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Showing content with the highest reputation since 12/01/2019 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

    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. 6 points
    Welcome to my blog. Where have we been? Where are we going? TIMELINE 1980s: - Early eroge largely consist of still art (what we call pixel art now), very short dialogue/narrative elements, and some primitive interactive elements, while spanning many genres. 1990s: - The point-and-click adventure game, which has its roots in 1980s video games, establishes itself as one of the most popular genres of eroge. Many games emerge which have interfaces that are visually similar to those of most point-and-click adventure games, but with gradually differing gameplay. These games are all collectively called "adventure games" or "ADV" in Japanese. The general style of having an interface which consists of a rectangular text box at the bottom of the screen, and a collage of visual elements meant to serve as a guide for what the main character sees, is also called "ADV". In other words, ADV becomes a genre that embodies a style of presentation. - The non-adult game company Chunsoft puts out Otogirisou, a kind of illustrated story in which pictures are placed in the background as visual aids while the full narrative is conveyed as overlaid text. This style of presentation is called a "novel game" or "NVL" in Japanese. The gameplay of Otogirisou purely consists of the player making choices on where to take the story, similar to "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, a simple yet powerful narrative tool which would prove influential to ADV as a whole. - Two major eroge brands that specialize in ADV, elf and Leaf, create popular games like Doukyuusei and To Heart. These games stand out from their competitors by the way they utilize talented artists and writers to focus on the personalities of charming heroines, rather than treating pixel porn as what matters and the characterization as an afterthought. This character-centric evolution is called a charage (character game) and encompasses both NVL (like Kizuato) and ADV. And with the release of YU-NO and Kamaitachi no Yoru, two ADV/NVL games that have well-written stories, the term scenarioge (scenario game) becomes more popular. 1999: - Kanon is released by Key. It's the first time a large number of players became very emotionally moved by the story of an eroge, or any ADV at that. Even someone like Baba from Visual Arts, who was just a businessman without much personal interest in ADV, became interested after Kanon. Aside from inventing the nakige (naki game, which means "crying game") genre, it awakened in players a desire for longer scenarios as necessary to deepen their attachment to the heroines. But its most significant role is being the first major moege (moe game) at a time when the term "moe" wasn't even very well known. 2000: - The doujin NVL Tsukihime comes out, and its quality lets it rank among the very top, if not at the very top, of both scenarioge and charage. See Popular Views on What Defines the Chuuni Genre for more info on the influence of Type-Moon's works. 2000-2006: - Now that Kanon and Tsukihime have come out, it seems like a dam bursts and a flood of popular and influential ADV/NVL are released. There are comparatively fewer in 2001, with the most notable ones in my mind being Kiminozo and Kazokei. But in 2002 you have Ever17, Higurashi, Kusarihime, Baldr Force, Hello world, Da Capo, and others. And every year after that just has more and more top quality ADV/NVL. The biggest year is 2004, which sees the release of both Clannad and Fate/stay night (successors to Kanon and Tsukihime, respectively). - Around the middle of the decade, the term "visual novel" is invented among English speaking fans of these games, and basically refers to any game which has an ADV/NVL-style interface and a strong and constant narrative. Since the rest of the world directly bypassed the early history of Japanese eroge and ADV/NVL, they didn't bother with the origins of these styles of games, and just chose a term which seemed to more naturally describe the most famous and representative ADV/NVL. Since then, the term "visual novel" has been recognized by the Japanese too, although the broader Japanese playerbase still commonly thinks that VN is synonymous with "adventure game". In any case, the term is excellent and I like it. - Over the course of this decade, the major tropes and popular genres of VNs, which were mostly foreshadowed in the late 1990s, are firmly established and standardized. They include TIPs, unlockable routes/end, true ends, bad ends, hidden heroines, time loops/leaps, moe, chuuni, nakige, utsuge, imouto games, and many more. The diverse and awkward gameplay of the 1980s and 1990s more or less disappears. - Meanwhile, many of the most successful eroge companies like Key, Type-Moon, and Leaf/Aqua-Plus successfully rebrand themselves and reduce their focus on adult content for the sake of marketing their works to the rest of the Japanese "otaku" industries. They adopt the label of "bishoujo game maker". Many of their most popular IPs (intellectual properties) receive anime adaptations or evolve into multimedia franchises, with "Fate" being the most famous example. On the other hand, as these industries embrace VNs, they also learn from them and try to emulate that same appeal within their own IPs; Fate/stay night is especially influential as a progenitor of the "chuuni" genre. 2006: - Statistically, eroge sales begin to decline. The industry itself doesn't immediately begin to decline, though, because investors take time to notice and react to such trends, companies are still in the midst of developing games, and they will try to shift strategies to fight the trend. The decline in sales won't slow down until 2012. WHY Causes of the trend? This was fiercely debated for years and still hasn't been completely settled. But it's more or less clear. VNs served as a creative outlet without rivals for several years. At first, in the early 1990s, nobody expect much from eroge. But as we entered the later part of the decade, that changed. Eroge was always a venue for weird and exciting scenarios that wouldn't be accepted elsewhere, and it was easier than ever to make quality audiovisual experiences, with multiple free or cheap VN engines available. Writers like Maeda Jun and Nasu took advantage of the medium's ease of entry, along with the freedom of expression it afforded. It was a fresh, mature alternative to the LN industry. However, that didn't last forever. Major publishers in other mediums distilled the parts of eroge that appealed most to players: the nakige components, the moe components, the fanservice and unapologetic harems, the handy sci-fi tropes, the balloon breasts. Everything except the deep emotional and mental investment that's only possible with literature. And of course, the mature themes and content. Above all, what VNs brought to the table was no longer as fresh to people. Without a sense of excitement, the fact that VNs require people to sit down and actually read continuously for hours became... problematic. The era of smartphones and social media also heralded the era of low attention spans. People came to think that "adventure games" = "boring". This was coupled with the fact that more and more people play bishoujo games on their smartphones, and who wants to play eroge in public? Waifu/husbando social games like Fate/Grand Order and Granblue Fantasy dealt especially heavy blows to players' interest in VNs. They let players pick between countless more waifus and husbandos than VNs, have more exciting plots to engage casual players (not some ordinary school life drama), have the slutty outfits and exaggerated figures of nukige heroines, continually put out new content for the most popular characters, let you put your waifu/husbando in your home screen so you can constantly look at her, and tap on the portrait of her/him to hear some flirty line voiced by a popular anime seiyuu. They even copied the feature of some VNs where you can give your favorite hero or heroine chocolates on Valentine's Day or White Day. The proof is in the recent anime Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy where the "guy who's only interested in 2D girls" stereotype no longer involves VNs on a PSP, but rather depicts a social game on a phone. To be frank, even the latest Fire Emblem game probably makes VNs less appealing by comparison. The main draw of VNs was always the cute and flirty heroines and romance, but these elements have been thoroughly exported. The exact same situation arose with Japanese web novels on the site Shousetsuka ni Narou. An initial wave of authors pioneered new genres with certain distinctive tropes, most of them related to isekai, and started a trend which has dominated the Japanese web novel scene. But the mainstream LN industry quickly learned and started to put out its own isekai LNs, as well as aggressively recruit these authors (who naturally didn't object to being paid for what they'd initially put out for free online). A few years later, Narou's talents have more or less moved out, and the stories at the top of the popularity charts haven't been supplanted by any new talents. In any case, the major difference between Narou and the VN industry is that Narou authors are overall much better off with editors, whereas the transition from VNs to LNs/anime is absolutely a creative downgrade. WHAT DO 1. Copy FGO. Social games are a natural evolution of the appeal of many VNs. Unfortunately, they're also largely vapid experiences with have less voice acting, silent protagonists, a massive cast of heroines who receive little character development, a disjointed narrative, a story that's mostly dialogue and constantly interrupted by battles, and many other flaws that prevent them from achieving literary excellence. These games have invariably underestimated how popular they'll become and worked with cheap art assets and flimsy storytelling, only to fix this by hiring better artists and writers for the more recent arcs of their ongoing main storylines. However, even those recent arcs are still shallow experiences compared to VNs. The best they can do is have good comedy--no one will ever feel as empathetic toward the characters as they do in VNs. But of course, despite the problems with social games' storytelling, they are still... inevitable. They will still successfully rake in cash from people with personalities prone to gambling addiction. So one VN company after another has tried to become the next FGO. Eushully, light, August, Key, Lilith, Frontwing, Nitroplus and many others have pursued social games, virtually all of which failed to really take off like FGO--in part because they weren't very well-made, and in part because the Fate franchise is more popular with more devoted fans. Frankly, this solution has been thoroughly pursued by all sorts of VN companies, and we know exactly what happens: it fails unless they're very lucky. 2. Give up. This is a wise and fine choice. The river of life flows ever onward. Sometimes it's best to accept defeat. 3. Make NOT a visual novel. Be Kodaka Kazutaka. Start from the idea that you want to make an adventure game. Then to appease your producer, call it a detective game instead, and add a 3D world with gameplay that takes place within it while occupying a lot of the player's time, so it in no way feels like a pure ADV. Make the narrative largely dialogue-driven. Write in a way that wastes less time on subtlety and imagery and takes more advantage of humor, twists, and action. Then call it Danganronpa and be successful, while feeling that you tricked the world by making an adventure game with the quality storytelling of an adventure game that doesn't feel like an adventure game. Too Kyo Games plans to water down a full-fledged ADV-quality scenario with meaningful realtime gameplay, by partnering with studios that actually know how to make fun games. It's a long-term experiment on tricking people into playing adventure games. 4. Make a visual novel, but be better. Find a slightly new angle. Gather the A-Team. Target non-traditional markets. Cultivate one's prestige. In short, reorganize and rebrand. But still make a visual novel, with ordinary 2D art and probably little to no gameplay. The only problem is that people don't like VNs anymore because smartphones shrunk their brains until they had flea-sized attention spans. So at best, such "better" VNs will simply exist in the top tier of modern VNs, able to survive and maybe make a little profit. These are VNs for the sake of creators who want to stay in the VN industry despite how comparatively little it pays. Aniplex.exe, a new VN brand started under Aniplex that Makura staff like Sca-ji are involved with, seems to fall under this category. They're identifying as makers of "novel games" probably because that sounds more respectable these days than bishoujo game. I'm frankly more interested in Sca-ji's other still unannounced projects (but that's just because I'm not personally a fan of Konno Asta or Umihara Nozomu). 5. Copy FGO, but EVOLVE. Before Light's "Pantheon" mobile game died mid-development, Masada planned for it to have a substantial scenario. That kind of story would fatally clash, like matter and dark matter, with social games as they exist today. Unless they rethought the entire premise from scratch, I assume they'd have to at the very least dilute such a lengthy narrative into segments with constant breaks, rewards, and mini-games. And they'd have to make a tough choice about whether they seriously want to market it for smartphones, or stick to PC like Granblue Fantasy. It's easier to not evolve or just give up. But moreover, I think industry veterans are just pissed off and unable to accept that something as amazing as VNs can't find its consumers anymore. So they will struggle. Visual Arts will struggle, for sure. Key pretended to be half-dead in their 20th anniversary message, but they were actually hard at work. They've let Maeda take on the scenario of a high budget smartphone game called "Heaven Burns Red". Will he be able to do for social games with "Heaven Burns Red" what he did for VNs with "Kanon"? I'm not too optimistic, since I haven't seen any indication that the overall story concept was Maeda's. 6. ??? To quote Sca-ji, a writer who's qualified to talk about the unique worth of eroge, from late October: "People across various otaku industries have said, 'I want the wonderful culture of eroge to stay alive.' They're going out of their way and doing many things to make that happen. If I'm pessimistic, this might be our last chance to revive this industry, so I'm cheering them on. Do your best. ... People around their late twenties to thirty years old have started to take positions of power in society, praising eroge and doing many things for us." ZZZ 「Kanon」や「CLANNAD」「Angel Beats!」など…「泣きゲー」からアニメ原作まで、美少女IPを仕掛け続けた28年! ビジュアルアーツのユニークなブランド戦略と経営思想を馬場隆博社長に聞いてみた 『ダンガンロンパ』、『東京クロノス』、『グノーシア』の開発者が語る。「アドベンチャーゲームは滅ぶのか?」緊急座談会 「なぜエロゲ業界は衰退してるのか」 それをまとめた画像が話題にwwwww https://twitter.com/gannbattemasenn/status/1015644154271973376 https://enty.jp/avestan https://twitter.com/sca_di https://vndb.org/ EPILOGUE A new decade is upon is, and we're in the midst of a wave of 20th anniversaries that inevitably prompt retrospection. What I'm keeping an eye on, out of concern for the industry, as we enter it: - Too Kyo Games - Heaven Burns Red (unveiling on February 28) and Visual Arts as a whole - Sca-ji's Twitter account - Aniplex.exe as a whole - Any news from Masada about new publishers for Pantheon - Major non-adult scenarioge companies like Spike-Chunsoft and Mages (they may absorb some talent or try to carry on eroge culture) - Any actual new VNs from Nasu, like the Tsukihime remake ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
  5. 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).
  6. 5 points

    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.
  7. 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
  8. 5 points
    Since ceasing VN of the Month, I've been slowly recovering from my years of over-reading VNs, the vast majority of them ones I normally wouldn't have taken an interest in. While I still play VNs regularly, I do so at a slower pace, reading more conventional literature and playing normal games as much as I do them. I recently began to regain some of my VN stamina (though I will never get back to where I was), and I've found that even the SOL VNs I choose to play are far less stressful than before. It is nice to reconfirm that I truly love VNs, after so many years playing far too many charage threatened to make me hate them. However, I've also noticed that I am far less tolerant of obvious blunders and poor choices on the part of writers, regardless of genre. When something touches on my pet peeves, I immediately drop the VN, and I lose all urge to play it, often for months after. This was the case with Sorceress Alive and it is also the case with Raillore to Ryakudatsusha (dameningen protagonists with no interesting or redeeming traits are one of my pet peeves). On the other hand, my stamina for 'sweetness' and 'ichaicha' in a VN has recovered somewhat, and I can play a route in a charage with no troubles... However, I no longer desire to play any routes other than that of my favorite heroine. I used to mechanically run through all the heroines in a VN without hesitation or slowing down, but now I only go for the one or two heroines that interest me, ignoring the others entirely. This change in my own behavior leaves me somewhat bemused, though I can see where it comes from rationally. I simply got tired of plowing through huge numbers of boring heroines that almost buried the good ones, lol.
  9. 4 points

    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.
  10. 4 points

    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.
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 4 points

    The nature of an infodump

    In plotge of all types, whether they are chuunige, kinetic novels, horror suspense, or mysteries, infodumps are ubiquitous throughout the VN world. Infodumping in and of itself isn't a horrible thing to do to the reader (as some people claim), but it is a tool that is often abused by writers who want to expound on their beloved world and its characters. First, the definition of an infodump is a scene with little or no dialogue where background information is provided without directly proceeding with the story. Infodumps can vary in size from as small as forty lines of narration to up to a thousand, depending on the writer and the subject matter involved. There are even multiple types, which I will describe here. The Lump of Infodump The Lump of Infodump (as I put it) is the most common type of infodump in VNs. In the 'Lump, a great amount of information, sometimes with brief bits and pieces of dialogue or character stream of thought, is provided in a single scene, interrupting the story. The 'Lump is the type of infodump most likely to drive people crazy, due to its tendency to create walls of uninterrupted text. When abused, it tends to interrupt and/or destroy the flow of the story, and I've encountered a number of games where a more measured approach to presenting the setting or explanations of the particulars of an event or the 'why' of an action would have been less monotonous. In fact, that is the big flaw of this type of infodump. It is almost impossible to avoid monotony with this kind of infodump, because all it is doing is literally dropping information on you. That said, infodumps often have a reason for existing that becomes clear in coming scenes, so it is not necessarily always a bad thing. The Scattered Infodump 'Scattered Infodumps' are a technique where the writer provides the information in smaller, more digestible asides throughout the story, as it becomes relevant. This technique tends to be received with less irritation and often goes almost unnoticed by the reader, because it doesn't go on long enough to disrupt the flow of the story. Unlike the 'Lump, it is less likely to be abused, though many writers who use it get into the habit of always using it, which can be problematic for those with an allergy to non-dialogue text, lol. The Flashback Infodump The Flashback Infodump is just that, an infodump provided in the form of a flashback instead of an aside. These often fill in the gaps in the motivations of characters or their upbringing, and their purpose is, 90% of the time, to reveal something that would have made things less interesting if it were revealed earlier. Flashbacks are often abused, though. They are common throughout VNs, with roughly 90% of plotge having at least one and 30% of all charage (in my experience) having one. They are a convenient method of revealing a character's past, so many games also use them for character development, particularly in heroine paths. The Prologue Infodump This is probably the least annoying of the 'obvious' infodumping and is a sub-category of the 'Lump. Some games, rather than dumping setting and character information on you mid-story, will instead infodump immediately after you start. This has the advantage of getting around the disruption of the game's flow that is inevitable with mid-game 'Lumps and providing background information without the writer having to remember to include it strategically throughout the story. This technique is, however, rarely used. Games that use it are rare mostly because if the first thing you see when starting a VN is a wall of text, most people will drop the game right then and there. Because of this, most games that use this are directed to a very specific fanbase or niche of the VN community that already has an established interest in the game in question. A few thoughts The reason I decided to make this post was because of a conversation I had with @fun2novel regarding infodumping in Bradyon Veda. In Bradyon Veda, infodumping is integral to the game's battle scenes (incidentally the discussion began with me giving examples of good battle scenes to him). Because the science-fantasy techniques being used by the characters manipulate matter and physical laws, there are infodumps built into the battle scenes, explaining what they are doing. Because of this, I noted that Bradyon Veda's battle scenes were an example of positive infodumping, because it was done in such a way that it enhanced rather than disrupted the telling of the story. Conclusion What am I trying to get at? Nothing, really. I just thought that people give infodumps a bad rap, when they have probably been infodumped without even noticing it.
  14. 4 points
    Taisho x Alice was sadly remembered in the western otomege fandom for one of the worst otome localizations disasters. It read like garbage, had several bugs and it featured amateur english voice acting as if reading engrish wasn't enough. It failed so spectacularly the localization didn't even get past episode 1 out of 3. Well, thankfully tbh. Still, the damage was there and for a long time we believed we would never see a proper localization of this cute fairy tale reimagination in the west. Until now. Primula (TaiAli developer) decided to give english audiences one more chance, complete in a multilanguage package with japanese and chinese options to boot! Rejoice folks as Taisho x Alice episode 1 is now available on steam with a proper translation (translator this time around is our precious verdelish and from what I read from her previous VN translations it's likely top notch)! Episode 1 have only 2 heroes but they have full proper routes. The rest is in episodes 2 and 3, coming soon if episode 1 sells well enough. It's not always we get second chances in VN localization scene so let's say one huge thank you to Primula and support if you can and if you dig cute otomes! *points to strong female protagonist tag in VNDB, hint, hint* DISCLAIMER: sadly I wasn't paid for this promotion, I did it out of hype alone.
  15. 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!
  16. 3 points

    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.
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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.
  20. 3 points

    Random VN: Komorebi no Nostalgica

    Yes, it is another Takaya Aya game... to be specific, his joint work with Morisaki Ryouto (known for his sci-fi bent and work with Applique). This work is also considered to be one of his penultimate masterpieces, which is ironic, since the company he created got bought out almost immediately after this game was released, hahaha. Anyway, Komorebi no Nostalgica was one of two contenders for my VN of the Year 2013 and lost out to Hapymaher. However, given how Hapymaher has proven somewhat difficult to replay (the Christmas arc puts me to sleep every time), and the way I find new things in Komorebi every time I replay it, I'm going to go ahead and say that that decision was probably a mistake, lol. Komorebi is a meticulously-written game, with so much attention to detail on the part of Takaya and Morisaki that it is literally impossible to pick up everything on one playthrough... and more importantly, it has a strangely powerful emotional impact that can't help but make you reflective on the issues it brings up. The setting of Komorebi no Nostalgica is based in the twenty-fifth century, long after the changing climate sank wide swathes of the world's land beneath the oceans and fifty years after a humanoid AI rebellion that resulted in what amounts to a negotiated draw (mostly because the AIs didn't want to wipe out humanity). The AIs in question are self-aware machines that possess human looks and emulate human emotions using a quantum processor and a unique set of self-developing algorithms. They are called the Metosera and live alongside humans in a larger society that coexists with human society while they dwell in 'Arks', large towers in the major cities that take on the maintenance and 'procreation' of their race. The government is now a world government, mostly because the nations that existed before the war were utterly dependent on Humanoids for most forms of manufacturing and manual labor and couldn't continue to exist on their own. This VN focuses on a group of friends that discover an extremely high-spec pre-war Humanoid hidden in the walls of their school building, and the discoveries they make as they rebuild Cinema (the Humanoid in question) and learn from her. Cinema is not a heroine, but she is undeniably the centerpiece of the story. The mysterious 'Store Manager' that customized her (to the extreme) and his intentions become central issues in several paths, and her unique aspects come into play in others. However, the universal aspect is that her presence sparks a number of issues that were dormant to rise to the surface during the course of the paths. Main Characters Shimazu Shouta is the protagonist, a guy who loves retro machines and is great at repairing old hardware and jury-rigging solutions to mechanical problems. By default, he is the homemaker of the family, since the two women living with him (his stepmother Kagari and his adoptive sister Akira) are both programming geniuses incapable of taking care of themselves. What stands out in regards to his character is his adaptability and his acceptance of the way the world is. This is important because it is what makes him an excellent partner for Fluorite in her path and gives the perfect perspective on Cinema. Shimazu Akira is Shouta's adoptive little sister, a natural-born hacker with a neural implant and way too much talent for her own good. Unfortunately, her impulsiveness and intolerance of 'inelegant' solutions to programming problems lead to constant trouble, since she has no impulse control. She is utterly dependent on her brother, to the same extent as her mother, without the wisdom of years to stabilize her. Fluorite Alvega is a Metosera who has spent most of her formative years with the 'group of friends', making her somewhat unusual for her kind, who usually end up spending more time with their own than with humans. While she has the Metosera tendency to think in straight lines and constantly analyze the world around her, she is more self-reflective and tolerant of the flaws and foibles of humans than many, who tend to be overly straight-laced. Kaja Fruhling is the daughter of two of Kagari's (Shouta's stepmother's) coworkers and was born in Germany. She is an easygoing girl who shares Shouta's love of motorcycles and scuba diving, and she is generally easy to get along with. While has some tomboyish aspects, she is surprisingly perceptive and compassionate beneath the surface. She is an all-around athlete who often gets recruited by the athletic clubs for help, but she isn't interested in joining any of them permanently. Sawatari Itsuki is a sharp-tongued young woman who is the most reserved and bookish in a group that is full of straightforward people. Of the group, she is the most 'balanced' in terms of talent, being a general prodigy (as opposed to one-point monsters like Seijuurou/male-Momoka, Flow/humanoid AI, or Akira/genius hacker). She is bookish and tends to get put in positions of responsibility, but this is mostly because she has a surprisingly forceful personality that is at odds with her appearance. She is also feared because of her tendency to wield 'correctness' as a weapon while being perfectly willing to ignore it if it is inconvenient to her personally. Cinema is the Humanoid uncovered in the school's secret room. Last active the year the Two Years War began, she was designed by someone even Akira describes as a 'genius'. She displays reactions that can only be described as 'emotional' and 'alive' in a fashion even the Metosera have difficulty managing, and certain aspects of her design indicate an extremely unusual design philosophy. However, she is undeniably too low-spec to gain sentience in the same way the Metosera did... so the question is just how is it that she leaves such a non-mechanical impression on those who see her...? Samon Seijuurou is the last member of the 'group of friends', a muscleheaded martial artist who is infamous for knocking the classroom door off its rails as he runs in just before the bell. At one point in the past, he wanted to become the strongest fighter in the city and went around picking fights with delinquents from other schools, but he eventually ran out of people to challenge. He is very simple-minded and straightforward and disinclined to question things. He has a good heart, but his inability to understand subtlety often trips him up (not to mention that he is an idiot and an open pervert). Important Side Characters Shimazu Kagari- Akira's birth mother and Shouta's stepmother. A genius programmer who is utterly incapable of taking care of herself (a quality her daughter shares). She has a very childlike manner and tastes, but she is in actuality very intelligent and mature (if in an odd way) beneath that appearance. Her attitude toward parenting is very much a 'wait and see while taking everything in' approach, and this has resulted in her daughter becoming a hacking wild child (who is essentially good natured) whereas Shouta became a mature homemaker despite his natural tendencies. Samon Munenori Seijuurou's grandfather and the master of the dojo that Seijuurou, Shouta, and Kaya attend. He is a veteran of the Two Years War and one of the few veterans who managed to get past his resentment of what amounts to humanity's defeat by their creations (it was only a draw because the Metosera avoided killing humans directly, though some died due to complications later or because they helped the Metosera). Celes is Fluorite's 'mother' and the Elder of the New Capital's Ark, the home of the city's/region's Metosera. She is a veteran of the Two Years War and one of the first Metosera to obtain sentience. She has a gentle manner and is deeply compassionate, and her attitude toward Fluorite and her friends resembles that of a gentle grandmother, as she merely laughs off the antics and trouble they got into in the Ark as kids. She sees Fluorite's oddities, born of her mixed socialization, as a source of hope for the future of her race, and she treasures the relationships that her 'daughter' has formed. Fluorite Path If you want the joy of discovering the details of the setting for yourself, do not open the spoiler box. I'm essentially getting extremely nerdy in the paragraphs in the spoiler box, so if you want my usual completely spoiler-free commentary, just ignore it. I considered just leaving it in the open, but I concluded that some people would not want to be spoiled about the setting to this degree. As I say above in the spoiler box, Flow has a rather stunning gap-moe thing going in her route, with her normally calm, almost flat manner showing serious cracks when she is around Shouta (hints of this can be seen in her reactions to Cinema in the common route as well). The early part of this route is very telling about both Flow personally and the Metosera as a whole, revealing a great deal about how they think (analyzed partially by Shouta himself, who has spent most of his life around Flow as a friend). The latter half is fairly action-focused, with Cinema's issues taking center stage (really, in all the paths this happens), and it is very strongly focused on the legacy of the Two Years War. The climax of the path would have anyone in tears, and I honestly found my heart breaking each of the four times I played this game and this path in particular. The box below has a very general setting spoiler involved with this path. Itsuki Path First I'll say that the romance in this path is fairly conventional. Itsuki and Shouta have known one another for a long time, and they already care about one another, so there is a lot less of a hurdle for Shouta in getting together with her than with Flow, where he had a moral dilemma born of him worrying about how he affected Flow. As such, I won't comment on the romance any further, since it is little more than a device to help the story along in this path. There is an excellent fight scene (by non-chuunige standards) toward the end of this path, and that is something to look forward to for action fans. However, the true spotlight of this path is Yep, that was me geeking out again. Essentially, this path contrasts the Metosera's evolution with Cinema's once again. This is one of the primary themes of the game, and Itsuki's path provides another point to build things up for the reader. Also, the epilogue to this path is as good as Flow's if in a different way. Kaja Path One thing that is interesting about replaying VNs is that you realize the reasons why you forget things and remember others. All of the heroines in Komorebi no Nostalgica are extremely close to the protagonist, and all the ones other than Akira can be considered 'osananajimi' (childhood friend) characters. However, Kaja fits the most perfectly into the osananajimi template, especially in the romantic elements of her path. Kaja's role with Shouta is as the 'friend he doesn't really see as a woman', a trope that gets pulled out a bit too often in VNs for my taste (it isn't so bad when they aren't heroines, but when they are heroines, the romance is usually wince-worthy at best). Because of this, it is no surprise that I avoided this path on future playthroughs, despite the insights it provides on Cinema. I should note that this path is one of those where there is a massive wall of text between the actual love confession and them becoming lovers (meaning the 'worrying about this and that' period is that long). Unlike the previous two paths, this path doesn't have a major action scene, though it does have some drama. While this is a much better path than charage equivalents of the same trope, I still hate that trope, lol. The epilogue, like the previous two, is a 'several years later, after graduation' epilogue, which is always nice, since it is great to know how things turn out for the characters central to the path. Akira Path If Komorebi was based on D&D rules, Akira would have an intelligence stat of 40 and a wisdom stat of 5. To be blunt, Akira is something of a spoiled brat whose talent, mother's social position, and Shouta's tendency to spoil her have shielded her from most of the sticks and stones that would have hit someone like her. Her hacking ability is extremely high (helped by her uncontrollable curiosity and disinterest in restraining herself), but she tends to outright forget common sense in any number of situations. One thing that stands out about the romantic part of this path (other than Shouta over-thinking things, as usual) is Kagari is a great mom, despite being incapable of cooking, cleaning, or doing the laundry (Shouta does all these things, lol). Her tendency to see through Shouta and the others is present in all the paths, but it is particularly in the open in this one. Let's just say that this path has less of a philosophical bent than Flow's or Itsuki's and less of a romance/SOL focused bent than Kaja's. This path's drama is mostly focused around the search for 'Tenchou's' identity and fate after he concealed Cinema. While there is some action, the actual stakes involved are far less than in Flow or Itsuki's path. Last Episode Last Episode is a chapter unlocked by completing all four heroine paths. It is very revealing about how and why 'Tenchou' vanished from the public world, and it also provides a conclusion to the story as a whole. Certain aspects of this chapter change based on which heroine you choose at the very first part of the chapter, as this determines which heroine is your canon heroine, lol. Of course, I always choose Flow... if there is a choice between human and non-human, I will always choose non-human. There are some seriously teary moments in this episode... particularly To be blunt, this chapter is really about Cinema and the final purpose for which she was created. If you, like me, have come to love Cinema by this point, you will probably break down in happy tears. Extra There really isn't anything to the extra chapter (accessed using the usual Takaya Aya code nkmr). It's basically a short joke skit written for people who have finished at least one of the paths. Conclusion A few stylistic comments first. Each chapter of this game has an episodic preview that hints at a key aspect of the next chapter. It is done using the second opening song and credits, and I thought it was worth noting, because while it hints at what comes next, it does so without spoiling things. It is also notable that the second opening song is just as beautiful as the first one (in retrospect, the music in Komorebi is top-tier, but Hapymaher's god-tier BGMs are so beyond the pale that comparing them at the time couldn't help but be a win for Purple Soft's flagship game). Komorebi no Nostalgica is one of a very small number of VNs that is 'complete' in every conceivable way. For better or worse, most VNs leave an opening for fandiscs, sequels, or dlc. However, Komorebi ties off all the loose ends and provides the answers any sane reader having experienced this story would want to know. Moreover, it does so in a manner that is not detrimental to any of the four heroines or their paths, which is, in itself, an incredibly unusual thing (essentially providing a true path that applies to all the heroines). Komorebi no Nostalgica also touches on a wide range of philosophical and ethical topics, in particular relating to AI and information technology in general. That this was done without compromising the emotional aspects of the story at all is a tribute to the genius of the writers. Final Comments If I have any advice for someone playing this game, is that the magic (not the devil) is in the details. This is a game that rewards people who actually take the time to think about or look up things they don't quite understand from what they are reading, and both Takaya and Morisaki rather obviously created this as a work of love and art, not just business. There is food for both the intellect and the heart in almost every (non-H) scene, and the characters, especially the main ones, are all well-written and brought to life well in the course of the story, which is in and of itself both touching and food for thought.
  21. 3 points

    Random VN: Semiramis no Tenbin

    Semiramis no Tenbin is a game by Caramel Box, best known in the West for the Otoboku series but who is more generally famous in Japan for being the home of Takaya Aya, one of the better writers in the industry. This game... is unique. I say this outright because there literally is no other VN like this. It isn't the characters or the themes that make it unique (though those are part of it), but rather the sheer impact of Takaya Aya's 'side trip into thinking like a chuunibyou patient' as he put it. Semiramis no Tenbin is a game with two sides, Law and Chaos. Law is represented by the Fortune-Telling Club's president, Eru, and Chaos is represented by Kamio Ami, the 'demon' of the story... a transfer student who appears in the prologue. The other heroines are placed at various points of balance between the scales (Sunao for Chaos, Touko for Balance, and Fumika for Law), with Eru and Ami serving as the absolute points of their alignments, as defined by Takaya Aya. The game really begins with the protagonist, Hayami Reiji, being blackmailed by Ami after she tricks him into having sex with her by using her circumstances to manipulate him (this is not a spoiler). Ami is the penultimate pragmatist, an individual who puts results above means, and while she can't (quite) be called ruthless, she comes pretty close to it. She is a heroine type that is rare to unheard of in Japanese VNs, an extremely manipulative person who wields her genius level IQ throughout the story to create situations in her immediate vicinity that would otherwise never have occurred. Much of the common route (two-thirds of which is standard, with the last third being split into Chaos and Law branches) is spent with Ami proposing a result she wishes to achieve, with Eru presenting her argument against it, and the protagonist acting or arguing in favor of one side or the other to decide things. Eru and Ami are both extremely intelligent individuals, whose conversations provide a lot of food for thought, not the least of which because Ami is ingenious at manipulating conversations to go her way, whereas Eru is good at seeing through these manipulations. While there are only five of these direct 'debates' in the common route itself, they leave a strong impression and provide a reason to come back later, if only to ruminate over what is said. Ami Calling Ami evil would be easy. She is pragmatic to a fault, doesn't believe in valuing the 'process' of doing something over the results, and she has a tendency to manipulate situations when there is no apparent need to do so. One thing that is striking about Ami's character, other than the obvious, is that she has extremely good reasons for being the way she is, reasons that are ironically similar to why Eru is the way she is. Ami does have a (very limited) sense of ethics, but these ethics are extremely narrowly-defined. It is her viewpoint that even if she manipulates a situation and people in a way that has negative results, it was the people involved who made the choices that led to that situation, so it isn't her concern what happens after. However, if an unexpected factor gets involved to cause such unpleasant results, she is willing to act to counter that unexpected factor. In addition, she does have a strong affinity for helping those she gets close to, though this also usually involves manipulating and controlling them into better results, because this is apparently the only way she can really involve herself with others. Eru Eru, throughout much of the game, has a tendency to react with a logical interpretation of standard morals and ethics. This is not necessarily because she believes in them blindly but because of how she was raised (it is more complex than stated in the common route). She is referred to as a 'wall of ice' by Ami and at least one other person during the common route, as she fundamentally defaults to keeping people at arms length and reacting using that same logical attachment to common morals and ethics. That's not to say she isn't fond of some people... she likes the members of the Fortune-telling Club and values her time there, but it also needs to be noted that the situation is unique for her, as she apparently doesn't hold the rest of her positions in life in the same esteem, apparently. Fumika Fumika plays the role of the sweet-natured kouhai with a speech impediment. She is very good at worming her way into the affections of Reiji and the few others she trusts, but she is surprisingly detached from most others. She is also one of only two characters other than Reiji himself who manage to worm their way into Ami's heart in any of the paths (which is notable, since while Ami might become fond of someone, it usually doesn't extend to actually caring about their life and fate). Her path... has so much impact you would never guess that she isn't one of the characters in the foreground of the game's cover. To be blunt, Fumika's quotes in this path have an impact that have stayed with me for the past six years, often serving to me as an example in the best uses of powerful phrasing at key points. Fumika rarely speaks in full sentences, so the sheer impact when she forces these quotes out of her mouth without stumbling is...staggering. Touko Touko is the game's erstwhile narrator, (though it isn't apparent through much of the game) and the character presented as being the writer of a novel based on the events in the story at the very beginning. She is also the heroine who has potentially the most intimate friendship with Ami, which says a lot about her hidden perceptiveness at important points. Normally, she is presented as a 'yurufuwa' character, a bookworm who sleeps through much of the day at school while speaking in slow but clearly enunciated sentences when awake. She is Reiji's osananajimi and many fans of the game consider her the 'hidden true heroine', as she is the heroine that represents Balance. Sunao Sunao is the weakest of the game's heroines. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that she is deliberately a derivative of Ami (a more normal/healthy minded version). The most powerful one, though, is that her ending can be considered a second bad Ami ending (there is a bad ending in Ami's path). I won't go into details, but once you get accustomed to Ami's quirks, you quickly realize what she is doing with Sunao and Reiji, which makes it hard to even maintain an interest in Sunao... much for the same reasons Reiji puts forth if you pick the conversational path that leads away from a relationship with Sunao. I honestly don't recommend playing Sunao's path unless you are just a completionist. Notes on the Common Route progression One thing that will probably strike anyone who picks the Law route is that the conflicts are... darker. To be blunt, the last few arcs of the common route are much darker in nature in the Law route than they are in the Chaos Route, which can be seen as the world bearing out that Ami's viewpoint of results over process being a better choice might be correct. Ami is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'good' person. However, the story itself states that the results she get are more likely to create a good situation. I found this an interesting - and possibly telling - choice on the part of Takaya. In addition, this game has a tendency to rile 'pure-hearted weaboos'. I say this because the picture of Japanese society it presents is as unflattering as that of Yume Miru Kusuri... if not moreso. If nothing else, the portrayals of how 'officials' react to domestic violence are telling of the flaws built into their legal system. Conclusion If you are wondering why I don't go into more details on the routes and the like, it is because it is impossible to do so without spoilers. I focused on giving each heroine a proper introduction and telling you what to expect from them. This game is not meant for those who want sweet and romantic. Most of the paths aren't romantic, except in a really rough sense. There is love, there is affection, and there is sex. However, it tends to come in a fashion that is 'dirtier' than most VN readers will be accustomed to, unless they dig into the borderline dark nukige out there.
  22. 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
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 3 points
    Today I wanted to talk a bit about an interesting project, and one that provided me with a unique opportunity to, for the first time, act as a proof-reader and do minor editing for a sizeable VN. Because of this personal involvement, this won’t be a full-on review, but more of a loose rant, highlighting both the worthwhile aspects of the game and my somewhat-peculiar experience with it. The VN in question, Bewitched is indeed a rather interesting one, as all games by Graven Visual Novels are – just as they are weighted down by extremely awkward translations from Russian and inherent flaws of their author’s prose. This time, however, the developer made their first attempt to work on properly polishing the game’s English script with the help of a few volunteers (including my gloriously dyslectic person). This move was quite likely inspired by the discussions I had with them regarding their previous projects and the problems with their English versions. If my involvement in the EVN scene ever made a tangible difference, this is the most concrete example of it, and I hope you’ll be willing to join me as I briefly explore what that difference actually is… Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  26. 3 points
    I had someone ask me why I consider some VN battle scenes to be good and others to be low quality just the other day, and I thought I would address this here. First, I should state that while visuals definitely have an effect on the quality of a battle scene, the quality of visuals is less than 15% of the reasons why I pick one VN's battle scenes over another's. The considerations when it comes to visuals are raw quality (artist skill, detail, etc), number of combat-related CGs and sprites, and the quality of the visual effects. More important (roughly 25% of the whole) is music and sound effects. It is quite possible to turn a VN whose visuals are mediocre and writing are good into a masterpiece based solely on how the BGMs and sound effects are used. I've seen it happen (Devils Devel Concept being a prime example), and I can honestly say that this aspect almost always trumps visuals when it comes to determining the quality of a given battle scene. Another 25% comes from context and presentation. I split this evenly because these two factors tend to be inter-dependent in battle scenes. Without the context, you can't tell whether you should care, and presentation (the art of bringing writing, sound, and visuals together to create a collaborative effect on the reader) quality can dramatically alter how you see the battle. The last 35% is all writing. My prejudice would have put it at 50%, but realistically, in a VN, writing is at the very least 35% of what determines the quality of a battle scene. The very simple reason is that making a battle scene interesting requires an eye for detail, for stringing descriptions of character actions, emotions, and words into a cohesive whole. There are plenty of writers outside of the VN industry who only do this well and literally are incapable of 'peaceful writing'. That is because what is demanded of writing during a battle scene is fundamentally different from what is demanded outside of battle scenes. To be blunt, most VN writers have no idea of how to write a battle scene, which is why the good ones stand out so much. 'Tom blasted magic sword at Dave, Dave took it on his shield with a grunt' is about as far as it goes with most VN battle scenes... and that is fairly horrid, since there is no sense of what is actually going on in that exchange. It isn't uncommon for VN makers with unskilled writers to simply substitute visual and sound effects for descriptions of the battle simply because the writer can only handle dialogue and minimal or copy-paste action lines. However, this results in amazingly boring scenes, since there is usually almost no variation in visual or sound effects from scene to scene, action to action. This means that they are essentially using a square block for a round peg. I don't know how many third-rate battle scenes I've fallen asleep to over the years... Anyway, ideally, a good battle scene should have all the elements come together in one cohesive whole. However, in practice, that almost never happens. About the only companies that have ever managed to do that consistently are Nitroplus, Light, and Propeller... and we all know what happened to Propeller and (more recently) Light.
  27. 3 points
    People who drop themselves into the abyss of otaku media tend to have their sense for things dull over time. Action scenes don't excite like they used to, rom-coms aren't as funny, ecchi isn't as hot, and only the densest stories succeed in scratching the itch. This is what I (and some others) call becoming a 'jaded veteran otaku'. Jaded veteran otakus often become 'genre specialists' (meaning they only play one type of game, watch one type of anime, and/or refuse to play specific types), and only the most hypocritical have less than ten favorites in their medium. However, how exactly do you tell that a VN (in this case) is one of your favorites? There are a number of signs. 1. Does watching the opening get you excited no matter how many times you've seen it? 2. Does a great phrase that shattered your personal gate of tears do so again on a second playthrough? 3. Can it still make you giggle? 4. Can it still delight you with new discoveries or even only confirming the ones you made the last time you played? 5. Does defending it to everyone around you fill you with passion and do you have an intense desire to chain every other VN fan in site to a chair in front of a computer to play/read it? 6. Do you find yourself wistfully wondering if you'll ever find anything else like it again? 7. Do you feel like a junkie coming down off a great high after you finish it? These are just some of the signs of a VN happening to be your favorite... and one of the strange side-effects of being a long-time addict of otaku media is that your favorites become ever more distinct to you as time passes. I have literally forgotten the contents of more VNs than most people have played, but the ones I love remain in my memory with surprising detail, even after years without playing them. Not all of my favorites are kamige (in fact, surprisingly few of them are), but to me they are irreplaceable friends similar to the books I can never bring myself to get rid of.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 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...
  32. 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.
  33. 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
  34. 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
  35. 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
  36. 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).
  37. 2 points

    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.
  38. 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.
  39. 2 points

    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.
  40. 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
  41. 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.
  42. 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!
  43. 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
  44. 2 points
    Ds-sans is a British VN developer whose work I've been following since the times I started writing my blog, first being charmed by his free romance game Sounds of Her Love, (check out my review of it here). Released on Steam March 2017, this very tame and heartwarming, small love story was extremely by-the-numbers and rather cliched, but stood out through its solid execution and likeable heroine. Later, I’ve checked out this author’s first VN, Lost Impressions, which also proved enjoyable despite being something of a mess visually and including edgy story elements typical for many beginner VN writers – a rather standard amateur project, but showing traces of genuine talent. As you can imagine, I was quite interested in reading ds-sans’ first commercial VN, Chemically Bonded, announced and successfully crowdfunded in late 2017. It promised to continue the wholesome, romantic climate of Sounds of Her Love, but with a more in-depth, branching story and better production values – pretty much a product catered exactly to someone like me, who enjoys fluffy slice-of-life content in VNs over pretty much everything else. After a full year of delays, the game finally came out on November 2019, proving to be… Very much a mixed bag. But, what could go wrong with a concept this straightforward and such a promising background? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  45. 2 points

    Random VN: Primal x Hearts

    Primal Hearts is a game I have an odd relationship with. At the time I first played it, I don't think I gave it a completely fair assessment. The reason why? I was hitting the first of my many 'charage doldrums' periods. However, in retrospect, it grew on me... sort of like mold. First, I should note that the game is actually fairly old-fashioned, despite its modern visuals. The wacky concept, larger-than-life characters, and the sometimes ridiculous 'coincidences' that pop in all hearken to a previous era. At various times, this game channels such famous games as Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no, Majikoi, Shuffle, and any number of 'golden age' games. Of course, it doesn't go as far as any of those does, but the makers' fanboyism is fairly evident throughout the game on a second playthrough (something I didn't notice on the first playthrough). First, the resemblance of Majikoi lies in the larger than life characters and sometimes crazy abilities some of them have (the protagonist included). The protagonist's casual manipulation of the other characters for his own amusement (and for their own sakes, more often than not) is very much reminiscent of Yamato, without ever actually approaching his level. Perhaps the strongest resemblance to Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no lies in Haruhi's path... to be blunt, Haruhi is a redesigned version of Miyabi, with Kanna a reformed version of Lida who also happens to be a heroine. The resemblances and relationships are so obviously drawn from fanboyism of that particular kamige that I just had to shake my head during this replay. Shuffle is channeled, along with a lot of other early charage, through the setting. While the specifics are drastically different, the wacky, overblown occurrences, the general madness surrounding the 'elections', and any number of other factors in the setting make me nostalgic for the middle of last decade (soon to be the decade before last). I perhaps didn't notice all this the last time because I was focused on heroines... and I was playing charage rather mechanically already, two years into VN of the Month. A peculiar element that you generally don't see in most charage in general is character designs like that of Mizanori. Most charage tend to make all their regular characters (the ones at the center of the cast) attractive to one degree or another. However, Mizanori stands out as a character who was made comically unattractive, which struck me as hilarious at the time, since I used to make some of the same excuses he did to eat more as a teenager, lol. The common route of this game is excellent. The relationships between the characters are formed and deepened appropriately, and it actually makes sense that the heroines would fall for the protagonist by the end. It helps that the protagonist is really a 'great guy' in every way, though he can lack common sense at times. The decision to avoid mediocrity in the protagonist and those around him is one that is rarely made in charage, which just made it that much better as a result. Sadly, after the common route, this game stumbles somewhat. The heroine routes lack some of the depth the common route does, perhaps because the shift to romance automatically debuffed the intelligence of the writers. Oh, the heroines are unbearably cute when they go dere (Sera's dere makes me giggle hysterically even now, and Haruhi's is as strong in its own way), but the 'drama' included in the heroine paths pales a great deal in comparison to the drama that pops up in the common route. In that sense, it felt almost like they were running out of ideas at the end... Overall, this is an excellent charage that manages to escape mediocrity by channeling some of the best parts of a number of famous VNs into its characters and setting. I won't say it is a kamige (because it isn't), but if you are just looking for a good charage to add to your collection, this is a good choice.
  46. 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.
  47. 1 point

    Volume 7 [RococoWorks]

    Foreword: Dropped this game a decade ago, but I played all other RococoWorks visual novels, so I have a history with this brand, and I quite like its works. Synopsis: A lot of invisible walls suddenly appear all around the world. The same phenomenon happens in Nanahama Town, but another phenomenon takes place as well... "Landforms and buildings have gone back to the past." People in Nanahama are confused, but they somehow keep on living there. Two years later, Kyouka, a TV reporter, and Tomaru, her friend, are sent to the town to investigate the cause of the phenomenon... Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv_Q6BpbqxgMITmOnGkbtjir Game type: Atmospheric mystery game Character Design rating: 7/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 7/10 Game quality: 9/10 Overall rating: 7/10 I dropped this game once, but I still consider it a masterpiece. Nonsense? Not at all, because True Route elevated the score a lot for me. Basically, it's a nice even game with superb graphics and rather intriguing mystery. However, composition and concept are much more ambiguous. So Volume 7 has introduction called "Outer world", three romance routes with three different couples called "Inner world", and finally "True world" which includes all the couples plus new characters as heroes pursue the mystery of Nanahama. First part mainly draws the world, introduces characters and creates a slow-pace calm atmosphere with nice youth story. Romance routes.... well, I don't care about them at all. Romance itself is quite hasty, and I don't really like to see H scenes of these defenseless heroines. First route is with the same protagonists as introduction route - Tomaru and Kyoka - so it's more or less natural transition to romance, but Ryugo and Kotora route is what made me drop this game. It's painted in so boring traditional Japanese colors that it makes me want to sleep. Third Yashiro and Sakura route is kind of weird because of age difference and overwhelming amount of H scenes. So I don't want to see these two last romance routes at all. "True world" is what all those 20+ introductory hours were for - fast-paced chaotic story from some 10 different viewpoints as we're told the many mysteries of this world Shortcomings. Such structure is already flawed as different people like different things in games, and introducing alien elements makes them feel that their beloved element is sacrificed. Some want charage while others require plotge, so it's really easy to flame this game. There is little explanation. Setting is too elaborate for Outer and Inner World parts. These parts also have really slow pace while True World has aggressive development. Characters are too childish. Story is too polite and lacks excitement. There is no catharsis in the ending, so final impression gets dulled. There's a lot to look down to. But benefits are very similar. Character are childish, but not naive. They are reasonable, charming and defenseless. Atmosphere is really great and warm, so first half is enjoyable and comfortable no matter the pace. True World actually has a genius concept as it shows many old scenes from different viewpoints or with continuation, or with knowing who person is talking to at this moment. Scenes that looked like fillers suddenly acquire meaning. It's not a game about passion or burning, so why expect a catharsis. You get so many mysteries revealed, so what more do you expect? It's an absolutely lovely game, but one word constantly pops up in my head while I think of Volume 7. Refreshing...
  48. 1 point
    Welcome to VNTS Review, and as for this week I can say that it's more lively compared to the last week. The reasons is simply because we have man announcements and one of those announcement is Baldr Sky Steam store that was finally opened, although right now I'm quite anxious in that there's high chance that they'll censor it. Other than Baldr Sky Steam store, we have Seven Days release date announcements as well in which it's sort of Conjueror's Swan Song because it's his last translation job besides Rewrite+ before he doing the action that ended his life. We also have Mangagamer and fan translation updates as well, and JAST also join the updates here with them announced Kimikoi release month at February later. Let's see what I can write for this week here, and I'll explain the title at PS later (Of course it's not because Winged Cloud released yet another their Sakura VN, although I appreciate them though in that their recent VNs MC are always female instead of faceless male). For Baldr Sky Steam store, let's just say that I have mixed feeling on that. The reason is definitely not because Sekai still set the release date as soon (I understand if they need more time to polish the engine), but rather it's because apparently it'll be censored according to the rumor. While I can just dismiss the rumor as nonsense, I start to see that there's some indication that the release will be lack of sex scenes. The silent response from Sekai there didn't really help at all, and in fact it make it worse. In the end, if the censorship must be happen, then I'll obviously blame GIGA because it mean that they're the same as Pulltop and that Sekai releases always have 18+ patch add on. So for now I just hope that whatever GIGA planned in regard of the replacement for the sex scenes should be worth the trouble if the censorship is inevitably happened, and if it's very important to them. At least I can say that the font is far better compared to what we see at Baldr Force which show a hard work from Sekai's programmer, seeing that the engine is supposed to be very hard to crack. I'm not surprised to see that JAST delsy both of Katahane and Flowers Autumn releases seeing that the fall is already over and that there's no word about those two, but instead I'm very surprised with JAST suddenly announced that their Kimikoi are already ready for the release at February later. For more info, they also already have the pre-order for that. So if you want to see on why Kimikoi here is occasionally alluded as well known Doki Doki Literature Club predecessor and want to see 'passionate Hitomi Nabatame-voiced love-making' scenes (And moreso if Baldr Sky is really censored later on), you can do the preorder at JAST's site. For now I'll just hope that JAST didn't delay Kimikoi release at February later. From Mangagamer, we have some updates from them at their usual biweekly updates. The updates are Sukehime was fully edited, Rance 02 was halfway edited, Sona-Nyl was at 55% edited, WanNyan image editing was completed, and Sakuramori was about to enter the testing soon. Out of those announcements, I'm interested with Sakuramori the most so I hope that the testing for it would be going well. We have Ninetails released the new demo for Frontier, so perhaps you may try the new demo before decided whether you'll get Frontier that'll be released at 20th later or not. Speaking about the upcoming releases, we have a rerelease of a nukige by Cherry Kiss at this month (I'll just say that it's a redundant one because it's already fantranslated), and Seven Days at two days later (13th) in which it's been famous as the VN that was created from the crowdfund. I have not much to say other than I hope the releases will be successful. For the fan translation, currently we finally have Loverable was past three quarters (75.22%) edited and Miotsukushi Omote waa at 68% translated. We also have new project with the current progress was at almost halfway (49.7%) translated, and the VN in question is Chiccakunai Mon in which apparently it's a loli nukige so you may need to be very open minded if you want to play this later (I'll pass this anyway). Lastly we have a surprise new Amayui rough patch release that apparently translated 63% of the narration and that it's still not TLC-ed, which is fine enough to me seeing that I already survive Soukoku no Arterial 'translation'. While it sounds good enough, unfortunately I can't check in regard on how much the narration that was translated so let's just say that I'll pass on Amayui's partial patch here until there's a 100% translated narration patch in the future (Whether it's fully TLC-ed or not). That's all for this week VNTS Review, and sorry for being late here. See you next week. PS - For the title, the 'Sakura' part here is obviously from Sakuramori. As for the 'Literature Club' here, it's in regard of Kimikoi release month announcement which as we know it have similar twist like a certain very well known free OELVN (Doki Doki Literature Club).
  49. 1 point

    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 president 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 Macchiato 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.
  50. 1 point
    Foreword: Dragonia remains in obscurity while being localized. That's a strange situation, so I wanted to check why. Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40ois_GrS5w&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv8rKP5oDa1nzt0KevjFrmhw&index=31 Synopsis: In ancient Dragonia existed five orbs that could be used to make dragons do one's bidding. However, as time passed, the stories of these orbs faded from collective memory becoming mere legend. However, one day a man appeared and hatched an evil plan to take control of Dragonia using these very orbs. Yet the powers of the orbs could only be harnessed by certain, special individuals. Thus, only another person capable of controlling the orbs can stop the orbs' powers from being abused. But are Ryu, Jamka, Fiana or Tran capable of hunting down and controlling the orbs in time? Game type: Classic fantasy adventurer story Character Design rating: 4/10 Protagonist rating: 3/10 Story rating: 3/10 Game quality: 3/10 Overall rating: 3/10 I really was initially quite optimistic for this youth fantasy story. But there is really hardly anything worth praise in here. First of all, the story. Ryu's father Roi disappeared, so boy goes to search for him. Scenes are rushed mercilessly. Most of the so call developments are introduced just for the sake of showing several Bad endings. Some events are pretty random, like when there are two choices - one gaining a sword and the other not gaining one. But in the situations when we need a sword we just have one despite of the previous choice. Another example is girl bathing in the pond naked and getting caught by a bad guy - in the next scene she has her normal full outfit... The whole plot can be described very shortly - we meet some girls and gather orbs of different elements to oppose the baddie with the ultimate Steel element. I need to focus on length separately. It's under 2 hours. Seriously, what kind of story can we fit into 1 hour 45 minutes ? Actually, game can take a bit longer if we look into all the (four) Bad endings and (two) normal endings. These additional endings bring pretty much nothing to the story. And there is also a really bad "maze" introduced for the very same reason - to prolong agony. And I'm even omitting all the 10 second pauses before each choice becomes available. Game is virtually about nothing. The ending deserves a few words. Without spoilering anything I can say that ending is really disappointing due to two reasons. The first is breaking the 4th wall. Heroine shouts at newsbringer for ruining her after-story minute of fame. The second reason is this horrible "To be continued..." instead any kind of conclusion. The time between the final battle and credits is just a minute or so. The pause of several minutes of black screen before the credits is just stupid. Finally, the quality of the game is really poor. Few CG, horrible animation, translation (we all remember the case of horrible translation from Phantom of Inferno, but this "The sword of a phantom was got." just beats everything) really don't add this game any points. There is a mystery linked with this game - it's about the original Japanese version of this game. Many people tried to find its traces. I myself spend an hour checking all the names in the credits. And as a result I believe that this game never had a Japanese version. The credits stay that Planning&Original Story are done by Jun Tsubaki (T2Planning). This guy is not an author. It's a staff member of this normal Japanese planning firm doing a subcontract for Hirameki International. The early Hirameki International site also had recruitment page in Japanese for different kind of staff. Moreover, none of the voice actors actually have Dragonia in the list of their voiced works, because there's nothing to be proud of - it's work for money for some strange American folk that pay. The other people mentioned in the credits have no relation to the game world. They all do their small thing well like character design, backgrounds, music and so on, but it's freelance work, not industry thing. Pretty much everything in this game is fake. So throwing in some disk with 100 anime girl CGs together with Dragonia for the 26$ looks just beyond any understanding. I consider this game to be the first EVN with Japanese voicing, and not really a good EVN.
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