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Showing content with the highest reputation since 01/28/2020 in Blog Entries

  1. 8 points
    I took my first steps onto the road of the otaku in 1992, when I watched the poorly dubbed (all dubs were godawful back then) Record of Lodoss War Volume 1 OVA VCR tape. Now, I was already a heavy fantasy addict, having been introduced to the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance in 1990, and my obsession was at its peak at the time. When I watched Record of Lodoss War, I saw the typical 'elven maiden with human hero' romance in a new way (incidentally, this is a pretty typical romantic theme in those days, less so nowadays). I also saw oddities that stood out as odd to me precisely because of the oddly black and white point of view enforced on one by the various D&D universes. Of course, I was a chuunibyou brat by that time, already, so it should surprise no one that I got obsessed. It got ten times worse, however, when I encountered Chrono Trigger as it was played on my cousin's SNES. Chrono Trigger is still, to this day, one of the single best rpgs ever made. Looking back, considering all that has been done since then, it is almost TERRIFYING that someone was able to do what was done with Chrono Trigger with the limitations placed by using the SNES system. The story, the world, and the various layers of time were put together into such a subtly complex experience that, to this day, I've yet to see any other rpg manage it. Chrono Cross would manage to imitate some elements of this with its parallel world jumping, but Chrono Trigger's jumping around in time gave you impetus to explore how every aspect of the world could change based on how and when you did certain things. Rumors constantly abounded that there were secret endings (such as the infamous 'vampire Chrono' or 'Save Schala' fake rumors, which some believe led to the way the Chrono Cross storyline was handled), and people - such as me - would play the game repeatedly, using all the meager saves allowed by the cartridge limitations of the time, in hopes that they might trigger those endings or find a way to discover something new. In all honesty, Chrono Trigger being the game that got me into jrpgs probably ruined me for life. It set my standards to a ridiculously high level on a subconscious plane, resulting in me comparing every single jrpg experience since then to it. Aesthetically, musically, and structurally, it was a true jrpg kamige. It was also the game that turned jrpgs into my second otaku obsession. During the SNES-PS2 eras, I literally bought and played EVERY jrpg that came out. I still own them, in fact. I played most of the PS1 and SNES era games multiple times. However, it was also in the PS2 era (often called the 'dawn of the mainstream jrpg') that jrpg quality began to fall off drastically. The kind of genius and artistic flair using minimal resources you saw in previous eras was lost entirely within a few years of the release of FFX (FFX being a good game that also turned VO from a curiosity to a mainstream 'thing'). Musical direction, a role differing from composition, where someone was assigned to decide the timing of using a musical score and which ones fit which dungeons, which story scenes, disappeared in the middle of the PS2 era, as VO was used to fill the gaps of emotionality. However, this also meant that the subtlety of previous eras was lost with a swiftness that left me bewildered at the time. By the time the PS3 era came around, jrpgs were slowing down, due to what I now call 'flashy kusoge fatigue'. Oh, a few sub-genres, such as the Atelier series' alchemy obsessed SOL titles and the more action-based titles continued to be prolific, but what were called 'console-style rpgs' started to vanish. MMO elements were introduced into normal jrpgs, making progression and gameplay less interesting as a result (mostly because it seemed to have been done primarily to draw the WoW crowds into solo rpgs). Storytelling was dying a surprisingly swift death, as tedious gameplay elements (for loot and level-obsessed completionists) began to devour higher and higher proportions of each game's overall playtime. There is a very good reason why people go back and play so-called 'retro' jrpgs so much. There simply aren't that many more recent jrpgs that have that kind of flair and subtle genius. I know for a fact that one of the best ways to get people addicted to jrpgs is still just to let them play Chrono Trigger. Ironically, it was VNs that saved my soul. This was back in 2008, four years before I joined Fuwa. I was introduced to Tsukihime by a fellow anime fansubber, and, for the first time in over three years, I had something interesting enough (story-wise) that I was given a perspective on the nature of my growing irritation and fatigue with jrpgs in general. At the time, the JVN industry was still as vital and full of genius as the jrpg industry was in the PS1 era. Tsukihime and a few other major classics put out near the turn of the century had created the potential for a market of story-focused VNs that had allowed more and more creative people to get into the medium. Masada was releasing his latest version of Dies Irae, and there were literally hundreds of potentially interesting VNs for me to try. Needless to say, I lost my mind almost as badly as when I first played Chrono Trigger. I must have blown four grand of my meager savings on VNs within the first year, and I didn't regret a penny of it. Yes, roughly two-thirds of what I bought was pure crap. However, the gems I discovered gave me a taste of the potential of the medium in a way that was horribly addictive. Moreover, after a few years of being starved of any decent new stories, even the worst VNs had something that I could find I liked about them. In retrospect, I have an addictive personality. I get addicted to things easily, especially when they scratch my story bug. People have said to me, when it came to my jrpg obsession 'if you want a good story, why don't you read a book?', to which I usually gave them a blank stare and said 'I'm already reading good books. I just want stories in my games too.' Interestingly enough, there were a few bursts of true creativity in jrpgs in the years since, like Tales of Berseria and Nier: Automata, but they partially stand out due to the sheer bleakness of the genre landscape. People praise Octopath Traveler and Dragon Quest XI with intensity, and they practically worship Bravely Default. However, I have been shocked at how low-quality the presentation of these stories has been. It's like an entire generation has gotten used to ineptness in presentation to the point where they can be charmed by backhanded efforts at retro-nostalgia. Octopath has all the grind of the old SaGa Frontier games with none of the charm, the best part of each of the paths being at the beginning. Dragon Quest XI retains the horribly grindy nature of Dragon Quest games without improving on the formula in any real way. Moreover, locking so much content into the post-game annoys the hell out of me (I prefer new game +, obviously). JVNs have suffered their own decline, which is ironically due to the same demographics that inflated the medium in the first place (the dominance of the moe/charage lovers). VNs were always destined to be a niche medium, but the over-specialization of the industry has led to an inability to adapt to changing spending habits and demographics. Even if they wanted to regear for a new generation of consumers, most companies no longer have the access to the necessary talent to do so. I'm fairly sure that jrpgs suffer from a similar lack. Yes, there are some excellent composers and graphic designers in the jrpg industry, as well as access to the solid voice-acting industry of Japan and the growing one here in the US. However, there is a severe lack of writers capable of bringing a story to life, and there is no point in a top-tier OST that has no one to properly coordinate its use. The very fact that something like Undertale could bury so much of the commercial rpg industry, in the eyes of rpg fans, says everything about how far the industry has fallen. So what am I getting at? Not really anything, in truth. I just needed to blow off some steam. Thank you for reading.
  2. 7 points
    Zalor

    The Function of Ellipses in VNs

    VNs sometimes get criticized for their overuse of the ellipse (…). And I suppose I'll start my defense of the use of ellipses in VNs, by extending an olive branch. VNs do misuse the ellipse to an astounding degree, and I have an interesting little anecdote demonstrating this point. In college, me and some friends decided to spend a Friday night getting drunk and reading the worst VNs we could find. We stumbled upon Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme. There is a LOT wrong with this VN, but a glaringly consistent detail of bad writing we all noticed was the excessive use of ellipses. After we all collectively noticed and pointed out how often ellipses were being used, we decided to start counting every instance of an ellipse we spotted. Keep in mind, they had already been used plenty before we even started to count. Before we even reached a total playtime of 1 hour, we counted over 100 uses of ellipses, and gave up counting after that. I share this anecdote for two reasons. Firstly, as a petty example that Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme is horrible and I almost want to say it has no right to exist. And secondly that overall I am in agreement that ellipses do get misused often in VNs. So I am not entirely attacking this point of criticism, but I do think that many who do champion this specific criticism of VN writing miss one very important function that the ellipses achieves in VN writing, that it can't achieve in traditional print. The written word as it is presented in VNs is transient. With each click you typically receive one line at a time. And after a certain point all the lines disappear and you are greeted with fresh words from the top of the screen if NVL, or the top of the dialogue box if ADV. Furthermore often (though not always), sentences aren't displayed whole at once. But rather they get displayed in a sort of typewriter effect. This means that regardless of whether the narrative is in past tense or present tense, the occurrence of the text and the story to the reader will always be in the present. Character dialogue, internal monologues, narrative descriptions, it is all being presented to us in real time. A book on the other hand has everything written out and open to display. You can scan the whole page as well as the next page, and you have equal access to every page of the book at any given time. Want to skip to the ending? Well the medium can't stop you. This is not true of VNs. You can fast-forward, but you can't just skip to the end. The only way you can typically access specific parts of a VN is by creating a save point and therefore being able to load it up whenever you want. But you only have that option for everything you already read, you can't just pick and load sections you haven't experienced yet. Because for all intense and purposes, that's in the future. It hasn't happened yet. In other words, there is a sense of time in how the narrative of a VN gets expressed. Well in VNs, the ellipse can be used to demarcate time and expression. In this way, VNs can literally show the passage of time, without having to tell it. And I always thought the golden rule of writing was “show don't tell”, in this function the ellipse is being used optimally to show and not tell. Here is an example of how I would write a certain passage if I were writing it for a book/short-story, and then I will proceed to rewrite it for a VN. Novel/Short-story: “I don't know about that,” she briefly paused while biting her lip, “you sure it will be okay?” Visual Novel coded in Renpy: “I don't know about that...{w=1.5} you sure it will be okay?” The {w=1.5} is a wait command in Renpy that pauses the text for 1.5 seconds before resuming the rest of the line. Without having to tell the reader “she briefly paused”, we literally showed the pause by manipulating the speed in which the text gets displayed. The ellipse helps signal to the reader that the character is hesitating to express her thoughts, while the {w=1.5} command is running in the background. Now if the detail of “biting her lip” is also important to you. You would have to script things slightly differently, but you could make it that after the ellipse her sprite changes and bites her lip and you hold on that image for 1.5 seconds, before transitioning back to her previous expression and continue the text. So now you not only showed her hesitation and the gap in time it took for her to finish her thought, but you also showed her expression change. This is a way you can “show and not tell” with VNs that you could never achieve when writing for traditional print media.
  3. 6 points
    Hey there all! I will start with saying that I really treasure my time spent writing this blog and interacting with various people involved in the EVN community. You guys were awesome company in this journey and despite the obscurity of this project, I feel like it benefited me personally in many ways and maybe even helped people appreciate the value within the non-JP visual novel scene. I'm really thankful to all the people that read my blog, the devs that offered me their time and gave me their games for review – they all made these 2+ years into something special. When I started this project, there were two main things that motivated me. The first one was the frustration over dismissal of EVNs which is still common sense in the large parts of the VN fan community – belittling of the very games that made me fall in love with the visual novel formula. I wanted to create a space that is fully dedicated to discussion and promotion of EVNs as worthwhile and significant part of the genre. The second part was even more personal – my personal struggles with video game addiction and other issues, my ambition to shift my focus into a more challenging and creative activity. In many ways, I consider both my goals relative successes. While slowly, the perception of EVNs is changing and the scene evolving in interesting ways – while it shares pretty much all the suffering of other indie niches, with PC gaming in general being oversaturated and hard to navigate, I feel that it at least established itself as a significant formula that is attractive for story-oriented devs and appreciated by a significant audience. In other words, EVNs are here to stay and in time fewer and fewer people will be able to easily dismiss them as poor imitations of Japanese games. Whether my work had any impact in this regard? Apart from a bunch of people on Fuwanovel that I know I influenced in personal interactions, I honestly have no idea. I want to think there was some minor impact, but I had enough fun in the process and learned enough that I don't mind either way. I did my best and changed a few things about myself, which was the most important part for me. Of course, I'm in no way saying that I'm putting the blog on hiatus because my job here is done. The real reason is much more prosaic – I just can't keep up with it. The last month was particularly devastating in this regard, with very little time for me to either read or write. And while an obvious answer would be to just work at my own pace and publish stuff whenever I'm able to, it's not really something that would work out for me. Missing deadlines, thinking about future projects, it all became a source of stress rather than a source of fun, and I feel it would only get worse with time. While I really wanted to keep the project alive, I don't want to do so at any cost. I feel burned out. I barely read VNs for fun. I don't watch anime for a few months now. I need a change of pace and ability to rediscover my love for these hobbies. The blog, sadly, became a prime obstacle in this. So, what's going to happen now? The blog will cease to get updates, unless something special happens. I might still do game jam summaries, as those are something I massively enjoy. I might also publish something on Fuwanovel from time to time – I'm theoretically still an editor there. The one part of the project that's definitely here to stay is the Steam Curator account. The devs that sent me their games deserve to at least get a Steam review and, generally, an evaluation of their work. I will also use my Twitter to publish updates about new games listed on the Curator account. The Steam reviews themselves will likely be a bit more polished – not that much though, I don't want to jump straight into the same burnout-inducing rabbit whole. So, once more, thank you for sticking around and I hope my project gave you some amusement. And, of course, see you around – I'm not giving up on EVNs and the community around them any time soon.
  4. 5 points
    For most people who play VNs, taking a break is a normal thing. Even taking a hiatus of a few months or a year seems to be standard for many in our little community. For ten years, for me, it wasn't. My new addiction to litrpgs succeeded in breaking me of my compulsive VN-reading for the first time in a decade. While some might consider this a bad thing (and have told me so), others have said that it was a good one. Personally, as I've started playing Purple Soft's latest game, Seishun Fragile, I'm leaning more towards good than bad. Many things that had ceased to be joyful in recent years have regained their luster, such as cheap manzai humor, obvious moe, and general donkan harem protagonist antics. I won't say I love that last part (ha, like that would happen), but I can say that my viewpoint on it is less... bitter and jaded than it was before. I've had a refresh, and I don't regret it, despite how much it built up my backlog with those few games I bought anyway despite not starting any. One thing I find interesting is that I find it easier to find good stopping points than before, instead of just forging on ahead for a straight twelve hours and then flopping into bed. I no longer stare at the screen for entire days while downing endless snacks and bottled water. I also didn't want to get rusty on my Japanese, which is why I started up a new VN today. It was then that I realized that I no longer felt the pressure that still remained, even after I tossed aside VN of the Month. To me, this was an amazing sensation, harking back to my third year playing VNs, when my love of the medium was at its most fanatical. I've advised many people to take a step back and rest from VNs when they have started to lose their way, but this was the first time I took my own advice... and it worked (even if it was by accident).
  5. 5 points
    Zalor

    The Other 4chan VN

    Lesser known than its more popular sister, The Dandelion Girl is another VN that at least started its development by anonymous users on 4chan. And like Katawa Shoujo it's quite good, although very different. And in fact, I think it contrasts quite nicely with Katawa Shoujo. Katawa Shoujo very intentionally strove to conform to the standard visual novel formula. Hence why it takes place in Japan, in a high school, has branching routes with various heroines, and even included H-scenes. I think the goal of Katawa Shoujo was to make a solid entry in the visual novel landscape within the standards commonly set by the High School romance genre it chose. The Dandelion Girl on the other hand is not an original story, being an adaptation of a short-story of the same name by Robert F. Young. To me this was a breath of fresh air, as I always welcome VNs that see themselves more as digital books then as games. The early to mid 2000's doujin scene seemed to embrace this mentality a bit with works like Narcissu and True Remembrance, and accordingly the art style of The Dandelion Girl somewhat reminds me of True Remembrance. In fact as a whole the Kinetic Novel genre/medium seems to be a weird bastard child of VNs that probably would see more success with print novel readers rather than with it's current target demographic of VN readers. Which is probably at least among the reasons that The Dandelion Girl seems to be languishing in relative obscurity. But it is a solid adaptation which really places the reader in the world of the original short story. Its opening scene where the screen fades into a view of a blue sky with a melancholic piano piece playing in the background creates a strong ambiance which contextualizes the writing quite nicely. Overall the music and visuals do a good job supporting the writing. Never interfering with it by being overly flashy, nor contradicting the mood of the prose. It serves its purpose by distracting your eyes and ears, and allowing your mind to effortlessly focus on the story. And before you know it, you'll be finished with the heart warming tale and left with a cozy feeling inside. If Katawa Shoujo is nice meal, than The Dandelion Girl is a nice evening snack to accompany your tea.
  6. 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
  7. 4 points
    Clephas

    Kami-sama no You na Kimi e

    Kami-sama no You na Kimi e is the latest game by Cube, and it is based in a near-future setting where AIs run just about every aspect of society. In this society, people have gotten past that raw terror of AI horror stories and have pretty much accepted the the ease and luxury of having AI run most of the important things that make civilization possible. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Kaito, is hacking into Central AI, the AI based on the Moon that runs most of the world's infrastructure. Triumphantly, he succeeds, essentially gaining control over the AI that rules the world... and the one thing he asks for before getting out of the system is for it to find his ideal girlfriend, which the system then says doesn't exist. Kaito, quite naturally, is a bit down after this, but he goes to sleep more or less normally... only to answer the door in the morning to find his ideal girl standing outside. Quite naturally, this ideal girl is Tsukuyomi, the game's flagship heroine and the embodiment of Central AI in girl form. As requested, she is already completely deredere over him, and a great deal of the common route has him running from her excessively sexual approaches. In the days after this, like dominoes falling in a row, he meets a number of attractive heroines, and he shows off the usual donkan protagonist routine almost constantly when it matters. Now, just from this, you'd think this was your standard charage... but in actuality, it is a lot closer to a plotge in structure. The heroines have real issues, the protagonist doesn't flake out or become less interesting as you proceed, and the paths actually have solid stories that involve most of the game's cast of characters. For someone who wants an SOL plotge with some decent drama in a futuristic setting, this game is pure crack. Tsukuyomi I probably should have left her for last, but I played Tsukuyomi's path first. Tsukuyomi is the game's obvious main heroine, the girl who is most prominent on the package and in the advertising, and in general is the one most central in the common route. In most cases, I don't like 'no common sense' heroines, but Tsukuyomi manages to pull it off without it feeling excessively contrived, which is actually a feat, considering she is a robot heroine. It is helped along by the fact that Kaito generally accepts that Tsukuyomi is what she is, has no illusions about her nature, and is perfectly fine with her being a different existence from himself. Her story is your usual deredere heroine romance at first, but it quickly goes dramatic about midway through, for reasons that should be fairly obvious. While the templated turn of events in this path is not revolutionary, it is well-executed and interesting. There is even a truly surprising and emotional moment near the end that had me crying. That, in itself, makes this path a success. My only real complaint is that this path lacked an epilogue to tie off the story. Rein Rein is the cold-hearted student council president, an honor student with a black heart and an overabundance of pride. Her path branches off from Tsukuyomi's path and is a great deal weaker, at least in my opinion. To be honest, this path was kind of 'meh' for me, since it never revealed anything important about the details of what was going on with Rein beyond the basics that were revealed in Tsukuyomi's path, which is a huge weakness in a plotge or a charage. While the protagonist remains a cool and interesting character, the failures of this path are really glaring. Worse, the same as Tsukuyomi's path, there is no real epilogue, meaning you don't get to find out what happened after. Rana Rana... Rana is the heroine on the cover dressed like Sherlock Holmes, a cosplay uniform she wears nearly constantly. As it indicates, she is a private detective and extremely intelligent... but also fairly perverted (she has a thing for Kaito's butt). Her path... let's just say it is surprising and diverges widely from the events in Tsukuyomi's path (I didn't really like how Tsukuyomi almost became a non-entity in her path, but meh...). This path... is a bit depressing, to be honest. Oh, if you choose the Rana-only good ending, it is actually pretty good and heart-warming at the end, but the process you go through to reach that point is pretty hard if you came to like Rana. Sophia/Sophia & Rana At first glance, Sophia seems like your standard 'yurufuwa oneesan', but she is actually a fairly intelligent adult (yes, she is the adult heroine in this game). She is Rana's older sister and one of those involved in developing the S-CHIP, an AI chip designed to be implanted into the human brain as an aid to those who have brain diseases. Sophia's 'path' diverges from Rana's during the darkest period of Rana's path, and... to be honest, while it is easy to understand why it happens, this path is fairly unusual/stand out for a modern VN for reasons I'm not going to spell out here. Anyway, toward the end of Sophia's path, you have to decide whether you want the protagonist to be with just Sophia or with both Sophia and Rana... of course, after a seriously awkward set of events. Generally, I recommend the Sophia and Rana choice... the guilt-trip you get from choosing just Sophia is pretty awful. Kirika Kirika is the protagonist's fellow loner, a girl who accuses him of stalking her because they keep meeting whenever they are trying to find places to be alone. Her secret comes out relatively early in the common route, but I'll keep it quiet since it is funnier if you don't know in advance. Her path actually begins very much like a charage path. It is only toward the end where it becomes as deadly serious as the other paths above. Indeed, in some ways it is the grimmest and most shocking of the paths, even compared to the depressing aspects of Rana's path. It is also the path where the other heroines showed the least amount of relevance, a fact that I have mixed feelings about, considering how powerful the characters are. Similar to most of the paths above, this path's greatest weakness is the fact that while it does have a conclusion, it doesn't have an epilogue or after-story to tie off the last few loose ends. For that reason, I'm pretty sure they are planning a fandisc, as I can't see them leaving things as is. Airi Airi has the dubious honor of having the single weakest path in the game. She is a net idol that the protagonist meets in the course of interacting with Kirika, and her main focus in life is on her work, despite being the youngest heroine. Unfortunately, she is also the least unusual personality in the group, meaning that her character is by far the weakest... and her path follows suit. Where the other paths had somewhat grandiose episodes that showed off the darkest aspects of an over-connected society, Airi's path's drama feels like an extension of internet trolling, so I had trouble getting into it. Conclusion A good game with a solid setting and characters, this is probably a good choice for those who want a decent near-future sci-fi plotge who have already played Komorebi no Nostalgica and Missing X-Link. Tsukuyomi is an above-average AI heroine, though she falls short of the genius of Cinema and Fluorite from Komorebi or the raw emotions experienced with the AIs in Missing X-Link. It's greatest flaw is how it handles the endings, a common flaw in modern VNs that seems to be born of the bad habits of the fandisc-loving charage companies. It's greatest strength lies in the way it manages to keep the protagonist, the heroines, and the story interesting while balancing it with enough SOL to make them feel real in the first place.
  8. 4 points
    Clephas

    Silverio Ragnarok

    The final game in the Silverio series enters with a whimper and exits with a bang. First, this game absolutely requires that you have played the previous two to appreciate. Too much of what is going on requires understanding of concepts that aren't reintroduced but constantly referenced throughout the game. This game is based only a few years after Trinity in Canterbury, the theocratic state ruled by a Japanophilic religion based on seeing old Japan as a sort of El Dorado. I should note that the brief summary of the concept I am about to give WILL spoil parts of Trinity and Vendetta, so I am going to ask that anyone who wants to avoid these skip down past the next paragraph.. I also recommend that anyone who has played the previous two games that wants to start Ragnarok avoid the official website and store pages' descriptions and character profiles at all costs. While most of the information there is revealed within the first hour or two of play, it does hurt the experience that so much is revealed just by reading up on the game in advance. Ragnarok starts as a revenge story, wherein the protagonist - Ragna - and his childhood friend - Misaki - set out to take revenge on the four immortal gods who founded and have ruled Canterbury for the past thousand years. They are accompanied by Cecile, the current head of the Liberati family of Antalya and they are allied with Angelica, an Inquisitor of the Church. Now, I should note that a recurring theme throughout the story is that the four immortals are not, as is standard to most stories, full of weak points that can be easily used against them. They are immortals who have long-since left behind the weaknesses of their youth. They have such an immensity of experience behind them that they have literally seen (in a general sense) every variation on rebellion, love, hate, betrayal, etc that humans have to offer. In addition, their brains are still young, so they are constantly learning, and they instantly process everything around them based on preexisting experience. I feel the need to make the distinction partly because it is constantly emphasized at every point of the story and in part because my own assumptions were sort of left in the dust by this approach to immortality. I'll be blunt, while the first scene is dramatic and awesome, the pacing of the early part of the game is pretty abrupt. I think this is worth noting because it is out of character for Light, which tends to produce games that start out at a pretty deliberate pace before accelerating rapidly as you approach path splits. This led to an uncharacteristic disconnect with the characters for me during much of the common route, which is perhaps the most negative part of this game. In addition, there are a lot of aspects of this game that are more... intimately gut-wrenching and visceral than either of the previous two games. In particular, any major scene that involves Izana threatens to give me nightmares, because she seems like someone you would normally see in a Clock Up game. I also felt a constant sense of pity for all the people used by the antagonists. To be honest, the degree to which the antagonists quite naturally manipulate people without it seeming like manipulation makes Gilbert from Trinity look open and honest. Now for the main characters. One thing I liked about this game is that the main characters had actual reasons for being so deadly beyond mere 'fate' or natural talent. Ragna and Misaki are mercenaries (with Ragna having been an unwilling comrade of Dainslief at one point), Cecile was raised from birth to her role, and Angelica both has unmatched talent and has worked to polish it. One problem that constantly hurts many chuunige is the obsessive tendency many games have to give massive power to someone who has no training, no knowledge, and no skills to use it. It might make newbies find it easier to empathize with them, but for someone a bit more jaded it can be highly irritating. The music in this game utilizes a mix of music from previous games in the series, as well as new tracks. In this case, it works to the game's advantage, because it provides a distinct sense of continuity between the three entries in the series. This is especially the case for the few SOL scenes and the less climactic battle scenes, where a new track would be unlikely to help. Angelica For people who hate Izana as much as I do, Angelica's path can be seriously depressing at times. Of the three paths, it pushes the plotting aspects of the four immortals into the forefront the most bluntly and in the most distasteful of ways. There is no sense of the glorious (a common experience in Trinity and Vendetta) in the battles, save for one midway through, and there is a lot of devastation left in the wake of the story's progression (even by Light standards). Angelica is an Inquisitor, as well as being the one in control of the foreign pleasure district, and she has a good brain to match. This is a girl who has survived by hiding her rebelliousness and utter hatred for the four immortals for the entirety of her young life, always acting the obedient servant of the gods. As such, she is as twisted up inside as some of the series' antagonists, and she makes Chitose from Vendetta seem simple and straightforward. That said, she is an Amatsu, so she is predictably extreme in her loves and hates. This path's most excellent moments mostly concentrate near the end, with there being a lot of plotting and losing battles (which can get frustrating) in the middle. That said, without the buildup of all those tragic and frustrating moments, this path wouldn't have turned out nearly as good. Cecile Cecile is the head of the Liberati, one of the Ten Families of Antalya, an oligarchic nation ruled by laissez-faire capitalism at its worst. As such, she has a definite dark side... but with Ragna and Misaki she is easygoing and loving. In fact, with Ragna she aggressively shows her loving side... while showing her bloodlust in private whenever they speak of the antagonists. Other than Ragna and Misaki, she has the most intense hatred for the game's antagonists, and the impression of her as a blood-hungry avenger is only enhanced, rather than weakened, by her friendship with the other two avengers. Her path is more straightforward than Angelica's, but it still has a ton of plotting by the path's two primary antagonists. What would be a perfect plan to the antagonist of a normal chuunige antagonist is only the first of many layers for the antagonists of this game, and this path shows the sheer cold-blooded nature of that plotting without the more grotesque aspects you see in Angelica's path. I'd say that the battles in this path are slightly improved from that of Angelica's. Misaki ... it is fairly obvious that this is the true path from the beginning, but even without that, the fact that this path is literally 2.5 times longer than the other two heroine paths would tell you that in any case. Misaki is Ragna's childhood friend, partner, almost-lover, and best friend all wrapped into one silver-haired package. Normally, she is a cheerful, easygoing country girl with a slight tendency toward eccentricity. However, in the worst kind of battles, she can show a cold harshness that is at odds with her normal persona. This path has so many turn and turn about moments that I won't bother to explain them here. Just let it be said that this path was a fitting... a more than fitting end to the series that I wished would never end. There are so many points where you think things are over and suddenly the apparently losing side turns the tables that after a while, I just felt like I was going to drop from sheer emotional exhaustion. Conclusion This is, by far, the most complex of the three games. As such, it is also the most challenging for the reader to keep everything that is going on straight. Considering that both Vendetta and Trinity were fairly complex, even as chuunige go, that is definitely saying something. I will say that, while the pacing can be choppy toward the beginning, once things really get going in the heroine paths, that clears itself up pretty quickly. This game, like most Light chuunige, has great battles, great characters, great writing, and a great story... and it probably will never get translated, lol. I'm sad to see this series end, and I am even more sad not to know the future of Light's staff or even the Light name (I'm still hoping that Akabei will keep the team together). However, if it had to end, it does end on a bang.
  9. 4 points
    Human beings are contradictory creatures, whose behaviour is rarely as consistent as we would like to see and whose motivations are often complex, to the point they’re not fully understood even by the specific person themselves. This fact is often minimized in fiction, which instinctively strives for clear narratives and characters that are ultimately possible to fully understand and assess according to some kind of moral standards. At the same time, there’s undeniable value in exploring the ambiguity of the human condition and ebi-hime is one of the EVN authors that do it with a borderline-painful consistency, often creating harsh or melancholic plots and populating her stories with deeply flawed, realistic-feeling characters. And her latest release, The End of an Actress, definitely do not break this trend. Released on Steam in late February 2020, this new title by ebi is loosely based on the last years of Marie Antoinette’s life, where she was imprisoned by the revolutionaries and eventually executed for her perceived crimes against the French people. It transfers these core events and many features of the queen’s biography into a fictional setting, closely resembling 18th-century France, but without any pretences for full historical accuracy. However, instead of a grant political tale, what plays out on this stage is a very intimate drama involving the deposed queen, Liliane, and Marcus, a revolutionary who led the assault on her palace and unwittingly became her jailor. In isolation and hopelessness, the relationship between the two will be redefined in a few possible directions, fluctuating between naïve fascination, hate and, possibly, mutual understanding and affection, making for a rather captivating literary experience and one of my new favourites in ebi’s catalogue. But what makes it this special? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  10. 4 points
    When it goes to the Western market for Japanese eroge, VenusBlood FRONTIER is one of the most interesting marketing phenomena in the recent past. Belonging to a series that is most known for its corruption theme and related sexual content, it was rather brilliantly rebranded with a focus on its in-depth gameplay mechanics and the morality system which allows players to shape the fate of its fantasy world in various drastic ways. It is also a game I was highly anticipating because of its rare premise – the ability to play as an anti-hero protagonist who can either become a ruthless oppressor, or a benevolent tyrant protecting the world from destruction and terror. All this coupled with a set of goddess heroines that can be either corrupted into obedient tools, or allied with for the goal of protecting the innocent people trapped in the apocalyptic conflict, and destroying those responsible for starting it. The international version of FRONTIER is also a bit more than just a Western release of a classic SRPG – it is, by most measures, the definitive version of the game, with significant improvements and new content added thanks to the localisation project's Kickstarter funding. Its goal was very clearly to attract both English-speaking and Japanese players, which at the same time it makes it even more of a notable treat for the non-JP audience. High-budget games of this type very rarely appear outside of Japan, and even less often reach Steam, but the Western release involving significant improvements rather than just cuts and localisation-related glitches is borderline unheard of. This doesn’t mean that the road onto the biggest PC distribution platform was without hurdles: the final version, released in late January 2020, had to make some concessions when it goes to suggestive content and language, deviating from the initial “all ages” version the studio created. However, the full 18+ version is, in the old-school fashion, available for Steam players through a free patch, and what's worth pointing out, even that version gives a convenient option for opting out of all explicit content. Just by selecting the “skip extra scenes” option in the settings you can avoid h-scenes completely, making the whole game pretty approachable to players that would rather skip the porn and focus on the core story. And in my experience, even the most “compromised” Steam version is a complete-feeling and satisfying experience. But, what exactly it has on offer and can Ninetail really hope for it to get the attention of more "normie" crowds? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  11. 3 points
    Here are pictures of all of my physical visual novels. Some of these I have already done a review of while the others are planned to at some point get a review once I have read them. There are also going to be more visual novels added here in the future. For instance have I backed physical tier of kickstarter for Island, Momoiro Closet and Newrin as well as having pre ordered the complete box for Grisaia. Some of my english visual novels More of my english visual novels Grisaia complete box Aokana Nekopara vol 4 and Sengoku Rance My english visual novels with nsfw cover English Console VNs Japanese visual novels for PC More japanese visual novels for PC Some more japanese physicals, some of them have NSFW box My japanese visual novels for PS Vita My japanese visual novels for PS3 and PS4
  12. 3 points
    If I had to summarize the experience I had when reading the first half of Umineko for the first time, it would go something like this: At least for the first three episodes I mainly tried to identify the culprit with a typical mystery reader mindset. Even when it became obvious the game told its story from a fantasy standpoint, my focus was on discerning which parts could be taken at face value and which were made up by Beatrice. Even as I was able to see how this approach was getting deconstructed, I was still waiting for Battler to come up with the one logic argument able to solve it all. Even as Beatrice kept repeating "without love it cannot be seen" (or WLICBS, as I am going to call it for the rest of this post)) I took this mainly as an incentive to look at all the romantic and fantastical scenes from the "detective" angle and tried to spot if anyone had unintentionally slipped up. I dismissed the scenes where "real" characters chatted with fantastical ones as merely character building because to me they weren't actually happening. If the discussions of Umineko on this forum and especially in the "What are playing" thread are anything to go by, most readers have a somewhat similar experience. Even the ones whose theories get quite close to the truth usually base them on secondary clues like character designs. Recently I started rereading Umineko, and well, now I know what the "it" in WLICBS is about. The scene where Maria is searching for the wilting rose isn't primarily setup for the first mini-mystery, namely who gave her the umbrella, it's a tale about a small girl who, being overwhelmed by the loss something precious to her and getting abused by the one who should console her, gets saved by love. The first hour or so of episode 2 isn't just Shannon and Kanon bonding with their love interests and a witch, it is important context for establishing the culprit's motive. Which is way more helpful when trying to figure out who is behind the Rokkenjima killings than guessing how the culprit could have killed someone inside a room locked with a key chain. Thinking about why Shannon and Kanon don't see themselves as full humans deserving of love brings you closer to the truth than pondering on some howdunnit. So why do most readers seem to not pick up on this the first time, even when it is right in front of them? Why is everyone reading Umineko the wrong way at first? Yeah I know, it is a polemic question. There is no objective right or wrong way to read something. However, more or less every piece of media contains some form of message or subtext, either explicitely stated or at least implied by its author, often intentionally although it doesn't have to be, and which can be read into.* Depending on your own view of the handled topics and which motive you assume the author to have, your interpretation can change (as well as your overall enjoyment of the work). To name one example and shamelessly plug one my other blog posts**, in my analysis about Steins;Gate I argue the common interpretation of its message that fate can't be changed doesn't really get at the core of S;G but that rather it's a story about growing up and learning to make your own fortune. I came to this conclusion based on the true ending contradicting the former reading. If you assume it wasn't included for some deeper reason, but rather the writers feeling like that is also valid, keeping the "inescapable fate" interpretation as the most reasonable one (although a message definitely becomes weaker when it gets contradicted by the story itself).*** Of course that doesn't mean all interpretations of pieces of media are created equal. They should be somewhat rooted in the plot, characters, themes and so on.**** If your main takeaway from Steins;Gate is that microwave radiation is evil, you are either a troll or should seriously work on your reading comprehension skills.***** So is there even one "correct" reading of Umineko? Not really, though luckily the game more or less directly states that it wants you to read "with love" for lack of a better term, and not just Umineko but in general. The concept is pretty complex and it takes Ryukishi07 the whole 60+ hours of Chiru to explain it. The basic idea is to base your mindset while reading on the motivations of the characters and the author. Umineko is not even secretive about this or makes it some unexpected twist. Beatrice says WLICBS for the first time at the beginning of episode 2, and over the course of the VN this sentence gets repeated many, many times. So why does it often take readers so long to adapt this mindset, besides it seeming somewhat abstract at first? I would say it is because Umineko intentionally tricks you into reading it as a mystery story at first. It deliberately frames itself as a murder mystery. This begins with its setting where a rich family fights over an inheritance while at a remote mansion with a mysterious backstory and then people start dying under strange circumstances. Of course you would want to know what is going on there and the seemingly easiest and most logical way to do so is to look for inconsistencies in the alibis and shown series of events. If Umineko wanted to be read as a story about love from the beginning it would have built up the interpersonal drama first and then culminated in the serial killings. Also each episode has a new set of murder mysteries, constantly giving your inner detective more fodder. After the first game board the battle of wits between Battler and Beatrice gets presented as the central conflict. The latter is a witch claiming to be the culprit and killing people in the most ridiculous and unrealistic fashion possible, so of course you would take the viewpoint of her opponent who tries to explain the killings as "real" murder mysteries and try to solve everything his way******. Umineko's structure caused me (and presumably others too) to not really think about what all the scenes of characters talking about the nature of love and miracles and such are trying to convey, but rather search them for clues for the whodunnits and howdunnits, which made me miss the core of the story. Which is the point of telling it this way: "Mystery literature" thought patterns don't just not help you to solve Umineko. In fact they get you further away from being able to see the truth, even though it is right in front of you the whole time. Umineko basically forces you into adopting the "mystery" mindset to make its deconstruction hit you harder. By gently, but decisively shoving you into taking a certain perspective you start to have a personal stake in the story, which makes the takedown of said viewpoint so much more effective.******* Only by utterly defeating your own seemingly logical default approach it becomes apparent why the alternative Umineko proposes is superior.******** There is one huge downside to this approach though: Most readers wont get even half of what is going on in Umineko on the first reading. Which is a big deal when your VN is so long most people won't bother going through it a second time. Those that do though get rewarded with an experience that is even better than the first readthrough. Or as Kinzo would put it: The bigger the sacrifice, the greater the magic that results.********* * This topic does a great job exposing (probably, hopefully) unintentional subtext in a certain subgenre of VNs. Not to say this only happens in trashy media, whenever something is considered to "not have aged well" it usually has to do with some its implicit assumptions about how the world works not being considered acceptable anymore in today's society. ** Originally I thought about naming my blog "Paca Plugs" which would have been an amazing pun, if I dare say so myself. I decided against it because I didn't actually plan on doing any plugging. I don't orgle on here either though so maybe I should have gone with my original idea… *** I have to admit that after having read Steins;Gate 0 and Chaos;Child, both of which seem very confused about what they want to communicate, I've become much more inclined to accept this admittedly more cynical interpretation, and have started to see Steins;Gate as more of a case of a broken clock showing the right time twice a day within the SciAdv series. I hope Robotics;Notes manages to prove me wrong… **** I mention this mainly for the sake of completeness, to preemptively invalidate the "if any interpretation is possible, no interpretation can be true, thus interpretation is pointless" argument, not because it ties into where this post is going. ***** Here, have another footnote where I apologize for the length of the sentences in this paragraph and for adding so many footnotes. There's just too many possible ways to get sidetracked with this topic. I thought about adding another one later on where I would rant about Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi and why I thought the way it forces the reader into becoming complicit doesn't work, especially when compared to how clever Umineko achieves this, but then decided not to. ****** One of the greatest ironies in Umineko is that the "real" murder mysteries in the games are just as made up by Beatrice as her fantasy explanations. And just like she keeps adding characters to a closed circle, I keep adding footnotes to a post that would work just as well without them. Without my boredom during proofreading "it" cannot be seen. ******* So about why Totono doesn't work in comparison: Where Umineko lets you make the choice how you want to read it in your head, Totono literally forces you to take the approach to its choice system it is trying to deconstruct if you want to progress beyond its first few hours. Because of this it is easy for you to divorce yourself from your in-game decisions. So when the game scolds you for picking them, you can rightfully shrug it off because your only alternative would have been dropping the VN. I can't imagine Nitroplus praising you for asking for a refund in that case though. ******** The more I think about Umineko's concept of love, the more I find myself actually disagreeing with it. No, I won't go into more detail here because it would take me another blog post of this length to properly explain why. Weirdly enough despite this my enjoyment of the VN hasn't suffered at all. ********* Oh my, this post has gotten really really long. Thanks a lot to everyone who actually bothered to read through all of it! Yes, all three of you!
  13. 3 points
    alpacaman

    Umineko's opening scene

    The recent discussions about Umineko here on the forum made me want to pick up the whole damn thing again. Only this time I'm going spend even more time on it because I'm taking notes. I'll take the game's advice though and not focus on the howdunnits (which it argues are trivial and unimportant), but rather on what meaning is hidden inbetween. I'm doing this mostly for myself, though every now and then I might feel like turning my thoughts and interpretations into a blog post like this one. The German realist author Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) once said "the first chapter is always the main point, and within the first chapter the first page, almost the first line." While I think he is exaggerating a little bit and tbh I only opened with a quote of his to get a chance to mention how much I hate his writing (some of his novels are required reading in high-school in parts of Germany), it is true that the opening to a novel or any piece of fictional media can be a more important part of the work than it is often given credit for. Which brings us to Umineko's first scene. While it might not be the most spectacular example out there, I think it does what it sets out to do so well that it is worth taking a look at it from an analytical standpoint. I'm going to mention one or two twists that happen at later points in the VN, so you might not want read any further if you do not want to get spoiled. The scene takes place at an unspecified point in time in Kinzo's study with him, Nanjo (his doctor) and Genji (his head servant) present. It starts out with Nanjo telling Kinzo to lay off the alcohol as the medicine he prescribed to keep him alive won't work otherwise. Kinzo responds by saying the liquor (which has a sweet scent and a venomous green colour) has been with him longer than Nanjo, and that it is what is actually keeping him alive, not the medicine. Then he orders Genji to serve him another glass, but water it down a bit. Kinzo asks Nanjo how much time he has left, to which the doctor replies by comparing it to their chess match which is apparently entering its final stages and where Kinzo managed to corner Nanjo's king. The physician suggests Kinzo should write a will, which the latter one heavily objects to: "...And what is a will, Nanjo? Handwritten instructions to the vultures on how to devour and scatter my corpse?" He wants to leave nothing behind and insists everything he built up during his life shall disappear with him, as it is part of the deal he made. He goes on to speak about his only regret, which is not being able to see the smile of the witch Beatrice once more, resulting in him screaming at thin air offering his remaining life to her for her to appear before him one last time. Opening Credits roll. The main thread running through the scene is a lingering conflict between what is "real" and what isn't, already introducing one of the main themes of the VN. This starts with the setting and props: There is no real indication if what you see takes place in the real world or some fantasy realm nor does it properly fit into any specific timeframe. The occult study, Kinzo's gown and the venomous green liquor all make the whole scene look surreal, but then there is also a real world physician doing standard medical examinations. In this sense the whole dialogue between Nanjo and Kanzo can be read as a conflict between material reality and fantasy, with Nanjo and his medicine or science representing the former and Kinzo having completely embraced the latter. Nanjo tries to bring Kinzo to care about his own physical wellbeing and his remains (stand-ins for material reality), both of which the latter one doesn't care at all about. The liquor in this context is basically a metaphor for fantasy. It has an inviting scent but looks like venom. It poisons Kinzo and according to him is what actually keeps him alive at the same time. His addiction turns his health and life miserable (as well as those of his children), while it is also what keeps him going. The booze or rather fantasy keeping him alive is also rather funny imo considering we later learn that, while he is part of all the "non-real" scenarios, in "real life" he has already been dead for quite a while. [It has been some time since I read the VN the first time so I don't really remember if the booze motif gets used at other points but it is one of the things I am going to keep an eye on this time around.] One of the main and more obvious purposes of an opening scene is to make the audience want to read on, usually by using a narrative hook. In this case it is the question about Beatrice's existence. You immediately ask yourself what the deal is with a witch that might or might not be real and that some weird and menacing old man is apparently trying to summon. Her (non-)presence is one of the main threads running through the whole VN and it gets established in the very first scene. This hook also ties right back into the overarching uncertainty of the scene about what is "real" and thus one of the main themes of the VN. The whole scene imo exemplifies pretty well what Umineko excels at, namely tying its separate narrative layers together. From the outset, characterization, plot, horror, fantasy, metaphor and theme are never truly separable but form a coherent and interwoven whole. I only implicitely talked about characterization and didn't even talk about why Genji is present in the scene at all or about the introduction of the chess motif (or the Kinzo being dead before the end of the game part). But since I already spent too much time writing this I'll keep it with one of Umineko's core messages and let you figure out how these things tie into the rest yourselves.
  14. 3 points
    Stellaren, released exclusively to mobile devices in 2017 was an important game in my engagement with VNs. A dark sci-fi adventure with a captivating setting and a tense, at times brutal story stood out significantly from most other visual novels available for smartphones and I think to this day is one of the best dedicated Android/iOS games of its kind [you can find my detailed review of it here]. It also cemented my love for VNs as a storytelling formula and while some of that infatuation was definitely connected to me being a fairly inexperienced reader, many elements of Stellaren’s worldbuilding and character development are genuinely bold and interesting – and to the point where I wasn't even bothered by its rough edges and clunky gameplay elements. Because of all this, it is an understatement to say I was excited to hear about the release of Stellaren II July this year, coming out not only for mobile devices but also on Steam. Promising heavily updated visuals, a set of better-polished gameplay elements and a substantial, conclusive story (its predecessors had a tendency to end on cliffhangers), it seemed like a massive treat for someone like myself, already in love with this universe. What I found was both different and more complex than I expected – but did it capture the charm and stomach-gripping qualities of the original? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  15. 3 points
    Hello there and welcome to the third and final part of my NaNoRenO 2020 highlights! While in the first two posts I focused, respectively, on otome and horror VNs, this last batch of recommendations will be about other romance stories submitted to the event. I have to admit upfront that this is likely the least exciting list of the three, with no game standing out to me in a similar way as Enamoured Risks did among otome entries or Eislyn's Apocalypse did among horror ones. However, there's still a bunch of solid and interesting titles in this category, my favourite being probably Café in the Clouds, with its lovely visuals and memorable dreamworld sequences. Also, the jam has something to offer for fans of all typical romantic configurations, with BxG, BL and Yuri couples strongly represented. As always, all the games I'm writing about are completely free to download, and clicking their titles below will get you straight to their Itch.io pages. Also, I've skipped projects that were submitted to the event but proved low quality or did not offer a complete experience (meaning I exclude all demos and prototypes by default). So, please join me as I wrap up this insane, months-long project of thoroughly covering the biggest NaNoRenO in history – hopefully, you'll find something interesting among my recommendations. Love Rewind: A Magical Time Travel Romance (BxG/BxB) Love Rewind is a short romance story with one male and one female love interest, themed around regret and desire to change the past. Yuki, the protagonist and young mage-in-training, loses everything in a futile attempt at saving his terminally ill mother. Broken by this failure and the destroyed relationship with his fiancée Quinn, he isolates himself from the world – an empty, depressing existence that would likely last for the rest of his life if not for the appearance of a spirit, taking form of a cat. This powerful creature forces on him an opportunity to relive and change the events that led him to ruin, and regain the love he lost – or maybe forge a different path altogether… This VN, while a bit rushed and lacking the proper buildup particularly for the BxB arc (Quinn’s route at least have the background of protagonist’s relationship from the original timeline), has a few things going for it. Yuki is a decent protagonist, whose desperation and pain are easy to emphasize with, and the core story has all the satisfaction inherent to plots where you avert a looming disaster. The love interests simply don’t have enough time to develop as characters and truly shine, but they work well enough as incentives for the protagonist to not repeat his past mistakes. The end result is not a great romance VN, but a nice short story in its own right – and one that looks and sounds very solid for a game jam entry. Final Rating: Recommended Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 3 points
    Clephas

    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.
  19. 3 points
    Hello and welcome to EVN Chronicles' seasonal Steam Curator Wrap-up, where I cover the VNs sent to me for review through Steam's Curator Connect functionality. Lately, I’ve come to a sad realisation that I’m unlikely to keep up with all the games I’m receiving, with the appropriate tab in my Steam library growing more and more intimidating over time. However, I’ll be still working to give a chance to as many of them as possible, and assess them for all of you. This time around, I've been able to check out five titles, the main highlight being the newest VN by the Indonesian studio Kidalang, Legend of Everything, with its deeply unique spin on the isekai formula. This is, however, not where the interesting stuff ends, as the climatic Revenant March and wonderfully-stylized Tell a Demon also proved to be strong contenders, making this one of the most compelling lists I've worked on in this series. So, please join me in this brief overview and if any of the games catch your interest, you can go straight to their Steam pages by clicking their titles. Enjoy! Legend of Everything Legend of Everything is definitely the most unusual visual novel in today’s post, particularly because of its subject matter. At first glance, it might look like a simple spin on the isekai formula, with an inhabitant of a fantasy-themed, video game world being the protagonist and interacting with a particularly chaotic person transported there from our reality. However, pretty soon it transforms into a giant thought experiment, and basically a lecture on the simulation hypothesis – the idea that our universe is actually a simulation created by some advanced intelligence. This notion might seem absurd at first glance, but is made less so the more you learn about modern physics theory and strangely arbitral rules that govern various phenomena it describes. While never fully abandoning the formula of comedic fantasy adventure, Legend of Everything thoroughly explores this idea and conveys tons of legitimate science knowledge, basically becoming the most moe course on modern science you're likely to can find, presented in a highly accessible, but genuinely educational way. If you’re at least marginally interested in this kind of topics, the game should be quite enjoyable to you. What’s less impressive, in my opinion, is the visual side of the experience, dependent on subpar-quality 3D sprites and environments. It’s particularly disappointing in contrast with the rather-stylish art in this studio's previous titles, An Octave Higher and One Small Fire at a Time. However, I was pretty quickly able to look past it thanks to how enjoyable the writing was, consistently combining well-constructed science discussions with quirky characters and humour, and even some epic and heartfelt moments worthy of a “proper” fantasy story. Saying anything more would inevitably involve spoilers, so I’ll simply recommend everyone to check this game out – it offers a lot more than you’d expect at first glance. Final rating: Highly Recommended Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  20. 3 points
    First, it should be noted that this game was planned and written by Watanabe Ryouichi, who also wrote the Harumade series (Harumade Kururu, Natsukumo Yururu, etc). As such, it is - quite predictably - a mindfuck game. Don't expect SOL romance in the traditional sense, because that isn't the kind of game this is. This game has two protagonists... the first is the normal-seeming Koumi Masataka, who begins the story by encountering Sarasa, the game's main heroine, as she eats canned saba miso (mackerel in miso) at a convenience store. The other protagonist is Tsubaki, a young woman who spends her nights obsessing over videos of deaths of all types and thinking about herself in the same situation (it is more complex than that, but if I explain too much, you won't get to experience the creepy weirdness properly). While this game has four heroines, there is only one actual path. All choices that go off that path lead to cut-off endings ten lines later (which makes sense in the context of full knowledge of the mindfuck), so there really is no point in picking them. For H-freaks, there are multiple h-scenes for each heroine... just don't expect happy romance endings, since there is only a single ending. There isn't a whole lot I can say about this game besides what I said above without ruining it for you, but I'll tell you what I liked that doesn't touch upon the mindfuck or main story. I really liked the way the Preppers Club members got along, as they are one of those 'group of friends' that can't seem to stay on topic for more than a few seconds at a time (usually due to Yaotome Hanae making a sex joke or one of the others bringing up a subject that derails the conversation). As such, I found many of the scenes involving the club highly amusing. Tsubaki and Amika's relationship is pretty weird, by any standard. I won't go into details, but don't expect lots of soft normal emotions there. As a conclusion, I can recommend this to fans of the Harumade series and the mindfuck niche in general. It is often hard to follow what is happening due to the way the story is told, but, even with that, it was an enjoyable ride.
  21. 3 points
    I will say it, yes, games with trap protagonists are one of my secret pleasures. While there are numerous types of this particular niche in VNs, and there are a disproportionate number of this type of game compared to ten years ago, there are some rules shared by all the greats that I thought I'd put out there. 1. A good trap protagonist is a voiced protagonist. Most trap protagonists are voiced. There are a number of reasons for this, but, regardless of the reason, almost all the 'good' trap protagonist are voiced. There are exceptions (early on) or ones where the voice was added on later (Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou), but they are just that, exceptions. 2. The protagonist has some kind of spectacularly high level skill or attractive point. This really is universal. In some cases it is housework (protagonist in Otome no Sahou) and in others it is physical prowess, force of personality, or artistic talent. However, regardless of what it is, no good trap protagonist is devoid of such skills. 3. There is at least one 'ojousama' heroine. While this is not universal, given the nature of this type of game and the fact that most of the schools they 'sneak into' are girls' schools, this is inevitable. Girls schools, even in Japan, are private institutions, meaning there is inevitably (or so says the kami of eroge) going to be at least one sheltered girl that comes from wealth. 4. There will be at least some drama when the protagonist is 'revealed' to the heroines. Easy transitions make for bad games. All the heroines merely accepting it as if it doesn't matter at all means that there was no weight at all to the protagonist's earlier whini- *coughs* ahem, worrying about being revealed. While this drama might be comedic, tense, or sexual in nature, it should not go without note. 5. At some point, most such protagonists will begin to react naturally as their female persona without realizing it (leading to many fans simply forgetting their original names, such as in the case with Mizuki in Koi no Canvas). There are two major types of this type of protagonist. One is the 'forceful personality' type, and the other is the 'submissive personality' type. An example of the former would be Ojousama no Hanbun wa Ren'ai de Dekiteimasu, and an example of the latter would be Otome ga Tsumugu Koi no Canvas. In the former case, the protagonist has a clear objective in infiltrating the girls' school, and he uses his personal abilities ruthlessly and aggressively for that purpose. In the latter case, the protagonist loses himself (herself as I sometimes think of Mizuki) in his role so completely that he often catches himself reacting entirely as a female. I like both types, and I find this particular niche tends to produce a disproportionate amount of good games compared to the rest of the VN world... but then, I'm biased. Edit: As a side note, for those who are interested in recs involving this kind of thing, there are no truly transgender protagonists in any of these games, as far as I know. There are a few who get addicted to dressing in drag or who live as a woman of their own free will even after the story is over depending on the route (Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou), but as far as I know none of these have been confirmed as actually being transgender. That's not to say that none of the writers/makers have intended any of these protagonists to be such (it is a distinct possibility), but so far, in the games I've played/read, none of them have actually confirmed themselves as being such, even in their own thoughts (though again, some have edged around it or verged upon it). Edit2: Examples of this type of game that have either a submissive or a dominant protagonist that also are top tier. Submissive (outside of H, since most H scenes in male-oriented VNs are inevitably bed-yakuza affairs) Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou Otome ga Tsumugu Koi no Canvas Otome Domain Dominant Tenshi no Hane o Fumanaide Ojousama no Hanbun wa Ren'ai de Dekiteimasu Otoboku (despite appearances, all three games) Koi Suru Otome to Shugo no Tate (though this one can be borderline at times) Hmm... there were fewer great ones than I thought... the barrage of endless Ensemble games makes me forget sometimes, lol.
  22. 2 points
    Clephas

    Akatsuki Yureru Koi Akari

    This is the third game in Crystalia's series based on a world where a sport has grown up around using spiritual swords and a prequel to the original game, Kizuna Kirameku Koi Iroha. For those who haven't played the other games, I can say that you might or might not get more out of this game by playing the others first, as playing the original spoils you on the winner of the tournament and a few other issues. On the other hand, this game also fills in a lot of gaps on characters from the original, such as Miyako and Tsubaki. I'm going to come out and say this outright... this game is probably the best of the three. Why? The more obvious reason is that the battles are generally better quality than the other two games. However, the larger reason is the way it is structured. Ninety-percent of the game is actually a straightforward seishun drama based around a class of talented dropouts and a teacher protagonist. Romance doesn't change the outcome, and actual heroine paths are actually in the 'omake' section of the game, rather than being the main focus. This comes as a trade-off. For those who want romance to be the central element of their VNs, this game will probably be a disappointment. However, if you like seishun drama with fierce competition and lively interaction between the characters, this is a first-class game. The protagonist, Murakaki Iori, is a member of the JSDF's Tenju Tokka unit (wields Origami and Tenju as part of their tactics), and he gets pulled for a side mission involving educating a class full of talented individuals who normal teachers can't seem to handle. Iori is, on the surface and for the most part, a good-hearted and hotblooded teacher with a true belief in acting in the best interests of his students and treating them equally. However, he does have a somewhat traumatic past and that past isn't ignored during the story. Takamine Setsugekka is your classic 'aho no ko', also known as the 'idiot child' or 'airheaded' heroine. She wields a close-in style wielding a ninjatou and hand-to-hand combat, and she starts out at the lowest point of all the heroines in terms of skill. She occasionally, when hurt or driven to rage, goes berserk and wields immense power, but in this state she is easy to handle for an appropriately skilled opponent. Typical of this kind of story, she grows the most in skill as time goes on. Suzakuin Momiji is, on the surface, a competent and cool swordswoman who focuses on taking apart her opponent's style and habits until she can predict and lead them down the path to destruction. She wields a long katana similar to that of Sasaki Kojirou from Fate/Stay Night. She is Tsubaki's (from the original) eldest sister. However, behind the scenes she is a lazy young woman who can't be bothered to pick up her own trash or get out of bed if she isn't forced to. In all honesty, the first time I saw her chugging non-alcoholic beer (apparently, when at her family home, she goes for the real stuff) with sashimi in her other hand, I fell in love, so I favored her from the beginning (yes, I'm a bit weird sometimes with my heroine preferences). Kuki Asahi is the younger sister of Iori's best friend and former rival, Kuki Takahisa. From a very young age, she has been in love with Iori, but for some reason she has grown up into a very yandere-ish Iori-worshipper who will ruthlessly act to protect her hold on him. Her preferred style is 'iai-battou', a defensive style where the user counters their enemies with draw-slashes. Emotionally, she is perhaps the most volcanic of the characters, though I imagine some will say Setsugekka is. Tobe Ririmu is a gyaru swordswoman who has a rather unique style that is very-dance like, combining Tenju illusions with unusual steps with a difficult to predict rhythm. In all honesty, I felt bad for how this game treats her toward the end. While she has a strong presence throughout much of the game, that presence fades almost to nothing due to the events of the tournament near the end. In a very real way, she is a character that existed solely to provide emotional firewood for certain events near the end. She is something of a free-spirit, with a desire to combine fashion with Jindou, designing combat costumes and Origami skins. In many ways, she is like your typical 'slightly delinquent-like child' character, especially when it comes to dealing with teacher-student issues.
  23. 2 points
    Instead of a blogpost I did this one as an amateur documentary. I'm 100% serious about my claim. It might sound crazy, but if you watch the video I'm sure you'll at least see that my claim has a logical foundation to it. You don't need to have watched Lain to follow the video either. So if the topic interests you by all means check it out.
  24. 2 points
    Hello everyone. My name is Jardic and I just thought of something that I got me thinking tonight. I was looking around the internet and I was reading Reddit and here on Fuwanovel and I was wondering what the deal is with people saying that they like a visual novel and it is always the same visual novels time and time again. I know people like the medium for different reasons, but when I look up a list of VNs people like, it is the same ones as another person I saw. I also know that it is a niche market for people to like these games but come on. If I was wanting to know what VN to play, chances are I already have that game on my hard drive. No one talks about the obscure visual novels and I was wondering why that was? It just bugs me to see the same the same VNs on someone’s list and I don’t see a person to give me a reason to purchase more visual novels. I know the previous paragraph was a little harsh, but it’s the truth with some of the things this genre of games gives me. I wish that there were more visual novels compared to video games so that people can recommend me a visual novel that can raise my interest a little more. I wish more people could be more interested in VNs so that there would be more games to offer. Sadly, I wish I could see that happening, but I know it will remain a niche market. I remember when I got into this medium of games three years ago and I thought it was a million times better than what I was playing at the time. Most of the games I played before visual novels were your typical action games like GTA or shooters like Call of Duty, but I digress. All I am saying is that I wished the visual novel community was more diverse in what they play. I’m not trying to say that everyone’s list is a bad list, I’m just saying that putting some games on a pedestal is not a good thing sometimes. I come to these communities to find out when some VNs are being released and to see if there is another visual novel to raise my interest. Sorry for saying stuff that might trigger some people, but I thought this blog would be a good idea to vent a little bit. Let me know what you think, and I will see you guys next time.
  25. 2 points
    Hello everyone, Jardic again. I told myself that I wasn’t going to post something so soon after my last one, but I was going through my old computer and I found some old stories I have written over the years and forgot I have written. Most of them were either fanfics or stuff I have written about and scrapped. It was probably sophomore year in high school that I have started writing that I started writing stories and thought about taking it seriously. I never took anything so seriously before and I didn’t have the drive to do anything until my English teacher taught me about not limiting myself. I was an outcast and didn’t like anything I was reading at the time, so I took up writing so I could read what I have written. I found it fun and a lot of people told me that I was good at my craft and I thought about doing this for a living. Then in 2015 or 2016, I found VNs for the first time through a flash game I found on the internet. I was looking for an escape since I lost my job a few months earlier and I was looking for something to play. I think was a crappy game made by Dharker Studios. I forgot the name of the game, but I remember the maker. I didn’t get into VNs honestly until I started buying games from Mangagamer, Sekai and Jast more frequently. I used to be a massive fan of anime when I was a kid and I never had a reason to go back until then. I didn’t grow up with people who watched the same stuff I did, I felt alone in that sense. But I’m getting off topic. Those stories made me a better writer in the process and I felt like I have found my purpose in life. I felt like the world was against me since I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I was told that I was never going to be normal and I accepted that. I knew I was different, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wouldn’t be talking to you all if I was scared of what people would say. I don’t want people telling me that I’m not good enough to be a writer and throw it down the drain for nothing. My entire family thinks I’m crazy anyway, so I spent most of the time with my thoughts alone. Eventually, I will do something that they will accept me, but right now, they can just hate me for all I care. I’m writing all of this because I am fixing to do something I may regret, or it may turn out awesome. I’m working on my first VN. It’s called Kazoku No Watashi No Sentaku or My Family of Choice. I’m working on it for a while and I am currently working on the script for the VN and I will post it when it is finished. If anyone is an artist or a musician or knows someone who is, let me know. I can’t draw at all due to my motor skills and I’m looking for some music anyway. I’m currently working on the script and trying to work some things out on Ren’Py. If you want to get in touch with me, look for me on discord. Hopefully, I can get this done and into your hands in the future. Until then, I’ll do what I can with what I got. Take care and I will see you next time.
  26. 2 points
    Since I'm still messing around with Cabbit's new game, I thought I'd drop a short review of a litrpg series I just finished reading. Project Crysalis is based in a future where Earth has been abandoned (not because it is ruined anymore, but because the first non-Terrestrial human nation forced people to leave) in favor of living in colonies all across our solar system. The main political and scientific power in the first three books is Lunar, a nation built on the Moon that began when a private corporation morphed into its own nation-state and managed to completely defeat the Terrestrial nations when they tried to challenge their independence. That said, it is still a solar system of many nations, with Lunar essentially being the mammoth whale in the room that everyone pretends not to be scared by. The protagonist of the story, known for most of the story by his preferred game handle of Sagie, was one of many orphans that were presented with their first parents - in a virtual realm - at the age of twelve, when he was first allowed the use of a full immersion pod. While he experiences a brief period of blissful happiness (mostly due to how good of a fit he is with his new family), a horrid betrayal by someone he trusts ends up with him exiled to the in-game Hell, where he is subject to the kind of suffering (and the pain is real) that is really, really hard to picture, even with vivid descriptions from the author, John Gold. As for how he handles it... well, Sagie isn't exactly a fragile sort. Rather than rerolling, like most would expect, his desire to return to his virtual (but realer than life) family drives him to climb his way up through a very horribly realistic Hell, inuring himself to suffering and gaining power along the way. For those with a weak stomach, most of the ways he gains power are pretty morbid. He uses blood rituals, necromancy, eats demons, and deliberately goes out of his way to strengthen his resistance to the various types of damage and pain Hell can dish out. Sagie, while he was extremely focused even before his fall into Hell, becomes focused to the point that it is almost painful to read his story at times. The first four books basically focus on his adventures in Project Crysalis, as the virtual world essentially shits on him at every turn (Shield Hero had it easy in comparison). He tries to help people, he's seen as a monster. He tries to defend himself, he is seen as a monster. To be honest, I cried more than once for him, just because it was so godawful. The last two books are... a different animal entirely. To be honest, in order to avoid spoiling it, I'll only say that those who came to love Sagie in the first three books will be frustrated for large portions of the second three. I know I was. That's not to say it wasn't interesting, it was immensely so. However, I often felt cheated, because I loved following that manic little demon while looking over his shoulder in fascination to see what crazy idea he will come up with next (and many of his ideas really are insane). The last two books are full of conspiracy, horror, and self-sacrifice on a grand scale. Even just taken on their own, they would be first-class books. There just isn't that much of Sagie there until the final entry, where you get to see him up to his usual craziness, albeit in a way that is quite different from before. Overall, it is an excellent book series. It has its bumpy parts and can be frequently frustrating or emotionally painful to read, but for those willing to delve into it, it is completely worth it.
  27. 2 points
    Needless to say, when I hit my latest speed bump in the form of another partial burnout on VNs, I was left wondering what to do with all that free time. For about forty hours of that time, it was Ghost of Tsushima, but when that was over, I accidentally picked up my first litrpg on Kindle Unlimited... and oh god, I almost wish I hadn't. The problem, when I analyze it in retrospect, is that my fondness for anime like SAO, Log Horizon, and Overlord had primed me perfectly, my addictive personality instantly latching onto the familiar elements to draw me in beyond retrieval. While roughly two-thirds of the books I downloaded weren't worth reading, the ones that were left me unable to stop (The Chaos Seeds, in particular). I'm pretty sure anyone who paid attention during the peak of my VN of the Month years can probably guess that I have a tendency to throw myself into my addictions rather than trying to restrain myself. In this case, it was made worse by the fact that I'd been 'starved' of anything worth my attention (new) for months on end, so when my first litrpg dug its claws into my stimulus-starved brain, I became incapable of stopping. In fact, I haven't really stopped even now, despite 70 different books completed from over a dozen authors in just under forty days. I even ignored last month's releases, despite Phantom Trigger's latest episode having come out. I don't even remember the VN I was playing at the time anymore, because I've consumed so much content of late between long bouts of stress working with even more stressed out clients who want even more for less than usual. I'm mostly writing this post to laugh at myself, since I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of ceasing to indulge in reading the near-endless list of litrpgs available for free with my KU subscription...
  28. 2 points
    Until it's not. HA! GOT YOU, YOU STUPID SHIT! I pulled you into false sense of security and BAM! subverted your expectations! Before you go on, I want you to know that this will have spoilers to all 3 The Fruit of Grisaia games so quickly read all of them and come back if you haven't already. But anyways, I decided to delve a little bit into the anime of Grisaia no Kajitsu and while the opening text displayed over each character as they are presented on screen I began to think about my own interpretation of the characters from the series and how it does a great job of somewhat subverting the anime/visual novel trope with it's characters. Feels like this is what Doki Doki Literature Club tried to do but instead of being smart it instead did "hey, reader, wouldn't be weird if one of the cute girls started bleeding from their eyes? Pretty creepy for a visual novel with cute anime girls set in a school environment." But Grisaia somewhat embraces these tropes and turns them on their head. Instead of taking place in a high school environment where only a few characters matter and therefor have actual names and faces it takes the approach of having it still set in a high school where literally only the important characters exist since there's no one else in the school! I've honestly never noticed the subtle genius of this on Grisaia's part. How many visual novels have you read where the entire school is nothing but background noises? They do away with the pointlessness of background characters altogether and make them literally isolated because that's pretty much how it is in every VN. It's this type of subtlety I enjoy from an almost parody to visual novels. Well, what about the character's themselves? Well, I'm glad you asked, me! You have the usual character tropes in Grisaia, sure. There's the tsundere, the unapproachable one, the obedient one, the slut, the loli, all of whom who you expect certain traits from but again, it subverts your expectations. The tsundere takes on a facade to hide her own identity, so her own action of trying to be a tsundere is simply so she can hide the real part of her. Christopher Nolan must be turning in his grave thinkign he couldn't come up with a character this deep in cliches! The unapproachable girl is so unapproachable that she tries to kill Yuuji, LITERALLY! The obedient one acts like the childhood friend because... well, she is and even goes to far as to dress up as a maid. The slut instantly attaches herself to the MC and offers her body, not out of her own personal feelings but because she feels she needs to be punished. The loli's character is a result of her abuse as a child causing her to be emotionally stunted. All characters have an underlining dark reason for why they fall into these cliches which pulls the reader in to learn more and honestly, I'm sad I never caught any of this in my first or second read through of the series. It's so well done, so subtle that it makes me really appreciate the first VN more looking back on it and I'm glad I went back to the anime to remember all this. ...And then the sequels came out. Yeah, remember that first bit of this blog? If not, might want to scroll up some. It's the bit about bringing you into a salse fense of security. Yeah, you read that right and I did that on purpose. What are you gonna do now? My comrades @DarkZedge and @Dergonu informed me that later entries in the series involved Yuuji ending up in a harem with every girl. I don't know how to look at this angle as more than fan service and undermining the emotional investment I had with the characters, especially when the first one was doing so well in NOT succumbing to your typical visual novel tropes, although there was the Makina's sex scenes with Yuuji where this emotionally damaged girl is having sex with someone who she views as her papa shivers but then the sequels do fall into the biggest trope of all, the "everyone wants the MC's dick" trope. Every girl who he slightly breathes in the direction of wants to be a part of his life. This cliche has infested the anime, manga, and visual novel world like a cancer and in visual novels its more acceptable since you project yourself into the character more often than not and therefor feel fulfilled as a person while your visual novel counter part is fully filling your waifus with his massive love! But I digress. Grisaia felt smarter than that, I felt more respect for the character's before I learned they all fell into this overused trope. I feel like the series went on for one more visual novel long than it should have, like The Hobbit movies. We get a whole backstory of Yuuji's training, his life with his master which was nice but to top it all off we get a plot about a father figure of his coming back and causing a mess with all the girls coming together to save him in the end, or something. You know, now that I'm thinking about it, I feel like I remember nothing about the 3rd one, aside from a fight with the dude, and seeing his sister again but when I do think back on it I just feel like it wouldn't have missed anything to be a bit more condensed, cause that's what remembering it is like. I can't remember anything aside from bits and pieces because those were the ones the set itself the most from this overly long series. "No, don't you see, Mitch?! They subvert your expectations again by making each character unique and he STILL ends up with all of them? Isn't that clever?" That's fine and all but the girls were dealing with crippling emotional baggage that was dealt with one by one and felt we had actual climax to, and not the climax Yuuji got in Amane's massive vagina! I would've preferred if Yuuji died, cause I'm american and that's how we end every series these days. That or they think he died and he decided to start a new peaceful life while the girls must take their once again broken lives and rebuild the pieces but this time with more efficiency thanks to Yuuji. As opposed to the alternative route where they live on an island, ignore their problems and have everything solved by sweet, juicy Yuuji cum! Though I will say I did like the implication that the routes at some point all converge, so he sleeps with all of them while solving their problems. But then the problem arises with Amane's where it goes deep into the future with them being happily married then eventually dying. And you know what? That's perfectly fine with me.
  29. 2 points
    Hello and welcome to the second part of my NaNoRenO 2020 coverage, where I’ll be going through the most noteworthy games submitted to the most recent edition of the biggest EVN game jam. While in the first part I focused on otome and other GxB romantic VNs, this time I’ll tackle the niche that, in my opinion, contained some of the best projects in the whole event – horror. Once more, I’ll be focusing on complete projects, rather than many demos and prototypes that get submitted to NaNoRenO – and thanks to the extended deadline devs worked with this year, that’s still a lot of interesting content. One game from the previous post, Dream Dilemma, also fits into this week’s theme besides featuring GxB romance – however, it was a rather unremarkable, simplistic game and most of those I’ll be writing about today are anything but that. So, please join me in this quick overview of NaNoRenO 2020 horror VNs – and as always, whenever one of them catches your attention, clicking its title in the list will get you straight to its Itch.io games. Of course, all the titles I’m covering are completely free to play. Let’s have some scary (and slightly messed up) fun! Divilethion Divilethion is far from your typical scary VN, tilting more to the side of grotesque horror-comedy, with visuals and writing style that contrast heavily with the grim essence of its story – and do so in a brilliant, at times hilarious way. The game follows Lynn, a young high priest in an isolated village “protected” by a monstrous god named Divilethion. While the entity is the only guarantee of survival for the community surrounded by monster-infested swamps and regularly plagues by disasters, the price for its “miracles” is steep – every time, a villager has to be sacrificed and his heart fed to Devilethion. Lynn, cynical and disturbingly diligent about his duties, is soon put to the greatest test yet by the apparently bored deity, asked to sacrifice one thing he might not be willing to give up… As serious as this story setup might sound, what sets its tone as primarily a dark comedy is Lynn’s warped perception of the reality around him and the grotesque enthusiasm Divilethion requires from his worshippers. This combined with an unrelenting writing style, never shying away from harsh language and disturbing story developments, creates a striking experience that will likely keep you engaged all the way through, to either a relatively-positive or deeply unsettling conclusion. While overall the game is relatively short, it’s just so full of personality and meaningful story developments it’s hard to not be satisfied with it. I deeply recommend checking it out – very few hour-long VNs left me with such a strong impression. Final Rating: Highly Recommended Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  30. 2 points
    Anyone observing the EVN scene should know well that yuri, besides being my personal obsession, is one of the most vibrant niches for non-JP visual novels, with many studios and creators dedicated to this theme and a very active fanbase. This seems to be particularly clear nowadays, as even companies like Winged Cloud, the infamous producers of low-effort VN smut, capitalized majorly on the trend, producing mostly GxG games for the past few years. On the other side of the spectrum, Studio Elan recently pushed the standard of quality for EVNs in general with their modern fairy tale, Heart of the Woods. As a result, yuri fans have a lot to choose from, both when it goes to quality work and amusing trash. The game I’ll be writing about today, Aikawa Collective’s Mizuchi 白蛇心傳, definitely aimed for the “quality” side of the spectrum and seemed like something that could rival Studio Elan’s hit with its climate and visual spectacle. This yuri-themed retelling of the famous Chinese folk tale, the Legend of the White Serpent, looked spectacular in its promotional material and easily reached its Kickstarter goal of $8500 in September 2018. While the development cycle for it proved long, going 9 months beyond its initial target of August 2019, it never lost its place as a promising and highly-anticipated yuri EVN. Releasing on Steam and Itch.io in mid-April 2020, it gathered overwhelmingly positive feedback – but, did it truly live up to the hype? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot. com
  31. 2 points
    Epic Works is a pretty unique phenomenon in the EVN scene: an African studio, developing games openly inspired by the Type-Moon visual novels and other classic chuunige. Their first release, Episicava, was something of a glorious trainwreck, launching with multiple technical problems and borderline-unbearable, edgy storytelling replicating most of the worst tropes of the chuuni game subgenre. The follow-ups included an unholy abomination of a nukige known as Analistica Academy, and a clunky and inconsistently written, but occasionally appealing RPG VN The Adventurer’s Tale. None of them proved genuinely impressive, but each showed some forms of progress, particularly in the visual department, which by the time of The Adventurer’s Tale’s release got both appealing and consistent in style and quality. As unhealthy curiosity is one of the driving forces behind my blogging endeavours, I couldn’t stop myself from being attracted by the studio’s second Kickstarter campaign, aimed at creating another chuunige-style VN in the Episicava universe (although with no direct connection to the latter’s main plot). Despite my disappointment with their debut titles, I was very interested whether this new project, Rainbow Dreams, would represent an improvement for the studio and correct the massive issues with tone and writing quality those earlier games suffered from. And despite apparent development issues and heavy delays, resulting in a January 2020 Steam release, I’m happy to say that while not all problems were remedied to an appropriate degree, when it comes to the sheer entertainment factor, Rainbow Dreams is a major step in the right direction. Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  32. 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).
  33. 2 points
    Clephas

    Shuffle! Episode 2

    To be honest, I had great hopes for this game, based on the fact that Agobarrier wrote up the drafts for the story before his unfortunate passing. I thought I'd see the peculiar humor, the deredere-MAX heroines, and the wacky antics that I associated with the original game. I expected running jokes (frequently used as accents to various scenes), and I hoped that Navel would finally regain some of its original 'magic'. Unfortunately, it seems that those hopes are a bit too high. Perhaps it was inevitable... the team that did this game was partly made up of the writers that have been doing the Da Capo games, which should have told me they would have a less amusing approach to things (though it saddened me that Ou Jackson didn't manage to force things into his style more often...). The loss of Agobarrier's unique style is sadly all-too-clear in this game, as, while it does channel some parts of the original, the way the most important scenes is handled is far more fumble-fingered and lacking in flare, which is just sad. That said, there were some parts where the writing quality suddenly jumped up massively, such as in any scene where Primula was involved (for some reason). To be honest, it was that very jump in quality that illuminated just how poorly some parts of the game - in particular the prologue and large swathes of the common route - are handled. What is truly sad is what they got perfectly right... the characterization of side characters. Primula, despite being, and all the side characters are really well-done. So it kind of amazed me that the heroines were so sloppily done. There is far more effective character development done in the common route for the side characters than the heroines (other than Lims, who has good characterization for the most part) considering their roles, which struck me as a horrible approach. Rishia in particular is a horribly awkward character from the very beginning, and while some of that comes from her character concept, more of it comes from everything from her VA to her sprite poses... not to mention an odd lack of face time in the common route. Her voice actor is a familiar and excellent one, so I can only imagine that it was the director that screwed things up... To clarify, the heroines that had the strongest characterization in the common route go in this order Lims>Kohaku>Kirara (I hate Kirara anyway though)>Rishia>Nelia. I say this because Kohaku gets more face time due to living with Raito and Kirara's characterization is so blatantly obvious that it can't help but be effective, if annoying. Nelia has the least amount of face time in the common route (even if you pick her 'side' of things in the various choices) than the other heroines, and Rishia suffers from her initial introduction. What is canon? Without spoiling the important stuff: 1. It is 100 years since the end of Shuffle. 2. A great disaster happened sixty years in the past. 3. Primula is apparently an eterna-loli and is still alive and well. 4. The current King of the Gods is the son of Shia's much younger (born after Shuffle) brother. 5. All characters other than Primula from the original have long-since passed away. 7. At least some of the events in each path actually occurred. 8. Rishia was very close to her great-aunt, Shia, who passed while she was still a child. 9. Neria was very close to Nerine, who died childless and was her adoptive grandmother. Primu- errr... I mean Limstone Lims was the first heroine I went after. This wasn't because of any fetishes on my part (my fetishes lead me to Nelia), but simply because she had the best characterization of the non-human heroines in the common route. Her development and even her story pretty much mirrors that of Primula's, up to a point. More is revealed to the protagonist than was to Rin in his time, and the development of their relationship - up to a point - feels natural and even touching. Unfortunately, the romance is handled... awkwardly. Considering this comes from a team known for having at least minimal skills in this area (if few others), I was awed at the way the romance in this path felt so unnatural. While this isn't a path-killer for me (because romance isn't that important to me as part of a story), it was a disappointment. On the other hand, the drama in the last part of her path and the path up to the actual relationship formation were both excellent... too bad the ending was a little wince-worthy in terms of quality. Nelia Nerine's adoptive granddaughter is a seductive young woman who has horrible characterization in the common route (if you read the official character profiles and compare them to the actual heroine in the game, there are almost no similarities). She has inherited her grandmother's recipe for tamagoyaki, and her path has some eerie similarities to Nerine's in Shuffle (in a generalized sense) without having the same impact. I won't spoil the original game for you, but I had to wince at the drama used in this path. I'll be honest, if more effort had been put into making Nelia into a real character instead of a caricature in the common route, this would have been a good path. Unfortunately, very little time was spent on Nelia in the common route relative to the other heroines, and this has an unfortunate dampening effect on the reader's emotional investment. I have to wonder after finishing this path if they just intend to partially mirror the paths from the original game... Rishia Rishia's scenes in the prologue are the single most awkward introduction scenes I've seen from a heroine in a commercial VN from a major name in over ten years... no, ever. To be honest, considering that intro scenes are something most charage writers do well, I didn't expect the awkwardness I experienced. I mean, I almost dropped the game inside the first half hour, which I wasn't expecting, considering how much I loved the original. Rishia's character eventually sheds the awkwardness created by the introductions, but I thought my feelings toward her would be ruined by the introduction to the very end. However, her actual path is a complete turnaround from my experiences in the common route. Suddenly (and jarringly) the quality of presentation goes up and Rishia goes from being a thin caricature of a heroine to an actual person. To some extent, this also happened in Nelia's path, but part of the reason this path suddenly took on depth for me was the way it tied into the story of Spiral. In fact, it feels like a direct extension of the political elements of Spiral, which is why it felt much deeper to me than it probably is if you haven't played Spiral. That said, the impact it had was enough to overcome the awful introductory scenes... but it still needs to be noted that this game is horribly flawed, not the least of which by the difference in style between the four writers (why they combined the writers of Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou and that fluff-fest series - Da Capo- I'll never understand). Conclusion Understand, I have no interest in the human heroines in this game. Kohaku is ok, but I find Kirara to be so annoying that the idea of romance with her makes me want to vomit. Anyway, this game's primary flaws lie in the common route, which is, to be blunt, mostly fluff. The character introduction for Rishia was botched, and there was a severe lack of face time for the two main heroines. These flaws don't make the game unplayable, but for fans of the original, it can't help but be a disappointment. Rishia's route manages to overcome most of the weaknesses of this particularly mismatched group of writers, but that is more because of the existence of Spiral than the inherent value of the story. Also, there should have been a path for Marine and Citron. Extra To add to the canon above, I should note that Spiral was apparently written as a prequel to this game. It occurs a few months before Rishia's arrival in the human world, and it is centered around an agent from the Divine Realm. I originally thought it was a prequel to Shuffle, but it turns out that it was a prequel to this game, lol.
  34. 2 points
    Foreword: All the previous complex meta-textual intellectual novels got the highest score from me. Itsuka, Todoku, Ano Sora ni is exactly this kind of novel. So... is it 10/10 for me as well? Synopsis: In this town, there are "clouds" covering the nightsky, that the starlight won't even pierce. Because of this, constellations would always be too far. Born and raised in the Tatsumi noble family, Saku has failed to meet the expectations that lie on every male member of the family. One day, he receives word from his strict grandfather "to live life the way he wishes." Estranged by his family, Saku travels to the estate of Kuumeishi, a town that has never seen the stars. He went without hardly making sure of the details of arrangements for a wedding... Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQOtL0k7pXk&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9cLlVyGlSgO3KP-VwxGWLb Game type: Mindscrew Character Design rating: 9/10 Protagonist rating: 8/10 Story rating: 10/10 Game quality: 9/10 Overall rating: 9/10 There are enough English reviews for this game (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) and especially Japanese reviews (1 is one of the best ones). But game has such complex nature that there is still room for discussion. Minor spoilers are inevitable for discussing game concept, but I'll hide big spoiler under the bar. I played the only available at the start Futami route blindly before reading anything on the game... and I did not like it at all. After rather fun greeting of our supposed fiance in this ancient town nothing much really happens for the bigger half of the game. There's astronomy committee at school and Futami who tries to roleplay a perfect wife at home (and she studies at the same school as well). Futami wants to become protagonist's wife and wants his help in ritual for clearing clouds by the festival, and she constantly demands answer, like five times, really. And Saku never gives one. Then I was absolutely pissed by the fact how writer crosses out previous development with just one sentence "And it was the last night before Futami returned to her parents' house". The reason is not explained, and strange scenes start to snowball at this point. Basically, Saku kind of continues to live alone. At this point he is visited by three girls frequently - Mememe, Konome and Asuku San - and it becomes the fork for the routes to initiate. Then there's sudden burst of conflict with many antagonists showing up, and everything loses sense almost completely. There are constant time shifts, recollections, recollections inside recollections and what not. It gets really messy instantly followed by battles and really unsatisfying unification with Futami under weird circumstances. I'm telling all that just to say that first playthrough can be really bad, it's normal. Game still managed to rise from 6/10 to 9/10 somehow. I'll try to explain how. So the concept of all routes turns out to be slightly different. This town is ancient town of several mighty clans dating from Heian period with heroines belonging to different ones. And these clans have both powerful warriors and magicians. A very important day approaches, so in each route protagonist Saku has to deal with the clan of route heroine. Problems and antagonists vary greatly for each heroine, so each route manages to provide an absolutely fresh experience. Concept looks much simpler now, but only because I try to simplify things on purpose. These clans exist at the same town and have a mutual co-habitation history. It means that in different routes all the heroines and sub-heroines and even lots of antagonists act simultaneously, and these arcs intersect. Positions of these clans are absolutely different, hierarchy and heroines positions are absolutely different. Even the purposes of clans are absolutely different. There's a lot of infodumping to chew. And after all three routes are finished another small story shows up which actually puts most of the dots at the right places. It explains both the origin of this town and clans, the history behind most important personalities, the ritual day and even role of Saku. It's a very strange structure where we get to know what the game was about after game is actually finished already. But this move gives incentive to recall or reread parts of heroines routes that made little sense beforehand. And it actually gives room for theory-crafting. My insight is under spoiler. Itsuka, Todoku, Ano Sora ni is a complex meta-textual intellectual visual novel. But why is it just 9/10 for me? The answer is because I did not really like the process of reading it. It's basically mindscrew where nothing is explained until the end and you are hit in the head over and over and over. But I really appreciate direction, text, concept, attention to details and discussion that it provokes. It's not a natural masterpiece, but an artificially kneaded one. The process is not really good, but the aftermath is. There is a feeling of accomplishment afterwards and recognition of something absolutely new done within a scale of visual novel. That's why I can't really recommend it. But if you read all this and still want to read it - it's worth it, at least for the after-taste, but it will be anything but easy.
  35. 2 points
    alpacaman

    AlpacaReviews - Part 2

    Hello again and welcome back to the second part of my series of short reviews of EVNs I picked up. Once again I have a mixed bag regarding both content and quality to get through, so let us dive right in. Eliza (Zachtronics) Eliza follows our protagonist Evelyn Ishino-Aubrey and how her life and those of others change due to the eponymous AI counseling program she developed some years prior. This is the most ambitious game I'm going to talk about today, mostly being a meditation on how people search for meaning in their lives in a highly technologized society rather than a plot-driven story, with some interesting choices when it comes to its storytelling and game mechanics. Most of them work really well (like the implementation of choices), while others turn out to be double-edged swords. Especially the lack of a distinct central conflict both underlines the MC's lack of direction nicely and makes the VN quite boring to read at times. When it comes to presentation though, Eliza is probably as good as it gets with EVNs. The art style and soundtrack are quite unique and really aid the overall atmosphere, and the game is completely voiced, with most VAs doing a really good job. Eliza also contains the best and most challenging Solitaire card game I've probably played so far and on which I might have spent more time than reading the actual VN. Eliza is one of those pieces of media where it is hard to figure out whether you will like it before picking it up. If its themes and atmosphere resonate with you, you will probably really like it. I couldn't really get into it, but I can still acknowledge what it tries to do and where it succeeds. It just isn't for me. The Miskatonic (Rapscallion) Speaking of not being for me, The Miskatonic is a comedy VN with a sense of humor I just can't stand, so I dropped it about one hour in. If I had to describe it, I would say it's Big Bang Theory humor (including its reliance on short skits) in a Lovecraft setting with a good measure of sex jokes (get it, it's funny because everyone looks gross). If that sounds like your thing, go ahead and check The Miskatonic out. For me personally though the short time I spent on it felt like a Lovecraftian nightmare in a very different way then the creators presumably intended. Misadventures of Laura Silver: Chapter One (Studio Attic Salt) The Misadventures of Laura Silver series (assuming there is going to be at least a chapter two) takes place in 1920s Czechoslovakia, following a duo of supernatural investigators. Where this game absolutely shines is its cast. Laura Silver might be one of my favorite detective MCs with her arrogant and quick-tempered personality. There are several instances where you get the choice to pull out your gun just because someone made a mean comment. The other characters have their entertaining quirks as well, making for a lot of funny dialogue. This first entry suffers a little from a few issues opening chapters in serialized stories tend to have, namely some technical problems (none of them game-breaking though), some interesting though a little clunkily executed gameplay features, and unsteady pacing. The first roundabout two thirds revolve around a murder mystery, while the last part consists of a lot of exposition. Overall it's a promising opening, but it definitely feels incomplete. I would say it's one of those VNs where you should wait for reviews of the second chapter when it comes out, but then again if nobody buys the first chapter, there might not be a second one. Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze (Tin Man Games) Another series of short murder mysteries, Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze actually includes two cases. There won't be anymore though as the series has been discontinued due to poor sales (there is only two user ratings on vndb and one of them is mine). Only after starting to read did I find out that it was actually based on an Australian TV show (which in turn is an adaption of a series of crime novels) taking place Down Under in the 1920s, and it shows in how little the game bothers with proper character exposition. This isn't too much of a problem since every recurring character has a personality that is pretty easy to grasp. The cases feel like they would fit right into a pre-primetime serial, which might be one of the reasons the game didn't do so well commercially. It could also have to do with the fact that the Miss Fisher series feels like it is geared towards women 50+, a demographic that isn't exactly famous for buying a lot of PC games.
  36. 2 points
    The story of how I came to read this EVN is kind of like Countdown to silence itself. It started out with a bit of comic relief mingled with human drama (The dev came in and posted a link on the Fuwanovel discord and I grilled him for a bit because my ego is large and my opinions voluminous, but he managed to at least catch my interest). Then trouble struck (My Internet’s been down for hours now and it’s doing a number on me), but this led to some exciting events (I played the VN on a whim and it turned out to actually be good). The ending… well, my Internet’s still not back on, can someone tell the wankers over at Comhem to hurry up and get my router a bloody IP address? Thanks in advance. 13 hours later, I finally have the connection necessary to post this. Holy fuck. Countdown to Silence takes place in a world where (entirely benevolent and harmless) experiments intended to give humans superpowers have succeeded, but in an unexpected fashion: only their kids got a splash with the supe brush. This ability is called IO for “Information Overlay”, and true to its name it presents itself as an overlay showing you certain information – with varying levels of usefulness depending on your specific ability. The protagonist and (voiced!) narrator, Josh, didn’t get particularly lucky with his: all it shows him is a countdown to when people will speak to him next. While there are _some_ uses for this, it mostly doesn’t give him much benefit. His best friend Kyle has a much better ability: seeing potential conversation choices when talking to people, potentially revealing their secrets but also making him a great guy to talk to. The setting and abilities are used surprisingly well in the story, but don’t expect anything about uncovering government conspiracies or rebelling against society or whatever, it’s just accepted as a Thing in universe. You could probably rewrite the thing without the abilities, but it wouldn’t have the same zing to it, so I can’t say I’m bothered. No, but self-isolation does, so basically half of us are in the system now. The VN walks a delicate line between drama and comedy, and will frequently take the edge off tense moments with a comedic segment before ramping up the tension again. Thankfully, it succeeds in the balancing act; neither the comedy nor the drama are cheapened too much by its counterpart. The humor does have indulgent parts; the main character is a weeb into magical girl shows for kids. This doesn’t get too grating in my opinion, and it’s only mentioned in like three scenes, but after reading this many EVNs I still feel it’s a bit cliché. Otherwise, I would describe it as… a bit camp, I guess? On the low end of the scale though. I swear to god if the creator of this isn’t British I need to get my tea-dar fixed. Nisemonogatari >>> Bakemonogatari So why do I like it so much? Well, first of all, the plotting is tight: it doesn’t waste time, keeps you interested, and things slide into place from foreshadowing in pleasing ways. Second, the voiced narration actually adds a lot for me. There’s a constant echo-ish effect to it, it’s clearly not a super high quality recording, but I find it charming. Combined with the rest of the voices in this fully voiced VN (not badly acted, but certainly not recorded with the best equipment), the weird style convention of leaving off most ending periods in text boxes, and the uhh, funky backgrounds, it feels very doujin. Alone, any of these elements would be less than ideal, but together it forms a gestalt I find strangely palatable. Though I still must insist that you really should still end your text boxes with periods – I got used to the style because it was consistent and repetition legitimizes, but it’s not going to be a good fit for most stories and arguably made even this one worse. Anyway, the aesthetic fits the drama-comedy flow of the story pretty well. I’m left with the impression that it all shouldn’t fit together so well, and yet it just does. So yeah, I really recommend this for a fun and engaging 30-60 minutes or so of content. Extremely positively surprised. Download free at: https://plotline-progenitor.itch.io/countdown-to-silence – Okay, but as we all know I have autism, so let’s nitpick the craft a bit instead as I think the writer has potential and might read this. If you’re not into that, feel free to skip the rest of this. Hotkeys: Page up/down do nothing, despite the fact that they’re listed on the Help page! No hotkey to show message history, the SUPERIOR history function. UI: There’s no way to replay voice lines besides going back from a later line with rollback (and then they always play due to renpy rollback.) Rollback is the default backlog for mousewheel (my JVN soul cries for it to activate the backlog instead and then have scenario jump and voice replay buttons in that history). Uses default UI rather than anything custom as far as I can tell, though at least the modern Ren’Py default doesn’t make me want to tear my eyes out. Sound: Some voices are too hard to hear at the default music volume (full) while others are perfectly fine. I remember a scene where this made me have to go into the settings and lower the music volume to like half (which I left it at). I feel like this could have been avoided with more careful sound design. Why put this on your download page when you can just change the default settings??? Music doesn’t fade out, it just cuts, which makes scene transitions feel unnecessarily and jarringly sudden. Especially the final line of the game suffers from this – it really needed a soft fadeout to mimic the emotion at that point. Overall, think about transitions more when scripting. Voices sometimes do not fully match the written line, though the wording is often better than the actual text. One voiced line even adds a word that was accidentally omitted in the text! Text: Apart from the aforementioned thing where sentences just end without punctuation half the time, there’s a few typos that could’ve been caught by a careful eye. The phrasing style, and well, the style in general is unusual and feels like veering into the relaxed conventions of, I don’t know, fanfic writing? With everything else it kind of works, but it certainly won’t work for just any tone, and you’ll need to be careful with this in the future. The voiced narration does help sell some fairly long sentences without punctuation, so it’s good we have it. …And that’s about it, I think. View the full article
  37. 2 points
    So this post got way longer than I expected it to, probably because it's easier to explain something that is there than prove something is missing, especially in a VN of this length. It is the first post in what I hope will become a series where I want to discuss a couple of VNs and some their themes and how they are explored in more depth, especially ones I either have a strong emotional connection to or dislike despite them being highly regarded in the community. They are all going to contain spoilers for the games they cover, in this case Baldr Sky Dive 1&2. In this one there are a lot of footnotes where I try to explain plot points and so on well enough for someone who wants to read this review without knowing the game to be able follow what I'm talking about. In case you're just looking for my spoiler-free condensed opinion about this game, you can read the last paragraph. At the time I finished the first route of Baldr Sky I thought it was a quite promising start. It was obvious a story of this scale would need a lot of exposition and the game handles it pretty well in always trying to tie every piece of information to a mystery waiting to be uncovered and the introduced concepts were interesting enough to be fun reading about them on their own. I wasn't to fond of the narrative choices regarding Rain's (the heroine of the route) character arc, because her family background seemed like a great starting point to explore several aspects of the setting and themes it implies (1). She grew up in the Midspire, a gated community for rich and influential people who are opposed to the organic AI (2) that controls many aspects of the outside world. Her father is a hardliner in that regard and the commander of an anti-AI military force of the world government. He has become estranged from Rain, who starts sympathizing with the pro-AI faction, and his wife, who slowly started to degrade mentally and finally joined an abusive cult called Dominion and died shortly after (3). Isn't this a fantastic set-up to simultaneously explore how certain parts of the society in this world function, discuss why the pro-AI and anti-AI faction hold their respective believes and establish an agenda for Rain that's at the same time complicated and relatable, making her a three-dimensional character? While there are two or three scenes and a little dialogue addressing each of these topics, the route focuses on how she has always been in love with the protagonist, made a promise to dedicate her life to him after Gray Christmas (4) and was friends with Sora, the true heroine who died back then. Her connection to the cult is only used to give her and the protagonist a reason to not run away before the final showdown. All of this robs her of an actual agenda beyond doing what the MC tells her, effectively turning her into a prop that talks exposition and provides military intelligence in the later routes (she becomes rivals with another heroine later on, but that is more of a small subplot rather than something that adds actual substance). While I thought this approach was a wasted opportunity, I could also see how it aids the main story by not having Rain's personal issues interfere with the the main plot advancing and it gives Sora some more time on screen. So I didn't think too much of it, especially as there still was more than enough time left in the VN to fill its world with life and explore all the topics the first route hints at. And there are a lot, for example: Poverty vs. wealth in a highly developed society, what happens when a private company becomes so important to the world order that the state doesn't have any means of properly regulating them, the ethics of modifications of body and genes, what constitutes your personality, especially in a world where your memories get stored on some hard drive and your body can be replicated, the ethics and politics of sentient AI, even the theme of spirituality in a world where said AI sets and controls the rules for a cyberspace where people spend just as much time as in the real world, effectively turning the AI into a deity, and possible afterlife in cyberspace. At one point in Baldr Sky I started to notice a pattern that keeps being repeated over the course of the VN in how it deals with most of these themes. Or rather doesn't, as issues rarely ever get discussed on their merits, but rather on what faction or character holds which position or what the game needs to be true. Let's take the conflict about organic AI as an example. The anti-AI people are the bad guys. You know that because they call the other side names and have a tendency to get violent. So when they create designer babies that's bad and the children turn out to become sociopaths. When the leader of the pro-AI faction clones her dead sister with minor changes to some of her genome to make the two non-identical (for reasons), it is a clever maneuver against the big bad and the child is a genius. When the anti-AI faction builds its own machine-AI supercomputer, it is possessed by an evil super-AI trying to annihilate mankind. When the pro-AI put the control of all of cyberspace into the hands of AIs they have no eefective control over, they happen to only want everyone's wellbeing. When Chinatsu (5) switches to the Anti-AI faction, it is because she has a false conception of who is responsible for Gray Christmas and not because her believes or worldview change. So it is not some deep insight that makes her overthink her position again, but her commander betraying her. And of course he does, he is anti-AI after all (6). Whenever someone opposed to the way Ark Industries (7) does things raises a good point, it rarely ever gets addressed, and when it does, it immediately gets drawn back to the personal level. A protester criticizing their lack of accountability is not to be taken seriously because he is part of an angry mob. The leader of Dominion telling the MC that Ark and Dominion are basically doing the same thing in trying to revive people in cyberspace who died in real life is just the ramblings of a madman. Even when it turns out that Ark is in fact doing this exact thing, it is alright because Ark does it with good intentions and Dominion are evil so their experiments only produce digital zombies. The game even acknowledges that Ark doing this would be a huge scandal, because the anti-AI faction sends spies to their cyberspace to expose this and weaken Ark's political position. Still Ark doing this is seemingly OK, as they only experiment on old rich people who don't want to die and are willing to pay to reach digital afterlife, and also because it becomes an important plot device to save the world later on. I could go into how BS resolves and picks sides in the three way conflict between Ark, Dominion and anti-AI people makes a pretty weird point about faith and religion but why bother when the writers probably didn't think that far anyway? I think I made my point about how Baldr Sky avoids making any moral or political statements beyond “torture is bad” or “making pacts with lunatics is bad” and reduces any clash between ideas to conflicts between people or factions. It cannot even bring itself to say that corruption is inherently bad. At one point the sleazy mayor Anan, whose secret cooperation with Dominion has brought the city to the brink of destruction, gets captured by the good guys. One of them points out, without it getting challenged, that Anan's shady dealings have made the economy flourish by bringing high-tech industries to the city. Which is a great point to make when all the returns enrich Anan and his corrupt pals while a major part of the population lives in poverty. There actually is one theme Baldr Sky tries to explore to some degree, namely memories and how important they are to forming your personality. A big portion of the VN is told through flashback, most of the heroine arcs revolve around past promises, Makoto (8) has a sickness that causes her to have memories from different timelines (yes, those exist in BS) and lose her sense of self in the process, there are different ways factions try to recreate real people in cyberspace by feeding their memory data to NPCs, a certain memory is sent to the past to solve everything, the titles of the two parts of the game are “Lost Memories” and “Recordare”, and so on. To me this seems like an odd choice for a plot that mainly revolves around conflicts between political factions in a high-concept sci-fi setting. BS makes a few interesting points on that front, especially in regards to the connection between memories and what the calls soul, but as with the other themes I mentioned before, a lot of it seems to be mostly window-dressing, not something that impacts the plot or the characters' motivations in a major way. Additionally, seeing how often VNs in general use flashbacks as a storytelling technique, its not that novel of a concept. You could also make the valid point that not every piece of media needs to discuss complex philosophical questions, and you would be right. But then why raise them at all, when all they do is serve as props to either give the setting the appearance of depth and complexity or serve as a means to introduce other plot devices that could just as well have worked without them? Another problem this approach causes is that it does not allow the characters to have any deeper agency. They cannot have any ideals, because then the game would have to talk about those. Their alignments revolve mostly around who they have sympathy for and who could harm them. I already talked about how this keeps Rain from getting meaningful character development that ties into the larger narrative. To pick another example, Nanoha's route (the second one in the game) has very similar flaws: While she is the least interesting one of the heroines to begin with, her backstory still offers enough to create some drama that adds some depth to both her character and the themes Rain's chapter introduces. Nanoha's parents were leading pro-AI scientists who got killed by terrorists. Also the aftermath of Gray Christmas made her a refugee. She deals with this by clinging to her happier past and spending all of her free time in the replication of her college dorm in cyberspace and trying to live her life just as she did back then. But instead of being the basis for some character growth with her finding a way to embrace the present or exploring why the cyberspace is so attractive to so many people, there is another romance plot involving a past promise (9). This is especially frustrating considering that this way BS misses a great opportunity to further explore the aforementioned theme of memories. Her life as a refugee gets dealt with in like three scenes where you learn that she works in an internet cafe and has to live in an actually not that shabby love hotel (oh the horror!) and some dialogue where other people about how hard she has it. As for her relation to the overarching plot it revolves around her still trusting and being in contact with the scientist responsible for developing Assembler, whom she has known since being a child and who went into hiding after Gray Christmas, while the everyone else is trying to hunt him down. He seemingly betrays her and implants a device containing Assembler into her stomach, so she gets sad and runs away. He goes mad, so maybe he really is a bad guy? Again, the heroine's personal struggle has to take the backseat and her route mainly utilizes her as a means to lead up to another set of plot points and provide a little romance and h-content. The other routes are not that much better either, with the exception of maybe Makoto's character arc (10). The protagonist's character arc is solid though nothing to write home about, I guess, and there are a few well written side characters, although not enough to change my overall opinion on BS's treatment of its cast. I cannot finish this review though without talking about the evil mastermind who plotted everything. I will keep it short though. Having your grand villain appear nearly exclusively through exposition by other characters is pretty bad writing, unless you want to make a very specific point. Which BS does not. He does not embody some vague concept, like fate or human hubris or whatever. He is just an under-characterized seemingly a higher intelligence that wants to kill all humans in every timeline or whatever. To sum it up: The way Baldr Sky engages with the more general subjects it raises is, to put it nicely, fascinating. It just refuses to do it. It is a story about a conflict between political factions, yet it does not want to discuss politics or policy. It takes place in a world where the relationship between humans and technology raises tons of moral and social issues, yet it does not want to talk ethics. At the same time it does not seem like it cares that much about its characters either. So if BS wants to engage seriously with neither its themes nor its characters, what does it expect me to get emotionally invested in? That there's six women in this world who want to carry the MC's baby? In the end, apparently that is close to all there is to it. Which I find pretty disappointing for a VN of this length and reputation. I still rated both parts 7.5/10 on vndb as the pacing and overall advancing of the plot are executed well. I also liked the gameplay enough to add an extra half point. I should probably clarify a few of the terms I'm going to throw around to avoid confusion. To borrow from wikipedia, the setting “is both the time and geographic location within a narrative”, the premise of a story is “the initial state of affairs that drives the plot”, and a theme is “a central topic a narrative treats”. To make the distinction between these three more clear with an example, in MuvLuv Alternative the setting is present Japan in an alternative history where aliens invaded earth and mankind started building mechas to fight them. The premise is a young man who keeps looping through this timeline trying to use his knowledge of coming events to ensure mankind's victory and return to his original world. Themes MLA explores include, among others: trauma, patriotism, coming-of-age, alien intelligence, comradeship and the struggle against fate. Organic AI in BS has acquired some level of consciousness and thus can't be completely controlled by humans, but greatly surpass classic machine AI in processing power. The anti-AI faction (as in anti-organic-AI) sees this uncontrollable alien intelligence overseeing all the rules in cyberspace as potentially very dangerous, whereas pro-AI people believe the AI to be benign and thus point to its advantages. Dominion is an end-times cult that believes the AI to be a goddess and tries to separate peoples' consciousnesses in cyberspace from their physical bodies. An event where Assembler, a nanomachine to rebuild the earth's destroyed environment, but with the potential to wipe out all life on earth in its unfinished form, gets released from a research facility and the world government prevents its outbreak by obliterating most of the city surrounding it with a megabeam weapon in earth's orbit. The heroine in the third route. Actually Kirishima Isao's character arc is one of the more interesting ones in BS. Him acting against his morals by betraying and knowingly sacrificing his closest confidant because he is too focused on reaching what he thinks would be the best outcome leads to him losing not just the battle, but also his closest ally and the moral high ground he claimed. This would be way more effective though if BS ever showed any sincere interest in the morals of its characters. The company leading the pro-AI faction. Don't get me started on them. How you could pick a company with their business model as the good guys simply baffles me. They act as mediators between AI and humans, but seem to earn their money by implanting bio-chips into infants' brains (and those of everyone who can pay for it) that connect them to the internet 24/7 and upload all their memories to the cloud (which the AI can access and use). They also built a college with high tuition fees for these people where they get taught by the AI itself and turned into an internet elite class (but which gets destroyed on Gray Christmas). The heroine in the fifth route. There are between three and five of those in all six routes, depending on how loosely you define “past promise”, if I remember correctly. It involves her learning to cope with her illness in a positive way and emancipating herself from the grasp of Dominion/Neunzehn (the big bad). There even is a symbolism-heavy CG! It is as on-the-nose as it gets, but at least there is an attempt at doing something even remotely ambitious.
  38. 2 points
    JAST Blue is slowly but surely releasing Nitro+ CHIRAL's catalogue in the west. While these games had their patch long ago and every person with a passing interest in BL probably already read them, these releases certainly made it easier for fans of physical versions, HD CGs, uncensored dicks, merch or just our good old users of windows 10, as the original have a hard time to even run properly in our favorite OS (N+C did release compatibility versions, but it's not like the old patches even work with those). This year it's Togainu no Chi's time, N+C's very first game and the most edgy of the bunch. I DID review this game in the past but huh... it REALLY doesn't do a good job at promoting the game... Okay, so, if I didn't like this title in the first place, why am I even here? Because I really feel it's worth mentioning the demo of the game (you can grab it here (JAST) or here (Steam)) contain one whole route for free and it's most likely porn-free even, so if you ever get slightly interested in this but not enough to spend money, hey, today is your luck day! It's only the third best boy, but they can't be THAT generous now, can they? Is this a good game to get into the BL side of Nitroplus? Well, if you ask me, no. But I won't pretend parent Nitroplus isn't edgy af too and this game is actually pretty popular to this day, even among Japanese fans, so maybe I'm the one with shit taste here!
  39. 2 points
    Let’s not mince words here. The ellipsis is a blight upon English translations of visual novels. It must be uprooted and killed with fire. Before the slaughter begins, however, let’s review some basics. As the name suggests, the ellipsis represents an elision — that is to say, omitted content. It functions as the “yadda yadda” of the English language. It is the “Step 2: ???” before the all-important “Step 3: Profit!” A writer deploys those three little dots to indicate either the intentional removal of something that once was there, or the pointed absence of something that should have been there. That’s it. That’s what the ellipsis is supposed to do. You wouldn’t know this, however, by reading nearly any English translation of a Japanese visual novel. Ellipses are scattered across the text like so many rhinestones on the sweatshirt of a Midwestern mom. They’re at the beginning of sentences, the ends, stuck randomly in the middle — sometimes even chained end to end like a writhing Human Centipede of punctuation, each little dot in the chain crying, “Kill me now!” into the anus of the next. It’s an absolute abattoir in there. This particular road to hell is paved with good intentions, however. You see, all those ellipses are also present in the original Japanese and, in an attempt at faithful translation, the TL teams have left them all sitting there for you to enjoy. The original writer had a reason for putting them in, the reasoning goes, and it’s our job to offer the purest translation of his/her vision possible. This, of course, is bollocks. Punctuation operates differently in different languages. Japanese ellipses are used much more liberally than their Western forbearers, particularly in popular culture (e.g., manga. light novels, etc.) Want to indicate a pause? Ellipsis. Silence? Ellipsis. Passage of time? Ellipsis. Need to fill some empty space? Ellipsis. Is it Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday? Ellipsis, ellipsis, ellipsis. When ported over to English, most of these usages look less like carefully crafted sentences and more like a transcript of a particularly drunken Snapchat session. Put simply, what works in one language doesn’t always work in another. When I’m translating a Line of Text from German, for Example, I don’t capitalize all the Nouns because that’s how it was in the Original. I normalize it for English. The same needs to be done in any VN translation. My current rule of thumb while editing — I’ll bold it for you in red here — is as follows: Remove/replace all ellipses in a line of Japanese text unless doing so irreparably breaks the sentence or significantly changes its meaning. Luckily for us, English has a toolbox full of punctuation to get the job done. Commas, semicolons, periods, dashes — they’re all your friends. So let’s discuss some common situations in VNs and how we might handle them. The trailing ellipsis You’ll see lots of these littering the ends of sentences and lines, mostly to little effect. More often than not, they indicate a thought closing on anything other than a 100% full and decisive stop. Since they don’t hold the place of omitted text, we can almost always replace these ellipses with periods. There are a handful of situations, however, where keeping a trailing ellipsis makes sense. These include: The Pregnant Pause: When something’s strongly implied at the end of a sentence/line, but left unsaid for dramatic effect. The ellipsis fills the place of the implied content, so it gets to stay. (Fun bonus fact: pauses are the only things that can get pregnant in VNs.) The “And So On”: When a statement is implied to continue for an unspecified length beyond the end of the sentence/line. The ellipsis here indicates there may have been a few more beers after Michelob, but the writer has decided to spare us and jump straight to Bob’s objection. Had this been more interruptive in nature, with Bob cutting Joe off immediately after “Michelob,” the ellipses would have replaced with an em-dash (—). The Trail-Off: Similar to the “And So On,” but with the character choosing to let a statement taper off into nothingness, rather than the author. The opening ellipsis You’ll see these slightly less often, but they’re by no means infrequent. Typically, they indicate some slight hesitation at the beginning of a line of dialogue. But again, the nuance ends up being so slight and the impact so watered down through overuse that you’re almost always better off removing these ungainly beasts. An exception can be made for: The Reverse Pregnant Pause: Just like the original Pregnant Pause, but it appears at the beginning of a sentence. Often holds the place of something a character doesn’t want to say. Rather than just pausing in passing, Joe is actively not admitting he thinks Joe is a jackass. That makes this line a strong candidate for an ellipsis. The mid-sentence ellipsis So, so many of these. You’ll close your eyes at night and they’ll haunt you. They’re almost always meant to indicate a slight pause in speech or thought, but trying to the read the resulting text is an exercise in frustration. There are... just so... many unnecessary... gaps. (Full disclosure: When writing scripts for TV, I’ll use ellipses like this a lot. But that’s for a very specific purpose: helping to communicate the particular rhythm of a line to the actor(s). I always avoid this in audience-facing text.) In almost all cases, unless there’s a marked pivot in thought, a comma will suffice. If the ellipsis is holding together two complete yet interwoven thoughts, a semicolon will do nicely. If the ellipsis is holding together two complete and independent thoughts, a period should be used. If ellipses are used to indicate an interruptive thought, one that breaks the main flow of the sentence, em-dashes can be used. Again, there are a couple situations where these mid-sentence ellipses can remain: The Ta-Da: When a pause is used for obvious dramatic effect, the ellipsis should be kept. The Shatner: When halting or stilted speech is intended for dramatic/comedic effect, ellipses may be retained. The empty line ellipsis You’ll see a lot of these. Holdovers from manga and light novels, they are explicit indicators of silence, being at a loss for words, holding one’s tongue, etc. In English prose, these silences would normally be held with narration — e.g., “Baconator just sat there, dripping ketchup.” You’d never see a sentence such as: ‘Harry Potter said, “...” and continued looking out the window.’ That’s because, unlike most VNs, traditional novels don’t have the crutch of character sprites and name cards appearing alongside dialogue. Due to such VN conventions, along with the technical limitations of translation — it’s frequently impossible to replace character dialogue with unvoiced narration — you should almost always leave these ellipses in place. Based on your best judgement, you can also choose to leave such variants as the questioning silence ("...?") and the excited/alarmed silence ("...!"). It should be noted that such empty line ellipses can also be used outside of dialogue. Often, these will just indicate time passing. There’s also a long tradition in Japanese art of the “pillow” — a held moment of contemplative emptiness. It’s the bit of formal textual throat-clearing at the start of a poem. It’s the 10-second cutaway to a babbling brook that connects two scenes in a movie. In a VN, this pillow can evidence itself as a single line of narration, empty save for an ellipsis. There’s no good English alternative for this, so it should be kept wherever you encounter it. Extra credit: The multi-line ellipsis I saved this one for last, because it’s a bit of a special case. Against all my better instincts, it involves adding ellipses in places where the original text has none. It’s painful but it’s for a good cause. Sometimes, when editing or translating a VN, you’ll run across sentences that spill over onto two or more lines. Unlike in poetry, which uses line breaks to very deliberate effect, these multi-line monsters are almost always the result of the VN writer just running out of highway and choosing to keep on driving. Whenever possible, you should attempt to restructure such sentences so they don’t break across lines. Often, splitting an overly long sentence into two smaller ones will do the trick. If it resists your best efforts, however, maintain the break and indicate it with ellipses — one at the end of the first line, the other at the beginning of the second. How many dots? ALL THE DOTS! Another peculiarity of ellipses in Japanese VNs is that they don’t always have three dots. Depending on context and the arbitrary whims of the writer, you’ll typically see anywhere from two to six dots at a time. I’ve even seen 27 in a row once. I think it was a sex scene. Or a fight scene. Maybe both. Don’t let this worry you. If you’ve been following my advice, you’ve already purged most of the ellipses from the text. Of those that remain, almost all can be reduced down to familiar three-dot English ellipses. But as always, there’s at least one exception. Content-bearing pauses: In most cases, it’s of little concern to us whether an ellipsis consists of three, four, five, or even six dots. They’re all slight variations on the standard pause, but since English punctuation doesn’t make any such distinction, neither will we. An exception comes when the length of a pause not only adds flavor, but provides content. Consider the case of an ever-lengthening silence: The lengthening of the line suggests the passing of increasing amounts of time; the scene isn’t the same without it. Or consider an explosive outburst after a deafening silence: If you opt to stretch out an ellipsis like this, only do so in increments of three. If you’re musically inclined, think of three dots as a quarter note, six dots as a half note, etc., each one holding the silence just a bit longer than the last. Following the rule of threes keeps the text visually streamlined and helps if you ever need to convert a bunch of soft ellipses ( “...”) to hard ellipses (“…”) late in the translation process. A quick note about spacing I opt to keep things simple. If an ellipsis is at the start of a sentence or line, put one space between it and the first word. If it’s anywhere else, use no space before the ellipsis and one space after. If it’s a string of ellipses, it should be an uninterrupted series of dots with no spaces in between. There are also differing schools of thought as to whether an ellipsis at the end of a sentence should also be followed by a period, resulting in four dots total. Again, I opt for simplicity here and advise three dots in all cases. The mark of the beast It’s easy to tell professional translations from fan projects, it’s said; just count the number of dots. While not always true – plenty of slapdash commercial releases exist in the wild — there’s definitely something to this. More often than not, fewer ellipses are a sign that someone has taken the time to not just translate a text word for word, but thoughtfully localize it. Seriously, just dump the dots, folks. Your readers will thank you for it.
  40. 1 point
    First, I should mention that this is a true sequel to the original Shugo no Tate and that it is based three years after the events at St Terejia Academy. The protagonist, Kisaragi Shuuji (who didn't get together with any of the girls from the original) is stuck in the job of the cross-dressing bodyguard, and he agrees to carry out this one last mission in exchange for the right to stop cross-dressing (lol). I'm going to say right off the bat that Nozomi is the true/central heroine of this VN. Only in her path are all the aspects of the story fully revealed, and so I advise reading her path last. There are five heroines in this VN... Nozomi (a shy girl who tries not to stand out), Riri (a cross-dressing girl who is immensely popular with the student body), Mana (an air-headed ojousama), Mai (a poison-tongued maid), and Sonya (a Russian transfer student). Like the original, there are a lot of darker aspects hidden under the elegant surface of the school, and those who prefer to avoid serious drama should probably also avoid playing this. Similarly, there are some battle scenes - generally well-described - where the protagonist makes out pretty well. Shuuji, the protagonist, is an experienced bodyguard and agent, and his combat skills show that. Unfortunately for him, his cross-dressing skills are even greater (lol). I should say that the protagonist is a lot more central to the plot than is customary in most of today's VNs (in other words, he isn't overwhelmed by the impact of the heroines), and the original in this duology was my first experience with the trap protagonist. Overall, this game is pretty much what you would expect from a game in the same series as the original Shugo no Tate. There is a decent balance between action, drama, romance and slice-of-life without going overwhelmingly in any of the four directions, save at key points. The endings are generally satisfying enough, though people who have played the better AXL games will definitely recognize their style. The original was a kamige, and this was a fun one to play... but it pretty much requires you to have played the original to get the full effect, so it isn't a VN of the Month candidate. Edit: I should note that some of the heroines have seriously dark pasts, and two of them are about as twisted up inside as the secret heroine from the original. However, like most heroines with twisted pasts, they tend to have some of the best deredere attitudes once they fall in love with the protag.
  41. 1 point
    Foreword: Abyss is one of the more known doujin games and even has a fuwanovel recommendation page. But I could find only one English review, so it needs to be fixed asap. Synopsis: Sasayama Akira was born into a family of assassins and trained as a child to become one of them. However, due to psychological issues, his father decided to send Akira to a relative's house, to live a normal life. Several years later, Akira gets asked by the student council president to investigate a rumor of a group called Abyss, a shadowy group of students responsible for abducting and killing students in a grotesque game. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv_JpraEZN60LRLufWm3loZt Character Design rating: 7/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 8/10 Game quality: 7/10 Overall rating: 7/10 I'm still not ready to evaluate a doujin game without voicing too high. And abyss is huge. It was actually delivered in three different issues before the complete version with first one seeing the light in September 2007. As a result, completing all the routes took 38 hours, and such volume without voicing can be difficult to digest. The concept is simple - murders start to happen at school, and protagonist is dragged by a masked person to join the game. Basically, it's common battle royale concept that is popular in doujin chunige. But the actual game is neither pure survival like Killer Queen nor the battle of wits and hints like Umineko. We strive to survive, but also gather hints about opponents identities as well as learn to counter them. Quite a few mysteries pile up, and final Nami routes gives a lot of answers about protagonist past and ABYSS. And it's also not a simple mortal combat style game, because assassin means are deadly and fast, but also because multiple viewpoints are given throughout the story. We even start as a girl protagonist in common route. There's a lot to uncover, so mystery persists till the end. As for deficiencies, I still don't like this concept just because it's battle royale. Participants are placed in a limited space so that they make the story themselves like a sandbox. A lot of stuff and twists are put on top of that to make forget about the core concept, but I still don't see an interesting story behind it all. Well, I did not like any game with similar concept, even FSN, so safely ignore this point. It's been a long time since I played a game with a zero voicing. It's a matter of habit, but everything gets a huge minus from me because of that. BGM is mostly good, but there are some with just a few sounds on repeat to create tension or smth, and I'd rather hear normal melodies. Game system is horrible for auto reading. I had to put lowest possible speed, but huge chunks of text disappeared too fast after small ones, and vice versa. CG are uneven. Basically, all heroines are strong, but in other people's routes they become weak. Another nitpick is that setting of ABYSS organization feared even by police is loosely shaped, lacks detail. Battles are depicted poorly and settled with one blow usually, but buildup and wits battle prior to that is nice. Some heroines routes bring little new and can be considered bonus ones. Enough with negative points. On a bright side, in every route characters are mercilessly butchered, and you never know who or when gets to die. So there's a lot of room for emotional approach. Every heroine has her own story and motivation, and with so many masks identities remain unknown. Hints recovered throughout the game create doubts, but final route managed to take me by surprise, anyway. The good thing is that only couple heroines have traditional love scenes, some have violation, and Nonko has none at all. As you see, despite simple concept there's a lot of room for mystery, wits, tactics, twists, emotions and in-depth character stories. Don't let my evaluation scare you as it includes personal reasons. If you find such game enticing, you most assuredly won't be disappointed.
  42. 1 point
    The Emirillia Chronicles by Michael Chatfield (incidentally my favorite litrpg author), the writer of the Ten Realms series, is one of the more fascinating ones I've come across. Unlike the Ten Realms, which is fairly unfocused due to Erik and Rugrat's generalized motivations based on their personal ethics, desires, and whims, Emirillia has a somewhat clearer goal for the characters. In the series, humanity was defeated by an alien empire called the Jukal, but the Jukal almost lost everything in the process. Humanity's innovative and competitive nature made them devastating opponents, despite their lower tech base, so the Jukal decided to destroy them utterly... until one of them, a scientist named Lok'al, came up with the idea of tricking special-grown humans into killing more aggressive species for them. What they came up with is the Trapped Mind Project, where 'cycles' of people grown in a simulation of Earth, believing they are 'logging in' to a VRMMO, are physically manifested on the planet and sent against aggressive species. Natives of Emirillia are also human variants, made by tweaking DNA to make them seem like the legendary races (dwarves, gnomes, elves, demons, angels, dragons, etc). By the time the protagonist, Austin Zane, 'logs in', over eight hundred years have passed and Emirillia has become something of a reality TV show for the Empire, used as the 'opiate of the masses'. Aggressive races that would have been exterminated previously are instead used as opponents for Players, and the POE (People of Emirillia) get caught in the crossfire, more often than not. The protagonist is a brilliant engineer and scientist, a man who managed to exceed the parameters of the Earth simulation by creating a company that mined space and dumped the resources on Earth (something that normally didn't happen), and his desire to enter the 'game' was to build a cabin and get away from everything. Unfortunately for him, Bob (Lok'Al) has other plans, and Dave (as Austin comes to call himself) is too good-hearted and active by far to sit idly once he knows what is going on. Generally speaking, much like the Ten Realms, this is a series for people who like to see the characters growing in power and helping others growing in power. It is also a series for those who like innovative and brilliant main characters (as the main ones are) and nasty characters getting their comeuppance. It is a rather large series (12 books), but I honestly hardly noticed the passing of time while I read it. This game has a significantly stronger western influence compared to the Ten Realms, which was more influenced by xianxia cultivation stories than anything else.
  43. 1 point
    Year 2008 started with two failed months, continued strong, but by the end lost a lot of appeal for me. There is not a single full 10/10 masterpiece (although technically Dies irae reworked version may be counted), but the overall number of masterpieces is again 20, exactly the same as in 2007, so can't complain here. New portion of Visual Novel Openings 2008 with songs. My list of masterpieces in 2008: 11eyes -Tsumi to Batsu to Aganai no Shoujo- 12Riven -The Ψcliminal of Integral- 428 ~Fuusa Sareta Shibuya de~ Aion Garden Aoishiro Bifronte ~Kugaitou Kitan~ Chrono Belt ~Ayakashibito & Bullet Butlers Crossover Disc~ Concerto Note Eien no Owari ni G-senjou no Maou Gouen no Soleil -Chaos Region- Kagerou Touryuuki Kara no Shoujo Nidaime wa ☆ Mahou Shoujo Princess Frontier Rui wa Tomo o Yobu Sora o Tobu, 3tsu no Houhou Sumaga Tri☆Stars Volume 7 A number that becomes magical for each year. Wanted to catch up with micchi blog that started monthly overviews in late 2008, and I'm finally there. As for VN of the Year, i'd nominate 12Riven -The Ψcliminal of Integral- . Covered three years in visual novels over these eight months, but now I'm taking a month or so break from new posts - will rest, update old posts with newly added works and fulfill a number of youtube requests to add leftover routes. See you somewhere in October. But last post before the short break will be extra review for the year 2008, of course. Traditionally, adding here untranslated masterpiece games that I did not pick up for review throughout the year, and if five slots aren't filled, getting some curious non-masterpieces in addition. Let's choose an EXTRA review for 2008 in this poll: Concerto Note Sin Kurotoki Iro no Shoujo Sora o Tobu, 3tsu no Houhou Sumaga Wizard Girl Ambitious
  44. 1 point
    kivandopulus

    Princess Frontier [AXL]

    Foreword: Fantasy AXL work. Of course I'm in. Synopsis: Ryu is a practice knight. One day, he accidentally stumbles during an important ceremony and his life turns around 180 degrees. He is degraded to a boss of a security group stationed on the edge of nowhere. A few days later, when he arrives the village, his coworkers welcome him. And he somehow enjoys his country life there through various troubles and accidents. One day, a boy comes to the village. He is arrogant and unyielding. He turns out to be the princess who shunted him.... Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9wgTC9rvOcsjNvddNrT6i8 Game type: Fantasy romcom Character Design rating: 10/10 Protagonist rating: 9/10 Story rating: 8/10 Game quality: 10/10 Overall rating: 9/10 Fantasy makes every work better, so it's usual score + 1... I might say that, but it's not that simple. Moreover, I start to see disparity among AXL works. Princess Frontier scenario is written by Kitagawa Samui, author of Kimi no Koe ga Kikoeru. These two works are different from other two AXL works of Hasegawa Ai by number of heroines and side-characters. As for me, five heroines is a bit excessive and more difficult to focus, but four heroines much easier to process. It's a minor difference, but side-characters make a huge difference. Kimikoe and Princess Frontier have absolutely superb male side-characters. In kimikoe there were nerd friend, simpleton powerhouse friend and bad aristocratic friend/rival. Princess frontier has equally colorful side cast - simpleton knight Tristan, pervert oyaji Homero and bad noble friend Jin. This makes Kitagawa Samui games really lively comedies in contrast to Shield 9 that astonished me for the lack of humor. AXL is back on track and kicking. While we're still at humor part, I should note wide and clever usage of SDCG for comical effect. But for me it also means that I'd want to avoid Hasegawa Ai, especially if work is centered on real world nobility, butlers and maids, all the stuff. I'm inclined to skip "Like a Butler" unless there is like nothing else to play in February 2009. AXL games excel in creating pleasant atmosphere, but here there is also focus on friendship and cooperation. It may be called our usual overcoming problem with heroine trope, but the difference is that it's not girl's innate personal problem, but it's external problem arising from girl's background. And it's not that protagonist does all the work, but problem solved in tight cooperation. I also appreciate that four girls are from different professions in contrast to everyone being just high school student in Shield 9. Game system is inherited from Shield 9 with the same options to skip general route pieces inserted into heroines routes, but it's done so much more clever this time. There are like only 2-3 skips incorporated compared to dozens encountered in Shield 9 inside every individual route. This is also achieved by rather late branching so that common route takes over 60% of total screen time. In result common route took me almost 12 hours to play, plus some 7 hours on average for each individual route. That's quite a lot, and story can be called extended. But Princess Frontier is not that much about capturing a heroine or getting to story climax. It's mostly about enjoying humor, and it can be done at any point of the game, so I don't consider big length a problem. Princess Frontier is so far the most enjoyable AXL work for me. It amplifies all the best parts and learns from dubious experiments of Shield 9. AXL fans will love it, and if someone expected revolutionary changes or different genre elements - it's their problem, not brand's.
  45. 1 point
    Clephas

    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.
  46. 1 point
    Zalor

    Visual Novels are a Hot Medium

    Firstly, by “Hot” I mean purely in the Mcluhanistic sense of the word. Though I think we all acknowledge that VNs can be a very “hot” medium in the erotic sense as well. But seriously speaking, VNs are a hot, highly intensive medium; and this is precisely why I see so much artistic potential in them even if relatively few as of yet have fully capitalized on this potential. To provide a brief definition of hot and cold media I think the simplest explanation is the more immersive a medium is the more hot it is. The less immersive, and the more causal the experience of it is, the more cool it is. Reality TV is probably the best example of cold media. You can enjoy an episode of Terrace House or Jersery Shore or whatever (insert reality TV show) while paying relatively little attention to it. In fact dumb television's appeal is precisely because you can passively enjoy it while watching it with friends and family. Honestly this is why I think most Japanese TV (I'm intentionally exuding anime here) is so bad, but that's probably a rant for another time. Hotter media require more focus and attention from the participant. The best example of this would be literature. While reading a book, you need to pay sole focus to the words. And so this involves a hyper concentration. Hence it is high intensity, thus hot (seriously I didn't come up with these terms, famed academic Marshal Mcluhan did half a century ago). So then why do I do think, and more importantly why do I boldly claim that VNs are fundamentally a hot medium. Well, because for the best VNs and and the most memorable experiences VNs induce, we are highly involved in the moment. Practically there ourselves. And this is because the combination of text, audio, and visuals create a sensory experience which practically places us in the fictional scenes that are being depicted. It's the same reason why Lets Plays of Visual Novels just don't feel right to most VN fans. At least not as a first time experience to a particular VN. Because the first time you experience a particular VN it is a deeply intimate experience. I mean sure there are kusuge which are probably more fun to play with friends or in a live stream then they are to read individually. But then again they are called kusuge for a reason. Precisely because they aren't good, and more specifically don't conform to the medium's strengths. So where am I going with this? I don't exactly know. Maybe to start a discussion about VNs as a medium of their own; which I think they are. That is to say I think they exist in a separate category from video games. Though I acknowledge there can be VNs with gameplay. I think a “VN with gameplay” is very different from a “game”. And I suspect most gamers would also agree. Anyway, its in my nature to make bold claims when I believe something. But if you disagree with me I'd be happy to discuss it with you. More then anything I like to create conversation about concepts which interest me. And if you agree with me, well I'll be happy to know I'm not alone.
  47. 1 point
    Spoilers for Steins;Gate ahead! As far as I'm aware, most deeper discussions of Steins;Gate revolve around one of two of its more obvious central aspects. On one hand its time travel mechanics tend to get picked apart a lot, with arguments about whether they make sense, if Rintarou basically destroying whole timelines renders the plot meaningless, and so on. On the other hand its theme of the dangers of humans playing god gets brought up a lot, pointing to how you cannot create an outcome where everyone is happy. While both of these things are among what makes S;G special, I think they are only part of its larger theme of fate and how we as humans learn to deal with it as we grow up. Did you notice how there is no actual main villain in Steins;Gate? The Committee? The threat it poses always remains somewhat abstract. Mayuri dies regardless of whether they intervene or not. Even once they get a face in the form of Moeka and Mr. Tennouji, they turn out not to be some super-villains but an emotionally vulnerable woman tricked into doing bad things and a single-father trying to make ends meet for his daughter. Thus there is no real sense of victory in beating them, there are just two more people to feel sorry about getting wound up in the larger scheme of things. Also, once Rintarou beats the Committee, they immediately get replaced by a new menace, namely the threat of World War III. Both these threats are, on a metaphorical level, manifestations of the greater hardships life has in store for you. You can never achieve total victory in life, there will always be threats beyond your control, and the only thing you can do is try to find the best trade-off for yourself and everyone else. But more often than not there is going to be someone who gets hurt by these decisions (this point actually gets brought up rather often in discussions about the “Changing your Past” theme, but I think this also plays into my argument, so I thought I'd mention it here). Then what about Doctor Nakabachi? He also is just a clog in the machine. He doesn't have some great agenda or even the ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. He is just some scientist with an ego hurt so deeply he would even murder his own daughter if it meant he could get recognized by his peers. Consequently the final showdown isn't about Rintarou beating him in a fight (which would have been easy, considering Rintarou is probably physically more capable and having the advantage of the element of surprise), but about tricking fate. I'll come back to both Nakabachi and the true ending later. First I want to talk about how the character arcs in S;G tie into its overarching theme of learning to grow up in the face of calamity. All side heroines who send messages to the past have somewhat parallel arcs (except maybe Moeka, who I already talked about). They revolve around them learning to come to terms with some great misfortune, usually after being shown what life would have been like without it ever befalling them. The story even shows how they live happier lives after accepting their fates. Suzuha has to give up on her time with the lab members or the prospect of ever finding her father, but in turn she achieves her goal of securing the IBN 5100 and lives a happy adult life instead of losing her memories and committing suicide once she remembers her failure. Faris losing her father turns her from a princess waiting to be saved by a white knight into a responsible adult who basically rebuilds a whole part of Tokyo the way she wants. Luka learns her happiness is not tied to her physical sex and that her friends are more important than what her genitals look like (yeah, S;G doesn't handle her character all that well). Their setbacks actually make them grow as human beings. One important aspect about this growth is that they don't just keep part of their inner child intact, it also propels said growth. Suzuha sees her younger self in the adolescent Mr. Tennouji when she takes him in. Faris keeps her love for otaku culture and uses it to transform Akihabara. And in Luka's case, her swordfight roleplay with Rintarou gives her the power to carry on. Which brings us to Rintarou's character arc. At the beginning of the story, he is basically still a child refusing to grow up. His childish side manifesting as a chuuni alter ego, the mad scientist Hououin Kyouma, seems fitting, seeing how chuunibyou translates to “eighth-grader-syndrome”. Hououin Kyouma is self-absorbed, stupid, careless, and in his own way pretty naive. In the first half, Rintarou is scared of what it means to be an adult, and whenever he feels insecure because of this, he delegates control to his alter ego. Then, when Mayuri dies, he is forced to acknowledge how useless this approach is once confronted with real calamity, but doesn't know what to do instead, so he tries to just turn things back to the way they were before, turning to Kurisu, the most adult and cool-headed of the characters, for help most of the time. The realization that there is no going back as it would mean letting Kurisu die forces him to finally accept the reality of having to become an adult. He sees it as his responsibility to try to save Kurisu, but fails. He only succeeds once he embraces Hououin Kyouma again. This time though, Hououin Kyouma isn't his shield for whenever he doesn't want to confront his anxieties, but rather the spark of positivity and creativity that helps him overcome the seemingly insurmountable adversity in front of him. I guess the name Houou(Phoenix)-in Kyouma (unspeakable truth) becomes pretty self-explanatory foreshadowing once you look at it this way. From this point of view, it also makes total sense that Rintarou's final showdown is against Doctor Nakabachi, who is also a mad scientist, but whose joy for his fringe science got turned into mediocrity through bitterness and pettiness, and is thus the antithesis to the reborn Hououin Kyouma. Mayuri and Kurisu as characters are also built around the theme of growing up. Mayuri is basically childlike naivete turned to flesh and a symbol for Rintarou's childhood days. Thus his attempt to save her is an attempt to recreate their innocent past. Him distancing himself further from her the longer his journey to save her takes is also a signifier for how this goal is getting further away from him. Her slapping him once he fails to save Kurisu is the culmination of this, showing that there is no going back to the carefree days back at the lab (I still don't like how she gets fridged and turned into a macguffin simultaneously, but whatever). As for Kurisu, her status as a child prodigy caused her to only be around adults from a very young age, forcing her to grow up very quickly and suppress her more childish personality traits. Thus the general carefree atmosphere of the lab draws her in and over the course of the VN she learns to feel more comfortable with her more youthful character traits. The true ending also makes a little more sense from this angle than with the “don't play god” interpretation. The latter telling you there are no objectively perfect choices and playing with fate tends to make things worse rather than better gets rejected by the true ending as Rintarou gets his total victory by finding a loophole in the rules of the universe and basically cheats fate. But if you look at it as a story about embracing your inner child, it makes some sense. “Of course you can't escape fate” and “there are no perfect endings” is the way a grown-up without imagination thinks. But who can prove them wrong if not Hououin Kyouma, the ultimate adolescent?
  48. 1 point
    Foreword: Cotton Soft debut work Natsumegu did not snatch stars from the sky, but Reconquista seems to have a totally different, serious approach and thus arouses interest. Synopsis: There is a certain town on a reclaimed island. It was developed as an international residential area, but it's in ruins now. And there is a rumor that if you walk around there at night, a girl in school uniform will appear and cut off your head... Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esl-hAk-6M8&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv_3HkMSokjrZXfwZiVI0FIR Game type: Suspense mystery Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 8/10 Game quality: 8/10 Overall rating: 8/10 Due to mystery genre there are limitations to what can be revealed, but at least concept should be laid out to understand what to expect. So, different characters miss beloved dead people, and there is a technique to bring back the dead, but the key to it is urban legend about beheading woman. Game has three chapters that can be roughly described as present dimension, past dimension and true route that can be called future dimension just for sake of simplification. First present Chapter is the largest one, and it contains two protagonists zapping views and all the four heroine endings. We do approach beheaded woman in each of those routes, but in the same manner, so mystery does not really get developed, it's just observation from different angles. Past and Future chapters are focused on the mystery roots and nature, correspondingly. So mystery gets focused extensively, and everything gets explained, so even some emptiness is felt due to limited possible interpretations. But game touches important humanity questions for us to explore ourselves. Does one human life worth sacrificing another one? How does it cope with the concept of eternal soul? What will happen if everyone starts sacrificing other lives to save their beloved ones? Madness becomes the main theme of the game - and it contaminates not only maniac's mind, but even heroines minds who start to lose grip with the reality and ethics. Game actually reminds me old game Kurenai by light. Same madness dominates the air, same bloody scenes everywhere, even main heroine of the two games basically looks and feels the same - in this game it's Kureha (even name seems to bear reference). Different heroines sing famous Japanese horror Kagome song which becomes a symbol of madness. I should also mention great BGM that contributes to the atmosphere a lot. But aside from Kureha, heroines aren't developed much. Loli daughter Momiji is also greatly portrayed, but she is not a capturable heroine, luckily. Shiina also feels alive with her bitter attitude compared to more ordinary heroines Mahoko and Masaki who have their share of charm, but that's it, no development. Male characters in this game are especially subtle and passive. All characters are normal people without special abilities, so at times lack of excitement is felt. Reconquista story is not that complicated, but thanks to four protagonists zapping and different chronology it gets rich in taste and details. It's not our usual fluffy happy end game. It leaves reader with touching moment, heavy feeling, hope and afterthoughts to linger on.
  49. 1 point
    littleshogun

    The Whimsical Sky Review

    For this week title I'd just literally translate 'Kimagure' from Kimagure Temptation and 'Sora' from Yosuga no Sora into 'Whimsical' and 'Sky' respectively then combined both words, so we have 'The Whimsical Sky' as this week VNTS Review title. I did a bit more searching and find out that there's a picture called Whimsical Sky, and of course I wouldn't write my opinion on the picture here. Welcome to this week VNTS Review, and as for this week I would say that this week is quite calm after a big release (Sakuramori) and several announcements so more or less technically it's an average one. That said, I still like this week though if only because we finally have Yosuga no Sora fully translated after nine years of works along with the first update in Ginharu after three weeks of absences, so overall its not too bad to me here. Anyway let's see what I can write for this week VNTS Review here. This week we have JAST released this nukige in which apparently it's a sequel of a doujin VN, and apparently based on Monster Girl Encyclopedia. While I must admit that it's not too bad here, in the end it's still smaller release from JAST so hopefully they'll be able to up their game to finally released Kimikoi on time (Shouldn't be affected by pandemic as long as they chose to release it in digital version only I think). We also have good news from Frontwing, in that they'll release Yukikoi at 29th later. I wonder if they'll reveal their next project to us later on, in which the next project could be Hatsumira if we look at several info seeing that they said that they've been planned to localized it. From Sekai we finally have Nine Episode 3 release, in which it's at 5% translated. While it's pretty much inevitable that Sekai will get Nine Episode 4 here, I still hoping that Sekai will manage to get it and if possible repeat their achievement to release two episodes in a year like back at 2019 (If only for Tsubasu's art here). By the way Nine Episode 4 was scheduled to be released at 24th later, and hopefully it's the last episode for Nine VN here. For more updates, we have Nekogami back into QA in which it probably mean that Sekai was about to make sure that it's free of bug, and Amairo Chocolata was at 65% translated. In any case, I'll look forward to whatever Sekai will announce in their 'AX from home' here if they want it seeing that usually their bigger announcement was usually happened at AX. As for Mangagamer's update, we have Escalayer finalizing the release build and Rance 01 was finished the testing (Both of those are coincidentally from Alicesoft). They also have one more secret project, in which currently was fully translated and edited along with finishing the image editing for the project. As for the first secret project, currently it was at 70% translated along with 68% edited. From the updates, at least I can estimate that the next release from them here would be Escalayer. While for the second secret project, for now I can only guess that it would be a short VN although of course I might be wrong here. We have Angel Beats was passed 90% mark (93.60%) translated and Miotsukushi Ura was at 24% translated. For more updates, we have both of Yosuga no Sora Motoka's route along with Ginharu Momiji's route were fully translated. The former is more important, because Yosuga no Sora here is a nine years old project and Motoka's route here is the last route to be translated. While normally we should celebrate this occasion because we also have full translation patch available, the patch itself is still not completed just like Rhapsody because the team said that it's still need some editing and QC for the translation to be completed, so I'll just consider it as partial release. Still if you want to play Yosuga no Sora VN after nine years of waiting, feel free to try the patch and have fun. For Ginharu here, we finally have an update after three weeks of absences and with Momiji's route fully translated we have overall Ginharu was at 62.57% translated. While Irru did say that we better not expect the patch in another month, I'm still hoping that we'll get it in June's end at the fastest though so let's just wait and see here. That's all for this week VNTS Review, and see you next week.
  50. 1 point
    alpacaman

    AlpacaReviews - Part 1

    Lately I have started reading a bunch of short visual novels (mostly EVNs) and since Covid leaves me with a lot of free time, I decided to write a series of posts containing several short reviews for them. I will focus on ones I recently purchased but maybe there will even be time to go through my backlog of short titles, even the ones I got in bundles and probably would not touch under normal circumstances. So let's dive right in. The Agony by KishMish Games & Talentplace This one I picked up for 49ct or something like that because Steam reviews said it was hilariously bad, and, well, they weren't wrong about at least one of those two words. We follow the story of Oleg, who is very masculine (which he never fails to point out in his inner monologues), and his girlfriend Olga/Olia, whose character traits are that she is very beautiful and in love with Oleg. They get lost in the underground maze beneath their home city after having to run from a couple of bad dudes and Olga/Olia gets kidnapped by someone or something lurking down there. Can Oleg rescue his loved one and defeat the evil lurking in the dark? Personally, I didn't bother to find out after reaching the first ending telling me everything going on isn't real (spoilers, I guess). The whole thing reads like one of those bad fantasy fan-fictions where the author makes stuff up as they go with incompetence showing at every level. The English translation from the original Russian is, to put it nicely, not that great either. It starts out with the titlecard for the opening chapter saying "Oleg and Olga" and then the next sentence calling her Olia. I know, transcribing names from different alphabets can be complicated, but the inconsistency in the spelling points to how little care was put into the translation, which is full of grammar errors and weird sentence structures (yes, I know my English isn't perfect either, but I don't charge anyone for reading my stuff). I didn't get far enough into the VN to find out what the title refers to, so from now I'll pretend that it's supposed to describe your experience reading it. Avoid it, unless you really want to laugh at how bad it is. Cyber City 2157 by Harotobira Speaking of bad translations from Russian to English, this game taught me to read the text in the screenshots on the shop page before buying a VN instead of just looking at the visuals, and I only mention this game here to tell you to not pick it up unless you can read Russian. Because unlike The Agony, CC2157 seems like it has some artistic ambition behind it and seems to rely heavily on verbal images and metaphors. The English version is so garbled that I probably wouldn't even be able to figure out if the effort was brilliant or terribly misguided, so I dropped it shortly after the opening sequence. Alone with You by Benjamin Rivers Inc. Alone with You is a hybrid between 2D adventure and visual novel (it doesn't have a vndb page), where you lead your unnamed protagonist through the ruins of a deserted space colony originally designed to terraform a planet that is hostile to human life. Your only companions are the AI that controlled all systems of the colony before its crew went extinct and the virtual replications of four former engineers and scientists whose memories it uploaded. As energy reserves are low you can only spend time with one of them at a time. During the day you explore the colony's facilities together with the AI in search of things you can use to make your escape vessel work, finding clues to where and why things went wrong on your way. At night you talk to one of the alter egos about their work and what their life was like. Despite being wildly different from the outside, the closest thing to compare AWY to when it comes to the overall experience in my opinion would be Analogue: A Hate Story. It has a similar back-tracking structure where you first work your way closer to finding out how a certain catastrophe could happen in the past (only in this case its through exploring areas in the colony instead of reading logs), interrupted by sections where you talk to a witness of the events about the details (there even is a little romance involved). Where Analogue tries to paint the picture of a collapsed society though, AWY is more introspective, focusing on themes of loneliness, self doubt, regretting past decisions and how people behave in the face of an inescapable disaster. The gameplay sections as well as the brilliantly done visual and sound design give you a real sense of desolation and solitude, although they can get a little repetitive and the game can feel too long at times. So if you're willing take in its atmosphere, Alone With You is definitely worth checking out. If you need something to happen at all times, better pick something else. Ghosts of Miami by Pillow Fight Games I really wanted to like Ghosts of Miami, with it being a detective story set in 1980s Miami and its cool visuals. Sadly I found it to be pretty mediocre. My main complaint is that it often struggles to find the right tone. It tries to capture the hedonistic happiness of the era as well as issues of race, sexual minorities, drugs and cartels, but then never fully commits to either side of its story, dulling the 80s-ness and failing to make an emotional impact in its darker moments at the same time. I wouldn't recommend picking it up, especially not at full price (which is 15€). Lily's Day Off / Lily's Night Off by Kyuppin These two short VNs share the same premise and are made by the same person, so it makes sense two review them together. Both revolve around an unnamed protagonist coming to his senses and the first thing he sees being famous tsundere pop idol Lilypad Lily. What makes these games unique is that the only thing fixed in each (very short) playthrough is the setup, but the plot and even characters' memories and motivations can change completely depending on your choices. So it's basically a collection of joke endings which can mean anything from cutesy romance to cat aliens. They are kind of hit and miss, but at least Lily's Night Off with its significantly higher production value than its predecessor, including short character animations that do wonders for the comedic timing and a CG for each ending (each drawn by a different artist), is a fun way to kill an hour or two. And I just love its Secret True Ending.
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