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  1. 14 points
    Clephas

    Stubbornness and Burnout

    For those familiar with me, you know I spent year after year doing VN of the Month and that I ritualistically complained about how tired I was of this or that trope or bad habit that plagued the industry or games. I was asked repeatedly why I could still plow through so many VNs, despite the stress? The simple answer is that I have always been stubborn as hell. I've experienced 'burnout' numerous times in my life, mostly because I have a naturally obsessive personality. Once I start obsessing over something, I literally am incapable of ceasing to do so without something jarring me completely away from it for a time, which usually results in me realizing I burned out long ago and have just been hanging out of stubbornness. The same was the case for VNs. When I first started playing VNs, all VNs were worth at least trying. However, as time went on, I increasingly lost interest in most nukige and eventually my interest in 'everyday teenaged life SOL romance' (or 'the standard charage') began to fade. It was probably about 2016 when this reached the critical point, but it took another year and a two-week bout of flu where I couldn't think well enough to play anything to bump me out of my years-long trance. Part of it was that I rarely, if ever, took a break from VNs during those years. I was always playing at least one, and I had a tendency to barrel through them consecutively without even a short pause to rest, week after week, month after month. I used most of my free time to play them, I structured my work schedule and habits around playing them, and I generally existed solely to do so. I dunno how many of you can even imagine what living like that is like... but it was the fact that I am no longer driven to play game after game that is letting me sit back and enjoy the few I actually want to play. I go back and pull stuff out of my attic on a whim, I dig through my collection based on a desire to relive a single scene, and I generally just take pleasure in playing what I want to play. Would it be strange for you to hear that this all feels unnatural to me, after all these years? I've been playing third-rate charage I didn't want to even see, much less play, for years... and now I only play stuff that takes my interest, dropping them if I don't see any hope for the game to break out of the shell of mediocrity. I don't feel driven to blog about replays beyond when I feel like it or when I think I have something to add to a previous assessment, and I can actually sit back and enjoy the few charage I actually feel like I want to play. While I do have regrets, they aren't about the years spent obsessing and over-playing VNs, despite my previous words. I set out to do VN of the Month because, at the time, there was no way for people to have an idea of what they were getting into with most VNs. It was a bit startling how few people were seriously trying to let people know what kind of VNs were out there without spoiling everything from beginning to end. Even today, most reviewers can't seem to keep heavy spoilers out of the text, which saddens me. However, I no longer feel that it is my mission to 'fix' this. I've been there, I've done that, and I won't be doing it again. I will still play VNs, and I will still review them (on occasion), but don't expect me to be as prolific as I used to be, lol.
  2. 10 points
    You should read this over at https://j-addicts.de/vn-of-the-month-december-2003/ as not only does it have (some) juicier screenshots, but the formatting is much better. First of all, I believe I should thank the j-addicts/Koutou Yuumin team for their knowledge and expertise. This article grew way beyond my expectations, and I would surely have lost my way without them. Also, to the several friends who gave me feedback and helped me out in various ways, thank you very much. Well then, shall we start? This month has four masturpieces (get it?). They are Saishuu Chikan Densha 2, Kadowakashi, Christmas★Present, and Kizumono no Shoujo Gaiden. That being said, there are still several other quite decent games. The game that surprised me the most by the positive and my personal masturpiece is Jam 'n Limit, and the games that disappointed me much were Eisai Kyouiku and Yami no Koe III. If you're looking for this month's overall best game, the answer is probably something boring like Saya no Uta (the answer, not the game). How are masturpieces decided, you ask? Introducing: the fap-o-meter! In Erogamescape, it's possible to vote on how suitable the H-scenes were for fapping material, ranging from "Weren't useful at all" to "Were pretty useful." Thus, I will attribute a numerical score (from 0 to 5) for each of those and tally up the average. This will be known as the fap-o-meter. This isn't a fallible and objective method, but it should give an idea of how much cummies the players were able to get out of these games. The Games To begin with, I decided which games to play based on EGS's database. This is because it's bound to have more games listed than vndb. Out of 107 releases, I checked out 31 games. There were 21 games I would've considered for review, except that I wasn't able to obtain them as nearly all of them are obscure doujin games, which were sold exclusively at Comiket. I blacklisted 55 games: 32 are moege/charage/plotge – basically, games that have too much plot or other crap in the way of my precious porn, 9 were re-releases, 7 were PS2 games or not VNs, 6 were all-ages and thus no porn, and 1 was listed incorrectly. Please keep in mind that just because a game is ranked higher or lower, it's not an absolute indicator of its quality. Some games cater to one fetish exclusively, so they're not bound to please everyone. The game titles have been localized by me, as I thought that's something that a predominantly English-speaking audience would appreciate. That is if they don't have one already. The same goes for the synopsis. Many of them are translated by me, and at times, I've had to replace what was very obviously nonsensical machine-translated garbage. I am still in the process of learning Japanese, and translating is, well, challenging, but I can assure you that there are no lies, falsehoods, or made-up stuff on them. I will put any game descriptions that aren't mine between quotes and credit them appropriately. The screenshots are at 75% of their original resolution, except for one of the games where I could only play the widescreen version, so it's at 50%. If you're interested in a specific game, I'd advise for you to CTRL+F search for it. If you'd like to read my overall conclusions on this whole venture, search for My Thoughts and Conclusions. One last thing: I did not rely on machine translation tools to play these games. 1. Midnight Sleazy Train 2 EGS-Score: 74 (442) Atelier Kaguya TEAM HEARTBEAT Fap-o-meter: 3.26 (91) Saishuu Chikan Densha 2 Main appeal: chikan, forceful sex, group sex 最終痴漢電車2 "Touch her/Lick her/Verbally abuse her" "Some towns have legends of haunted houses or underground communities in the sewers. But in Takumi’s town, the ultimate urban legend is the Midnight Sleazy Train. Desperate for a spot on the train, Takumi waits by the station after hours. But he finds that you can’t just buy a ticket. Only by bringing the perfect female guest can you ensure permission to come aboard." http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=2444 Well, color me surprised! For some reason, this game has hundreds of votes, so I was curious about how that came to be. Perhaps a lot of people watched the H-OVA and became interested in the game that way? That's what I call a marketing success. But that's not all. The game itself is a pretty good nukige. Beyond the beautiful art and hot H-scenes, the game bolsters a pretty robust map movement system. Unlike most games where you wander at random, hoping you'll run into the characters, the game tells if there's someone at the place you're about to visit. It sounds like something straightforward, but it doesn't matter how good the game's content is if the system doesn't facilitate the access to that very content. Besides that, you also have verb-based interactivity during the H-scenes (filling up their lewdness level gauge), and this makes for perfect roleplaying. You're not just playing as a groping protagonist, you feel like the groper yourself. With all of these factors combined, it's no wonder that so many people enjoy this game and the series, yet to this very day. Though, if you're not that big of a fan of uh...gangbangs, you might not enjoy it that much. Maybe watch the H-OVA first and see if it's something you'd like. 2. Kidnapping EGS-Score: 65 (41) ZyX Fap-o-meter: 3.25 (4) Kadowakashi Main appeal: sexual slavery 拐 ~カドワカシ~ There was a certain man, an all-girls school art lecturer. One day, he came across Tomoko, a student who was being bullied, and saved her from her predicament. However, this very event triggered his innermost sadistic desires. Suddenly, he could no longer hold back, and forced himself upon her. To our protagonist who had awakened to his sadistic desires, Tomoko proposed that he sexually train one of her classmates, Yazawa Mizue, a pure girl, ignorant of the ways of the world. While being aware that Tomoko was hiding something, the protagonist decided to play along with her plan. Could he become such an individual that could rule others into submission? Not out of simple, mere lust, he earnestly wanted to find the answer to that very question. Will he really be able to rule over the heroines as if they were his own possession, or else, will he end up as nothing more than Tomoko's puppet? Wow, uh, what a fast development. They really get straight to the action, huh. Within a couple of minutes, the protagonist rapes one of his students, Tomoko. I'm actually not a fan of justifying this as "lol deep dark desires," but I guess that's the setup they were going for. The main meat of this game is to sexually train a trio of heroines. True to its name, with Tomoko's help, you kidnap two of your students and confine them in a locked room, starting off with Mizue. What really makes this game stand out is the sheer variety in H content. The heroine has stats, most of them sexually-related, and you have to raise them to allow for even kinkier play. You have to be strategic with your options to train the ultimate sex slaves. Though, if you suck, you can play on Easy difficulty. When I say variety, I mean that ALL of these options are available at the start (well, as long as the heroine "consents" to it). This means all kinds of play. You can choose to be kind or to be sadistic. You can make her service you or teach her pleasure through shamefulness. Ultimate freedom and variety. That doesn't mean you can just do anything. If you're too harsh on her, she'll collapse. Have this happen enough times, and you'll get a game over. So please, be responsible, and take good care of your sex slaves! When it comes to the staff members, the spotlight is on the game's artist, Mutou Keiji. He is responsible for the character design and art of many games I have played in the past, from Studio Triumph. It's extremely similar to JAST published Do You Like Horny Bunnies?. Perhaps they had the same teacher? It might seem odd at first, but I grew really fond of this style over time. The sex scenes are also animated, and for once, they actually look good. Nice! 3. Christmas★Present EGS-Score: 70 (62) Ail [Team Riva] Fap-o-meter: 3.09 (11) Christmas★Present Main appeal: BDSM, forceful sex, comedy クリスマス★プレゼント On the night of December 16th, with Christmas close by… In the corner of a town wrapped in the holiday spirit, our protagonist, Sajima Yuuji, was once again completely absorbed in picking fights with delinquents. All of a sudden, a girl in Santa Claus's garments fell from the sky, crashing into him. Carrying the collapsed girl who to his room, he raped her without waiting for her to regain consciousness. And so, the very next morning, this one Santa's apprentice came to her senses. Upon realizing the situation she was in, she was bewildered. "No...it can't be!" Not only did he deprive her of her precious symbol of maidenhood, but also the source of her powers: her precious Saint's Crest. And so, promising to return the crest, he set the following terms: "Until the day of Christmas, you'll be my slave." Abusing these powers, and laying his hands not only on this Santa's apprentice, but also his stepsister Yuzu, stepmother Honami, and other women…what will become of this year's Christmas? This was actually the game I was looking forward to playing the most. Considering this is the month of December, I really wanted to play at least one game that would really get me into the holiday spirit. It took me hours to figure out how to get it working, but man, was it worth it! While the description is a bit grim and dark, the game is actually the complete opposite. It's always fun and filled with comedic moments. The best way to describe this game would perhaps be "bakage" (silly game) due to its sheer absurdity and ridiculousness. Of note, the game has a sort of "affinity" system. Your actions will increase your "evil" points by a certain amount. So, you can abuse the powers of the Saint's Crest, which can make any wish come true, or you can be a good boy and play along as Santa's Little Helper, spreading happiness all over town. The art is beautiful, the sex is hot, the banter between characters is great. This game would make for the perfect Christmas present. 4. Defiled Girls - Campus of Used Goods Side Story EGS-Score: 70 (83) Rasen Fap-o-meter: 2.82 (17) Kizumono no Shoujo -Kizumono no Gakuen Gaiden- Main appeal: blackmail, forceful sex, group sex 傷モノの少女-傷モノの学園・外伝- The "Kazaoto Academy Student Guerrilla Incident". An incident where roughly all survivors suffered greatly. The women, raped. The men who refused to rape, killed. And now, once again, a new humiliation play was about to begin... After the terrifying incident took place, part of the students who attended Kazaoto Academy transfered schools. And so, the stage changes to the preparatory school, Mizuto Academy, which two of the incident's victims attended. They were Oomura Takeshi and Shindou Narumi. In the middle of winter, when he had just gotten used to his new school life, Takeshi discovered a laptop which contained a video of Narumi being gang raped. While he was in shock at this devastating sight, his friend Kaneda Masaru saw the video by accident. Unflinchingly, Kaneda comes up with ways to use this video to blackmail Narumi. Without being able to refuse Kaneda's suggestion, Takeshi, while holding complicated feelings in his chest, ends up agreeing to blackmail and rape Narumi. And so, asides from Narumi, they gradually went on to defile the other girls surrounding them... This an insult game. This game has insult scenes, the protagonist and his buddy insult the girls...wait, what? Duh, I mean, rape. Yes, that's the word. This game is basically a side story of the original Kizumono no Gakuen. You don't really need to have played the previous game as it's not a direct sequel. Takeshi and Narumi's involvement in the previous incident is briefly explained - Takeshi was forced to film the girls being raped, under threat of being killed, and Narumi was one of the victims. Upon finding one of his old videos, he can no longer contain his excitement. I prefer this game to the first one because I like seeing the gap between peaceful school life and the moments of higher tension. That's not to say that the battle royale setting isn't thrilling though. It also feels like more of a personal experience, since you have one protagonist instead of multiple ones/multiple POVs. While you might initially think it to be a rape fest...it's just so much more than that. It capitalizes on human emotions: sorrow, anguish, sadness, loneliness...and instead of an abrupt chaotic state, it's gratifying to witness that transition. You can also expect exciting developments such as betrayals when you least see them coming. The H-scenes are well, pretty good. There's nothing that bonds friends together any more than doing the same girl at the same time...the story is about the defilement of the girls, as much as it is about the corruption of the protagonist's psyche. Though it helps to have a friend who is crazier than you. At least in this game, the "villains" actually feel like villains as they delve into their intricate plots, instead of your casual rapists. Of particular note, this game has a quite nice atmosphere, boosted by a quality soundtrack. Good faps are to be had with this game. 5. I'm a Booth Attendant - Heisaku and Kenta's Wild Tales EGS-Score: 65 (35) Interheart Fap-o-meter: 2.75 (4) Oira wa Bandai ~Heisaku & Kenta no Yume Monogatari~ Main appeal: voyeurism オイラは番台~平作&健太の夢物語~ One day, a police detective suddenly barged in a certain popular public bathhouse that the protagonist was in charge of. "Dan Koutarou! You're under arrest, under suspicion of sexual assault!" With a clack, he was handcuffed. Several months passed, and after a hellish series of interrogations, his guilt was established. "Why, why am I the only one serving a prison sentence? Why are Heisaku and Kenta getting away scott free? But, it seems that is my fate... Even if they were to be caught, it does not mean that my punishment would go away, but... Is the public bathhouse that I inherited from my pops done for? I've really done something awful to him..." Man, I can't believe we came out innocent. I feel kinda bad about pushing the blame solely on Koutarou, but this too is part of fate, huh. Kou-chan, just sit quietly in your cell! So, we were cleared of suspicion, but what should we do from now on? You're right...for now, how about we go back to Koutarou's shop, and peek in the bath once again?! There's also videos of those women we filmed that we haven't used yet! To begin with, let's change bathhouse's name! Enter Heisaku and Kenta's Wild Tales! This is a side story, continuing off the ending of the first game. I really recommend that you play that game first so that you'll get the most enjoyment out of the story. Basically, this is a real-time, public bathhouse management game. You take in customers, and you can peek at them while they change clothes, are in the toilet or just chilling in the bath. You'll have to follow the schedule carefully and know the exact times when the heroines visit the bathhouse. The game's system is pretty helpful in this regard, but something like a tutorial would've been much appreciated. It takes some time to get used to the gameplay, as you also have to use and buy items that will help you in your peeping quest, but I find the experience to be worth the trouble. If anything, the banter between characters is pretty well-done. Most of the characters are actually adults, which is a nice change of pace. I also like that the previous game's protagonist went to jail since that's what happens when you do bad things. The game is pretty similar to the first one, so once again, that's probably where you want to start. Interheart themselves published a walkthrough for this game, and I wish I had noticed it before playing...oh well. 6. Please Teach Nanami and Konomi the ABC EGS-Score: 68 (101) Studio Ring Fap-o-meter: 2.61 (18) Nanami to Konomi no Oshiete ABC Main appeal: lolicon ななみとこのみのおしえてA・B・C "You're a college student on summer vacation. In your neighbourhood live two extremely friendly cute twin girls, Nanami and Konomi Nishimura. One day their mother asks you to tutor the two of them. "Nanami wants to study with onii-chan!" "Onii-chan, will you teach Konomi?" Of course, onii-chan immediately replies. "Sure, if you want me to, it'd be my pleasure." "He didn't say no... thank goodness." "Yay!" And thus begins your summer "lessons" with Nanami and Konomi." https://vndb.org/v1620 Alright, so uh...yeah. Despite the pretty art and cutesy voice acting, I found this game to be not much more than wish fulfillment for lolicon. To begin with, I'm not a fan of deredere, lovestruck heroines, but if you're into this type of content, you're probably going to enjoy it. 7. Lewd Little Sister BABY EGS-Score: 65 (65) Image Craft Fap-o-meter: 2.58 (13) Inmai Baby Main appeal: lolicon 淫妹BABY "The protagonist is a young man. He lives with his younger stepsister Mana in the same house, together brother and sister discover a lot of games (with sometimes interesting toys) and they have a lot of fun." https://vndb.org/v3153 Right, so, uh...yeah. There are two main points of interest in this game. First, it's the art or overall art direction. Not only are the H-scenes fully animated, but the sprites are also constantly changing very fluidly. The artstyle might seem simple, but it's nice and colorful. Honestly, this game very much feels like an anime, to the point I'd almost unironically call it an "anime game". The second point is the sheer amount and variety of endings. You have the freedom to craft the story as you please, but remember that everything you do has a consequence. Strictly speaking, I'd only recommend this to fans of the genre. 8. Children Milk Parfait EGS-Score: 66 (28) Shiritsu Sakuranbo Shouggakou Fap-o-meter: 2.57 (7) Kodomo Milk Parfait Main appeal: lolicon こどもみるくぱふぇ "You're a college student and while you love the many beautiful girls you see around you in college you prefer elementary school girls. Your girlfriend is 10 year old 5th grade elementary school girl Ai Hasegawa. She's happy to be your girlfriend but discovers that her best friend Aya Sakurai has a crush on you too! Ai loves both you and Aya so she decides it's ok to share! She brings Aya to your apartment and asks you to take her first kiss. Where will you go from there?" https://vndb.org/v4244 I swear, I'm not doing it on purpose! Anyway, for this game, I actually had to make a decision, since if I included the votes of the 2007 DVD release, it would score much higher. To make things fair, I decided not to. In my opinion, I found this game to be boring. The children don't act like children (more like naughty adults trapped in a child's body), and most scenes are teasing. I also thought that the OP was really catchy, it even forced me to get up from my chair and bust my moves for a few minutes. The UI is also extremely cutesy, which fits the mood of the game. 9. Matty, the youngest child EGS-Score: 61 (22) Complet's Fap-o-meter: 2.5 (6) Matty Main appeal: straight shotacon まってぃ Due to certain circumstances, Ryouta was sent to live with his parent's relatives, becoming a freeloader of the Okano household. However, in this house, he is treated as nothing more than the "youngest child". As the youngest child, he is constantly teased, submitted to unreasonable requests, and sent to do errands. However, he is simply not in a position where he can refuse. The eldest daughter and office lady, Sena; the second daughter and tomboy, Kana; and the youngest daughter and his classmate, Mana. These three, without exception, do as much as they like with their new younger brother. On the other hand, his aunt Kaori dotes excessively on him. In the middle of such an exciting daily life, embarrassing and fortunate events occur...what will happen to Ryouta? I actually completed two routes of this game...but it's difficult to call them routes to begin with. Okay, first of all, this is what will usually happen. At school, you get two alternating choices that decide what type of event will occur. When you're back home, you get four choices which are meaningless by themselves (e.g., kill time, go back to your room, watch TV, etc.), and if you're lucky you'll trigger some kind of event with the heroines. When it's time to go to bed, you can choose between going to sleep right away, going to the restroom, or reading a porn magazine (there are like four to collect, can you get them all?!). The first two of those choices CAN trigger events, but 90% of the time nothing happens. And this repeats every single day until the game ends. You have no idea which choices trigger what, you have to constantly savescum if you want to see events with a certain heroine (and of course, you'll have to try all the choices first, every time), and even then, more than half of the scenes are teasing. So all you're really doing is collecting events. I hope I was able to convey the frustration I felt playing this game. Why couldn't they have employed a map movement system, where you could just visit everyone in their respective rooms? Why this lazy, inane system? And even worse, the heroine I was aiming for doesn't even have an H-scene or a proper ending. The game just ends abruptly. What a piece of crap. Either way, the art by Mame is definitely the game's high point. I recommend that you read the prologue, download a complete save file, and check out the H-scenes. Or play a better game, by the same company. 10. Surrender - Ravished Body, Broken Heart EGS-Score: 60 (3) X[iks] Fap-o-meter: 2.5 (2) Shikkan ~Hazukashimerareta Karada, Oreta Kokoro~ Main appeal: BDSM, forceful sex, mystery しっかん ~辱められた躰、折れた心~ On a solitary island, somewhere in the distant seas, there laid a certain hospital. Upon embarking on a ship towards the island, and arriving at the facilities, the protagonist received a request from his brother, the hospital's director, to investigate the spy the who had snuck in. Taking on the guise of a doctor, he will interrogate the various suspects through any and all kinds of methods. However, in the midst of the swamp where anticipation and expectations intertwine, the evil that remained dormant within the darkness reared its ugly head. This is a mystery game where the objective is to uncover the spy and the island's other mysteries. Who is the spy, and what are they after? What secrets does this hospital hold? The navigation is done through a map movement system. I usually dislike these, but you can at least trust the characters to hang out in a specific place. There's the doctor who hangs out at her own office, the patient that stays inside her room, the two nurses in the nurse station and the nurse in the psychosomatic ward. If you check out the other areas, you can find out more about the game's world, side characters, and... special tools. When you talk to the characters, there's also this interactive system, kinda like the old verb-based games. Except that it's with nouns, people's names, locations and so on.In conclusion, the game's system is kinda annoying, and honestly, I don't feel like doing bad things to the characters when they're so lovely... The dialogue and voice acting are built in such a way that they actually feel like real humans. Speaking of voice acting, it's pretty good! You might recognize some industry veterans... I'd say that despite some annoyances, the journey does feel worth it. It's definitely a game I'd like to spend more time with. 11. Good Girl's Worries Counselling Room - Fantasy World's Immoral Guidance EGS-Score: 65 (15) Collection Fap-o-meter: 2.33 (3) Yoi Ko no Nayami Soudanshitsu ~Mousou Sekai no Haitokuteki Shidou~ Main appeal: group sex, forceful sex よい娘の悩み相談室~妄想世界の背徳的指導~ The game's protagonist manages a counselling website called "Good Girl's Worries Counseling Room". Officially, it is a well-renown website where volunteers give counsel to its female users, easing their worries. However, if you seize their trust by giving them appropriate advice, you will be able to meet them directly for a sexy time! In the meanwhile, the protagonist, upon reading the contents of their e-mails, flies off to a fantasy world, where his imagination takes hold of the events they describe. Essentially, when his brother collapses from overwork, by sheer coincidence the protagonist manages to find out that he was in charge of a counseling website. The gameplay is simple: you check your inbox on the website, pick the e-mail you want to read, read it, and then the protagonist imagines the H-events described on the e-mail. After that, it is your job to give the girls advice through a series of choices. I was initially disappointed, thinking it was kinda lame to not engage with the heroines directly, but I find this to be a really novel idea. They take what would be generic H-scenes and give them a backstory, aftermath, and the female character's perspective. The most fun I had with this game was reading those very e-mails and challenging myself to give good advice. For example, there's a high school student who talks about how several boys confessed to her at once, and she ends indulging their wish of wanting to create "pleasant memories" with her. I told her that she needs to value her body more and that she should be responsible and pick only one of the guys to be her boyfriend. It really feels like a very personal experience, where I am crafting my own story, almost as if I was actually talking to a real high school student. I did not get that far, but it seems, later on, you'll actually be able to meet the girls, so there's something to look forward to. After all, most of the game's H-scenes only occur inside the protagonist's fantasy world, not in reality...or do they? Another point I'd make is that while the art might seem kinda amateurish, I actually think it's pretty hot. I like it! 12. Bright Future - Wet 'N Messy 2nd Time EGS-Score: 70 (93) FlyingShine Black Fap-o-meter: 2.17 (12) Akarui Mirai ~Wet And Messy 2nd time~ Main appeal: forceful sex, group sex, wet and messy アカルイミライ Wet And Messy 2nd time "In Azami High School, the stage of this game, there is a rumor about a ghost. According to witnesses, that ghost is surprisingly beautiful and her scent is luscious. Masaki starts to examine the fact about the ghost and one day, he happens to talk with a girl who exists in the past, Sakura. But the fact is that she doesn't exist in the present. She was killed in the past and Masaki tries to change her future to save her...." https://vndb.org/v546 This is a mystery/drama game that also doubles as a nukige. You, as the leader of the newspaper club, are initially given the task to investigate the so-called "Honey Ghost." The rest is according to the description: you start talking to a girl from the past and then realize that she died. Your objective is to find out what happened and change her terrible fate to a bright future. But that's not all. There are also several peculiarities happening in the present. There's the mysterious psychic treatment (psychosomatic) school club, which is in fact just a front for a group of rapists. While you are busy with your investigation, be careful not to let the heroines fall into their grasp... True to its name, you can expect things to get really wet and messy, by a variety of fluids...be it water, essential oils (aromatherapy), milk, SEMEN...But while the art is beautiful and the story seems promising, the game actually suffers from the excessive H-scenes. Before you really have time to care about a heroine, you end up peeking on them having or being forced into sex by a group of guys. If the scenes were more spaced out, the game would actually feel like it has some tension. Overall, I Just feel like it's trying to do too many things at once. While you get plenty of choices, only very few of them branch out the story. Most of them just give you an alternate or slightly different scene. They don't really have an impact on the story. The series was rebooted as the Kurai Mirai (Dark Future) or Crime Rhyme series. By the name alone, you can see the new direction that they took with the games, which I'm not of a fan of. Because no matter which manners of cruelties they must endure, at least the title name "Bright Future" gives you the hope that there is a way for the heroines to avoid their awful fate...even if not entirely. I'm not a fan of these quasi-NTR gangrape games, where you're just walking around, peeking on others having sex, and not really doing much about it. That's not to say that some of the scenes aren't hot, especially if you like it...wet and messy. I like this scene where your previous choice changes whether the heroine calls you senpai or onii-chan. It's, uh, a nice touch since you're pretty much defining the relationship you have with her. 13. Mansion, the Prison of Lust EGS-Score: 60 (12) Girl's Software Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) Ingoku no Yakata Main appeal: BDSM, sexual slavery, maids 淫獄の館 The ultimate immoral adventure game - combining extreme humiliation and sexual assault elements with the component of sexual slavery. Taking a remote western-styled mansion as the game's stage, train these beautiful and lovely maids into your sex slaves! Will you accept your fate, exhausting the limits of rape and sexual slavery? Or else, will you continue opposing those who hold you captive until the very end? If you were to take a single step within this mansion, you too would end up becoming its prisoner... First, I suppose I should start with what I liked about this game. The art is gorgeous when it comes to the character design and HCGs, drawn by one of my favorite eroge artists. The sexual slavery scenes are quite varied, but there's also a good number of vanilla scenes. You basically get the choice to give in to your "deep dark desires," or to defy your captor. To be honest, despite this being a nukige, what I enjoyed the most were the slice-of-life scenes and banter between characters. The music is a great mood-setter, but what made these scenes that much more enjoyable was the stellar voice acting performance. I'm sure that if you look at their names, you'll recognize several industry veterans. I'd point out Isshiki Hikaru, who voices the protagonist's sister in Cartagra as especially memorable. However, all of them were really good, and I also liked their performance in...other parts of the game. That's the thing, though. After spending all that time growing fond of the characters, I don't really want to do awful things to them. For this game's negative points, I'd say that getting a good ending is really difficult without using a walkthrough, and otherwise, it just gets frustrating. I also disliked the spontaneous H-scenes during the first part of the game. This is because they are all "dream sequences," more like showing a possible future for the protagonist. It feels as if those scenes were just thrown in there because the slice-of-life and comedy sections were too long, and they thought people would get bored if they didn't get some fap material, but eh. They feel entirely out of place because there's no context and no build-up for those scenes.Another point is that when I train my sex slaves, I don't like sharing them with others...especially dirty old men. 14. Stray Sheep - Disgraceful Confession Room EGS-Score: 55 (4) Panda House Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) Stray Sheep ~Chijoku no Zangeshitsu~ Main appeal: BDSM, mystery STRAY SHEEP ~恥辱の懺悔室~ For yet but an ephemeral moment, a rape scene that makes one's sadist heart boil strongly with passion. A tale that does not confine itself to the boundaries of desire. In order to solve the mystery surrounding his sister's death, our protagonist headed towards St. Raffine Mission Girls' High School. And for the sake of his unsatisfiable, boundless desire, he infiltrates the school, takes on the mantle of a clergyman. In this place, there yet wandered innocent lambs...however, a feast that would push the very limits of shame and disgrace was awaiting them. These Stray Sheep will kneel before one who borrowed God's name to find the truth at any cost. Stray Sheep doubles as mystery and hardcore BDSM game. The protagonist makes use of his privileged position as the school's new Father to search for the truth, little by time, at times employing more forceful means. I did not find myself able to empathize with the protagonist and his revenge-filled heart. It's not that I'm not fond of revenge stories, but if you're going to do awful things to someone, then at least do it to people who deserve it. If one thing though, both the CGs and character sprites sure are pretty. Reminds me a bit of Mink's artstyle of that time. 15. Masquerade EGS-Score: 64 (14) Soft Circle Courreges Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) Masquerade Main appeal: maid, pure love story MASQUERADE Under the strong duress that was succeeding my father's legacy, my life resumed itself to dedicating myself to my work. Finding absolutely no joy to this monotous, repetitive routine, I soon found myself to be a mere husk of a man, caring about nothing but maximing profits and running a successful business. But then, there she was. Elena Garshis. Following the death of her mother, she was taken into my household, working as a maid. I want to see her scream and shout, to dye her pure white skin with my jet black desire. Yes, the very same Elena who does not lose her perfect, radiant smile, no matter what the task...If it's her, she will accept me with no protest. Over time, I came to be consumed by such feelings, and finally, I was able to satisfy my desires. Taking shelter from the coldness of Winter, a small story took place in a certain mansion. And with it, so did develop a pure yet depraved love that taught me the warmth and true meaning of Christmas, together with the one most important to me. While the setting seems to be grimdark, it's actually kinda wrong to call it a nukige. In fact, you could complete the game while avoiding most of the sexual content. I actually completed this game as it's relatively short, about one to two others long. I found the main story to be sweet and very much worth the time I spent with it. Some might find it generic, but I guess I'm fond of these pure love type of stories. You can choose to either engage in sexual acts with your maid or to have conversations with her about a variety of topics, getting to know her better. By sexual acts, I mean that you don't force yourself upon her and that everything is done consensually, even if the protagonist is in a position of authority. On that front, it's kinda weak as a BDSM/sexual slavery game, but I appreciate the variety of content and the hot HCGs. The negative side is that both these conversations and H-scenes repeat themselves. For example, if you want to unlock further conversations, you'll have to approach specific topics an X number of times. The problem is that the conversations are the exact same the second or third time, so you're gonna be skipping them. It's just annoying. Did they run out of content even though the game is so short? Why force you to repeat conversations? Anyway, you'll probably want to follow a walkthrough. The similar happens with the H-scenes, where you can unlock extra scenes or variations of the same scene. Anyway, this is a pretty decent doujin game if you like maids, sweet but kinda corny love stories, are willing to press the skip button half the time, and use a walkthrough. 16. A Naughty Doctor EGS-Score: 58 (7) Sol-fa-soft Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) H na Oisha-san Main appeal: lolicon Hなお医者さん "A somewhat naughty doctor has come to take medical examinations. He is supposed to inspect their bodies, but all he's doing is touching the young girls all over." https://www.dlsite.com/ecchi-eng/work/=/product_id/RE039687.html So I booted up this game, which is unvoiced and has the same looping soundtrack all the time. And on the very first few choices, I hit a little girl, was sent to jail and got a premature Happy Ending. Great game. "HAPPY ENDING...hell if it is!" But it's actually an enjoyable game. You touch the characters in places where you're not really supposed to, but get away with it with some convincing persuasion, and eventually get to do a more direct inspection. I actually like this type of games where you play as a doctor and interact with a patient, deceiving them, and abusing their trust. For example, Studio Triumph's games. But well, this one doesn't even compare since the game is too damn short, as the whole thing is about 20-30 minutes long. Apparently, there's a voiced version, but I couldn't get my hands on it. The game is decent for what it is, but it's nothing special. I think there should've been more bad endings. 17. Jam 'N Limit - LOCKED/ROOM/CON/FINE/MENT EGS-Score: 53 (18) Studio Jikkenshitsu Fap-o-meter: 2 (2) Jam n' Limit ~Mis/shitsu/Kan/kin Main appeal: roleplay, forceful sex ジャムアンリミット~密/室/監/禁 Ever since I was a child, I had always questioned myself. Yes, I've always hated those so-called moral lessons. "Do not hate or harm others. Try to be mindful of other people's feelings. Plants and animals are living beings too, so treat them kindly." I wonder if there is anyone who actually puts these lessons in practice? To begin with, it is impossible for one person to adequately understand the feelings of another person. Also, treat other living things kindly, they say? Should such a line come from someone who eats meat? Who gave them the right to preach such hypocritical nonsense? Even if I were to narrow down the topic to human beings…for example, a person who raises funds for the sake of the homeless or those in greater need…I wonder if they're as great as they seem to be. Helping elderly people cross the street, giving directions to those who ask, offering your seat on the bus or train… wouldn't that be nothing more than feeding one's superiority complex, feeling of self-satisfaction, or just your typical social propaganda? Considering that I ponder these issues on a daily basis, I'm quite certain that society would just say I'm "going crazy". However, as far as I'm concerned, this is completely "normal" to me. If the world is to think that I've gone crazy, then I must prove that they are the ones who have gone mad. Thus, I shall find a suitable target for this "experiment", to show the world that I am the one who is normal. The only reason I went ahead and made the description this long is that this is the type of philosophical musings that are constantly present in the game. You can only imagine my surprise, playing this game after I almost considered skipping it - from the cover it seems like a generic nukige, and the score reinforces that assumption. I'm very glad I did not. Honestly, I can only do this game justice with a full review, which I'd like to do in the near future (maybe), so this will be a bit of a sample of what's to come. It comes with a fair warning though: this game isn't for everyone. It's probably only for sexual deviants like me. I've played this up until I was done with the first heroine's section of the story. Instead of having character routes, you "conquer" one heroine after the other, so you follow the protagonist's journey through madness. That is to say, this is more the protagonist's story than anything else, but you only truly understand the depth of his madness when you have a "normal" person as a reference. But that isn't all, as they too will find their own "madness." Your choices in-game have to do with the course of actions you take as much as the preparations you have to make. For example, for your plan to succeed, what kind of precautions should you take, what should you be most concerned about, how will you create the perfect locked room while avoiding suspicion, how will you psychologically corner your prey, how will prevent their escape, and what will you do in the event something unexpected happens. Accompanied by an in-built flow-chart, you'll be making these decisions as you try to avoid the game's multiple bad endings. I don't want to spoil the content of the H-scenes, but they've mostly based around..."personalized roleplay."For me, this is the best game I played this month and my personal master and masturpiece, or at least the one which surprised me the most, making this whole venture worth it. Please don't overlook it just because it has the "nukige" label. It could also be that the game simply left a lasting first impression, which lead me to overhype it slightly. Either way, I look forward to finishing it and publishing a more detailed review, whether it lives up to my expectations or not. Maybe. 18. Gifted Education Frenzy EGS-Score: 65 (89) Kuzuryuu Fap-o-meter: 1.93 (14) Eisai Kyouiku Main appeal: BDSM, sexual slavery 英才狂育 "Certain subjects being taught these days at college aren't always on the curriculum... Sex education is one of them. Here at our all-girls school, one male teacher takes it upon himself to best educate students in the ways of carnal knowledge. Using (and abusing) his authority, he lures the hottest students into his lair and has his sleazy way with them. In the end, these girls will learn some lessons they'll never forget." https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=8497 You might know this from the H-OVA "Study a Broad." With beautiful art from Innocent Grey's CEO Sugina Miki, renown artist responsible for Cartagra, Kara no Shoujo series and Flowers series, coupled with BDSM and sexual slavery themes, what could possibly go wrong with this game? Put simply, this game sucks. Sugina Miki's art and the seiyuu's talents were put to waste with this game thanks to an awful gameplay system. So, you have three phases during the day: morning, lunchtime, and after school. During those periods, you can visit different locations during the game, taking up one, two, and five time slots respectively. Oh, and I fail to mention that there are ten locations in the game? So, you have to visit the heroines at the RIGHT TIME in the RIGHT PLACE to trigger the events. What a load of crap. This game is the ultimate proof that no matter how good your game's content is (in this case, H-scenes), it doesn't matter if it's locked behind a nonsensical and overly complicated system. Sure, you have an idea of where the characters are likely to hang out, but who would've thought that the flower arrangement club member likes to hang out on the rooftop? So, definitely use a walkthrough. And don't try to pursue more than one heroine at a time, as the timeslots often clash. That's not everything, though. If you fuck up too much in the beginning, you can get a bad ending. And even if you follow a walkthrough, you probably won't get to see every event. This game is as sadistic to its players as it is to the heroines. I actually completed one of the routes - the twins. And there I witnessed some of the most stupid teen drama I ever had the displeasure of going through in recent times. At the very least, the H-scenes are hot, but I don't think it's worth seeing them without the context behind them. How frustrating! 19. Erosion EGS-Score: 74 (21) Black Package Try Fap-o-meter: 1.8 (5) Shinshoku Main appeal: sexual slavery 浸蝕 The protagonist, Kokubo Toshiya, is adopted by the loving Kitagawa family. In truth, he was in cahoots with the orphanage's director, and aimed to turn the women of this family into his prey. Despite conducting himself as a mature and overly polite child, Kokubo Toshiya secretly harbors dark thoughts, this twisted personality being a result of a traumatic childhood experience. Gradually, he starts to show his true personality just before starting his plans on his stepmother and stepsister. While his stepfather is away from home, Toshiya puts his plan in practice. Using a photo of his stepsister shoplifting, he starts with her stepmother, and soon he also reaches his hand on his stepsister. I actually edited the first part of this synopsis from vndb because it was filled with lies, so I claim it as my own. Ahem. This game unceremoniously starts with four H-scenes in a row. It sure doesn't waste any time, huh? On the very first scene, the setting is established. Toshiya, despite being of high school age, is somehow a hardcore sex slave trainer, all because his mother was a whore when he was a child. The orphanage's director is already his sex slave, as are other girls in school, and then he "infiltrates" this loving family intending to make them his sex slaves just for the lulz. You witness the mother, who knows the protag for nothing but a few days (or like, 10 minutes in-game), masturbate while calling his name. I mean, what the fuck. Already? She hardly even knows him! This protagonist is literally the equivalent of an isekai anime protag who one-shots everything in sight on the first episode. I did not find the art or the voice acting appealing either, but there's plenty of variety when it comes to the training scenes, I guess. If I had to mention any positives, it would be that the game is quite technically advanced. There's an in-built flowchart, a read text marker, the ability to jump to the next and previous choices, and voice lines on the backlog. All in all, this game is nothing more than rape fantasy and is completely disrespectful and demeaning towards women. 20. Last Order EGS-Score: 70 (50) 13cm Fap-o-meter: 1.75 (8) Last Order Main appeal: sexual slavery, group sex ラストオーダー The stage of this game is a family restaurant named flóreal. As an able floor manager, the protagonist enjoys the trust of his fellow staff members and respect of his superiors. However, there was another side to this man. He gets closer to the female employees while feigning kindness... By the time he has attained their trust, he discovers and exploits their weaknesses, and forcefully makes them his own possession. In reality, all of the women who work at this restaurant have already become his sex slaves. However, one day, two new job applications had come, and at that very moment, the protagonist had already decided on his next prey. Although she seems to be a quiet, docile girl, in reality, she keeps hidden an unparalleled lewd side of hers. Not letting this go unseen, the protagonist comes up with numerous ploys in order to completely put his new prey to shame. This is a game which seemed to be nothing more than a generic nukige, but ended surprising me. If there were such a thing as a theme for this game, it'd be moratorium, the postponement of social responsibilities. The protagonist and other characters deal with this issue on different degrees: feeling like they're growing up too fast, being afraid to become a full-fledged adult, or being too attached to things of the past. As someone finding themselves within this very period of transition, I felt I was able to connect to the game on a personal level, if even slightly. The sexual content mostly revolves around the use of devices for sexual training and bondage. With two new waitresses bolstering floréal's ranks, so are there two new prey for the protagonist to lay his hands on. I have mentioned this several times before, I believe, but I'm not fond of sharing my sex slaves. After the slaves' training is cumplete, you have them serve the customers, often multiple at once, and this happens when you had just thought they became yours. I'd say that might be why the fap-o-meter is so low, even though this is actually a quite decent game. 21. Intense Pregnant Belly - Senpai, Please Acknowledge My Child! EGS-Score: 41 (18) Acme X Fap-o-meter: 1.67 (3) Hageshiku Botebara! Senpai, Watashi no Ko, Mitomete Kudasai!! Main appeal: forceful sex, group sex, yuri 激しくボテ腹! ~センパイ、私のコ、認めてくださいっ!~ "It's a creampie without contraception!" Thus were the words of the savage brutes who targetted her… Nami, a pure and naive who always has her head up in the clouds, whose only noteworthy feature is her liveliness. Letting her heart be filled with high hopes and expectations, she begins attending the same school as the senpai that she admired. The very picture of a typical shoujo manga heroine, Nami lived her life blissfully ignorant of how truly scary men can be. However, nothing but terrifying fiends awaited her in this school, be them men or women. Her volleyball club adviser, fellow club members, classmates, dormitory roommates and the dormitory manager… Even the surrounding neighbourhood's bums, all of them constantly aimed at Nami's fresh and ripe body. Will she really be able to offer her chastity to her beloved senpai? First of all, I gotta ask. Who the hell came up with such a dumb title? This game is just a tasteless and senseless complete rapefest. It is disgustingly evil and cruel. I'm sorry, but I don't have much else to say. I dropped it because I'm not a masochist and there's hardly a redeeming factor to this piece of crap. I guess some people might be into it, but I'm not. Moving along. 22. Say Yah! Happy New Year 2003! EGS-Score: 55 (9) Authoring Heaven Fap-o-meter: 1.6 (5) Say Yah! 2003 Main appeal: comedy, straight shotacon Say Yah! 2003 This is a sequel to Say Yah!. This time around, in order to pay back Old Man Klaus, Aria has officially acquired her Santa Practitioner License, and distributes presents all over town to various houses. There reside a shotacon mother, a lesbian chick, and even a sister got dragged into it! This Christmas Eve, you'll be cumming down their chimney! This game is not only a sequel to first Say Yah!, but it also features characters from other Authoring Heaven and Complet's games, as they're both imprints of the same stock company. You can expect similar kind of content and humor from the same games. Basically, you have a map, and you choose which house to deliver presents to... in the form of sex. It's not really my cup of tea, but the game is kinda funny, if you're into that type of humor... 23. Married Woman Slave Coffee Shop 2 EGS-Score: 60 (20) Black Lilith Fap-o-meter: 1.6 (5) Hitozuma Dorei Kissa 2 Main appeal: sexual slavery, group sex, forceful sex 人妻奴隷喫茶2 "To think that you'd really take pictures like these...you're scum, human scum!" Wild beasts lust after the body of a beautiful married woman, who manages a coffee shop. With a new sacrifice being offered to these very beasts, they will squeeze out every single drop of these two cows' lewd tits! I played the first game too just so I could understand this game better. Thus this will serve as a review for both games. They're about 20 mins each, so that wasn't an issue. But well, there isn't that much to say, except that the games suck. On the first game, these three high school students with nothing better to do than wander around town manage to spot a lady shoplifting. And somehow, they make use of that knowledge to blackmail her into becoming her sex slave. After the first H-scene, it's scene after scene until the game ends. On the second game, this chick finds The Three Stooges talking about how much they love sex, and apprehends their sex toys. After calling them human scum, she ends up fapping with those toys inside the classroom, and she follows them to the coffee shop because she's secretly a colossal pervert, I guess. The rest plays out the same as the first game. The games have slight ero animations which kinda look good, but since it's a zoomed up close-up, they end up covering most of the CG. These games are cheap, they're too short, and they suck. 24. The Voice in the Night III - Summoning Circle Pentagram of the Three Desires EGS-Score: 60 (45) Black Cyc Fap-o-meter: 1.5 (14) Yami no Koe III ~Gobou San'yoku Mahoujin~ Main appeal: corruption of characters 闇の声III ~五芒三欲魔方陣~ "K is trapped within the academy, and recruits a passerby to find girls in various locations outside the academy in order to break the barrier. To accomplish this, she lends him her bag containing clothing and apparel with a degenerating influence." https://vndb.org/v3336 Wait, what is a Black Cyc game doing at the very bottom? To truly understand this, you'd have to play the first two games, as this one is part of the original Yami no Koe trilogy. Thankfully, I am perfectly suited for this review as I played all of the three games. However, this is a game that I would like to review at a greater length, so I'll try to keep this short. Basically, this game sucks. No, it would be more correct to say that this would just be an average nukige, if not for its preceding legacy. Because it bears the Yami no Koe name, anyone who plays this game expects high-quality nukige, the same as the first two. But it's the complete opposite. Here's how the gameplay goes: you have a box with several magical items, starting with five, and each one of them is supposed to awaken a dormant fetish within the heroines. Once you reach the second stage, you get up to ten items to use on the heroines. Sounds awesome, right? Well, not really. The heroines are only receptive to one or two of the items in each stage. Most of your time is actually spent trying out different items, getting a generic "this item wasn't very effective" message, reloading, trying out a new item, getting the same crap all over again until you get it right. That's not all. While a heroine might've been receptive to an item at first, it might happen that they will not be interested in it in the future. So, it's save, reload, save, reload, save, reload. How about I just quit, uninstall this piece of crap, and never play it again? Even worse, the protagonist doesn't interact with the heroines directly. Thanks to K's powers, he makes the item magically appear in front of the heroine, and they'll make up a suitable excuse on their own for why the item is there. What a load of bullshit. The only time you have sex with them is at the very end (if you managed to corrupt them all fully), on what feels like the developers' way of mocking and trolling the player. You know when you play a sequel to one of your favorite games, and it's complete shit? Except that here, you can't blame EA, like with its sudden takeover of Bioware franchises such as Mass Effect or Dragon Age. No, it's literally the same writers, the same director, the very same team. They knew what they were doing with this game, and it's nothing more than a quick cash grab. I hope I was able to convey my feelings on this matter accurately, and looking at the scoring, it's no surprise. Everyone felt let down by what is the weakest game of the Yami no Koe series. The only good point to this game is the amazing art, by one of the best eroge/nukige artists. Even Conjueror agrees! However, he gave the second and third games the same score, so I wonder if he actually played them at all. 25. Rape Secretarial Office 2 -Midou Shirou's Chapter EGS-Score: 65 (12) Maika Fap-o-meter: 1.5 (2) Ryoujoku Hishoshitsu 2 ~Midou Shirou Hen~ Main appeal: sexual slavery, mind control, forceful sex 凌辱秘書室2 ~御童志狼篇~ Midou Shirou manipulates females' body and mind at will, as the legitimate successor of the dreadful, evil fist, the "Obscene Vortex Core Fist". Of course, that is nothing but his secret identity. He worked as a respectable employee of a high-tech development enterprise, until... One day, the situation suddenly changed, ever since he was confronted with a mysterious conspiracy. He receives a missive from Yuuzuki Yukino, Internal Investigation Bureau's top agent dispatched directly from headquarters, to settle this incident once and for all. This game is about rape. It has rape in the title, and even the game's executable file is called "RAPE2.exe". Basically, you have Midou Shirou, who can use some sort of mysterious power, which translated literally would be something incomprehensible such as "Obscene Vortex Core Fist." Probably some kind of wordplay. When he says specific keywords, it triggers something within the heroines - there are no tools that need to be used, so it's just a special ability of his. And by special ability, I mean that it's a complete cheat. After you meet all the heroines, you can choose one of them to be your trained sex slave, as in, it's something that already happened. I found that to be interesting at first, but it's actually kinda lame. Let's say you were interested in a character, would you want to conquer her or would you want the game to gift you her as your already trained slave? Your objective is to obtain sensitive financial information and have lots of sex while you're at it. Your chosen sex slave will assist you in this task, so you already have six slightly different ways of playing the game. This all sounds awesome, but it's simply too easy. It's too easy to make the heroines fall thanks to Shirou's ability, having them call you "Master" by one H-scene's time. To begin with, the protagonist is already a cool stud, does he really need this power? He doesn't have any interesting motivations or something you can empathize with. This game is just a trashy rapefest, which puts its beautiful art to waste. 26. I'll Grant Your Wish - A Gift Received in Winter EGS-Score: 58 (17) High Soft Fap-o-meter: 1 (1) Kanaete Ageru ~Fuyu ga Kureta Okurimono~ Main appeal: group sex かなえてあげる~冬がくれた贈り物~ The protagonist is a university student, a complete bookworm who has been enamorated with reading ever since he was a child. He was confessed to by his bright and cheerful childhood friend, Shiraishi Yuri, and they became a couple just before highschool graduation. However, even to this day, the two have yet to engage in lewd acts, as Yuri has developed some sort of complex, thanks to her huge breasts. Ever since he was a middle schooler, he eased his worries and feelings of gloominess by engrossing himself in reading. Being immersed in that world, he was able to reduce his stress with the power of his imagination. However, as one would expect of one who had just become a university student, such a thing is simply no longer possible. His accumulating sexual desire. His increasing sexual fantasies. That wasn't only towards his girlfriend Yuri, but other women as well. However, one day, with the day of Christmas approaching. A group of women, introducing themselves as Santa Claus, suddenly appeared. "In exchange for helping us, we will make your dreams come true." And so, taking on a four-year period contract, the protagonist accepts their proposal. Will his sexual fantasies remain in the world of dreams, or else...? The premise is rather simple. The protagonist wants to have sex with his girlfriend, but it's totally not happening any time soon, and he faps to his sexual fantasies all day. Wow, he and I are not so different after all! So, these girls suddenly appear in his room and make the proposal as mentioned earlier. The story is well, as you could imagine, nothing special. It's nothing but senseless H-scene after H-scene, without any thread linking the events together. Put simply, it's just boring to read/play. You literally play as Santa's little helper, as you go from house to house, and research which present to give to the residents. Depending on the presents you pick, your relationship will improve with one of the heroines. This is a quite cumbersome system, and not very easy without a walkthrough. I wasn't able to find one... Since the protagonist is the only one who can see the girls, it could also be that he's simply had one fap too many, and none of this is real. Yep, that's probably it. 27. Let me fuck 'ya, teach! EGS-Score: 50 (11) Tryset Fap-o-meter: 1 (3) Yarasete! Teacher Main appeal: straight shotacon やらせてっ!てぃーちゃー "Ishibasha Yuuta is young, but already way too much interested in erotic things, to the point that at school he is considered a pervert! There is a new temporary teacher at school: her name is Riko Okamoto and she's there to assist the actual teacher during 2 weeks. She makes the perfect target for Yuuta to tease..." https://vndb.org/v5884 For a while, I thought I was playing a Complet's game, as this one has similar art, humor, and sexual content. You play as an overly perverted brat and constantly tease the new assistant teacher. Instead of proper routes, just like Matty (ugh), you collect events. The difference is that you trigger those events by moving around the school, as you pick the location you want to visit. I find this blind guessing system to be annoying, so I'd recommend a walkthrough once again. I actually liked the H-scenes, and I'm pretty surprised this game is sitting here at the bottom, especially when you consider that it spawned a whole series. Maybe Tryset were off to a bad start with this one, or the players just found the system to be too cumbersome. 28. Day-care worker <3 EGS-Score: 45 (9) Triangle-delta Fap-o-meter: 1 (1) Hobo-san Chu! Main appeal: roleplay 保母さんちゅ! Kasuga Shin'ichi works at the Kazamizawa Daycare Center. Together with Osamura Natsumi and other daycare workers, their daily routine resumes itself to taking care of and supervising the growth of multiple children. One day, the cute and lively Shima Chiaki joins them as a new daycare worker. However, she ends up causing lots of problems as she can't get used to the various tasks related to taking care of the children's needs. As her senior on the job, Shin'ichi is instructed to put into practice a special curriculum, which they came to mention as "night training". Witnessing Chiaki in low spirits over not being able to perform at her dream job, he steels his heart in order to turn her into a proper daycare worker. Thought I'd start by giving a warning that, despite the protagonist's profession and the game's setting, all participants in sexual activities are consenting adults. That already makes for strange setting though. Who thought about mixing up daycare work with...roleplay? The worst part is that they do a pretty poor job at explaining the need for such a thing in the first place. I mean, I don't think it helps her understand the kids' feelings any better by changing adult diapers or making her piss on the ground. Overall, the setting just feels at odds with the game's sexual content, but it does make for an interesting premise, I guess. I do commend them for trying out something different, and I do find the H-scenes to be not that bad... The main highlights are the beautiful OP (no need to listen past 2:10) and yet another casting by Isshiki Hikaru. 29. Petite Idols - Disgraceful Fan Appreciation Day EGS-Score: 52 (14) Black Lilith Fap-o-meter: 1 (3) Puchi Idol ~ Chijoku no Fan Kansha Day Main appeal: lolicon, cosplay, forceful sex, group sex ぷちアイドル~ちじょくのファン感謝デー "It's time for fans to punish these two little selfish idols!" https://vndb.org/v6957 This is just bad. I feel like I really hit the bottom of the barrel with this one. It comes with a really stupid reasoning for revenge: the two idols are cheeky and foul-mouthed and treat their greasy, sweaty, disgusting otaku fans with the disrespect they deserve. But then came fan appreciation day... 30. Nestle Close III - Manager Hibiki EGS-Score: 70 (3) Haikara Kissa Fap-o-meter: 0.5 (2) Nestle Close III Main appeal: onee-san, big breasts, glasses Nestle Close III "A pretty girl who is a daughter of your apartment house's owner is asked to take care of the building during the owner's two weeks absence. How do you get along with her? https://www.dlsite.com/ecchi-eng/work/=/product_id/RE024315.html I physically cannot play this game, as short-haired heroines with glasses are the worst. Next. 31. Soft and Tender Lesson EGS-Score: 50 (11) Trabulance Fap-o-meter: 0 (1) Pururn Jugyou Main appeal: breasts, big breasts, big tiddies, tits, oppai ぷるるん授業 The ultimate game for lovers of huge, enormous breasts! The heroines are all female teachers, mature beauties featuring a bust size of over 100cm! As it is the specialty of Trabulence, the H-scenes are fully packed with all sorts of juicy big tiddies! As advertised, the heroines have enormous breasts to the point that it's sure to cause back problems. If you're into this type of thing, you might get some enjoyment out of it. However, I found the game to be a completely average nukige. Of particular note, there is a toggle correct choice indicator. Interact with the same heroine enough times, and you'll have sex with them. Wow, now that I put that in words, it seems that'd describe most games. Either way, despite being thrown to the very bottom, it's certainly not THAT bad. Then again, there's only one vote which is... mine. My Thoughts and Conclusions First of all, thanks to everyone who stuck with me until the very end. Or perhaps you're one of the people who scrolled down to the very bottom? It's alright, I don't blame you. The truth is, this format sucks. Usually, you'd first find a game you like, play it, and then maybe review it, not the other way around. This would've worked much better if I had a team of perverts working with me. Each one of us could pick a game that we might like, play it, and then review it. This was way too much work for one person, as this was all my own, original commentary, but I did my very best for the quality not to suffer. The very idea of reviewing eroge and excluding nukige would be ridiculous, as despite bearing the "stigma" that comes with the nukige tag, there are some pretty good games amongst those that I reviewed. Making people aware of that was my initial objective, and I hope to have realized it. Not surprisingly, there's a good number of games focused in particular fetishes. I think it's interesting that there wasn't a single Netorare game amongst these, perhaps the genre hadn't taken off yet. There's a big divide between games with consensual sex and games with forceful sex. The first usually focuses on lighter fetishes, while the second group often goes all the way with hardcore sexual slavery. I play my games on fullscreen, so I wasn't bothered by the resolution. And there are plenty of games with beautiful art, mood-setting soundtrack, and stellar voice acting performances nonetheless. The most significant conclusion I'd take is that most of these games, well, suffer from too much gameplay at times. Like I've said on my very first review, it doesn't matter how good your content is if the system is cumbersome in a way that players have too much of a hard time accessing it. You can have a map movement system like Eisai Kyouiku's, which forces you to check a walkthrough every 10 seconds, or you can have one like Saishuu Chikan Densha 2's, where you can worry less about optimization and focus more on having fun. The second is one where the creator really thought about the player experience, how would people actually feel playing the game. I also found it interesting that most protagonists are actually adults. There are several university students, but you have them do all kinds of jobs: ordinary salarymen, teachers, daycare worker, clerk, doctors, idol manager, grocer, businessman, restaurant floor manager, tutor, even a priest... You also have many different kinds of settings, as if everyone was trying hard to carve their own niche. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside thinking about how everyone, even the little guys, was working hard, giving up precious time during the holiday season to provide us with great fapping material. God bless you. Oh, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t talk about Saya no Uta. Well, it’s the title that needs no introductions, so I decided to go ahead and not talk about it at all to make my job easier. The point of this article was to have short reviews and summaries for lesser known games of the month, so I can’t just feature the most popular ones and not or just dismissively ignorant talk about the rest. The fap-o-meter is astonishingly low, which is complete blasphemy. This is one of the hottest english published eroge out there, with also one of the best translations available. There’s a story about how Makoto wouldn’t sell his translation until his writer parents approved it, so you can be certain of its quality. As a closing statement, please, by all means, do try some of these games and enjoy yourself to your heart's content. If you have any questions you'd like to ask me, please go ahead and message me or leave a comment below. As always, thank you for reading, and I appreciate any and all feedback.
  3. 8 points
    Hello there, all you good people still following my content-starved blog! There will be no regular review post this week (I’ll be catching up next week with one about Reine Work’s Our Lovely Escape, and hopefully a week after that with one of the long-overdue games sent to me for review), but I’ve wanted to take this opportunity to share the reasons behind the recent slowdown on the site and talk a bit my plans for the future. A warning: this will contain a lot of personal musings that most of you are probably not very interested in. However, I kind of need this opportunity to vent and reset. I’ll add a tl;dr version at the end of this post. Outside of my, not-extremely-successful attempt to jumpstart a new wave of activity on Fuwanovel, there have been a few other things happening behind the scenes. The major one was my academic project on visual novel fan translations, which led me to submitting a paper for an international fan studies conference in Cracow. Preparing the speech in English (this was the first time I wasn’t speaking in Polish on such an event), running a survey with people involved in fan translation projects… It all took a lot out of me and gave me little time and energy to actually enjoy VNs as such. It also coincided with a minor health issue, which despite its non-threatening nature made it impossible for me to sit straight for nearly two weeks – a truly infuriating thing when you should be working on your computer and are basically running out of time. This was probably a major factor which destroyed my motivation for working on the project, which in turn made it be the most painful and depressing one to date. I, however, still made my short presentation in the presence of prof. Matt Hills, one of the most influential researchers in my obscure field of study, and learned quite a lot from other speakers. Here’s some photographic proof, courtesy of my girlfriend who once more agreed to help me inflate my ego by documenting my speech. 😉 As you can see, I was asking the Heavens to help me and my listeners to get through those 20+ minutes of my horrible English accent. Not sure to what degree my prayers were heard, but at least there were no fatalities. Oh, and in the lower-left corner, it’s Matt Hills. That was both awesome and terrifying. And here’s a rare moment where my conference ID wasn’t hanging backwards! You can see the fear in my eyes – one would think after nearly 10 similar presentations I’d be a little bit calmer, but it’s apparently in my nature to stress out over everything. And here’s me taking one of two questions that were still possible to ask after I’ve used all the discussion time for my way-too-long PowerPoint slideshow. And yup, I will insert Flowers whenever that's even remotely appropriate. Suou x Rikka forever. You can't stop me! While, in general, my project was fruitful and I’m satisfied with my performance, I also ended up so physically and emotionally drained that I’ve ditched the other two days of the conference, just enjoying my time in Cracow. Even after coming back, I had a day of what could be described as a full-on breakdown before I kind of got my shit together. All this, of course, has some very real consequences for the blog: for quite a while, I didn’t have the time and energy to really read VNs. And, obviously, without any new material to cover, I didn’t write anything either. It’s the first time since establishing the Blogger site that I have no “emergency” posts to use or quick ideas to supplement more involved write-ups with, even despite switching to the biweekly schedule. And honestly, I don’t expect to write much in-advance anymore. The “one post every two weeks” frequency is here to stay and I’m going to be flexible about it, switching content and dates when necessary. The other thing is that I still want to make the blog a little bit more of my personal space. I’ve kept up the regular stream of content both to become a better writer and to prove a few things to myself. I think I’m satisfied with what I’ve achieved, and while I’m definitely not discarding the general profile of the blog and the responsibilities I’ve taken upon myself (like covering the games sent to me), I’m going to have fun with it too. Write silly stuff connected to the weeb culture and my peculiar experience with it. I’ve already hinted at this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m even more determined to make it happen now. No hobby I’ve picked up over the years was this intellectually stimulating and satisfying as this one and I want to do all I can to keep it this way– I can't let things go too stale. And while I’m doing all this weird stuff and overthinking things, I hope you guys will stay and still read my crappy writing. Exploring the creativity and passion of EVN devs is not something I’ll ever get tired of, and I hope we can enjoy their stuff together for years to come. Thank you all for following my work, and until next week! tl;dr I’ve been to a fan studies conference which, together with minor health issues, ate a month and a half of my life. I’ll get back to “serious” posting next week, returning to the bi-weekly schedule. I might sneak in some weird posts about Japanese popculture between “proper” EVN ones. EVNs are love, EVNs are life (still). See you next week for actual content!
  4. 8 points
    Anyone who has read one of my reviews knows I'm something of a cynic and a pessimist. I try to think the best about every VN I go into, but my first impulse is to see what is wrong, rather than what is right. Whether it is optimism and rose-colored glasses or pessimism and cynicism, and excess of either is often a negative influence on the quality of a review. Generally speaking, I usually make an effort to find something I like about a VN's concept before going in, then I start the VN trying to enjoy it as an outgrowth of that. By the end, this usually results in me having experienced both the negative and positive aspects of the VN... the problem is, when reviewing, it is all too easy to forget what is good about the VN. As a result, when I'm writing up a review, the first thing I do is write up a list of the good points I found, ignoring the mitigating negative factors. I then build the review around these and include the negative points in with the rest... but you can probably tell that being positive just doesn't come naturally to me, since I tend to be pretty harsh. However, by using this system, I've found dozens of VN gems over the years that I probably would have discarded for perceived negative qualities if I didn't use this process. Indeed, early on in my reading of untranslated VNs, I dropped numerous ones simply because they had a negative aspect that I got obsessed with. I would later go back and replay them, only to find that the negative aspect wasn't as big a deal as I thought at the time, since I made the effort to go back with a differing perspective. A poor quality in a reviewer is the tendency to ignore the negatives about something you like. Another one is to rate things entirely based on aspects you only have a vague grasp or focus on (in my case, due to my eye problems, I'm not the best judge of artwork, and my musical sense is entirely based on how it enhances the atmosphere, rather than raw quality comprehension). I'm a story reviewer. I review almost exclusively based on the story, characters, and presentation. As such, art and sound rarely have a place in my reviews, since I don't think I'm qualified to evaluate them except in the most general of terms. I can tell when a VA did an exceptional job, because it stands out enough for me to notice. I will even mention this in the review, since it takes a lot for a performance to stand out to me. However, I never pretend to know the ins and outs of specific aspects of VA or musical quality. I simply don't have the right kind of ear for that kind of thing, not being musically inclined. One thing I've noticed in some reviewers who prefer niche genres (such as myself) is to display a tendency I refer to as PGRD (or Popular Game Reactionary Disorder). It is a fictional mental disease that many of us who have a distinct preference for a niche genre display that causes us to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to popular works, simply because they are mainstream. This is a problem that is particularly common in Western otakus of around my age, who became fanboys during a time when watching anime, playing Japanese video games, and reading manga had a rather strong stigma that left us feeling isolated and defensive. However, it is also present in people who prefer niche genres (I get the double whammy, being both). That sense of isolation leads to a tendency to over-praise our favorite materials and bash anything that we see as being too popular. In reverse, there are those who automatically dismiss anything that isn't mainstream. Both types are reactionary in nature and have little to do with the quality of the materials in question. Being a long-time sci-fi addict, I can't understand why anyone would enjoy Avatar (the movie). However, if I make the mistake of saying that in front of a fanboy of the movie, I will inevitably get a vociferous lecture on how misunderstood the movie is by science fiction fans... There are many such examples of such behavior I have experienced over the years, both in myself and in others. As such, a reviewer has to be willing to examine his own motives for liking or hating something. Are you being cynical for the sake of being cynical? Are you over-praising something to the point of overlooking the obvious problems with it? Are you making excuses while thinking you are making a reasoned argument? On the other side, are you ignoring the voice of reason to give you an excuse to dislike something? In the end, bias is unavoidable... but it is a reviewer's duty to do their best to cast aside as much of it as possible, because people use our reviews as reference points when they pick what they want to play/read/watch.
  5. 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)
  6. 6 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.
  7. 6 points
    Maggot Baits is something of a Holy Grail of dark eroge, highly anticipated guro fans within the Western VN community and often hyped as possibly the greatest achievement of the company that produced it, Clock Up. As one the most gruesome VNs ever produced, and quite likely the most brutal one ever brought to the West, it contains dozens upon dozens of violent sex scenes, all accompanied by intricate CGs, with small variations in them so numerable that they sum to nearly 2500 unique illustrations. All of that placed in a highly-unique, modern-fantasy setting populated by amazingly-crafted characters and tackling interesting philosophical and religious topics. While it’s pretty much the furthest possible thing from what I usually write about on this blog, few games intrigued me as much as this one, particularly after my inconsistent, but extremely interesting experience with Clock Up’s another famous title, euphoria. Everything I’ve heard about Maggot Baits suggested that it was both more extreme and overall better than studio’s other bestseller, and after reading it to completion, I felt the need to share my thoughts about it in detail. Both because it’s a pretty fascinating case of strengths and pitfalls of this breed of eroge, and to warn those interested in it as a piece of storytelling – while in many ways an incredible achievement, this game is extremely hard to recommend for a “normie” reader such as myself. Why is that exactly? Before I go into story details, it’s most important to deal with Maggot Baits’ greatest issue – its structure and general storytelling formula. This game is, at its core, a guro nukige and it’s incredibly dedicated to this template. It throws h-scenes at you at very consistent intervals, disregarding whatever might be going on in the story and sacrificing any sense of pacing or tension so it can constantly offer a new piece of violent hentai. Quite often, the scenes are not important for, or even directly connected to what’s happening in the plot, pretty much pausing the whole narrative to insert a new piece of fanservice. In this, it goes even further than euphoria, which did a much better job intertwining its scenes with the story and had a bit more restraint in the most dramatic and meaningful parts of the plot. Maggot Baits even goes to the length of adding a major side-branch in the first chapter of the story, which is nothing but 3-4 hours of futanari porn leading to a bad ending. All of it narratively empty and pretty much derailing your experience if you expect any kind of interesting reveals or a meaningful conclusion within it. I still don’t understand why it was a part of the main story, and especially inserted so early in the game, before you build any connection to the characters involved or can understand the full implications of what is happening in those scenes. Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  8. 5 points
    Master Magistrate is the murder mystery detective visual novel set in the late years of Japan's Edo Period. Developed by the indie studio Irodori and released in the year of 2017, it quickly attained popularity and became a hit amongst Japanese fans. They praised the great direction sense, well-crafted scenario, immersive atmosphere, and fascinating soundtrack, amongst other aspects. Hobibox have attained publishing rights for the Chinese and English versions of the game, wishing to bring this experience overseas. They have committed themselves to provide a high-quality product, hoping to turn a new leaf and redeem themselves for not so fruitful past endeavors. Read more at https://j-addicts.de/master-magistrate-early-access-review/ - we now have a comment box! (I was initially planning on cross-posting here but the screenshots looked strange, so yeah).
  9. 5 points
    Hello and welcome to this year’s first EVN Chronicles Steam Curator Clean-up, where I look at the games that were sent to me in the past six months through Steam’s Curator Connect, but were either too small to warrant a full review, or I simply couldn’t cover them in detail due to time constraints. When I first did this kind of posts last year (you can check them out here: Part 1, Part 2), some of the games featured there waited extremely long for being covered. Because of this, I’ve decided that from this point forward, I’ll make this a twice-a-year event, being sure that every VN given to me gets its space on the blog within a reasonable time period. As always, I’m extremely thankful to all the developers that send me their work for assessment and it saddens me whenever my impressions are negative. I hope, however, that the feedback I can offer will be valuable to them, while believe it’s my duty to my readers to warn them against buying a game I find lacking. So, setting the introductory drivel aside, I hope you enjoy this brief overview of these four interesting VNs sent to me during the first half of 2019! Snowed IN Snowed IN is an unusual yuri nukige, focusing on pair for soldiers in the distant future, where cybernetic enhancement of the human body has reached incredible levels of sophistication. The protagonist, Sigma, is an experienced spec-ops officer who has modified her body to the point where little of it remains organic. For an infiltration mission against a cell of anti-augmentation radicals, she’s assigned with a fresh, talented recruit – a full “natural” named Linde, whose presence in the military is connected with an affirmative action plan for those not augmented. The two polar-opposite individuals, both through their background and attitudes, have to work together to survive the extremely dangerous assignment – and the mission itself hides even more threats and twists then the initial setup would suggest. Sounds intriguing? It surely does, but the fact this is a nukige, and a very short one at that (up to an hour and a half of content), should be taken into account when setting your expectations. The game explores its main themes rather briefly, often switching to sex scenes that are only vaguely justifiable in the context of the tense plot – the writing and main intrigue are solid, but simply too rushed to provide a compelling narrative. There are also some highly-questionable elements to it, especially in the rather distasteful bad ending – that’s definitely one point at which h-content was very unnecessary, even if those scenes are the “main point” of the game. As a piece of yuri smut in an unusual setting, it's definitely not the worst thing around – just don't expect anything more than that. Final Rating: (Cautiously) Recommended Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  10. 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
  11. 4 points
    Clephas

    Silverio Ragnarok

    The final game in the Silverio series enters with a whimper and exits with a bang. First, this game absolutely requires that you have played the previous two to appreciate. Too much of what is going on requires understanding of concepts that aren't reintroduced but constantly referenced throughout the game. This game is based only a few years after Trinity in Canterbury, the theocratic state ruled by a Japanophilic religion based on seeing old Japan as a sort of El Dorado. I should note that the brief summary of the concept I am about to give WILL spoil parts of Trinity and Vendetta, so I am going to ask that anyone who wants to avoid these skip down past the next paragraph.. I also recommend that anyone who has played the previous two games that wants to start Ragnarok avoid the official website and store pages' descriptions and character profiles at all costs. While most of the information there is revealed within the first hour or two of play, it does hurt the experience that so much is revealed just by reading up on the game in advance. Ragnarok starts as a revenge story, wherein the protagonist - Ragna - and his childhood friend - Misaki - set out to take revenge on the four immortal gods who founded and have ruled Canterbury for the past thousand years. They are accompanied by Cecile, the current head of the Liberati family of Antalya and they are allied with Angelica, an Inquisitor of the Church. Now, I should note that a recurring theme throughout the story is that the four immortals are not, as is standard to most stories, full of weak points that can be easily used against them. They are immortals who have long-since left behind the weaknesses of their youth. They have such an immensity of experience behind them that they have literally seen (in a general sense) every variation on rebellion, love, hate, betrayal, etc that humans have to offer. In addition, their brains are still young, so they are constantly learning, and they instantly process everything around them based on preexisting experience. I feel the need to make the distinction partly because it is constantly emphasized at every point of the story and in part because my own assumptions were sort of left in the dust by this approach to immortality. I'll be blunt, while the first scene is dramatic and awesome, the pacing of the early part of the game is pretty abrupt. I think this is worth noting because it is out of character for Light, which tends to produce games that start out at a pretty deliberate pace before accelerating rapidly as you approach path splits. This led to an uncharacteristic disconnect with the characters for me during much of the common route, which is perhaps the most negative part of this game. In addition, there are a lot of aspects of this game that are more... intimately gut-wrenching and visceral than either of the previous two games. In particular, any major scene that involves Izana threatens to give me nightmares, because she seems like someone you would normally see in a Clock Up game. I also felt a constant sense of pity for all the people used by the antagonists. To be honest, the degree to which the antagonists quite naturally manipulate people without it seeming like manipulation makes Gilbert from Trinity look open and honest. Now for the main characters. One thing I liked about this game is that the main characters had actual reasons for being so deadly beyond mere 'fate' or natural talent. Ragna and Misaki are mercenaries (with Ragna having been an unwilling comrade of Dainslief at one point), Cecile was raised from birth to her role, and Angelica both has unmatched talent and has worked to polish it. One problem that constantly hurts many chuunige is the obsessive tendency many games have to give massive power to someone who has no training, no knowledge, and no skills to use it. It might make newbies find it easier to empathize with them, but for someone a bit more jaded it can be highly irritating. The music in this game utilizes a mix of music from previous games in the series, as well as new tracks. In this case, it works to the game's advantage, because it provides a distinct sense of continuity between the three entries in the series. This is especially the case for the few SOL scenes and the less climactic battle scenes, where a new track would be unlikely to help. Angelica For people who hate Izana as much as I do, Angelica's path can be seriously depressing at times. Of the three paths, it pushes the plotting aspects of the four immortals into the forefront the most bluntly and in the most distasteful of ways. There is no sense of the glorious (a common experience in Trinity and Vendetta) in the battles, save for one midway through, and there is a lot of devastation left in the wake of the story's progression (even by Light standards). Angelica is an Inquisitor, as well as being the one in control of the foreign pleasure district, and she has a good brain to match. This is a girl who has survived by hiding her rebelliousness and utter hatred for the four immortals for the entirety of her young life, always acting the obedient servant of the gods. As such, she is as twisted up inside as some of the series' antagonists, and she makes Chitose from Vendetta seem simple and straightforward. That said, she is an Amatsu, so she is predictably extreme in her loves and hates. This path's most excellent moments mostly concentrate near the end, with there being a lot of plotting and losing battles (which can get frustrating) in the middle. That said, without the buildup of all those tragic and frustrating moments, this path wouldn't have turned out nearly as good. Cecile Cecile is the head of the Liberati, one of the Ten Families of Antalya, an oligarchic nation ruled by laissez-faire capitalism at its worst. As such, she has a definite dark side... but with Ragna and Misaki she is easygoing and loving. In fact, with Ragna she aggressively shows her loving side... while showing her bloodlust in private whenever they speak of the antagonists. Other than Ragna and Misaki, she has the most intense hatred for the game's antagonists, and the impression of her as a blood-hungry avenger is only enhanced, rather than weakened, by her friendship with the other two avengers. Her path is more straightforward than Angelica's, but it still has a ton of plotting by the path's two primary antagonists. What would be a perfect plan to the antagonist of a normal chuunige antagonist is only the first of many layers for the antagonists of this game, and this path shows the sheer cold-blooded nature of that plotting without the more grotesque aspects you see in Angelica's path. I'd say that the battles in this path are slightly improved from that of Angelica's. Misaki ... it is fairly obvious that this is the true path from the beginning, but even without that, the fact that this path is literally 2.5 times longer than the other two heroine paths would tell you that in any case. Misaki is Ragna's childhood friend, partner, almost-lover, and best friend all wrapped into one silver-haired package. Normally, she is a cheerful, easygoing country girl with a slight tendency toward eccentricity. However, in the worst kind of battles, she can show a cold harshness that is at odds with her normal persona. This path has so many turn and turn about moments that I won't bother to explain them here. Just let it be said that this path was a fitting... a more than fitting end to the series that I wished would never end. There are so many points where you think things are over and suddenly the apparently losing side turns the tables that after a while, I just felt like I was going to drop from sheer emotional exhaustion. Conclusion This is, by far, the most complex of the three games. As such, it is also the most challenging for the reader to keep everything that is going on straight. Considering that both Vendetta and Trinity were fairly complex, even as chuunige go, that is definitely saying something. I will say that, while the pacing can be choppy toward the beginning, once things really get going in the heroine paths, that clears itself up pretty quickly. This game, like most Light chuunige, has great battles, great characters, great writing, and a great story... and it probably will never get translated, lol. I'm sad to see this series end, and I am even more sad not to know the future of Light's staff or even the Light name (I'm still hoping that Akabei will keep the team together). However, if it had to end, it does end on a bang.
  12. 4 points
    Clephas

    Kami-sama no You na Kimi e

    Kami-sama no You na Kimi e is the latest game by Cube, and it is based in a near-future setting where AIs run just about every aspect of society. In this society, people have gotten past that raw terror of AI horror stories and have pretty much accepted the the ease and luxury of having AI run most of the important things that make civilization possible. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Kaito, is hacking into Central AI, the AI based on the Moon that runs most of the world's infrastructure. Triumphantly, he succeeds, essentially gaining control over the AI that rules the world... and the one thing he asks for before getting out of the system is for it to find his ideal girlfriend, which the system then says doesn't exist. Kaito, quite naturally, is a bit down after this, but he goes to sleep more or less normally... only to answer the door in the morning to find his ideal girl standing outside. Quite naturally, this ideal girl is Tsukuyomi, the game's flagship heroine and the embodiment of Central AI in girl form. As requested, she is already completely deredere over him, and a great deal of the common route has him running from her excessively sexual approaches. In the days after this, like dominoes falling in a row, he meets a number of attractive heroines, and he shows off the usual donkan protagonist routine almost constantly when it matters. Now, just from this, you'd think this was your standard charage... but in actuality, it is a lot closer to a plotge in structure. The heroines have real issues, the protagonist doesn't flake out or become less interesting as you proceed, and the paths actually have solid stories that involve most of the game's cast of characters. For someone who wants an SOL plotge with some decent drama in a futuristic setting, this game is pure crack. Tsukuyomi I probably should have left her for last, but I played Tsukuyomi's path first. Tsukuyomi is the game's obvious main heroine, the girl who is most prominent on the package and in the advertising, and in general is the one most central in the common route. In most cases, I don't like 'no common sense' heroines, but Tsukuyomi manages to pull it off without it feeling excessively contrived, which is actually a feat, considering she is a robot heroine. It is helped along by the fact that Kaito generally accepts that Tsukuyomi is what she is, has no illusions about her nature, and is perfectly fine with her being a different existence from himself. Her story is your usual deredere heroine romance at first, but it quickly goes dramatic about midway through, for reasons that should be fairly obvious. While the templated turn of events in this path is not revolutionary, it is well-executed and interesting. There is even a truly surprising and emotional moment near the end that had me crying. That, in itself, makes this path a success. My only real complaint is that this path lacked an epilogue to tie off the story. Rein Rein is the cold-hearted student council president, an honor student with a black heart and an overabundance of pride. Her path branches off from Tsukuyomi's path and is a great deal weaker, at least in my opinion. To be honest, this path was kind of 'meh' for me, since it never revealed anything important about the details of what was going on with Rein beyond the basics that were revealed in Tsukuyomi's path, which is a huge weakness in a plotge or a charage. While the protagonist remains a cool and interesting character, the failures of this path are really glaring. Worse, the same as Tsukuyomi's path, there is no real epilogue, meaning you don't get to find out what happened after. Rana Rana... Rana is the heroine on the cover dressed like Sherlock Holmes, a cosplay uniform she wears nearly constantly. As it indicates, she is a private detective and extremely intelligent... but also fairly perverted (she has a thing for Kaito's butt). Her path... let's just say it is surprising and diverges widely from the events in Tsukuyomi's path (I didn't really like how Tsukuyomi almost became a non-entity in her path, but meh...). This path... is a bit depressing, to be honest. Oh, if you choose the Rana-only good ending, it is actually pretty good and heart-warming at the end, but the process you go through to reach that point is pretty hard if you came to like Rana. Sophia/Sophia & Rana At first glance, Sophia seems like your standard 'yurufuwa oneesan', but she is actually a fairly intelligent adult (yes, she is the adult heroine in this game). She is Rana's older sister and one of those involved in developing the S-CHIP, an AI chip designed to be implanted into the human brain as an aid to those who have brain diseases. Sophia's 'path' diverges from Rana's during the darkest period of Rana's path, and... to be honest, while it is easy to understand why it happens, this path is fairly unusual/stand out for a modern VN for reasons I'm not going to spell out here. Anyway, toward the end of Sophia's path, you have to decide whether you want the protagonist to be with just Sophia or with both Sophia and Rana... of course, after a seriously awkward set of events. Generally, I recommend the Sophia and Rana choice... the guilt-trip you get from choosing just Sophia is pretty awful. Kirika Kirika is the protagonist's fellow loner, a girl who accuses him of stalking her because they keep meeting whenever they are trying to find places to be alone. Her secret comes out relatively early in the common route, but I'll keep it quiet since it is funnier if you don't know in advance. Her path actually begins very much like a charage path. It is only toward the end where it becomes as deadly serious as the other paths above. Indeed, in some ways it is the grimmest and most shocking of the paths, even compared to the depressing aspects of Rana's path. It is also the path where the other heroines showed the least amount of relevance, a fact that I have mixed feelings about, considering how powerful the characters are. Similar to most of the paths above, this path's greatest weakness is the fact that while it does have a conclusion, it doesn't have an epilogue or after-story to tie off the last few loose ends. For that reason, I'm pretty sure they are planning a fandisc, as I can't see them leaving things as is. Airi Airi has the dubious honor of having the single weakest path in the game. She is a net idol that the protagonist meets in the course of interacting with Kirika, and her main focus in life is on her work, despite being the youngest heroine. Unfortunately, she is also the least unusual personality in the group, meaning that her character is by far the weakest... and her path follows suit. Where the other paths had somewhat grandiose episodes that showed off the darkest aspects of an over-connected society, Airi's path's drama feels like an extension of internet trolling, so I had trouble getting into it. Conclusion A good game with a solid setting and characters, this is probably a good choice for those who want a decent near-future sci-fi plotge who have already played Komorebi no Nostalgica and Missing X-Link. Tsukuyomi is an above-average AI heroine, though she falls short of the genius of Cinema and Fluorite from Komorebi or the raw emotions experienced with the AIs in Missing X-Link. It's greatest flaw is how it handles the endings, a common flaw in modern VNs that seems to be born of the bad habits of the fandisc-loving charage companies. It's greatest strength lies in the way it manages to keep the protagonist, the heroines, and the story interesting while balancing it with enough SOL to make them feel real in the first place.
  13. 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
  14. 4 points
    Clephas

    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.
  15. 4 points
    Sekai Project VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery World End Economica June 2014 May 2015 Not yet delivered Clannad November 11th 2014 October 2015 March 2016 Grisaia Trilogy December 2014 October 2015 April 2018 Memory’s Dogma June 2015 December 2016 Not yet delivered The Human Reignition Project June 2015 December 2016 Not yet delivered Narcissu 10th Anniversary Anthology Project October 2015 April 2016 Not yet delivered Root Double January 2016 March 2016 November 2016 Chrono Clock August 2016 April 2017 Not yet delivered A Clockwork Ley-Line Febuary 2017 January 2018 Not yet delivered Fatal Twelve March 2017 January 2018 November 2018 Hoshizora No Memoria May 2017 September 2018 Not yet delivered Shining Song Starnova August 2017 August 2018 June 2019 A light in the Dark February 2018 June 2018 Not yet delivered Tokyo Chronos July 2018 April 2019 Not yet delivered Frontwing VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery Corona Blossom vol 1 June 2016 October 2016 July 2019 Corona Blossom vol 2 September 2016 December 2016 July 2019 Sharin no Kuni November 2016 October 2017 Not yet delivered Corona Blossom vol 3 December 2016 March 2017 July 2019 Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 1 and 2 March 2017 June 2017 March 2019 Grisaia Complete box March 2017 Q4 2017 Febuary 2019 Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 3 June 2017 September 2017 Not yet delivered Wonderful Everyday August 2017 January 2018 Not yet delivered Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 4 November 2017 April 2018 Not yet delivered Momoiro Closet Febuary 2018 July 2018 Not yet delivered Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 5 June 2018 October 2018 Not yet delivered Island August 2018 December 2018 Not yet delivered Sol Press VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery Sakura Sakura August 2017 December 2017 Not yet delivered Newton and the Apple Tree December 2017 May 2018 Not yet delivered Irotoridori no Sekai Febuary 2019 December 2021 Not yet delivered Others VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery Muv-Luv September 2015 September 2016 July 2018 Libra of the Vampire Princess December 2015 November 2016 May 2017 Dies Irae December 2016 May 2017 April 2018 Koropokkur March 2018 September 2018 October 2018 Venusblood Frontier September 2018 December 2019 December 2019 Seven Days September 2018 January 2019 Not yet delivered Aokana June 2019 December 2019 Not yet delivered
  16. 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.
  17. 4 points
    This scene is the opening of Silverio Vendetta, and the two monologues (one from Zephyr, one from a spoiler character who isn't named in the scene) define the nature of the game's theme. “勝利”とは、何だ? What is victory? “栄光”とは、何だ? What is glory? それを得れば、何も失わずに済むのだろうか I choose that path, will I be able to live without losing anything? 救えるのか。守れるのか。本当に、幸せになれるのだろうか Can I save what is mine? Can I protect it? Can I really find happiness?  問いは切実。なぜなら、勝利というものはとても恐ろしいものだから。それが輝きの内に秘めている毒牙を、俺は誰より痛感している。 I ask this earnestly. For victory is by nature frightening to me. I know the poisoned fangs hidden within its glorious light better than anyone.   身の丈を超えた栄誉、使い切れないほどの大金、人目に付かざるを得ない大成功……そういったものはどうしても過剰摂取してしまった途端、逆に所有者を苦しめにかかる。 Honors that leave capability in the dust, more money than one can spend, success that can't help but be noticed... Those things can't help but cause the holder suffering the moment they overdose upon them.   つまりは反作用。 In other words, it is a reaction.   分かりやすいところでは敗者からの妬みつらみに有名税、人物像の一人歩きに、あらぬ期待や噂話。過激なものでは殺害予告、崇拝脅迫などなどと…… Amongst the more obvious would be jealousy from the defeated, the price of fame, the public's view differing from reality, and unfounded rumors and expectations. The more extreme end can even go to death threats, worship, blackmail, etc...  悪意か、あるいは逆に暴走した善意ゆえか。どちらにしても恐ろしいことには変わりなく。 Whether it is malice or berserk good will, they are both terrifying.   それは時として単純な敗北を上回る激痛と化し、更なる破滅の呼び水となる。 At times, that even becomes a suffering far more terrible than simple defeat, and it can even become the cause of utter ruin.   大きな事業が成功した代償に、愛する家族に累が及べば本末転倒。それと同じだ。 It is the same as losing your family as the cost for succeeding in business. It's counterproductive.   時としてここは負けておくだとか、少し遠慮をしてみせるとか、そういった配慮が必要な瞬間は間違いなく存在している。勝てば官軍とは早々いかない It is an absolute truth that there are times when it is best to consider allowing defeat or showing humility.  無論、だからといって勝利するなと言っているわけでもないのだ。そんなことを真剣に語るやつは心底馬鹿だし、目が曇っていると言う他ない。 Of course, I'm not saying 'don't win'. Anyone who says that is a total idiot and is blind to reality.   人ならば誰しも、いいやどんな生物であろうと例外なく勝利という結果を目指す。それが自然で、当たり前の行動原理だ。そもそも負けてばかりでは生きることさえ難しく、無制限に敗者を許してくれるほど世の中は甘い形に出来てはいない。 Humans... no all living things regardless of origin seek a victorious result. That way of being is perfectly natural and a matter of course. It is truly rare that victory is unadulterated. In the first place, if you are always on the losing side, it is hard to even live, and the world isn't so kind as to infinitely forgive the defeated.   だからそいつの器に見合った勝利と、妥協できる程度の敗北。その一線を見極めて行動するのが充実した人生を送るコツではなかろうかと、思わざるを得ないのだ。 That's why the ideal is to seek victories one is capable of handling and defeats one is capable of accepting. I can't help but believe that the key to living a full life is acting while keeping an eye on that thin line. 大きな夢を目指すことで惨めに敗れるくらいなら、最初から挑戦せずにそこそこの勝負で済ませておくのが最も賢く、傷も浅い……と。 'Rather than suffering a terrible defeat as the result of pursuing a great dream, it is much smarter and less painful to avoid challenging your limits and be satisfied with minor victories and losses...' 反吐の出そうな弱者の論理展開だがこれを口にしているやつは存外多く、かくいう俺もその一人。 That's the nauseating thought process of the weak, but there are a lot of people out there who talk this way... and I am one of them. 卑小? 凡人? そうだな、指摘されてもその通り。自分自身でよく分かっているよ。予め負けた時のために予防線を張っているだけだろうと誹られても、まったく、ぐうの音も出ない Pathetic? Mediocre? Yes, what you are saying is correct. I know that very well. Even if you say I'm just making excuses for the time I lose in advance, I can't refute you. そうだとも、俺は小物だ。 That's right, I'm a pathetic man. 人としても男としても、小さな器しか持っていない。 Whether as a person or a man, I am only capable of so much. 大した理想や信念もなくその日暮らしの金銭さえ手に入れられれば満足という、翻弄される風見鶏。 I live without any real ideals or convictions, an opportunist who is quite satisfied as long as he can make enough money to live day by day. 受動的、かつ厭世的。ただ一言、情けない。 I'm passive as well as pessimistic. To sum me up in a single word... pathetic. けれど── However... それでもただ一つ、言い訳をさせてもらうなら悟ったまでの人生について具申したい。 Still, if you'll let me make one excuse, I would like to report on the life I lived until I came to this realization. 俺は何も負け続けたからこうなったわけではなく、求めてもいない勝利のせいでこうなってしまったのだから。 I didn't end up this way because I kept losing but rather because of an unwanted set of victories. そう──勝てば碌なことにはならない。 That's right... nothing good comes of winning. 必ず、より強大な姿となって次の苦難が訪れる。 Without fail, the next, much larger tribulation follows it up. それは冗談みたいな言葉だが俺にとっては紛うことなく真実だった。 That might seem like some kind of joke... but it was an absolute truth for me. 本当に、ああ本当に、いつもいつも、いつもいつもいつもいつも…… Really, oh really... every time, always, always always... 敵に、任務に、難問に、勝負に、勝ったところで状況が一向に改善されない。それどころか、難易度がアップした状態で似たような事態が連続するという始末。まったく訳が分からない。 Whether an enemy, a mission, a difficult question, or a competition, achieving victory fails to improve the situation. Moreover, I found myself facing similar situations at escalating levels of difficulty. Seriously, what's with that? 身をすり減らして勝った途端、より恐るべき難題が必ず目の前にふりかかる。 The moment I won by running myself ragged, an even worse problem would always, without exception, pop up before me. 血反吐をはいて生き抜いた途端、どこからか容易に超えざる大敵が次は俺の番だと出現してくる。 The moment I came out victorious, puking blood, another great enemy would appear before me. まるで運命という宝箱をぶちまけでもしたかのように。際限なく湧き出てくる次の問題、次の敵、次の次の次の次の──勝者が負わねばならぬ義務。 It was almost as if the contents of fate's treasure box were scattered before me. Problems, enemies, and every tribulation you could possibly imagine welling forth endlessly... the duty a victor must bear. おまえは見事に勝ったのだから、栄光を手にしたのだから、次のステージに進むのは当然でより相応しい争いに身を投じなければならないとでも? Is the world saying that, since I won, since I achieved glory that proceeding to the next stage is a matter of course, and I have to throw myself into a more fitting conflict? それが勝者の宿命だから? ふざけろよ、こんな馬鹿げた話があるか Because that is the duty of a victor? Screw that! Can there be anything more idiotic than this?! 誰しもみな現状をより良くしたいから勝利や栄光を願うのに、なぜか俺に限ってはそれが自らの首を絞めていくのだから、不条理という他ないだろう。 Everyone seeks victory and glory to make their present better, but for some reason, in my case, that just strangles me. You can't call that anything other than absurdity. そして当然、凡人なのだから負けもする。いいやむしろ、何も出来ずに地を這う方が多いくらいだ。 And of course, since I'm just a normal person, I lose as well. No, it was actually more common for me to be crawling the earth, helpless. それが嫌だから研鑽を積み、慣れない努力に手を伸ばしたこともある。 There was a time when, because I didn't like that, I took the unfamiliar path of working hard. けれど勝てば、決まって訪れる次の困難。永遠に脱出不能の蟻地獄。頭がどうにかなりそうだった。 However, if I won, I was doomed to face the next tribulation. It was a hellish existence I was incapable of escaping. I felt like I was going to go mad. そんな状態に置かれて尚不屈の意志を保てるほど、人の心は強くない。 Placed into that kind of situation, the human heart isn't so strong as to be able to maintain an indomitable will. だから、俺はもう十分だと疲れ果てて。 And so, I decided I had enough, exhausted. このまま、ただ流されて生きることを選択し。 I chose to live going with the flow. 自分が塵だということを、嫌になるほど受け入れたのに。 Though I hated it, I even accepted the fact that I was worthless trash. けれど── However... それでも、守らなければならない子が出来たから。 Yest still, I found a girl I had to protect. 彼女を救うために、このちっぽけな命を懸けると誓った。ゆえに後もう一度だけと奮い立たせて、再起する。 I vowed to use this pathetic life to save her. For that reason, I forced myself to stand and go forth once again. 一世一代、最後の博打。そして俺は何の因果か勝ってしまい…… It was a once in a lifetime, final gamble... and for some reason I won... どうしようもなく“勝利”を手にしてしまったのだ。 And I achieved yet another terrible victory. それがすなわち、地獄への片道切符に変貌するということをついぞ甘くみたままに…… I foolishly failed to realize that that was doomed to transform into a one-way trip to hell... (at this point, it changes narrators from Zephyr to another) 死神が呼び寄せられる。手に負えない艱難辛苦が訪れる。 The grim reaper is called forth. Trials and tribulations beyond my ability to handle arrive. 守り抜くなど絶対不可能。勝者へは永遠に至れない。 Protecting her to the end is absolutely impossible. He will never become a true victor. 訪れる次の大敵──次の不幸。次の苦難。次の破滅。 What comes is another enemy, another misfortune, another tribulation, another ruin. 掴み取ったはずの未来は暗黒に蝕まれたまま続行していく。 The future he thought he'd reached continues to move forward, eaten away by darkness. むしろ手にした奇跡を呼び水に、よりおぞましい新たな試練を組み込んで運命を駆動させるのだ。 Rather, the miracle he managed to create becomes fuel for another challenge, turning the wheels of fate. それが“逆襲”と呼ばれるものの本質。 That is the nature of a 'counterattack'. 弱者が強者を滅ぼすからこそ成立する概念は、ゆえ逆説的に、勝利の栄華を手にしてしまえば執行資格を失ってしまう。 As it is a concept that exists through the weak destroying the strong, if the glory of victory is achieved, the right to use it is lost. ……彼は永遠の負け犬、呪われた銀の人狼。 ... He is an eternal loser, the cursed silver werewolf. 常に敗亡の淵で嘆きながらあらゆる敵を巨大な咢門で噛み砕く、痩せさらばえた負の害獣。 The gaunt evil beast who crushes all enemies in its great jaws while howling its despair from the depths of defeat. 次にやって来る狩人が更に凶悪な存在になると分かっていても、自分自身の宿命から逃れられずに足掻いている。 He continues to struggle, even though he knows that the next hunter will be even more terrible than the last, unable to escape his destiny. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. 「ならば────」 "Then..." ──さあ、どうするか? ... now, what will you do?
  18. 4 points
    In our obscure EVN market, there are rarely games or events that could be described as major controversies – even the most unfortunate releases or Kickstarter disasters usually don’t involve enough people and money to gather the attention of the community for a longer period of time or spark a mass backlash. Along with Aeon Dream Studios’ k-pop fan game debacle (a really amazing story of incompetence and borderline-fraud, if you care to follow it), No One But You is possibly the most controversial and polarizing EVN ever released. Appearing on the relatively-barren landscape of early 2015 and promising experience similar to the high-budget Japanese VNs, it sparked a lot of interest and hope for the second coming of Katawa Shoujo – an EVN that would not feel overly niche or amateurish, but actually capture the charm of beloved Japanese titles and rival them in its storytelling. The reality, of course, proved much more underwhelming. The unexpected Kickstarter success (the campaign reached over 1200% of the initial, $1200 goal) resulted in a highly upscaled and complex project, developed within just a year by then still-unexperienced Unwonted Studios. Involving a network of over a dozen writers and artists, and a heavily-rushed release (which was never moved from the initial KS campaign claim despite of many major features being added through stretch goals), No One But You was eviscerated by many reviewers, with Fuwanovel notably giving it lowest possible score in two separate articles, and received only a mixed reception from the readers after showing up on Steam on January 2016. In a way, it remains one of the most infamous story-centric EVNs, possibly only beaten by the cheap ecchi titles such as Sakura games in the amount of hate and ridicule it gathered. However, looking at it three years later and with all the fixes and additional content added post-launch, is it really that bad? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  19. 4 points
    Clephas

    Dead Days

    On request and because I am a Kurashiki fan, I decided to play this, despite worries about the concept and the characters... and I came out finding my worries perfectly justified. First, the protagonist Teru... in a standard chuunige, he would be the jackass that gets killed after begging for his life in the opening act after doing something totally scumbag-like. Worse, rather than being merely a cold-blooded manipulator (which is how the Getchu page presented him), he is actually an irritable kid who thinks he is a lot smarter than he is. Second, the heroines... first, the punk-like Aira who overdoes her makeup and generally speaks like an airhead but has definite anger issues. Second is Asami, another man's wife who is generally weak-spirited and only clings to her second life out of a desire not to lose what she has left (her husband and child). Third is Mao, the protagonist's osananajimi who has a strong sense of justice, is pretty naive in general, and tends to get on the protagonist's nerves constantly (this gets worse after he dies and gets resurrected). Mao is the true heroine of the game... and also the single most annoying character in the game, even setting aside the protagonist's issues with her. To be blunt, she is yet another Victim A heroine presented as the true heroine of a serious game with violence... Third, the writing... I wanted to cry at how low-quality the writing in this game is compared to Kurashiki's previous two Clock-up games. Both Okami and Maggot showed off his skills in full, and as a result, they have a cult fanbase even amongst those who don't like the sexual themes involved in the latter or the social ones in the former. The basic narrative quality is scaled down to the level of the protagonist, which is hugely disappointing. Last, though this is more of a universal complaint for all Clock-up games... too much meaningless h-scenes. I hate Clock-up's visual style for H-scenes (there aren't any torture rape scenes in this one, outside of the bad endings which I didn't watch), and the presence of loli content made me vomit... twice. Seriously, was that really necessary? The good points of this VN lie solely in the individual heroine paths, because the common route is just poorly handled and paced. The heroine paths, on the other hand, are slightly stronger, though only Mao's has a decent epilogue (even by VN standards). Overall, this game felt like a really inept attempt at psychological horror. Considering how good a job Kurashiki has done previously at this kind of thing, it startled me how huge the gap in quality was between this and his previous works... both for Light and Clock-up. Even Sora no Baroque was better, and that is saying a lot.
  20. 4 points
    Clephas

    Tamayura Mirai

    Tamayura Mirai is the latest game by Azurite, the company behind Shinsou Noise and Akumade Kore wa. Unlike the previous two, it is not a guro mystery. Instead, it is a fantasy with an extremely similar setting to Monobeno (which had a great setting, even if the lolicon elements were outright disgusting). It also shares a writer (Touta) with such excellent games as Kin'iro Loveriche, Floral Flowlove, Gin'iro Haruka, and Ojousama wa Gokigen Naname. Before I go any further, I want to speak as to why I compared the setting to Monobeno. Fukano, the town/valley in which the story is set, is a backwater where youkai, humans, and deities coexist. Folk traditions, such as deities within the home, are still alive and well, if not entirely understood (the death of the last folk shaman in the area ensured that, from what is said). The protagonist's role is very similar to the role of the miko in Monobeno (keeping harmony and balance between the supernatural and mortal), and, though the younger generation isn't, a certain level of superstition remains in the older generation. In addition, the protagonist's choice to live isolated in the mountains in a run-down and modified old Japanese school (think the school from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) also echoes the isolation of the protagonist's home in Monobeno. That said, the atmosphere in the game isn't as severe as Monobeno's, though the protagonist's 'duty' is harrowing at times. All that said, this is definitely its own game. The general atmosphere is a bit somber, and the characters all have some kind of serious problem that leaves them a lot less at peace than they seem on the surface (the protagonist included). The protagonist is a mage who wields runic magic (Norse shamanic style), and he has the role of keeping peace the mixed-origin supernatural community of Fukano, the setting. He lives in an abandoned school in the mountains with a succubus named Midari, who has the dual problems of being afraid of men and deeply fearing her own nature (though her upbringing shows through at the oddest times). At the school he attends, he frequently meets with a water spirit information broker named Hanako (one of the heroines). Occasionally, he meets up with his oppai-loli 'oneechan' (who is very childish and has a really poorly-executed accent that just comes off all wrong in the VA...). The story begins with his encounter with Yukina, a girl with naturally high levels of spiritual energy who is completely untrained (and is thus a danger to herself and everyone around her, since youkai and monsters can gain power by eating such people, and others make assumptions about what she can do based on her spiritual power). I won't go into details about their meeting, because this is a game best experienced the first time without too many preconceptions. This is essentially a nakige, and it does a pretty good job of bringing out the tears. The protagonist's duty often brings him into contact with situations where he must deal with various tragedies, sometimes from the present, sometimes from the past. His own previous life isn't exactly bright and flowery either, lol. The protagonist has a tendency to see himself as weak and selfish, but he has a seemingly endless capacity for getting obsessed with solving other people's problems... which actually makes him perfect for his work (considering the nature of the mountain deity and certain hints given during the common route, it is pretty clear that he was given his role specifically because of that tendency). The heroine routes, quite naturally, focus on the issues with the heroines... to be specific, dealing with the issues that bother them the most deeply. Equally quite naturally, the first heroine I picked was Midari, the succubus. Midari Midari is a member of the succubus nobility who was exiled from her homeland because of her fear of men and inability to feed properly (essentially have sex with men...and lots of them, preferably). Worse (from her perspective), she fell in love with the protagonist on their first meeting, thus dooming her in the eyes of her people and filling her with a constant conflict between her impulses and her love for the protagonist. Midari has a very gentle and refined manner, and she has the grace that one would expect from a noblewoman... However, on occasion, she makes remarks (usual casual references to sex acts or her sisters and mother's sluttiness) that reveal rather blatantly that she isn't human and her basic upbringing wasn't either. Her path is all about dealing with her internal conflict and its real-world consequences... and this leads to a lot of nice emotional drama and a decent catharsis... though, to be honest, the cathartic scenes two-thirds of the way through the common route were better. Hanako For those who understand the reference, yes Hanako does hang around in the girls' toilet. Hanako is a water youkai that came over from China six hundred years before the story began and eventually rose to become one of the top figures of all the water youkai in Fukano. She is actually pretty powerful, and she serves as an information broker for Mutsuki (the protagonist) as he performs his duty as the Mage of Fukano. Hanako's route is a weird one and it isn't as emotional as Midari's route was. To be honest, a large part of the reason why is that the relationship part starts really quickly and feels somewhat forced... Hanako has a reason to like Mutsuki, but Mutsuki doesn't really have a good reason to fall in love with her, so it feels weird. This is in opposition to Midari, who has been at his side for some time when the story began and is insanely devoted to his well-being (not to mention sexy and graceful at the same time, lol). This route could have been handled much better by using a tactic similar to the Midari route, where they become closer during the course of him carrying out his duties... unfortunately, the way the route was handled was sadly inept for such a potentially interesting heroine. Yukina Yukina is a young woman with a natural gift for the use of spiritual power (so much so that she can attack youkai with her bare hands and blasts of raw energy). Her characterization is a straight out tsundere, so anyone who reads this VN with some experience with the character type will probably be able to predict her reactions in most situations. I started laughing at a few points when she said something so typically tsundere that I couldn't believe any writer would still use the lines...lol Yukina's route is all about her personal issues, both her past and her present ones. I do feel that this route's romance was far too hurried (like Hanako's) in the sense that their relationship should have had more time to develop into something deeper before things began to accelerate. That said, the actual events after the romance solidifies are well-written and described, and you gain a lot more insight into Mutsuki's motivations and the depth of his personality than you do in the other paths. I recommend this path be read after the other two heroines available at the beginning, simply because the revelations made here are too overarching to allow you to truly enjoy the other paths without reservation. Shiro Shiro is the protagonist's loli-oppai oneechan, who speaks with a weird houben (regional accent) that is poorly used by the VA to the point of being wince-worthy (yes, this is worth mentioning again). Shiro and Mutsuki's issues are the core of everything that has shaped Mutsuki to be the person he is. As such, it was only natural that Shiro would end up as the true path heroine... indeed, her path begins after the end of a non-romantic Yukina path. I'm not going to spoil what those issues are, but I should note that Shiro was the motivation that drove Mutsuki to become a magus. In the setting, magi are seekers of forbidden truths, similar in some ways to the magi of the Nasuverse save that they don't seem to have a large-scale organization or influence on the mundane world. As such, they frequently take actions that are amoral in the pursuit of their path of research, and many naturally think in ways that are out of sync with humanity. The Mage of Fukano is a rare exception, in that the deities of Fukano have made a role for the holder of the position in the natural existence of the valley and mountains. Mutsuki's path of research is about as immoral as it gets, even if he still has a conscience and his motivations come from a very human place. As such, it takes a central role in the major dilemma of the path, as anyone who has read Yukina's path would guess anyway. In the end, this was the path (other than the common route) which drew out the most tears from me. Shiro and Mutsuki's story is full of sorrow but ends with joy, so I can honestly say this falls into the classic 'nakige' style. Conclusions I have a few things left I want to say before bowing out on this game. First, I wanted a Feles (Mephistopheles) route, since Feles is ridiculously deredere (in a yandere way) over the protagonist. Another issue is that I thought that leaving the protagonist's deeper issues out of Midari's and Hanako's paths was something of a poor choice. Yukina is presented as a mirror to the protagonist as well as a heroine, so it is understandable that she would play such a vital role for setting up the true path. However, I felt that failing to properly deal with his personal issues in either of those two paths was a mistake. Mutsuki does have VERY serious issues that can't really be glossed over... not to mention that I seriously doubt Midari's issues would end just with what we saw in the path (living with a succubus in a state of perpetual near-starvation will inevitably have its ups and downs).
  21. 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
  22. 3 points
    kivandopulus

    Steel [Graviton]

    Foreword: I never expected a 80 hour long race out of this "episodic" story. How much time should pass till opening? What about length of the epilogue? Should there be some lines after the final credits? Believe me, Steel will surprise you with each answer. I knew that scenario from Kadokura Keisuke would be enjoyable. But it took me a full week to be able to digest it. VNDB: https://vndb.org/v6416 Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Nc368AlSs&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9jHMWwIIkzFPiTpLJ-eMP7 Synopsis: The protagonist, Tomoya, was abandoned by his mother at a tender age. He was taken in by Honjou Arisa after a chance meeting. Four girl adoptees who had joined the Honjou family home for similar reasons also lived there. Though they were not related by blood, Tomoya treated the girls as if they were his siblings. They lived peaceful lives at the Honjou residence... but one day, he encountered a strange woman in town. She was wreathed in something that looked like iron – and upon seeing her figure, he remembered that he, too, had once harbored such a metallic augment. "Is that... your Anima?" A right arm turned to metal... A peculiar corpse discovered at school... A transfer student exuding dark mist... And a foreign warrior wreathed in thick steel armor... Tomoya's peaceful life would soon begin to crumble as disaster came to visit him and his sisters. To protect them, he shall have to once again wreathe his right arm in Anima. Game type: Supernatural abilities chuuni story Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 9/10 Game quality: 4/10 Overall rating: 7/10 Basics first. This is a story of a big and powerful Honjo clan. Main character Tomoya is an adopted child who lives in the family for the last five years. Only few families possess the anima ability to turn their body into weapons. They have rivals, but don't show their powers to the outsiders. Tomoya only starts to master his anima. That brings us to structure. There are four chapters. Three first chapters have similar shape. Each of them is devoted to Honjo sisters and their anima - first Misaki, then Ayano, finally Iori. These three chapters have two endings each - initially the true one when the heroine comes off the stage in some way and then the side happy ending with each heroine. After each of four chapters there's a short explanatory chapter which is devoted mostly to past events and Honjo Alice heroine. The fourth chapter has only one ending and is devoted to the most mysterious heroine Nishinomiya Akizuki. It also covers most of the loose ends of the game. Epilogue chapter (with a small Final chapter which finalizes Explanatory Chapters) is very different from the other chapters and presents after-story for the different characters that remain on the stage up to the point. Phew, with that covered - almost - without spoilers it's possible to go on. Story is thrilling, and text is really rich. Characters are quite developed despite having no voicing thanks to whole 15-hour long chapter devoted to each of them. What I liked the most is that there are very few SOL scenes. Protagonist Tomoya starts off pretty well with all his powers awakening gradually and evolving with more emotional experiences. But game really lacks a good conflict. There are some goons (including elite ones) from the rival family, but that's it. So in result Tomoya just does not have opportunity to actually fight since we constantly need to show battle prowess of our chapter heroines. Thus he gets from cool to passive losing charm. Due to the lack of conflict some fights happen even between heroines out of trifles. But on the other hand, some antagonists jump to the stage out of the blue. Momentum never gets lost. Time to get back to story since it's the main flavor of the game. Each chapter is actually very different, so we can't stop being surprised. Misaki chapter is our straightforward nakige with personal drama and focus on the heroine alone. Ayano chapter suddenly changes focus from heroine to her anima. Iori chapter is totally different again since Iori actually can't fight. Maid Noriko has to fulfill that function, so Noriko actually gets her own ending as well. Third chapter also marks the main conflict of the game and uncovers Honjo clan secrets. Fourth chapter has the most straightforward conflict between main heroines Alice and Akizuki against their own antagonists. As for epilogue, it gives off too much of Clannad scent which is a great minus for such Clannad hater as me. Each chapter is named after anima name and explanatory chapters are called Shizoid because of the very different perspective presented. The saddest part is graphical presentation and absence of voicing. That gives a huge penalty to the quality evaluation. I can't really imagine many persons to be able to read such a huge story with such poor presentation. But - on the other hand - how many real modern masterpieces are there without voicing? Can't really remember even one out of the blue. That's an enormous feat by itself.
  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. 3 points
    There were few EVNs in the last few years that I’ve seen seriously hyped up by other VN fans and brought to my attention through multiple recommendations and positive reviews – particularly beyond titles by a handful of relatively well-known and respected creators such as ebi-hime. The game I’ll be writing about today, Soundless -A Modern Salem in Remote Area-, is one of such exceptions, enthusiastic opinions about which intrigued me to a major degree, even though it ended up being two years before I finally picked it up. And this is not where the curious and unusual things about it end: this freeware visual novel was released in late 2017 by a small circle under the name of Milk+ and is heavily influenced by the denpa subgenre of horror – one reliant on distortion of reality and chains of bizarre events, true meaning of which is usually hidden under multiple layers of mystery. It mimics extremely well the visual style and climate of the early 2000s’ Japanese games, offering a now rarely-seen call-back to parts of visual novel history highly nostalgic to many fans. And thankfully, there’s a lot more to it than just the interesting stylisation and riding on memories of the past… Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  29. 3 points
    First, as I state in the title, I'm coming off my fifth playthrough (all paths and endings) of Tokyo Babel. As such, I am - very obviously - deeply fond of the game. I'm also a fan of the writer Higashide Yuuichirou (for reference, he also wrote Ayakashibito and the scenario for Fate/Apocrypha). However, in this post I wanted to address some of the complaints I get from those who play the game. First, I will address the major complaints I've taken personally from those who read or have read it untranslated, then those who read it translated. Untranslated 1. 'This doesn't feel like a Higashide game/isn't as good as his other games!' For better or worse, Higashide went in a different direction, style, and approach in Tokyo Babel in comparison to his previous works. Ayakashibito is the basis for most untranslated Higashide fanboys' love, but it needs to be said that anyone who has played the two games will barely see any resemblance beyond the writing style. Ayakashibito was about a young man struggling against the world as he tried to carve out a life for himself with his adoptive sister. His emotional struggles with unreasonable and unreasoning prejudice, as well as the active malice of powers both great and small, struck a chord in a lot of the people who read it. Moreover, it is by far the most slice-of-life focused of all Higashide's titles, whereas a huge portion of Tokyo Babel is fighting, preparation for fighting, and dealing with conspiracies. 2. 'I loved Dies Irae and this was recommended to me based on that, but it doesn't match up.' This one makes me laugh. Sorry, I'm not trying to be contemptuous, but, despite some surface resemblances, Tokyo Babel is wildly different from Dies Irae. Higashide is not a poet. Masada is. Higashide is calculating where Masada is impulsive. As such, I can honestly say the only resemblance between the two is that they both have a preference for fantasy and melodrama. Dies Irae is an opera, whereas Tokyo Babel is more straightforward and to the point, in comparison. 3. 'Why is there no ero? All his other games had ero, so why not this one?' I have to wonder if anyone but me was surprised at this one being the third most common complaint I got from those I recommended this game to. Yes, his other games have a mix of good and horrid ero (Ayakashibito is particularly infamous for its side-character scenes), but Tokyo Babel was written from beginning to end as an all-ages novel. Surprisingly, I agree with those who think the lack of ero in Tokyo Babel had a negative effect. To be blunt, I can't see Lilith not finding a way to shove Setsuna into Raziel's futon or failing to trap him in a room alone with Sorami... and that's setting aside several moments in her path that would have made for some great 'desperate and somber H' scenes. Higashide, for all that his ero scenes were sometimes awful (again, Ayakashibito), always made them relevant to the story and used them to enhance its flow... something many chuuni writers who utilize ero content fail to do. 4. 'What the heck is it with this game's weird mix of styles?!' I'm not an art bigot, so I'm not the best person to answer this question. This game's art style differs from previous Propeller games to a significant degree at times. Is that a good or bad thing? Hard to answer... though I do think the decision to make the main characters look younger than in previous games (with some exceptions) was questionable, lol. Translated 1. 'What is with the translation?!!!!'. Aah... this is the idiot argument. Sorry, but I've said this a thousand times before 'Japanese to English translation is an oxymoron'. Conjueror was pretty much the only translator brave enough to jump into translating something like Dies Irae or Tokyo Babel precisely because fans of this type of game are such a-holes when it comes to translations. Yes, it isn't perfect. Yes, it doesn't somehow magically mirror Higashide's brilliance perfectly. However, I would like to make a few major points for those who insist they could do better... Japanese has numerous concepts, sayings, and even casual phrasing that simply don't translate into English without a much larger number of words to fill in the gaps in the language. One reason I always recommend anyone who can read a game in Japanese (even if they have to use a parser and text hooker) do so is because it is impossible to perfectly replicate everything in a localization to English. It is possible to get across many concepts with creative language and a wide vocabulary in English, but that sometimes means spending minutes or even an hour on a single line, trying to create something that can somehow retain the best parts of the original. Chuuni translations tend to be awkward (both anime and games) because the language used requires more of this, and it becomes too easy to fall into the habit of robotically spewing out the translation instead of actually writing it into prose (look at the FGO cell phone game and you'll see what I mean). 2. 'This wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be!' This one puzzles me... but then, I never played the game all the way through in English (I went up through the Miyako fight in Raziel's route to get an idea of what it was like), so maybe more was lost in the localization toward the middle and end than I thought. 3. 'The subject matter made me uncomfortable'... Ah yes, this one. To be honest, even I felt the remnants of my upbringing pounding on the doors of my psyche at times when I played this game. To be blunt, to anyone brought up in a devout Christian (or even Muslim) household, playing any of the routes can be enormously uncomfortable at times. By the nature of the process of 'suspending disbelief' that occurs when you read something fantasy, your prejudices and upbringing inevitably play into how you see the game. To be blunt, by Christian standards, this game is blasphemous, lol. In Japan, due to the way the divine is seen (impossible to explain if you haven't studied it, so I won't go into this here), this game doesn't feel that way. However, this game can cause some odd reactions in some Westerners. 4. 'I don't get the humor.' Sad to say, but a good portion of humor in Japanese VNs simply doesn't translate very well. The funniest scene in the game (in my opinion) is the drunken party in Sorami's path... but there are several points in this scene that don't translate (think plays on Japanese wording, puns, and phone number styles) that had me cracking up every time. Sad to say, but, for those playing translated JVNs, this is something you'll just have to live with. Conclusion I didn't really refute any of the complaints here... but I did try to address them. Tokyo Babel is one of the few of my favorite games that have been translated (though more of them have been in recent years, including Hapymaher and Dies Irae), but it is also the one of my translated favorites that is most likely not to be mentioned when someone is asking about this type of game.
  30. 3 points
    Clephas

    Kimagure Temptation

    Kazuki Fumi and Silky's Plus Wasabi's newest game has arrived. This is the third game in the series that began with Nanairo Reincarnation. I will say this outright from the beginning... this game isn't as good as either Akeiro or Nanairo. It does have its high points, but it needs to be noted that this is not on the same level as the previous two games. This game uses the Emote system heavily, with the sole heroine (Annelise) being extremely 'animated' (think constantly swaying boobs) to a degree I haven't even seen in other games that utilize this system. Similar to the other games in the series, this game has excellent artwork that differs from most other Japanese VNs. The music in this game isn't as good as Akeiro's or Nanairo Reincarnation's was. To be blunt, in both the previous games, the music played a strong role in making the game what it was, and the music direction (when to use what BGM) was on the highest levels I've seen in the VN industry. Unfortunately, this game falls far short of either of those two in this area, with a much weaker set of BGMs. The game focuses around the protagonist's efforts to solve the mystery behind the mass suicide of the denizens of an apartment in the same town Nanairo Reincarnation was based in. Based on what is said in-game, the canon path that reaches to this game is Kotori's path in Nanairo and Youko's path (the Tsukihime-style normal ending) in Akeiro. Also, based on certain 'events', it is apparent that around two decades have passed since the events in Nanairo, for reasons that will become rather obvious early in the game (in other words, play Nanairo and Akeiro first if you don't want to be spoiled). To be blunt, this game has a much tighter focus on the mystery element than either of the previous games, with less immediate sentimentality and more confrontation with the dead people 'living' in the apartments. In addition, Anne's constant advances help it retain the goofiness that was present in both the previous games. This game has multiple endings, but I chose to only play the true one, as I figured (and I was right) that it would have the best possible result for everyone involved. Of course, when everyone besides the protagonist is dead or inhuman, that can be somewhat bittersweet. If you were to ask me whether it was worth crying over what happened in this game, I would say yes... in particular, I cried for Kanon and Akira (two of the victims), as their lives and final deaths were the most tragic and their natures (surprising in the case of Akira) were the least inimical to others. The true ending is definitely a tear-jerker...though it doesn't pull the tears out of me to the degree that either of the previous games did. Part of this is that both Akeiro and Nanairo are long games with extensive, detailed, and deep character development and superb presentation. The other part is that, while I predicted the truth behind what happened about two-thirds of the way through, I found that the mystery 'investigation' system crippled the game's ability to draw me in and keep me in. To be blunt, if a game only has a single heroine, I only want minimal choices to be present, and I certainly don't want to have to deal with this kind of gameplay. The gameplay is too perfunctory to be enjoyable, and it is too intrusive and intrinsic to the game as a whole for the reader to be able to stay fully engrossed in the experience. In conclusion, this is a game where the concept was good and the staff was first class, but where the attempts to be clever (such as with the gameplay system) fell flat. It is still a reasonably high-level game, but, considering what Kazuki Fumi has managed to do in the past with this universe, I can't help but feel it could have been handled better.
  31. 3 points
    Love in Space, authors of the highly-appreciated Sunrider series, are a very peculiar kind of EVN developer. In their games, they unapologetically cater to weeaboo sensitivities, copying the Japanese storytelling tropes and stylistics pretty much in every aspect of their games. Sunrider: Liberation Day, the second Sunrider titles was the clearest example of this, with its Japanese speech mannerisms (which look at least a bit questionable in English prose), Japanese voice acting and pompous, Japanese opening song – each of them included despite the story being placed in a fictional sci-fi world with no clear connection to Japan, and being directed pretty much exclusively to Western otaku audience. Thankfully, the studio also was able to supplement its second-hand Japanese identity with some interesting ideas, consistently high production quality and, for the most part, compelling stories. After the second Sunrider game was completed (and after the backlash from its controversial conclusion was partially mended with an alternate-timeline DLC), Love in Space decided to double down in their turbo-Japanese formula, announcing Shining Song Starnova – a game about a Japanese idol producer trying to turn a team of misfits into major stars of the entertainment business. Funded both through a large Kickstarter campaign and substantial Patreon support, it became the studio’s most ambitious project by far, promising, among other things, seven heroine routes, partial VA by a cast of experienced eroge seiyuu and a high-quality soundtrack appropriate for the game’s music-related main theme. After long development and delays caused by Steam policy changes, SSS was finally released in July 2018, to quite a lot of fanfare, and sparked genuine interest from the VN community. But, was it able to deliver on its ambitious goals? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  32. 3 points
    Finally got around to publishing this after letting it sit in the oven for four months. Life happened, I guess. Anyway, instead of doing what I usually do and copy-pasting my article here on fuwa, I thought I'd just leave the link to my blog. Feel free to make use of the comment section below, however, as we're still working on setting up Disqus. I tried to make the article as spoiler-free as possible, so that those who haven't yet played the game can enjoy it nonetheless. https://j-addicts.de/great-ace-attorney-impressions/ This article was written on May 3rd. There's a chance that some of the information might be outdated regarding the fan translation group Scarlet Study. However, this should not affect the content of the article itself. Also, a huge shoutout to @Tyrosyn for working tirelessly on the new website design and making everything look nice, as well as his countless suggestions to improve my work. I'd also like to thank @Zander for giving my article a quick editing pass, that which finally forced me to finally getting around to publish it. Although I call it an impressions article, it grew wild beyond my expectations. With that out of the way, please do enjoy reading my review.
  33. 3 points
    Perceptions of the Dead 2, released on Steam on June 2018, is a light-horror visual novel by Ithaqua Labs, a team whose titles stand out from the usual output of Western VN studios through their unique, vibrant artstyle and full voice acting. Soon after the game’s initial release, I’ve reviewed its then-available first chapter, Misty Mournings. It was an hour and a half piece of content tying together all the stories and characters from the first, freeware Perception of the Dead, with the main storyline revolving around nulls – mysterious ghost-devouring creatures that pose a mortal threat to both spirits and human mediums. This, however, was meant to be only the beginning of the game’s story, with three more chapters promised in the Kickstarter campaign and scheduled for release over the next year. With the fourth story, House Haunting, now available and Perceptions of the Dead 2 experience complete, I’ve decided to revisit the game and take a closer look at all that additional content. Did it maintain the positive impression I’ve got from the first chapter? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  34. 3 points
    I’ll be completely honest: I didn’t have a good opinion of NTT Solmare even before approaching the game this review is about. After exploring their sole non-otome visual novel, Moe! Ninja Girls, I was absolutely stunned with the predatory monetisation and poor quality of that title. I was still curious about their otome projects though and decided to check out one featuring the theme I personally enjoy a lot: vampires. Thus, I ended up playing Blood in Roses+, one of the over 20(!) games in the Shall We Date? series and what I found there was an extension of my Moe! Ninja Girl experience, along with some interesting surprises (which doesn’t mean any of them were particularly pleasant). First, however, a bit of context is required. NTT Solmare is a Japanese company producing e-books and mobile games primarily for the Western market. Shall We Date? Otome games are their flagship product and can be split into two categories: paid apps, which are mostly Android/iOS, English-localized ports of Idea Factory otome VNs and free apps which are produced by NTT Solmare themselves. Since 2011, they’ve released literally dozens of cheaply-made, but aggressively monetized games, particularly in the free-to-play segment. This is also the category where Blood in Roses+ fits in, being a fully free-to-play mobile VN, in which you can theoretically experience an impressive and constantly-expanding pool of content without paying anything. There’s a catch though… Or a dozen, which are all worth discussing in detail due to the unbelievable abuse of the VN format they represent. Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  35. 3 points
    Clephas

    Tasogare no Folklore

    I do not regret playing this game. I needed to say this first, because this game has a pretty high level of emotional impact. The actual characters are quiet for the most part, but the relationships in this game are so twisted that even thinking about them being real would make a saint wince. This story centers around a young personal servant, Kumagata Arima, and his young mistress, Otobe Supika. It is the Taishou Era (pre-WWII, late teens to late twenties of the twentieth century), and Japan's first age of modern prosperity is at its height. Supika is an apparently sickly ojousama who reluctantly goes to school at the urge of her personal servant Arima, who takes care of all her personal needs (up to and including dressing her and doing her hair). Arima is an apparently devoted servant who can be relied on without reservation by his sickly mistress... Well, there is a lot more to it, but this is as far as I can go in terms of specifics without spoiling it for you. Tasogare no Folklore is a game where not knowing too much is an important aspect of enjoying the story, so I really suggest you don't read the official site or the Getchu page. Instead, I will explain what kind of game it is. Tasogare no Folklore's primary attractions are the disparity between the darkness hidden in the depths of the characters' home and the apparent strength of their relationships, particularly the one between Supika and Arima. Their relationship is not as simple and straighforward as it seems on the surface, and the way it twists is the source of a lot of the sick fascination I felt watching the train head for the broken tracks. To be straight, this is a dark game with no miraculous salvation. Oh, there are a few times when a 'convenient' outcome occurs, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. The characters' feelings for one another are real, but they are also muddied by circumstance and events in the past. As a result, their relationships are twisted to an extreme degree (though Supika and Arima's relationship is so twisted even the other characters can't understand it). However, the presentation of this game is top tier. I'm almost tempted to cry 'kamige', but that is going too far, lol. This game is a dark fantasy, but it is also a quietly intense love-romance. It also has elements of a number of genres, but in the end, what stuck with me was that I felt it was a romance from the beginning. There are two endings (and one extra story based off the 'good' ending) in this game... a 'good' ending and a 'normal' ending (in Tsukihime style). The good ending is a happy one... but I say that with the caveat that it is still bittersweet. The environment Supika and Arima are forced into is not one that goes for charage-style 'purely happy' endings, after all.
  36. 3 points
    First, for those who are familiar with me... Yes, I did play this. Why? Something about the way it was presented in the Getchu page said that there was more hidden beneath the surface than a standard oppai-nukige. Thankfully, my instinct was correct, in this case. Now, for those who are curious, this game is a straight-out harem, from beginning to end. This game's primary attractions are the comedic reactions of the heroines and the way they and the protagonist slowly 'fall'. It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion... it is too fascinating to look away from, yet you know it is going to end badly, lol. The protagonist, Yuki, is a somewhat hetare-ish guy who does his best to disappear in the classroom and has trouble speaking to others. One day, out of loneliness, he opens up the Tomefure app, where young guys offer young girls a place to stay for free without strings attached and signs up. The girl who appears at his door is the class idol, Sakurako, who immediately crushes his hopes (sexual fantasies) and basically does her best to leech off of him, dragging a bunch of other girls into the mix. This story is all about a bunch of young people too afraid to create real relationships or who have huge problems in their normal lives essentially huddling together and gradually becoming contaminated with this weird 'small community' Stockholm Syndrome thing. I spent most of the game laughing or in a state of 'frustration' (yes, that kind of frustration), because the process of Yuki and the girls' morals collapsing takes a long time (despite being a kinetic novel, this game took me almost 20 hours to complete) and actual H and near-romance (there is no true romance in this game) doesn't get going until you are about 7/8 of the way through the game. In terms of writing, the basic quality of the main writer is pretty low. I'd say he is somewhere below the baseline for charage writers, which is generally bad in any case. That said, because of the way the 'story' is presented, his lack of writing skills doesn't create as much of a negative effect as it might otherwise, even in a charage. If you want a comedy ecchi harem VN to read, this is probably the best option you can find for the last three years. The whole thing is so absurd that I couldn't help but laugh out loud (a real lol) on dozens of occasions. Don't expect 'healthy' romance, since the whole story is based on the characters' gradually losing their common sense morality about relationships as they sleep in the same room (there is more to it, but I won't spoil you). However, if you don't mind that kind of thing (or if you love it) this game is a fun read. PS: Yes, I surprised myself with how much I got into this one.
  37. 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.
  38. 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. As usual, the Epic Works newest protagonist is not exactly balanced, but at least his attitude is a lot more bearable than that of his predecessors The story of Rainbow Dreams is the most straightforward power and romantic fantasy imaginable: an immensely talented, but troubled teen, Luka, is suddenly approached by a girl claiming to be the god of his universe. Nearly as soon as they meet, she reveals that the protagonist is her soulmate and fellow god, created by an accident millennia ago, and that she left the heavens to become his partner. And while you can’t go much higher when it goes to power levels and convenience for the main character, there’s also a problem: while the goddess, Myra, is benevolent and don’t waste time showing her power by changing the protagonist’s life for the better, the most powerful of her servants, Lara, hate the mortal races and will do anything to eliminate him and keep her influence over the goddess. To prevent that from happening, Luka will have to open his heart, learn to use his newfound powers and understand the link that binds his and Myra’s souls together. The fact the story is straightforward doesn’t mean that its execution was done without hiccups, mostly drawing from the fact the game was too short for some of its ideas to be fully fleshed out. This means that some of the secondary story elements and characters show up and they aren’t utilized in a meaningful way or don’t get explored beyond the bare minimum. The most striking example is the witch that shows for literally one scene, subtly aiding the protagonist and leaving him with a vague warning that doesn’t match anything happening later in the story. These problems make the universe of Rainbow Dreams feel a lot less robust than that of Epicisava and underline the general impression that the game was downscaled from the team's original ambitions. There’s also the issue of “meaningful choices” promised in the Kickstarter campaign, which also very likely got scrapped during the development process: the three choices that made it to the game are so pointless that it would seriously be better off being a kinetic novel. As many lines in this game will show you, the quality control it received was not exactly “fine(/i)” Characters are a mixed bag: while the main couple has some things going for them, the supporting cast differentiates between paper-thin and obnoxious, with pretty much two exceptions. The protagonist, Luka, represents a similar misanthropic, overconfident asshole archetype as the Episicava's MC, but thankfully toned down to bearable levels: as jaded and arrogant as he might be, he cares a lot about those close to him and avoids pointless violence. He also warms up to Myra pretty quickly, masking his feelings with a nasty attitude, but never truly ignoring her feelings and taking things around him with proper consideration. Myra herself poses for a spoiled, naïve princess that left her divine realm on a reckless adventure, but shows a lot more depth when the perspective switches to her, or when the stakes get high. Both of these could become truly compelling characters if the game took more time developing them and its writing was more consistent, but they’re serviceable nonetheless and their bickering makes for some fun slice-of-life moments. Whether the cartoonishly-vile villain, Lara, works for you is probably up to personal taste, but I found her at least properly menacing – an insane demigod terrorizing the mortal races by manipulating the goddess is a pretty compelling idea, even if the “mad” part is showed in the game a lot more than brilliant scheming. Also, most of her screentime is connected with another decent character – demon Cardea, who combines an aloof, carefree Façade with a lot of wit and battle prowess gathered over her centuries-long life. Those that are familiar with Epic Works games will probably know that they’re not free of some weird, questionable elements and in this respect, I have a few, probably most important warnings for those interested in buying Rainbow Dreams. While the game suffers from an unpolished script, with fairly frequent typos and often awkward English, some storytelling choices also made me scratch my head. Maybe the most glaring one is Trica, Luka’s best friend who half-jokingly flirts with him in every interaction, spewing heavy-handed gay "jokes" and receiving similarly uncomfortable (that is, borderline-bigoted) responses. Whether you’re sensitive to such stuff might decide whether you’re going to have an enjoyable time with this VN in general. Thankfully, the actual romance subplot between Luka and Myra is much more balanced, with a decent amount of agency and respect on both sides. This also extends to the game’s two sex scenes, which are pretty vanilla and strongly connected to the romance progression, rather than showing up as random fanservice (also unlike Episicava, where at least one scene was a pretty awful insert, pointlessly disrespecting one of that game’s strongest female characters). The game’s fighting sequences aren’t necessarily thrilling, but they also never overstate their welcome or show up without a proper reason Rainbow Dream’s biggest strength, however, lies in its visuals – the general artstyle is gorgeous and while most of the story is showed through sprites, the CGs that are present have enough variants and look good enough to create a relatively dynamic experience. The weakest part of it all is probably the fighting scenes, which mostly rely on a small set of frequently-reused illustrations, but they aren’t an as big part of the experience as they’re in an average chuunige, and the flow of the battles (as it is presented through text) is pretty unique each time. The music is pretty upbeat most of the time, matching the relatively lighthearted tone of the story, although it can get intense in the dramatic moments – none of it is particularly memorable, but it does its job. In summary, Rainbow Dreams is a serviceable VN – it does not rise to excellence in any department and has a good number of issues big and small, but also manages to be just enjoyable enough to justify its existence. With 5-6 hours of content and already mentioned lack of polish, one could argue whether it’s worth the $10 price tag, but I’d have no issues to recommend giving it a chance when it goes on sale. And despite not being that impressed with it, I’d still be happy to see it get some recognition and encourage Epic Works to continue working on their VN formula and their skills as developers – more diversity is never a bad thing and the chuunige niche in EVNs is distinctly underdeveloped. Whether the relative lack of interest for their latest releases prevents that, only time will tell… Final Rating: 2,5/5 Pros: + High-quality visuals + Fun, straightforward main plot Cons: – Unpolished script – Underdeveloped/forgotten story threads – Weird/questionable moments – Choices are not just meaningless, but pointless VNDB Page Buy Rainbow Dreams on Steam or Itch.io
  39. 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
  40. 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
  41. 2 points
    Clephas

    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.
  42. 2 points
    Hello and welcome to my seasonal Steam Curator Connect Wrap-up, where I’ll be looking at games sent to me for review through my Steam Curator profile during the last few months – particularly the shorter/simpler among them, for which I couldn’t make dedicated posts. This time, the quality of the VNs I’ve received was a positive surprise, with each title offering something interesting and most of them exceeding my expectations in some ways. The highlights of today’s list are definitely the virtual reality-themed thriller Omnimus and the uniquely-stylized, mildly-erotic queer VN Knife Sisters. However, all of the games I’ll be writing about are arguably worth your attention, so please stay with me while I explore their main perks and issues. As usual, links in each title will lead you straight to the Steam store page, so you can quickly check the games out at their source. Enjoy! Summer Meetings The growth of Mikołaj Spychał’s lineup of perfectly-generic romance VNs quite likely isn’t stopping any time soon, and his fourth game, Summer Meetings, is another incremental improvement to the previously-established formula. Much of the fun in his VNs come not from the very standard love stories, or especially from the minimalistic visuals (nearly no CGs and simple sprites), but from the ability to mess up the romance in an impressive number of ways. Dating a few girls at once without them knowing, cheating, randomly kissing the wrong girl at the concert you went to as a group… For people that just want to see the world burn, this might be the best opportunity since School Days (although without that significant bonus of hentai and/or gore). At the same time, the core story is solid enough for what it tries to be and the writing feels like a step up from all the author’s previous titles: it has a nice flow to it and the English script feels pretty much devoid of translation issues I’ve noticed in his earlier games. The five heroines are decently fleshed-out and even can surprise you in some ways – like the step-sister's willingness to keep the romance non-committal and even tolerating other girl being the protagonist’s primary focus. The main thing stopping me from fully recommending it is the price: for a VN this simple visually and with 5-6 hours of content, 10 dollars feels like an overkill. If you find it for half of that price, however, it’s a surprisingly fun way of burning one or two evenings. Final Rating: Cautiously Recommended Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  43. 2 points
    The monotony of school is an oppressive force on a kid's life. Psychologically omnipresent, you don't even need to be within its walls to feel its chains shackling you. Home is just made an extension of its presence with homework. And more then just the boredom of rote memorization and a lobotomizing curriculum, there is a social arena where you must interact with the other prisoners. Regardless of how you feel about them, its important to at least maintain a sociable facade. Unlike College where education is on your own dime, and therefore your own time. The grade school schedule from kindergarten through high school is rigidly compact, and generally you have little say in what you get to study. Regardless of talent, interest, or relevancy, you are stuck in a classroom where most other students are just as unenthused to be there as you. 8th Grade, 13 years old and my last year in junior high. I didn't need to put more than a minimal effort into my studies to attain the reputation as an honor student. Although on a superficial front I got along with everyone, I lacked any true connections that extended beyond the solidarity of being prisoners of the educational system I've just described. Life was dull, but everyone told me the path I was walking down had success and stability at the end of its road. That assumed I would continue playing the honor student role I fell into though. Despite the agency of free-will, I was complacent. Despite my ennui, I had little initiative or courage to stir things up. The irony of attending a Catholic school and passively turning a blind eye to the bullying occurring. The frustration of my sexuality awakening but being too emotionally impotent to do anything about it. This is the context in which I discovered Yume Miru Kusuri: A Drug That Make You Dream. Past midnight, and I had just finished downloading a copy of the VN. I had promised myself to install it then go to bed. Opening the application up as a test, I was greeted with a soothing yet hypnotic track. Three girls with blank expressions were looking up at me amid an infinite expanse of vaguely drawn school desks. For minutes I just listened, utterly mesmerized. It was as though I was experiencing a drug that was making me dream. Winter break started the next day, and I had previously installed another visual novel that I was intending to start first. But as my consciousness was drifting in the dazed state before sleep, the title theme track kept ringing in my head. The next day I decided to start my vacation playing this VN instead, and that has made all the difference. The opening scene, an image of a generic blue sky with soft clouds. The narrator himself falls asleep and soon finds himself in an odd dream. Upon violently waking up, soothing music akin to the title screen track plays, and without even realizing it my own thoughts are absorbed by Kouhei's inner monologues. His thinking was so natural, and familiar. And that's when I noticed, I was Kouhei Kagami. The issues of bullying, interpersonal relationships, and the desire to escape the dullness of reality (albeit not through drugs, for me anime was my escape) were all subject matters I understood, and more importantly related to. The way things play out in the various routes always remain grounded in a firm realism. Which easily allowed me to project myself into the situations. But unlike a generic self-insert protagonist, what made Kouhei so relatable was his distinct voice. He was hesitant to tread towards anything that could shake him off his honor-student trajectory, and yet he was equally tempted and fascinated by such things. Smoking, sex, drugs, standing up to social forces; all things that even the most straight laced of teenagers will probably be tempted by. If not for the things themselves, then to grab control of your own life by actively doing something you shouldn't do. This is how Kouhei and I were kindred spirits. The way the story and Kouhei's perspective completely resonated with me led me to voraciously read something for the first time in my life. Before I always viewed reading as a chore, and I only ever reluctantly did so. Reading this VN however, led me into feeling as though everything was happening was to a slightly older, Japanese version of myself. It was that immersive quality that sucked me into the VN's world. That was my baptism into VNs. I'm 22 now, and rereading this VN I can't help but think back on myself and who I was when I first discovered it. Not only have I long since graduated high school, somewhere amidst my early adulthood I also learned to stop being such a passive participant in life. Yet while I can no longer identify with Kouhei Kagami like I did when I first read his story, I can still understand his thinking and actions so clearly. Almost like reading his perspective brings me back to my perspective when I was in my early teens. In that respect, Yume Miru Kusuri is kind of the Catcher in the Rye of VNs.
  44. 2 points
    Usually, I focus mostly on the perspective of a consumer when I write in this blog. I do this because I am and always have been primarily a consumer of material rather than a creator. However, that doesn't mean I've never created anything... just that I haven't published anything (well, under my own name... ghost writing doesn't count) since some early fiction on Deviantart over a decade ago. So, since I'm not writing as many reviews, I chose to start a small corner describing the techniques I use when I'm writing fiction (which I still do as a hobby, though I stopped posting it after the last site I posted massively on went under). Today's corner is about the techniques I use when creating a character (usually the protagonist and his immediate surrounding characters, as well as the antagonist) in the brainstorming process. There are two types I use... the flow of thought type and the 'important points' type. The flow of thoughts (similar to flow of consciousness style of writing) involves simply writing out all the qualities, the basic history, and abilities/talents/weaknesses of a character as they occur to you in prose form. This is very similar to the character summaries given on official websites, but in much more detail, with specific important points (to you) described in detail. Immediately after I complete this process, I ink out the setting (I usually create a setting in parallel to the characters) and then I start the 'sculpting' process. The sculpting process involves slowly shaving away or altering parts of the character that don't quite fit with the full setting, are excessive (it is easy to make fantasy protagonists over-powered, for instance), or just don't seem to be internally consistent in retrospect. The final step is to try to write an intro scene for that character that would make sense for that character in the universe you've created, giving you an impression that you can use to form their role in a story. The second method I use is more mechanical. In this case, I write out all the qualities in list form, based on what kind of character I'm interested in making. I usually use this for side-characters, as it is a much 'dryer' approach. Essentially, I create Personality, History, Relationships, and Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses categories. Relationships is generally the first category I focus on, connecting their strand of the web to that of the protagonist and/or other characters. The second is usually either History or Personality. The reason is that this defines the nature of the Relationships, giving it a more distinct form. Last is the Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses category. To be blunt, while this is important to their role in the story, it is the aspect that is most likely to be subject to change based on what is necessary to keep the plot going. These are the basic techniques I use... to be honest, since I've never been formally educated in creative writing, I don't know how close my methodology is to that which is commonly used, but I find that this works best for me.
  45. 2 points
    Clephas

    Kokorone Pendulum

    This is the latest game by Clochette, a company known mostly for four things: It's decent stories, it's excellent characters, a tendency toward fantasy and sci-fi settings, and the forest of oppai heroines that spring up in its wake. lol Clochette is straight out my favorite plotge/charage hybrid company, mostly because they understand what they do well and don't try to do anything but develop from that perspective. The result is that I can depend on their games being enjoyable. Some people will probably go 'eh? Isn't that a matter of course?', but most companies that always produce the same genre never manage Clochette's level of consistency in quality and type. To be straight, this is the only charage company whose games I can still enjoy without reservation, even after my burnout. Kokorone is based in a setting where mysterious out of place objects, in the form of underground black pyramids surrounded by unnatural foliage, began granting people mysterious powers about thirty years before. The protagonist, Komachiya Soushirou, has one such ability that he defines as an affliction. His ability is indiscriminate telepathic reception (under the theory that people 'project' their emotions and thoughts constantly if they don't try to shut it off). He suffers from headaches and having to hear people spill their thoughts and emotions into his mind wherever he goes, and he can't shut it off. That said, seeing as this is a Clochette game, this 'constant suffering' stage only lasts about five minutes (Clochette games have dark moments, but none of them have an overbearing atmosphere). It is soon relieved by his experience of the mind of Kamishiro Sumika, one of the game's heroines, and he finds himself drawn into helping out with her club, which tries to build bridges between Magia Saucers (yes, that is the name for them, lol) and normal people. They are joined by the iai mistress and Sumika's best friend, Tatewaki Chihaya; the genius Magia researcher Tsumuri; her cat-like best friend Leeruxu; and (eventually) the protagonist's senpai-imouto Nazuna (yes, she is both his little sister and his senpai). The common route is pretty straightforward Clochette, with ecchi happenings that never cross the line, mild humor, and a few serious story/plot points that serve to properly introduce you to the setting and characters (and give you an idea of what the heroines will be like). The protagonist does deal with his personal issues in the common route just well enough to provide a baseline for them possibly becoming less important in the heroine routes (or become important again, depending on the path), which was definitely intentional and typical of heroine routes... but I never really thought Clochette would pursue the production of a game with a constantly gloomy protagonist, anyway. Chii-chan (Chihaya) Because of this route, Chihaya will forever be Chii-chan to me. I mean, Chii-chan is so adorable that you can totally see why Sumika adores her... and the route is extremely lovey-dovey, even at its darkest moments. Part of that is helped by Chihaya being a complete open book to the protagonist for much of the path, resulting in an endless cycle of ichaicha that is oddly non-annoying (probably because the ability to see into her head makes it less fake-seeming). Anyway, Chihaya's route focuses, unsurprisingly, on the personal issues for her that surround her Magia and her relationship with her father... as well as the problems Magia can cause for athletes and competitive martial artists (by law, they can't participate). This route gets highly emotional at times, especially toward the end, but it stays light and cute for the most part. Leeruxu The obligatory catgirl of this VN, a young woman who possesses a Magia that grants her incredible physical abilities and the visual traits of a cat-person. She is a friendly and whimsical heroine, closing in suddenly and vanishing on a whim. She eats a lot (think food-fighter levels), and she can generally be trusted to be smiling or encourage a warm atmosphere wherever she goes. Her path circles around her abandonment issues and the protagonist's reaction to them, and as a result, it has less focus on the characters' powers than in Chii-chan's path. There are some strong emotional moments in this path, as Leeruxu's issues have a very strong basis in her past that isn't easy go leave behind. That said, it mostly comes off as a moe-focused sort-of nakige route... especially since everything about Leeruxu is built to be moe or ero, right down to her voice. Nazuna Nazuna is the protagonist's imouto (little sister for the uninitiated) and she is pretty typical of Clochette imouto characters. How so? Every single Clochette imouto shares two major qualities... they are a total brocon and they are extremely erotically designed (all Clochette heroines manage to be ero in a good way, despite being oppai monsters). Nazuna shares this quality with standard-issue tsundere piled on top, in the way of old-style tsundere (right down to the classic tone of voice when denying her affection). Also typical of routes for these heroines, the incest issue is mostly minor to the heroine and protagonist, though there is a short period of thinking over the difficulties involved. (incidentally, Nazuna is only #4 on my Clochette imouto list, with Konoka from Prism Recollection being the top so far, mostly because they did so good a job combining her quirks, her high intelligence, and fundamentally tragic innocence... oh yeah, and her perversion) As a clarification, one reason why most Clochette sister heroine routes go more smoothly than most is because there is usually at least one other person who is supportive of the relationship, if not the entire group of heroines and sub-characters. While drama often pops up later on in the path, the initial transition is usually fast and easy, in comparison to blood-related imouto characters in other companies' games. In exchange for not being overly focused on incest drama, this path tends to focus on the issues with their deceased parents and their relationship to the school they are attending... and the dreams they left behind for the relationship between Magia Saucers and normies (lol). Note: I'm doing this VN really slowly, doing a path whenever I feel like it, but one thing I'm noticing is that there is a great reduction in drama from previous games by this company. While the issues of the prejudice between Magia Saucers and normal people are present in each path, in the ones I've done so far, it has been mostly mild. Sumika Unusually for Clochette, Sumika is the main/true heroine of this game, though you can play her path from the beginning. Sumika is a kind-hearted, innocent young woman who desires nothing more than to see others happy. Her goal is to see Magia Saucers and normal people get along, and she works hard as the club leader to make it happen (while baking cakes and other snacks for her friends). She is an 'open book', as her spoken words and inner 'voice' don't vary from one another very often, and she is the 'voice' that heals the protagonist of his growing misanthropy early on in the story. Her path, atypically for Clochette, is by far the most extensive in terms of dealing with Magia-related issues, the protagonist's past, and his problems with his ability. As a result, this path feels the most like a normal Clochette path, though it is also the only path that doesn't have an epilogue. It is an excellent path, but, having read it, I have absolutely no desire to be disappointed by Tsumuri's path, so I'll stop my play here. Conclusion As a charage, this is a top-class game, with all the best elements of a charage (ichaicha romance, SOL, mild comedy, etc) involved without most of the flaws (average/weak protagonist, lack of origin for romantic feelings, excessive dating). As a Clochette game, however, it falls somewhere below the midline, being just a bit better than Amatsu Misora Ni while falling below all their other works. That said, even a below-average Clochette game is still much better than the common ruck of charage, so I can honestly recommend it to those who love oppai and charage, lol.
  46. 2 points
    Winged Cloud, creators of the infamous Sakura series, are visibly past their prime, which shows not only in their diminishing Patreon support and smaller interest in their games in general, but also the lack of marketing effort and innovation. For two and a half year now their VNs are only becoming shorter, simpler and more iterative, making the already not-particularly-impressive projects from the peak of studio’s popularity, such as Sakura Nova or Sakura Fantasy, look like absolute heights of quality and ambition. At the same time, the company seems heavily disinterested in actively promoting their work or opening new niches, even nearly dropping the production of straight eroge for the sake of pushing out more yuri games, feeding of this niche's popularity with Western audience. And few things symbolise this sorry state of affairs quite like the Sakura MMO trilogy, the latest three entries in the mainline Sakura franchise, this time tackling the grossly overused theme of gameworld isekai. Coming out between October 2018 and June 2019, with little fanfare (the second and third game pretty much appeared out of nowhere, with no communication from Winged Cloud’s social media accounts before the releases) and to a rather lukewarm reception from players, Sakura MMO games still stand out in some ways from Winged Clouds usual output. Particularly, it was the first time since Sakura Beach that a game in the series received a direct sequel, and the only instance one received two. This, at first glance, makes it look like one of most ambitious projects Winged Cloud ever attempted, but one thing should be said in advance: all three Sakura MMO games are very short (3-4 hours) and heavily overpriced, with each costing $10. For the amount of content you’d usually find in one 10-15 dollars VN, you’re asked to pay 30, while also having to deal with issues that wouldn’t be there if it was all released as a single product or a well-constructed episodic game, like your choices not transferring between parts and somewhat shoddy continuity. But aside from it being a shameless cash-grab, is there something worthwhile within this trashy sub-franchise? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  47. 2 points
    In the EVN world dominated by clichéd romance stories, titles by InvertMouse, a long-time indie developer from Australia, stand out in a few significant ways. Staying away from most common genre tropes and easily-marketable story elements, the games he creates often focus on topics such as friendship and struggles of everyday life, rather than grand tales of romance and adventure. The three short VNs in the Without Within series are particularly unusual and interesting in this regard, tackling themes of ambition, motivation and talent in life of an artist, in the rare setting of modern-day Australia and South-East Asia – all of this in a highly comedic style, but not without serious messages underlining the, most of the time, silly storyline. Another thing that makes these games interesting is their complicated development history. The first Without Within was a very short, freeware title, published in December 2014 as one of InvertMouse’s earliest works. The second, commercial entry followed nearly a year later, showing up on Steam in December 2015 and offering a much more substantial story, but in a very similar production quality and tone. The final game, however, didn’t release until mid-2018 – by this time its creator had a lot of more experience and technical prowess, which makes it a visibly different experience from its prequels. Still, with how short and thematically-consistent the three games are, I’ve decided to tackle them as a single package – the third part ends in a rather open-ended way, but with InvertMouse moving away from VN development, it’s pretty clear that the whole trilogy should be treated as a complete story and there’s little chance for any kind of continuation. So, what is Without Within series about exactly and what makes it worth your attention? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  48. 2 points
    Clephas

    Book Series: The House War

    The House War series is one of three co-existing (to some extent, each of the series co-exists in time, often with the same characters) series written in the same universe by Michelle West, a half-Japanese, half-Canadian writer who first came to my attention when I was stunned by the first book of the Sun Sword series. The universe created in the three series (the Sacred Hunt duology, the Sun Sword series, and the House War series) extend across over thirty years of time in-series and involve as many varied perspectives, people, and desires as the more infamous large-scale high fantasy book series out there (the Wheel of Time, the Game of Thrones, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, etc). However, it is distinct in every way from them in style. While the world West puts together is often as harsh or more so than the Game of Thrones series, it manages a degree of mystique that Martin never achieves, at least partly because the focus is more on the people and setting then making as many dirty deeds as possible occur in the shortest time possible (incidentally, that is my assessment of Martin's works). A typically Japanese flavor exists in the writing, mixed with flavors of Celtic and even Middle Eastern tones at times. Depending on which characters form the core of an individual book, the atmosphere differs dramatically. The House War series is centered around Jewel Markess ATerafin and the people that surround her. Jewel is a key character in all three series, though in different ways. In the Sacred Hunt, she is the desperate leader of a den (think street gang) of orphans whose existences are only considered relevant relative to her. As such, little focus or spotlight is put on the den, except to give them some minimal color and give you a vague idea of how they matter to Jewel. Jewel is seer-born, a rare form of 'talent' that causes her to see potential futures in dreams and instinctively (knee-jerk, gut-level) know when her own life is in danger and avoid it reflexively. Other talents, such as mage-born, healer-born, god-born, bard-born, and maker-born are all present in the series, but explanations for each are generally only presented as aspects of their existence become relevant to the story at large. She lives in Averaalan, the capital city of an Empire ruled by the Kings, two god-born children born of the gods of Wisdom and Justice. The complex society of the Empire nonetheless has only a very limited privileged class, made up of a wealthy but not feudal 'patrician' nobility, the commons, and the Ten. The Ten are one of the constructs I like most, besides the Kings, in this particular setting. They are a group of ten aristocratic clans that are granted almost complete internal autonomy and are not hereditary. Instead, the Ten increase their numbers by merit-based adoption, wherein individuals that have talents and skills desired or needed by the clan as a whole are 'adopted' regardless of origin. The House War series follows Jewel's life from early childhood, details the creation of her den, and further writes in details of the events around the duology solely from the point of view of the den and Jewel herself in the first book. The rest of the books detail her rise after the events of the Sun Sword series to the rank of the Terafin (the ruler of the Terefin, the greatest of the Ten) and the results of her choices until she meets her destiny. Of the three series, the House War series most deeply details the aspects that are left oblique and unexplained in the previous books, regarding the nature of human talent-born, the nature of power in that universe, and the nature of the immortals and gods. Jewel is, other than her power, merely a fiercely compassionate woman who cares far too deeply for someone who rules. Her immortal companions are frequently frustrated by her (mostly because they only understand the power she wields and what it will become), and her mortal companions fear for her as her power grows and she struggles against the necessity to change in order to master it. The over-arching antagonist of all three series is Allasakar, the Lord of the Hells, a being that is deliberately demonized (lol) in the Sacred Hunt, given some perspective through the eyes of Kiriel, his half-human daughter, in the Sun Sword, and given a third and more complete relative perspective based on the truths revealed in the House War series. I won't go into detail about this, but Allasakar is presented as being inimical to all mortal life... and this is true in every way. However, one thing that gets revealed in a rather stark manner in the House War is just how inimical ALL immortals in this series are to mortals. The world Jewel and the other characters live in is one that is asleep, the gods having withdrawn to another realm for reasons of their own, the Firstborn (their 'children) confined to the mystic wilds, and many of the other immortal existences in a thousands of years long sleep. Because of this, a marked difference between the early books and the later ones is the stripping away of the gentle human 'myths' that gloss over just how terrible the immortals, regardless of alignment, were. If the Duology was a simple good vs evil play and the Sun Sword was an interwoven tapestry of demons an politics, the House War is the mortal coming into contact with and struggling against the immortal. Michelle West's concepts of the immortal are very Japanese, for someone familiar with Japanese Buddhism and Shinto. Indeed, I can say that while there is a strong Celtic influence on the aesthetic, the essence is almost entirely Japanese when it comes to immortals in the story (it becomes even more so later on). For those with an interest on why I said there is a strong Middle-eastern influence, I recommend you read the Sun Sword series. Following the events in the lands of the Dominion, in particular the first book of the series which almost exclusively centers around that region with few outside influences, brings that influence out in full. Serra Diora, one of my favorite characters in the series, is someone I can honestly describe as one of the most admirable characters in the series as a whole, while being one of the weakest relatively (Edit: In terms of power, not personality). It gave me a much better perspective on Middle Eastern culture, and it is one of the reasons I actually began reading some literature from that part of the world.
  49. 2 points
    Heya, people! It's such a long time I don't see you guys, I almost forgot my password to this forum. Guess Fuwa is still alive and kicking just like me, huh. First of all, sorry I disappeared from the face of the Earth and if I disappointed any fans I might had in this site (silly me). Since last time I posted back in February, a lot of things happened so if anyone's curious (maybe the aforementioned imaginary fans of mine) about what the hell's been happening with me, do keep reading. I talk about VNs, anime, and other disgusting weeb things, but it does include some personal shit. Well, a blog is a blog. 1) Maybe I mentioned this a huge while ago at some point, but I'm pursuing a master's degree in the structural engineering field. All was going well and good, but now it came the time for me to write my thesis. Oof. So yeah, that's the main reason I became a ghost as my weekday free times went down the drain along with my hopes and dreams. It doesn't help my thesis requires some programming knowledge that may be more than what I can chew, sasuga me (whining aside, it's coming along fine as of now, let's hope I can keep it up). 2) Not only my free time evaporated but also my attention spam. I'm honestly having a hard time staying focused for more than 40 minutes in the same task. When that happens, I usually take a short break to relax before going back. Except I move on to something else, oops. 3) Related to the problem mentioned in 2, I fearfully discovered a new wonderful world that's now high in my interests list: gacha games. Their content is usually bite sized (except in events, but I don't play all that seriously... I think), I can auto play to grind, and I can play on the train going to uni. No huge time investment at once required, so what can possibly go wrong (dramatic zoom on my face)? Fortunately, I'm still keeping my two accounts (yep) free-to-play and I feel that I grew a lot on the self control department because of this www. Seriously though, never invite me to a casino trip, I may have an undiscovered gamble addiction and I don't want to open that door. But yeah, if anyone else plays Opera Omnia or Shining Live send me a friend inviteeeeeeeeeeeeee! 4) Even with all that going on, I still find time to at least watch my anime and read my VNs, surprisingly. Thank God for weekend. Guess cutting yourself off of social media truly does wonders too, huh. Not that I check Twitter on occasion to look at art or anything... Soooo about that weeb shit... 4.1) La Squadra was right all along 4.2) I'm still a proud BL trash. From what I recently finished, the highlights are Sweet Pool and Nie no Machi. Both are really really amazing games, both scored higher than 9 in my book, and I definitely want to write a review for them at some point. Spread that love, Maggie! 4.3) I'm actually a bit slow on the otomege department, sorry >.< I did get Steam Prison and read both of the Prisoner Routes, but I'm not in the right mindset to keep going with it. I wouldn't enjoy it if I force myself through it. Eltcreed and Ulrik were striking my fancy, so I want to savor them. ......Okay, that came out wrong. 4.4) EVN ftw, I always find some time to read them. Nanoreno gave me some nice short experiences, the highlight being Monochrome Blues despite the ending kek. Oh, and read Heart of the Woods, people. It's an order. High quality shit right there. 4.5) Also I keep stumbling upon horror games and I'm okay with this. Recently I played Death Mark. As usual, I went without a walkthrough, solving every mystery by myself. Totally worth it. And it also have very good sound design. Mashita best boi. 4.6) It does sounds like a lot, but there's nothing much more than what I mentioned wwwwww 4.7) Did I mentioned La Squadra? (<-- edit that bit out, I totally did, as I should) 5) Now, about my Fuwa life. I'll probably remain on indefinite hiatus, but every time I find the file I wrote some ideas for Dank a Ronpa, I feel sad. "How could I write such a shit story?" Jokes aside, I can try to maybe finish it at some point when Derg finished his battle royale. Such a rude, I gave him such a brutal death in my story and I didn't even debut on his smh. But yeah, I accept suggestion of what to do with it? Give it a Berserk treatment and finish it soon TM? Write all the bad ideas I had for it and let you guys fill the blanks yourselves in a very lazy way? Make each one of you write a chapter, put everything together, approve it as canon and call it a day? Decisions, decisions. Actually, I'm actually paying a homage to it in this post, as I'm not proof reading anything, hope you spot the reference. Aaaaaaaaaaaand that's it, I guess. For all of you that reach this line without pressing page down 3 times in less than 3 seconds, a big thank you. Please smash that like button and subscribe to someone's channel that's more active than me. Love, peace, and hope to see you all eventually when I get my degree! Until them!
  50. 2 points
    Clephas

    Trinoline

    Written by Kiririri and edited by fun2novel and Me Trinoline If there ever was a time when the quality of a story was judged purely on its aesthetics then minori’s games would be tough opponents to defeat. Trinoline continues in the same tradition as many other minori games. High-budget top-quality visuals with a ridiculous level of attention to details. This includes blinking eyes and well done lip syncing, top-notch high quality CGs, and unusual camera angles, where you walk and look to the side at a character walking next to you while a long non repeating background scrolls by. All that and more put this at the top of one of the most visually polished games around. Fortunately, visual novels aren’t judged purely on how good they look. Not usually at least. Trinoline asks valuable questions and explores some very interesting themes and ideas. It is set in a world where the science has advanced far enough to manufacture real, lifelike androids. Events become more complicated when our protagonist’s little sister dies only to later come back as an android. She is just an android and not his real sister of course, only an illusion of the real thing. However, the twist is that she has all of the little sister’s memories inside her, and the question is, 'does it matter if she is real or not?' Do memories make her his sister or is she just a replacement for what was lost to tragic events? What happens if your loved one comes back in android form? Are they the still the same person? Are androids even capable of love, even if they don’t have a heart? Do they dream of electric ships? Trinoline features three heroines. Yuuri, the childhood friend, skips school often. However, nothing is what it seems on the surface. What does she hide behind that cheerful upbeat smile of hers? Her route was the least interesting, and it is a bit of a downer for much of it. Shirone, plays the role our protagonist’s “little sister”. She is the Trino (android) with the protagonist’s little sister’s memories inside her. It explores how and if love can bloom between a human and an android. Sara is the other childhood friend. She had a leading role in developing the Trino, a new kind of android. Because of her work, she and the protagonist haven’t seen each other in a long time. Her route is considered the true route and it explores the difficulties of developing an android and the problems in their thinking. The game is pretty equally divided between the common and all the other three routes, and it touches on very interesting issues. However, at the end of the day I don’t know how I really feel about it. I can't help but wonder if I actually enjoyed the game or not. It doesn’t help how stupid the protagonist acts in some scenes and changes his opinions about androids from one route to the next with no consistency, with no regard for his personality. I wanted to like the game because I thought the heroines are really great. In addition, if it wasn’t iterated enough previously, the game is really beautiful. Unfortunately, the constant depressing atmosphere kept up throughout the game pretty much crushed me and every false hope I had for it. I don’t want to further elaborate on that to avoid spoilers. The game has a lot of great moments, but it also has many points that will split opinions. If you’re looking for a deep and exhilarating science fiction story, you won’t find it here. The narrative is slow-paced and takes its sweet time to build up. This is a game for those looking for a character driven nakige with some light sci-fi elements. However, it might keep you depressed most of the time, so take care if you don't like that sort of thing.
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