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Showing most liked content since 06/13/2020 in Blog Entries

  1. 5 points
    I wrote earlier about how I thought when translating a few lines in Shinimasu. This series is going to be in that vein, with an eye to explaining translation decisions and highlighting unusual takes. I’m going to try to make it interesting for people not knowing Japanese, but to save effort I’m not going to be providing literal translation equivalents to lines. Why am I doing this? Because my brain is a fuck and producing blog posts is an interesting motivation for doing a second pass on my translation. Unfortunately for those expecting worthwhile content I feel like digressing a bit into history and methods for this first post, though. This is what my TL setup has looked like for most of the time I’ve worked on the project: I started out doing 64 lines in December 2017, this got Asonn involved, and he introduced me to Porygon, who set up a git repository* and provided the tool you see. My brain swears I tweeted this pastebin, and I know I at least got some comment, but twitter search can’t find it so who the fuck knows? Anyway, I probably did 129 lines just copying from the game or script (can’t remember), then I copied them to the tool and worked there. One of the joys of working with porygon is that he has highly motivating auto-updating progress pages for you to fap to after pushing your new lines. This probably helped me more than I’d really like to admit. Either way, apart from being convenient for reinsertion later**, the tool has rudimentary edict-lookup of the (autoparsed) tl lines, which is convenient if you’re extremely fucking lazy. I’m not going to say I never used it (I am extremely fucking lazy), but going j-j definitely was needed more than once. Other than that I guess it’s ok, though it does have a still-unfixed bug where it’ll fuck up and display too few lines of text in a box due to some miscalculation. It’s certainly missing some features my dream tool would have, though. Personally I’d love to be able to see the script commands surrounding a line through some UI element to expand, as this could partially substitute for actually having the VN open for visual/scenographic context. It doesn’t have EPWING lookup, but that’s high effort since the format is bullshit apparently. It also doesn’t let you play voiced lines associated with spoken lines, though Shinimasu is unvoiced so I guess it doesn’t really matter for this project. Today I had to contact pory since it had stoped working properly; it turned out my build of the tool was old enough that a bug with java 9 (I had recently updated) was making it unusable. He quickly got a fix for the tool, but it took enough time that I lost the energy for revising my tl. Or that’s my excuse, anyway. See you next time for actual tl discussion w *What’s a git repository? Well the long answer is long and full of programmer-speak, but basically it lets you keep an online backup of your files, preserving older versions each time you decide to add a newer version to the server. You can do this while multiple people are working on the same file sometimes, though it can get hairy. I ended up not needing this much, but it’s been good insurance against data loss (and I have changed laptops at least once during translation, also had to reinstall windows once…). Really if you don’t have a backup for any translation of length, you’re probably doing it wrong (but also I am a CS student so it’s… not as hard for me w) **By virtue of saving the line number in the original script where the Japanese line was and associating that with the eventual translated line. I used a simplified version of this myself based on google sheets columns when I did tech for the ichigo & kyuugo tl. View the full article
  2. 3 points
    Umineko is a beast of a work that I've been putting off for many years now, probably around a decade. I first learned about it after watching the Higurashi anime back in 2010. At first I stayed away because I wasn't a fan of Ryukishi07's sausage-finger art. However these days it seems that most common ports of Umineko utilize updated art. But, that still left one other huge factor for why I was so intimidated by Umineko for so long. The estimated reading time of both the Question and Answer arcs is around 150 hours. That's a huge time commitment, and I am not a particularly patient or fast reader. If a book doesn't grab my interest within the first couple of chapters I feel no remorse in dropping it. And I apply that same rule to everything I read or watch. So works that have slow starts but supposedly “get better, I promise it gets way better if you continue with it!”, are works I generally avoid. But hey, Subahibi proved to be exceptional and I had a hunch that Umineko would prove to be as well. Essentially the whole coronavirus lockdown presented me with a rare opportunity to finally tackle Umineko. My last semester of Uni got delayed by over a month, and I figured if ever in my life I would have time to read Umineko it would be now. So I purchased the Steam releases of the Question and Answer arcs and installed the voice patch. Which by the way was a slight pain in the ass to do, since the voice-patch is banned in Japan for some copyright protection reasons. However using a VPN managed to solve that problem. To date I've read the first 5 episodes of Umineko including their associated tea party chapters. Which according to Steam clocks me in at 88 hours (I wasn't kidding about being a slow reader). I admire the balls it took for Ryukishi07 to literally take the most cliched premise of a “dark and stormy night in an isolated mansion” mystery setup, and to turn that premise so much on its head that my attention is wrapped entirely in the web of the narrative he has setup. And without being pretentious about it, Umineko makes it clear that the mystery genre, and literature in general, is something that Ryukishi07 holds dear to his heart. It is very much a love letter to the mystery genre, while also being a complete deconstruction of it. More than that though, it isn't just the plot which is masterly crafted, but what makes it standout is that it truly fleshes out its entire cast. Characters aren't just there to be pieces in a puzzle to solve, even if at first they may all seem to be fairly generic. Gradually as the layers peel, you will see the facade in much of the interactions between the family and all the conflicting and complex motives various characters hold beneath the surface. And above all, they are all sympathetic despite being quite flawed. If I had to pick one character in particular that was surprisingly much more complex then I anticipated, it would be the 9 year old Maria. I fully expected her to be a simple little kid character, who was there mostly to just be cute or maybe to be used for cheap tragedy. No, far from it. Even Maria has complex motives of her own that reach surprising levels of depth. And so if even the initial impression of a 9 year old can be deceptive, I think we can easily imagine that being true for the rest of the cast as well. What I found consistently very impressive about the work, is that as I mentioned previously I am not a patient reader. I hate it when stories have segments of seemingly dull character interactions to establish build up. This usually gets me in an irritated mood where I think, “This better be building up to something great, because I'm in no mood to settle for good.” And invariably, every single time so far that Umineko ordered for my extended patience, it was rewarded well beyond my expectations. A story that I initially found off putting precisely because of its length, is now a story I don't want to end. The irony, huh.
  3. 3 points

    Random VN: Komorebi no Nostalgica

    Yes, it is another Takaya Aya game... to be specific, his joint work with Morisaki Ryouto (known for his sci-fi bent and work with Applique). This work is also considered to be one of his penultimate masterpieces, which is ironic, since the company he created got bought out almost immediately after this game was released, hahaha. Anyway, Komorebi no Nostalgica was one of two contenders for my VN of the Year 2013 and lost out to Hapymaher. However, given how Hapymaher has proven somewhat difficult to replay (the Christmas arc puts me to sleep every time), and the way I find new things in Komorebi every time I replay it, I'm going to go ahead and say that that decision was probably a mistake, lol. Komorebi is a meticulously-written game, with so much attention to detail on the part of Takaya and Morisaki that it is literally impossible to pick up everything on one playthrough... and more importantly, it has a strangely powerful emotional impact that can't help but make you reflective on the issues it brings up. The setting of Komorebi no Nostalgica is based in the twenty-fifth century, long after the changing climate sank wide swathes of the world's land beneath the oceans and fifty years after a humanoid AI rebellion that resulted in what amounts to a negotiated draw (mostly because the AIs didn't want to wipe out humanity). The AIs in question are self-aware machines that possess human looks and emulate human emotions using a quantum processor and a unique set of self-developing algorithms. They are called the Metosera and live alongside humans in a larger society that coexists with human society while they dwell in 'Arks', large towers in the major cities that take on the maintenance and 'procreation' of their race. The government is now a world government, mostly because the nations that existed before the war were utterly dependent on Humanoids for most forms of manufacturing and manual labor and couldn't continue to exist on their own. This VN focuses on a group of friends that discover an extremely high-spec pre-war Humanoid hidden in the walls of their school building, and the discoveries they make as they rebuild Cinema (the Humanoid in question) and learn from her. Cinema is not a heroine, but she is undeniably the centerpiece of the story. The mysterious 'Store Manager' that customized her (to the extreme) and his intentions become central issues in several paths, and her unique aspects come into play in others. However, the universal aspect is that her presence sparks a number of issues that were dormant to rise to the surface during the course of the paths. Main Characters Shimazu Shouta is the protagonist, a guy who loves retro machines and is great at repairing old hardware and jury-rigging solutions to mechanical problems. By default, he is the homemaker of the family, since the two women living with him (his stepmother Kagari and his adoptive sister Akira) are both programming geniuses incapable of taking care of themselves. What stands out in regards to his character is his adaptability and his acceptance of the way the world is. This is important because it is what makes him an excellent partner for Fluorite in her path and gives the perfect perspective on Cinema. Shimazu Akira is Shouta's adoptive little sister, a natural-born hacker with a neural implant and way too much talent for her own good. Unfortunately, her impulsiveness and intolerance of 'inelegant' solutions to programming problems lead to constant trouble, since she has no impulse control. She is utterly dependent on her brother, to the same extent as her mother, without the wisdom of years to stabilize her. Fluorite Alvega is a Metosera who has spent most of her formative years with the 'group of friends', making her somewhat unusual for her kind, who usually end up spending more time with their own than with humans. While she has the Metosera tendency to think in straight lines and constantly analyze the world around her, she is more self-reflective and tolerant of the flaws and foibles of humans than many, who tend to be overly straight-laced. Kaja Fruhling is the daughter of two of Kagari's (Shouta's stepmother's) coworkers and was born in Germany. She is an easygoing girl who shares Shouta's love of motorcycles and scuba diving, and she is generally easy to get along with. While has some tomboyish aspects, she is surprisingly perceptive and compassionate beneath the surface. She is an all-around athlete who often gets recruited by the athletic clubs for help, but she isn't interested in joining any of them permanently. Sawatari Itsuki is a sharp-tongued young woman who is the most reserved and bookish in a group that is full of straightforward people. Of the group, she is the most 'balanced' in terms of talent, being a general prodigy (as opposed to one-point monsters like Seijuurou/male-Momoka, Flow/humanoid AI, or Akira/genius hacker). She is bookish and tends to get put in positions of responsibility, but this is mostly because she has a surprisingly forceful personality that is at odds with her appearance. She is also feared because of her tendency to wield 'correctness' as a weapon while being perfectly willing to ignore it if it is inconvenient to her personally. Cinema is the Humanoid uncovered in the school's secret room. Last active the year the Two Years War began, she was designed by someone even Akira describes as a 'genius'. She displays reactions that can only be described as 'emotional' and 'alive' in a fashion even the Metosera have difficulty managing, and certain aspects of her design indicate an extremely unusual design philosophy. However, she is undeniably too low-spec to gain sentience in the same way the Metosera did... so the question is just how is it that she leaves such a non-mechanical impression on those who see her...? Samon Seijuurou is the last member of the 'group of friends', a muscleheaded martial artist who is infamous for knocking the classroom door off its rails as he runs in just before the bell. At one point in the past, he wanted to become the strongest fighter in the city and went around picking fights with delinquents from other schools, but he eventually ran out of people to challenge. He is very simple-minded and straightforward and disinclined to question things. He has a good heart, but his inability to understand subtlety often trips him up (not to mention that he is an idiot and an open pervert). Important Side Characters Shimazu Kagari- Akira's birth mother and Shouta's stepmother. A genius programmer who is utterly incapable of taking care of herself (a quality her daughter shares). She has a very childlike manner and tastes, but she is in actuality very intelligent and mature (if in an odd way) beneath that appearance. Her attitude toward parenting is very much a 'wait and see while taking everything in' approach, and this has resulted in her daughter becoming a hacking wild child (who is essentially good natured) whereas Shouta became a mature homemaker despite his natural tendencies. Samon Munenori Seijuurou's grandfather and the master of the dojo that Seijuurou, Shouta, and Kaya attend. He is a veteran of the Two Years War and one of the few veterans who managed to get past his resentment of what amounts to humanity's defeat by their creations (it was only a draw because the Metosera avoided killing humans directly, though some died due to complications later or because they helped the Metosera). Celes is Fluorite's 'mother' and the Elder of the New Capital's Ark, the home of the city's/region's Metosera. She is a veteran of the Two Years War and one of the first Metosera to obtain sentience. She has a gentle manner and is deeply compassionate, and her attitude toward Fluorite and her friends resembles that of a gentle grandmother, as she merely laughs off the antics and trouble they got into in the Ark as kids. She sees Fluorite's oddities, born of her mixed socialization, as a source of hope for the future of her race, and she treasures the relationships that her 'daughter' has formed. Fluorite Path If you want the joy of discovering the details of the setting for yourself, do not open the spoiler box. I'm essentially getting extremely nerdy in the paragraphs in the spoiler box, so if you want my usual completely spoiler-free commentary, just ignore it. I considered just leaving it in the open, but I concluded that some people would not want to be spoiled about the setting to this degree. As I say above in the spoiler box, Flow has a rather stunning gap-moe thing going in her route, with her normally calm, almost flat manner showing serious cracks when she is around Shouta (hints of this can be seen in her reactions to Cinema in the common route as well). The early part of this route is very telling about both Flow personally and the Metosera as a whole, revealing a great deal about how they think (analyzed partially by Shouta himself, who has spent most of his life around Flow as a friend). The latter half is fairly action-focused, with Cinema's issues taking center stage (really, in all the paths this happens), and it is very strongly focused on the legacy of the Two Years War. The climax of the path would have anyone in tears, and I honestly found my heart breaking each of the four times I played this game and this path in particular. The box below has a very general setting spoiler involved with this path. Itsuki Path First I'll say that the romance in this path is fairly conventional. Itsuki and Shouta have known one another for a long time, and they already care about one another, so there is a lot less of a hurdle for Shouta in getting together with her than with Flow, where he had a moral dilemma born of him worrying about how he affected Flow. As such, I won't comment on the romance any further, since it is little more than a device to help the story along in this path. There is an excellent fight scene (by non-chuunige standards) toward the end of this path, and that is something to look forward to for action fans. However, the true spotlight of this path is Yep, that was me geeking out again. Essentially, this path contrasts the Metosera's evolution with Cinema's once again. This is one of the primary themes of the game, and Itsuki's path provides another point to build things up for the reader. Also, the epilogue to this path is as good as Flow's if in a different way. Kaja Path One thing that is interesting about replaying VNs is that you realize the reasons why you forget things and remember others. All of the heroines in Komorebi no Nostalgica are extremely close to the protagonist, and all the ones other than Akira can be considered 'osananajimi' (childhood friend) characters. However, Kaja fits the most perfectly into the osananajimi template, especially in the romantic elements of her path. Kaja's role with Shouta is as the 'friend he doesn't really see as a woman', a trope that gets pulled out a bit too often in VNs for my taste (it isn't so bad when they aren't heroines, but when they are heroines, the romance is usually wince-worthy at best). Because of this, it is no surprise that I avoided this path on future playthroughs, despite the insights it provides on Cinema. I should note that this path is one of those where there is a massive wall of text between the actual love confession and them becoming lovers (meaning the 'worrying about this and that' period is that long). Unlike the previous two paths, this path doesn't have a major action scene, though it does have some drama. While this is a much better path than charage equivalents of the same trope, I still hate that trope, lol. The epilogue, like the previous two, is a 'several years later, after graduation' epilogue, which is always nice, since it is great to know how things turn out for the characters central to the path. Akira Path If Komorebi was based on D&D rules, Akira would have an intelligence stat of 40 and a wisdom stat of 5. To be blunt, Akira is something of a spoiled brat whose talent, mother's social position, and Shouta's tendency to spoil her have shielded her from most of the sticks and stones that would have hit someone like her. Her hacking ability is extremely high (helped by her uncontrollable curiosity and disinterest in restraining herself), but she tends to outright forget common sense in any number of situations. One thing that stands out about the romantic part of this path (other than Shouta over-thinking things, as usual) is Kagari is a great mom, despite being incapable of cooking, cleaning, or doing the laundry (Shouta does all these things, lol). Her tendency to see through Shouta and the others is present in all the paths, but it is particularly in the open in this one. Let's just say that this path has less of a philosophical bent than Flow's or Itsuki's and less of a romance/SOL focused bent than Kaja's. This path's drama is mostly focused around the search for 'Tenchou's' identity and fate after he concealed Cinema. While there is some action, the actual stakes involved are far less than in Flow or Itsuki's path. Last Episode Last Episode is a chapter unlocked by completing all four heroine paths. It is very revealing about how and why 'Tenchou' vanished from the public world, and it also provides a conclusion to the story as a whole. Certain aspects of this chapter change based on which heroine you choose at the very first part of the chapter, as this determines which heroine is your canon heroine, lol. Of course, I always choose Flow... if there is a choice between human and non-human, I will always choose non-human. There are some seriously teary moments in this episode... particularly To be blunt, this chapter is really about Cinema and the final purpose for which she was created. If you, like me, have come to love Cinema by this point, you will probably break down in happy tears. Extra There really isn't anything to the extra chapter (accessed using the usual Takaya Aya code nkmr). It's basically a short joke skit written for people who have finished at least one of the paths. Conclusion A few stylistic comments first. Each chapter of this game has an episodic preview that hints at a key aspect of the next chapter. It is done using the second opening song and credits, and I thought it was worth noting, because while it hints at what comes next, it does so without spoiling things. It is also notable that the second opening song is just as beautiful as the first one (in retrospect, the music in Komorebi is top-tier, but Hapymaher's god-tier BGMs are so beyond the pale that comparing them at the time couldn't help but be a win for Purple Soft's flagship game). Komorebi no Nostalgica is one of a very small number of VNs that is 'complete' in every conceivable way. For better or worse, most VNs leave an opening for fandiscs, sequels, or dlc. However, Komorebi ties off all the loose ends and provides the answers any sane reader having experienced this story would want to know. Moreover, it does so in a manner that is not detrimental to any of the four heroines or their paths, which is, in itself, an incredibly unusual thing (essentially providing a true path that applies to all the heroines). Komorebi no Nostalgica also touches on a wide range of philosophical and ethical topics, in particular relating to AI and information technology in general. That this was done without compromising the emotional aspects of the story at all is a tribute to the genius of the writers. Final Comments If I have any advice for someone playing this game, is that the magic (not the devil) is in the details. This is a game that rewards people who actually take the time to think about or look up things they don't quite understand from what they are reading, and both Takaya and Morisaki rather obviously created this as a work of love and art, not just business. There is food for both the intellect and the heart in almost every (non-H) scene, and the characters, especially the main ones, are all well-written and brought to life well in the course of the story, which is in and of itself both touching and food for thought.
  4. 3 points

    Random VN: Semiramis no Tenbin

    Semiramis no Tenbin is a game by Caramel Box, best known in the West for the Otoboku series but who is more generally famous in Japan for being the home of Takaya Aya, one of the better writers in the industry. This game... is unique. I say this outright because there literally is no other VN like this. It isn't the characters or the themes that make it unique (though those are part of it), but rather the sheer impact of Takaya Aya's 'side trip into thinking like a chuunibyou patient' as he put it. Semiramis no Tenbin is a game with two sides, Law and Chaos. Law is represented by the Fortune-Telling Club's president, Eru, and Chaos is represented by Kamio Ami, the 'demon' of the story... a transfer student who appears in the prologue. The other heroines are placed at various points of balance between the scales (Sunao for Chaos, Touko for Balance, and Fumika for Law), with Eru and Ami serving as the absolute points of their alignments, as defined by Takaya Aya. The game really begins with the protagonist, Hayami Reiji, being blackmailed by Ami after she tricks him into having sex with her by using her circumstances to manipulate him (this is not a spoiler). Ami is the penultimate pragmatist, an individual who puts results above means, and while she can't (quite) be called ruthless, she comes pretty close to it. She is a heroine type that is rare to unheard of in Japanese VNs, an extremely manipulative person who wields her genius level IQ throughout the story to create situations in her immediate vicinity that would otherwise never have occurred. Much of the common route (two-thirds of which is standard, with the last third being split into Chaos and Law branches) is spent with Ami proposing a result she wishes to achieve, with Eru presenting her argument against it, and the protagonist acting or arguing in favor of one side or the other to decide things. Eru and Ami are both extremely intelligent individuals, whose conversations provide a lot of food for thought, not the least of which because Ami is ingenious at manipulating conversations to go her way, whereas Eru is good at seeing through these manipulations. While there are only five of these direct 'debates' in the common route itself, they leave a strong impression and provide a reason to come back later, if only to ruminate over what is said. Ami Calling Ami evil would be easy. She is pragmatic to a fault, doesn't believe in valuing the 'process' of doing something over the results, and she has a tendency to manipulate situations when there is no apparent need to do so. One thing that is striking about Ami's character, other than the obvious, is that she has extremely good reasons for being the way she is, reasons that are ironically similar to why Eru is the way she is. Ami does have a (very limited) sense of ethics, but these ethics are extremely narrowly-defined. It is her viewpoint that even if she manipulates a situation and people in a way that has negative results, it was the people involved who made the choices that led to that situation, so it isn't her concern what happens after. However, if an unexpected factor gets involved to cause such unpleasant results, she is willing to act to counter that unexpected factor. In addition, she does have a strong affinity for helping those she gets close to, though this also usually involves manipulating and controlling them into better results, because this is apparently the only way she can really involve herself with others. Eru Eru, throughout much of the game, has a tendency to react with a logical interpretation of standard morals and ethics. This is not necessarily because she believes in them blindly but because of how she was raised (it is more complex than stated in the common route). She is referred to as a 'wall of ice' by Ami and at least one other person during the common route, as she fundamentally defaults to keeping people at arms length and reacting using that same logical attachment to common morals and ethics. That's not to say she isn't fond of some people... she likes the members of the Fortune-telling Club and values her time there, but it also needs to be noted that the situation is unique for her, as she apparently doesn't hold the rest of her positions in life in the same esteem, apparently. Fumika Fumika plays the role of the sweet-natured kouhai with a speech impediment. She is very good at worming her way into the affections of Reiji and the few others she trusts, but she is surprisingly detached from most others. She is also one of only two characters other than Reiji himself who manage to worm their way into Ami's heart in any of the paths (which is notable, since while Ami might become fond of someone, it usually doesn't extend to actually caring about their life and fate). Her path... has so much impact you would never guess that she isn't one of the characters in the foreground of the game's cover. To be blunt, Fumika's quotes in this path have an impact that have stayed with me for the past six years, often serving to me as an example in the best uses of powerful phrasing at key points. Fumika rarely speaks in full sentences, so the sheer impact when she forces these quotes out of her mouth without stumbling is...staggering. Touko Touko is the game's erstwhile narrator, (though it isn't apparent through much of the game) and the character presented as being the writer of a novel based on the events in the story at the very beginning. She is also the heroine who has potentially the most intimate friendship with Ami, which says a lot about her hidden perceptiveness at important points. Normally, she is presented as a 'yurufuwa' character, a bookworm who sleeps through much of the day at school while speaking in slow but clearly enunciated sentences when awake. She is Reiji's osananajimi and many fans of the game consider her the 'hidden true heroine', as she is the heroine that represents Balance. Sunao Sunao is the weakest of the game's heroines. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that she is deliberately a derivative of Ami (a more normal/healthy minded version). The most powerful one, though, is that her ending can be considered a second bad Ami ending (there is a bad ending in Ami's path). I won't go into details, but once you get accustomed to Ami's quirks, you quickly realize what she is doing with Sunao and Reiji, which makes it hard to even maintain an interest in Sunao... much for the same reasons Reiji puts forth if you pick the conversational path that leads away from a relationship with Sunao. I honestly don't recommend playing Sunao's path unless you are just a completionist. Notes on the Common Route progression One thing that will probably strike anyone who picks the Law route is that the conflicts are... darker. To be blunt, the last few arcs of the common route are much darker in nature in the Law route than they are in the Chaos Route, which can be seen as the world bearing out that Ami's viewpoint of results over process being a better choice might be correct. Ami is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'good' person. However, the story itself states that the results she get are more likely to create a good situation. I found this an interesting - and possibly telling - choice on the part of Takaya. In addition, this game has a tendency to rile 'pure-hearted weaboos'. I say this because the picture of Japanese society it presents is as unflattering as that of Yume Miru Kusuri... if not moreso. If nothing else, the portrayals of how 'officials' react to domestic violence are telling of the flaws built into their legal system. Conclusion If you are wondering why I don't go into more details on the routes and the like, it is because it is impossible to do so without spoilers. I focused on giving each heroine a proper introduction and telling you what to expect from them. This game is not meant for those who want sweet and romantic. Most of the paths aren't romantic, except in a really rough sense. There is love, there is affection, and there is sex. However, it tends to come in a fashion that is 'dirtier' than most VN readers will be accustomed to, unless they dig into the borderline dark nukige out there.
  5. 2 points
    https://j-addicts.de/master-magistrate/ After a couple months of wait, the full version of Master Magistrate was released! This review is an update of my early-access review. I removed or corrected outdated information, polished my thoughts a little and added my thoughts on the final chapter and the epilogue. Master Magistrate is a pretty cool murder mystery detective visual novel with a historical setting.You'd be hard pressed to find something quite like it, the closest would probably be Great Ace Attorney or Elf's Mikagura Shoujo Tanteidan. Overall, it has a bit of a weak start with its introductory chapter, with the pacing picking up on the second one. Third chapter is hands down the best for me, in terms of gameplay, plot and character development and the last chapter makes for a great finale, tying perfectly all the loose ends and expertly resolving all of the unsolved mysteries. Exciting revelations and myriads of twists await you. And if you're a fan of the more SoL parts, the heroine routes are nicely integrated in alternate epilogues for the story. There's porn too (it's optional, just buy/don't buy the Adult DLC).
  6. 1 point

    Random VN: Baldr Sky Zero

    Baldr Sky Zero is an entirely different animal from Baldr Sky Dive. I say this as a warning for those who are looking for a complete duplicate of the experience. Baldr Sky Dive was very much like a post-apocalypse apocalypse story in some ways, with a bunch of revenge thrown in. There is much to recommend to both duologies but they are fundamentally different in some ways. This review is of the first half of the Zero duology, which covers the Sakura, Kei, and Fran paths. I chose to review it separately because the time between each game’s release was enough to make some differences to the experiences between the two games… enough to require me to feel a need to separate them into two different reviews. This path focuses on amnesiac Edward, a Simulcram pilot who is discovered in a corporate virtual space by the members of Squall, the SAS (Southeast Asian Sector) branch of Fenrir. He is ‘rescued’ (he mostly rescues himself) and brought back to the base, where – after some ‘interesting’ events – he joins Squall, which is probably one of the more interesting mercenary teams I’ve seen in a VN or anime. A few notes on the setting. This story is based a few years before the events of Sky Dive (which is why it is called Zero). The path that most fans believe to be canon to Sky Dive is Sakura’s (for reasons that become obvious during the last part of the path), and the rest of the paths are essentially parallel world paths similar to how Dive treated the non-true paths. The SAS is a different animal from the city Dive is based in. Unlike that city, people spend far less time in virtual space in the SAS, due to a psychological phenomenon that causes homicidal paranoia in those who spend too much time confined there called Black Dog. The SAS is in a constant state of low-level warfare, with people being born and dying at an exponentially faster rate than the rest of the world. The setting itself is in many ways far more brutal and cruel than the one you see in Sky. In the SAS, human experimentation is as common as soylent green, the body parts of debtors are sold on the open market (often by the debtor themselves before they are killed), and children are produced in lots to be trained as soldiers. Every newborn child has a chip similar to Kou’s in Dive, and the sheer rate of death has resulted in a far higher aptitude for Simulcram piloting than in the outside world. Squall, in this harsh setting, is a rare small elite unit… of what would seem to be complete psychopaths if you didn’t have a constant window into their daily lives and personalities. Squall has a horrible reputation for blackmail, extortion, and general carnage, but their abilities make them too valuable to be disposed of. As one character puts it, ‘The people in Squall seem perfectly normal, but once they get on the battlefield, they laugh and joke as they spread slaughter and carnage.’ To members of Squall, even more than to the average citizen of the SAS, war is just a daily activity, and killing not something to get concerned about to any significant degree. In just the common route, Edward likely kills more people than Kou does in both Dive games combined. However, outside of battle or preparation for such, the character interactions in this game are often humorous, regardless of the subject of conversation. Edward has very little impulse control beyond a certain point, Sakura has a serious potty mouth and a gambling addiction (really, all of them are gambling addicts), Kei is constantly eating, Merrill has no common sense, Reena is constantly ragging on the Commander about his brothel bills, Dmitri is a sadist who never loses at gambling and uses invisible floating turrets to get his point across, and the Commander is a whimsical bastard who loves war, women, and alcohol far too much. In other words, this cast of characters, and the atmosphere of the game in general, will be something of a shock to anyone coming straight from Dive or expecting a similar experience. Moreover, the shift to polygon-based 3D graphics for the combat makes the gameplay a significantly different experience. The gameplay is somewhat less fluid and streamlined than the traditional Baldr battle system, and the Giga team obviously didn’t have the programming talent at the time to really handle Unity (which means save frequently and expect random crashes even with the last game update). Kei Kei... is on the surface a stubborn genkikko with an excessive fondness for food in a world that has a serious dearth of good cooking (though Riina can make soylent green palatable through nanomachine reprogramming). However, underneath that somewhat fluffy exterior is a will of iron and a typically-SAS pragmatic attitude toward the mercenary life of risking her life and killing people on a daily basis for money. I mention the latter because, while all the characters share this attitude to one degree or another, it is an unexpected element to her personality in particular, given the template she seems to fill at first glance. Kei's route is, as should be obvious to anyone who reads through the initial encounter with her, a trip into her past with Edward (it is so blatantly obvious she knows him from the very beginning, so her efforts to obfuscate make no difference at all). It is pretty interesting and exciting, and it provides the most intimate view of what it is like to grow up as a normal child in the SAS (hint: It is horrifying even by the standards of a tin-pot dictatorship/banana republic). It is the route most often recommended to be played first, in part because of this fact. For most people who play this game, Kei is the least liked heroine, because she does better as a joke character and Merril's sidekick. Sakura Sakura is... a surprisingly complicated girl. Your first impression of her is as a foul-mouthed wildcard who has no self-control and a horrible gambling habit (all true), but she is also surprisingly innocent about some things and sensitive about the others on her team in a way that is only rivaled by Riina, who fundamentally misses nothing. Her path is focused on her own past and Church 22, a half-religious organization of virtual drug-addicted wounded and retired soldiers who constantly go on suicidal rampages throughout the SAS network. Let's just say that Church 22 is very much like a cult, and the Kool-aid is CGH (the virtual drug in question). It is also the canon link path to Sky Dive, for those who are interested. Fran Fran is Commander Goodman's daughter, an underdeveloped girl (the story calls her a loli, so she's a loli, lol) who has a tendency to take solo missions and act on her on recognizance more often than is probably wise. She is highly intelligent, but her social upbringing (in a mercenary organization that has a high rate of psychological cripples) has left her with a speech impediment when she is outside the spheres of warfare or hostile/semi-hostile interactions with her fellows. This is the only path I'll mark for its romance, though Sakura's was interesting that way too. This path's romance is very much a seduction by Fran. She essentially wears Ed down (not emotionally, since he falls in love with her early on, but rather H-wise) over time through sheer persistence. It is fairly hilarious to watch, though this path may be the reason this game will never get brought over here. This path is also about equal in length to the previous two combined (it adds an extra chapter and each chapter is around 25% longer). The reason for this is because the scale of what is going on is so much bigger than in the previous two paths. Elements of Sakura's plotline are included in this path, but those are incidental to what is going on, for the most part. Fran has a rather obvious grudge against Wotan and WALRUS, who are considered the most dangerous group in SAS's net wars (and that's saying a lot, considering how many threats exist). This path plows a really complicated path through the ins and outs of SAS politics, science, and history, and it has a great deal of potential for traumatizing the reader if they have a good imagination. If it weren't for Fran's and Edward's relationship being so utterly hilarious, this path would be downright depressing. However, the comedic parts of this path serve to lighten the atmosphere just enough to strike a balance between it and the darker elements. Conclusion If you go into this game thinking to see a carbon-copy prequel to Baldr Sky Dive, then you really need to change how you are thinking. In reality, this is a drastically different story, though it is still a Baldr story at heart. Horror, humor, and warfare all in one package... so whether the reader likes it or not will depend mostly on how the reader takes in the content. Short Guide to text-hooking Baldr Sky Zero I'm just going to come out and say it... all games that use mono or its successor Unity (VNs, that is) have text-hooking problems, for those of you who can't wait for translations but don't quite have the skill or the patience to read the kanji or just want the furigana for reference. Pretty much your only real options are Textractor and VNR (ITHVNR no longer being workable on Windows 10). The h-code up on the h-code wiki is a fake, so don't bother. Textractor is my recommendation for this game. VNR doesn't reliably pick up the threads that have the text in them, and it has a tendency to cause freezes, because you can't delete the excess threads that VNR continually detects, causing freezes, load problems, and general annoyance all around. It makes the game almost unplayable. Here is the guide to hooking this with Textractor without making it crash. 1. Start Baldr Sky Zero and either start a new game or load an existing one that is in the middle of a story portion. 2. Start Textractor (whether you have already hooked this game before or not, you have to do it this way or the game will crash before you can do the next few steps) 3. Hook the game then proceed one line forward in the text. Do NOT click like crazy to try to get it to work. Click once, then leave it alone until it proceeds. 4. As soon as it has proceeded to the next line, go back to textractor and click on 'remove hook'. 5. Look through the drop down list of threads until you find ones that seem to contain most or all the text. 6. Delete ALL hooks (by double-clicking on them) that don't contain the text in question. 7. Close the remove hook box. 8. Open it again after proceeding at least once more through the text, then repeat the process on any excess hooks that might have popped up. 9. Generally speaking, the textractor thread-linking function is unreliable with mono/unity games, so you'll probably have to deal with a few cut-off symbols in the thread that contains all lines (in my experience, it usually cut off the last one to three symbols, varying upon the line). 10. Configure game does not work properly with this game, so don't use it.
  7. 1 point
    Note: I was provided with a free review copy of the game by the developer. All opinions are solely my own. Sequels to obscure, low budget EVNs are always a slightly awkward topic to tackle. They are inevitably tied to games which few people are familiar with and which can be, at least in some aspects, of subpar quality simply due to their indie nature. This makes giving a meaningful rating and recommendation for potential readers tricky – at the very least, any kind of conclusion about them will be served with a good number of caveats, related to the interplay between titles in the particular series and the value proposition they represent both together and on their own. The latest title to create such a conundrum for me is Eldritch University by Jackkel Dragon. Released on Steam in June 2020, this game is a sequel to early 2019’s Eldritch Academy, a supernatural horror VN combined with a fair dosage of high-school yuri romance. While amusing in its romantic arcs, the prequel had several issues: unlikeable protagonist, repetitive routes, below-average visual and, in my opinion, an unreasonably high price for the level of quality it represented. University, while borrowing the setting and tying itself loosely to the core intrigue of that game, represents a major improvement in most aspects – a better-looking, more focused experience with a price tag way more representative of its entertainment value. Is it, however, good enough to make the whole series worth it, or to be a viable read as a standalone experience? Well, it depends on what you want from it… The troubled relationship between the protagonist and her girlfriend is the most interesting part of the game – and the most satisfying, when you finally see them succeed Eldritch University follows the story of Kasumi, a college freshman that was recently reconnected with Misaki, the girlfriend she was separated from three years earlier. A secondary character from Eldritch Academy, Kasumi was the person who unwittingly unleashed the supernatural threat that game's story revolved around and nearly got killed in the process. Still bearing some emotional scars from the incident, she was mostly able to regain her easy-going attitude and is happy to work on rebuilding her relationship with Misaki. However, when the wound she sustained back then starts giving off strange symptoms, and creepy stories of apparitions begin popping out around the campus and the surrounding town, it becomes clear that the horror is far from being over. I won’t try to hide it: if there’s one thing I deeply enjoyed about Eldritch University it is the love story between Kasumi and Misaki and the way it is tied with the overarching supernatural intrigue. Initially, Kasumi herself is a bit of a bubbly airhead, while Misaki is more timid, but also kind and friendly. As, in the prequel, we briefly observe the couple in their high school days, they are outgoing and over-the-top affectionate to each other. However, the circumstances of their separation (forced by Misaki’s conservative mother) and the time they spend apart change that significantly. Misaki’s is weighed down by the social stigma and rejection she suffered due to being a lesbian, while Kasumi struggles to adapt to her changed behaviour and the doubt on whether the connection they once had can be fully rebuilt. In both of the non-dead-end endings, this dynamic gets resolved in a satisfying and heart-warming fashion, while never overdoing the drama and keeping the emotional and psychological profiles of both girls very believable. Coupled with a romantic, non-explicit sex scene, this makes Eldritch University a real treat for yuri fans such as myself – I was genuinely surprised and impressed with how impactful it was. The game’s supernatural story feels somewhat rushed and underdeveloped, but also avoids repetition and filler content that plagued Eldritch Academy The horror intrigue is less developed and is probably the only aspect of the game which I would consider weaker than it was in Academy, which focused a lot on stress and desperation of fighting against a supernatural threat. It ties directly to the events of the first game and creates a few genuinely tense scenes, but its main value is, once more, in the well-executed interplay with the love story. The character most important for the horror arc, Kasumi’s friend Hinata, plays into her insecurities and confusion about Misaki’s behaviour – this leads to a few interesting choices influencing the main couple’s relationship. On the other hand, the are also blind choices with unpredictable consequences in horror scenes and the pacing of the whole mystery plot feels rushed. With frequent time skips and rapid story developments, the sense of looming danger and despair, for which the game was definitely aiming, is only half-there. Also, surprisingly little was added to the series' overall lore and worldbuilding – it neither showed anything truly new about its supernatural elements nor opened interesting story threads for possible continuation. Then we get to the issue of secondary characters, who can be hardly described as anything more than plot devices. Two girls helping the protagonist and Misaki, Yuri and Shizuka, are a tie-in from the author’s book, Shireishi, but without the extra context someone who read that would probably have, they’re simply exposition props. Other minor characters barely show any personality either – Kasumi’s other friend, Hiroshi, is probably the only meaningful one among them. And at last, there’s the issue of actual relevance of knowing Eldritch Academy, as the really important parts lay not in the main plot of that game, but in the unlockable bonus content – short episodes showing the circumstances of Kasumi and Misaki getting separated and the way they adapted to their new situation. They add weight to the drama of University, but hardly justify investing time (8-10 hours) and money ($12) in the prequel. Honestly, I would just prefer to see a recap of Eldritch Academy and the scenes expanding on Kasumi’s and Misaki’s stories in University, as a skippable prologue – it would make it much easier to recommend it not only to people familiar with the first game (or interested in reading it), but also those that want to jump straight into the sequel. Outside of Kasumi’s two friends, Hinata and Hiroshi, the secondary characters in the game are more plot devices than anything else – and even these two receive relatively little development The visuals are a clear improvement over Academy, but are still pretty basic. While the sprite designs look more clean and expressive than they did in the prequel, the low amount of detail and simple shading are still very much visible. CGs look solid most of the time, but are ultimately on the same level as the sprites and occasionally even struggle with perspective. The end effect is hardly an eye candy, but very serviceable. The same can be said about music, which… Exists. It’s a very generic set of background tunes, but never gets in the way or fails to match the climate of the scene, which is good enough in my mind. So, what’s my conclusion on Eldritch University? It’s a game that struggles a bit with its identity, stylising itself as a horror story but hardly committing to this theme. However, for yuri fans that enjoy a more grounded approach to LGBT+ issues, it has enough to offer to easily justify the $6 price tag (for 3-4 hours of content). Also, for people that enjoyed Eldritch Academy or specifically look for the combination of supernatural thriller and GxG romance, it should prove satisfying. For anyone else, it might be a much harder sell… But if anything I wrote here sounded interesting to you, I still suggest giving it a chance – if not for the full price, then at least grabbing it on sale. And if this dev’s work continues improving in this manner, their next game might be very easy to recommend, even to a broader audience. Final Rating: 3/5 Pros: + Excellent romantic subplot + Likeable and well-developed main cast Cons: – Average-at-best visuals – Rushed/underdeveloped supernatural horror storyline – Underdeveloped secondary characters VNDB Page Buy Eldritch University on Steam or Itch.io
  8. 1 point

    Melty Reflection Review

    Welcome to this week VNTS Review, and as for the title I'm simply combined 'Melty' word from Melty Moment and 'Reflection' word from Summer Pockets Reflection Blue so we have 'Melty Reflection' as this week VNTS Review title. As for this week, release wise it's not as active as the last week although the updates was still manage to make up for it though. For the updates, we have usual one from fan translation and monthly one from Nekonyan, and most importantly we manage to have Irru fulfilled his goal to release Momiji's patch at June today. In any case, let's see what I can write for this week as well here. From Sol Press we have Irotoridori was fully translated along with the editing was almost completed at 90% edited. Looking from the progress of their other VNs, looks like it'll be next release. No much to say for now other than I'll look forward for the near future release from Sol Press if possible. From Frontwing as expected they'll release Phantom Trigger Volume 7 in English language as well, and for the release date, it'll be at July 22nd later according to the Steam page. What I know for now is that it would be the last volume for Phantom Trigger, and that it'll be longer compared to the previous volumes. If anything, at least I can accept this as the conclusion of Phantom Trigger more easily compared to Rakuen seeing that Phantom Trigger here is more or less a linear VN compared to Kajitsu (Although there's no sex scenes though). As for Nekonyan's updates, currently we have Hello Lady was at 40% in QA and apparently it's already completed the editing progress for the fandisc part as well. While it mean that Hello Lady should be next Nekonyan's release, it's still not determined as of now because we also have two projects that was in QA as well. Those two projects are IxShe Tell with the current progress was at 85% translated and 80% edited along with 35% in QA, and Riddle Jokers in that it's been at a quarter in QA. In any case, I'll look forward to see whether Nekonyan's next release would be one of those three VNs above or not. For the rest of their updates, we have Kirikoi was at three quarter translated along with a quarter edited, Aokana EXTRA 1 was at 45% translated along with 15% edited, and 1st secret project was at 30% translated. Lastly we finally have Melty Moment start the progress after more than two years in hiatus, and currently it's at 30% translated. That's all for Nekonyan's updates at this month. Since the new fragments for PS3 version of Matsuribayashi, it mean that the work on Miotsukushi Ura was resuming. As for the current progress of Miotsukushi Ura, it's at 54% translated. For more updates from fan translation, we have Taimainin Yukikaze 2 was at three quarter translated, Kud Wafter all age version was past three quarter (77.38%) translated, and Eustia was at 90.37% translated with side stories was at 37.52% translated. Since we have Summer Pockets Reflection Blue released, of course Alka decided to translate it and since they already translated the original version it mean that at least they already finished a substantial part of Reflection Blue itself (Apparently more than halfway). Also this time they decided to work on this until they finished unless they got C&D from VA seeing that the official version of Summer Pockets did have some flaws (ie typo and some broken wordwrap), so let's see if they can finished Reflection Blue here. For the last update, we finally manage to have Momiji's patch released today, and the patch did cover 62.57% of Ginharu. So if you already interested with Momiji ever since Ginharu being released and can't wait for Mizuha's patch release, go get Momiji's patch and have fun. As for the next plan while it should be obvious that they'll translate Yuzuki's route next, Irru still don't know what's Trip's plan for that yet. Irru also hope that they'll be able to go back to weekly update starting this week, so let's see if Tsurezure can do it later. That's all for this week VNTS Review, and see you next week.
  9. 1 point
    Foreword: It's the only chunige of the month, so an obvious choice. Synopsis: Demon Parasites..., the ones who can transform themselves into soldiers by holding a mysterious parasite inside. One night, Juzo meets Mizuki, who is a demon parasite, in the park, and gets to know that he is also a demon parasite. Now that he is a demon parasite, he gradually gets involved in a battle against monsters. Will he be able to defeat them...? Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcPfY8STGGw Game type: Chunige Character Design rating: 9/10 Protagonist rating: 10/10 Story rating: 10/10 Game quality: 9/10 Overall rating: 9/10 So you must be wondering how could Demon Parasite win over other great five masterpieces of the month. There is some personal preference towards chunige, but it's also a great game, so it's time to explain why. Story is called common place by some reviewers since it's students who get transformation powers and fight monsters, but it's actually based on a tabletop setting created by Kitazawa Kei in 2006, so the world is really well thought and detailed here. Not all the parts of the setting are utilized though like there's no Seraphim organization, but it's fun to know the setting basics and theorize who is Phalanx and who is Brigandine. It's a serious dark fantasy story, so don't expect bright development. This kinetic novel only took me 10 hours to record, and it definitely leaves room for a sequel. It has full voicing, great CG, powerful BGM and animation. Heroes are mature and logical, except maybe for Futaba - and her hysteria behavior actually constitutes the single penalty score for the game. Both tsundere and yandere archetypes are present. Mizuki is plain awesome as main heroine. There aren't H scenes. Everything is just as I like it. So what can people possibly be upset about this game? Those very few negative reviews name these disadvantages of the game: lack of CG, battle cut-ins that hurt tempo, short length, lack of excitement. Some see that it's a quarter-price work (2000 yen without soundtracks) and thus just can't rate such cheap game highly. These arguments are laughable. As for me, everything I like was united for one impactful experience here. It's not a long work, so I don't want to spoil game events. I encourage to see for yourself, since chunige of this high quality are rare to come by.
  10. 1 point
    Note: I was provided with a review copy of the game by the developer. To talk about the latest slice-of-life VN by ebi-hime, nothing & nowhere, we have to start in a less-than-obvious place. Nearly two years ago I made an overview ebi’s freeware games and one of the most memorable and unique of them was Lynne: a heavily stylized, pixelart horror game about a teenager crumbling under pressure from her toxic and demanding familycrumbling under the pressure from her dysfunctional family and societal expectations she's unable to truly meet. Full of suffocating atmosphere and visceral dream sequences, it is to this day one of the most effective horror experiences I’ve seen in the medium and one that ends on an abrupt, but appropriately disturbing note. Nothing & nowhere, while representing a completely different climate and stylistic, is basically an alternative timeline spin-off of that game, offering something probably every person that read Lynne wished for – some form of respite and hope for the future to the game’s tortured protagonist. Interestingly enough, after being released in mid-May 2020, nothing & nowhere was not marketed directly as a sequel or spin-off of Lynne. Even the Steam page only mentioned the connection at the very end of game’s description, suggesting it’s above all a standalone story, despite sharing the central character with its horror predecessor. In my experience, however, it was exactly that link, and the extra context being familiar with Lynne provided me with, that made the new game a truly worthwhile. More than that, I’m willing to argue it's likely be the same for most potential readers, for a few crucial reasons. The mystery behind the main character’s appearance near Cora’s village is not particularly compelling (and nearly turned void if you read Lynne), but the real appeal of the story is her path to overcoming the persistent issues that made her escape her previous life The core story of nothing & nowhere is a very slow-paced, nostalgic slice-of-life story, similar in feel and scope to one of the other recent titles by ebi, Rituals in the Dark. Through third-person narration, it presents the story of Cora, an eccentric writer living in a small village in rural England, and a mysterious girl she finds one morning on a local beach, exhausted and drenched from the cold, autumn rain. Assuming the Girl (that’s the only way she’s referred to for most of the game’s story) run from home, she decides to give her shelter, opening the story of their unusual and slightly strenuous cohabitation. The main axis of the story is about the Girl and her path to overcoming the depression and anxiety that drove her into running away from her previous life – however, her specific circumstances and motivation are not the only, and not the most interesting mystery. That honour undeniably goes to Cora – an extravagant and successful young woman, living a reclusive life in an old-fashioned cottage in the middle of nowhere. Always perfect in her appearance and borderline-boastful about her achievements, she gives few hints on what drove her to this lonely way of life. Even while her relationship with the Girl grows deeper, she reveals very little about her past and wittingly diverts any attempts at prying into it. Here, however, we’re already landing on the biggest issue I have with the game – the reveals, when they happen, are not as impactful as I hoped for and the path that leads to them have too few memorable moments. The dynamic between Cora and the Girl is pretty amusing, with Cora using her rhetorical skills and life experience to not only solve the “mystery” of the Girl’s presence in the remote village, but also steer her in a direction of overcoming her deep-seeded problems. Her patient and considerate attitude, hidden under a layer of teasing and caricatural self-confidence, is heartwarming and makes a great basis for a believable story of healing and finding a new path in life. However, especially combined with the Girl’s depressive passivity, it does not create many impactful scenes or spark genuinely interesting tension between the two women. This results in an experience most appropriate for people with a really high tolerance for relaxed slice-of-life content, with no real twists of shifts in pacing involved. While the context of Lynne adds a lot of meaning to nothing & nowhere’s story, it also exposes its biggest weakness – lack of tension and few emotionally impactful moments Here we come to the aforementioned connection with Lynne and its significance. The main reason I think it’s important, is because it gives a much deeper look into the Girl’s backstory and the suffering she went through, making her recovery way more meaningful and satisfying to see. Also, the epilogue is filled to brim with references that will mean relatively little to people not familiar with the previous game. At the same time, I can’t shake off the feeling that deeper crossover from Lynne’s storytelling devices and unsettling climate would make nothing & nowhere a more compelling experience. Referencing more directly the girl’s traumatic nightmares and intense suffering we saw in that game would make the process of overcoming them and Cora’s involvement a lot more engaging to follow. I respect the fact that was not the kind of story ebi wanted to tell and that’s at least one of the reasons she didn’t tie this game to Lynne so explicitly, but it makes me particularly worried about its viability as a standalone experience. Without the appeal of an alternative take on an already-known story, there’s not that much here to hook the average reader with – even romance, the most obvious magnet for a broader audience, is relegated to brief backstory section for Cora. On the other hand, what might draw people in, outside of the story details, is the art, high in quality and utilizing a distinct, non-anime artstyle. As usual with this kind of stylistic, I needed a bit of an adjustment period after approaching the VN and I’m still not sure how I feel about the eerie, doll-like look of Cora’s sprite. However, the general impression from the game’s visuals was definitely positive. The backgrounds were nicely detailed and all assets felt very consistent in style and level of detail. The CGs were few, less than 10 in total, but the minimalistic story hardly demanded more custom illustrations to fully get the message across… Although just the fact I can’t think of another scene I would like to see illustrated, other than maybe the last sequence of the epilogue, reinforces my point about the (relative) lack of memorable moments. The non-anime art in nothing & nowhere has a peculiar, doll-like feel to it, but all the assets are unquestionably high-quality and very consistent in style The last thing that has to be mentioned is the music – very relaxed and rather minimalistic, which puts it perfectly in-synch with the overall tone of the story. Generally, the cohesion between all layers of the experience in nothing & nowhere – story, art, GIU and music – was extremely high, which is something I deeply appreciate. I still, however, wished that the substance of it all was a bit more dynamic and hard-hitting. I’m tempted to say that the soul-crushing experience such as Lynne deserved a just as deeply uplifting sequel, but even disregarding that point, I simply feel this story idea demanded execution either longer and more in-depth, or more vivid and dramatic. Some will surely disagree with me, but this is the only honest assessment I can give. At the same time though, if you enjoyed Lynne or if you’re willing to read it before buying this game, it should be very much worth experiencing – and with the prequel being free and this game costing just $5, there are few reasons to not give them a try. Final Rating: 3/5 Pros: + High-quality, stylistically consistent visuals + Pleasant music + Satisfying, uplifting alternative scenario for fans of Lynne Cons: – Pretty forgettable as a standalone story – Very slow-paced and minimalistic storytelling VNDB Page Buy nothing & nowhere on Steam or Itch.io
  11. 1 point
    Foreword: Why is there only like two Japanese reviews for a game with this classy setting? The Japanese must have overlooked another great game, and I'm restoring it to due glory. Or so I thought. Synopsis: There is a city filled with crime. The police can do nothing, and a big conspiracy is now being planned. To protect his beloved, Rex rises up... He has a secret that he is actually a battle hero, Xvain. His decision to use his power is triggered by meeting with Fiart, his childhood friend. Since the day he swears to protect her, his endless battle starts... Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McrIk5XeMIk&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9q-oMU8Hrp7fXhAM9jFglv Game type: Action fighting story Character Design rating: 6/10 Protagonist rating: 5/10 Story rating: 5/10 Game quality: 5/10 Overall rating: 5/10 Studio e.go makes RPG mostly, but there's also a good number of AVG games. I remember trying one of their games long ago. It was not RPG, but had some weird repeating actions, and I just could not break through that loop or whatever it was. But in 2007 things must have changed completely already, so I can finally give this brand a new try. As you see from the scores, things did not go just as I expected. First, I got to battle explanation system. Was a pretty long explanation. And I never faced a single battle. Guess it was turned off in the settings by default of whatever, but I don't remember touching anything there besides text speed. Then there was a spot to hunt androids. And no choices advanced the story. So I kind of chose hunt more and do other things like going home more. And somehow story went on occasionally. And now imagine that situations like that arise constantly in the game. Sometimes such scene was rushed in a minute, sometimes it took some 50 minutes of real time skipping and trying variants. And on the *th time of choosing the same variants it somehow proceeded. I cut some pointless stumbling in the video, but there is still abundance of such moments with up to half an hour of pointless skipping. Maybe there is really some kind of battle experience that I needed to get, but I never saw any experience meter or points, so can't say. It's all super confusing. Those who played with battles turned on say that battles are meaningless since you always know enemy's dice and can always choose perfect dice out of three variants to counter that. Let's leave system weirdness be. We're here for the hard-boiled city fighting adventure, after all. Rex has a secret weapon - power to transform into Xvain who fights with the demon power. And if this power is misused, his humanity can be lost. And in game there are indeed variants at each of five chapters to rest or pray so that accumulated devil weariness is lifted each time. I wound not call story fine. With these random grinding layers it feels like story serves the fighting sequences, and not vice versa. Development is gentle with occasional humor moments. There are some nice characters like older brother or Slayer. And story can be enjoyed to a certain extent... if you can put up with no voicing. There is voicing in H scenes, but I cut them out clean in the video, so no luck here. What kind of game inserts voicing only in H scenes? Either game that wants to empathize heroines charm in special emotional moments or... nukige. And here we come to the dark side of the game. When I occasionally glanced at game gallery, I could not recognize this game. There are a lot of devil HCG which can only be gained by approaching H events under different stages of devilishness. There are thee stages, but it's reported that at every chapter you are forced to reset this meter to 0, and there aren't enough battles to raise this parameter. So all those violation scenes could only be unlocked by actually hacking the game. Wow, just wow. This game manages to fail as a tactical game, as a story game (not with all those battle insertions), as a charage (after final H event there is less than a minute till credits) and now even as a nukige. I really wanted to like this game, and I liked both battle nun Michelle and genius Rinse heroines. But I'm just not sure this game is even meant to be played this way as a pure-love action driven story. It feels more like RPG with actual RPG elements torn out. With every element examined the same word pops up in my mind. WEIRD.
  12. 1 point
    Before I read this 2011 game from Pil/Slash, a developer infamous for doing weird shit, I heard several people in the BL community say that this game is like the kamige of BL games. Sure, I took it with a grain of salt, since fanbases in general hyper-inflate scores like no tomorrow. Even the most popular Nitro+Chiral BL games are good but nowhere near kamige level. I accepted it and started this game, one that felt very different from your average BL right from the start. Turns out that they were right about the kamige-tier thing. The cover with our heroes. Written by Kusaka Matsuri, same scenario writer of Black Cyc's Gore Screaming Show, Shingakkou tells the story of Michael, a boy enrolled in a boarding religious school going back home for Christmas Eve... only to find his family murdered, an inverted cross painted with blood in the wall and the entire house burning down. And all of this is like, ten minutes into the game. With only his twin brother Gaby by his side, Michael turns his back on God and go back to the school only to get his revenge, because is there that the possible culprit is hiding, along with a secret cult that worships the devil. Despite the anti-religious feel of the prologue, and good part of the common route where Michael mocks internally all his old habits that he's only reproducing not to be expelled, the message of the game is really one of love and forgiveness, a journey where Michael needs to learn to believe in God, other people and himself again. It's really incredible the amount of development he goes through the novel, I was almost shocked when I went back to the common route after finishing a route and saw irritable Michael again. And fortunately, said development isn't just him growing a spine, because he have one from the start. And I'm not a religious person myself, but even then I found the message (and the endings) extremely beautiful and touching, and not a propaganda of sorts, like some exorcism themed movies. Gaby is the one on the left, Michael on the right. But! Before we can go to those positive messages, we have to pass some horror stuff. And with "horror stuff" I mean: bizarre surreal images flashing, unknown sounds interrupting the conversation, jumpscares, cute (but in the end not really) laughing coming from nowhere, tons of allucination sequences, have to hear a character called Lucifer say things he wasn't supposed to know and even the music stops when he does so. Remember to play it in bright places! Seriously, the slice of life parts are the calm before the storm and you'll feel it. There's always that sense of dread after the story takes its turn for the worse so Michael (and you) is constantly unease. So the balance SoL/Plot is handled pretty well. And of course they have to turn it up the horror part for the bad endings, making Michael goes insane with some supernatural brainwashing, showing us all types of surreal scenarios. And when you're feeling all down for failing the choices, the Devil even appears on screen to laugh at you. My first bad ending was almost a traumatizing experience. Speaking of the supernatural, lots of occurrences are blamed in the "powers of the Devil" and, lacking other explanations, Michael and you're kinda forced to believe that it exists and it can totally screw you over masterfully. If you're looking for a story where every single occurrence of mysterious shit is explained, better look elsewhere. Although I could argue that explaining stuff here would kinda ruin the atmosphere... A thing worth mentioning is that the game have a "grotesque switch" to censor the worst CGs (even if there's nothing really gory here, just nightmare inducing). But this also blurry the text of said parts, so for the sake of the experience, bear it and leave it on. Speaking of jump scares... This screams really pierces your ears. Now to the routes. We have five guys to choose, but only three are available at start. My recommended order of the first three is Leonid (long white hair), Cecil (short brown hair), then Neil (red hair). While I agree the last two should be locked, forcing you to play all of the first three seemed a bit too much for me. Finishing the game once is enough. Sure, all of the routes offer you something nice to read, but this VN is not a multiple routes mystery. There's one culprit and he's correctly guessed in every single route. So why this huge lock is in place I have no idea. The first routes can be a bit slow, especially if you go with my recommended order, but the game REALLY picks up when you reach Neil's route. There's some repetition even in the characters routes, but this game features one of the fastest skips I ever saw. But at least the game provides you with some choices that you can pick whatever you want and see some different scenes (that are very far from the choice itself, and not just some "different hero reaction right afterwards") that don't really affect the outcome of the story. So why did I put the two slower routes first? Because Leonid's twists works better if you read his route first. Cecil is a nakige-like (there's still horror parts, it's not all fluffy, but it's full of feels) route that can be read at any point. And Neil's the one most strongly connected with the main plot. So it feels a lot better to read all the plot at once, since the last two routes are also super plot heavy. And weird. Good weird stuff. The relationship between the characters moves in a pleasant pace, with their romance gradually kicking in. There's plenty of time for them to know each other and the sex scenes are usually located in the end of each route. It's nice to see the romance actually growing and not starting out of nowhere leaving you to believe that the heroes fall for the MC at first sight. Maybe some of those interactions are kinda overlong, but nothing in an annoying level. And since the boys grew in a religious school and the story happens in the '50s or so, expect them to be a bit torn about liking other boys, "this is a sin" is a sentence you'll see multiple times. Aaaaaaaaw... Sex scenes are divided in three categories: vanilla, rape and weird shit. They aren't thaaat important to the plot so it's safe to skip them, just remember that they happened, but I must add that at least the ones in the weird shit tier (one in a character's route, another in a bad ending) are completely disgusting and involve some non-human beings (just allucinations, but still horrible to look at) and should definitely be watched for nausea reasons. Disclaimer: I'm a bit weak so maybe it's not that bad... The vanilla ones are kinda charming since they are a bit awkwardly cute. Unlike most VNs that I read, the boys are a bit confused at how sex should goes. And that's perfectly normal, since they're innocent 16 or so years old boys that lives in a seminary with pretty much zero exposure to anything sex related (of course, because they're all goody two shoes, but the deliquent Neil is a completely different story and he actually have some experience). In one particular scene, the kissing just stops and Michael even wonders what he and his partner should do next. And also, you can pick who's the one that will be on top, a fine addition that pleases both people that want the MC to have the upper hand in the relationship and people that thinks it's weird tiny and cute Michael to top his tall senpai. And for sensitive people, look at these guys. Half of them are kinda girlish (Cecil is the most), so no excuses! Imagine some flats and play the damn game! The rape scenes... In fact, this game have a rapist route. I had pretty low expectations for this route, since one thing I really hate is rape-turned-love (when brainwashing and drama are NOT involved). But this game surprised me yet again because the rape scenes were handled with the necessary seriousness. Some particular scenes were disgusting to see and a bit painful to hear the voice acting (and it wasn't because it was bad acting). It was very very heartbreaking to see the victims confused, avoiding other people, feeling guilty and crying of shame. So when the victim decided to actually end the relationship because there's no love in it, my opinion of the route improved greatly, because sadly this development is incredibly rare. And this route's ending is so beautiful, bittersweet and satisfying that was one of the best endings of the novel, even better than the true ending. Another thing worth mentioning is that this game also contains incest. Twincest, in fact. And the excuse they gave to it is nothing like "but they're not blood related" (well, they're twins, that wouldn't work) or "it's fine because it's true love" and it was weirdly good for me. Just be prepared for some surreal, dream-like sex scene. Cecil is asking who should top. And after this question they tossed a coin, seriously. The art is a bit old shoujo manga style, and that maybe isn't for everyone, but it grew on me kinda fast. The sprites have lots of facial variation and even some minor characters have sprites, which is a plus. And we also have corpse-like-people sprites for some allucination sequences. It's super creepy. The music are all very good, using chorus to some great effects, be to sound solemn or creepy. Except the ending song, that is some upbeat thing that have nothing to do with the game, except maybe the routes that end very happy, but oh well. Voice acting was also very good, everyone is full of emotion and even the side characters do a nice job. Michael is probably the best, but damn, that principal was two times more annoying because of the voice acting. Lucifer's chilling voice is another worth mentioning, since the secret society parts wouldn't be as terrifying without him. Quote aside, this is the kind of CG that keeps flashing. Without spoiling too much, I need to share a few words about the ending(s). The villain was fearsome, I liked who they choose to be the culprit and see his plan working left me at the edge of my seat. But his motivation is really hard to get. His character as a whole is a bit hard to understand. The game gives you lots of backstory, and what happened to him over the years, for you to think about, but the workings of his mind was a bit beyond me. Of course, read with the possibility that maybe I'm a bit dumb. In the end, Shingakkou was one of the best visual novels I ever read and I really wanted to find another that packs such a powerful punch. It was pure when it was supposed to be pure and scary when it was supposed to be scary. The characters were amazing and the plot was good not only comparing it with the other BL titles I read (that would be an overkill for them), but even with other bishoujo eroges I played. BL titles are a bit niche, I know, but I can't recommend this game enough. Read it if you like horror and mind fucking in general. Avoid it if you dislike long novels (some parts drags a bit), incest, pedophilia and some questionable religion talk (Lucifer is the worst offender, obviously).