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  1. 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.
  2. 2 points
    You probably saw many cataclysms in stories you’ve read or watched in the past. Disasters that were natural, technological or magical in nature, limited in scale or apocalyptic, resulting in short-lived crises or civilisation-ending. From Muv-Luv through Swan Song to I Walk Among Zombies, plot-oriented visual novels never shied away from presenting these kinds of scenarios, and along with literature, they’re uniquely positioned to explore deeper consequences they could have for both individuals and whole societies. Fallstreak, a free game released on Steam on October 2018 as a debut title of a small studio under the name Centicerise Productions, is one less-common EVNs tackling this topic. It does so by focusing heavily on a group of people affected by such a catastrophic event – mostly average folk, crippled physically and emotionally by the mysterious Fire of Collapse that ravaged their isolated country without a warning or identifiable source. It’s also, generally speaking, a wonderfully-produced piece of VN that I’m wary of recommending to people due to its surprisingly extreme content and open-ended story, quite clearly meant as an introduction to its world and a prologue to future games utilizing the same setting. So, what are the main reasons to check it out, or to skip on visiting the fantasy realm of Socotrine at least until Fallstreak’s continuation shows up? The amount of stories-within-a-story and subplots that are never elaborated upon makes Fallstreak feel more like a prologue leading to a proper story than a standalone experience Fallstreak’s Steam page claims that the game’s protagonist is Adelise Cotard, the daughter of Socotrine’s ruler and a little girl with a mind of an adult. Atypically mature due to the time she spends in the Golden Dream, a lucid dreamworld full of knowledge which she enters nearly every night, Ade is indeed the character through which we initially experience the story. These introductory chapters, rather relaxed and light-hearted, mostly follow her and her group of friends through some everyday situations – a normal life in which only physical scars some of them bear and occasional reminiscence hint at the dramatic past. However, she’s neither sole focus nor the only protagonist of the game. In its second half, when we start learning about other characters’ backstories and the details of Fire of Collapse though flashbacks, she’s not only pushed to the background but mostly absent, with crucial events taking place before she was even born. At this point, the game switches perspectives on a regular basis, focusing mostly on various members of the Lirit family, whose children are Adelise’s classmates in a private school for those orphaned or otherwise affected by the cataclysm. In the meantime, we’re also introduced to a ton of information about Socotrine itself, a land isolated from the outside world by the apparently impassable, magical mist. Its impoverished, but stable history was shaken up by the arrival of a refugee convoy from beyond the barrier, around 20 years before the game’s main events. Bringing with them advanced technology and knowledge of the outside world, refugees affected drastically both the land’s political balance and the way of life of its people. Eventually, the convoy’s “Lost Children” revolted against the ruling aristocracy of Socotrine and brought in an era of prosperity. At the same time, the game opens many questions about their origins, actions after traversing the mist and their connection to the Fire of Collapse which nearly destroyed the whole realm. Adelise’s personal story is also apparently related to much of this, with the Golden Dream, her father’s dethronement of the Lost Children’s leader and her mother’s death all signalized as mysteries crucial to understanding Socotrine’s predicaments, although without many hints on how they’re actually significant. Fallstreak’s story turns bleak without much warning and introduces scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in the darkest of horror stories – it’s not a VN for those faint of heart If this sounds like a lot to fit into a relatively short, 80k-word VN, it definitely is. I also skipped a number of lore details and subplots that could be considered spoilers, and as you can imagine, very few of those receive any kind of answer or satisfying conclusion. The game does not shy away from extensive infodumps and introducing character after character, many of them either signalizing stories that might be told in the future or being little more than exposition props. It also includes allegorical stories told by various characters, which further draw the readers attention away from its actual plot-points and protagonists. At times the memorable, high-quality visual design and solid characterisation are main things preventing it from devolving into an incomprehensible mess. The unique characters and the sheer beauty of all visual assets make it easier to get immersed in the world and look past the absolute overload of story threads the game bombards you with, without ever tying most of them together. While the pacing is definitely an issue in Fallstreak, the most problematic part might still be its tone: it often jumps from rather relaxing slice-of-life moments to unsettling mysteries, and then to over-the-top tragedy and absolutely grotesque violence. The aforementioned backstory of the Lirits is full of gut-wrenching moments, drastic enough to disturb even a relatively experienced and desensitized reader like me. I’m not sure all of them belonged in this story – some very much balanced on the border of absurdity and if they had a real narrative function beyond the sheer shock factor, it’s not clear at this point. It’s not a massive problem if you can handle that kind of content, but it definitely makes Fallstreak not an experience for everyone, especially because the intensity of these segments was not properly signalized by previous events and very much caught me by surprise. The visual design of Fallstreak is impeccable and helps a lot in fleshing out its characters and world, making them surprisingly memorable If what I wrote so far paints a pretty bleak picture, it’s because Fallstreak’s problems could’ve been fatal if not for how just this polished and well-put-together it is. The prose and dialogue, despite the heavy exposition and anachronistic jokes that I’m not sure make sense in the setting, are very solid. Elements such as character’s speech patterns and personality quirks save them from being forgettable in the overcrowded storyline. And in the end, it’s the beautiful visuals and music that really make it stand out. The characters look distinct and expressive, while backgrounds and CGs are hard to take your eyes off. The assets are also pretty abundant for a free VN, with just enough environments, sprite variants and full illustrations to consistently keep things fresh. The original soundtrack is very climatic, with mostly sombre piano tunes underlining the sad reality of the game’s world. It all comes together in a way that I’m not sure I’ve seen in another free VN. So, ultimately, what do I make out of Fallstreak? It’s definitely not a bad game and the main problems it suffers from came rather from the developers being overly ambitious than a lack of effort. They definitely tried to fit too much into one package and didn’t follow up properly with new chapters. If I read it right and it is a starting point for a commercial franchise, we should already be seeing much more concrete signals about its continuation than the sporadic teasers present on the developer's social media. It’s not an abandoned project, considering I was directly approached by the studio behind it not a long time ago and the latest updates on the continuation are fairly recent, but whether you should read it depends mostly on whether you’re ok with reading a story that is essentially unfinished (and is going stay like that for a while), and whether you're willing to deal with its grimdark elements. For me, it was definitely worth the time I’ve spent reading it and as a free VN, that time is all it will ever ask from you. Final Score: 3/5 Pros: + Beautiful visuals + Climatic soundtrack + Memorable main characters Cons: – Frequent infodumps and clunky exposition – Gets over-the-top with the brutality of the backstories – Feels more like a prologue than a full story VNDB Page Play Fallstreak for free on Steam
  3. 1 point
    Clephas

    Amairo Chocolata

    This is the second mimikko game from January's releases, a pure moege made by Cabbage Soft, the makers of two other games, both of which I disliked (perfect examples of charage/moege slogs in the sugary and brainless mud). I can't honestly say that Amairo Chocolata is that different from the company's other games... but I'm willing to forgive a lot for mimikko heroines. This game is pretty short, so short I finished it in just under eight hours (it's been a while since I bothered with a game as empty of content that it was this short). Like most 'pure moege', this game is essentially endlessly cute with no real content beyond cuteness, adorableness, and H-scenes. That I was able to get through it is a mark of how much my fetishes drive me, but it also brought about a severe response from my old battle scars from years of playing such games. The two heroines in this game are Chieri (the loli catgirl) and Mikuri (the miko doggirl). Chieri is a straight-out tsundere, whereas Mikuri is a straightforward tennen genkikko heroine. I can honestly say that there isn't a ton of depth to either of them or the protagonist, and I was more than a little dissatisfied that they focused entirely upon the cafe as the setting. With some work, it would have been possible to make this game a lot more intimate-feeling and turn both heroines and the two side-characters into something more unique. Unfortunately, such efforts were severely lacking, meaning that I played this game solely for ears and tails.
  4. 1 point
    littleshogun

    Twilight Days Review

    Welcome to this week VNTS Review, and as we know our highlight for this week should be Nekonyan's announcements. Other than that, we also have some updates from fan translation, Mangagamer, and Sekai which is good enough to me seeing that we also have one particular big announcement from fan translation. Lastly before I'm continuing the review let me said that at first I think that this week would be a plain one, but thanks to Nekonyan it turn to become an interesting one. Let's see what I can write for this week as well here, and I'll tell the meaning of this week review title at PS later. From fan translation, there's no update from Tsurezure again so I'll just directly assume that either they took some rest or really busy with real life matter (If anything I'll just think that they'll release Mizuha's patch in 2021 at the earliest, but of course if they want to prove me that they can release it at this year then so be it). For the other updates, we have Shin Koihume Musou was at one third (33%) edited, Loverable was at 78.82% edited, and Miotsukushi Omote was at 5% edited. For the biggest update in fan translation, we have Summer Pocket was at 94.37% translated with Alka's route was fully translated. As for their plan to release Alka's patch (ie at 17th later), I admit that it's very interesting so let's see if they can fulfill it later (And obviously it mean that they manage to release it first before the official release). As for why I call it Alka's patch, the reason is because most of the lines for the true routes was in Alka's route, and for more information the last route for Summer Pocket is Pocket's route itself (Summer Pocket true route here did consist of Alka and Pocket routes). That's all for fan translation section at this week. We also have Irotoridori was at 20% edited, and that's all for Sol Press update here. From Sekai currently we have Daybreak was in image editing and more importantly waiting for the review (Which understandably took a long time seeing that it's Valve and all), Hoshimemo retranslation was in QA (Still redundant to me anyway), and Eternal Heart was at 40% translated. The most important update from Sekai is that they lost their Dracu Riot license because it's been revealed that Nekonyan took the license as their first secret project, and currently it's already finished the translation progress (Yes including editing) so we may have near future release. I think I didn't need to introduce it seeing that most people should already know about it, but to me it's still a redundant announcement here (I know that some people did prefer to wait for the edited version, so good for them). With this Sekai was already lost two Yuzusoft VNs license, and I think it's only a matter of time before Nekonyan take over Tenshin Ranman license as well. As we know we have Nekonyan did revealed all of their five secret projects, and one of those projects are Dracu Riot that I talk above. For the rest of the announcements, let me talk about it started from my least interesting announcements to me (Beside Dracu Riot obviously). But before that let me list some of their updates here, in which they already have both of Hello Lady and Makover was fully translated, Aokana Extra 1 translation will start in a few months, and Senren Banka already ready for the release as Nekonyan's Valentine prize (At 14th later). What I can say is that I hope that Nekonyan can release both of Hello Lady and Makeover (Or either one is fine) in this year, and good luck to Nekonyan in regard of that. The first title that I would talk here is IxShe Tell aka their fifth secret project, because from several reviews that I search I did find that apparently it got the least favorable opinion such as it's only a generic moege or something like that. That said, my opinion may change though so I'll keep my eyes on this. The premise is very simple in that it have our MC as the student council presiden who manage to abolished the rule that banned student to fall in love, and currently he need to deal with five cute girls chase after him. For more info, Nekonyan did offer this as their replacement for Melty Moment which make sense seeing that it's been from the same developer (Hooksoft), and currently it's been at 45% for both of translation and editing progress. Turned out that their second secret project is Riddle Joker (Pretty much already expected, especially if we look at SD CG from Riddle Joker that Nekonyan post at one of their past tweet), in which it's the most recent Yuzusoft VN before Cafe Stella. The premise is we have the MC who is a secret agent who infiltrate the school that nurture the student with special talent, and that his secret was revealed by student council president who hide the secret that her breast is very small and thus she wear pads. While more Yuzusoft VN is always good and looks like their current relationship with Nekonyan is quite good, I think I'm probably neutral with this for now. Anyway with Nekonyan took over both of Senren Banka and Dracu Riot from Sekai along with this and Sanoba, currently we have them hold four Yuzusoft VNs so I'm kind of wonder if they somehow could hold Amairo license in the future later. For the reminder, the progress at Riddle Joker was at 65% translated along with halfway edited. Their third secret project is quite surprising, because turned out that the name of the project is Kin'iro Loveriche aka Kirikoi which as we know it's Saga Planet VN. While currently Saga Planet here is the cursed company that still have none of their VNs are translated, looks like the one who break that curse is Nekonyan. I don't know though if Kirikoi license here could be followed by other Saga Planet license, but let's hope that it'll be especially with some of their well known VNs such as Hatsuyuki Sakura and Hanasaki Love Spring. For the premise, well I think Evangile's premise should be similar enough except the MC caught attention from an European princess and that he got beaten up by the guard before being placed in the high class school. For additional note here, almost all of the heroines are blonde (Because of the 'kin'iro' title, and 'kin'iro' mean golden (Just like Kin'iro Mosaic in that the female MC have an interest to blonde hair)) and currently it's been at 40% translated along with 12% edited. For the 4th secret project, currently it's the most interesting one to me. It's also been fully translated for a while, so perhaps we may have this being released in the near future. The project is Clover Days, which as we know it's one of the project that was in torpor because it became too much for Astro to handle. Out of all five announcements, safe to say that Clover Days here did gather some favorable opinion so I'll be looking forward to the eventual release here. The premise is going like we have a MC who is an adopted son that was taken from London to live in Japan, and that he had two very cute twin sister. Also the MC himself was already established his friendship with several other characters, who somehow are the twins (Apparently Clover Days here really put emphasis on twin sibling). Since we already have Ittaku fully translated this, all that left is the editing progress so good luck to Nekonyan for that. That's all for this week VNTS Review, and happy very belated Chinese New Year. See you next week. PS - For this week title, I use 'Twilight' from Dracu Riot and 'Days' from Clover Days. 'Days' part here is obvious enough, while for 'Twilight' it's because in Dracu Riot we have vampire and the closest vampire story that have romance would be Twilight, so yeah once again I parodied Twilight here. PPS - Forgot to write Mangagamer's updates here, but overall it's been overshadowed by Nekonyan's announcements. For their update, we have both of Machiato and Matsuribayashi about to be in testing, Rance 01 was fully edited, the image editing for 02 was finished, and Sona-Nyl was at 80% edited. That's all for my belated Mangagamer's updates roundup here.
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