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  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
    Clephas

    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. 1 point
    littleshogun

    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.
  5. 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.
  6. 1 point
    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).
  7. 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).
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