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  1. 3 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? Loki’s character includes the features of a dangerous villain and a sympathetic underdog, making him an interesting and morally ambiguous lead character VenusBlood FRONTIER follows the story of Loki, a contender to the throne of the Demon Empire coming from a shunned line of the royal family. As the son of a person branded as a traitor, he lived an insignificant life full of humiliation. Thus, when the Demon Lord announces a competition to determine his successor, Loki is the least likely person to win it. Especially because the task in hand – retrieving the Heart of Yggdrasil from the floating continent of the same name, the last land of humans defended by five powerful goddesses – would be an extremely difficult one even for the greatest of demons. For Loki, armed only with his wits, a small band of loyal servants and one barely-functioning airship, it seemed impossible. And that's even without mentioning that he would be competing directly with his four cousins, all of them commanding large armies and possessing massive demonic powers. For Loki, however, this sole occasion to reclaim his family’s status and take vengeance on those that wronged him and his parents was not something he could let slip by. The protagonist, in my opinion, is one of the greatest strengths of FRONTIER and perfectly plays into its themes and morality system. Loki is a person full of contradiction, having a strong sense of justice, but also being shaped both by his childhood full of resentment and the brutal realities of the demon realm, where only strength or treachery can let one survive. In the desperate quest for power, he’s willing to do almost anything as long as it serves his goals, using layers upon layers of schemes and deception to best enemies who, at first glance, would seem completely out of his league. His main scheme is by itself deeply immoral, as it involves violating and corrupting the goddesses, effectively stripping them of their free will, to create powerful servants that will let him challenge the Demon Lord. At the same time, he does not employ cruelty or violence just for the sake of it, and his ambitions are in some ways noble – he wants power not as a goal in itself, but to save his mother and claim the vengeance for his father’s death. While you can steer him either towards working for stability and prosperity of the world (under his rule) or towards ruthless conquest, his rational and cunning nature stays mostly the same: it’s simply the question of which part of his personality wins in driving his actions in the end. The game’s morality system and well-paced story create a good degree of emotional impact and player agency, worthy of a high-budget VN, despite the strong focus on gameplay and (originally) h-scenes Loki is surrounded by some similarly colourful individuals, such as his personal maid and secretary Fena (who to a large extent raised him after the fall of his family and serves as his most trusted advisor), or the wolfman field commander of his army, Garm. Pretty early in the game, you also start capturing goddesses, who Loki coerces into working for him, and establishing relationships with his three female cousins, Hel, Fenrir and Jorm, that compete with him for the throne. There are several ways in which you can deal with the heroines, using the game’s interaction system. The goddesses can be corrupted and after a certain threshold, they’ll transform into evil versions of themselves, completely loyal to Loki regardless of his actions. They can also be “mingled” with and convinced to place their hopes with Loki as the only person capable of defeating the Dark Lord and preventing the world from falling into ruin. What is very unintuitive, to unlock romance endings for the "good" versions of the goddesses and experience the full extent of their stories, you actually have to bring them on the brink of corruption and properly resolve the interactions that result from this – otherwise, you’ll just miss most of it. Similarly, you have to quickly get on the good side of the cousins by "mingling" with them after you recruit them, otherwise, they’ll just leave your army for good and you’ll miss their (quite interesting) arcs, along with the unique story developments that are connected to their presence in the late game. FRONTIER do not really communicate these requirements properly and I’ve missed a lot of content on my first paythrough because of that. Going back to corruption, it’s, interestingly enough, sperate from the karma system that determines the ending you get. Most choices give you either “reign” (good) or “conquest” (evil) points, but all corruption and romance options are compatible with either route if you manage things carefully enough. Some combinations create clear narrative dissonance (like the vile actions committed by the corrupted goddesses in their romance endings, which can clash with your otherwise benevolent rule in “Law” ending), but the ability to create a highly-personalized path through the story is something I hoped from this game and enjoyed a lot. The massive number of available units, skills and mechanics influencing your armies’ performance makes place for some incredibly in-depth strategic gameplay Gameplay-wise, FRONTIER is a little hard to get into, but offers a lot of depth in its "Strategy RPG" mechanics. This formula, fairly uncommon in Western games, involves training a whole army of units that can level up and be equipped with gear in a fashion similar to JRPGs. These units can then be organized into squads and engage in tactical, turn-based battles. There are dozens of units you can recruit during your play, including commanders such as Loki or the goddesses, who possess powerful active skills, and common soldiers and monsters that form the bulk of your squads. All of them can belong to one of 5 classes and multiple unit types (ex. human, demon, undead, flying), each variation significantly altering their ability to fight in specific positions and against particular enemies. Similarly important are their passive skills, offering often extremely powerful effects, from armor penetration to healing your party at the end of every turn. With additional factors such as terrain types, week cycle with elemental bonuses and gear further complicating things, and with lack of tooltips or easily-accessible help screens, it’s extremely easy to get confused during your early attempts to beat FRONTIER. Thoroughly studying the tutorial available form the main menu is an absolute prerequisite to playing the game with any level of competence, as it doesn’t hold your hand at all if you go straight into the campaign. Appropriately to the complexity of its mechanics, the game is able to offer an extreme challenge for those interested in it. Playing on medium, I was mostly able to brute-force my way through the battles without switching formations or adjusting my tactics too often. Paradoxically, my laziness at times made the game tedious, as I relied mostly on grinding levels and gear to overcome challenges. On hard, however, that kind of simplistic approach would quickly end in disaster, and the same applies to both New Game+ difficulties. Playing on easy, on the other hand, lets you experience the whole game with no pressure from the enemies and basically no danger of defeat, so it’s the perfect mode to explore alternative story routes. Going back to New Game+, it allows you to not only look for the additional challenge using your well-trained and well-geared army, but unlocks interesting modifiers and the ability to obtain gear and units you can't find on your first playthrough. This gives FRONTIER particularly high replayability for a game of this kind, despite the fairly linear structure of its campaign (outside of the order in which you initially conquer various regions of Ygdrassil and capture the goddesses). Ultimately, it can easily provide dozens of hours of quality content and I’ve personally spent more time with it than I did with any strategy game in a while. The overworld UI feels clunky and the infrastructure management is basic, but that lets you focus on dealing with your army and (often very demanding) battles without overwhelming micromanagement From the point of view of production quality, FRONTIER do not stand out very much from other high-budget eroge, but it all-around solid. The biggest complaints I have are connected to the user interface and the overworld map – both look archaic and, even beyond the already-mentioned lack of info on what various stats and mechanics do, are simply not very intuitive to use. The battle screens also look a bit simplistic, with units kind of floating on the screen and, once more, some of the stats are displayed in a way that is not particularly easy to decipher. VN side of things looks much better, and even in the version skipping the vast amount of hentai CGs, the art is plenty and nice to look at. Heroine designs are pretty elaborate, sprites properly expressive, fighting scenes reasonable dynamic and flashy… Generally, everything I’d hope for from a game like this was there, the only surprise being maybe the 4:3 aspect ratio, giving the game an even more archaic feel than the 2012 original release date would justify. Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that despite its relatively-extreme erotic content, the game is not particularly bloody, with occasional macabre being mostly limited to descriptions and not visuals. The soundtrack, for better and worse, is also a rather typical affair for this type of games: quite dynamic, including full songs with lyrics that kick in during the more dramatic moments of the story and which I find near-universally distracting. It’s mostly a matter of taste though and by no definition I'd consider the music bad. The sound design and voice acting left me absolutely nothing to complain about, but that is kind of expected from a Japanese eroge on this level. Before I wrap up, it’d be appropriate to once more touch upon the issue of the Steam version and the modifications it includes in relation with the game’s "uncut" release. Outside of missing h-scenes, Ninetail was forced to remove some non-explicit story fragments and language that refers to sexual violence – for example, “Train” button in the interaction menu for goddesses was replaced with “Mesmerise” and some dialogue options were stripped of sexually-explicit phrases. The changes aren’t massive and honestly, in some aspects, I preferred how Steam version dealt with things, but for anyone that is sensitive about censorship, downloading the free patch from the developer’s page will restore it to full 18+ version. And ultimately, it’s something I really enjoy about this game’s release – it’s a treat to both eroge fans and those interested solely in its strategy content and the mature-themed story of conquest and politics, without leaving anyone deprived of a version appropriate for their needs. This ability to choose is often lost in the turbulent and underfunded reality of Western VN publishing, and I see what Ninetail did here as a really positive example of what you can achieve if you’re willing to cater to not just one audience group, either all-ages or 18+ oriented. And outside of my personal agenda, FRONTIER defends itself simply as a splendid piece of entertainment and I hope it won’t be the last game from this series that we’ll see published in English. Because of all these things I’ve mentioned, and to make sure VenusBlood has future on the Western market, this one is definitely worth picking up. Final Rating: 4/5 Pros: + Compelling anti-hero protagonist + Well-paced story full of enjoyable twists + Decently fleshed-out karma and heroine-interaction systems + In-depth gameplay mechanics with high replayability Cons: – Dated UI with a painful lack of tooltips – Gameplay can get grindy/tedious VNDB Page Buy VenusBlood FRONTIER on Steam or JAST USA Store
  2. 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.
  3. 1 point

    Random VN: Haruru Minamo ni

    Haruru Minamo ni is one of my favorite games by one of my favorite charage companies, Clochette. Clochette is known for a combination of decent stories, moe-ero (sexy and moe) heroines, and fantasy/sci-fi settings. Haruru Minamo ni is based in the same world as Amatsu Misora Ni, which is - ironically - my least favorite Clochette game. In this world, the idea and existence of Japanese-style deities is a self-evident reality. This is partly due to the fact that 'arahitogami' (kami who take a human shape and live as humans) come into existence regularly enough that they are obviously recognizable and accepted as what they are. This game has five heroines: The protagonist's little sister and goddess of the mountain, Miori; the new sea goddess of Tamatsue, Kanau; a young thunder goddess named Mei; Tatsuki's (the protagonist) and Miori's osananajimi Ena; and the fisherman's daughter Asumi. Miori comes across as the most level-headed of the five heroines, having been a goddess from birth, rather than ascending to the position. She was 'raised' to a great degree by her older brother, and she is all-too-aware of how the task of raising her has shaped his personality and way of looking at the world. She has all of her worshippers' names, faces, situation, and lifestyles (and that of their relatives to the fourth degree) memorized, and she is the trusted and beloved goddess of the mountain. She is also a heavy gamer (console) due to the fact that the siblings' ancestor (the first goddess of the mountain) having promised to remain upon the mountain, thus binding her to the old town around her shrine, thus making her a homebody. She is the epitome of the Japanese idea of a tochigami, being able to express her will anywhere within her territory and protecting it against misfortune. Obviously, she is a brocon. Kanau is a young girl who became a goddess at a relatively late age, and as a result, she doesn't have great control of her powers. She is also extremely unlucky and tends to draw misfortune to herself to an extreme degree. However, she also has a hidden core of steel in her spirit that lets her get up after every failure with relatively little help or interference. Her kind and hard-working nature show a great deal of potential, though it is, as of the beginning of the VN, unrealized. Mei is the incarnation of a bolt of lightning given the form of a girl after attaining divinity. Unlike Kanau, who is learning to be a goddess because she was born human, Mei needs to do so because she has had little connection with humans. She is very straight-laced and honest, telling people what she thinks upfront. Her emotions are obvious, but she will often hold herself back for the sake of what she thinks is right. She desperately wants to be of use to humankind, but she has no idea of how to go about it. Ena is the daughter of a Japanese sweets shop owner and the Yamagami siblings' osananajimi. She is an easygoing, kind-hearted girl who cares about others first and foremost, without a malicious bone in her body. Having grown up around Miori and Tatsuki, she knows them almost better than they know themselves, and thus she has made a point of restraining her long-held feelings for Tatsuki and keeping them below the surface. For better or worse, she is the type of girl who suffers as a result of her tendency to put others first. Asumi is a seemingly standoffish daughter of a fisherman. Having been raised near the sea, she became an excellent swimmer at a young age. However, she quit the swimming club and now avoids swimming anywhere but the mountain river, avoiding the seas like the plague. She also doesn't believe in deities, feeling deeply betrayed by them for reasons that come obvious later. Despite this, she is actually very straightforward and easy to get along with... once you understand she doesn't like wasting time on small talk. Mei Mei has the cutest dere of all the heroines, I'm just going to say right up front. Think 'cat who absolutely adores her master' and you'll get an idea. Mei's path is pretty heavy on ichaicha... but since her dere is cute in a good way and there is little romance drama to annoy me past the actual stage of them getting together, I didn't mind either time I played it. Her path's drama is mostly centered around her growing as a kami by being loved by Tatsuki (yes, seriously), so most of it isn't that serious. However, there are a few 'trouble moments', especially toward the end of the path. Nonetheless, all is well that ends well, and the path is tied off nicely. Miori Miori, despite her efforts to keep her brother at arm's length, is a rather self-evident brocon. This is fairly typical of Clochette imouto heroines (incidentally, Clochette little sister routes are some of the best out there, though they lack the twisted stuff you see in some other companies' lineups). However, this is made more complex by the background of the two. The first part of the path, the formation of the relationship, is more of a clash of positions: brother/sister, priest/goddess along with a bunch of other baggage that was inevitable. However, it does make it a lot more interesting than your typical 'incest is bad' drama you see in most imouto routes. Miori and Tatsuki, once they get together are somewhat... intense. This was also the case with Mei, but if Mei and Tatsuki were an extreme version of the typical bakkouple (idiot lovers), Miori and Tatsuki are so insanely intimate (think finishing each other's sentences half the time) that it takes it in a somewhat different direction. There is some significant drama near the end of the path that is very, very revealing about the setting in general... but because of that, I would recommend that first-timers play most of the other routes before this one (Kanau's and Miori's can be done at the end) for the best experience. Asumi Honestly, as a character, I like Asumi the most of the five heroines. However, I have to say her dere is more 'hidden' than the other girls, as her feelings don't really reach the surface in the same way as the others. As a result, in her path, you don't get to enjoy the kind of melty deredere crazy couple ichaicha you do in Miori or Mei's path. On the other hand, her path is a gift to those who like intimacy over brain-melted ichaicha. Asumi's romance starts the most 'naturally' of the three paths I've played this time so far. This is probably because she isn't a goddess (meaning Tatsuki's hangups aren't as strong an issue in that stage of the relationship), and Asumi's seduction of Tatsuki happening to be a lot more subtle than the others because of the way she handles emotions. Honestly, I don't like the way this path ended, in comparison to the way the previous two did. While it is highly emotional, it also trips one of my major most-hated tropes Kanau Kanau is a pretty straightforward girl in every way... but the beginning of the romantic part of this path is seriously weird. I mean, it is a Clochette game, so sexually charged scenes are normal but... The attraction of Kanau's path is the way she starts to change things in Tamatsue as a result of her personality. While Kanau isn't my favorite heroine, she definitely has a strong path worthy of a main heroine. This path can be considered to be the 'main' or central path of the game, as it has the most story-focused approach, whereas most of the other paths had a tighter focus on the lovey-dovey aspects, with the story growing like weeds between ichaicha moments. That said, it isn't like this path makes the other heroines feel underserved. Rather, it feels more like a natural extension of what was going on from the beginning. Conclusion I'm not a fan of Ena's path or Ena as a heroine (Ena as a side or helper character is ideal, but I don't like her type as heroines). As such, I'm not interested in replaying her path. This game in general is Clochette at its best, in particular the way there are so many diverse elements interacting with the central characters, as opposed to the charage standard, which generally has only the heroines, the protagonist, and maybe a few friends with relatively few other connections. There are mild cathartic moments, humor, and ecchi enough for anyone who likes a more varied 'flavor' in their charage, and the heroine paths actually have a story to tell, not just a 'romance'. I recommend this for people who want some mild fantasy and story in a primarily SOL setup (and for people who like heroines who happen to be attached to oppai).
  4. 1 point

    Amairo Chocolata

    This is the second mimikko game from January's releases, a pure moege made by Cabbage Soft, the makers of two other games, both of which I disliked (perfect examples of charage/moege slogs in the sugary and brainless mud). I can't honestly say that Amairo Chocolata is that different from the company's other games... but I'm willing to forgive a lot for mimikko heroines. This game is pretty short, so short I finished it in just under eight hours (it's been a while since I bothered with a game as empty of content that it was this short). Like most 'pure moege', this game is essentially endlessly cute with no real content beyond cuteness, adorableness, and H-scenes. That I was able to get through it is a mark of how much my fetishes drive me, but it also brought about a severe response from my old battle scars from years of playing such games. The two heroines in this game are Chieri (the loli catgirl) and Mikuri (the miko doggirl). Chieri is a straight-out tsundere, whereas Mikuri is a straightforward tennen genkikko heroine. I can honestly say that there isn't a ton of depth to either of them or the protagonist, and I was more than a little dissatisfied that they focused entirely upon the cafe as the setting. With some work, it would have been possible to make this game a lot more intimate-feeling and turn both heroines and the two side-characters into something more unique. Unfortunately, such efforts were severely lacking, meaning that I played this game solely for ears and tails.
  5. 1 point

    Twilight Days Review

    Welcome to this week VNTS Review, and as we know our highlight for this week should be Nekonyan's announcements. Other than that, we also have some updates from fan translation, Mangagamer, and Sekai which is good enough to me seeing that we also have one particular big announcement from fan translation. Lastly before I'm continuing the review let me said that at first I think that this week would be a plain one, but thanks to Nekonyan it turn to become an interesting one. Let's see what I can write for this week as well here, and I'll tell the meaning of this week review title at PS later. From fan translation, there's no update from Tsurezure again so I'll just directly assume that either they took some rest or really busy with real life matter (If anything I'll just think that they'll release Mizuha's patch in 2021 at the earliest, but of course if they want to prove me that they can release it at this year then so be it). For the other updates, we have Shin Koihume Musou was at one third (33%) edited, Loverable was at 78.82% edited, and Miotsukushi Omote was at 5% edited. For the biggest update in fan translation, we have Summer Pocket was at 94.37% translated with Alka's route was fully translated. As for their plan to release Alka's patch (ie at 17th later), I admit that it's very interesting so let's see if they can fulfill it later (And obviously it mean that they manage to release it first before the official release). As for why I call it Alka's patch, the reason is because most of the lines for the true routes was in Alka's route, and for more information the last route for Summer Pocket is Pocket's route itself (Summer Pocket true route here did consist of Alka and Pocket routes). That's all for fan translation section at this week. We also have Irotoridori was at 20% edited, and that's all for Sol Press update here. From Sekai currently we have Daybreak was in image editing and more importantly waiting for the review (Which understandably took a long time seeing that it's Valve and all), Hoshimemo retranslation was in QA (Still redundant to me anyway), and Eternal Heart was at 40% translated. The most important update from Sekai is that they lost their Dracu Riot license because it's been revealed that Nekonyan took the license as their first secret project, and currently it's already finished the translation progress (Yes including editing) so we may have near future release. I think I didn't need to introduce it seeing that most people should already know about it, but to me it's still a redundant announcement here (I know that some people did prefer to wait for the edited version, so good for them). With this Sekai was already lost two Yuzusoft VNs license, and I think it's only a matter of time before Nekonyan take over Tenshin Ranman license as well. As we know we have Nekonyan did revealed all of their five secret projects, and one of those projects are Dracu Riot that I talk above. For the rest of the announcements, let me talk about it started from my least interesting announcements to me (Beside Dracu Riot obviously). But before that let me list some of their updates here, in which they already have both of Hello Lady and Makover was fully translated, Aokana Extra 1 translation will start in a few months, and Senren Banka already ready for the release as Nekonyan's Valentine prize (At 14th later). What I can say is that I hope that Nekonyan can release both of Hello Lady and Makeover (Or either one is fine) in this year, and good luck to Nekonyan in regard of that. The first title that I would talk here is IxShe Tell aka their fifth secret project, because from several reviews that I search I did find that apparently it got the least favorable opinion such as it's only a generic moege or something like that. That said, my opinion may change though so I'll keep my eyes on this. The premise is very simple in that it have our MC as the student council presiden who manage to abolished the rule that banned student to fall in love, and currently he need to deal with five cute girls chase after him. For more info, Nekonyan did offer this as their replacement for Melty Moment which make sense seeing that it's been from the same developer (Hooksoft), and currently it's been at 45% for both of translation and editing progress. Turned out that their second secret project is Riddle Joker (Pretty much already expected, especially if we look at SD CG from Riddle Joker that Nekonyan post at one of their past tweet), in which it's the most recent Yuzusoft VN before Cafe Stella. The premise is we have the MC who is a secret agent who infiltrate the school that nurture the student with special talent, and that his secret was revealed by student council president who hide the secret that her breast is very small and thus she wear pads. While more Yuzusoft VN is always good and looks like their current relationship with Nekonyan is quite good, I think I'm probably neutral with this for now. Anyway with Nekonyan took over both of Senren Banka and Dracu Riot from Sekai along with this and Sanoba, currently we have them hold four Yuzusoft VNs so I'm kind of wonder if they somehow could hold Amairo license in the future later. For the reminder, the progress at Riddle Joker was at 65% translated along with halfway edited. Their third secret project is quite surprising, because turned out that the name of the project is Kin'iro Loveriche aka Kirikoi which as we know it's Saga Planet VN. While currently Saga Planet here is the cursed company that still have none of their VNs are translated, looks like the one who break that curse is Nekonyan. I don't know though if Kirikoi license here could be followed by other Saga Planet license, but let's hope that it'll be especially with some of their well known VNs such as Hatsuyuki Sakura and Hanasaki Love Spring. For the premise, well I think Evangile's premise should be similar enough except the MC caught attention from an European princess and that he got beaten up by the guard before being placed in the high class school. For additional note here, almost all of the heroines are blonde (Because of the 'kin'iro' title, and 'kin'iro' mean golden (Just like Kin'iro Mosaic in that the female MC have an interest to blonde hair)) and currently it's been at 40% translated along with 12% edited. For the 4th secret project, currently it's the most interesting one to me. It's also been fully translated for a while, so perhaps we may have this being released in the near future. The project is Clover Days, which as we know it's one of the project that was in torpor because it became too much for Astro to handle. Out of all five announcements, safe to say that Clover Days here did gather some favorable opinion so I'll be looking forward to the eventual release here. The premise is going like we have a MC who is an adopted son that was taken from London to live in Japan, and that he had two very cute twin sister. Also the MC himself was already established his friendship with several other characters, who somehow are the twins (Apparently Clover Days here really put emphasis on twin sibling). Since we already have Ittaku fully translated this, all that left is the editing progress so good luck to Nekonyan for that. That's all for this week VNTS Review, and happy very belated Chinese New Year. See you next week. PS - For this week title, I use 'Twilight' from Dracu Riot and 'Days' from Clover Days. 'Days' part here is obvious enough, while for 'Twilight' it's because in Dracu Riot we have vampire and the closest vampire story that have romance would be Twilight, so yeah once again I parodied Twilight here. PPS - Forgot to write Mangagamer's updates here, but overall it's been overshadowed by Nekonyan's announcements. For their update, we have both of Machiato and Matsuribayashi about to be in testing, Rance 01 was fully edited, the image editing for 02 was finished, and Sona-Nyl was at 80% edited. That's all for my belated Mangagamer's updates roundup here.
  6. 1 point

    Senren Banka

    Before I go into this VN, I should probably bring up a few facts I’ve noticed about Yuzusoft VNs in general. First, while most Yuzusoft VNs have a central story that is vital to the heroine paths as well as the common route, the degree to which that central plot effects the heroine paths varies pretty wildly. In some cases – such as with Nicola in Dracu-riot – the effects of the main plot are almost nonexistent, and in others – such as Miu’s from the same VN – the effects are dramatic and integral to the progression of the heroine’s own story. Another aspect is consistency… or rather, the degree to which heroine paths are consistent with one another. Generally speaking, Yuzusoft games don’t strive for absolute consistency. One reason is because most charage writers (and Yuzusoft writers are mostly charage writers) are not nearly as good at managing the numerous ‘threads’ of their stories as a chuunige writer has to be. To be blunt, Yuzusoft games tend to eliminate the need for consistency as much as possible, limiting ‘contact points’ between the heroine routes wherever they can. Unfortunately, there are always minor details that slip through the net, so you can’t really expect perfect consistency in any charage. Another aspect of Yuzusoft VNs is that they still utilize the concept of ‘heroine salvation’. The idea that a heroine needs to be ‘saved’ by the protagonist on some level used to be integral to virtually all VNs that tried to charge the emotions of the reader, but it fell out of use over time as the emphasis shifted from story to characterization in most cases. Yuzusoft is somewhat ‘old-fashioned’ this way, as they focus strongly both on the actual ‘stories’ of the heroine paths as well as the characterization aspects. As a result, for those of us who get emotionally invested in the characters, the inability to ‘save’ the heroines you didn’t choose is always a bit… troubling, lol. I know that sounds weird coming from a self-proclaimed pragmatist like me, but that is one of the few areas in which VNs are still mostly games, rather than just reading material. The act of ‘choosing’ a heroine inevitably invests you just a little bit emotionally in the heroines, barring a kusoge experience, lol. Yet another thing to keep in mind about Yuzusoft games is that the company, even after all these years, is still experimenting with the ratio of ichaicha (lovey-dovey flirtation in the girlfriend/boyfriend part, such as dating, visiting one another’s houses, h-scenes, etc) to the actual story and character development. Most of their games tend to have long (in terms of text) dating/lovey-dovey/sex periods, which can be unbelievably annoying in a VN with a good story, lol. Last of all, Yuzusoft games tend to have longer heroine routes on average than most moe-VNs. I’d say by about one and a half to two times, depending on the other developer. Now, having gotten that over with, enjoy my comments on this VN, as I plan to go into more detail than usual. PS: I don’t intend to bother with the two sub-heroines, Ruka and Koharu. Common Route The beginning of the VN is somewhat fantastical, and with a little effort, they could have easily turned this into a light chuunige (I’m actually wondering why they didn’t, considering how suited many members of the cast are for that type of VN). One of the most fortunate aspects of this game is the fact that very little time is spent dwelling on school life… in fact, it is probably the least relevant portion of the game, outside of the character setting of ‘gakusei’. In my experience, the more reliant a VN is on school life for character development and story progression, the less likely it is to be interesting from beginning to end. The basic story is that the protagonist, having drawn the sword from the stone (lol) by breaking it off at the hilt (viva, self-repairing holy weapons! Haha), ends up engaged to and living with the himemiko, one Tomotake Yoshino. He’s also together with a bodiless loli who presents herself as the guardian of the sword calling him her master, and a ninja who does all the cooking and cleaning around the shrine. Apparently, in order to cleanse the taint left by an ancient curse on Yoshino’s family and prevent disaster, he has to help them fight dog-monsters in the mountains around the town, so that their taint doesn’t build up enough to cause natural disasters and other tragedies. The common route is consumed by the quest to free the Tomotake bloodline from the ancient curse and the characters’ travails in the process. For better or worse, the central story of the VN is nearly completely resolved in the common route, leaving the heroine routes for those heroines’ personal issues. This does mean that the tie-in to the central background story in the heroine routes is weaker than in some of Yuzusoft’s other games, such as Dracu-riot. However, the common route itself is actually one of the better ones I’ve seen from this company, and I enjoyed the process immensely. The downside is that the transition feels a bit awkward, sadly. Murasame Murasame is the overseer of the holy sword Murasamemaru, and Senren Banka’s resident loli. In a lot of ways, she embodies the archetype of the ‘outsider/exile from life as we know it’ heroine archetype that has popped up occasionally in VNs like this one. Favorite, in particular, is a company that loves this heroine archetype, utilizing it for the true heroine of every one of their games, and a disproportionate number of the heroines of this archetype are lolis (somewhere around two-thirds, starting with Ilyasviel from FSN). This is probably because a childlike heroine who suffers from that kind of isolation is more likely to strike at our hearts. She started out as a common village girl, and when a sacrifice was needed to become the guardian of the sword, she gave up her humanity to stay with the blade (this isn’t really a spoiler, since they tell you this early on and it is in the character profile, lol). Murasame comes across as your typical ‘loli who hates being treated like a child’ most of the time, but her speech and manner in more serious scenes shows at least some of her experience… and her path rakes her over the hot coals of her own personal darkness and insecurity. Hers is a path that is all about salvation through love, and it is one that can’t help but resonate with romantics in general. I should know… I cried several times in the course of this path. I honestly felt that this path represents Yuzusoft at its best, and for this path alone I would have been willing to play the game… and I’m not even a lolicon. Mako Mako… is the descendent of a ninja family that serves Yoshino’s family (Yoshino being the white-haired hime+miko heroine). While she is deadly serious about her duty to protect and serve Yoshino, her personality is generally friendly, cheerful, and easygoing. She is also more than a little… motherly in the sense that she loves to take care of people. This tends to express itself in the common route through her devotion to never letting Yoshino or her father do anything around the house outside of their duties as a priest and miko at a Shinto shrine (and Yoshino’s duties as the sole descendent of her mother’s family line). To be honest, her path is significantly more boring than Murasame’s, in that her personal worries are ‘classic’ worries from the archetypical ‘raised to serve’ heroine who is suddenly free to do what she wants, along with the fantasy worries unique to her path. It is still a good path, even touching at times. However, since they fell back on what amounts to a ‘normal’ love story with a half-humorous twist, things were significantly less interesting from my point of view. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its high points… but most of those are toward the end or involve the fantasy elements. I’m sure the people who adore the junai (pure romance) that is the staple of most VNs will lap it up like their favorite flavor of ice cream, but for someone like me who has been fed that stuff until he feels like a foie gras goose… Yoshino The structure of Yoshino’s path is something of an exception, looking at charage with a serious element in general. Most of the time, the serious element is focused at the end of the path, with the ichaicha part making up the early parts of the path, during and immediately after the formation of the relationship. In this case, the dramatic part happens immediately after the formation of the relationship… and the rest is essentially endless ichaicha and sex. The path has impact, but I honestly thought that the latter part of the path dragged on. However, the ending is pretty touching, and I was honestly happy for them afterwards. Overall Yes, I have no plans to play Rena’s path immediately. To be honest, just two paths in this game takes up ten hours, and with the common route, this game could easily hit thirty hours if I played all the paths… and I don’t have the energy for dealing with an airhead heroine right now. Overall, this VN is one of the better Yuzusoft games I’ve played (considering that I’ve yet to encounter a Yuzusoft game that wasn’t at least worth consideration for a VN of the Month, this is a definite compliment). It definitely beats out Sanoba Witch, both in terms of raw quality overall and in terms of the design of the setting in particular. While the game itself doesn’t escape a lot of the clichés of the fantasy charage with story sub-genre, it carries them out well enough that I didn’t find that irritating. The biggest downside of the game is the downside to just about all of Yuzusoft’s games… the ichaicha is far too extended and there is usually a lot of runaround before they get to the point. PS: By far, Murasame's path is the best... which probably means I should have played it last. For better or worse, after seeing Murasame's path, it felt like a betrayal not to choose her over the others, simply because of her situation, lol.