about my personal highlights of the 2019 event – games that I found most impressive and worth recommending. The lists will be obviously influenced by my personal taste and I’ll readily admit that I didn’t read all the entries, focusing on complete projects (i. e. no demos and prototypes) and avoiding some that I was convinced I won’t enjoy, or that were in genres I’m less interested in. I am, however, very much convinced about the merits of the games I’ve decided to feature and I hope you’ll join me on this short journey. Clicking the titles of every entry you’ll be transported straight to its itch.io page, where you’ll be able to download it for free. So, let’s get started!

 

Mnemonic Devices

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My personal favourite of this year’s NaNoRenO is a tale of a person (you can choose the pronoun, although their looks are always rather feminine) who wakes up with amnesia after a car crash, greeted by a man claiming to be their husband. Soon after, they learn that the idyllic marriage with a wealthy lawyer is a sham, and they’re actually a sophisticated android send on a mission to assassinate him. Re-learning their identity and mission, the protagonist stands before a choice: to accept their role as a government-controlled killing machine, or try to rebel, while also possibly exploring their very-much-human emotions towards their husband, or maybe even their handler from the agency, with whom they previously shared a not-fully-professional relationship. 

Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com



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3 hours ago, Happiness+ said:

Finally. DO A FULL REVIEW ON OUR VN! @Plk_Lesiak 😀 

Doing that on a 12k words VN would be a bit of an overkill. BTW, I don't think you ever reacted to what I wrote in your thread. I'm curious about your own take on the catgirl and how her character was used in the story. :>

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@Plk_Lesiak I didn’t even see your response until now. Well since the VN is done, I can tell you everything. It was largely Wolf’s idea our studio director. I didn’t contribute much to the design of her character. The idea of Cheshire was to be a memento. I wanted a memento of Ji-Min like a museum of memories kinda thing, and someone brought up an avatar like Budapest from Watercress’s previous VN Palinarus. But, if you were expecting some meaning behind the story, sorry, the story doesn’t have any meaning outside of Grief. Personally, I don’t like writing stories without an arc or resolution, but the goal of “This was for you”, was for the reader to experience that grief has no resolution or arc, or any motif on it’s own. In your review, you brought up that you didn’t like the interactions with Cheshire and her twist. I agree with your criticism, however, giving her some poetic meaning seemed to antithetical to the whole theme of This Was For You. I thought about it too when we in our writing meeting, because I wanted the relationship to a bit more pronounced with flashbacks of Ji-Min or something however, the goal was for the relationship to be exclusively online. The characters just knew each other online and used Cheshire as a joke. In fact Cheshire is the joke, she was created by Ji-Min to troll MC. That’s why Cheshire is so damn annoying. She was designed for MC not to like her. Even giving her sentience, would’ve taken away from the whole grief theme we were going for. Honestly, our VN has no story. It’s the MC griefing for 30 minutes. Our goal was for the reader to experience that feeling of lost and not be so captured in a narrative arc. That’s why MC has no gender, no identity, etc, they are a self-insert. Imagine if you were there. 

 

It’s funny because as soon as I joined the studio in February, I was like “are going to make another depression simulator?” Everyone laughed on the Discord voice chat. Because This was for you is the quintessential Watercress experience. It’s our most polished VN to date. I contributed 25% of the writing. I did the audio splicing work lol. I did some of the GUI work. So yeah. 

 

Is that why you recommend it vs highly recommended it?

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50 minutes ago, Happiness+ said:

Is that why you recommend it vs highly recommended it?

Well, at least partially. The game is really good at what it tries to do (outside of a few, ultimately minor details I've pointed to in my previous post, including the way the final twist was introduced, how Cheshire revealed to be a Ji-Min's creation and suddenly started acting robotic after being life-like all the time, as it somewhat took me out of the experience), but it's indeed a depression simulator. If the execution was absolutely flawless, I would probably give it a higher ranking, but simply the theme and the inconclusive approach to it are something that makes me wary of pushing this VN onto people - if this is the kind of vibe they're looking for, they'll enjoy it, but with something like Mnemonic Devices or Alloys over Flowers, I'd encourage pretty much anyone to read them. :)

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