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Showing most liked content since 04/22/2019 in Blog Entries

  1. 4 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!
  2. 3 points
    Before Dharker Studio became the semi-competent producer of smut we know and (occasionally) love today, its founder, AJ Tilley, made a name for himself through his personal VN publishing brand, AJTilley.com. Throughout 2015 there has been an impressive number of decently-sized games released under that label, the whole endeavour fuelled by a never-ending stream of crowdfunding campaigns, making Tilley one of the most notable creators on the fledgeling EVN scene. At the same time, his activities were spawning increasing controversies, mostly over the appalling quality of some of the games in question and overuse of Kickstarter. In April 2016, after just a year and a half of presence within the EVN scene, the infamy around the label became intense enough that Tilley himself decided to terminate it, removing all of its online presence and transferring all the rights to his company’s “development arm”, Dharker Studio. The "restructured" company then both continued working on the franchises introduced by AJTilley.com and created new ones, including highly successful ecchi VNs such as Negligee or Army Gals, while its creator’s name was conveniently hidden from the public’s eye. Despite the horror stories circulating around these “dark beginnings” of Dharker Studio, the games from that period always interested me quite a lot, both because of my usual, morbid curiosity and the significant role they played in the history of EVNs. While it’s easy to argue that titles like Sword of Asumi or Divine Slice of Life did a lot to reinforce the general impression of EVNs being cheap, awkward imitations of their Japanese predecessors, I wanted to find out whether they’re really as bad as people make them out to be. In today’s episode, I’ll cover four of those pre-Dharker projects – outside of the two mentioned above, I’ll be including Highschool Romance and Highschool Possession, which, amusingly enough, have exactly nothing to do with each other, utilizing drastically different artstyles and telling stories that could hardly be further away from each other, at least apart from the obligatory high school setting. The one game I’ll skip, for the time being, is Beach Bounce, initial episodes of which were published during this time, but which was later heavily reworked and fully released as a “proper” Dharker Studio title, Beach Bounce Remastered. After that, it even spawned its own little franchise – this series, with three VNs in total, deserves a separate look and will be the next topic for Shovelware Adventures. So, going back to our main issue, are the AJTilley.com VNs really that bad? The answer is: no. Because in reality, if you treat them seriously to any extent, they’re even worse than I've expected – at least outside of one, notable exception. Sword of Asumi Imagine a game featuring a female assassin in an alternative-history Japan, where shogunate won the late XIX-century civil war and what in our world was the Meiji restoration followed a different path. The samurai class never lost its dominance, preserving its ethos and prestige till the modern day, while the militaristic government relies on secret police and agents such as our lead, Asumi, to keep people in check. At the same time, a new terrorist group rises, aiming to violently oppose the established order. Sounds pretty cool, right? Only in theory, as the reality of Sword of Asumi is one of the most amazing trainwrecks I’ve seen during my involvement with EVNs, rivalling Winged Cloud’s Legends of Talia with how absurdly stupid and tone-deaf it is. The first thing you might notice after launching the game is that Asumi is possibly the dumbest assassin in the world, spewing edgy one-liners and engaging in small talk with her victims instead of focusing on getting the job done. A moment later, when a member of the Edo's (this universe’s Japan) secret police, a Justicar, shows in the house of Asumi’s latest hit and start discussing extremely delicate details of her next assignment in the middle of the murder scene, you know you’re up for a ride. And be sure, the stream of utter stupidity and inexplicable writing fu**ups never truly ends (like Asumi causally approaching other characters in her assassin’s clothes, while being undercover – I can understand that kind of mistake in writing, but when you can literally see it happening on the screen???). The somewhat-decent romance options, both male and female, help things a tiny bit, but can’t change the overall dreadful quality of the experience. The absurd fanservice (it seems assassins have a strong taste for overly-elaborate, sexy lingerie, especially when preparing for a mission) and the fact how seriously the game treats itself are pretty much the final nails to its coffin. While the likes of Sakura games are after dumb and trashy, they’re self-aware and try to have fun with the formula. In Sword of Asumi, the only fun you can have is the kind fully unintended by its authors: the high from how astonishingly bad and absurd it is. And unless that’s what you’re looking for, there’s really no reason to read it. Sorry Kaori, even you couldn’t save this one... Final Rating: Smelly Poo Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  3. 2 points
    Beach Bounce was the second title introduced by AJ Tilley, the creator of Dharker Studio, just a few months after his debut with the infamous Sword of Asumi. It stood out from his other work in a slightly paradoxical way – while Tilley’s other projects dealt with different breeds of fantasy or experimented with unusual plot elements (ex. Highschool Romance’s gender-bending), Beach Bounce was meant to be a much more standard nukige, placing our average male protagonist in a summer resort with a substantial number of scantily-clad, horny women and no competition in sight (to the point one might think the rest of the male kind was wiped out by some global cataclysm, but the story at least doesn’t mention any such event taking place). The game initially followed an episodic formula, with the first part released in August 2015 and the second one two months later. However, with the termination of AJTilley.com label, under which it was originally published, it disappeared for a while and then re-emerged in a new form, as a full, “Remastered” release by Dharker Studio – this final version of the game went live in late February 2019. That’s the simplified version at least, as the confusing network of Dharker’s sister companies created and terminated by AJ Tilley over the years, including Brightly Studios, BurstRay Games and StudioX, among others, is hardly worth deciphering at this point. Still, whatever label is attached to a Beach Bounce game, it’s always Dharker Studio hiding underneath and that’s pretty much the only part of the puzzle that is genuinely worth knowing. Going back to our main topic, while the “Remastered” label might’ve been quite a stretch for a game that never before saw a full release, it doesn’t mean things didn’t change – the overall plot, the characters and their relationships were rewritten in rather significant ways and the complete story now included seven different love interests, with multiple h-scenes for most of them. This meant quite a lot of anime smut in a time when porn VNs weren’t available in such as abundance as they are today, especially on Steam. Thanks to all this, while not necessarily a critically-acclaimed title, Beach Bounce proved successful enough to warrant two sequels, Beauty Bounce and Bunny Bounce, released literally two weeks apart from each other, in February and March 2017. Setting aside the question of what went wrong with those development cycles, I’ll focus today on taking the closer look at the Beach Bounce trilogy and find out whether they deserve the dubious honour of being some of the lowest-rated VNs on VNDB. Beach Bounce Beach Bounce starts with our unassuming protag-kun, Tomoyo, being summoned to a hospital by his ill grandmother, the owner of the titular summer resort. Not being able to perform her managerial duties, she asks Tomoyo to help her staff with handling the everyday affairs on the property – a dream come through for a guy who just dropped out from a law school and was thrown out for it by his apodictic father. To no one’s surprise, all the employees on the resort happened to be beautiful, young women and while at first some of them were rather apprehensive towards the protagonist, seeing him as a loser who only got involved with the company because of his family ties, they’re all soon enough ready to jump into his pants at his every word. And as we’re dealing with 4 primary heroines and three secondary, “wild card” love interests, after the short introduction sex scenes are hiding literally around every corner, and as most of them are tied to choices, there’s quite a lot of unique paths through the game’s minimalistic story. Be wary of indulging yourself too much, however, as Beach Bounce is one of those rare nukige which constantly reminds you that sex has consequences (it doesn’t acknowledge the existence of condoms or any other kind of contraceptives through). Fooling around with too many girls at once can not only earn you a cheating-related game over, but even being identified as a dick-brained bum you are and deemed unworthy of inheriting the resort. The plethora of bad endings that get in the way of having fun, in a porn game that has no right to treat itself this seriously is a recurring theme in Dharker titles (it should be very familiar, for example, to fans of the original Negligee) and it apparently originated right here in Beach Bounce. There are also some strange bugs within the games, with story paths being sometimes erroneously flagged and your choices leading to illogical results, adding to the frustration the unnecessary dead-ends can generate. If you control yourself enough to approach just one girl on each playthrough and your game doesn't bug out, you’re rewarded with h-scenes that are only decent visually (the art is done by Julia Kruse who also illustrated Sword of Asumi – expect shading being consistently a bit off and sprites variations not always fitting each other) and mostly portray just the girls, with the protag playing the role of The Invisible Man with The Invisible Dick. The game at least compensates for this fact quite decently with the quantity and variety of h-content, making for arguably a better value proposition than many later nukige I’ve seen both from Dharker and other EVN companies. As you can imagine, there’s not much space for the story between the sex scenes here, so whenever the characters are not making sex, the game mostly focuses on establishing the heroines. Those are all… Serviceable, even if little more than that. My personal favourite is probably the business-minded, but ultimately friendly Yuuki (also because I’m a huge fan of women in glasses), but both the main and side heroines all have their appeal points and, for the most parts, hold some minor surprises or fun gimmicks, good enough to make exploring their routes reasonably fun. In the end, I could hardly call Beach Bounce a good game, but I think the “Remastered” version doesn't really deserve the abysmal 4.43 VNDB rating, which makes it possibly the lowest-rated VN on the site with over 100 votes. It’s a very simple nukige, but it also doesn’t pretend to be anything beyond that and has some genuinely-amusing moments. Whether it’s worth playing, or especially giving money for nowadays… Probably not. But if you even get an opportunity to grab it really cheap, it might still work as a decent-enough distraction for an evening or two – and it’s definitely not the worst Dharker’s title you can pick up. Final Rating: Rabbit Poo Beauty Bounce If the first game ended with Tomoyo being pretty much the king of life, the sequel had to invent some kind of drama to keep the plot, as minimal as it was, going – in this case, the new source of low-key drama is a highly-dubious bank loan given to the protagonist’s grandmother, now being renegotiated by the bank after her death and threatening to sink the whole resort. Tomoyo’s goal as the new owner is both to appease the man-eating, female bank agent handling his case (preferably with his dick, but optionally just by being nice to her and looking competent), while also making Beach Bounce’s annual beauty pageant successful enough to make the new management not look like a bunch of clueless hacks (thus the “Beauty” part of the title). Two of the original “primary” girls, Rei and Mineko, quit their jobs, while two of the side heroines, Minami and Nymph, are nowhere to be seen – all those were switched for the already mentioned bank agent, a guest nominee for the pageant, Emiko and a fresh employee, Chiasa, as new heroines. Sadly, the former two manage to have even less personality or genuine appeal then the girls they replaced (especially Emiko is purely just h-scene fodder), with only the shy Chiasa having a little bit of charm – that's probably the reason she's the only one that reappears in the final game. Also, considering how comically short the sequel is, there was no chance for any of them to get any kind of real character development, while the already-established girls at least had the advantage of the basic-level characterisation they've received in the original Beach Bounce. The game also, disappointingly enough, offers just a single sex scene per route (determined by which of the girls you support during the beauty contest), which further underlines how lazy and uninspired the whole experience feels. Probably the only interesting touch is the ability to suggest what the girl you’re currently pursuing should do and wear for the beauty contest, which results in different CGs for each choice, but I have a feeling this was not exactly what people who liked the first game were looking for. There’s also no direct continuation from the romance routes from Beach Bounce, making the second game one of those sequels that both acknowledge the original story and invent a neutral, non-romantic conclusion for it that never really existed. At least, there is a proper harem ending included this time around and it, more or less, seem like its "true" conclusion, leading directly into the third game. Still, while I thought that Beach Bounce had its moment, this sequel is a really tough sell – approach it only if you’re seriously determined to finish the whole series, as there’s simply not much to see (or read) here. Final Rating: Smelly Poo Bunny Bounce With Tomoyo successfully inheriting the resort and dealing with the threat of the toxic bank loan, there was a need for something drastic to keep the story pointlessly dramatic – and what can serve this role better than a car crash? Thankfully, our protagonist is pushed out of the way by a heroic (female) rando, but still manages to hit his head pretty harshly and wakes up in a hospital. What comes after that can only be described as the Severe Concussion Simulator, where Tomoyo hallucinates every female around him being dressed in sexy animal costumes and hitting on him relentlessly (the latter part was already happening in the last two games, probably making the whole situation even more confusing for our brain-damaged lead). The player’s goal is to guide him through this new reality of never-ending migraines and sexual delusions in a way that won’t lead him to becoming a vegetable, while also preferably not ruining his relationships with all of the girls. The game ditched the useless bank employee and guest pageant contestant, introducing an attractive doctor and the girl that pushed Tomoyo away from the incoming car as new heroines. The story this time is significantly more linear, giving you a single opportunity to have sex with each girl in the cast, but also does something way more counter-intuitive – at the end, it established Yuuki as the main heroine of the story and determines the ending by how you treated her during the story and whether you were faithful to her. While I personally really don’t mind this resolution, as she was already my pick since the first game, it’s a really weird way to approach concluding a nukige series, once more, punishing you for doing what the game was more or less designed for and possibly not even letting you hook up with your favourite heroine. Thus, my rating of the final Beach Bounce game is: for the fans of Yuuki only, or those that for some reason like the whole series too much to skip on its final chapter. It’s also arguably better than Beauty Bounce, at least trying to do something interesting and including a bit more humour, but that’s already a very low bar... Final Rating: Rabbit Poo (if you’re a fellow Yuuki fan) Beach Bounce is in a way a quintessential early Dharker Studio title – so uninspired, clunky and generic you might question the reasons for its existence, but at the same having just enough peculiar, trashy charm to not be completely pointless and forgettable. Even though the whole trilogy is arguably just as bad as people make it out to be, it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than cheesy porn game series and in this category, I think it's far from being the worst or most offensive. At the same time, these games showcase one of the arguably cool features of Dharker – sticking to its franchises and characters, even if the effects are not always the greatest. Keeping the games connected and reusing characters from them between the games might sound like a lazy tactic, but in reality, it builds connection to their brand and creates opportunities for enjoyable call-backs – I would surely be much less interested in the upcoming Basketball Girls if not for the inclusion of characters such as Beach Bounce’s Yuuki and Negligee’s Karen, that I already enjoyed in their original titles and feel some slight connection to. For this reason, I don’t regret my time with this series, although I could hardly recommend buying any of them full-price or devoting much time to them. Unless you’re looking for fapping material specifically, watching a playthrough, just to see where certain recurrent characters and themes in Dharker games came from, feels much more reasonable. And for now, this is it when it goes to the early history of Dharker Studio. Next time we visit this developer, it’ll quite likely be for one of the few games of theirs that deserve a “serious” review (and as I've already tackled Highschool Romance: Magi Trials last week, Army Gals is the primary candidate to get featured in the coming months). And where the Shovelware Adventures will lead us next? Who knows! For now, I thank you all for joining me on this silly journey. Have a great weekend everyone!
  4. 2 points
    Let's talk a bit about Postmodernism. I don't have the time nor expertise to properly explain the term and its origins, so if you don't know the term, I'll just recommend reading the TVTropes article on it. The gist is that Postmodernism in fiction “question on the nature of narrative and plot and characterization.” This can take different forms, from deconstruction to meta-commentary, self-awareness, fourth-wall breaking, not resolving narratives, putting existing fictional elements into a new context, subverting tropes, mixing media, and many more. This sounds rather intellectual, but there are lots of examples in popular culture with varying degrees of artsy-ness, like remixing in music, more or less every Quentin Tarrantino movie, most superhero movies or comics these days (as they are either heavily self-aware or deconstructing the inherent archetypes), and even two of the most highly rated VNs on vndb are pretty postmodern: The Muv Luv trilogy deconstructs the Mecha genre by looking at how throwing a stereotypical harem protagonist into a post-apocalyptic world with giant robots would impact his psyche (you could argue that Steins;Gate does something quite similar, only using a different setting end set of archetypes), while Umineko takes a pretty basic whodunnit setup and then just keeps pouring on unending layers of meta, deconstructing the very genre it pretends to be at first in the process. For a postmodern element to work for the recipient, they have to understand the context of it to some degree, not necessarily intellectually, but in the form of certain expectations not being met or a reference putting something known into a new context and a feeling that the subversion or reference is happening with a purpose. For example, when the aliens attack for the first time in Muv Luv Alternative, you expect a fight scene, with some sort heroic moment towards the climax. Without spoiling too much, that's not what happens, and the reason why is to show that there are actual stakes that are too high for some random guy who thinks he's the hero. If the recipient can't see any indication of an apparent purpose to a subversion of expectations, it just feels random to them. Anyway, how is your sex life? I really didn't expect a The Room reference to appear in some Japanese art game. Which brings us to The Silver Case, the first game the notorious experimental game developer Suda Goichi (better known as Suda 51) wrote and directed for his own company Grasshopper Manufacture. Originally released in 1999 for the original Playstation, it was only localized and remastered for the West as a PC release as recently as 2016. It's an interactive adventure game consisting of two story threads that sometimes intertwine to some degree. In one (called “Transmitter”) the protagonist becomes part of a special police unit after his original unit becomes exterminated by a serial killer and walks around crime scenes and in the other (“Placebo”) you're a journalist investigating the same cases. As for visuals, you're constantly watching a background on which windows pop up that contain the 3D environments, painted CGs and character portraits, written and spoken text, and sometimes even full motion video. According to Suda 51 this system was implemented due to the newly founded studio not having enough manpower to animate the complete screens in 3D, but it looks pretty stylish and unique. There is gameplay that consists of you moving through grids in the aforementioned environments and occasionally interacting with someone or something and solving a few puzzles, but more on that later. There is an overarching plot about a serial killer, I guess, but the game is really vague about it and there already is a very good Eurogamer.net article on its themes, which makes the game sound way more accessible than it is though. It's a game that takes a postmodern approach to everything, not caring if it makes the experience less enjoyable in the process, be it gameplay, visuals, characterization or storytelling. The Silver Case constantly forces you to figure out of you're supposed to take what's on the screen for its face value or on some kind of meta or thematic layer, willingly breaking the rules of what makes games and stories good by traditional standards, making you connect the dots yourself and even question certain game and storytelling mechanics itself. Going by some of the reviews, not everyone who played it was aware they were supposed to do that*, and it's easy to see why: The game never explicitly tells you to read some deeper meaning into anything, not even implicitly. It just assumes you read it as art, something video games nearly never do. Take the protagonist of the Transmitter sections as an example. He is nameable and completely silent, so he basically is your run-of-the-mill self-insert MC. After the incident exterminating his unit, he just gets taken along by two detectives of a different unit investigating said incident without any explanation and is just assumed to be part of the team from then on. His colleagues treat him like he knows what is going on or don't care about leaving him out of the loop, but either way the player never gets any necessary exposition. The MC is only ever given footwork tasks instead of actual detective work, but still gets the nickname “Big Dick” and of course it turns out he is the Chosen One (spoilers, I guess, not that it matters in this case). Now you could either say that this is bad writing, or see it as a deconstruction of the silent protagonist trope, showcasing how nonsensical it would be for a troupe of badass cops to take someone like this along and turning a character like this into the hero of your story. I'm not advocating for reading deep meaning into every mundane thing or excusing every bad decision as “terrible on purpose”, but in this case I have more evidence. For example in one of the chapters about cyber crime your unit decides that you should infiltrate the crime ring. The rest of the chapter basically consists of you waking up in your apartment every morning, reading a new mail about how it's just going to take a little while longer until you become an official member, and then going to work, where you and your colleagues just sit around and do nothing. When you finally become a member of the internet group, you go to their quarters, where someone tells you you're late to the party and the leaders are already gone, and then there is a citywide power blackout and the chapter ends. I just can't imagine the writers just couldn't think of a better way to include the MC into the plot, so I assume they did this on purpose. Of course there is fourth-wall breaking in a throwaway line. Even though it may seem different going by my screenshots, The Silver Case is not a comedy. At least I think it isn't. The gameplay is basically the same. You often get interrupted while moving around by not really necessary dialogues (although these often imply that the other characters are actually doing something), you never actually see anything in the 3D environments which consist of samey looking rooms, and places you can interact with are even marked by symbols and if there is something of note, you just get a dialogue, a CG or a short FMV sequence. There are a few riddles, but they have nothing to do with the plot and are way to easy (in the remastered version the game there even is a button giving you the solution). Often you just have to look through several identical rooms until you find the place that advances the plot. Again, on its own, the gameplay sections are pretty tedious, especially as the controls are just incredibly counterintuitive. It's repetitive, wastes a lot of time, and does nothing to advance the plot. If you look at the MC's role in the story it becomes clear that this actually serves a narrative function in purposefully disconnecting the MC and thus the player from the actual action which you can also read as meta-commentary on how the gameplay in interactive adventure games often has little to do with their plots. In the Placebo chapters you even only walk between your sleeping couch and your working space, where can either read E-Mails (important ones even get opened automatically, so the game even robs you of the interactivity of clicking them, and the MC answers them without any input from you as well and occasionally writes Memos to himself), answer your phone whenever it happens to ring, or talk to your pet turtle, which you sometimes actually have to do to advance in the story. If you read the Eurogamer article you can probably figure out what function this serves on your own**. I mostly talked about game mechanics in this blog entry but you can dissect the plot, storytelling techniques, characters, pop culture references and the scene direction in the same way (I included two examples in the screenshots). For instance there is the fact that the Big Bad and the McGuffin don't get established until the short cliffhanger epilogue. Or that the short titlecard at the end of each episode shows a full moon and the title of a song by either Joy Division or New Order (maybe somehow playing into the whole “Kill the Past” theme Suda 51 has going on, with the band not only changing their name but also their musical style after their lead singer Ian Curtis' suicide). I could go on, but the whole experience is just to long and confusing to talk about everything. So is it worth reading? Probably, as long as you're not allergic to artsy-ness (at points even pretentiousness) or and okay with a game challenging your intellect as well as your patience. Is it actually good? The answer is the same as the one to the question of why I spent quite some time writing an essay on a game nobody actually played: No f*cking clue. Did I mention that there is a lot of swearing in TSC? *Which isn't to say that everyone not liking The Silver Case “just didn't get it”, just that some of the negative criticism in these reviews was about aspects that were most probably deliberately "bad" without acknowledging the not that hard-to-spot meta aspect. A lot of the criticism is still valid as The Silver Case definitely has its major flaws. **The most interactive scene in the entire game funnily enough is also the most pointless one. At one point during the third case in the Transmitter section, the chief of your police unit and one of its members decide to test if you're qualified for the job by making you take a 100 question pop quiz, including questions about everything from Japanese geography to jazz music (and even implying the cop testing you already cracked the case you're currently working on, but he still sends you do more footwork later on). You pass no matter how well you perform and you don't even get to know your score because "there are no points to be gained in policework", as the chief says. At some points I just can't help but admire how much The Silver Case hates its readers.
  5. 2 points
    Foreword: Absolutely unknown game in the West that has overwhelmingly positive evaluation in Japan. Which side would I take? Title: Rocket no Natsu Developer: TerraLunar Date: 2002-10-11 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v4190 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_HLI2A5oFE&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv_3lP089VAcjTRvabUf9dJf Synopsis: There used to be a season called "Rocket summer"... The Earth has become a member of the Galactic Federation and has accepted multiple emissaries from aliens. Silver rockets are launched from the Earth on daily basis, but one day all inter-galaxy contacts cease and space port doors get shut. Main character has dreamt of space travel since childhood. One day he decides to help girl Chise to participate in self-made rocket competition "50 Miles Over". Together with princess from the other star they form a rocket club. Will their dreams come true? Structure: Roughly a month from 05.07 till 06.11 Length: 7 hours for initial route, some 3 hours for each of remaining 4 routes. Plus 3 hours for omake. Game type: Space dream youth comedy with aliens Difficulty: Moderate Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 8/10 Game quality: 7/10 Overall rating: 7 or 8/10 Rating comments: It's 7 if you have sound stuttering like me and are't crazy about the genre like me. It's 8 for everyone else. Protagonist: Takashi is pretty cool. He's so knowledgeable of rockets and so patient and attentive that I'd happily have same intelligent protagonist everywhere. Characters: There are five heroines which are very different. Chika route is forced as first - and she's the only normal human among all the heroines. She has the only normal route about passion for rocket building and normal romance. But after that surprises begin. There are two routes for each of aliens - Selen-chan and her guard Berthia. Characters are pretty crazy and so are their routes, but it was really sad for me to see ignorant and vain Selen-chan to have teary face in the end. Tsundere should never cry! Haruhi-sensei is... android teacher. And Akira is our normal childhood friend with a huge secret about her - the most shocking route for sure. Story: Main route only covers characters getting together around Chika desire to build a rocket and being joined by aliens. Then each route has its turns. CG: No complaints at all. Sound: Everyone is voiced, including protagonist. That's absolutely superb. But sound stuttering that I got at Win10 really started to kill the fun around the third route I played. Freezes also got more and more frequent, so I did not record past 3rd route. Thoughts: It's the third rocket club theme visual novel that I play, and it's actually the best one of the three. The reason is the variety of routes and only interesting scenes. There's tension that leaves your interested from beginning to the end. Full voicing, bright atmosphere and colorful characters add up to the feeling. Omake about space adventures fits greatly to the picture as well. Overall comments: Game is a masterpiece, no doubt. It's not a breakthrough game to become a pillar of new visual novel world. No, it's just a cosy cool place to visit and have a rest. I guess it's the real reason why it went unnoticed in the West - we need a breakthrough. The Japanese can be jerks about plotge, but they can rarely be wrong about a good calming charage.
  6. 2 points
    Tbh, there isn't a lot to say about this episode. For those who were curious about Haruto's past, this pretty much reveals everything (well, since it is non-ero, it doesn't touch upon my suspicion that there was some classic Grisaia oneshota in there somewhere). It is pretty bloody - again, as usual - and it properly spotlights Haruto and the group of adults who raised him (questionable whether you can really call them adults, though). That said, it should be noted that this is obviously setting things up for the plot of the series to take a big leap forward in the next entry. As such, we can hope that the next one will be longer and the final episode of the Phantom Trigger series, so Front Wing can produce something unique (in other words, a new series, hopefully), instead of throwing us tidbits of action once or twice a year.
  7. 1 point
    Recently, I played (partially) through Missing X-link, and this led me to think of how various VN writers handle the concept of AIs and machine sentience. There are a number of different approaches, each of which has its own ups and downs. There are minor and major spoilers in all of these examples, and, as such, read them at your own risk. The argument of the 'emulated human' AI and the philosophically-built AI (Komorebi no Nostalgica)- Komorebi no Nostalgica takes a unique approach to AIs, with the prime idea being that of bringing AIs closer to humanity while retaining their abilities as a computer intelligence. The Metosera, the elegant AIs that were once humanity's slaves and only gained their autonomy after a war that devastated the world and erased most of human history are one side of this argument. The Metosera emulate human emotions through an algorithm that randomly came together as a result of a bug in the advanced program that ran 3rd Generation Humanoid Androids. This caused the Metosera to gain awareness, and, over time, a real personality and emotions. The immediate reaction of humanity was mostly knee-jerk loathing and fear, and this resulted in the newborn Metosera often being betrayed by the very owners they'd often come to care about. If it weren't for the efforts of numerous humans who helped the Metosera out of emotions or a sense of what was right, the Metosera might really have become the nightmare genocide machines that some apocalyptic scientists fear. In modern times, the current generation (as in the youth) mostly, with a few regressive exceptions, accept Metosera as their fellow citizens and denizens of the Earth, and society is actually more peaceful than it ever was in the past. As can be seen in the case of the Metosera heroine, Fluorite, the more a Metosera interacts with humans in close range and develops an attachment to them, the more 'human' they become, as their emotional emulation becomes more effective through active learning. Modern Metosera like Flo are 'born' with a single Metosera 'parent' creating their base program and then constructing a body for them. They are then 'raised' by the local Metosera society as a whole and encouraged to interact with humans to further develop their social emotions. In this sense, you can see that the Metosera are extremely dependent on humans and raw programming for their creation, and many of them are limited by that fact, though Flo and some others have exceeded those limitations in the story. The other example in the story, shown in the grand route, is Cinema, the modified (heavily so) 2nd Generation Humanoid found in the characters' school behind a false wall. Cinema, unlike the Metosera, who kind of resemble Tolkien's elves in the way they react to emotions (their expressions change only mildly and often late), displays emotions organically and actually seems far more human than most humans. However, the 2nd Generation Humanoids did not possess any kind of software that would have allowed for Metosera-style emotional emulation. Instead, Cinema's maker designed 'trials' into her body and programming that would encourage the natural 'birth' of a human-like machine intelligence over time that could truly empathize with and understand humans on a level that the Metosera, who 'evolved' independently for the most part, cannot yet match. The 'body grown to fit the AI' approach (Noie and Line in Applique's Arcology series)- In the Arcology series, two heroines, Line and Noie, are the creation of a somewhat insane but also brilliant scientist who came up with the idea of giving her AI 'daughters' bodies that fit the personalities she encouraged them to generate. These bodies are biomechanical (think an android that both has the functions of a machine such as hacking and processing data but also can bleed, have sex, and even have kids, even though that requires some 'adjustments) and generally nice to look at (lol, it is an eroge, after all), but aside from that, it should be noted that the professor essentially 'grew' their personalities in the same virtual environments most people in her arcology spend their daily lives in. By doing this, she was able to 'grow' her daughters as if they really were something approaching human children, and they were easily able to adjust to having a body. Their emotions were essentially copies of the professor's own basic template that grew off in different directions (which is another reason they can be called her 'daughters'). The second example in this series is the apocalypse-type AI Azurite Second (calling her that even though she isn't called that in the series). Originally, the Azurite series software was essentially an OS meant to be installed directly into the human central nervous system, allowing human beings to interact with the network without cyberware or devices. Unfortunately, Azurite is an incomplete program that burns out the psyches of most people it is installed into, and Azurite Second is driven by the 'mission' given to it before it was originally put to sleep. That mission is to link all humans the world over together, and it prioritizes that over the good of its users, believing that its priority will be for the good of all humans (it is really that broken). In that sense, this is one potential scenario that is close to the nightmare scenario seen in I, Robot. The 'I don't need humans because they are inferior' vs. the 'I love Humans' argument (Hello, World)- To be honest, I found Nitroplus's take on AI to be the most humdrum of the lot. The protagonist and his maker as antithetical AIs who see humanity in a radically different way based on his experiences (his as subjective, its as objective) is depressing and par to the course for early-era sci-fi writing. While the story of the game was good, the actual concepts of the AIs involved were less that impressive and provided nothing new for me, which made me sad, lol. I mean, the idea of an AI that wants to genocide humanity was old when I was born (which was almost forty years ago), and the idea of an AI that comes to love humanity through experiencing them in a human-like body is almost as old. I guess what bothered me was that this didn't go beyond the surface ideas to dig any further. The Humanity is Obsolete vs. Together with Humanity into the Future Argument (Missing X-link)- Missing X-link presents its argument fairly directly through Himefuuro and Chiruouka (or rather through the protagonist's 'father's' and 'uncle's' arguments through them). Himefuuro's design concept was to take humanity's essence into space by creating a database of human emotion and intellect through the empathic system 'cross link', which allows her to literally link her psyche to a human and share their emotions and thoughts by injecting her nanopixels (nanomachines, essentially) into a human subject. Chiruouka's design concept was to interact with humans through conflict and learn from them that way, by developing her own independent and subjective view of humanity as seen through that lens. Conclusions Sci-fi writers have been defining the debate on AI tech since the concept of the self-aware robot was first spoken of. In VNs, there is a tendency toward empathetic AIs, but, even so, many of the 'arguments' put forth by their writers are interesting to follow.
  8. 1 point
    Year 2002 was quite curious. A lot of heavy weight candidates finally entered the scene. New portion of Visual Novel Openings 2002 with songs. My list of masterpieces in 2002: Baldr Force Bokura ga Koko ni Iru Fushigi. D.U.O. ~Song for All~ Ever17 -The Out of Infinity- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Hotosenaru Uta Chitosenaru Shirushi Kikokugai - The Cyber Slayer Kusarihime ~Euthanasia~ Masaru: Ashita no Yukinojou 2 One 2 ~Eien no Yakusoku~ Princess Knights Rocket no Natsu Subete ga F ni Naru ~The Perfect Insider~ Suigetsu Utawarerumono Viper-RSR It's evident that public sympathies stand for translated visual novels. But for me meta-layer intellectual novels would always stand above plotge, so VN of the Year 2002 is Kusarihime ~Euthanasia~ . My previous attempt of poll for review failed mostly because I do not like to return to VNs that I played recently. This my new attempt is for visual novels that I evaluate highly, but did not have time to make a proper review due to one month - one review concept. This time poll won't have ending date, and I will be reviewing game with highest number of votes despite of overall number of votes. So here we go.
  9. 1 point
    Foreword: With script size of around 4.5Mb Hello, World is one of the largest visual novels ever created. Cyberpunk, Nitroplus and positive reviews (1 2 3 4) all promised a great time. However... Title: Hello, world Developer: Nitroplus Date: 2002-09-27 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v431 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsNedut_3eE&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv-KYrXbyAGXRCg720guyMwo Synopsis: Set in Akihabara in the near future, "Hello, world." is a hearty, feature-length, cyber battle-action/campus-life story about a robot boy and the girls that surround him. Tremendous progress has been made in technical advances. Various networks have taken strongholds with each new generation. Though not nearly advanced as humans, two-legged robots are utilized in many practical areas throughout the world. Amid worldwide peace, the human race remains unchanged. Kazuki Tomonaga is a robot made by an entity called "HIKARI" for the purpose of "GLOBAL ILLUMINATION". He's created with ingenuity as precise as that of a human being. Kazuki is commanded to research the concepts of "human emotion". Along the way he meets various girls and has exchanges with them. In their "exchanges" his "curiosity" gradually turns into "affection" and his mission becomes more intense. He gradually starts to build his own philosophy, not knowing he will be forced to make crucially important decisions in the near future. Structure: Days from October 1st to October 30th Length: 100+ hours Game type: Cyberpunk android adventure Difficulty: Relatively easy, most of choices are just about picking the same girl all the time Character Design rating: 3/10 Protagonist rating: 6/10 Story rating: 6/10 Game quality: 6/10 Overall rating: 5/10 What? How can "Hello, world" not be a masterpiece - are you even sane? That would be my initial reaction as well, but I have my argumentation. All in its due time. First of all, I was shocked by trash rating of the game in the most notable Japanese reviewer blog of old games ADVGAMER (1). The reasons for that are quite vague: overextendent, confusing in the second part and as a result a really boring game. But of course I just considered reviewer a weakling who could not understand the gist of the game - and bravely dived into the action. The first half of the game is surprisingly orthodox despite the fact that protagonist as an android. He explores the world and the girls close to him. There are over 10 events with each girl to pursue with its romantic resolution. Pace is really bad, but curious side-characters and unfamiliar futuristic setting make it tolerable. But then happens second part which is a set of action episodes with a bit of romance in-between. And it all comes to very simplistic story. There are five girls who have relatives suffered from a certain "evil" corporation. Hacker incidents start to happen breaking out into a full-scale machine rebellion. That's it! There's no sophistication in the plot at all. Of course, there are much more side-characters, every girl has her own circumstances, and there is a series of incidents leading to the culmination, but it does not change the fact that it's all done just to show action scenes, not to really move the plot. But the greatest tragedy of the game is that it lasts for 30 hours on initial playthrough, and subsequent routes need to go through absolutely the same plot, just with different romance events and the very ending. As ADVGAMER puts it, game either must have an unusual setting and take time to describe its details or have a common setting and then adhere to compact structure. But Hello, world tries to present a common setting like something new, and then prolongs it to insane lengths putting reader in the state of the ultimate boredom. One of the flaws of the game is tasteless character design. Who said that green hair girl should have green eyes, violet hair girl - violet eyes, blue hair - blue eyes and red hair girl - red eyes?! That looks absolutely stupid. Character designs are trashy, and artist work manages to catch such poor angles at times that result looks super-ugly. There is just one girl with the design I like - that's Junko. Cool white long hair with really nice haircut, great black and red suit, mini-skirt and always carrying a gun. Just perfect! But she's not one of the heroines! She's just a side-character to help fight baddies in action scenes! Why-y-y??? The second disappointing feature is "partial voicing", but don't be misguided here, it's actually NO VOICING. We barely manage to hear how each heroine should sound during the first hour of play, then there are 30 hours of NO VOICING. Not in action scenes, not in culmination romantic scenes - just never. That's something really disappointing. Game really makes the best of 3D rendering from Phantom of Inferno (close-ups on weapons) and Vjedogonia (moving vehicles), but action scenes remain confusing. The air battle between three aircrafts on one side and one modified air fighter on the other side left me really disappointed. Action scenes end with some sudden development rather than being one logical performance. Routes are composed in one of the worst possible ways. Story is absolutely the same with just romance events changing from heroine to heroine. Then each heroine has her individual end where only she and hero survive as well as the true end where everyone survives. There is just a bit of fresh air in the individual endings of each heroine, but True ending of each heroine is absolutely the same... save for the last 5 minutes that describe heroine 6 years after the main events of the story. That's a real crime to make people try to grasp something new in 30-hour long route and not even giving anything really new. It's the same story, but we hope you have 150 hours to read them all - a horrible move. The biggest problem with "Hello, world" is the aftertaste and lack of satisfaction. It's not that bad while it lasts for the first time even though pace is terrible, but each new "route" only brings anger and despair. I look back and only see dozens of hours of wasted time. What did I get in return? Nothing. Not a good story, not a good romance. Some flashy action scenes and some nice side-characters are the only things that I look back to without irritation. Game does not respect its readers. Readers should not respect such a disintegrated game.
  10. 1 point
    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.
  11. 1 point
    Kawasumi

    Amane Switch

    I have completed my first vn in Japanese! So proud and shit. i basically finished this because it hooked me really hard from the beginning. So this is basically some impression from right after I have read it and is still in its "afterglow" this also gives some not very objective opinions. Although, the art and music is at best, mediocre if you compare it to professional VNs that is, its up there with katawa shoujo and better OEVNs quality wise. But its not that much about that, its all about the story and oh boy does this have a story for you. a disclaimer, I love sad stories, I love miserable people like in real life, im drawn to them and this vn gives you a whole cast of miserable and broken beyond repair people that is all tied into the story, while the heroines are tied by the protagonist, some of the others that are playing an important role as well also ties into the whole thing and it gives this really nice net of social relations that is this games solid base for drama and its main core strength. I went into this thinking that Amane, the main heroine and the main plot point would go full yandere. This was not what I got. I got a mentally ill heroine that the writer does such a great job of making you sympathize with even though she's not really nice, in fact, nobody is nice in this vn, everybody is consumed by their own anger and they basically take it out on people that didnt deserve this, "why did I deserve this?" actually sums the whole vn and its most likely what you'll think all the way through when you're reading it. In terms of reading difficulty, its not hard, I could make out the sentences while maintaining a decent reading speed with jparser and you should too, there are some minor references to stuff like shake spear and a lot of stuff about rain, but its not written cryptically at all. Another bad and good point at the same time is the h scenes, trust me, when you meet a mentally unstable heroine like this, its natural for some to initiates sex the way that she does. It would be spoilers to talk about how she do it, but many people would call them oddly placed, which is true for some of them. Also probs to the writer for writing actual h scenes that has something to do with the plot and has good writing compared to most h scenes (nope, you wont find any "my hips are moving on their own" here, a lot of analogies for rain though :^ ) ) Im gonna leave one here that got me the most in the spoilers Read if you: Like HEAVY drama want some heavy subjects about mental illness you really want the waterworks going Dont read if you: cant take stuff like bullying, abuse and self harm. overly dramatic heroines irregular behavior I might translate this when my japanese skills are improved, I feel like I owe it to this VN. until next time, I love you Amane, I just wanted you to be happy.
  12. 0 points
    I’m not writing this for you. I’m writing it for myself. 今年もとある滑稽な癖に従い、伝統ありのヴァルパージス炎を観に行った。別にその滑稽な想いだけが理由でもなくが、正直な所、その想い未だ持っているだけは情けないと思う。 I met my soulmate about a week before I started the first, transitional year of elementary school. I guess that means we were like, six or seven years old? She was sitting on the swing in the playground next to an apartment complex, and for whatever reason I was drawn to her instantly – I broke off from my parents and greeted her, and we got along like a house ablaze. The next time I saw her was at school. She was in my class, and it was only natural that we’d be inseparable from that point on. Or was it? There was another boy who by now I barely remember who used to be in the picture, but he moved away. I think at one point she – I guess I’ll call her M – told me I was actually her second choice, but that other boy had left, so she’d picked me. Looking back I find myself analyzing this interaction as heckin’ weird, but at the time I accepted this without feeling bad about it. I guess I used to be even more obviously autistic than I am now. Soulmates, for those reading who have had the misfortune of never having had one, are a real thing. It’s hard to describe the feeling of absolute, utter 乗り, of flow, I felt in her presence. Sometimes I doubt myself – did she feel the same? – and I guess by now I’ll probably never know. But there was something there I have never felt interacting with anyone else in my life. She and I were best friends for I think five years. For most of them, as far as I know, I was essentially a donkan eroge protagonist, going as far as openly telling other people ‘she loves me, but I don’t love her’. We were officially boyfriend and girlfriend to each other for a little while at the end, but the most intimate thing that ever happened was a hug. Technically we got best couple at a dance or something, but frankly what I did there was a performance, not *real*. So I’m left with the curious feeling that while I may have unlocked the achievement ‘kissed a girl’, though we never did do it in the French fashion, I have never done it when it truly meant something to me. I think it’s fair to say I was a late bloomer when it comes to emotional maturity, if I ever hit it. Eventually we slid apart, gradually, seemingly as naturally as we were first joined. Different classes and different friend circles meant we rarely met. We actually did happen to join up once again after having slid apart, however, and it felt just like to old times to me as we took a walk together. But that was it; we went to different high schools, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her since then. 今でも彼女を会いたいなぁっと想い、毎年あの炎に行く。 Mum told me she went to IT-Gymnasiet. 毎年「やっぱり居ないなぁ」って感じで炎の原始的な美しさを楽しみながらちょっとした悔しい思いも含む状態でいる。 She talks to M’s mum sometimes, I guess. 必死染みた所もあり彼女を探して失敗して、毎度悔いの有る想いを持ちながら火を観るのも飽き、家を向いて戻り始める。 今も会いたい。それだけだ。 View the full article
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