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Showing content with the highest reputation on 04/21/2020 in Blog Entries

  1. 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.
  2. 1 point

    Floral Flowlove

    Now, as I stated in the previous post, Saga Planets' has two types of VNs it primarily produces... a story-focused type that doesn't avoid the kind of bitter drama that charage/moege tend to despite the moege-type visuals... and a 'strong charage' type that essentially is a more character-focused VN with many of the same strengths as the former type. Floral Flowlove is the former type, being much closer to Hatsuyuki Sakura and the other 'Four Seasons Series' VNs. As such, as in all VNs by this company, there is a definite 'proper' play order, if you want to fully enjoy this game. First, unless you are inexperienced at playing VNs, you probably would have figured out that Kano's path is the one that touches on the core elements of the story most intensively... and that is the case, so I seriously suggest you do her path last. This is my suggested path order Adelheit>Aoi Suu>Kohane>Nanao>Kano. My reasons are that Adelheit's ending is the one that goes the most out of its way to avoid touching on the protagonist's most intensely personal issues and is the most 'charage-like' path, and Suu is a sub-heroine whose path branches off of Kohane's path. Nanao and Kano share a basic flow of events up to a point that basically requires you to choose one of them and it dramatically splits off, so it is best to play Kano's path right after Nanao's. Now that I got that out of the way, I'll make a few comments on the setting and subject matter. For those who dislike Christian mythology, this VN might make you feel uncomfortable, though - given that it is a Japanese story - it isn't full of the moralist excess that a Western Christian writer would have put into it. The focus on angels does have meaning, but for most of the VN, you won't know what meaning it has. Another issue is the protagonist. He isn't a cipher in any way, shape, or form. He is an extremely emotionally-scarred, somewhat self-derisive character who also happens to be eminently capable at whatever he chooses to do (my favorite type, lol). However, his tendency to distrust everyone, despite his ability to see the nature of people's intentions, will probably drive some people up the wall. The guy is fundamentally a rationalist (which is fairly rare in Japanese VNs), save on a few issues regarding his emotional scars and the need to protect Kano from her own bad luck. The common route of this VN is fairly dramatic and interesting, and Adelheit's path branches off from the rest almost immediately after the first dramatic point. A second turning point occurs after the turn-off for Adelheit's path that sends you digging through the protagonist's half-healed emotional wounds and his past, and it is actually pretty interesting. Save for Suu's, the paths and endings are universally first-rate (Suu's path is this game's abortion, though it is fun to watch the protagonist seduce a nun, lol). I will say that I - as always - have to complain a bit about the fact that the endings only go a few months to a few years past the climax of the story (I really, really wanted to see Adelheit five or six years later, because I thought it would be rofl-worthy). However, for most people this won't be a problem. Each of the paths gives you a final snippet of the past after the credits, and it is, in part, this that made me give you that order of completion. To be blunt, Kano's revelation is a bit too big in comparison, and as a result, it would be problematic if you saw it too early on (it is meant to be viewed right before going to the final path). About nine out of ten people are going to spend this VN wondering 'who the hell is Riku?' because the protagonist never really explains her in any of the game's main paths. So... I'm not going to spoil it for you (though a lot of you will probably figure it out anyway). Emotionally, this VN definitely has impact... but a lot of it is pitying, sympathizing, or empathizing with the protagonist. I will say that Kano has seriously awesome hidden depths that come out in all the paths (think a ditz with an intelligence of ten but a wisdom of five hundred in a D&D game), as she is perhaps the single wisest, most selfless and compassionate heroines I've seen. She isn't terribly intelligent though. On the other side, Adelheit is pretty hilarious... she is easily the laziest heroine I've ever seen (though she is also one of the more intelligent ones). Kohane is the kind of girl who would make the perfect mother for a family of twenty adopted kids, and Nanao is basically your standard tsundere (on her own merits, she is probably the second-weakest heroine). The true route... you will cry, so I predict (lol). Anyway, the true route had me crying for a while, and it was definitely worth playing. Unfortunately, it is also impossible to talk much about this route without spoiling the entire mess, so I'll just stop here. I will say that they did manage to avoid the 'true route renders all the other routes meaningless/relevant only relative to the true route' screwup, which is what happens in most VNs with a true route. Overall, this VN is Saga Planets at its best, having learned from a lot of the little mistakes in their previous games. For those who liked Saga Planets already, it is crack, and for those who like a good story-focused VN that isn't a chuunige, this is an excellent choice.
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